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!

愛しているヨ!

アール長老

伝道は本当に終わるかなぁ?

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,

アール長老

どこまで?

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

皆さん、おはようございます!

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!

Bye-bye,

Elder Kirk Earl

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

母の日おめでとう御座います!



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.

日本に来てね!アメリカに帰りたいわけじゃないんだけど、家族に会いたいよ。愛しているよ。そして、母の日おめでとう御座います!

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

Elder Kirk Earl




Last transfer! 最後の転勤、最高の転勤

4-26-2015 Letter

皆さん、こんにちは!

As you know, I am now in the last transfer of my mission. Which also
means that I have a new companion, Elder Temanaha Moo from Tahiti. I
hear that he's one of the nicest people out on our mission and I'm
excited to end my mission with him. Also, my old MTC companion, Elder
Greenburg, is heading up here to Yamagata as well, so we are going to
end our missions in the same district after never having been in the
same zone previously. I'll miss Elder Mantz, but he'll do great in
Ichinoseki.

We had a pretty good week here! It hasn't rained since Monday, and it
might not rain again until I go home, hopefully. It makes it a lot
easier to do the stuff we want to do, like anything outside. We did
'チラシ配り' which just means handing English fliers near the busier
pedestrian areas to people who walk past, which went pretty well. The
only problem was that an election was going on here in Yamagata so
some vans were blasting campaign messages on the streets, making it
really hard for us to hear anything people were saying. We also found
a lady's hat, which took nearly half an hour to deal with at the
police station.

We met with an awesome less active family. The mom is originally from
Slovakia, but even though she's white she speaks Japanese better than
any other language I'm capable of speaking. She made a really nice
dinner for us and then we gave a message about prayer. The parents
still pray and listen to General Conference, but they don't come to
church. Apparently the sports activities that their children take part
in are a priority for the family. It's really sad because the youngest
son hasn't even been baptized yet, despite being nine years old. We'll
have to work with them for sure.

We also gave a Book of Mormon at a park during the cherry blossom
festival. A conversation that started with me asking a young looking
guy what he was eating turned into us giving a Book of Mormon and
getting his information to refer to missionaries in Chiba (the most interested people always seem to be from Tokyo). We also were able to teach a person we found in housing, which almost never happens. And we taught
our investigator who's in the hospital, and it seems his cancer is
getting better!

The work is going great here! We've gone from one slowly progressing
investigator to four fairly decent investigators during the last few
weeks. The funny thing is that almost none of them were found
completely by our own efforts. We also have two referrals that we will
be able to contact in the near future, so everything is going the way
it should be. Members are the way that missionary work happens!

I don't know what else to say. Japan is great, missionary work is
great, and the gospel is true! I'll talk more on Mother's Day! With
iPads, it's a lot easier to coordinate things.

愛を込めて

アール長老


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バプテスマ!

4-19-2015 Letter

Hello everyone!

This week has been incredible out here in Yamagata!

As you might have heard, we had two baptisms, one on Saturday and the
other on Sunday, both investigators of the other elders. "I" Kyoudai
is the man who is deaf who was introduced by his friend who got baptized a
few months ago, and "M" Kyoudai is a Mongolian student who was
actually first taught by my trainer, Dowdy Choro. They are both so
great and will really strengthen the ward. We had musical numbers in
each baptismal service, but I'd definitely say that our Shuwa was more
understandable than our Mongolian.

We also have a new investigator! His name is "T"-San and his mom
is an active member. His dad wouldn't let him get baptized until he
was of legal age, and so now that he's back in Yamagata, he wants to
get faith like his mom and get baptized if that happens. He is
extremely prepared and so cool! We ate ramen with him on Saturday
after doing a lesson, which was delicious. The only problem is that he
lives fairly far away, nearly thirty minutes by train, and he can't
meet in Yamagata too often. We'll try heading off to Sagae for another
lesson this week.

We had a pretty embarrassing mess up this week. We had an appointment
with our investigator with a joint set up as well, but we had enough
time to go to Kaminoyama to contact a referral (nice guy, but his mom
had died a few days before, so we'll give him a little time). Somehow,
we mixed up our train times and ended up an hour late. Our joint, also
the ward mission leader, said it actually ended up being good because
he had a good time talking with our investigator, and he thinks he has
good potential.

We also got a referral from a member that we didn't actually know. She
just randomly asked us whether we like science or chemistry (same word
in Japanese) and then told us that there was a guy who volunteers at a
science museum that she wants us to contact! The members here are so
good with missionary work!

I also had to give a talk yesterday with just one day's notice, but is
went really well! Lots of members said that it was really good
Japanese and that it was fairly short but powerful. I don't know how
I'll be with giving a talk in English though, so don't expect anything
too good when I get back home.

Also, Sakura are out. I'll try sending pictures soon!

Love you,

アール長老


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二か月しか残っていない

4-12-2015 Letter

Dear everybody,

We've had a pretty nice week here in Yamagata! The cherry blossoms are
starting to bloom and it almost feels like Spring is here for good!

