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!