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 surprised...you'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 language...one 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 Mormon.org 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 MTC...ice 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:).