General Conference was good of course! It was fun to be able to watch
it in English with some other people from our ward. I felt like almost
every talk was aimed at me and the people I know here. It seems that
they are especially aiming at all the missionaries who left at the
same time as me, making sure we know exactly what we're expected to do
as soon as we get home.

I realized today that it's exactly two months until I'm back home in
Utah. Or, in other words, the equivalent of another session at the
MTC. Sometimes it felt like I was there forever, and sometimes I felt
like it flew by. I don't know which pattern the next two months will
take, but I'll be sure to keep doing my best!

We had a lesson with "H"-San, our older gentleman, on Thursday, and it
went pretty well! We planted a pea seed in a PET bottle with dirt we
found by the river and told him that the seed was a representation of
faith. Just like you have to nourish peas if you want them to grow, a
testimony works the same way. He really got the example, quite well
and even prayed that the plant and his faith would grow!

We also had a rare double meal appointment last night. After takoyaki
with our recent convert, we did a practice lesson with the bishop's
family and ate some curry. Also, "M" Shimai, the bishop's wife,
made the most delicious brownies ever! She had what she called '失敗' or
'failure' brownies, but they were so delicious! They reminded me of
grandma's brownies that we'd eat at least twice a year, for the same
occasion as yesterday!

By the way, we just heard that a volcano is showing signs of activity
near us, but we should be fine! You'll hear whether anything more
happens!

We should see the cherries start blooming this week, so I'll have nice
pictures for you all next week! Have a great week and keep up the
emails! I'll respond on Mondays only!

Love,

Elder Earl


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アイパッドとか

4-6-2015 Letter

Hey everybody! As you may have heard we are now using iPads in the
Japan Sendai Mission! Even though I've only had it sense Thursday, it
already feels like something you couldn't really go without. It
certainly makes email a lot easier, since we don't have to arrange
times with the other missionaries. It's also fun having everything we
need for study on one device, as well as lightening the load in our
bags.

However, iPads are nice but they're not everything. They're a great
tool, but most of the good stuff that's happened this week doesn't
really depend on them.

For example, our investigator came to church this week! He's still
going pretty slowly, but that's old people I guess. His daughter back
in Bountiful certainly wants him to get converted so that they can
have a forever family, but he finds it hard to believe in things that
he can't see. He also paid for sushi for us at a local 回転寿司
(merry-go-round sushi), which was tasty. He was kind of dissapointed that I
didn't eat to much (only 10 plates), but I'll do better next time! It
sometimes is hard to work (with someone who changes slowly), but one man who has
been meeting with missionaries for over a year finally said yesterday
that he's ready for baptism, so I know "H"-san's heart can change
too.

A member also brought her nonmember son, who seems pretty interested
in increasing his church knowledge. We'll try to get lunch with him
and talk more this week. He loves volleyball, so the ward mission
leader told me to use my height to our advantage!

Our recent convert is a bit in a crisis because
someone got injured in one of his jobs, which apparently is going to
be quite expensive for our member, as well as really psychologically
traumatizing. Thankfully, he's relying on the gospel and he says that
he told the wife of the injured man about how our church has blessed
him and bore testimony to her.

President Smith also came, which was great of course. He even paid for
dinner for most of our district! He really cares a lot about
missionaries here. He also interviewed one of the other missionaries'
investigators, and he's good for baptism! We'll have one on the 18th
and another baptism on the 19th. It's going to be pretty crazy here.


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イースターおめでとうございます

3-29 Letter:
Hey everybody! So I think Easter is technically next week, but our ward told everybody that it was yesterday, so I guess I`ve already celebrated it enough.

It`s been great to have my first full week here in Yamagata. It`s a pretty crazy place, much bigger than my previous area. Even though we don`t have nearly as many investigators as Yonezawa, it feels like we`re always busy.

We finally got to meet him on Tuesday. His name is "H"-san and he`s an older gentleman who`s daughter lives in Bountiful. He thinks that his daughter asked us to meet with him so that he can get ready to go to Utah where he thinks that he won`t be able to drink, smoke, or play pachinko (Japanese gambling). As you can see, he`s going to take a lot of work. He gives us Coca-Cola every time we visit, which means I`ll probably drink more here than in America. Obviously, we`re focusing on finding as a companionship right now.

On Saturday, we spent the morning shoveling snow in a mountain village. It was kind of funny, because it was the grandparent of a Yonezawa member`s house. Seeing her again was pretty interesting. The snow shoveling was pretty intense, because even though there`s no snow in Yamagata at all, in the mountains it was nearly three feet high. We managed to clear a parking area and improve the path to the house. It kind of shocks me that people live in those sorts of conditions, especially people in their eighties. They gave us food afterwards, but they had such a difficult accent that we required translation to understand anything, except when the grandma would tell us to eat more rice.

Our Easter party was pretty fun. We had a large group of Primary kids and others celebrate with us. The food was lots of egg sandwiches, so I was really hungry, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was the first Easter celebrated by many of the members, so it was a good introduction. My job was to take pictures, so I have many!

Finally, iPads! We`re getting them on Thursday this week! One good thing is that we won`t have to arrange email schedules with the other missionaries anymore. Also, I can read your emails starting 11am on Thursday. It`s kind of like letters, we can read them when we get them, but we don`t respond until P-Day. It will be so convenient!

いつもありがとうございます!復活祭の本当の意味を覚えながらこの特別な祝日を祝ってください!

愛しています!

アール長老



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Friday, April 24, 2015

新しい伝道地



March 22, 2015 Email:

Hello everyone! As you probably know, this week has been crazy here in the Sendai mission. Apparently you already got the photo they took of our mission, so I don`t need to send that at least!

So, I`ll start by finishing up how Yonezawa went, since that`s where I was until Friday. On Tuesday we went to (a) family`s house and enjoyed a delicious meal of Tonkatsu and Kara`age. The kids were very well behaved!

On Wednesday, I taught my last Eikaiwa and a new student came. He spoke Chinese and he was really cool, but I won`t ever see him again, probably. But we`ll be friends on Facebook soon! We also finally got to see (H)-san and teach her about the Word of Wisdom with a member who just came back from Hawaii. (H)-san said that the Word of Wisdom wasn`t hard and seemed like a good idea anyways, so she`s going to follow it! The member, "M"-chan, told us about her re-conversion story where the love that the elderly missionaries had made her want to go back to church.

On Thursday, Pierson Choro and Olsen Choro left for Sendai leaving me and Mendoza Choro in Yonezawa for that day and Friday. We had a pretty good time teaching (S)-san about following the prophet. She has read so much from the Book of Mormon and is really starting to progress a fair amount. I think that General Conference seems a bit boring to her, but that`s how most people, even members feel, when they first watch it.

On my last day in Yonezawa, Mendoza Choro and I didn`t have too much planned, but we did what we could and actually found a new investigator about an hour before we had to head off for Sendai. It was pretty surprising for sure! He`s a member of another Christian denomination, but said that he is willing to hear about our church as well.

Sendai was pretty crazy after being in the `inaka` for so long. People just pouring everywhere! And the missionaries were all packed in Sendai as well, which was fascinating. I hardly knew anyone in my apartment, the Kamisugi apartment, but I finally met the other elder from our stake as well as my MTC companion who I`ve hardly been able to meet on my mission.

The conference itself was pretty insane. They had all the missionaries shake hands, and I realized that I don`t know a fair amount of the people I saw because we`ve had so many new missionaries recently. I thought the conference would focus on how we`re going to use iPads, but it ended up being focused on how to avoid temptations that come from iPads. Apparently we`ll get specific training later, but we have booklets that detail how things will go. For example, we`re going to get functions in phases, with iPads being used for study first, followed by using them for planning purposes, and finally, in a month or so, we`ll be able to use Facebook and other methods of missionary work. We should actually get the iPads in a week or so, which will be nice, but we have to wait for a district meeting with Smith Kaicho. Also, the good news is that it looks like we`re borrowing them for free! That was something a lot of us were worried about.

Anyhow, Yamagata. What can I say, it is a wonderful place! The ward is pretty big (not compared to a Utah ward, but to me it`s huge). The members are really cool and have a great desire to dendo. We met with a recent convert named "A" Kyodai (Kyodai means `brother`, mom!) and he made us a delicious feast of meat. The lamb was actually quite delicious, but the heart had a strange texture. Either way, it was a lot of fun. I`ve only had a day and a half here so far, but I can tell that Yamagata is going to be my favorite area!

Also, we had a two hour long baptismal interview with a deaf guy. Usually, only the district leader does the interview, but we had permission for me to go in as well. It was pretty intense because there are a few issues, but he will get baptized at some point. Either this Saturday or sometime soon, but we still have to check with our mission president I think.

I think that`s about it! I`ll send a few pictures of my new area! The one in this email is our district`s party with the Recent Convert. The device in the middle cooked the meat. You can see the six missionaries in our ward as well as a member couple on the far right with "A" Kyodai in the middle.

Aishiteimasu!

Elder Earl




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Sunday, March 15, 2015

山形へ I'm Transfering!

    Earl Choro and Olsen Choro with        young friend and his origami trucks he made for them on their last Sunday in Yonezawa. 3/15/15

Hello everyone!

It feels like it`s been longer than a week since I last talked to you since so much has happened!

First of all, thank you for the birthday wishes and treats. We actually got hit by a freak blizzard from about Tuesday to Thursday, so even though it`s nice again now, we realized exactly how fickle Japanese weather is. It took us off our bikes for a few days, but we were still able to keep busy!

At church yesterday, we probably had the most people in Sacrament Meeting in years. 28 people were at church, including seven non-members! Some members referred to it as 奇跡的 or miraculous. The Spirit was especially strong as we had a member talk about prayer in a simple way that non-members could understand too. All in all, it was a good last Sunday in Yonezawa.

So, yeah, I`m transferring to Yamagata Ward. This will probably be my last area since I only have two transfers left, but it`s a great situation to end in. My new companion, Mantz Choro, is going home the same time as me, so we`ll be able to work well together. One strange thing about this transfer is that Olsen Choro is transferring with me to Yamagata. I`ve never actually heard of people transferring to the same area as someone in their previous area, but we`re looking forward to it!

Yamagata is the area just north of Yonezawa, only 45 minutes away, but it`s completely different. I`ll be going from a branch with 20 members maybe to a ward with more than 70 people in attendance. One way you can see the difference is in how the Easter Party is working. In Yonezawa, the missionaries plan everything, invite people, arrange the entertainment, and try to talk to people at the same time. In Yamagata, I`ve heard that we have to do a five minute explanation on the true meaning of Easter and that`s literally it. After that, our job is to talk to people and try to set up appointments and such. The mission leader is a Hawaiian who moved to Japan specifically to increase missionary work in Japan, so he has things very neatly under control. It`s pretty much missionary work the way missionary work should be. I can`t wait to use these last few transfers to work my hardest!

Also, we have iPad training on Saturday with at least three general authorities and the entire mission. Fukuoka mission gets Elder Nelson for their training, but I won`t complain too much! I don`t know when we`ll actually get iPads or really anything about them, but you`ll surely hear about that next week!

Well, I feel like there`s a lot more to say, but I`ll leave it there! I`ll send a few pictures too!

Baibai!

Elder Earl



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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fukishima etc.

Hey everyone! This week has been, unfortunately, a bit slow, but it was still pretty good!

So, first things first, we can use bikes again! The snow hasn`t completely melted, but the roads and sidewalks, at least, are clear enough to make travel safe again. You wouldn`t believe how nice that is! Trips that used to take more than an hour take less than half an hour now and we don`t have to pay for a bus fare. There are rumors that it could snow again, but at least it won`t be bad enough to stop us at this point!

We hardly had any lessons this week, unfortunately. We taught "S"-san on splits about the Word of Wisdom, which he said isn`t possible at this point, and taught "-kun about the importance of God. In addition, we taught "S"-san; we were going to teach about repentance, but she had a lot of questions from her reading in the Book of Mormon, so we spent the whole hour focused on that. It`s kind of crazy how much more she reads from the Book of Mormon now than when I first came here to Yonezawa. She said she would try to come to church yesterday, but something came up so she couldn`t.

On Friday, we went to Yamagata for our Zone Training Meeting followed by a dinner appointment in a town between there and Yonezawa. I made a mistake and ate a lot of Indian curry and bread before and could hardly eat anything that the Yoshida family made for us. Just when I thought we were safe, she brought out a huge cake for the missionaries` birthdays (we all have March or April birthdays). The pieces were almost as big as American cake slices. It was intimidating, though I`m now worried that there`s no way I`ll be able to readjust to American food. The family is really good and wants to do what they can to help their friends learn about the gospel.

We went to Fukushima and back yesterday, which was fun! I didn`t end up having to teach a lesson, which was kind of a relief for me. They were having a White Day shokujikai (lunch), which I enjoyed immensely. It was a lot bigger than Yonezawa`s. The members were as nice as usual, with some asking me questions about English, the Chinese lady talking to me as if I perfectly understood her, etc. We also saw a singing competition in front of Fukushima station with some gospel music! It was pretty interesting. A group of girls tried there best to talk to us in English and were shocked to find that we can actually speak Japanese. It`s always fun to do that!

I think that`s about it for this week! I`ll try to send pictures, because I actually have one of our district! The rest of the p-day time will probably be spent picking classes for BYU and enjoying district p-day! Yay for 17 Miracles!

Talk more next week!

Aishiteimasu!

Elder Kirk Earl



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Sunday, March 1, 2015

春節おめでとうございます

Elder Earl and Elder Pierson
3/1/2015

Hello, everyone!

We had a pretty busy but fun week here in Japan.

First of all, we finally got to leave Yonezawa and have our zone conference in Yamagata. It was, as may be expected, really good. President Smith always has great things to say, with a focus this time on the importance of the gift of tongues and overcoming addictions. One good line from our president: `I`ve been studying this language for more than eight years, and even now I only understand about 50% of the words spoken in Sacrament Meeting. There`s no way that you can understand every vocabulary word. Even you, Elder Earl.` I can certainly understand the language much better than when I first got here, but Japanese is definitely a difficult language. Most of the time, you have to judge by context what the meaning probably is.

We also watched `Meet the Mormons`, quite the surprise! It was nice to watch a `real` movie for once, and it was interesting to see the lives of Mormons in different parts of the world. It was strange watching the missionary head off, for sure! Especially the pizza party they had. All the Americans here miss that sort of thing! I was extremely impressed by what a well-made movie it ended up being. I`d recommend watching it!

Finally, we had our Chinese New Year event, and it went really well! I was surprised by how many people came, more than Sacrament Meeting attendance by a fair amount, with nearly half of the people non-members. For a rural area in Japan, it`s pretty exceptional. Our Eikaiwa students did an English puppet play, which was really goofy, but it helped them actually come to our activity, and I think they enjoyed it. Yamaguchi Shimai, our Chinese recent convert, made tons of dumplings, which were extremely delicious. It was great to see the developing relationship between members and nonmembers, and we also had an Eikaiwa student say that he wanted to come to church!

One interesting thing that happened was that on Monday we went to teach "H"-san before she headed off to Tokyo for vacation. Our joint cancelled on us just after we got to Taira Shimai`s apartment, so Taira Shimai asked one of her neighbors to joint so that we could go in the apartment and teach the lesson. This neighbor was "K"-kun`s mom. It turns out, she is interested in reading the Book of Mormon and she said that we could do lessons with the family if the dad`s not home (he doesn`t like foreigners). Things are picking up here!

Thanks for all your prayers for us missionaries here in Asia. It`s a great place!

Random other stuff: Pierson Choro and I head off to Fukushima on Sunday to teach a lesson in Chinese. Wish me luck! And we are officially getting the iPads this month! Elder Evans is coming in to Sendai on the 21st and we have our mission-wide conference, the first I`ll have ever experienced.

Bye!

アール長老




Gong Xi Fa Cai!

2/22/2015

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! It`s not really a major holiday out here, just as it is in America, but we`ve been having a good time here in Yonezawa!

On Saturday, we went to a Chinese New Year lunch party sponsored by YIRA, the international association of Yonezawa. Our investigator was planning on going, but she cancelled. However, we still were able to have a tasty, fun time eating food and listening to a person from a small Miao village talk about the traditions in her remote hometown (to get there, you have to fly to Guiyang, take a bus for two hours, take another bus for half an hour, and walk for two hours). There`s some people that we met there that we definitely want to try working with, so we`ll see how that goes! This week, we`ll have our own Chinese New Year Party at the church, so hopefully we can get decent attendance!

In other news, this week is going to be a bit less busy than normal. "H"-san is going to Tochigi for the next few weeks and "K"-kun seems to have dropped us. However, we will get to meet with "H"-san today at least! And "S"-san and her son came to church along with one of the other elders` investigators! We also have Zone Conference this week in Yamagata, so we`ll finally get a chance to leave the area. I love Yonezawa, but three weeks in the same place can get a bit long.

I`m not really sure what else to say. We`ve continued teaching lessons, having people progress in the typical slow Japanese way, but at least we have good people that we`re teaching! In good news, we haven`t had snow for a solid week so it might actually melt sometime! Winter is almost over! If we`re lucky, we`ll be able to ride bikes again someday!

Hope you are all doing well! See you soon-ish!

Aishiteimasu!

Elder Earl



おはようございます!

2/15/2015
We`ve been enduring the cold of Yonezawa and seeing miracles! If the snow would stop, this would be one of the best places to serve in, but we hear that there`s a full month left of blizzards. We`ve had to spend quite a bit on the bus, but we`ll make it out of winter pretty well, I think!

The work has been going pretty well. We were able to meet with almost all of our investigators this week, which meant we actually had a decent number of lessons. I`ll do a kind of summary of each investigator quickly.

"T"-san: Came to Sacrament Meeting! Wanted to test the importance of the Sacrament. He thinks that our church is true, unlike the Jehovah`s Witnesses.
"S"-san: Finally met! Her son got an answer to prayer again! She said she`s still not sure about baptism. She has not been smoking and is reducing her alcohol intake.
"H"-san: Studied that 10 Commandments. She`s still doing awesome. We`ll try meeting twice a week from now on.
"K"-kun: He`s doing pretty well, but he`s still kind of bad at doing what we ask him to do. Reading and praying is pretty slow, but we`ll keep working on him.
"S"-san: Had a decent lesson for once. He has a pretty sad story with his son that we`ve been hearing about, but hopefully he can overcome it.
"O"-san: Couldn`t meet, sadly.

We`ve been using the finding technique, known as `Sendai Stake Chirashi Posting`, recommended by our mission president. Basically what we do is leave a lot of pamphlets about our church specially produced for Tohoku in people`s postboxes. A week later, we come back and see if the read them and try to talk about it. Well, last week a woman named Iwai-san said that we could come back and discuss more, which we followed up on Saturday. It turns out that both she and her husband have a long history with missionaries, including getting lessons as a family nearly thirty years ago. Despite living less than ten minutes away from our apartment, they apparently hadn`t been visited in that long of a time. They are Buddhist but very friendly and willing to chat, so the other elders will practice teaching lessons with them.

We also gave a Book of Mormon to a man who didn`t really seem all that interested at first. He said that he had never really thought about God, but he let us talk for about half an hour. As he looked through the Book of Mormon, he said `ちょっと興味がある`, which means `I`m kind of interested`! We`ll follow up and see how that goes. We also had perfect timing running into the landlord of the apartment complex. We asked her what her purpose of life is, and she told us that she thinks that her purpose is to feel happy by helping others. We talked for a bit and managed to make a return appointment for tomorrow. She`s Buddhist as well, but I have high hopes for her!

This weekend was the famous Snow Lantern Festival here in Yonezawa. We made a lantern near the Shinto shrine with the YIRA group, so I`ll be sure to send a picture as well. The other gaijin are really weird. It`s going to be hard to readjust to American life. However, one of the women is really good at shuwa, so she`ll get me books and stuff to help me continue studying.

Finally, I got the dreaded `trunky letter`. The mission president sends it in one`s third to last transfer. The point is to keep missionaries from feeling trunky, but it is a stark reminder that the remaining time here in Japan is severely limited. I`m still focused on the mission, but I`m excited to come back to Utah and apply what I learned out here!

Thanks for all you do!

愛しています!
アール長老より



Yonezawa, Transfer 3

2/8/2015

Hey everybody!

I`m not sure what to say about what`s happened this week. Mostly it`s been the usual things. We couldn`t meet as many of our investigators due to lots of annoying random things, but we still were able to meet a few of them. They are all progressing in their own slow way, but we`ll work to help them a lot this transfer!

We were supposed to play basketball with a less active, but he was `irusu` (at his home, but pretending not to be), so we weren`t completely sure what to do, as we had already rented out a basketball place. Olsen Choro, who had called me to tell me this bad news, asked whether there was anyone else who would play with us. Well, there was a group of high school kids each playing on their own phones. I asked whether they wanted to play with some gaijin, and they were pretty excited about that. They may not be investigators or anything, but at least we found a way to turn lemons in lemonade!

We also started Yamaguchi Shimai on her family history, taught a member missionary class, and enjoyed a few days without snow. Keep praying for us!

Love,

Elder Earl





転勤のお知らせ

2-1-2015

Good morning, everyone!

I hope you are enjoying a nicer winter than I am. We got about four feet of snow yesterday, which brings the total to around seven feet in uncleared areas. I promise that I`m not exaggerating at all. It always hits on the weekends too, which doesn`t help much for getting people to sacrament meeting.

Anyhow, transfer calls came late Saturday; apparently, our companionship was the last in the mission, so we spent a long time worrying about it. Elder Whitrod is heading off to Miyako, and I`ll be district leader here in Yonezawa with my new companion, Elder Pierson. 

We didn`t do anything too crazy this week. We went to sushi with a less active from Washington who told us about his mission experiences in Brazil. It`s certainly not the same as Japan, for good and for  bad! He wants to help further the work here in Japan, but his job with the city keeps him from coming to church on Sunday. He will change jobs soon, but I`m just hoping that he`ll return to church. We meet him at the lunches at his job fairly often, as long as our investigator, "H"-san. The Chinese lady is always so happy when I come, she calls me Ye-san instead of either of my other names. I`m really glad that I can stay and work with these people.

We also had to give a `totsuzen` blessing. Unfortunately, our oil had leaked away, but we still did the blessing and were even able to do it in Japanese. Even though it is a less active member, he has strong faith that he`ll be healed, because it worked last time with the other pair of elders. He and his wife don`t really have a great understanding in regards to the knowledge aspect of the gospel, but they at least know about the power of God!

Our investigators are doing pretty well. "T"-san made it to church just after the sacrament had been passed and "H"-san came about an hour early, only to leave quickly due to an appointment in Yamagata. "S"-san`s been busy, but we`re hoping to meet with her this week. We haven`t gotten any new investigators for quite a while, but because we have to walk everywhere, it`s hard to fit finding time in our busy schedule. We`ll do our best, though!

Thanks for all that you do! Happy Groundhog Day!

神様から特別な祝福が有りますようにお祈りしています

アール長老より

P.S. The picture is at the international place with "H"-san and her daughter.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Visit to Fukishima!

皆さん、おはようございます!


This week has been pretty interesting. I`ll go day by day to make sure I get everything.

On Monday afternoon, we went to a member`s house, the Endos, and helped the children build a snow playground. Since the snow was nearly four feet high, we were able to continue the elaborate tunnel system the Olsen Choro-tachi had built last time. I scooped out a `kamakura` or igloo near the edge of the pile of snow. The children told me that it was `meccha ooki` or `really big`. It`s funny hearing the boys, Enoku, Noa, and Amotsu, talk to each other. It`s not exactly the most polite Japanese! However, it was really fun and we felt like it was a good way to spend district P-day. We then got fed curry and shared a spiritual message.

On Tuesday, we went with an Eikaiwa student to the `most delicious ramen shop in Yamagata Prefecture`. It was, indeed, extremely good. It was also in a small town called Akayu a few train stations away from Yonezawa, so it was interesting going there! Whitrod Choro and I had to run to catch our train, but we reached the platform just as the train was pulling up to the station. We tried visiting an old referral who lived way out in the middle of nowhere after getting off at a station midway between Akayu and Yonezawa. However, only grandma was there, and she wasn`t all that helpful. We decided to walk back to Yonezawa since the road between the station and her house seemed a bit dangerous at night due to heavy traffic and no sidewalk. Let`s just say that it ended up being a long winter hike back, but we didn`t die at least! While waiting in Aeon for our bus, we saw Mythbusters playing on the TV. That was something I hadn`t seen in a while!

Wednesday was "H"-san`s lesson. We had Yamaguchi Shimai, a recent convert, joint for her first time and it went awesome! We were able to teach a good lesson on baptism and confirmation, though we ended up talking about the priesthood as well unexpectedly. It`s nice having women as joints when the conversation turns to women and the priesthood. We also taught "T"-san about Thomas S. Monson. Then, we had Eikaiwa, which was Kids` Class for me and Whitrod Choro. Only one boy came, so it was pretty easy!

Thursday, we had Chinese lunch at the international association. It was fun! They always think that Chinese speaking Gaijin are interesting. The Chinese people there remember my Chinese name now and pretty much only speak to me in Chinese. It turns out that one of the Chinese ladies there was a past investigator. She still seems interested in meeting, but she`s unfortunately busy right now. We`ll try working with her though! We then taught Yamaguchi Shimai and finished her AB (after baptism) lessons!

Friday was weekly planning, district meeting, and a canceled lesson.

Saturday was splits with Olsen Choro. We had a good time walking around shoveling snow, talking to random people, finding an Iranian restaurant that we will definitely be trying soon, eating ramen with a Chinese PI of the other two elders, and teaching "S"-san. It was an interesting day for sure!


And finally, Sunday. We took the early train out of Minami-Yonezawa and got into infamous Fukushima a bit before nine. It`s an incredible place. Despite just being an hour away, the weather is completely different: warm and not a trace of snow. The members are extremely kind, giving us a very generous fruit basket. However, it`s a really sad place. They don`t have any missionaries due to fears of radiation, yet the ward members live there full-time. The ward mission leader talked to us about his hopes for missionary work there, but the lack of missionaries really makes everything difficult. The ward has been slowly getting smaller and smaller as people move to safer places without a chance for any converts. Thankfully for me, I didn`t have to teach a personalized lesson to the Chinese lady this time. However, it`s obvious that her understanding of Japanese probably is an obstacle to her gospel understanding. If I don`t transfer next week, I`ll probably be teaching her the AB lessons again. In less pleasant news, our three investigators who were supposed to go to Sacrament meeting in Yonezawa didn`t show up. Hopefully we`ll see them next week!

That`s about it! I`ll send pictures in the following emails!

愛しているぞ!

アール長老

Sunday, January 18, 2015

面白い名前は作れない

Hey, everyone!

This week has been pretty good, other than the blizzard on Saturday which was probably the worst weather I`ve ever experienced. 真っ白 is the term they use in Japanese, which pretty much means `complete whiteness` due to all the snow flying in the wind.

However, while the weather may be continually miserable, the work isn`t! We taught most of our investigators this week and even had a member feed us dinner! We taught about the Sabbath Day to "S"-san, who found it pretty unusual, but she agreed to follow it! "H"-san is still doing well, and she gave us some vegetables from her hometown in Tochigi. We`ll try to set a baptismal commitment at this next lesson. We taught "K"-kun about the purpose of life, and now he wants more of a purpose in his life. And, finally, "T"-san came to church! But, we made a bit of a mistake. We told thim the Otahara Choro, the father of a missionary who taught him, would be coming this week, but apparently we had been misinformed. Our branch president seems to say 来週, which means `next week`, no matter how many Sundays later it will  be. Thankfully, "T"-san wasn`t mad at us, but it was kind of embarrassing. He said he was glad he came to church regardless of whether the person he had wanted to see was there or not.

Also, I had a split in Yamagata! It was so nice being in a bigger city again; it reminded me a lot of Akita, honestly. It was also nice riding a bike again, until it started snowing and I realized that I had forgotten my gloves. The apartment in Yamagata is extremely nice, but it`s literally on the edge of civilization. Other than that, though, it was really fun! It`s interesting having Zone Leaders who are `younger` in mission experience, especially since Bethea Choro was in my first district back in Ichinoseki/Kitakami.

What we`ve  been focusing a lot on this past week has been goals. Specific, achievable goals will get you much farther than anything else. Just make sure that they help you accomplish our true purpose in life, which you can find in 2 Nephi 2!

Also, next Sunday, I go to Fukushima! And teach a Chinese person about tithing! I still don`t know how that`s going to work, but I`ll do my best.

Aishiteimasu!

Elder Earl

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Seijin no Hi!

Hey everybody, today marks the beginning of the last five months of my mission. Everybody says that missions go way too fast, and it`s true! I was hoping that talking a lot about how little time is left would make it feel like it`s taking longer, but I`ve discovered that there`s really absolutely nothing you can do to make it go slower at this point in my mission. You just have to keep on working your hardest and accept that it will all be over too soon.

