Monday, September 26, 2011

Baptism Photos!...and other fun stuff

Lucy with the family that got baptized!

At the ward beach party with Nami in the red shirt

Super stylin' and modest beach babes!

Lucy getting ready to spike it!

Super happy girl

Don't you wish you could go in? Water looks super clear and clean. 

Lucy planting a book of Mormon in the vending machine.  I never thought of that tactic.  Japan is full of vending machines!

Giving of presents before the baptism of Mariko and Shuko. 

All the jealous Elders.  haha.  Well, in Italy they would have been.

Frantic emailing time.  We know you don't have much time to write.  We all miss you so much!

Who could refuse these two faces.  So darling!

Lucy needs a new waterbottle.  Everyone please send her one:)

Mariko and Shuko in their baptismal whites.  Poor little Shuko's dress is dragging on the floor.  She looks like a little angel though:) 

Finally got a smile out of Shuko

Nothing more beautiful than this!

How great shall be your joy:)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seven Things

Sweet collage of Lucy at the ward beach party

Transfer calls are on Wednesday!!!! Can you believe I have already been with Yamada Shimai for a whole transfer? Time is just flying by so fast! I had a lot of fun with my new camera this week so I'll be sending a lot of pictures this week. Unfortunately I can only send six at a time so it might take a few emails to get them all in.
Goofy Elders:)
We had such a great week! One of the biggest contributors to our amazing week was a challenge that our district leader, Elder Strother, gave to use in district meeting on Tuesday. As a district we came up with 7 things to do everyday in our companionships to see miracles during the last week of the transfer. Here they are:
1. Say "goodmorning" to the morning (Elder Campbell, the biggest class clown I've ever met came up with that one)
2. Tell your companion one reason why you love them everyday
3. Contact a less active member everyday
4. Call and express gratitude to at least one member everyday
5. Contact at least 15 people everyday (which means you talk to someone streeting our housing and they take something from you like a Book of Mormon or pamphlet).
6. Do a random act of service everyday
7. Support your companion's testimony
What in the world is going on in this photo? haha!
At the end of that district meeting Elder Strother told us that the lesson for that day had really been inspired by Heavenly Father and he promised us that if we did those seven things in our companionship each day we would see amazing miracles. We took his challenge very seriously, especially the contacting 15 people each day, which was probably the hardest to accomplish. This transfer we had a lot of investigators and taught a lot of lessons, so compared to the past three transfers we weren't able to do as much finding as I would have liked. However, this week we basically planned each day around being able to do at least two or three hours of finding each day. Some of the miracles we saw include:
1. Yamada Shimai found an opportunity to help this woman carry her oxygen machine (??) up the stairs and that women ended up being really interested in what we had to say and invited us to come over and teach her!!! Plus, her name is Ruri, which is pronounced like "Loody", which is a nickname my Mom has called me since I was little, so I immediately felt a bond with this woman. Just pray that I don't get transferred so I can teach her! Haha.
Photo 1 of the best cake in the world! (chocolate wafer cake that I sent Lucy for her Birthday)
One of our wards threw a beach party on Friday because it was a holiday and you wouldn't believe the amount of food they dished out! They brought out these two giant yakisoba grills and grilled up loads of meat and yakisoba. It was so much fun! The best part was that our Taiwanese investigator Linseika came and brought her cute friend. She was such a stylish little Taiwanese girl! She reminded me of my friend Louise from Denmark, but Asian style. I thought she was a boy at first because she has this wicked short boy haircut, haha. We played bingo and a bunch of weird Japanese games, volleyball, and I was able to talk for a long time with this amazing 19 year old member named Nami Shimai. She is this AMAZING singer/songwriter. I heard her play at the talent show we had a while back, and another time at the karate tournament when I first arrived in Naha, but apparently she traveled to Kyoto to perform for the EFY kids a few weeks ago and now she has a pretty big fan base. She is SO good. Last Fast Sunday while she was bearing her testimony she randomly busted out "I know that my redeember lives" a capella and made basically the whole congregation cry. I am not a big fan of Japanese singers, but her voice is oh so good. Anyway, we really bonded at the beach party talking about music and the potential influence that she could have on the rising generation in Japan with her music and amazing talents. Plus she is absolutely gorgeous. I really think she is going to have a profound influence on the members and non-members here in Japan.
Giving the wafer cake the eye before it gets devoured
On Saturday Mariko and Shuko were baptized!!!! It was a really beautiful and spiritual service. The ward members really stepped in and I really felt them welcome Shuko and Mariko into the ward, which is all we could ever ask for as missionaries. They were so happy and the highlight was probably when Shuko chan bore her testimony after she was baptized. She just marched right up to the pulpit without any hesitation and talked about the influence the missionaries had on her as a six year old. She said at that time her dream was to become a missionary like those who taught her, and only just recently as we have started teaching her again has that desire resurfaced. I really learned a lot from this little 11 year old this transfer about the amazing capacity that tiny children and young people have to feel and respond to the spirit. I think I will be a better mother someday because of my experience with her.
Everyone enjoying the cake together.  Lucy is so nice to share.  I would have saved it all for myself. 
After the baptism service Nami Shimai (the amazing singer/songwriter) came up to me and gave me a late Birthday present, and asked me to wait to open it until I got home. When I opened it I almost started crying! She wrote a really thoughtful note about how she's not really prone to becoming friends with or getting to know the missionaries, and she has never written that kind of a note or anything to a missionary before, but that she was really grateful that I had come to Naha. It was so sweet. Then, carefully wrapped in a little package was a tiny little antique harmonica. Wow. After receiving that present from Nami Shimai I thought long and hard about something I could give her, and decided to give her probably the second most valuable thing that I have, which is a leaf from the Sacred Grove that my friend Morgon Stoker sent me when she was serving her mission at the visitors center there. I probably won't see her again if I end up getting transferred, but I'm so grateful we finally created such a great friendship this past week. At the baptism on Saturday I sang my favorite "Abide with me tis' Eventide" and afterward the bishop asked if Nami Shimai and I could sing it as a duet in sacrament meeting the next day. It was so fun to sing with her for the first time, especially since we had really bonded the day before.  Times like that, when I just feel so much love for and from the members is what strengthens my testimony that Heavenly Father called me to the Fukuoka mission for a reason. I have made amazing friendships with ward members and others I have met here that I know I will cherish forever, and my heart and soul has been changed through my experience here the past six months. I'm just so happy to have served here in Naha for the past four transfers!! I feel like the luckiest missionary in the world.
Not only have I grown to appreciate the people here in Okinawa, but because of the many experiences I have had here I have really grown to love my own family more. Even though I haven't seen you all in a long time, I think about you everyday and just feel so grateful for all of the support and love I feel from you. Thank you thank you!!! I miss you all so much but I know that this is where I am supposed to be and I am going to take advantage of every minute that I can. 
Be sure to read the new Liahona, which is dedicated completely to the Book of Mormon....and especially remember to read and cherish your own scriptures everyday! The Book of Mormon is true! I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and I'm so happy :)
Have a great week! 
Love, Tingey Shimai 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lessons from the Lord

This has to be one of my favorite photos of Lucy's mission.  Look how serious that guy is! haha!
Dear Famdamily,
Good morning! Sorry this is a day late. Yesterday for Pday we ended up going to the Aquarium last minute so we didn't have time to email. Yamada Shimai hadn't been yet so we decided it was a good idea to go. We were also able to go to the Planetarium, which was really cool. A few weeks ago I studied the first chapter of the Gospel Principles book for my language study, so I was really excited when during the Planetarium presentation I was actually able to recognize the words for "planet" "milky way" "galexy," ect. Way cool!
Lucy's new companion Yamada Shimai and Shuko maybe?
Thank you so much for the wonderful packages you sent for my Birthday! It was so fun to rip them open right when I woke up. I also received a lot of fun gifts from members and investigators, including two shirts (one with a picture of this Okinawan vegetable called a "goya" on it and another with a "sanshin" or Okinawan instrument), lots of Bananas (45 or so in total), a keychain and delicious beef jerky from Taiwan, and lots of pies and cakes. It was really great, but I also got a little homesick for probably the second time on my mission so far from opening the packages from home :(. I was forewarned that Mission Birthdays aren't the greatest thing in the world, so I can't say I was too surprised. Wednesday night for the Eikaiwa party a good portion of Naha ward showed up, though, so it was a great opportunity for the members to bond with our Eikaiwa students.

This week we had Ward Conference, as well as the Eikaiwa party, district meeting, ect, so it ended up being probably the most unproductive week I have had on my mission so far, and it didn't feel too good.  By about Thursday I was feeling really crummy, even though we had had a lot of activites and plans that week. I realized that we had been so busy preparing for the big events that we hadn't been able to do very much finding, and didn't teach very many lessons until near the end of the week. Once I understood what the difference was in the way I felt, I was able to really learn a good lesson from everything that happened. We learned that as full-time missionaries for the Lord at this time, doing anything besides pure missionary work doesn't end up being very fulfilling. Serving the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength is the only way that as a missionary we can do what we do every day. Luckily I have been extremely lucky on my mission so far to have had an amazing trainer who taught me what it means to be a good, hard-working missionary, and other companions who were also willing to work this week was the first time I felt like I wasn't fulfilling my purpose.  I'm so grateful for this experience because now I felt the difference, and it makes me want to work even harder to avoid having that feeling ever again.
Birthday Presents!
In the past 8 months or so I have had many difficult times, struggling with the language, teaching, being scared to talk to people, feeling inadequate for all that is required of me....but every time I have been able to overcome these feelings and push through with faith with the help of the Lord. I have come to realize that Heavenly Father is constantly sending me these difficulties to test me, and that when I rely on him I am ALWAYS able to overcome them, and actually am stronger and more resilient after the fact. I feel so grateful for the time I have had so far to discover that I can accomplish any difficult thing. My faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father has grown so much, and I expect that it will continue to grow in the coming months. 
Birthday Bananas
One bit of exciting news from this week: Even though it was a hard week, we had an amazing Sunday where our miracle investigators Kinjo Mariko and her daughter Shuko came to church for the first time. Shuko chan told us that she wants to become a missionary someday, that she LOVED Young Womens, and she wants to come to church again next week! This little 11 year old is the driving force in her and her mom hearing the lessons and coming to church. Isn't that amazing? If all goes well she will be baptized on the 24th of this month!
I have to go dendo now but I love you all so much and I want you to know that I know this gospel is true, and it just makes me so happy! I am loving every minute of life here. I'm also sorry I can't write to each of you individually very much, but know that I love you so much and think about you all the time!
Have an amazing week!
Love, Tingey Shimai

Monday, September 5, 2011

From one comes many(and Happy 23rd Birthday!)

Its my Birthday tomorrow! Hip hip hooray!
Kamo shimai and Taira Kyodai doing the thumbs up for Lucy's Birthday
I know I say this every week, but this past week was saiko (which, ironically. means `the best`)!!!!
Woh, does Sister Yamada have full suspension on her bike? What kind of biking are you doing!? Lucy's looks more like a cruiser bike and I love it because it's pink:)
First off, my Birthday is this week, and anyone who knows me knows that I always make a big deal out of my Birthday and plan a big shabang, so why would being on a mission change that, right? More opportunities to meet with our investigators and dendo! Hehe. Anyway, this past week there was a lot of talk about a `Banana Party` that we are throwing after Eikaiwa (English class) on Wednesday. It is a well known fact here in Naha that Im a big lover of bananas, and actually three of our investigators also have Birthdays this week, so we are having a big combined Birthday party for the four of us. I also already received two packages from Annie and Justin and Dad and Teri, that have been sitting next to my futon for the past week waiting to be opened. :) Ok, enough about Birthdays.
Sister Yamada and Tingey making some very important calls on their cell phone
Now for the really important stuff. I have another amazing story, almost to the caliber (SP) of last week`s miracle referral. This story is about a family named the Kubas.
A few months ago we received a call at the church from Kuba-san who asked us if we were currenly holding a childrens Eikaiwa class. We told her we were not but that we could come to her house and teach her kids English any time as long as we could share a spiritual message as well (Yes, we will basically do anything to teach people, haha). We ended up going a few weeks later and they are this incredibly adorable family with the two parents, 13 year old Aoi, and 5 year old Alisa. She told us that she had actually spent some time in Utah before and stayed with an LDS host family there, so she had a lot of knowlege about the church. We invited them to a takyu taikai (ping pong tournament) at the church the day that Ohama shimai was baptized, and they came! They had a lot of fun and they promised to have us back for dinner sometime. This past Saturday we were able to go back. I prepared this little English lesson to each to Aoi, but when we arrived he wasn`t even home. We thought it was interesting, so we just sat down and started chatting with Kuba-san (the mom). After a couple of minutes I started to get the feeling that she didn`t want us to teach English that day at all, but actually just wanted to have a gospel discussion! We were thrilled so we started in talking about temples and eternal families just as Aoi returned home and listened in. Then, big surprise, Kuba-san suddenly tells us, `Yeah, actually I got baptized when I was 19, but ....`. Wait, what? My companion and I turned to each other with a , `wait, did she just say she got baptized?` look on our faces, and then turned back to her. She went on to tell us about her conversion story and that she had been active in the church for two years until due to some family situations she stopped attending church. Wow! Naruhodo. So then, if that`s not enough of a shocker for us, she asks us if we could actually start teaching her husband the gospel, and that she really thinks that returning to church would strengthen her family! Hellooooo Kuba-san! Pureeee Joy.
Mio Chan.  So darling. 
Yamada shimai and I have yet to see a day this transfer where some amazing miracle hasn`t occurred. I`m not sure what Heavenly Father is thinking up there pouring out all of these blessings on us, because I sure don`t feel like we deserve half of them. I guess the best explanatio is that Heavenly Father`s motive isn`t to bless us necessarily, but to bless His children that He loves through us. I feel very humbled to be a tool in His hands!
Lucy's never lost her coolness, even on the mish.  Happy Birthday!
In other news, I just have to say  that I LOVE Naha, LOVE Okinawa, and especially LOVVVEEE the members in our two wards. This being my FOURTH transfter here in Naha, I have really grown to love the people here so much! I felt it especially yesterday during Sacrament meeting in both wards. Yamada Shimai and I were looking through our Member Book at our apartment the other day when we realized a lot of info was missing, like phone numbers and addresses and such, so we made a resolve to re-compile the correct info. We sat in the back of the chapel for both meetings, and with notebook and pen wrote down each of the members` names and each family attending that day. It was a really good chance for Yamada Shimai to ask questions and learn some of the members` names, and I was shocked when I was able to name 62 out of the 74 families/individuals seated in the chapel! I guess that`s what time does, but as I wrote down each name I really felt a love for each of the members and thought about the fun/spiritual/uplifting moments I had had with each of them. And as far as the 12 I wasn`t able to name, we met each of them after Sacrament meeting, collected their info, and plan on visiting them in the coming weeks to get to know them better.
YSAs at the Yozas house
I feel an incredible amount of gratitude that I have been able to stay in this area of Naha for as long as I have and develop such amazing life-long friendships with these members. I especially felt that last night as the missionaries, along with the YSAs from both wards, gathered at the Yoza family`s house and ate, talked, and laughed together. I sat next to one of the most amazing women I have ever met, Sister Kinjo, and she related to me the story of one woman some 50 years ago who, as a single mom raising 8 boys on her own, joined the church due to two young missionaries who climbed a steep hill to share the gospel with her. Because of her incredible testimony and determination to share it with everyone she knew, she contributed to the conversion of almost half of the now members in the Naha area, including Sister Kinjo who was relating the story of this woman. I have heard different variations of this story from other members, but as she told the story to me last night I have never ever felt the spirit so strong in my life, and we both cried. I couldn`t help but think of Ohama shimai, who was baptized last month, and her little 4 year old son Kotaro kun. I thought of the scripture in DC 18:15-16 about how much joy bringing just one person to the gospel brings. I have a testimony of that! However, the scripture goes on to state, `how much more will be your joy if you bring many!?` Kinjo shimai`s story gave me a new motivation to declare the gospel to everyone I can in this short time I have to serve a full-time mission, as well as after.
Kamo shimai and Taira Kyodai hugging
What an amazing week. I love Heavenly Father so much and I know that He looks after each and every one of us. I have witnessed that in the last 4 months more powerfully than ever before. Look for the good in each day and always strive to do what the Lord would have you do. I promise you that he will lead you to someone he has prepared to hear the gospel! Alma 13:24.
I love you all so much!

Love, Tingey Shimai