Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why You? Why Me? Why Now? - February 25, 2014


We were driving to an investigators house one night with a member and
we saw this truck in front of us. Shinkou in Japanese means faith.
Thank you truck...once again, the Lord's timing is not a coincidence.
Why You? Why Me? Why Now? Have you ever thought about those questions? Honestly...take a second and think about it. Every time something happens, I have to ask myself these three questions. Why am I walking on this street right now? Oh, probably because Heavenly Father has one of His prepared children walking down the same path. I know that there are no coincidences in the Lord's work.

Here are just a few of the incoincidental things we have encountered this week:

Last Monday night, Hosoya Shimai went with us to visit Etou Shimai and Sayaka chan. We were going to visit them at seven at night, but Hosoya Shimai said that six would work better. So, we meet her at the Kawama eki (train station) to ride over to their house. We get there and no one is home. It's really odd for them not to be home during the evening unless they are walking their dog. So we waited in Hosoya Shimai's van and talked more about our investigators needs and the lesson. Then Hosoya Shimai's baby started crying, and so we started up the van and once we started going, the baby stopped crying. We parked at a seven eleven fairly close to her house and talked about the ward and their needs. As Hosoya Shimai is talking and I am looking at her, I see someone pass by the car in my peripheral vision. Guess who it is...yep, Etou Shimai. All of us are in awe as she goes into the seven eleven store. When she was leaving the store, Hosoya Shimai popped her head out of the car and said, "Etou Shimai." Then it was all squeals and everything else from there. I was laughing so hard my gut hurt. Well, on Etou Shimai's side of the day, she had one of her customers come into work today who is a less active that I have talked about before on email. Anzai Shimai. Well Etou Shimai just learned that Anzai Shimai was a member of the church and that she had been meeting with Sister Miyaki and I. She wanted to call Hosoya Shimai and tell her, so she said that she was singing in her head coming out of the seven eleven store, "細谷姉妹電話しお." In other words, singing that she was going to call Hosoya Shimai when she got back to the house. Then, out pops Hosoya Shimai from the car. What a miracle. And talk about the timing of that one. Wow! We talked about the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. It was so incredible to see the spirit work on her at that time. God's's the best!

Urrichkie Shimai and William have a friend named Jonathan (JM for short). We decided that we were going to teach Him together. This has been such an incredible experience for William to lean and grow as a new convert. Urrichkie Shimai as well. They are SUCH incredible missionaries. It was so fun to have William teach JM the very thing we were teaching him for the first time not to long ago. I can't wait until William can serve a mission. He brings such a wonderful spirit.

Do you remember Maria Asano? Hisashiburi (long time, no see). I don't even know the number of times we have invited her to church. Well, she finally came on Sunday along with her son, Jino. Although family life is a big struggle for her right now, she says that over time, she really wants to get baptized.

We are teaching an 80 year old woman named Kurokawa san. She is a champion. She won't tell us where her home is yet, but she is willing to meet several times a week at the church. Oh, and the church is about an hour bike ride away from her house. Yes, she bikes. She is way awesome. All Japanese people are. We bought a magnifying glass for her because her eye sight isn't very good. She has come to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. She also really wants to go to heaven and be with her husband again someday. She forgets appointment times and days sometimes, but you just have to laugh and's the Lord's timing, right. He knows best.

Also, can I just say that the power of a hug is HUGE. I love hugs. Hugs aren't very common in Japan, but Every single time I see someone (a girl of course), I have to give them a hug.

We ran into the same woman three times in a row this last week. Her name is Ihara Mariko san. She is Catholic and a very sweet lady. Running into her is definitely not a coincidence. We hope that as we continue to fellowship her and be her friend, she will want to learn about our message.  

As a wise character once said, "There are no accidents." I know this to be true. I love my Savior. He is ever mindful of all of his children. ALL of his children. "And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." He knows us individually. Don't ask me how He does it, because I don't know. But I do know that He loves us...what more can I say?

Sent from Sister Yamauchi Regional indicator for Japan

P.S. I've been thinking a lot about grace lately. I love this talk. Enjoy!!

His Grace Is Sufficient

By Brad Wilcox

How does God’s grace really work?

A young woman once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”

She said, “I just don’t get grace.”

I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”

She said, “I know I need to do my best, and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”

I said, “The truth is, Jesus paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to pay that debt. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged. What is left to be determined by our obedience is how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and what degree of glory we plan on receiving.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).

Grace Transforms Us

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.

If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with Mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.

In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19); “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of the child pianist: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but no unchanged thing will even want to.

