Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Japan!

Dear Family and friends,

It was a wonderful week! It was so good to talk to everyone on Christmas day. I love all of you so much! I missed being home for Christmas but am grateful to be serving the Lord out here.

Besides talking to you on the phone, Christmas was a normal day as a missionary. We woke up at 6:30 (instead of the 30 min. of exercise we opened our presents), did personal study for one hour, companion study for 1 hour, and language study for 45 minutes. We proselyted (knocked on doors) and had dinner at a member’s house. It was a Christmas that I won’t have too many of, only as a missionary!

This past week one of the highlights for me was Eikaiwa- the free English class we teach at the church each Saturday. I teach the advanced class, and their English is quite good for Japanese people. There are about 6-7 in my class. After we teach English, the missionaries teach a short 15 minute spiritual message. This past week’s message was about agency. Yoneda Shimai and I taught it. We’ve been working to try and get the Eikaiwa members to be interested in the message or at least participate in the spiritual thought when we ask questions—last Saturday they did! Their hearts are slowly softening towards the Church…

Also we taught a recent convert this past week. She has many trials and still needs to be strengthened in the church. As we taught her, she had a question. I was able to share a scripture that answered it. I’m grateful for this guidance from the Spirit, and for the sacred responsibility of helping God’s children progress toward one day living with Him again!

I’m understanding more and more Japanese, and my speaking is slowly getting better. I’m learning to be patient with my progress and have realized that I don’t have to speak like a Japanese person in order to be the missionary God wants me to be.

I love being a missionary! I especially love the Izumi area and Izumi ward. Transfer week is coming up soon- in 2 more weeks this transfer will be over! I want to stay here in Izumi, but will go where the Lord and President Tateoka want me to go!

Swain Shimai

Monday, December 21, 2009

Izumi Ward Christmas Party

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas is in a few days! I’m so grateful to be serving the Lord at this time. Izumi has gotten snow this past week! Just a little bit sticks to the ground—it’s cold but not too bad. The Izumi ward members are wonderful. They put Christmas present for the missionaries in a big box and gave it to us yesterday—lots of food and socks—so Yoneda Shimai and I will eat well and stay warm!

The Izumi Ward Christmas Party on Saturday was great! It was more of a program than a party. We watched Christ’s birth DVD (it was in English, so two YSA members dressed up as Mary/Joseph and translated it into Japanese.In between different scenes the ward choir sang and I played my violin. Oh, how the Japanese people can sing!!!! There were maybe 25 people in the choir, and it was beautiful. It was so wonderful to reflect on the Savior’s birth – how significant it was, yet He was born in a very humble way, in a manger. How grateful I am that He came into the world, lived and died for us! This means everything to me, especially as I am a representative of Him now. He is the way!

It’s been neat to see the progress of those who’ve recently been baptized. We continue to meet with them, re-teach them the lessons with their home teachers, and help them as they become fully active in the church. This week we visited the Miura Family, an older couple, obachan (grandmother) and ojichan (grandfather) who’ve recently joined the church. They live in humble circumstances and have very little means—but during our visit Sister Miura expressed to us her strong desire to go to the temple to do temple work for her deceased mother and father. I was touched by her strong faith and hope, and realized how much I’ve taken for granted the blessings of having a temple nearby my whole life. To Tokyo, it is a 6 hour drive by car. Sister Miura doesn’t have a car, and it’s hard for her to get around—but she said maybe she can take a bus there…in her condition this will be hard. What great faith and example to me!

I love missionary work, especially planning for our lessons. We talk about each investigator individually, their needs, and how we can help them—and the Lord helps us through the Spirit to know what we should teach them. It’s neat when Yoneda Shimai and I have the same thoughts of what we should teach them---we’re unified!

This morning we visited Numakura san, the blind woman. She is easily touched by the Spirit, but hasn’t yet accepted the teachings o f the gospel after many years of hearing it by the missionaries. I was able to bring my violin and play some Christmas songs for her. She loves music! I pray that her heart /ears will one day be open to hear and really accept the gospel. It would help her so much!

I’m grateful for and love all of you. Thanks for your support and love! I hope that you will reflect on the Savior this season, and throughout the year, and accept His love and healing power in your lives! I truly have felt and seen His love out here-truly all are beloved children of God!


ister Swain

Monday, December 14, 2009

Zone Conference

Dear Family and Friends,

They celebrate Christmas a little differently out here—they don’t go “all out” like we do in America. But, the Izumi chapel has a fake Christmas tree that is decorated, and garlands hanging on the staircase for the ward Christmas Party on Saturday (I’ll be playing my violin – “Away in A Manger”). In our apartment, the only things that look like Christmas are the two origami Christmas trees my English class students gave me, a little stocking from President and Sister Tateoka, and a Christmas card from the First Presidency to me (they send to all the missionaries!). But I’m grateful that I can spend Christmas this way- focused on the Lord’s work! We were able to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional (in English). It was so wonderful! I loved the Tabernacle Choir music, and the talks, especially President Monson’s story. It reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas. How grateful I am for the Savior’s birth and His life that He gave for us!

This week we had Zone Conference. It was so wonderful to be with all the other missionaries in our zone, hear the inspired words of our mission president and be reminded of how important our calling is! President Tateoka truly is inspired! This really is the Lord’s work. There’s no way 19-25 year olds could do this themselves!

Yoneda Shimai and I have grown used to each other and have a wonderful time serving together. I still can’t always understand what she says, but I’m learning more and more each day. This past week the Lord has blessed us with wonderful experiences and miracles. We’ve been working so hard to find people to teach and for a few weeks we had no investigators,but then this last week, we taught two new investigators and commited them to be baptized! They are both member’s friends, and have been prepared to hear the gospel!

One is Aihara san, Tomoe Shimai and Sait Kyodai’s friend (Both Tomoe and Saito were recently baptized). He’s 25 years old, and as we taught about the Restoration, he just believed it! He said he doesn’t know why he does, but he believes it’s true! We’re preparing him to be baptized December 27.

The other is Mizuho san, my same age and a college student! She is a friend of another recent convert; she’s come to Eikaiwa (English class) a few times and the Halloween Party because her member friend invited her. On Saturday night we had a “mogi” lesson (practice lesson with members) scheduled with the recent convert, Yukina Shimai—She called about an hour before and said she was bringing her friend Mizuho san! Yoneda Shimai and I had a little time to prepare. We prayed together and felt like we should teach about the Plan of Salvation. The Spirit was there during the lesson, and Mizuho san said it made sense. She felt like it was true! Yoneda Shimai was able to answer Mizuho’s questions with scriptures that Mizuho san needed to hear. Yukina Shimai, her friend, bore testimony and helped answer Mizuho san’s questions.

It was so amazing, and another witness to me that this is the Lord’s work! I love serving Him out here in Japan and know it’s where He wants me to be. I’m filled with love the Savior this Christmas time and am grateful for the chance I have to share it with the people of Izumi!

I love all of you so much! I pray you’ll have a wonderful Christmas and especially remember what the Savior has done for us all!

Swain Shimai

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time Flies!

