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 DearElder.com...I 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