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Heavenly Father and His Son did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If the Father and the Son did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Heavenly Father and His Son did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become Saints.

Grace Helps Us

“But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?

Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they continually feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.

There should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.

Grace Is Sufficient

The grace of Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27; D&C 17:8)—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us for as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and find the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).

God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’s grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, you will feel the enabling power and divine help we call His amazing grace.

We are saved through the grace of Christ, who paid the price of our sins.
Our works, such as repentance and keeping the commandments, do not save us, but they are requirements set by the Savior to help transform us.
God’s grace is divine power to help us with all of our shortcomings and is available to us at all times.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Break Your Heart - February 17, 2014

Miracles of the week: William was confirmed as a member on Sunday. His blessing was incredible and I know that he has wonderful things in store for his future. Sister Urrichkie got her temple recommend. We are on track to go to the temple with her this transfer! How exciting right!? Kurokawa San came to church. She is an 80 year old, loves to talk, happy woman. She loved church (traveled an hour on her bike to get to church) and she can hardly believe that our church doesn't require a lot of money from the people who attend. She thinks that Christianity is a good way to go, but she has lots of Christian friends she isn't positive which one is right. Please pray for Kurokawa San to accept the baptismal commitment and a baptismal date this week.

Today I wanted to share three thoughts.

1. We ought to ask ourselves this question all the time. What is God doing in your area? Who is God working on now? We have got to pray to have eyes that see. The Lord is performing so many miracles right now. Even if we tried we couldn't catch a part of them. We can't lose! Everything is in our favor! There are so many things we can't see. We've just got to help The Lord out by doing what he wants us to do-aligning our will with His.

Here is the essential mindset:
God is preparing many people in our areas. If we look we will see.
When we see we ask God what to do.
He will tell us.
If we do it He will tell us more.
They will progress.
They will follow Christ's example and get baptized.
He will send us more people to help!

2. God wants us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. When I think about the word broken, I think about horses. What does it mean to have a broken heart? Having a broken heart is to submit our will. Let me tell you a little bit about the process of breaking a horse. The goal is to take a wild horse and getting it to submit it's will to the trainer. The way that we break a horse is that we get a round pen. The horse trainer stands in the center of the pen and the horse then enters. Think of your life as the round pen. Here is the process for now breaking the horse: First, get the horse to move it's feet. You want it to go when you say go. Often the horse will try and jump out of the pen or it's going to buck and kick or they'll just get stuck and won't move at all. This is why the first task is to get the horse to move it's feet. You just get it to go. You get it to do the work. To do this the trainer uses a big whip and slaps the ground. Second, you want the horse to give you 2 eyes. Horses' hind legs are powerful and it wants to kick. If the horse is looking you in the eyes it's putting itself in a very vulnerable position. The Lord wants us
to look Him in the eyes. He wants us to kneel in prayer and learn what He wants us to do. Third, you now want the horse to change direction. Will you go where He wants you to go? Will you do what He wants you to do? The horse gets tired. Fourth, give it rest. The trainer gives the horse rest. He removes the bridle and brushes it's hair. There is now a great relationship of trust. The horse learns that the center of the ring is a place of rest. We feel no pressure and we feel rest when we are doing what the Master asks of us. 

With that in mind, now read this scripture.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalms 23:2). Give up the fight and just submit your will to God. It is the easiest and best way to go. We will all have our imperfections. There is no perfect horse, but as we try our best, I know the Lord will help us.

3. I love the scripture found in John 4. Let's start off with sayings that disciples find Jesus and go to see him.

30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

31 ¶In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

What a cool scripture. My meat is to do what God sent me here to do. What is your meat? I think we, as members of the church, too often forget why we are really here on Earth. Think about it for a second. Why are you here? I know that God is not satisfied with just a few of  His children coming home, or even most of them...He wants every single one of us home. We've got to help Him.

I love this. I know that as we recognize the people that God is preparing all around us, allow our hearts to be broken, and desire to fulfill our purpose as servants of God, we will become better tools in the hands of the Savior. 
Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis the Lord says to us: "Give me all. I don't want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work: I want You. All of you. I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man. but to kill it. No half-measures will do. I don't want to only prune a branch here and another there; rather, I want the whole tree out. Hand it all over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them all over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart." 
SWAT (sealed with a testimony)

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Book of Mormon - February 10, 2014

