Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014 Four weeks under the belt!

I did see the Hansen's! They were at the Tuesday Devotional, and we got to sing for 6 of the 12 Apostles, which was pretty amazing!  I tried to find them afterwards, but I think they had somewhere to be so I settled for a wave. It's always fun seeing people that I know in the MTC, and in the next few weeks, I'll have some more friends coming in too! I actually had no idea who Sister Taylor was at first. I was leaving from lunch, and all of a sudden, this random teacher walks up to me and says "you're Amanda's brother right? Here take a picture!" I was really confused at first. but it was fun to hear about another connection! ]
I know how Bennett feels to sprain an ankle badly. I don't know if you remember, but last year during the State Cup, I twisted my ankle pretty badly. You just have to give it plenty of time to heal and not rush the whole process. Take it easy during sports so that you don't re-sprain it, but I will definitely keep that in my prayers.
I'm really studying up on all kinds of spiritual and secular vocabulary, grammar, and common phrases. I'm starting to understand everything a little better, and I hope that I'll keep growing in the language.

I love you!

Another week in the MTC down and only 4-ish more to go! 
Our  guest speakers this week were Janice Kapp Perry and her husband. She was one of the primary church music producers, and she has written and composed some very inspiring music! They both gave great and inspiring talks and talked about the importance of music and the wonderful feeling that wholesome music brings into our lives. I even got to shake their hands afterwards and thank them for all that they've done!
The more I think about Japan and the more I learn about the culture and the people, the more excited and nervous I am at the same time! The people of Japan are some of the most respectful and polite people you could ever meet. We've had several groups of Japanese missionaries come through the MTC, and they're are so much fun to talk to and get to know! That being said, our culture, religion, and many other things are so much different from the Japanese way of living, and sometimes, I wonder if they will ever fully accept a pale, blond boy from America that only kind of speaks Japanese. I worry that they won't listen to me because I can't really relate to them, and I think I understand how they feel. It's always strange to have a complete foreigner/stranger tell you that they can help you. You wonder, "What could they possibly know what will help me? They don't know me or about my problems."
I'm serving a mission, not because I believe that I know everything about everyone, but because I truly want to bring joy to other people and learn to love them through service and hard work. If nothing else, I hope that I can express this desire to the Japanese people. In our Tuesday Devotional, we were privileged to hear from D. Todd Christofferson (one of our Church leaders), and he shared an inspiring message about why we do what we do as missionaries. His message was about the worth of a person, the worth of a soul. We all have an basic understanding of the worth of an individual and their soul. Whenever someone is struggling in life or is experiencing pain, we wish to help them because we understand that every person is special and of worth. But why? Do we ever think about why we care about the individual? There are some who might say that this concern is just a byproduct of our own animal instincts, but I believe it is something more. I've seen humanity's incredible potential for good, but because of our own weaknesses and mistakes, we rarely seem to live up to this potential. Sometimes, because of our weaknesses, others suffer and struggle. Because of our weaknesses, we all fall short of our true potential, but I have faith that there is a way that we can overcome our own shortcomings and that the injustices of this life can and have been atoned for by one who had an infinite capacity to forgive and to forget and who was completely free of sin, even Jesus Christ. This faith in Christ is what leads me to serve others because we are all the spiritual children of a God and Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally and has a plan for us to achieve our full potential as children of God. We have a divine potential for eternal and everlasting joy and love within us, but on our own, we can't achieve it. Because of this faith, I can press on through the trials of this life knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a reason for all that we have to endure. Because of this faith, I can feel peace in a world that is full of hate and anger. This is why I'm a missionary!

I love all of you and I know that, even when your struggles seem too difficult to bear, you can overcome them because of the potential for good that you all have within you.

Elder Adam Christensen
Surprise meeting with Sydney Taylor, Amanda's mission comp. in Denmark.
(She teaches at the MTC)
Elders in the district

Elders in the residence

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19, 2014

Hello Everyone!
It's good to hear that everyone's making the most of this summer! I wish that I had always been so motivated when I was younger because I think that I could have done a lot more, but the MTC is really pushing me to make the most out of every opportunity and always give my very best. Here's some fun news! I was made a zone leader with my companion after our daisenpai left for Japan, and it really has made my schedule much more interesting because the little personal time that I did have is now filled with all the responsibilities associated with taking care of the two districts (each one has about 10 missionaries) in our zone. We've already had to resolve some tension building between a couple people, but with any luck, that will be the only thing we have to worry about for a while! With our daisenpai gone, the number of Japanese missionaries in the MTC dropped by about half so right now we're almost running on empty! The other zones going to Japan got a few more groups of atarashii senkyoshi (new missionaries), but our zone doesn't get any until 3 weeks from now so we'll be pretty lonely for a while.
This week was incredible and very inspiring for me especially when I was feeling overwhelmed. On Friday of last week, I had been feeling pretty down and felt like I didn't really have a clear direction yet. I was trying my best to study in an outside of class, follow the advice of the leaders at the MTC, and do my best at everything , but I felt like there wasn't anything more I could do, which was kind of discouraging. That night, I talked with my companion, and he felt the same way. We tried thinking of some solutions together, but we didn't really make any progress other than deciding to pray desperately that things would work out. On Saturday,Sunday and Monday, everything changed. Random people would come up to me and my companion and give us encouragement and praise for how well we were doing. One of our sensei pulled me aside and gave me some personal insight on how he found purpose, direction, and guidance on his mission. Our daisenpai, who were leaving that week, gave us so many useful tips about time management, stress management, and language study, and on Monday, we were teaching a lesson to a volunteer, Brother de Klerk, who had served his mission in Japan a while ago. Normally, we teach the whole thing in Japanese (which is getting easier every day), but at the very beginning, he told us that he really felt like we need to feel the spirit of his message so he would mainly speak in English. Even though we were only schedule to take only 20 minutes, we ended up talking for over an hour about Japanese culture, the MTC experience, and overcoming our own difficulties. He shared a story about his mission that was really inspiring so I wanted to share some of it too!

He was about 13 months into his mission and was teaching a lesson when he suddenly passed out, and he eventually learned that one of his kidneys was full of cancerous cells. He was told that he would have to return to the United States for treatment, but that if he had faith, he would be able to make it back to Japan to finish his mission. After his treatment in California, he was told that he shouldn't return to Japan because of his health, and even if he wanted to serve, he would only be assigned to a stateside mission. He was determined to return to Japan, and he wouldn't take an alternate assignment. Then, just after a surgery,  he received a phone call from Spencer W. Kimball (the head of the church at the time) who told him that if he wanted, he could return to Japan  and finish his mission, which he did. 
This was pretty amazing for me to hear and made me truly thankful for all the blessings I have been given! 
Good luck to you all,

Elder Adam Christensen

1. Elder Kerr (one of the daisenpai)

2. Elder Burton (another daisenpai)

3. Some the elders going to Japan and one of our favorite native Japanese elders!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12, 2014 2 weeks down and going strong!

Dearest family,

I actually see Thomas Ashworth quite a bit! He has a similar schedule as me so I usually see him several times a day, which is always fun! He seems like he's doing well, and I hope the next couple weeks are great experiences for him! I actually saw him the day that he came in too! 
I'm sure that I'm going to be the next missionary with "really white hair", and in Japan, I'm really going to stand out. I'm not too worried though because that means that it will be pretty easy to start conversations and spark people's interest. 
Congrats to Blaine and Tausha on their new baby! I'm sure that was a really fun (and probably stressful) event in their lives!
As Aaron so astutely pointed out, I am probably a Magby at this point in my mission, but usually, we evolve around three weeks so I'll be a Magmar soon! 
If you can, you should post more pictures of Bennett's performance! I bet he nailed his part, and I wish I could have been there to see it!
I actually had a really cool experience when we watched The Testaments this last Sunday. I've always loved that movie, but it was especially touching when the Savior appeared to the people and began talking to everyone individually. When he came to Helam and spoke his name, I felt as though Christ was speaking to me, and it felt like he was saying my name too! I felt so close to the Savior, and I hope that I can have many more experiences like that in the time to come.

The last week has been a one of the most intense and stressful weeks of my life and probably even more than finals week! Every day, it seems like there's a wave of new information that we have to learn! We go to class for almost 6 hours straight, and then, we have additional language and personal study throughout the day. So overall, we probably have around 10 hours of Japanese each day, and it's really a difficult language to grasp! I'm so grateful for our wonderful teacher's, and without them, I'm pretty sure I would have lost it by now. Every time that things start to feel too overwhelming, they always know how to refocus and calm our fears, and here's a fun side note! Our teachers are also the one's who act as our investigators during the week! Basically, every day, for about 35 minutes, we have to talk to and teach completely in Japanese, and it's one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do! Even though they are our teachers, they speak really quickly and ask difficult questions, and sometimes, I feel like I don't know what's even happening. Incredibly, I'm actually able to communicate with them most of the time, and it's very helpful having my companion to take the lead sometimes. Since they don't talk to us in English, I know that I'm missing a good portion of what they're actually saying, and that's pretty frustrating for me. Just the other day though, our first investigator, Koyama-san, left us a video, in English, thanking us for teaching and doing our best, and I was amazed that in the first week of learning Japanese, I was able to have a conversation with a fluent Japanese speaker and have him know what I'm saying! The MTC is really a special place, and I don't think it would be possible to learn another language this fast anywhere else. National Public Radio actually wrote a someone eport on the MTC, and I heard that it gave some interesting insight into the incredibly rigorous studying that goes on here! 
This week a group of missionaries from Japan (native Japanese) arrived at the MTC, and they are so much fun to talk to and learn about! It's also pretty intimidating to speak to them in Japanese, but they're very helpful and always very polite. We actually celebrated one of their birthdays on Wednesday, and it was nice to give them an American birthday experience!
They even have a choir here at the MTC, so my companion and I have been going to the practices, and I might be able to be in a smaller choir that gets to perform in front of the entire MTC and several of our church leaders later this month! Singing is definitely a good way for me to relieve all the stress that builds up during the days and weeks, and it's nice to feel competent at something after struggling with Japanese.

