Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Week 71: December 11, 2017 - Already through December?

It's crazy, everyone keeps emailing and saying that it's only two
weeks until Christmas, and I have to check the date every time. It
still doesn't feel like December has started, and the time just goes
by so quickly! To think we are 11 days into lighting the world, and I
didn't even realize! I know that you are all doing amazing things, and
that your service means the world to those we get to help. My mind is
drawn to one simple quote as I think about this, which goes,

"To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world."

This obviously applies to service, and all the small things we can do
for people, but something I've realized in Japan is that to our Father
in Heaven, to our Savior Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, whose
example we follow, we are the world. It's beyond my understanding, but
I am everything to them. They would, and have done everything for me,
as an individual. And somehow the reach of Christ's love, of His
atonement, is infinite, and encompasses each and everyone of us on an
individual level. It's the least we can do to give a little of that
back, as I hear all of you doing every week when I read your emails.

With the Christmas season comes the bustle of getting things ready
for the end of the year, and with it, helping our brothers and sisters
prepare to change their lives forever through the covenant waters of
baptism. Elder Arnold and I spent a lot of time this week thinking and
pondering specifically about Harada, an man in his mid 30's who has
fully embraced the gospel. We done know 100% what he is looking for,
but he knows that it's in the gospel, and we know that it's in the
gospel. So he really has the desire to follow Christ, to change his
life, and to grow through it all. The only problem is that he works
killer hours every day of the week except Sunday. Great for church,
hard for lessons. We finally meet with him Friday night and set up
everything that needs to happen before the 24th, his target goal for
Baptism, and things go great. Harada is ready, we have everything set
up! Until the next day, when an emergency with work in Fukuoka calls
him away from the island for a week. Obviously we don't know why, why
we won't be able to meet as scheduled, but what we do know is that God
knows. He doesn't plan to send His children away, but to draw them
unto Him. So we've got more bustling to do, to do our part to help
Harada continue progressing to the peace he so desires.

As an honorable mention, Brother Strickland (former Elder, one of the
previous mission Assistants) came to visit Ishigaki with his dad last
week. Being the best guy he is, he took me and Elder Arnold to a
little park on the north part of the island, and it just added to the
bustle of the season. I think the pictures can speak for themselves.

Love you all, and can't wait to talk at Christmas!
Elder Woodhouse

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week 70: December 4, 2017 - Ishigaki!

Well, like some of you have said, I'm officially getting no snow for Christmas!

After getting off the plane to transfer down here, I immediately had
to shed my jacket and suit coat, which I wore down to save space. I've
since found occasion to put them back on, primarily because suit
season started with December, but the weather is beautiful, and from
the little bits I've seen, so is the island. Sadly, I don't have my
bike yet, so we haven't been exploring, but I'll make sure to get some
good pictures once we get around!

Like I mentioned last time, the upcoming transfer I'll be privileged
to work with Elder Arnold, who came to Japan with Elder Zeller. He's
from California/Hawaii, depending on the day, and he is crazy
energetic. There is not a person we see that doesn't get a full does
of the restoration of the gospel as part of their day. I love it! The
craziest thing for me is that this is my first companion to do that.
In the past three days I've already learned so much from him about
what I can do to be better, and it feels like he is breaking me,
instead of me breaking him into missionary life. So I'm way excited.

And because of Elder Arnold and Bacons (the Elder I replaced) hard
work, the Lord is working miracles on this island. Specifically, one
of our investigators,  Masako, has been struggling with family
problems, and never been able to come to church. But after our lesson
on Friday, she really took the promises of the Lord to heart, read
from Moroni 7, and out of the blue called us the next day, saying she
would be there on Sunday. And of course, she came. Once more, I've had
to find room in a heart bursting with gratitude to make space for the
Book of Mormon. There is a power in it greater than any man has, for
it truly is Gods words for us, and through it are miracles wrought.
I'm jumping right into the middle of an amazing work and wonder here
on Ishigaki, and I'm excited for where it takes me!