Happy Valentine's everyone. I love each one of you so much. Above all,
I love my Savior who allowed me to see so many miracles this week.
We visited Sister Etou (Sayaka-chan's mom) last Sunday night and
shared a scripture about the importance of not waiting. Sayaka-chan
really wants to be baptized, but her mother has been trying to delay
that date for about seven months now. A few days later, her mom was
was reading the scriptures and really felt that what we had said was
true. Sayaka-chan now has a baptismal date for March 30!
Sister Miyaki and I set a goal with Urrichkie Shimai to go together to
the temple with her on March 1 (this transfer). She is so excited. I
think a huge part of convert retention is always giving them something
to look forward to.
So, today my topic is the Book of Mormon. I have had many experience
with the Book of Mormon over the past couple of weeks that have led me
to ponder a lot about what a precious treasure it is, but for time
sake, I will just mention one. We have been working with a less active
member for quite some time. Her name is Anzai Shimai. She is simply
adorable. From the beginning, we have made the goal to get her to the
temple. This past week when we met with her, I felt like I ought to
ask why she went less active. Her answer was simple and so profound.
She said that she loves the word of God, mainly the Book of Mormon.
From the scriptures, we know we have the perfect truth. However, in
church, they did not really study from the Book of Mormon. Every
lesson we have with her, she desires for us to teach her from the Book
of Mormon. It's not the typical missionary lesson nor is it the
typical church meeting to focus solely on the Book of Mormon. However,
there is so much power that comes when we meet together and study from
the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon is power. We all
ought to evaluate just how well we know this sacred book. I think we
can all do a lot better.
Let me just close this email with one last thought from my personal
study: He paid the price...what price will you pay?
Each of you can answer that question for yourself, but I'm here to say
that I will give it all I've got. I love Japan. I love this work. I
love my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is all-mighty
and has devised means to save each and every one of His children.
This, I know.
Sent from Paradise

Monday, February 3, 2014

Revelation is Real - February 2, 2014

   Brother Kitahara, William, Sister Urrichkie, Sister Miyaki, Sister Yamauchi
 Elder Healy, Elder Rassmussen (I have now idea how to spell anymore), Keita-kun (Iwakiri Shimai's son), Elder Mickelsen, Iwakiri Shimai
It's February...time to work on everyone's charity right?! :)
This week I went on splits with Sister Carlile in Urawa. We shared many spiritual experiences together and our faith grew so much. I prayed so, so incredibly hard that we would be able to see a huge miracle. On the train, we talked with Yamaguchi-san who has interest in learning about our church and invited the missionaries to come to her house to talk with her about it. She lives in the Urawa area and I am confident that with the Lord's help, Sister Carlile and Sister Dopp can help Yamaguchi-san progress towards baptism.The Lord answered our prayers, just like He always does.

William was baptized on February 2. Thank you everyone for all of your prayers-you are making a difference here in Japan! Seeing William in white was the best  feeling ever. What an incredible experience it was for all who attended. In his testimony afterwards, he said that he will work hard and continue to endure to the end, just like his Mom. It was a very short and powerful. Afterwards, all 7 missionaries and some members of the Stake Presidency sang I am a Child of God in Japanese and English. Like I've said before, these feelings just can't be described. I know that charity is one of the best gifts we can ever obtain. It fills our soul with every good thing possible. Every time I feel it, it just makes me want to share it with everyone else even more (that sentence sounds like the tree of life dream).
After months of working with Iwakiri Shimai, she finally came to church today. It just reminds me of the Lord's mercy. This past week we had Elder Whiting tour our mission (he is a member of the 70). He is a very wise man and it was such an incredible experience for me. At one point, he asked President Budge how he would feel if half of his children made it back to Heavenly Father. President Budge's response was that he would feel terrible. It is the same with our Heavenly Father. He doesn't just want some of His children back with Him, He wants everyone back with Him. No matter where we've gone or what we do, the Lord loves us and wants us to come back (with arms open wide, come unto Christ. You will find eternal life.)
So, the title of this email is "Revelation is Real." I wish I could explain the experiences I have had over the past week or some sort of spiritual paragraph I could write on it, but words just won't come to me and if they were coming to me, I don't think I could explain it. However, I bear my testimony that I know that revelation is real and comes as we live worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is POWER-a power unlike any other. I know that the revelation given through Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 9 is 100% true. I love this section and can never read it too many times. I know that revelation is what keeps this church going-because we receive revelation daily from God. He speaks! I know it!!

I love this work! I know that God is at the head of it. I love Him so much.

P.S. After Elder Whiting was done with his tour, he told President Budge that he has been on lots of different mission tours throughout the world, but our mission and our missionaries were the's true. I love the Japan Tokyo Mission!