1. Gauthier Kyodai (One of our sensei)
2. The Shimaitachi (Gazdik Shimai, Eyring Shimai, Wilson Shimai, Robertson Shimai)

3. Temple Walk
4. The Shimai and our Daisenpai (older missionaries)

And since the World Cup is starting today, USA! USA! USA! USA! I'm trusting all of you to cheer extra loud for me so don't let me down!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

 Adam's MTC district
 Learning Japanese
 or maybe this is the district?

 Adam and his companion
 field trip to the Provo temple!
 How's the view from up there?

Adam with companion and his sensai

1st E-mail in the MTC! June 5, 2014

Ohaiyo Gozaimasu!

1. Well, the food is actually pretty good! There are different meals almost every day and plenty of options for me to choose from. I usually go with wraps because they're fast to make and taste really good! I just have to be careful not to eat too much, and I try to avoid meals that look super fatty or sugary. It's still fun to get a bowl of BYU Creamery ice cream once a week though! We don't have a ton of time for gym and exercising, so I don't want to rely on working out to stay healthy.
2. Nihongo wa hontoni muzukashi desu! The sentence structure much different from English, so they've been teaching us to not think of it as a literal translation. As my vocabulary gets bigger and I practice speaking, I'm gradually getting better at understanding our sensei, Gauther Kyodai, but I still miss some of the things he says. Pronunciation is much easier for me, but hopefully, I will get better at speaking as time goes on. Nouns and adjectives are pretty easy to learn and apply, but the verb system is really complex and difficult to understand at first. In order to conjugate and use verbs in certain ways, you have to change the "base" of the verb into one that's more usable, and depending on the type of verb (ichidan or godan), the bases are different. Plus, there are irregular verbs, which kind of do their own thing, and you just have to remember them. It's definitely a ton of information to digest, but it helps that we're practicing for almost 10 hours a day! I'm pretty sure we're in our classroom for three quarters of my day!
3. They teach us by rarely speaking English, and it is a really frustrating way to learn a language! When I walked into my class on the first day, I really had no idea what was happening, and it was kind of stressful. It was like a wave of Japanese that wouldn't stop, but by the third or fourth day, we could all understand the basics of what he was saying. Our district is really good at helping each other understand the language, and we're all progressing. Our sensei will write the definitions of words on the board to help, and recently, we've started writing only in Japanese characters, which is pretty hard. There are so many different rules and tricks to writing, and as a newbie, I get really lost sometimes. 
4. My companion and I have really similar personalities, and our entire district gets along really well! There are 10 of us altogether, and all of us, except for one, are going to the Tokyo South Mission. We're both pretty new to Japanese and teaching lessons is hard, but we do what we can and hope for the best! Guess what?! The Dai-Senpai (older missionaries) in the Japanese mission give everyone a Pokemon that evolves as you go through the MTC, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever! I'm a Magmar, and my companion is a Spheal (you can look up what they look like if you need to! :) Oh and Siebach choro (Elder) did have a Great Uncle who lived in Rochester and had a family with about 14 kids so I think that you were connected, which is pretty cool!
5.We haven't gone to the temple yet, but since today is our P-Day, we were planning on going this afternoon! I bet it will be a really great experience being there with other missionaries.
6. Sometimes our teachers and other missionaries will tell us about little cultural details about Japan, but we haven't heard too much. I would normally just google those sorts of things, but unfortunately, that isn't an option. 
Our first investigator's name is Koyama-san, and he's a pretty funny guy (not on purpose though)! He acts really shy, and sometimes it gets kind of awkward when he's not talking and we don't how to say very much. It's definitely a great learning experience, and it forces us to utilize what Japanese we do know! He accepted baptism yesterday, which was pretty cool, but I think it was much easier than it will be in the future.
I saw Elder Ashworth when he got to the MTC yesterday, and he seems like he's doing fine! It was probably nice not having to worry about a new language, and I bet he adjusts pretty quickly. It's pretty fun to see people from school around campus, but it's always kind of awkward around the sisters because we can only give them a firm handshake haha!

I love you and can't wait to hear from you,
Elder Adam Christensen