Dear family and friends,

I cannot believe another week has passed-time flies! In a few days we have zone taikai (conference) which I am excited for! Japan is great! I found out that it doesn’t usually snow in Izumi—it just gets cold! On Saturday it rained hard while we were housing—I was grateful for my raincoat!

I’m learning a lot from Yoneda Shimai, including how to cook here in Japan. Also, I’m learning a lot of Japanese from her. Probably the highlight of this past week was yesterday, fast Sunday. We did all we could to try and find new investigators. We did a lot of housing, but hadn’t had very much success. We fasted from Saturday dinner to Sunday’s dinner (24 hours) and prayed to the Lord for direction and guidance so that we could find those who are ready! As we concluded our fast on Sunday, we both felt the spirit strongly that God had heard our prayer! We went housing that night and in a few hours found four potential investigators, which doubled the number we’d found in the entire last week! Truly the Lord hears and answers our prayers!

The Izumi ward is wonderful. They have become my family out here! Even though I still can communicate very little in Nihongo with them, it is made up with their smiles and support. Last week we did some “mogi” – practice lessons (for my Nihongo) with some ward members. They are so supportive and full of faith. I’m so grateful to them!

I’m sorry this letter is short, but I will write more next week. I love you all so much! The gospel is true! Thanks for your prayers and support!

Swain Shimai

P.S. My new companion feeds me a lot (we cook a lot of food). We eat rice with pretty much every meal. I’ve yet to decide if this is a good thing or not...I’ve grown to like Japanese food!
P.P.S. The language is coming little by little. I’m learning new words from my companion each day because she mostly speaks to me in Japanese. Sometimes it takes us a while to understand each other but we eventually get there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Companion!

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m doing well! Tani Shimai finished her mission and went home last week. I was sad to see her go! I will miss her. She was my trainer and helped me through so much. I will always have a special spot in my heart for her! All of the Izumi ward, and the eight converts she baptized while in Izumi, were sad to see her go. She came with her mom to sacrament meeting Sunday, before going home to Osaka, and bore her testimony and sang a duet with her mom, “His Hands.” (I played the piano part. Thanks mom for teaching me piano.)

My new companion, Yoneda Shimai (from Osaka) is wonderful! She’s the opposite of Tani Shimai and more of the polite Nihonjin I think of when I think of Japan. She is the most humble person I have ever met! She is always seeking for ways to improve. She is very nurturing, and will help me a lot with my Japanese. She speaks to me only in Japanese, except for the two hour English SYL (Nihonjin missionaries are also supposed to improve their English skills) each day.

Since Tani Shimai left, I’ve felt a lot more responsibility. I’ve had to introduce Yoneda Shimai to Izumi and the investigators--everything! The Lord has blessed me so much with this responsibility—from remembering the right way to investigator’s houses/different areas, to receiving revelation for His work! The past few days, as we’ve prayed, the Holy Ghost has put thoughts in our mind of where to go, and what an investigator needs. The Lord has answered our prayers in a very real way!

Last Friday, Yoneda Shimai’s first full day in Izumi, we talked to someone on the street not too far away from our apartment, Naho san, who we found out is actually our next-door neighbor! She had an interest in the purpose of life and she came to church on Sunday. We taught her lesson two and she met some of the church members. She has faith and wants to learn more! It’s amazing to see how the Lord puts people in our way who are ready to hear about the gospel!

I love being a missionary! Some days are hard with the language--but the Lord is merciful and hears my prayers and strengthens me! The hard times are worth it when we meet someone like Naho san, or see Mori san’s baptism! I know that the Lord loves each of His children so much. This is His work! I love all of you so much! Thanks for your support and prayers.

Swain Shimai

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saito san's Baptism

Dear Family and Friends,

The language is coming slowly (it seems at times), step by step, line upon line and precept upon precept. My understanding and comprehension of the language is much better now than when I came. I hear it around me 24/7! As I’ve opened my mouth, the spirit has helped me know what to say! Even when I can’t correctly express myself, the Spirit is the #1 thing!

Last Thursday we visited Numakura san, a 50-year old lady who is blind. She’s been taught the missionary discussions since she met the missionaries 15 years ago, but has not yet had a true desire/interest to learn about it. She continues to want to meet with the sister Missionaries for lunch every once in a while (this was the 2nd time we went to her house this transfer). On Thursday we found out why. We helped her make lunch, ate with her, and then taught again about the Restoration. My part of the lesson was to recite the 1st vision and bear testimony of it. As I was reciting it, I got a bit mixed up and skipped a part, but it didn’t matter because the Spirit was there! I realized then, in a very real way, that the Spirit was what was important--and anything I could or could not say was secondary to it.

I extended to her the commitment of praying to know if Joseph Smith’s vision is true—she did not directly answer and still perhaps doesn’t have an interest in the message because she doesn’t realize how it can help her...but she felt the Spirit, our love for her, and God’s love for her. She opened up (Tani Shimai said for the first time) and told us how grateful she is for the missionaries and the power we carry from our God. She said she feels it each time the missionaries visit! She sobbed, telling us how grateful she was for the power we carry. She recently became blind and it has truly humbled her and been hard on her. She said she doesn’t know what she would do if it weren’t for the missionaries who’ve visited her!

I’m grateful for the power of the Spirit that has helped Numakura san! I pray that one day she will be receptive to the message and realize that this is where the power, the peace comes from! The Lord loves His children, and prepares them to accept the message. God in His wisdom knows the right timing for each of His children!

Mom, you asked about Kodama san...he is slowly progressing as he learns about the church. Tani Shimai and I visited him once a week for a few weeks and taught him short, 10-15 minute lessons in the genkan (the entry way area where shoes go). We then referred him to the chorotachi (elders), who came with us this past week and we taught him together. It’s been wonderful to see the small changes in him, little by little, as he feels the Spirit each time.

On Sunday, Saito san was baptized, and Mori san was confirmed! Tani Shimai has been teaching Saito san for some time now (before I came). He has faith, but often cancels appointments, so we’ve pushed back his baptism happened on Sunday! Tani Shimai and I fasted that he would show up and be able to be baptized. The Lord heard our prayers and he came and was baptized! Although I don’t know him very well and wasn’t involved in a lot of his learning about the church, I felt so much joy for him. He has found the true church and started on the path!

Saturday we had our Izumi Ward Dendo Concert. The Ward Mission Leader was in charge. Some ward members and their families did musical numbers, and the YSA members and us (the missionaries – me & Tani Shimai and the two elders) sang two numbers. Tani Shimai and I sang a duet about miracles from the Joseph/Moses movie (I think? They’re all in Japanese). I played “Where Can I Turn for Peace” and the “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” duet with the other elder from America (Andrus Choro), who sang it in Japanese. It was wonderful. One of the members had even put together a stage and spotlights, microphones... Seventy people came, including ward members, investigators and Eikaiwa students (English students)! (The American missionaries teach English class once a week.) It was a lot of work and took a lot of preparation, but was well worth it. The investigators who came felt the Spirit through music – and even one of my English students who came gave me flowers after I played my violin, and said she was deeply touched.

Being a missionary is the best! There are both hard and joyful times. The hard times make the good times worth it! The Lord is in it all and knows not only what we need, but also how we can bless the lives of those around us.

