Sunday, May 21, 2017

Back to the edge of the earth

Date: 5/15/2017
Place: Ise
Companion: Elder Buchanan

Wrote part of my weekly on the train ride home from Udono since we had about four hours. 

I'm sitting on a tiny, diesel local train headed for Matsusaka. We came down this morning on a fast diesel train and got off at Kumanoshi. Our appointment with Akasaka wasn't for 2 hrs so we made a desperate attempt to bike two pocket towns north to go visit the only other less active we hadn't visited in the area. We quickly ran into an impassable mountain and couldn't get anywhere so we pulled off and practiced for Akasaka's lesson on the cliffs by the ocean (a place called 鬼ヶ城). 
Then we went and found Akasaka's house. Turns out her mom was the one that we had talked with on the phone and she was friendly but Akasaka herself was extremely hostile and wouldn't give us the time of day. She informed us that she had joined a Protestant religion and couldn't even talk to us. Never mind the fact that we had just spent over a hundred dollars and an entire day traveling just to see her. She wouldn't even open the door for us but just kekkoed (shut the door on) us through the window. Her mom apologized to us with her eyes as Akasaka asked us to leave and never contact her again. To be honest I was pretty angry that she wouldn't even talk to us for a second after we had just traveled over a hundred kilometers to see her. We left a nice note and a Restoration pamphlet and left. 

As we were riding and trying to figure out what the heck we should do with our lives now, a car stopped and someone rolled down a window and asked us if we were Mormon missionaries. We were very excited and thought "this is the reason we came down here!" and she pulled over and we started talking. Turns out there used to be this little branch in the Kobe mission (not far from where we were) called Shingu. She used to go to their Eikaiwa and Christmas parties and such and also took some lessons at one point. She told us the names of a bunch of her old missionaries and we were really excited to find someone who wanted to talk to us! We then asked if we could exchange numbers and maybe meet up sometime but she pretty much just said no and wouldn't give us her number. So we gave her an Eikaiwa flyer and walked away feeling really down and confused. Maybe it will turn into something later. 

Members of Ise Branch

We had some time before our train so we decided to punt it out about 20 kilometers down the coast to hit the last less active in the area that we still had not contacted. We booked it down as fast as we could (I nearly died. That was definitely one of the hardest rides of my mission) and finally got to the area where he lived. We only had about 20 minutes before the train came (they come about every two hours out there) so we booked it up the side of the mountain in the crazy unorganized mess of Japanese roads. The roads proved to be too tangled and we couldn't find his house in the short amount of time that we had. We had to abandon our idea of finding this guy and scrambled back to the station just in time for the train. We got on and I started talking to some high school kids. They were some of the funniest guys I had ever met and we had a really good time while they were on the train. It cheered me up after a really hard day. After a while they got off and we stayed on the train for another 3 hours as it stopped at all 31 stops. 


About three or four hours later we finally rolled into Isuzugawa and booked it straight to the church for our appointment with Bro. Hamaguchi. He was actually really nice, had a testimony, prayed with us and set a next appointment. We were both so hungry and exhausted that we could barely string sentences together but we had a good lesson with him. What a good way to end the day. By then it was 8:30 and we hadn't eaten anything since that Sukiya we had at 11am so we pounded it over to the ramen shop by the apartment and asked for the biggest, hottest, fastest bowl of ramen they could whip up. We ordered our kaidama in advance, pounded it all down and got home before 9pm. Win. 

The next day we taught a temple prep class to Bro. Ota. Way psyched for him. Then we went out to ramen with John and he finally became an investigator! Sort of. We'll get him though. 

We had a good DTM with the guys in Tsu, then we cycled clear back up into the mountains to our appointment with Fukumura, another less active. He stood us up and wasn't home. So we ate another combini (convenient store) dinner sitting on the curb in the parking lot of a Circle K up in the mountains, then booked it home (probably 1hr and a half ride)
So far we are about 1/140 contact attempts in the less active department. 

Saturday we spent the day trapped at the church and got a ton of planningorganizing, data input, record keeping and everything in between DONE. 

Sunday was the usual Sabbath day madness. We got up, went to church and did the usual Presidency meeting and stuff, set up the church and had sacrament meeting. We probably had about 8 or 10 people or so. Then we had ward council meeting and planned a bunch of stuff with Kashima Kyodai (our high counselor) for Branch Conference

Apparently we are getting a senior couple this weekend and I will be released! Then we went to go visit Bro. Hayashi but he wasn't home. 

On the way out to another members place we found a Vietnamese kid. He was really nice and we took him all the way back to the church and played ping pong. He said he will come to church next Sunday! 

Life is good. Life is real good. 

Love y'all! 

Elder Johnson 

Transfer 16. Still Alive!

Date: 5/8/2017
Place: Ise
Companion: Elder Buchanan

Hey all! Sorry I've been lost to the world for a bit! P Days are seriously the worst. 

I'm pretty sure this futon was ours....

So here's a quick life update: transfer calls came last week or two weeks ago (can't remember) and I will be staying here in Ise with Elder Buchanan. Sometime during the transfer I will be released as Branch President because we are getting a Senior Missionary Couple at the end of the month and he will take over Branch President duties. I GET TO BE A NORMAL MISSIONARY AGAIN! 

So we had trainer's review two weeks ago. It was great to see all of the old guys (Elder Taylor is the new AP - the third in a row from Shizuoka!). I'm not surprised at all. What a great guy :). Then President and Sister Ishii came all the way down to Wagu and visited the Dejis. They prepared a feast from the sea (the best sea food I've ever had) and we had a great lesson about prayer. The Ishii's worked their magic and the Spirit was so strong! 

The boat ride out to Wagu

We have started trying to teach this kid we found at the Oyaji Band. He's cool and open to listening to what we say. He's 20 and is really cool. We went out to eat with him twice. We talked about God and the Book of Mormon. He accepted a Book of Mormon so we'll see how things work out. He's part of some kind of ancestral worship group so he's not a real investigator yet. But we'll get him :)

The crew meets the Dejis

We went over to the Yamazakis and hung out with Enoc for a bit. He's 16 and is the only youth in the branch. We played ukulele for a while and then talked about anime for a bit. Then we cut down all the weeds in the Yamazaki's back yard. 

Then we had an exchange with Elder Meyers and Kojima. Elder Meyers helped me with some branch president stuff and suddenly everything clicked. I don't know why this hadn't occurred to me before but church leadership is exactly the same as missionary leadership. Branch president is the same as district leader. Zone leader is the same as stake president. APs are general authorities and auxiliaries. I came into Ise with a Zone Leader mentalitythinking that I had to build something, build a direction and training based on the Area Plan. Nothing was quite clicking in my head and I was having a hard time laying down a solid direction for the branch. Nothing was working or progressing and for two transfers I felt kinda lost. Finally I realized that as a branch president I don't need a Zone leader mentality but a district leader's. I'm not supposed to build anything new, I'm just supposed to personalize the stake goals for Ise. So on Sunday we had two Presidency meetings and made plans for the branch to accomplish all of the stake goals. It feels really good and everything feels right. As a branch we are planning family history workshops and a temple trip in August! We are also trying to get everyone to read the Power of Everyday Missionaries this month. We have also had a ton of interviews this week. I love interviews. It's really fun to get to know the members and help them on a one on one level. I finally feel like I know how to be a branch president. 

On Monday we went to the national candy festival with Bro. Ota! It was pretty cool! The next day we visited Sis. Nakamura. She's cool. 

Then we went back to the church and we called almost every less active in the church records. We called over a hundred people and most of them kekkoed us and said they didn't want to have any contact with the church because they had reverted to the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct. It's sad to see so many people who no longer want to be with us. We have about 150 members living within Ise boundaries but only about 15 or so are active. But the good news though is that we were able to get appointments with about 5 people. Most of them live pretty far out past the edges of civilization so this will be a fun week. We have one lined up for each day of the week and it's going to be a full day trip to see each one. I'm way stoked! We are so blessed. 

We got to spend a little time with Tetsuya. He's a lot more mobile than I thought. He can actually leave the house and go around town so we went to Geku with him. 

On Friday we had the stake 大運動会 (Sports Day) at Yokkaichi dome. The church rented out Yokkaichi dome! It was massive and hundreds of members came from all over the mission. I got to see a lot of old friends from Inuyama and Nonamiwhich was so fun! It was great seeing everyone. Some of these friends I haven't seen since the beginning of my mission and I was way happy when they still remembered me! It was such a fun time. We were able to convince two of our members to come from Ise and we had a great time with them. 

Meeting old friends at the dome 

On Saturday the new Rogue AP's, Elder Porter and Elder Bradshaw came down for a visit. We went out on splits and Elder Porter stayed at the church with me and I interviewed Bro. Tou and the Yamazaki family. Elder Bradshaw and Buchanan got to go do some finding which sounded way fun. We had a good night catching up and talking about old times in Suwa and Kariya. Then on Sunday they gave the branch a training fireside, which was awesome! The branch loved it! Then we got on a train to Kashikojima and took the little boat out to the Wagu peninsula, where the Deji's welcomed us with a seafood feast. We taught them how to pray again (they like praying but they're old so it's hard for them to grasp the whole concept of prayer) and then taught them the importance of coming to church, reading the Book of Mormon and praying. They love listening to the Gospel and feeding us tons of fish. It's a great situation :)

Anyway it's been a good start to the transfer. I'm hoping once I'm released that we will be able to do some more finding. Before I get released I hope to do what I can to lift the members and help them find the joy of living the Gospel and dendo. Life is hard out here but it's so so rewarding. I love Ise! I love helping these people. I love being a missionary. 

Love y'all! 

Have a fantastic week 

Elder Johnson