Hello everyone! Yet another week has passed...and only 6 days until Christmas!!
Serving in Fukuoka during the Christmas season has been such a huge blessing. The ward has planned all sorts of holiday festivities that have given our friends the opportunity to come to the church and mingle with ward members, as well as the chance for members to bring their friends to the church and feel the spirit.
One of those activities was the big Christmas fireside we had on Saturday night that they have been planning it ever since I arrived in Fukuoka at the end of September. It was pretty spectacular. It was meant to be really spiritual and of course focus on celebrating the birth of Christ. There were all sorts of performances including a flute and oboe medely, Oh Holy Night sung in English by a member, some skits, a performance by our Eikaiwa students of Away in a Manger, and all sorts of others. I was asked to sing Amazing Grace which is probably the hardest song Ive ever tried to sing, haha. Never again.
That night we counted how many non-members came to the fireside and it was around 25, which is INSANE! Can you believe that??!!! That included our favorite family, the Oyamas, as well as a lady we met on the street about 3 months ago who randomly showed up for kids Eikaiwa Saturday morning, watched the Finding Faith in Christ DVD after that, came to the Christmas fireside, and then also attended all three hours of church the next day. It was literally a miracle!
I almost forgot! We had transfers last week and I got a NEW COMPANION!!! Her name is Tagawa Shimai! She is from Shizuoka and is the cutest thing ever! I was finally separated from my eternal companion Sister Uchida when she transferred last week to Kumamoto. Wahhh. Anyway, I am loving my new companion.
I have the best news ever. Last night we had a lesson at the Oyama family`s house and we commited them to be baptized on January 28th! They all agreed to work hard and work together to get ready to be baptized on that day. They have come so far! Thinking back on the first lessons we taught to them a few months ago they believed in God but didn`t really know how to apply that in their lives. During last night`s lesson I was overwhelmed by how much their faith has grown. We still have a lot of work to do (Word of Wisdom problems, coming to church, etc) but we and they know that with the help of Heavenly Father literally anything is possible. Our task now is to help them prepare for that day when they`ll enter the gate of baptism and start their journey on the road back to our Father in Heaven. I feel so lucky to be serving in Fukuoka and to have met these wonderful people.
During this Christmas season I really feel like the greatest gift I`ve been given is the ability, desire and motivation to be called as a full-time missionary. I have never felt so much joy, sadness, appreciation, and love in my life. It has definitely been worth every second!
I can`t wait to talk to you all this week! The call is 45 minutes...please try to call at about 8 PM or so on Christmas Eve that it will be 12 PM my time Christmas day after church. My phone number is 080-2149-6410. Follow the instructions on the Email I forwarded you and you should be able to call me just like last time. I love you!
Love, Tingey Shimai
Pictures: 1. One of my English students has eaten 5 mikans (mandarin oranges) everyday for the past month and he turned orange.
2. Fake Christmas smiles.
3. Oyama family saying goodbye to Uchida Shimai
4. Creepy dark alleyway by the Oyama family:s house. Everyday of December we have been sneakily dropping by and giving them gifts, so we have been taking Christmas hiding pictures everyday with the stuff we give them.
5. More hiding
6. Sayonara Uchida Shimai! Our last goodbye at the bus station