Tomorrow is transfer day, and Tani Shimai is going back home to Osaka, Japan! I am going to miss her. I have learned so much from her and have experienced much with her. She truly has worked miracles on her mission. She has seen 12 baptisms! This is because she has relied on the Lord. She has accomplished the mission He’s given her, with His help. I hope I will be able to feel the same way when I finish my mission.

But for now, one step at a time! This morning the Mission President called and told me who my new companion will be – Yoneda Shimai from Nagoya, Japan. (I’ll be staying in the Izumi area.) Tani Shimai knows her from the all-Japan YSA conference and says she’s wonderful. This will be her 8th transfer. I’m excited to meet her and learn from her. I’ll tell you about her next week!

I love you all so much and pray for you daily!

Swain Shimai

P.S. I read Kent’s email--Furukawa (where he stayed in Japan) is in my district! We had district meeting there last week. It’s about an hour’s bus ride away. I will talk to the missionaries there about Yoko Chiba, his homestay mom. I’m glad Tyler’s doing well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mori san's baptism!

Dear Family and Friends,

There’s so much I want to tell you and no time to do it in...these past few p-days have been cut short. (Today is district p-day and we’re going bowling as a district with some investigators and recent converts.)

I’m sorry I can’t email anymore—the one place in Izumi we could do it was a Docomo phone shop—they asked us not to use internet there anymore (it’s only for customers)—and there are no more free internet places in Izumi, so I won’t be able to e-mail anymore here, until I’m transferred.

The highlight of this past week was Mori san’s baptism yesterday! Mom and Dad, you may have gotten a call from his friend from America, Brother Davis (who I talked to on Mori san’s cell phone). Every convert’s story is amazing and a miracle—Mori san’s was very much tied to a member friend, Brother Davis from California. They met 20 years ago where they were the coordinators for an exchange program. Mori san stayed with Brother Davis three years later(?) and found out that Brother Davis was a member of the church. Brother Davis referred him to the missionaries who taught him a few years ago but then dropped him as an investigator.

About two months ago, Tani Shimai and her companion before me (Hansen Shimai--from Las Vegas)--were looking through the old investigators and felt prompted to call Mori san. They did, but he didn’t answer. They left a message--and he called back! He set up an appointment, and they taught him the 2nd lesson about the Plan of Salvation. We found out later that something the sisters said about it touched him—so he set up another appointment. That was when I came to Izumi, and taught him with Tani Shimai (Tani Shimai did the teaching—I would bear testimony when I could because of my still beginning Japanese skills…). In his 2nd lesson (I was there)--Tani Shimai felt like she should invite him to be baptized. She did, and he accepted! Later we found out he had a feeling that we would ask him. He already knew it was the right thing to do and had decided to be baptized!

It’s been neat to watch and be a part of his conversion! The Lord has prepared him to accept the gospel--beginning 20 years ago when he met and developed a relationship with a member of the church. Since I’ve been serving as a full-time missionary, I’ve realized how important the members are in doing missionary work—in inviting their friends to the church activities, and to meet with the missionaries. The three people that will have been baptized this transfer (next week is Saito san, a recent convert’s friend’s baptism!) were all referred by members! When the investigators have a member friend, they have a strong support and another testimony of the gospel’s truthfulness—they see it in the lives of the members. How grateful I am for those members who shared the gospel with their friends—who have/will be baptized—the first step to entering God’s kingdom!

That is something I want to do when I get back—share the gospel with all of my non-member friends! I challenge all of you to do the same—you never know whom the Lord is preparing to hear the gospel. He needs every member of the church to help prepare his precious sons and daughters!

I love all of you so much! Sounds like all of you are busy--congrats Michael with Honor Orchestra! I’m glad you and mom got over the flu! That’s wonderful and good to hear that David has more help and is happier. Thank you for your love, support, and prayers.

Swain Shimai

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No More Email! (More on Matsushima...)

November 15, 2009

Dear Loved Ones,

I am doing great! But I just found out that I won`t be able to e-mail any more while I`m in Izumi--there are no approved places that I can e-mail from (the place I`ve been e-mailing from said we couldn`t come anymore). I`m sorry about this--I will snail mail family each week, and will write back anyone I get letters from.

I continue to pray for all of you and I`m doing well:)

Swain Shimai

(Since Danielle can no longer send emails, I am including her "snail mail" we received this week--It is about last week...)

11/6/09 Friday

Dear Family and Friends,

Today is not the usual P-day (Mon) because we received permission to go sightseeing today with 2 recent converts and a ward member (it was the only time they could do it.)—So today is a ½ P-day and Monday we’ll only use ½ of the day for P-day.

We went to Matsushima. Matsu is a beautiful tree found on this island (shima). It was about an hour drive away. It was beautiful, and wonderful to be out in nature—and see the

koyo (autumn leaves) and the Japanese trees! The view of the ocean was beautiful as well. Izumi, where we dendo, is jam-packed with houses/small companies—so besides the occasional park we ride by on our bikes, I haven’t been able to see Japanese nature and appreciate it until today.

My companion, Tani Shimai (from Osaka) is not the typical Nihonjin. She is very outgoing and has a talent for “loving” people. She’s served in Izumi for a long time (6 transfers!)—The ward members love her and she’s had many investigators baptized! The other missionaries call her an amazing missionary—the mission president, in my interview Wed., told me to learn all I can from her and ask lots of questions. She really is an amazing missionary—I hope to become like her!

...Continued on Monday 11/9
Usually new missionaries stay with their trainers for three transfers, but this is Tani Shimai’s last transfer before going home, so I’ll have a new companion in two weeks. I’ve felt a lot of responsibility to learn everything about the area—investigators, members, directions (Ichiban musukashii - #1 hard thing!) around our area, so that when my new companion comes we can continue what Tani Shimai has worked so hard here for six transfers to do! Tani Shimai is giving me a “Senpai Day” – one this week and one next week-where I decide what we do and ride my bike in front! I still have a lot more to learn these last two weeks, but the Lord is helping me little by little to do it!

Mom, I’m going to try and answer some of your questions now. There’s so much I want to tell you about missionary life here in Izumi! My bike is wonderful—it’s the best mountain bike they have here. I’ve had to take it into the shop 2 times because the gears stopped working-but I think it may have been my fault for changing the gears too fast when I shouldn’t have! It works great now. The hardest thing is riding up the hills and in the tight, tiny sidewalk paths they have—and in a skirt! But I think I’m figuring it out!

Like I’ve said before, the Izumi Ward is wonderful. The church building is 2 stories high. Sacrament meeting is held upstairs in a hall about half the size of ours in Vegas. The other rooms are also smaller, and each has a gas stove we turn on in the winter. The walls are thins and the church is often colder inside than it is outside! (when the stoves aren’t turned on). When the stove in a room is turned on, the room gets super warm and then we have to turn it off again.

About 2 or 3 times a week we eat with ward members—we coordinate it and call to make an appointment with people we want to meet with unless they invite us over—it’s pretty different than Vegas! The members are kind, and usually say yes unless they’re super busy. They’ve fed me all sorts of wonderful things! Lots of rice, noodles, and miso soup…

I’m out of time today, so I’ll write more next time. I love all of you so much and pray for you each day!

