Monday, January 29, 2018

Week 78: Jan 29, 2018 - The End of January!

Hello from Ishigaki!

It makes me so glad to hear about all the experiences and the
snowfalls around the country and back home. I've finally resigned
myself that this year will be without, but it's ok, because there are
plenty of other blessings to experience as a missionary. For example,
living, working, and talking with a companion who is 100% dedicated to
the work. Elder Hafen helps me to elevate my thoughts, which in turn
shows me what type of person I want to and can be for the rest of my
mission, and my thoughts. It reminds me of late nights studying, or
preparing for tests, exams, and projects, where after time, things
just start to fall into place. I think thats roughly how things have
been going for us, and the Ishigaki island recently.

One simple example was biking home for dinner yesterday. We are
cruising on our bikes, and we hit a stop light, where we have to cross
to the opposite corner. As we sit, waiting for the time to cross, my
eyes are drawn to two young guys sitting near the corner we are going
to, waiting for something. As Elder Choi talked to us about, the first
thing that goes through my mind is 'talk to them', immediately
followed by 'that would be awkward'. Thankfully, a year and a little
has talked some sense into me, has taught me some of the divine plan
and potential God has prepared for each and everyone of His children,
and so Elder Hafen and I get to have a talk with the two lads from
Tokyo until they get into a taxi. It was a good contact, something we
could leave feeling good about, and something that the Lord blesses us
with quite often as we search for it. So why do I mention it? Because
the small things like that are indeed the hand of the Lord. I didn't
have a voice speak to me, or see a beacon spotlighting them as people
to talk to. Rather, through experience and trying to do the right
thing, in the end, I was able to do it. Sometimes God will guide us
through great and marvelous ways, but sometimes, it will just fall
into place. It is my testimony that those times as well are a sign of
His love and trust for us.

Thankfully, He has also given us a way to put on the spiritual glasses
necessary to see His love. On Sunday we had stake conference, and the
presiding authority was Elder Gay of the Seventy, currently our Area
President. One of the themes of his address that stuck with me was the
power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ for change. We don't have to be
doing anything wrong, but if we want to improve, we can rely on Him,
and He will help. As a missionary, it's things as simple as wanting to
talk to more people, to smile better, to testify bolder. And His
eternal message is to do your best, and go out tomorrow, knowing you
can do a little better, and He will help you get there.

Honestly, we don't have any crazy stories this week, no out of the
blue, General Conference level miracles to report. But I know that
every day God guides us. We may not see it, but His help is there. The
time I have been able to spend, giving each and every second to Him,
becoming His servant, has been the happiest in my life so far. He
lives, and knows us, loves us, and cares for us.

Love you all!
Elder Woodhouse

Week 77: Jan 22, 2018 - Elder Choi!

Hey everyone!

It's crazy to keep hearing about cold temperatures and record winters.
I guess I left at just the right time, because I haven't pulled my
winter jacket out yet. Just rain, but that's become my favorite
weather. Only crazy people would run around in the rain talking to
everybody! And that sums up a mission perfectly!

Of course, Elder Choi of the 1st quorum of the 70 had a few different
pieces of advice, besides just running around soaking wet. As a member
of the area presidency, he did a mission tour last week that we were
lucky enough to attend. After flying up to Naha and taking a taxi all
the way up to the Okinawa church building, where I served 6 months
ago?, it felt like I was going back in time a little. But, his address
and training really helped me see how far I've been able to come. We
learned about trying harder, about unity, about lifelong goals, about
working with the spirit, really, a little about everything. But by
listening with the spirit, it was amazing to see what things I've had
the Holy Ghost testify to me before, and now, what I need to focus on,
with that focus being push a little harder for Christ. There is always
a little more, just something else we can do, and as I've seen in just
a few short days from the conference, most of the time we just need to
be willing to look for it.

I think the coolest example was yesterday, when Elder Hafen and I were
walking through a neighborhood. We both saw a man walking around, so
we go over and talk to him, and as we are talking, a car drives by,
sees us, slows down, and the driver, a young man, starts talking to
us. I've never had that happen before, never talked to people running
motor vehicles, so of course I have to go and see what Yuya is asking
about. As things work out, he moved to Ishigaki from Okinawa recently,
loves English, and happens to be a 23 year old kid that's way easy to
talk to. So through divine help, we found another English student, and
someone to share the eternal works of God with. And, the first person
we talked to, our initial contact, had also been deeply pondering the
existence of God and Christ. When we gave him the Book of Mormon, he
said "I didn't know such a book existed. Of course I will read it".
Once more, something I think I've been saying recently, but God has
guided and continues to guide this work. It really makes life simple
as we do our best, and let Him do the rest.

