Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What A WEEK!

Okay, for future reference, my p-day at the MTC is on Tuesdays, so any mail you send me on Wed won't be answered for a full week. And yes, Mom, I got garments. Because I am in the MTC over Christmas, I won't be calling home on Christmas. I can call home from the airport on my departure date, which is approximately February 11. This may change, so don't plan your lives around that date. I only have 30 min of computer time to do everything that I need to on the computer, so I have to be brief. Now for the travelouge:
Before the MTC
The TV's at the Indy airport had Ben 10 playing, which made me laugh. I think G-ma can tell you the story of the airports, so I'll let her do that.  Staying at the Wilson's was nice. They like to finish each other's sentences and stories. 
At the MTC
Everything was GO GO GO! They use the shock method on new missionaries to introduce them to the place. A lot of paperwork and a lot of new terms, confusing building layout. I've run into a friend a couple times here, so I hope that as more of my friends get here I'll run into them. My room is at the top floor of one of the buildings. Carrying a 60 lb suitcase up 4 flights of stairs was slow, so an English sister helped me carry it up. I have 3 companions, who double as roommates. My companion-companion is Breck-Shimai (shimai means sister in Japanese). Our companionship is complicated because she has been here 7 weeks as a solo sister. Out of class, I am her companion. In class, I am in a threesome with Abraham Shimai and Miller Shimai. Breck Shimai is from Pleasant Grove, likes Dr. Who and Bennedict Cumberpatch, and a boy named Bill. Abraham Shimai is from Peyson, Utah, likes sports, and is very quiet. Miller Shimai is from American Fork, likes art, and is part or full Navajo (I haven't asked yet). I'm the only new missionary from IN, and I've only met one other missionary from IN, a sister from Fishers. I did see several who are on their way to IN, including a sister from Alaska. Keep your eyes peeled! There are 4 elders in my district/class. Elder Kramer and Elder Wyndham are one companionship, and Elder Egbert and Elder King are the other. Elder King is from Australia and there is another Australian in one of the other Japanese districts. Now there are 4 total districts, making our entire branch about 30 people. I'm used to classmates who don't make beginner Japanese mistakes, so it was kind of frustrating to listen to them make those mistakes at first, but I'm over that now. I didn't run into Sis Bonner's mom, so you'll have to tell her sorry. The Russian missionaries that we sat next to at lunch were full of tips. The Shimai's got separated from the rest of the group, so we tried to find them again and in doing so ran into the older group of Japanese missionaries (the one that Breck Shimai is a part of). They were helpful and friendly. The first night they threw us into missionary work and had us teach 3 investigators. It was very humbling. I'm glad I got that so early so that I know that feeling later and I don't have so far to fall. I caught a cold, so I didn't get a good night's sleep.
It was hard to focus the next day because I didn't get a good sleep. I'm astonished at my classmates because they are already counting to 100 in Japanese and teaching entire lessons, when the day before they didn't know a lick of it! Abraham Shimai fainted because she had to get two shots for her immunization records. I was just wondering why it was taking so long for her to come out when a nurse came out and said she had fainted. That's something to write home about for her, I'm sure. At the getting to know you meeting for all the new Japanese missionaries, I impressed several people by breaking the norm and introducing myself as "Fatima Barabas, from Morroco, going to Topeka Kansas. I just came in this room to hang out with all of you." The branch president's wife said that that was the first time anyone had done something like that. Breaking records, yeah! I took some sinus medication for my cold that night and was knocked out.
Much better outlook when one has a good night's sleep! We went to the gym and I was suprised at my endurance. I went 20 minutes on the eliptical and I wasn't even puffing. My legs get a real work out on the stairs up to our room. I'm out of breath every time that I go up. The shower curtains in the bathroom don't go all the way across. Thankfully there are two of them, so you can stagger them. We taught our first investigator in Japanese. Her name is Chiharu Shimai. She is an american, but she grew up in Japan, so her English isn't that good. Going in, the Shimai and I were especially nervous because we were going first. We got in there and made a little small talk wherein we found out that her husband is in the hospital because of a problem with his brain. She wanted to know why God would do something like that, why bad things happen to good people. That's a hard question to answer in English, let alone Japanese! The spirit was like thunder in my heart. I started crying and I couldn't get words out because I felt how much God loved her. I tried to tell her that God wasn't the one who caused this to happen. I tried to tell her that the gospel brings joy and happiness and comfort and answers, but I'm not sure how well I got that across. The other sister's had no idea what was going on, but they could feel the spirit too. They weren't sure what to do once I was done talking, so they read the lines they had prepared and asked her if she would pray about our message. She asked us how do we pray. I was so relieved because that was something I could actually say in Japanese! We taught her as best we could and then ended with a prayer. We left and the other elders went in and taught her more. They gave her a Book of Mormon in Japanese and she said that she would read it. We prayed for the elders while they were in their lesson so that they could do their best. One of the missionaries from the other district had an anxiety attack before he taught his investigator, and I felt terrible because I didn't know what to do for him. Once all the elders were done, we weren't sure if Chiharu Shimai knew that we were done, so we had to get help from the older class in explaining that. 
We had our next lesson with Chiharu Shimai that morning, so we had little time to prepare. Our lesson was about faith. Abraham Shimai came up with a great object lesson to explain the James 2:5 verse that says "faith without works is dead." She said to Miller Shimai (as part of the lesson), Miller Shimai I want you to pick up this pen with faith. Obviously she couldn't. In this way, faith is something we have to do, something we have to work at. I was suprised at Chiharu Shimai's understanding. She probably could have taught the lesson for how well she understood. She was very dilligent in her commitments; she read 5 chapters of the BoM and prayed about it with her husband. I know that is one reason that she is progressing so quickly because she is putting effort into it too. The Choro's (choro means elder in Japanese) tried to practice the Japanese alphabet by singing hymns. The trouble was that no one was in tempo, or even using a tempo at all. The result was the musical equivilant of watching pre-schoolers play soccer. Abraham Shimai got a little burned out by the end of the week. 
I was impressed by Abraham Shimai's comment in our meeting with the branch president, Mack Kaicho. She said that if she can say one sentence that she really means and that she thinks Chiharu Shimai needs to hear, that's good enough for her. I learned a great way to teach the BoM by using the pictures in the paperback versions. You start with the picture of Jesus and say the BoM is about the savior. It was translated by Joseph Smith (2nd picture). It begins with Nephi, Lehi, and their family (3rd picture), and so on. The MTC has a FANTASTIC organist! He doesn't even look at the hymnbook, he just plays. We sang Joy to the World and changed keys each verse! Since it was fast Sun, I thought to myself, I shouldn't drink water when I brush my teeth this morning. During the meeting, the MTC president got up and said "my message to you today is on how to fast properly, including not drinking water." I was grateful I was obedient so that I didn't have to feel guilty. I prayed that someone would notice Chiharu Shimai if she went to church on Sunday so that she wouldn't be lost or confused.
Another lesson with Chiharu Shimai. I'm a little worried that my language has been getting to casual. This lesson didn't go as well as the other two. We were flipping through pages and I didn't feel the spirit at all. I think what was missing was our love for her, and our testimonies. Next time we are teaching about the Atonement, so we're going to try only using our testimonies and no quotes. The cafeteria food is adequate, but they don't have good vegetables. I felt really sick after dinner yesterday, but thankfully it was just passing indigestion. 


Miss you and love you,

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