Love you all, thanks so much for the love and prayers!
Elder Woodhouse

P.S. I got the package from Mom and Dad

Another addition: 
I meant to attach this to my group email. My travel was a boat, and a train, and a plane, over the course of about 30 hours. It was crazy to be alone for so long, but I think it was a good experience. Thanks for the emails!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Week 69: November 27, 2017 - Transfers!

Hey everyone,

Once again, I'm way sorry about last week. We mistimed our
thanksgiving activity, so I had next to no time to email anyone. With
that said, I've got plenty of time today, so I can tell you all about
it! And about the weather, because it's about to be December, and we
are still out in shorts and short sleeves for pday. We also got
transfer calls today, and after four months on Amami, I'll be leaving
Elder Zeller and the island behind. Not to fear, starting on Friday,
I'll be moving to a different island, the island of Ishigaki! It's the
farthest south point in the Japan Fukuoka mission, and actually closer
to Taiwan than mainland Japan, so it should be an adventure! My new
companion is named Elder Arnold, he came into the mission with Elder
Zeller and Elder Ehlert, so it will be fun to keep working with him.
Also on the island is Elder Yanada, who I lived with on Amami, and
Elder Watanabe, who Elder Ishizu trained after I left Okinawa, so I'm
really excited for the upcoming transfer!

Of course, moving on means that I'll be leaving Amami, and all of the
great people that I've meet here. If I tried to mention everyone, I'm
sure I'd miss many a person, so I'll keep the list short. One of my
favorite people to work with has been Miwa and her family. She has
known missionaries for a long time, and is really supportive of us,
acting almost as our mother away from home. The main reason I want to
write about her this week though is a question she asked us about
baptism, about our purpose. To quote, roughly, "When people believe
that they are right, does that excuse them from their actions?" She
has been asked many, many times by missionaries about when she will be
baptized, because the missionaries know it will help her. But she
hasn't had her answer yet. It was a testimony builder for me because I
was able to share my purpose,  which, above all, is to bring others to
Christ. Of course, baptism is an essential step, and I recommend it to
all those seeking comfort and solace. But just because she isn't
baptized, I don't think time with Miwa has been wasted. To bring
someone closer, to bring even a little more light into their lives,
that is why I was called. And I've felt that with her.

She is just one of many people that I think I was sent to Amami for.
Another person is obviously me, for personal growth. And another thing
might have been our thanksgiving party. In Japan, instead of grilling
hot dogs and hamburgers, you yakiniku, which translates to grill meat.
Knowing it was thanksgiving, as the four missionaries, we planned an
all you can eat yakiniku party, which turned into a huge success. For
exactly what it entailed, you can look at the pictures, but suffice it
to say I felt American again. Not thanksgiving American persay, but
definitely a good time.

Sorry to skip out last week, but I'll make sure to email again with
picture of my new island! Love you all!

Elder Woodhouse

Week 68: November 23, 2017 - Gomen!*

Hey everyone!

Sorry to be late, and short. To answer questions, Japan doesn't really
celebrate thanksgiving, but we did! Sadly, that took most our free
time, so I can't write near anything. Love you all, I'll tell you more
Tuesday on transfer pday!

Also, if anyone has pictures of thanksgiving, my eikaiwa would love to hear!

Elder Woodhouse

*Editor's Note: Gomen means "I'm sorry" in Japanese.  Eikaiwa means English conversation school

Friday, November 17, 2017

Week 67: November 13, 2017 - Winter?

So Elder Zeller and I have been having many discussions on when
winter, and by extension, Christmas, starts. Out on Amami the weathers
bright and warm, so weather can't help us. We don't have thanksgiving
(though pday will be on thanksgiving, next Thursday, instead of
Monday), so that can't end fall. But, they do play Christmas music in
Japan. When we went shopping today, blasting through all the isles was
classic 'Sleigh ride', 'Rudolph', and 'Santa Claus is coming to town'.
So, I think I've caved, before the turkey was even carved, but it's
crazy to be out in winter again!

