Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11, 2014 e-mail from Odawara

I'm so sorry! Yesterday was our temple P-Day,  but since it's so much
farther than Hachioji we spent around 4 hours on trains and didn't end
up having any time to email before we started proselyting for the day.
I wasn't entirely sure if I should email even though it wasn't P-Day,
and I had originally planned to just write next week.
Elder Nishidome and I were thinking about calling on our Friday during
the earlier part of the day, which will still be on Christmas Day for
you guys! We haven't picked a specific time yet, but is that ok?
There are gifts for Amanda and Blake in the package as well, but they
are Christmas gifts so you should probably wait :) I got your package
with the advent calendar gifts, and I have to say that it's been a
highlight of my December to open them with my companion and share the
scriptures with each other. I've been able to share the blessings of
American gifts with the people of Japan so thank you! I haven't
received the gift from Blake and Amanda yet, but there is a Christmas
conference at the mission home during Christmas week so I'll probably
get it then.
I just want to say thank you for sending such wonderful stories about
Grandpa and his amazing life experiences. I've come to treasure them
and the other stories of our ancestors so much recently!

There have been so many new things to do, the new apartment (which is
an actual house with an elevator) was a mess, and we had a lot of
organizing information that needed to get done so our minds have been
all over the place.This last week was a whirlwind of new events and a
lot of reevaluating, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of
things again now! The branch here in Odawara consists of around 25
active members and a decently sized group of less active members. We
have 6 missionaries working here, 4 elders and 2 sisters. Progressing
investigators are few, and we don't have many potential investigators
to work with, which means we are doing a lot of finding! The setting
here in Odawara is completely different from Hachioji. We have a giant
Japanese castle, a beach, and a very spread out population, which
means that tracking has usually been the most effective form of
contacting. I've found that I've gotten a lot better at boldly
inviting the people that we contact to take steps of faith, but I
frequently feel like the invitations aren't personally tailored to
each person. Each person is a unique individual with years of life
experience that defines who they are and how they act, and by myself,
there is no possible way I could find out enough about a random person
in 5 minutes of conversation. In essence, the  Holy Ghost is the means
by which we can come to understand these people and their needs, but
as with all things, it's easier said than done. Listening to the
quiet, subtle promptings of the Spirit is a skill that takes patience,
diligence, faith, and obedience. In a bustling place like Japan,
recognizing the Spirit has been a struggle unlike any other. You are
surrounded by people, but feel very alone in the midst, and I
frequently wonder how I can possibly talk to all of them. The answer
thus far has been one by one. Whether it's playing basketball with
high school kids, talking to fishermen on the beach, streeting in a
crowded market, there are opportunities everywhere to talk to people,
and we just have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and be
bold, tempered with love. In the end, we decide the kind of missionary
that we become by the effort that we put into our work. As members,
the only thing stopping us from opening our mouths and sharing the
gospel are the barriers we create ourselves. However, we can change,
and we can help other people change as well! First, we lay down our
"weapons of rebellion" and our preconceived notions of knowledge and
let the power of Christ's Love and Atonement first cleanse and then
empower us with blessings from on high. For God's ways are higher than
our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We now see
through a glass darkly, but with His guidance, face to face.
Sorry again for making you wait, but I hope you know how much I love you all!

Elder Christensen
1. Christmas in Japan
2. Playing some ball

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