Swain Shimai

Monday, November 9, 2009


Dear Family,

It seems like yesterday that I wrote my last e-mail--time flies! Thanks Grandma and Grandpa Tasso for your dear elder, and papa I also got yours. I hope mom and Michael get better soon! I love you all so much!

It`s been another wonderful week in Izumi. Yesterday was Stake Conference in Sendai--it was in a big hall. When I played "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" on the violin, it almost felt like I was performing again because I was on a big stage! My playing went well, and the Spirit was there--which was what I was praying for. I didn`t really understand any of the speakers, but it was neat to see that the church funtions the same out here in Japan--another testament of its truthfulness! Even though I could not understand the words that were said, I could feel the Spirit. Many of the stake members drove a while to get there--some drove 1 1/2 hrs, probably more! It was a wonderful gathering of the Lord`s Saints!

Last Friday my companion, Tani Shimai and I had gotten permission to have a special p-day--we went with some recent converts to Matsushima, an island about 1 hr. drive away. It was beautiful--the ocean, and the unique Japanese trees--and the beautiful autumn leaf colors you were talking about dad! We went to an oyster restaurant right by the ocean, where they brought them out and grilled them right in front of you and opened the shells for you--it was quite the experience! The oysters weren`t bad, but I wasn`t a fan of the scallops...

Part of the reason we were allowed this p-day was because it`s Tani Shimai`s last transfer--she goes home in two weeks, and I will get a new companion! It`ll be sad to see her go, but it`s been wonderful learning from her and spending the last part of her mission with her.

I want to share one experience with you that Tani Shimai and I had last week. We went to follow up and try to make an appointment with a potential investigator she`d found before I came. He was older and had to use a wheelchair, and lived alone. When we came to the door, he went to give back the Book of Mormon Tani Shimai had given him before--but we wouldn`t let him. At first he was hesitant, but as we began to bear testimony of the book and of God`s love for him, his face began to change--there really was a visible change, and we could tell he was feeling the Spirit! We scheduled another appointment and will go back to teach him the lessons. The church really is true, and God is preparing those who are ready to hear its message, just as He prepared Kodama san.

I love all of you and hope you`re doing well!

Swain Shimai

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Dear Loved Ones,

Thanks Bro. Fajardo, mom and dad, and Grandma Swain for your Dear Elder letters. Mom and dad, I`m glad you had a wonderful trip back east, visiting Nate and Birgit for Henry`s baby blessing. Congrats Nate and Birgit! Also, that`s exciting that Todd`s back from his mission and Kim is engaged!

This past week has been very busy, with loads of teaching appointments, Zone Conference, and a ward Halloween Party! The YSA (Young Single Adults) here in Izumi were in charge of the ward halloween party--we helped them plan and decorate the chapel and brought several investigators to the party. We even made one of the rooms into a haunted house! It was fun preparing for and was a good thing for the recent converts and investigators, who met more of the ward members.
[This is a picture of the Izumi Chapel...]

Zone Conference was wonderful! We traveled on the Subway to the nearby Kamisugi chapel, where all the Sendai zone missionaries meet. It was great meeting the other missionaries serving here, and hearing their testimonies during the testimony meeting. We had a musical number and I played my violin with them for the hymn "A Poorwayfaring Man of Grief." I am so glad I could bring my violin! I`ll be playing it at stake conference this coming Sunday, as well as at a mission music fireside for our Izumi ward in a few weeks. Music has been a wonderful, helpful tool here in Japan already!

I`m continuing to learn more and more each day--the language, living here...everything! At zone taikai (conference) we talked about the importance of planning and setting reasonable goals--I`m learning how to do this with my language study so that slowly, one step at a time and through diligent daily study I can learn the language. I`ve prayed and feel like if I am diligent in my daily study and am obedient to the mission rules, the Lord will help me in learning the language, as He has so much already! I know that in the strength of the Lord, "I can do all things" (Alma 26:12). I`m grateful for the strength He gives to me each day!

Swain Shimai

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cow Tongue

Dear Family,

Nihon is wonderful! I`m understanding more Nihongo each day and am slowly being able to speak more. My companion is very patient with me and is helping me learn the language!

Today was the 2nd day it`s rained in Izumi since I`ve been here--it comes pouring down! I`m learning how to ride my bike in the rain, in a skirt, and up the many hills of Izumi.

The work is moving forward here in Izumi. Each day Tani Shimai and I do our best to find those who are ready to hear the gospel. It`s wonderful to teach the gospel to these people, and see the changes that take place in their lives as they come unto Christ! Ishii san was confirmed in Sacrament Meeting, and two new investigators came to church for the first time, where they were fellowshipped by the members and want to come back! One of them will be baptized in a few weeks--Ota san. She is 83 years old and believes in God and knows that getting baptized is the right thing to do.

I`m grateful for the Japanese people, and their faith--it strengthens me! The Lord is blessing me so much; I understand so much more Nihongo than when I came here 2 1/2 weeks ago!

Sorry this e-mail is short, but I`m out of time. I`ll write more next week!

Swain Shimai

PS. I`m trying lots of Japanese food that my companion makes for me and members make, and it`s great! The other day we had cow tongue, Sendai`s specialty food, at Ishii san`s`s not too bad!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Whole New World!

Dear Family and Friends,

It`s wonderful to be in Japan! It is really a whole new world and culture, very different than what I`ve grown up in! Everything is smaller--streets, (bicycle lanes:), food portions, and the people (I feel like a giant sometimes)! But it is wonderful! I`m getting used to the way things work here, one day at a time.

The people here are so kind! I have the best trainer in the world, Tani Shimai from Osaka. She is really a wonderful missionary and person, and I am learning so much from her. We had a baptismal service yesterday for one of her former investigators! It was so wonderful! Even though I couldn`t understand most of what was being said, the same Spirit was there. This is God`s work!

I am serving in the Izumi district, a little suburb of Sendai. There is a ward here in Izumi, with very kind ward members! There are 2 elders also serving in this area--one of them was in my class at the MTC and came over with me to Japan last week.

I love being here, and am learning to love the Japanese people and understand them--even though my language skills are just beginning (I most always don`t understand what they`re saying!), I love them and I think they feel that! Each day, as I help invite them to come unto Christ--with my limited Japanese, inviting them to church/be taught--I know that the Lord is preparing those who are ready to hear the message of the restored gospel!

My 2nd day here, I was a bit cold and hungry and hadn`t understood very much Japanese...but then it hit me! My being here in Japan wasn`t about me or what I want! I know that I`m here to serve God, and I have faith that God will prepare the way! What I want is not important--serving God is iichiban (#1) important!

I will continue each day to do everything I can to further His work here, with faith that my Nihongo skills will become what they need to be. The Lord always prepares a way for us to accomplish His work!

Thanks for your love and prayers. I love all of you! Konnichiwa from Nihon!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Safe in Japan!

Dear family and friends,

I'm safely here in Nihon!!! It was wonderful talking to you--I'm so sorry mom and dad I couldn't talk to you longer--I tried calling back later but I think you were on the plane.

The Lord blesses His missionaries--He blessed Andrus Choro and I to get here safely! Thank you for your prayers--they were heard! We weren't informed at the MTC that we'd have to pick up our luggage in the Toykyo airport, re-check them in to fly to Sendai--and the luggage requirements were different--they wouldn't let me carry on my violin! But, we were running late and were about to miss our flight, so they didn't make us pay for the extra carry-on Andrus Choro had that wouldn't fit on the Sendai plane (it fit on the American ones)--and they strapped my violin in a big box, promised to take good care of it, and didn't make me pay for it! We ran through security and made it on the last flight to Sendai--the Lord's angels were there helping us get through (plus the Japanese people were so kind and helpful).

Sendai is beautiful and my mission pres. and his wife are wonderful! I love it here already and feel blessed to be serving the Lord! I played my violin last night at the mission home for the mission pres and his wife, senior missionary couple, and zone leaders--I'm grateful I was able to bring it!

Thanks all for your prayers--I love you so much!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Last Week!!!!!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

It's hard to believe it's my last week here--time just flew by! I am SO excited to go to Japan next Monday! I'm just praying that I'll be able to fit everything in my suitcases and have them still be under the weight limit!:)

It's been a wonderful and busy week. Last Friday the President of all the MTCs outside the US, Brother Mills, came and spoke to the departing missionaries going to Japan. He'd served in Japan, so he spoke to us about his experiences in Japan, talked about the prophesied progress of the church in Japan (a day later in General Conference we found out about the new temple that will be built in Sapporo, Japan!), and he talked about making our goals and expectations with the Lord. It was an inspiring meeting--he challenged us to speak Japanese ONLY this last week here in the MTC--he said that if we love the Japanese people, we would do it! When he said this, I felt the Spirit strongly that this is what I needed to do--so I've been trying hard to only speak Japanese this week! As I do this, as well as look back on all the Japanese I've learned here, I've realized how much the Lord has blessed me to learn the Japanese language!

Wasn't General Conference wonderful?!! Especially the news about the new Sapporo temple!:) I loved all the talks from the prophet, apostles, and general authorities of our church! I especially loved President Eyring's talk during the Sunday morning session, about becoming like Christ and loving as He did! God wants us to become like Him, so we'll be worthy of living with Him again one day--to do this, we must follow Christ's example! I pray that every day all of us will be a little more like Him--that we'll love as He loved, say what He would say, and think and do what He would do!

This gospel is true--I know this without a doubt!! God loves all of us, his children! That is why Joseph Smith restored the gospel--because God loves us and knew we needed the strength of the gospel in these latter days!

I love all of you and pray for you daily!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Less Than Two Weeks!

Dear Family and Friends,

Just this past week we figured out that our departure date is earlier than we thought--a week from next Monday I will fly to Japan!! I'm SOO EXCITED to go there, to be a missionary there and to share the gospel with the Japanese people! That is what the MTC has been preparing me for...and even, in many ways the Lord has prepared me throughout my life to go and do this!!!!! Although my Nihongo could always become better, I feel like I have a good enough grasp on the principles of speaking/understanding Japanese--I'm ready to go and continue to learn it there. As I've looked back on my MTC experience, I realize how much help I've received from the Lord in learning the language so that I will be able to share this most important message with the Japanese people. The gift of tongues is real!!

The other day, during gym time, I thought of an analogy that I think summarizes my time here at the MTC. I was running with Sister Rees, a solo sister who used to be in my companionship--since she's been here she and I have been "running buddies" during gym. She'd been a consistent runner before she came to the MTC--so when I started running with her, I couldn't always keep up. At first I would run with her as long as I could, and then once I started to ache/wasn't sure whether or not I could keep going, I gave up and walked the remainder of the time. Over time these past many weeks, I've built up endurance, as well as have TRIED to keep going, even when I didn't think I could. Before, I was afraid of failure if I kept going...but after a while I realized that if I did keep going , even though it would be hard (ie. I'd get a sideache, etc...), I'd progress this way, gain more endurance, and ultimately become a better runner.

Last Friday when we ran together, I realized how much endurance I'd built up, BECAUSE I'd tried and kept going even when I was afraid of failure. As a result, I'm definitely a better runner than I used to be (I still have a ways to go...:). I thought of how this applied to my entire experience here at the MTC. Learning a new language was hard for me--as well as many other things I was faced with--being a solo sister, etc. I used to be afraid to try something if I didn't know that I'd succeed. The hard trials and things I've had here have made me realize not only that I needed to TRY--but that I didn't need to be afraid of failure! Even when my trying wasn't enough, even when I was in class and didn't understand a certain Nihongo principle--it was ok because I'm supposed to be weak and have shortcomings! It's because I'm weak that the Savior can step in to comfort me, lift me up, and take me farther than I could ever have gone myself. And to think--if I had never tried, I never would have seen His marvelous power!

Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon says, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

We all have weaknesses--certainly I have keenly realized my own, especially here in the MTC! But when we've tried and can do no more, the Savior is there to help us keep running, to help us finish the race! I testify that I have seen and felt the strength He has given to me--without Him there is no way I could do this! I rejoice in my Savior, Jesus Christ! I know He is there for each of us, because He's been here for me countless times. I've witnessed His help so many times in my life that I cannot deny it--HE lives!I love you all, and pray that you will seek to draw nearer to the Savior!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elder Holland at the MTC!


Thanks for the Dear Elders and letters--yep dad, I got both of the Dear Elders! I am so excited that I have another nephew!!! Congratulations Nate and Birgit! I think I'm definitely one of the proudest aunts alive right now! I even figured out how to say "I have a new nephew" in Japanese so that I could tell everyone in my district (we're doing SYL--speak your language in Nihongo all the time now and so I couldn't tell them in English)! I'm sure Henry is so precious--please give him a hug and a kiss for me!

Becca--I've been writing you every week, but I guess I had the wrong address because two of the letters I sent you came back to me yesterday! I'll be sending them along with another letter tomorrow to the new address you gave me. I love you!!!

It's been another wonderful week. I can't believe how fast time goes by--a few days ago I realized that I'll be leaving for Japan a month from now! I'm so excited to go to Japan and teach the people!!

Last Tuesday's devotional, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came and spoke to the missionaries at the MTC. It was so amazing! He loves missionaries and is so concerned about us living up to our callings--he talked about how he thinks about his mission every day of his life--he said, "It's affected every good thing that's come to me!" He encouraged us to get everything out of our missions that we could--embrace it--he said that this is not a "dress rehearsal!" The work that we, that I am doing is of eternal importance, and I realize how important it is for me to do everything I can to serve the Lord! Elder Holland talked about how we shouldn't just serve the Lord on our missions, and then return to "real life"--he said that we should come home ready to live it forever!

His talk reminded me again of why I'm here and how important the work is that I'm doing! I thought it was neat that he talked about how we shouldn't just live this way, serving others, etc. on our missions--but it should continue after our missions, and forever! The things we do a lot of as missionaries--studying the scriptures, serving, learning to follow the Spirit--are all things that all of us should do, not just on our missions! Truly our time on life here is precious and we have so much we can do to help the Lord's work!

Elder Holland also talked about scriptures, about the power of its words. He quoted Jeremiah about how well we should know God's words, or the scriptures: (the word)..."will be in your heart like a burning fire shut up in your bones." The more I study the scriptures, the more I understand how this works! Each day as I study and ponder their words, the Spirit teaches me something new and I am able to apply them to my life--this is the power of the word! The word, the scriptures--testify of Christ, and how we can come unto Him to overcome our weaknesses and trials. Through my study of the scriptures I have learned so much of Christ, and the power that comes in following Him and putting trust in Him. The stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon put their trust in Him--and they were ALWAYS delivered from the enemy! This is the power that comes through Christ--because of His atonement and suffering for our sakes!

I love my Savior with all my heart! This is His true church! I know that as we put our trust in Him he will help fight our battles for us!I love all of you and am praying for your welfare.

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Solo No Longer!

Dear Family and Friends,

There's been a lot of change for me in the past week! When the kohai (younger district) came in last Wednesday, there were 3 new sisters going to Japan! One of the sisters speaks Japanese very well (she's studied it extensively before) so they moved her into my district and she is now my companion! So, I am no longer a solo sister missionary! It was a big change that happened really over-night--but it's been neat to have a sister companion with me all the time and feel the strength that comes in a companionship! Her Japanese is very good, and I'm already getting a lot of help from her in learning the language--her name is Sister Helps:). The other two sisters are great--and it's so fun to have more sisters in our residence hall room, and in our branch!

My Japanese is definitely improving, although sometimes I don't even realize it because it happens so gradually each day. This week is our first full week of SYL ("Speak your language")--where we speak Japanese 100%, and only speak English when we get permission from our teacher to do so (to ask a question, etc)! The past few weeks we've been preparing to do a full week of SYL by doing 1/2 full days a week. SYL is great--each day I'm able to express myself a little more, and my Japanese is getting better!

This past week I've learned so much from firesides and meetings! Sister Cheryl C. Lant, the General Primary President, spoke in Relief Society about involving the children of the families that we teach! She encouraged us to use the scriptures to teach the children of families--the importance of anchoring them in the gospel! She said that children can feel the Spirit strongly when they read scriptures, and can offer sincere prayers that will help build their own faith and strengthen the faith of the family. She said that wherever possible, each child should have his/her own copy of the Book of Mormon and study from it directly (with parents/missionaries help)--then "great shall be [their peace]"--2 Nephi 22:13. I'm excited to keep this in mind as I teach the families in Japan--truly every child of God is precious in His sight!

We had a Sunday night fireside from the administrative director of the MTC--he stressed how our purpose was to do all that we could to invite and help people come unto Christ--but then recognize that people will exercise their agency. I hope that I will become all that I need to be the best "instrument" through which these people can learn of the truths of the gospel! I love being a missionary! I love the Savior so much, and have felt strength from Him everyday here in the MTC! Truly He was wounded for our transgressions--and this so that He could succor us when we need it! He IS the only way back to living with God again, and brings so much peace and happiness to those who put their trust in Him! There is no burden too heavy for the Savior--He will lift it off our shoulders!

Thanks those of you who've sent me Dear Elders/letters! Sonia, I do not mind and would love it if you shared some of my letter with the Young Women. May God watch over and bless all of you, and may you find the strength and peace in Jesus Christ that I have!

Swain Shimai

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nihongo 1st Lesson

Dear Family and Friends,

Another amazing week at the MTC!! One of my companions, Nielson Shimai, left for Tokyo last week--Reese Jamenim (I think that's sister in Korean--she's going to serve in Korea and is another solo sister that was in our companionship) and I miss her, but are so excited for what she's doing!! Tomorrow the new Japan-bound missionaries come in--11 missionaries total, and 3 will be sisters!!! I'm so excited to welcome them to the MTC--and to have other sisters in the branch!

Last week was my first time teaching the TRC lesson in Nihongo! The Japanese-speaking volunteers that came in were very patient with our Japanese. It was a really neat experience--it was hard to teach only in Japanese, but I learned that I'm not really the one teaching--it's the Spirit! As I shared Joseph Smith's first vision in Japanese, the truthfulness of the message was what touched the investigator's hearts, not the way I said or taught it (I tried to do it memorized and got a bit mixed up at one part)...even though I fumbled through some parts, that feeling, the Holy Ghost, was so strong in that room that one of the investigators we were teaching cried because she was so touched! I felt that Spirit so strongly, and even now as I'm writing this, this feeling comes back to me--that I know without a doubt that Joseph Smith did restore God's true church and authority to the earth once again! After the darkness of the apostasy--from when Christ was killed until Joseph Smith, the message of the restoration of the church brings so much light, knowledge, and joy into our lives! I'm so grateful for the knowledge that I have because Joseph Smith restored the church!

Sunday was mission conference, where all the missionaries in the MTC meet and are instructed by our leadership--I learned so many things! One of the Presidency's wives talked about how important it is to know the articles of faith--she said that ALL questions can be answered by them, and stressed the importance of knowing them by heart! I know that the Articles of Faith are inspired and that knowing them is essential for each member of the church! I hope to start learning them in Japanese.

Learning Japanese is coming! It is still hard but each day I am improving and getting better, a little bit at a time. I know that through "small means" the Lord accomplishes great things! Just like the Liahona gave Lehi's family guidance according to the faith and diligence they gave to it--God is helping me as I do all I can to learn! Just like they were led by the Lord through small miracles, each day here in the MTC I am seeing the miracles God is blessing me with as I give all diligence and heed to His work! I know that God loves us, and through Christ, we can do all things!

I love all of you!! Don, Jeanette, and Emily--thanks for the cookies:). JoAnna, can I get your address? You can give it to Becca or something, or through have a letter for you:).

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Biorin o hikimashita (played the violin...)


It's been an amazing week here at the MTC!! Last Tuesday Elder Richard G. Scott, one of the 12 apostles, spoke at our fireside! I was able to sing the musical number with the MTC choir--it was a neat experience. I know that Richard G. Scott is truly one of God's apostles--when he walked into the room, we could FEEL his presence and authority! I felt like a 2-yr. old because I was so excited to hear an apostle of God speak to me as a missionary!!! Elder Scott invoked two apostolic blessings on all the missionaries present--the gift of tongues for those who are learning the language, and a blessing of protection from evil and harm. As he promised us these blessings, I literally felt their power rest on me! I felt how much Elder Scott loved me and all the missionaries, and also his testimony of the Savior. As an apostle he bears witness of Christ--and his testimony of Christ was so strong--I knew that he knew Christ is our Savior!

I've already been feeling the blessing of the "gift of tongues"--I've been blessed to learn the language faster than I ever could before. I know this is not me doing this--the Lord is helping me to do it! Last Sunday I said a prayer in church and was able to remember words/say things that I'd never tried to say before--this is this blessing in action!

The language is coming along! I've just finished memorizing the First vision, just in time to teach the first lesson in only Japanese on Thursday! I'm excited to teach in Nihongo for the first time--it is still hard and takes me a while to figure out how to say what I want to, but the more I'm practicing the better I get at it.

One particular day this past week I was a bit frustrated about memorizing something--when I realized something that will help me learn the language!! I realized that learning a language is just like learning to play the violin---and that with the experience I've had in learning the violin, I should apply it to learning Japanese! It took forever to remember a few phrases/I couldn't put them together without taking a lot of time and repetitions...this is like learning a new, hard piece on the violin! A lot of patience and repetition are required!! I hope to apply everything I've learned about playing the violin to learning Japanese!! (Thank you Mrs. Mary for helping me discover these principles on the violin!!)

Speaking of the violin...I played "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in our Relief Society Meeting on Sunday--all the sister missionaries were there...and Sister Elaine S. Dalton, President of the Young Women's program, was the speaker after I played!!! I loved playing the violin, and bearing my testimony of Christ through music--I know that many listening felt the Spirit. Sister Dalton's talk was amazing!! She is such an example of following the Lord in every situation--she does,and we should follow her example to "Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places!" She empathized with those of us who are "outside our comfort zones" here at the MTC--but bore a strong testimony that through God, ALL things are possible! She even told us that she starts to get nervous when she is NOT outside her comfort zone--because she wants to learn to rely on the Lord always! She had such an inspiring, positive attitude that I hope to emulate, especially on the days that learning Japanese is hard!

I love all of you so much and am grateful for your love and support. Grandma and Grandpa, and Jamie and Jason, thanks for your Dear Elder letters--and all of you who've sent me letters! I pray that God will watch over all of you--and invite all of you to come unto Christ, and feel the relief from burdens that He can ease for you--because He has done it for me!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hai, Genki Desu!

Dear Family and Friends,

Once again another week has flown by here at the MTC! My "sempai" companion, Sister Nielson, leaves to go to Toyko in a week! I'm definitely going to miss her. It's crazy to think that soon I'll be a "Sempai"--senior/older missionary instead of a "Kohai"--junior missionary! I'm crossing my fingers that at least one sister will come in after Nielson Shimai leaves, so that I won't be the only sister in our branch!

That's exciting that school's started again! Good luck Michael, Becca, and mom with school. Mom, that's so great that you passed the theory entrance exam and don't have to take all those extra classes!!! I'm not've taught me a lot of the music theory I know:). And David, yes, there is yogurt in the MTC cafeteria at breakfast time:).

The language is coming along well! I've realized the importance of making small goals each day and meeting them, in order to prepare for the Teaching Appointment each Thursday--and learn the language! This is how I will learn the Japanese step at a time. I'm happy to say that each day I'm learning and practicing more, and am confident that as I continue to set and keep specific goals each day I'll be ready to give my first all-Japanese lesson--two Thursdays from now!

Last Friday all the Japanese branch got together to hear Nobuaki Irie's conversion story--he was visiting the US from Japan. We learned he's a celebrity among the church musicians in Japan--Janice Kapp Perry, after hearing his conversion story, wrote a song for him that he's recorded. He sung this song--(something about sharing the light within him--about his desire to share his knowledge with his family and others) and another--"My Friend, My Brother" (about the strong ties made when helping others--inspired from the special place in his heart that he holds for the missionaries that converted him). The Spirit was so strong as he sang these songs, and told us (in slow Japanese, so that we could understand) his conversion story! Once he'd found the truth, God had helped his family to allow him to join in miraculous ways--including his brother later getting baptized.

He challenged us to do all we could here in the MTC to learn the language and be prepared to teach, so that we would be ready to change the lives of the people as soon as we get out into the field!! I've really tried to take this to heart, and don't doubt that as I do my best to learn here in the MTC, and exercize faith, I WILL learn the Japanese language and everything else I need to know to be a good missionary! And I know the way I can do this is by accomplishing small goals each day...

I also had a chance to attend a broadcast of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedication. It was held in one of our buildings--and my district was asked to usher! It was a neat experience to be a part of--I especially felt so strongly how families can be together forever, through the ordinances of the temple! I know this is true and it brings me so much hope and happiness in my life!

I had another neat experience at the call center yesterday--I talked to someone on the phone for 40 min, who knows he should get baptized but is afraid to. It was so wonderful to share my testimony with him of how my life's been changed since I've been baptized--in fact, my baptism into this church makes up who I am today! I tried to help him recognize the answers to his prayers that he'd received, and pray that he will take that leap of faith and get baptized. I've been realizing more and more since I've been here how much the gospel of Christ has really done for me in my life--it's so wonderful, the help, peace, knowledge, and answers that we get through this restored church!

I know that this is God's true church on the earth. He is our Father in Heaven, and loves all of us, his children, so much!! He wants us to be happy, and through His gospel, and baptism, we can be happy in this life and return to live with Him. I know these things without a doubt and hope to do everything I can to qualify to live with God again, and invite all of God's children to so as well!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy and Healthy!

Hello Everyone!

I can't believe I've been in the MTC 3 weeks--time just flies by! Last Wednesday I got a new roommate--a solo sister going to South Korea. She is part of Nielson Shimai and I's companionship, so we do a lot of things together. Sister Rees is from Kansas and is great!

I'm happy to say that I'm completely over the sickness I had. I'm grateful to be feeling back to normal, and better able to do the work! My Japanese is coming--I can now form sentences! I still read Hiragana slowly but am getting better, and I'm definitely getting extra help from Heavenly Father to learn the language.

My violin audition went well--I'll probably play "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in one of the firesides/devotionals in September. It's always a treat to be able to play my violin for a little bit...I didn't realize how big a part of my life it was until I came here and can't do it all the time. But I am happy to sacrifice it for the Lord and am soo excited to be doing missionary work!

On Sunday we had an amazing fireside--Terry Watson, head of the Proselyting Department, spoke to us about what our message is REALLY about--bringing people to Christ! So when we go and knock on doors and share our messages, everything we say should invite them to come to Christ--helping them change their lives through the principles of faith, repentence, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. After his message, I've recommited myself to have EVERYTHING I say go toward this purpose!

I had wonderful experiences in the Refferal Center yesterday. I chatted with two people through the website who were struggling with different trials, and I was able to help them feel better by bringing them to Christ! I told them how to find out more about our church, and hope that they will search out our church because I know that the principles in it are what will change their lives and help them overcome life's trials. I was grateful for the perspective I have because of the gospel--of the plan of salvation, knowing why we're here on earth and that we're working towards living with God again. In our class we've been studying the 2nd lesson on the plan of salvation--as I've learned how to teach it it's been made clear to me how inspired the plan is--and how much God loves us for giving it to us!

Each week we work towards our TRC appointment, where Japanese-speaking volunteers come to the MTC and we practice teaching them the lessons. These past two weeks we've started the first 15 min. in Japanese, practicing our "door approach," or just meeting someone for the first time. I do this with a companionship of Elders--one of them used to live in Japan, so he helps us out a lot! Last week we taught the first lesson to a middle-aged Japanese woman. It was amazing--even though she had loads of questions and still had doubts about what we were teaching her, the Spirit was strong and she felt that we loved her and wanted her to find joy in Christ! I could tell it'd affected her, afterward she asked for a picture of us. I wish I could adequately describe to all of you the joy that comes from missionary work, from helping others come to Christ!!

Sister Stevens, my old college roommate, leaves tomorrow for the Los Angeles Spanish Speaking mission! I've loved having her with me in the MTC, and will miss her. She's super excited to go--and I'm excited for her! It's crazy to think that that'll be me in a little while!

Yes, they do have dessert in the cream every Sunday and some kind of cookie/cake every meal. I think the desserts have been my favorite so far.