So sadly, I don't have the conference picture from last week, but I do
have last conferences, so enjoy!

Love you all,
Elder Woodhouse


Week 76: Jan 15, 2018 - New Companion!

Hey everyone!

The rock of Ishigaki has been doing great recently. As last week was
transfer week, Elder Arnold and Elder Yanada left the island, both
heading up to Naha. And with their departure, Elder Hafen and Elder
Arpilleda came down! I'll have the privilege of working with Elder
Hafen for at least the next six weeks, and I can already tell it will
be a blast. He's from American Fork, UT, and loves music, coming out
on his mission after a year at BYU. Honestly, I feel like it was a
really inspired transfer, because he constantly reminds me of me at
the beginning of my mission, and so we will go forth and see miracles!

Go forth, of course, being used in the context of continue. The first
day Elder Hafen got here, we were dendoing an apartment when this
younger guy comes up the stairs. Out of nowhere, I find myself talking
to him, and in the conversation, the place where he works (Taketomi)
pops up. As luck has it, we had just been to Taketomi on Tuesday for
Pday, and so we connect there. Long story short, Takayuki invites us
in Thursday night, and then invites us over for dinner Friday night to
keep talking. It was one of the most random experiences on my mission,
which, as I've come to realize, means it was the most divine. God
guides everything we do, and He prepares people to meet us. Our job is
simply to open our mouths, to listen to the guidance of the Holy
Ghost, and to act. In the scheme of things, it's actually quite
simple.

And with the Holy Ghost, one of the other things I've realized this
week is how soft that voice may be sometimes. A quote I've come to
enjoy reads "If you are doing the right thing, and if you are living
the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying
to you" (President Hinkley). Just this week, I realized that we might
not even know that it is coming from the Spirit. We just know that
it's good. When I started to talk to Takayuki, I didn't realize that
it was the Spirit prompting me to speak. For most my mission, when I
talk, it hasn't been because I feel a divine hand guiding my words.
I've just always been able to try, to try to do what God would want me
to. And looking back, just as with coincidences, you start to realize
that they weren't random. The story you shared, the back road you
took, sometimes things you didn't even realize you were doing, they
turn out to have been necessary. In Gods vocabulary, coincidence isn't
a word. And as I think I say every week, I'm amazed and honored to be
a witness of that divinity, of that love and compassion, each and
every day.

Love you all!
Elder Woodhouse










Week 75: Jan 8, 2018 - 2018 well underway!

2018 is already moving really fast!

As I mentioned last week, we were able to have the baptismal service
for Sister Masako on Sunday, and it was crazy to be a part of one at
last. Because the ocean was going to be frigid (even on Ishigaki it
gets a little cold) we ended up doing it on the roof, which is a first
for me. But even with the weather, we were able to have a spiritual
experience, and it has been great to work with her and hear her
testimony grow throughout my time here so far. I think one of the most
amazing things was hearing her testimony, where she spoke from her
heart about following Christ to the end. The end is a long time away,
but really, that journey is simply one small step at a time. Little by
little we draw closer, thinking the entire time that we are making no
progress. Until one day, we look back, and realize that we're on top
of the world. As Masako quoted, the Lord promises in Ether to turn our
weaknesses into strengths, if we choose to allow Him, and then we will
improve and grow more than we ever imagined.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Elder Arnold as we were
dendoing, about a quote from I believe President Hinkley. He said
roughly that 'we need to disagree, without being disagreeable'. We
can't compromise our standards for the world, because we want to grow
closer to the Lord. But when we are debating over the new color for
the house, be it blue or black, what is our attitude? When we meet
people that don't think as we do, possibly even don't agree with us
(and we meet a lot as missionaries), what is our reaction. I like the
question because I don't know if it has a single answer, besides draw
unto Christ. More than anything this transfer, I think that's been
something I've been able to relearn. The closer you come to Christ,
the more you try to emulate Him, the more you will be filled with
light and love in your life. It's truly an amazing time to be a part
of the hastening of the Lords work, and feel the glory and light
firsthand.

This week is also transfer week, but we don't have calls yet, so I'll
have to keep you all posted next week! Thanks for the emails!

Love,
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse



Week 74: Jan 1, 2018 - Happy New Years!

I realized as I was typing this that some of you might still be awake,
so enjoy the party! I can promise from the other side that 2018 is
great!

For the new year, I'll be honest, I still don't know what our
remaining plans are. Unlike last year, there aren't any really big or
famous shrines nearby, so I think we might actually take the time to
head over to a nearby island. Not many places in the world you can do
that! But as for things we have already done, we watched the sun rise!
I guess it might be an American tradition, I've always been asleep in
the morning on the first, but as a symbolic thing, and because it's
cool, a lot of Japanese people go with their families to watch the
first sunrise of the year. Wanting to make sure we got the best view
possible, I convinced Elder Watanabe to bike a 50 km round trip to a
view point one of our Eikaiwa students recommended. Cars are great if
you have them, but biking in the dark, racing the sun, it was worth
the experience right there! Thankfully the bike ride was fun, because
the sun ended up cheating, and rose behind thick cloud cover. There we
probably over 100 people gathered, and we all just waited as the sky
got lighter, and lighter, and lighter, and then everyone started
realizing what happened. However, it was still way pretty, and I'll
look forward to finding somewhere cool to try again next year!

Of course, missionary work is about more than just long bike rides,
and the central component with our Savior Jesus Christ. I've mentioned
a bit about Masako before, but as she has prayed for miracles and
divine intervention to allow herself to draw closer unto Him, it has
come, and the finalizing will be next Sunday at her baptism! It's
crazy to have watched her grow in just the four weeks I have been
here, but she is a living example of how the gospel will change you.
Radiating kindness, her faith keeps her moving, and its given her, as
I think it gives every one of us, a greater purpose in life. I'm so
excited for her!

And besides Masako, with New Years and the holiday season wrapping up,
Elder Arnold and I have a lot of other people we get to catch up with!
There isn't a single experience that pops out to me this week, but as
we have been able to rely on God, and show our faith, He has put his
children in our path. Whether it be the lady waiting for the
missionaries to knock on her door, and we come by Christmas Day, or
the guy who got a Book of Mormon and then lost track of the
missionaries, only to run into them on the street New Years Eve, or
any number of the young people we've run into in almost any possible
scenario, He has prepared them, and us as His servants. So that's my
goal for the new year, to keep trusting in Him, to remember as the
Savior taught the Nephites, that 'the morrow shall take thought for
the things of itself'. After all, that's how things work out.

Love you all, have a great new year!
Elder Woodhouse

P.S. Don't expect all these pictures every week, we actually did
things for the New Year.

P.P.S. As a side note, Elder Welch just got engaged, bringing the
number of my eight companions home that are engaged to three! It's
crazy!








Week 73: December 25, 2017 - Christmas!

It's crazy that it's already Christmas again!

And that it's my second one in Japan!

I'm not really sure what to do actually... the time flies by, the
weather is nice, I'm living on a tropical island, speaking a language
that by conventional wisdom I should not be able to speak still, and
it's the times like these that help me reflect on what I am doing, on
who I am serving.

This Christmas, I am once again blessed to be in full time service of
God, representing Him and His holy son, Jesus Christ. It's through His
grace that I got here, through His guidance that I can speak, and
through His love that I can testify. It's the times like this that I
find myself saying "I stand all amazed", because really, how can you
not be amazed? We are blessed to share the Christmas message with all
the people on this island, and how can you not be amazed that the
Savior of the world was born in a manger? That He descended, in order
to succor us individually? That we have a Father in Heaven that cares
about is individually, enough to send His son as a sacrifice? I know
that it is Christmas, but as President Hinkley said, and I'll
paraphrase, 'Without the events of Calavary and Gethsemane, the babe
born to Mary would just be another babe in Bethlehem'. But the latter
events of His life did occur, and it was for us! I can't comprehend
even the smallest bit of it, but I can promise that it is true.

As an example, there was a member that Elder Arnold and I visited
yesterday, on Christmas Eve. She is older, and hasn't come to church
in a while, but we thought it would be good to stop by, and share a
little about Christmas. So we go, share our message, and are about to
leave, when the Spirit whispers to me 'Ask a question'. My companions
already half packed up, but I say the first thing that pops into my
head, 'Is there anything you would like to say or add, Yamada
Shimai?', and then we have the chance to listen. Listen to her
worries, her concerns, her fears. Everything that she has been holding
in for who knows how long. And then, through the same Spirit, we can
testify. It's simple, but we promised her that God is there, He does
care for her. No matter how many times you ignore God, or don't follow
Him, He still reaches out His hand, because He loves you. His goal is
for us to return to Him, because heaven is a real place. And like any
father, He will do anything and everything to help us reach that goal.
And I can make that same promise to everyone. God cares, and He guides
us through the Holy Ghost to bless His children. Sometimes we are the
ones guided, and sometimes we receive the help, but no matter what, He
is there.

It's crazy to think that for all of 2017 I have been in Japan,
privileged to work with these amazing people. I've learned so much,
and just wanted to share that little bit with you. Love you more than
you can imagine!

From Ishigaki,
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse