Friday, December 30, 2016

Week 21: December 26, 2016 - Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

It's great to be out here in Japan for the Christmas season. Even
though it doesn't have the bells and whistles of American Christmas
celebration, it was a way peaceful, and really helped me focus on the
true meaning of the season. I was away from family, which is sad, but
going around Christmas night, talking to other people that were out
without their families, brightening their nights, it really helped me
think about the joy of the season. For unto us a Savior was born, and
because of Him, all man can find joy!

That was really the highlight of my week, going around with Elder
Osborne and Elder Harris and just being happy, just getting to know
people. Most people around town were way down to just talk about
Christmas, to discuss the true meaning, the method behind the crazy
celebration. And some people were just good people, ready to talk
about anything. It ties perfectly in with a challenge the mission got
from Sister Egan, which is to focus on family history. Now that
Christmas is past, we can really focus on talking to people for the
sake of knowing them, learning about their ancestors, and becoming
their friend. It's that friendship at the center of the Gospel, and
the center of the Christmas season as well.

And on that note come my two favorite experiences from the last week.
First, Wednesday, I got to bake cookies with Elder Harris and Sayaka,
one of our investigators. I don't speak Japanese, Elder Harris doesn't
speak Japanese, and she doesn't speak English, but it was a blast. And
we got to see her not just as a person we talk to, but as a friend, a
girl with interests and personality, while at the same time conveying
the fact that missionaries aren't robots, they are people too. We have
interests and personalities just like anyone else, and to work on
sharing them is just really fun.

The second thing from this week, and last for the email, was being
Santa. Apparently my eyebrows go really well with the costume, because
I got to be Santa four times this winter. But every time was a blast.
To be able to walk to a park, party, or house, and see kids be filled
with joy is unmatchable. The best ones were Christmas Eve, when we
went door to door with Sister Imai to her friends, delivering cookies.
We'd knock, and hear someone say "It's Santa!" and run to the door,
and then we could give cookies and share the holiday cheer. It was fun
to just be genuinely good and bright, and to make the night of those
little kids.

Thankfully, we didn't get any more snow, or much chaos weather wise
out here. I hope everyone was nice and warm for the holidays! For
those on break, enjoy it, you've worked hard the past year for it.
Until next week!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Screenshot from our family skype with Mitch on Christmas evening

Monday, December 19, 2016

Week 20: December 19, 2016 - It's Beginning to Feel Like Christmas!

Hey everyone!

Hope you are all staying warm! I think I mentioned it last week, but
it's getting cold out here. As a gift for the new transfer, we got
snow on Friday! Elder Osborne was enthusiastic, after both living in
Arizona for most his life, and transferring up from the frigid island
of Okinawa
. We've already made plans to go get him some proper winter
gear ASAP, to keep him warm and running. The best part is that all the
members said that this was an especially early snowfall, and it came
just in time for him. What a gift from nature, and what a beautiful
sight it was.

But the winter weather isn't the only crazy thing. As mentioned, we
had transfers, and now that Elder Welch is back home with his family
and Elder Gatherum in Saijo, I get to work with Elder Osborne! He's
been out in the field for a little over a year, so he has mission
experience, and he is an all around good guy. We actually haven't had
much time together yet, because Elder Rowe has been doing some zone
leader training with him, but I look forward to the next 8 (maybe 14?)
weeks with him.

While Elder's Rowe and Osborne have been out doing trainings together,
I've been able to go with Elder Harris, Elder Rowe's new companion,
and a new missionary to Japan! Talk about stress. Here I am, only in
country for about three months, and I'm all of the sudden the person
who knows more Japanese as we teach... But, it's been fun to go out. I
know more than ever that God looks out for us, and when we need to
speak in Japanese, he gives us the words. The gift of tongues is a
real thing, and I am so grateful for it. It's hard, but Elder Harris
and I learn each time we go out that God is watching over us.

The last bit of news for this week is that it's almost Christmas! As
such, we have already been part of two Christmas parties, with two
more planned. They are great chances to go and brighten the day of
other people, by just going and being happy to be there. This is a
season of joy, centered in Christ, but no matter who you are or what
you believe it's a happy time of the year. My challenge going forward
is to channel that joy year round, and love all the people I get the
privilege of talking to as a missionary.

Best wishes for the holiday season!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Week 19: December 12, 2106 - The End of an Era...

Transfers were Monday December 11 so P-Day was pushed back a day...

Friends and family,

Winter has arrived in Japan! I now fully know why we have
sweaters, coats, gloves, and scarves. What before was simple fashion
is now glorious warmth, and it hasn't even started snowing! But it's
at the same time my favorite weather. We can bundle up as missionaries
and bike through the brisk wind, staying awake and alert, ready to
talk to anyone and everyone. It's cold, but it's a fun time to be out
in the world.

The sad part for me right now is that in two days Elder Welch goes
home, back to Utah. I've only been with him 10 weeks, but it's going
to be way sad not to have him in the mission at all. He was my
trainer, my first companion, and it's from him that I've learned how
to be a missionary in Japan. And he has a strong testimony of the help
Jesus has given to him. Especially in this Christmas season, losing a
friend who personally testifies of the Saviors love in his everyday
actions will be hard. So, the era of Elder Welch dies, and Elder
Woodhouse is left to rise from the ashes.

Thankfully, those ashes are only metaphorical. As far as missionary
work goes, I'm getting left in pretty good shape. We have a couple
stronger investigators that we found in these last few days, and have
plans to meet with them in the coming week. A couple of them are young
families, the Yamamoto and Kagaoka families, and they have the cutest
little kids. Both of them are interested in the new Christmas video,
and the message of light it brings. I love having the chance to teach
about that light daily.

The last thing for this week is a small miracle of that light, and how
often a small thing we do can mean more than we thought. Last Tuesday
Elder Reed and I (Junkai again!) were walking down the street and
talked to a middle aged man. We introduced ourself, and asked if he
needed any help. As it turned out, he had no phone, and needed help
getting around. So we got to spend the next hour and a half walking
around the town with this man, helping him to figure out where he was
going, and just taking with him. It was what we serve in order to do,
to help those who need help, to be a light, but he was just so
appreciative of our help and time. I love being in a position where
that is my duty, and even if he's forgotten us, it means a lot to me
to know that he brightened my day as well, by being willing to walk
around with us.

For this week, the only picture is of Elder Welch and I with Shota,
one of our investigators. He's a great guy, and actually spent part of
our lesson teaching me kanji. Again, being able to go teach and meet
so many great people is a blessing of coming to Japan.

That's all for now, sorry it got a touch long!

Love from Japan,
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Week 18: December 4, 2016 - December Already!

Hey everybody!

I realized this week I have now been in Japan for two months! It's
crazy how fast the time has passed. A large part of me feels like it
was just yesterday that I landed in Fukuoka. But then I look back, and
I've been all around, talking to as many people as we can. I wouldn't
say my Japanese is anywhere close to passable, but I've been blessed
with enough to get by so far, and it grows every day. Crazy hard to
learn, but eventually I'm sure it will just flow out as I continue to

My big news from last week was Wednesday, where I was on Junkai with
Elder Gatherum. The way things worked out, we got all the lessons from
both companionships, so we taught Ueda, Murata, and George, all in one
day, almost back to back. It's crazy to have enough people to teach
that we can't even find new investigators, but that was our day. From
that, I also know why missionary work is exhausting. Not only do we
get to bike everywhere, but Teaching can take a lot out of you, when
you put everything you have into it. I was way tired that night.

Our other news was Elder Rowe, the new zone leader, turned 20! In
celebration, I tried to bake a cake/brownie/thing. By tried, I mean
gave it my best, but there might be a reason I wasn't a baker before
my mission. It didn't taste horrible, but... it needed a lot more
sugar. And baking soda. Possibly more eggs. And sprinkles for color.
As a whole, it fell a little flat, but it was fun. I've learned many
times over already that if you don't try something, you can't learn
from it, and if you learn, it wasn't really a permanent mistake. I've
got time left, so we'll see how things turn out in the future.

The church program for this year is also great. I have always loved
the use of light in the scriptures, and it really is the Light of
Christ that we get to share. Big actions, small gestures, and anything
in between all brighten the world. The entire program brings up two
quotes that I think are really appropriate this week, and I'll leave
those to end.

"To the world, you may be one person. But to one person, you may be the world."
"The smallest glimmer of light drives away darkness. Darkness can
never exist near light"

I know that the light of Christ and the light of goodwill are powerful
tools, and no matter what you do, it won't go unnoticed. As we follow
the guidelines of service, and do our best to share our personal
lights, lives can change and smiles will be found. Good luck to
everyone finishing tests going into the Christmas season. Remember to
have fun!

Love from Yamaguchi,
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse