Monday, June 8, 2015

Goodbye Japan

    Elder Earl (2014 picture)
Well, I can't believe it's already here, but I am writing my last email as a missionary of the Japan Sendai Mission. The last two years have honestly flown by. I don't really know what to put in this last
email, as I'll be able to talk to all of you in person soon enough.

I'll explain more of my week in person, but I'll just say how yesterday went:

To celebrate the Suzukis heading off on their mission and the return home of Greenburg Choro and I, the ward held a shokujikai in the evening, requesting that we invite Eikaiwa students and friends. I
could honestly hardly believe the turnout as nearly the entire Ward came bearing delicious food as well as a fair amount of other people. The less active family that we've been working with came, a few
investigators of the others came, and a few Eikaiwa students showed up
as well. It's probably at that moment that my return home finally started to sink in. Seeing so many people that I care about really showed me the blessing that the mission has had on my life. You head
out expecting to be the one blessing others with maybe a strengthened
testimony as a reward, but I can personally promise that the mission
changes you and your life completely. I'm leaving Yamagata with no 
regrets other than the fact that my time here was so short. I feel like there is so much more left to do here, which the certainly is,
but I won't be an active participant in it.

Thank you for all the support you've given me throughout the mission.
I'm so grateful that I was called to the best mission in the world, the one I needed the most. I talked with Greenburg Choro last night and we agreed that we wouldn't trade the personal growth we've
experienced here for the hundreds of baptisms we could have seen in
Africa or elsewhere. I can see clearly now, after two years have passed, why I came to this place. Even though I felt overwhelmed when I first got here, I have been able to learn enough Japanese to have few problems with conversation and even sit Japanese-style for nearly
half an hour without collapsing.

I'll talk more soon! Save the deep questions for then!




May 31 letter:

Dear everybody,

Just so you all know, I'm not trunky yet! In fact, I haven't even
started packing, though I might want to get started on that sometime.
Last week, I bought a very cheap suitcase at a recycle shop, so I
think I should be able to bring anything important back with me. You
can recognize it because of the massive dent.

We've had a good week here in Yamagata, as usual. I'm not sure there's
anything too crazy to report on. Mostly we've just been visiting
people, housing, and doing what we can to find investigators. We've
been getting better at giving out copies of the Book of Mormon, mostly
to old ladies who are just being nice to us, but at least the word is
getting out there! We found one college student who said she was
interested in foreigners, which is why she answered the door, but we
were able to have a good discussion with her and give her a Boom of
Mormon, which she eagerly accepted. We've found lots of potential
investigators, but we have yet to see what will happen with them.

We also had Stake Conference, which was reasonably good, but since we
didn't go to Sendai we only saw the broadcast of the Sunday session.
The focus was the Sabbath, which is a pretty difficult commandment
here in Japan for sure. I liked a talk that a church leader from
Kyushu gave. He said that he knew a man who felt like he wasn't
gaining anything from coming to church, so he decided that he would
just study the scriptures at home instead. The speaker asked him if he
remembered what he had eaten for lunch the week before, and he said
no. The point was that even though we rarely remember specifically
what we learn at church, just like food, it nourishes us and we will
suffer if we don't regularly attend church services, just like
forgetting to eat would be rather uncomfortable. It makes me feel
better about forgetting what was taught the previous week at least!

Anyhow, this week is going to be great! The ward is planning a
farewell party for Greenburg Choro and I, which is probably the
strangest thing for me. I try to tell them that I still have plenty of
time left, but I guess they don't consider a week and a half a ton of
time. The members here are honestly the best. I wish you could
experience a Japanese Ward. It's a lot different than back home.

See you all soon! If you want any souvenirs from Japan, other than
what I've already bought, please tell me how much you're willing to
pay for and I'll do my best. This will probably be the last p-day that
I have time for that sort of stuff.

See you soon,



May 24 letter:

Hey everybody! We've had yet another good week here in Japan.

On Monday, we had district p-day at Yamadera which was really fun. It
is exactly as beautiful as they say it is. We then ate Indian curry,
which is honesty addictive. I think we'll probably eat it agin today
since it's so close and reasonably cheap. Do they have cheese naan in
America, by the way?

We finally cut down "H"-san's tree! It only took two hours, but
it looks a lot better now. We then had some dondonyaki, a Yamagata
only treat, and taught a lesson about the importance of the Book of
Mormon. He says that he's not bright enough to understand everything
properly, but he's doing pretty well, I think. We also taught a fun
restoration lesson to our other investigator, and he said that our
doctrine is actually simpler than the way other churches teach. He
said that the way we believe in three separate beings makes more sense
than three beings who are also the same being.

We did service at a nursing home this week as well. We spent nearly an
hour cleaning the floor while a patient watched us. She asked us the
following questions nearly twenty times each: 「何で来たの?」(How did you get
here?)「掃除して来ましたか?ご苦労様。」(Did you clean? Good job.)「イエスキリスト」(Jesus
Christ, said whenever she noticed our name badges.)「奥さんは何をしている?」(What
does your wife do?). We started answering different ways as time went
on, since she wasn't able to remember that we came by bike and that we
were both single. She was very impressed when I told her that my wife
is a famous singer! The staff members kind of chuckled when they saw
what was going on.

We also went to and from Fukushima this Sunday. As usual, it was great
to see all of the faithful members and enjoy the travel. There was a
grandma who kept telling us about her time as a music teacher when she
was younger, a woman asking for all sorts of English help, and other
fun stuff.

Finally, I went to my final zone conference, which also meant that I
gave my testimony. Just like everyone says, it seems like at the
beginning of your mission that the day you give that final testimony
will be so far in the future, yet it ends up coming so fast. I can
hardly believe that I'm in the last few weeks as a full time
missionary, but we still have lots of things to do before I can go
home! Hopefully we have good things to tell you next week!

See you soon!

Elder Kirk Earl


May 17 letter:
    Yamagata city
We've had a fairly nice week here in beautiful Yamagata. We'll be
heading off to Yamadera for my last district p-day soon, but I should
have great pictures to send you tonight.

Missionary work is still good out here. Our investigators have been
doing pretty good, though none of them were able to come to church
this week. We also went to the Satou family and had Hungarian gnocchi,
which was extremely good! Hopefully I can get the recipe for that! Our
deaf recent convert is still hard to understand, as is our older
investigator. We haven't had any major problems at least!

We were searching for less actives on Saturday when we went to an
apartment missionaries hadn't visited recently. It turned out to be a
deaf lady, who was really shocked that we could communicate in sign
language. She told us that she had studied with Mormons before but
that she wasn't ready for the lessons right now. Hopefully that'll
change with time and some help from the deaf members.

While we were planning at the church, the telephone in the front
entrance started ringing. I answered and had probably one of the
strangest moments on my mission. A woman told me that she had someone
in Yamagata that she wanted to share the gospel to, but she wouldn't
tell me his name or any way to contact him. Then she told me to visit
his mom in the hospital, but she didn't know which hospital the mom
was in and she only knew a last name. We tried visiting all the
hospitals we could think of, but they wouldn't tell us anything with
just a last name, so we had to give up. The weirdest thing was that
she told us not to say her name or the other person's name to any
church members. I wonder if I'll ever figure out what was actually
going on...

Other than that, right now I'm looking forward to my last Zone
Conference where I'll give my final testimony, our visit to Fukushima
next week, and a busy week of lessons with pretty much as many people
as we can get.

Enjoy your last few weeks of school!


Elder Kirk Earl

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Hey, it was great talking to all of you! I can't believe we'll be
meeting in just a month and be able to talk as much as we want. It's
always hard to think about what to talk about, but we'll have plenty
of time soon.

We had a wonderful week here. We had Golden Week, a succession of
holidays that leads Japanese people to go out and travel. For us, it
mainly meant that we had a better chance of meeting some people.

One interesting experience was on Tuesday, when we had a really busy
day. We went to a kendama exhibition (I'll send a video of the
Mongolian member here to illustrate what it is) and tried to do the
simplest tricks. We weren't very good, but it was interesting at
least. We went from there to a science museum where we were given a
tour by a member's friend. She really wants us to help him experience
the gospel, but all she wanted to happen on the first visit was to get
to be his friend, which we succeeded at, I think. We then went to
clean windows at a nursing home, which was at least nicer than
cleaning wheelchairs. Then, we contacted another member's friend, and
he agreed to hear the lessons! Yamagata Ward is honestly awesome,
there's no way we could find people to teach if it wasn't for them.
The new investigator, "S" san, is really nice! He gave us ice cream
the first time we visited, and when we went yesterday, he apologized
for not having anything to give us. That's when he gave us the egg,
soy sauce, and hot water thing. I drank from half of the eggshell, but
I wouldn't recommend trying it. He's really sincere, though!

We also had a kind of busy week putting records in our area book into
the iPad version. Once everything is put in, it'll be really
convenient. However, it takes a lot of time to put records in, and we
had to finish putting everyone we're currently teaching in two days.
We did it, but that still leaves a lot of people to put in. It's kind
of strange not having paper planner with us, but I'll get used to it
before I go home.

We ate out a lot this week. One time, after we had taught
"H"-san, he asked if we had time to get ice cream. We didn't have
any specific appointments, so we said we could, if we were quick.
Instead, he took us half-an-hour away to Cherryland in Sagae. We got
to eat the famous ice cream, and he payed for us and Suzuki Kyoudai.
We also ramen twice this week when we didn't have time to go back to
our apartment and make food, and we also went with a recent convert to
a tasty place near our apartment.

The work continues to move along here! We found five new investigators
this week in Yamagata Ward, which is incredible in Japan, but I think
we're just seeing the beginning of things. One of our less active
members also seems close to returning to church, so I'm hoping that we
can see that soon. We also had an Eikaiwa student take a Book of
Mormon home with him, which was really a surprise, as I wasn't
necessarily thinking that he had interest. It's a shame going home
when so much good is happening out here, but I'm excited to start
getting to work on the rest of my life.


I love you all, especially you mom! You're the best! See you soon!

Elder Kirk Earl