We`ve been able to pick up the work a bit this week. "S"-san quit smoking! She`s been good for more than a week now and doesn`t show any signs of returning to cigarettes. She`s also been reading from the Book of Mormon, which brought her to the infamous Murder of Laban scene. I think we managed to help her understand it, but it still can be a tough part to place at the very beginning. Our other investigators are doing pretty well; "T"-san still has no desire to be baptized, but hopefully he`ll feel something soon. "K"-kun wanted to know about apostles, but we were kind of sidetracked with the lesson. We`ll be able to meet all of our investigators this week again, finally, which will be nice after this long holiday season.

Also, I went on splits with Mendoza Choro. According to our phone, we walked 16 kilometers, a new record almost! It was very, very cold, and we were unable to teach lessons or find new investigators or anything, but it was still pretty good! We found a tasty Chinese restaurant. The waitress hardly spoke any Japanese. I asked her `どちらから来ましたか?‘ (Where are you from). And she just looked at me. I changed to 出身はどこですか? (Where is your birthplace?) with more confusion. Finally, I just asked 日本に来る前に、中国にいましたか?(Before you came to Japan, did you live in China?) and finally got to the point where we could stick to Chinese. When we left, I tried explaining that I wanted an Eikaiwa poster hung up, which I could mostly do in Chinese, but I forgot the word for `to hang up`, so I tried asking in Japanese. このポスターを貼ることが出来ますか? which she responded by saying `Wo de mingzi?` (my name?). Needless to say, I had to kind of mime putting a poster up to get her to understand, but she said that they could do it!

That was pretty much the highlights of this week! Other minor stuff that happened: Zone Training Meeting with Whitrod Choro and I training on member missionary work, interviews with Smith Kaicho mostly focusing on how to help investigators progress, donut sale at Mr. Donuts that we`ve been taking advantage of too much, and that`s about it! Also, I get to stay in Yamagata this week, and go to Fukushima the week after! And there`s a Chinese recent convert who they want me to try teaching, so we`ll see how it goes!

By the way, for those who don`t know, today is the day when Japanese people celebrate those who turn twenty years old! In Japan, you are a real adult from the age of twenty. Apparently, they have ceremonies that celebrate these young people making the next step in their life`s journey. Unfortunately, one of the main things they celebrate is the ability to drink and smoke, so it`s probably not best to go.

That`s about it. Baibai!

Elder Kirk Earl

Sunday, January 4, 2015

あけましておめでとうございます!



Happy New Year, everyone!

This week has been pretty slow, but good as well. We had our `Oosouji` on Wednesday, so our apartment is pretty neat now. I don`t even know how many bags of garbage we ended up with, but I will say that we spent more than eight hours on our apartment. Thank goodness that`s over!

We also had lunch with the Takaku family, the parents and brother of a college student in the branch. It was extremely delicious, meat and vegetables grilled in an electric pot thing along with inari, sushi, and other Japanese delicacies.

After that, we went to Uesugi Shrine to participate in the cultural fun! It was really cold and snowy, so we left as soon as we rang the bell to welcome in the new year. Picture is above. 

In terms of investigators, we were only able to teach two of them this week, and one of them is a Free Family English Program investigator who`s mostly interested in English. We went out to Indian Curry with him, though. And "Tomoko"-san came for his lesson, which went pretty good. He didn`t get an answer yet, but he said it`s probably because he`s not ready to be trusted with such an answer. However, we went over the baptismal interview questions with him, and he`s really, really close! We`ll see what happens with him, but I know that he`s getting baptized someday.

That`s about it for this week. We also went to Nagai, a city that takes forever to get to by train, and tried visiting less actives, but none of them were there. It was an adventure though! This week should be much better!

Aishiteimasu!

Elder Earl


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Holidays in Yonezawa!


Happy Holidays, everybody!

It was great talking to you on Christmas! You probably don`t need too long of an email today, especially since there should be more to talk about next week.

"Tomoko"- san wasn`t able to meet on Sunday because he had work, so we don`t know whether he got an answer yet to his prayer. His job at the onsen hotel often prevents him from coming to church but hopefully we can figure out a way to solve this conclusively someday.

Like I said on Christmas, it`s been really cold lately, though the blizzard that hit us on the day itself has been the worst so far! Yesterday, when we tried using the shower, we realized that the water had actually frozen, so we weren`t able to use it until it warmed up a bit. Even more worrisome, the church`s water was frozen as well, which meant we didn`t have water for the Sacrament, until a member brought a bottle of water nearly twenty minutes late. Thankfully, Sacrament Meeting never starts on time here, so it wasn`t too much of an issue. Along with heaters not working, it`s been a chilly week!

Unfortunately, because of the New Year, dendo is getting a bit slow, but at least it`s a good opportunity to try to check up on Less Actives and others. Hopefully we`ll have good stories to share next week!

お正月おめでとうございます。来年もよろしくお願いします!

Earl Choro