That's so exciting that Becca will soon be in Pittsburg! Good luck, and have an amazing time with all your new roommates!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Danielle's 2nd Week

Dear Family and Friends,

It's been a wonderfully busy last week here at the MTC. Today was exciting--my companion had same-day surgery at the Utah Valley Medical Center, so we got to "wear our name-tags" out into the real world! Nope, I didn't watch Sponge Bob like Todd did but I did get some good studying in. The surgery went well, and my companion is feeling better!

My daily schedule includes waking up at least by 6:30 (usually earlier so I can be ready on time), class/breakfast, then three blocks, 2-3 hours each, of class during the day. Two of the blocks are with two different teachers our district is assigned, and the other block is called "MDT," where we have personal study, companionship study, and language study (each for about an hour). On Preparation days (Tuesdays) we get to go to the temple, do laundry, and later in the evening hear from a general authority at a devotional! We also have a Sunday night fireside with super good speakers--MTC Pres, etc. I think this past Sunday was one of my favorite days because we had Relief Society with all the sister missionaries--it was the first time I was in a room where girls were in the majority! I also practiced a musical number on my violin--this Thursday I'm going to audition to play in a Sunday devotional. It was wonderful to play my violin again.

I don't know that I have a favorite MTC food yet...but I'll let you know when I do! And I was dissapointed to find out that we don't use chopsticks in the cafeteria (unless you bring your own), but I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to practice once I get to Japan! Thanks mom and becca for the amazing package--those cookies were AMAZING, and the other sisters in my room appreciated them as well:). I actually didn't end up getting the rice pudding...they'd taken it out b/c we're not allowed to recieve perishables...but the thought sure made my day!!

Yes, we sing out of the Japanese Hymn book at the beginning of each class every day (several times a day) and in church. I'm getting better at reading Hiragana, and I've been practicing writing it--I'm still a little slow at writing it but am getting better. I'm on the top of a bunk bed, with my companion below me. The other sisters in my room are part of another district--there are 4 of them, going to English speaking missions--they actually leave tommorow! So soon I will have new roommates! This past week has flown--classes and everything. I still have so much Japanese to learn! Both of the teachers assigned to our district have been out of town--one for 1 week, and the other will be gone for 3 weeks! It's been crazy having substitute teachers--we've had 9 now! But we've learned a lot from their different teaching styles. In addition to learning Japanese, we spend a lot of time learning how to teach in English--because if we can't do it in English, we won't be able to do it in Japanese! I've loved it and have learned so much already.

I've been a bit sick this past week--just a cold that practically everyone gets at one point at the MTC. So dad, if you get a bill in the mail don't worry:). The doctor gave me an antibiotic to help with the coughing. But really, I don't feel that bad--the Lord is strengthening me to still keep up in class and do what I need too! And I think I'm over the worst of it.It looks like my time's about up! I love all of you, and hope all's well! Missionary work is amazing!

Swain Shimai

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I love the MTC!

Dear Family and Friends,

I love the MTC!! It took the first few days to get used to things/adjust to the schedule here, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and I love it! I found out when I got here that I am the only sister that came in with all the new missionaries (every 6 weeks a new set of missionaries come in. We call them kohai--"jrs"). That means that I am a solo missionary. I still have a companion, Nielson Shimai (Sister Nielson) but she's already been here for 6 weeks and is in a different district/class. We spend our p-days (preparation day--Tuesdays) together, gym and service time together, and walk to our building together. Then, I just stay with my district for the rest of the day. There are 8 of us total in my district, with 2 two-people companionships and one 3-some companionship. When we teach, I team up with another companionship of elders.

Nielson Shimai is amazing--kind, and she knows a lot about the MTC and the Japanese language. I feel lucky to learn from her! She and I are the only 2 sisters in the MTC right now studying Japanese--she is also a "solo missionary." The Elders (Chorotachi) in my district are great. It took a little getting used to at first--being around only elders when I thought I'd always have a sister companion--but now it's great and we all learn from eachother. My Japanese teachers (Sensei) are AMAZING--not only do they know how to teach the language well, but they know how to teach us to teach others and do it with so much power!

I've loved the firesides and large group meetings we have--they are all so inspiring, and I feel the Spirit so strongly during them! We've learned and felt the importance of so many things--obedience--when we're obedient we are blessed! I know this is true and I'm doing my best to be obedient--even down to the rules like being in bed, eyes closed at 10:30 PM. The blessing that comes with this is strength to get through the next day--this is just one example of the great blessings of obedience! I've learned that without obedience to the mission rules, I will not have power to teach and do the Lord's work!

So many of the firesides have taught about the importance of missionary work--I feel so strongly here the need for missionary work! I am doing all I can to prepare to do this most important work, saving the souls of the children of men. I encourage all of you to do so too--both their happiness and ours depends on it.

We have 2 blocks of classes per day, about three hours each, and one "MDT" time, where we have personal study/companionship study/language study. The first day of class, when we started introductions I was so overwhelmed because all of the Elders in my district, except for two, had had previous experience in Japanese--they had either lived there or taken it in high school! I felt behind--but later that night I talked to my old roomate, Sister Stevens (who lives on my floor!!!) and she told me that a similar thing had happened to her when she first got here. She said that you can ONLY compare yourself to YOURSELF and not to others--that as long as you are doing your best and are learning and growing, the Lord will bless you! I know this to be true, and each day I've tried my best to learn what I am capable of--and many times I've found the Lord has blessed me to learn even more than I normally could.

The cafeteria food is not too bad, but nothing beats my mom's cooking:). I understand how some elders gain weight here--with all the food they pile on their trays! We'll see whether or not I do:). I got the 'Dear Elder letter' mom, dad, Becca, and Michael--it was so great and made my day!! I love all of you so much, and I know God will bless you while I am away.

The church is true!! I knew that before, but now I see it even more clearly and feel it every day. That is why I am here, giving a year and a half of my life to serve the Lord! Pray to know that God is there, read the scriptures--they are so amazing and can answer every question in life!! I know Jesus Christ is our Savior, that he died and atoned for our sins. I know Heavenly Father (God) loves us SO much! He wants the best for each of us! His gospel is what brings us the greatest happiness in life!

Swain Shimai (Sister Swain)

P.S. Dad--I've already memorized all the Hiragana:).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mission Addresses

Here are my mission addresses:

July 29, 2009-late October 2009
Sister Danielle Swain
MTC Mailbox #227-1019
Japan Sendai Mission
Provo Missionary Training Center
2005 N. 900 E.Provo, UT 84604-1793

late October-January 2011
Sister Danielle Swain
Japan Sendai Mission
3-1-5 Yagiyama Minami
Sendai-shi, Miyagi
982-0807 Japan

The above address is the mission office--you can mail letters there until I find out the address of my first assignment in the mission field. (Even after that I'm sure they'll still eventually get to me if you send them to the mission office.) FYI, packages are always mailed to the mission office (above address)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Mission "Farewell" Talk

Today many friends and family came to support me as I gave my talk in church. I talked about faith; it was the beginning of the many talks I will give when I become a missionary in the Japan Sendai Mission! In just a few days I will leave for the MTC.