In addition to finding Christmas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,
we also were able to work through our English class to find more
people interested in their divine potential! Before English this week
we met with Chika, an older gentleman that's been around missionaries
forever. But, somehow, he has never been in the right situation to
listen to the message before. As we talked, he brought forth all types
of questions, central among them the possibility of him meeting his
parents again. I was so glad that we could answer in the affirmative,
that yes, through the grace and mercy of God we all can meet our
parents, our friends, and all others who have passed on, as we choose
to follow Him in this life. It's an amazing promise, but it lit up his
face so much, and was a pleasure to share.

It's experiences like that and Nishihara, another person that we have
started to work with, that make the dark parts, the hard parts, the
slow parts, all disappear. To be able to sit across the table from
someone who can't logically believe God exists, and to have the
knowledge that He does is something that's priceless. Logic alone can
neither prove nor disprove the existence of a divine being. There are
to many variables. But we all have the power to feel that in our
hearts, to have that testimony develop through the small things, such
as simply asking Him. He will answer.

I've been lifted by angels and all of your prayers, and I love all of
you! You help me remember that as we turn to God, all our problems,
even related to bikes, disappear!

Elder Woodhouse

Week 66: November 6, 2017 - November?

It's crazy to think of how fast time goes by. I got to Amami in
August, now it's November, and somehow the weather hasn't really
changed. It's odd to be somewhere without the crisp change into fall,
but it does make it easy to get around. No digging through snow, no
putting on layers and layers of clothes, just a quick hop onto a bike
and we are off. One of the simple blessings of missionary life.

Some of the other blessings are going about and talking to all of the
amazing people on this island. It's odd, because there have been so
many missionaries on this island, talking to everyone, yet God uses
different circumstances to prepare all of His children. One of the
things that I noticed this week was how unique everyone we talked to
was. One lady just opened right up to us, and told us how her and her
daughter had been squabbling, but she felt good as she met us. Another
man invited us in randomly, because he had never met missionaries, but
wanted to know how to believe in God. And still another lady spent ten
minutes explaining Japanese to the two random white kids from America
sharing a message of hope about God. All different, all special, and
everyone prepared just for me and Elder Zeller to talk to them. God
know his children individually, and He knows the traits of us as his
servants. If we try, and ask, I learned this week that He will put
those we can help in our paths. Be it a big or small thing, we always
have the power as individuals ourselves to brighten others lives.

I honestly don't have much else than to say it was a good week. We
were able to work with the guiding angels of God, and I feel happy.
There isn't anything better than being able to wake up with a smile on
your face, because you know that today is going to be a good day.

Love all of you!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Week 65: October 30, 2017 - Halloween comes early in Japan

Well, due to the timing of everything, and more storms, events being
canceled and the such, it's great to be able to email everyone again!

Sorry to be earlier than expected, but we received surprise notice
last week after emailing that after prayer and discussion, not only
would we not be going to Fukuoka for the conference, but about half
the mission would be staying in their respective areas. It's already
turned out to be a divine decision, because we didn't even have a boat
to leave on last night! In the aftermath of yet another typhoon, the
waves are still choppy to this hour.

But, even though we've been sandwiched between typhoons, the middle of
the week was clear and dry, and that means English class! Specifically
this week, it meant Halloween! Crazy that this is my second time being
in the field for a holiday, but this time was just as fun, if not
better. We over doubled our standard attendance for English, and got
to work with a lot of the members and families on the island to make a
crazy party. Among those in attendance were Chan, Son, and Dwin, (as
close as I can spell it) our Vietnamese friends, who we met last week,
and who loved talking with all the members and students. Because of
that friendship, we also got to meet them and teach them more about
the gospel on Sunday, which was a miracle because the missionaries
didn't even invite them! God has children prepared wherever we are, if
we are searching.

Our other miracle was Shoko, who we were able to meet after she came
to church last week. Out of her own desire, and of course help through
the Holy Ghost, she has already read most of 1st Nephi. As we met her,
we were able to talk more about the application part of reading,
something that I've realized is essential to our growth. Only by
pondering the words of Christ, and then feasting upon them, and action
to internalize, to make them ours, do we find the full benefit and
spiritual nutrition that they can bring up to us.

I love being out here, and I'm praying for all of you back home. Love you all!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse