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