Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Week 26: January 30, 2017 - Moving Forward

Winter came, and it might have passed!

This past week has been warming up, ever so gradually, until
yesterday, when the liquid that fell from the sky was rain, instead of
snow! That's really, all the weather updates, I have, and this week
brought a couple of other big announcements that are more intriguing.

First, to start of with the smaller of the big pieces of news, we took
a road trip! It was a while in the making, but to help George figure
out what church was actually like we had been trying to get him to the
Iwakuni military branch, about 90 minutes away. Yesterday, everything
fell in place, and Brother Hidaka drove me, George, Elder Osborne,
Sister Fukumi, and Sister Nozomi up. It was amazing to be at church in
English, and to see so many Americans in one place! But more than just
the experience of going to an English branch, I loved the members that
took us there. They went knowing they would understand next to
nothing, but out of the kindness of their hearts knew it would help
George and took us. And, on top of just driving, they made us amazing
food! I love the chances we have to work with genuinely good people.

Which, in its own way brings us to the next big piece of news, the
worldwide missionary broadcast from from Thursday. Without boring you
with the details, missionaries have now been giving more freedom. For
example, the schedule has been replaced with one that gives us the
chance to study whenever we feel is the least productive, and gives us
the chance to find people whenever. For us, it's crazy to think that
we are being trusted with the keys to guide this work. But at the same
time, to have the freedom to really connect people, even though it
shouldn't change much, it just feels better. I'm excited to see how
much good we can do going forward.

Sorry if that doesn't make any sense, but I'm obviously still a touch
disoriented. Love you all!

Elder Woodhouse

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week 25: January 23, 2017 - Everything Still Feels New...

Greetings from Yamaguchi!

This time I know I've mentioned it, but it's winter now! Being out on
a bike makes me realize how cold it can get. But, there is no place
that I would rather be than here in Japan, teaching the gospel and
meeting so many amazing people. Even with snow falling, it just makes
the landscape more beautiful, and drives us to work harder. No matter
the weather, it's always the most wonderful time of the year when you
are a missionary!

And the reason for that is the people that you can meet, and how you
can see them change. For example, last Tuesday Elder Osborne and I
were housing in a neighborhood, and everyone was shutting the door on
us. Everyone, except a way nice 12 year old boy. We talked to him for
about 5 minutes, then his mom came out, and next thing we knew we were
getting fed and having a discussion on God inside their nice, warm
house. And, both mother and son made time to come to Eikaiwa, and are
just genuinely good people. The best part is that this isn't just an
isolated experience. Every time things feel hard, there is always
something to brighten my day. Sometimes it's big like this, and
sometimes it's as small as just being happy, but without fail it is

The biggest news from this week isn't even practically being adopted
on Tuesday though. On Wednesday we met with George, and received some
of the greatest news I could dream of. We were just discussing the
general idea of agency, and how Gods plan centers around us choosing
for ourselves. So, out of the blue, George tells us he wants to make
the choice to be baptized! It's an answer to prayers, and I know he is
ready. I can't take any credit, but just by meeting with him the past
months I have seen a light grow in him as he studies the Book of
Mormon. Through baptism, he will always be able to feel that warmth,
and commit to his part in the eternal plan, on day to be clean and
happy for eternity. I'm way excited to keep working with him in the

Lastly, my cultural dose for this week has taught everyone that white
guys should not be in charge of making mochi. On Saturday the branch
had a mochi making party, which is when you basically pound rice and
water into a sticky paste, flavor as you would like, and eat it. But,
for some reason pounding rice into a paste is much harder than it
sounds. I don't know why, but when Elder Harris and I tried, it came
out much worse than when the older Japanese men made it. Maybe in two
years I'll have enough skills to do it, but only time will tell.

I love you all, and miss everyone! Thank you so much for your letters,
both emails and snail mail, and know I read and cherish every single
one I get. Until next week!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week 24: January 16, 2017 - Winter's Here

I might have said this last week, but it's cold! We got out first real
snowfall Saturday, and the roads have still been wet since then. But,
it's way fun to go out and talk to people. I'm sure that we look
terrifying, yet, we still get conversations. My heart completely goes
out to everyone willing to listen, and I know that it only gets better
if we can meet more.

Before it snowed last week, I had one of my most entertaining events
thus far. Last Monday night, Elder Osborne and I were out knocking
doors, and everything was going normal, so we switched buildings.
After about 5 minutes, we look back over, and see police cars pulling
up to the building we had been at. So, like any interested party, we
watch as two more cars pull up, and cops pour out, looking for
something. Eventually they look towards us, and come over, because
we're still in eyesight. By this point we've gone back to knocking, so
we end a contact, turn, and get to talk to the cops! As it turns out,
someone had been spooked by two white guys in winter gear knocking on
their door at 8, and called the cops. Thankfully, because we hadn't
done anything actually wrong, they sent us on our way after a couple
minutes of "yes it's late" and "we're sorry for being scary", so there
really isn't much story, but I can now say that I personally am
responsible for three cars worth of cops being mobilized. I love being
a missionary!

Besides cops, last week was fairly normal. We got in contact with most
of our investigators, and got to meet and teach them. It's cool to see
the hand of the Lord in guiding us to them, because a few people were
only available the select times we met them, so I'm grateful for that.
My biggest non-cop, non-weather news would be that I'm getting
firsthand knowledge on how to immerse yourself in a language. By
teaching and staying busy, I feel like my Japanese will have to spike
out of necessity, and I'll better be able to share the gospel of light
and warmth. But, that's still a touch in the future.

In closing this week, I'd just like to pose a question that President
Egan gave me during interviews last week. "How do you show your love?"
It is easy for me to say I love my mission, my companion, the people
of Japan, and this gospel. But at the end of the day, am I acting to
show that love? I feel that lots of the time our actions fall a touch
behind our words, and my challenge to everyone, myself most definitely
included, would be to think about how we share our love. Because after
all, the most joy comes not from hoarding, but sharing.

With that said, I do love you all. Thank you so much for the notes,
emails, and pictures! Until next week!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week 23: January 9, 2017 - New Years is Over...

Hello from a New Year!

First, sorry about the picture discrepancy between weeks, but I've
actually remembered for once, so there are a few this time. No
promises in the future though...

Anyways, even though I emailed last week after the 1st, New Years in
Japan is a three day event, so I've learned lots more! Starting with
the 2nd, we went down to Hofu to visit the Elders there and go to a
place called Hofu Tenmongu (I think) which is one of the biggest
shrines in the area. It was way cool to see the history, and granted,
I don't understand most of it, but these are rituals that have been
going on for centuries. As a matter of fact, when we talked about
Shougatsu at Eikaiwa, some of the younger generation doesn't even know
why they do some of these things. But nonetheless, it's amazing to
see. I believe the Tenmongu is a Shinto shrine, and people will go to
be cleansed and make goals. One thing that was crazy was just papers
hanging everywhere. I don't have a picture of them, but people would
write goals or things they wanted to improve on papers and cards, tie
them around a tree, and leave it there. Again, I don't know the
symbolism yet, but it's cool to basically see everyone doing it. From
what I do know, the New Year is a time of rebirth, of fresh starts, of
turning over new leaves, and most things tie back to that somehow. I
love the cleansing feeling that was around everything.

And, the New Year is a time to party! While in Hofu, we were in the
middle of street vendors selling all types of food, throngs of people,
and even a monkey! Almost like a carnival in the States, obviously
with a touch more meaning, but people were just out having fun. I'm
glad that p-day landed as part of it, because it was a blast to be out
and about in the middle of everything.

Besides our adventures in Hofu (which of course include Indo Curry),
Elder Osborne and I had a fairly standard week. A lot of people were
spending time with family, but especially towards the end of the weeks
we ran into amazing people and just had good conversations. For
example, Friday night we met a guy who wanted to hear about Christian
funerals and a guy wondering why there were so many Christian
churches, Saturday we meet Izumi-san, who is now going to cut our hair
because he had a Mormon friend once that taught him English, and
yesterday we meet people from Tokyo who had been baptized, and just
brought it up while we were talking in an ashiyu. If I've learned any
lesson from the past week, it's that even if things don't look bright
in the morning, or the 3rd hour, or the 5th, 7th, and sometimes even
9th, by the 12th hour, things will be resolved, as they need to. God
wants us to help people, He wants to help, but we aren't often going
to receive things on a silver platter. As we work and fulfill our part
of the bargain, doing our best no matter what, that is when we find
success, that is when we really get to know people. Last week was fun,
just by learning about different people and answering genuine
questions, learning about people that wanted to talk. It's a blast!

That's all the big news I have for this week, again, enjoy a few more
pictures than usual!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Week 22: January 2, 2017 - It's a New Year!

 Happy New Year!

As a New Years present, the weather warmed up! But realistically,
we're just getting started with the real fun. According to all of the
members, Yamaguchi starts really freezing in January and February.
However, thanks to their generosity and trips to buy the necessary
gear, we are nice and warm.

Fun fact, New Years is huge in Japan. They get the first three days of
the year off of work, and everyone is traveling home to visit their
families. It's great to see, because for the past couple days,
families have been at home, playing with their kids, and just having
fun together. As a missionary, it is great to see everyone just having
fun as families, because one of the truths we share is that they can
be eternal! But, the only downside, again, from a missionary
perspective, is that they weren't free to talk to us. It was kinda
slow work, but there were still people ready to talk. When we do what
God has asked, we will always be able to receive his promised

New Years is still fun though. We got lucky, and the Imai family, the
Yamaguchi branch president, had us over for dinner on Sunday. Even
better. Sister Imai asked us to come over and help prepare the dinner,
so I now know how to make parts of traditional Japanese New Years
foods! I love working with the members, both with investigators, and
just to do service, be it yard work (uncommon in Japan) or making
food. The people are just genuinely good people, and it's a pleasure
to work for them.

On the note of the people, I think that has been my favorite thing
from the bit of my mission I've gone through so far is exactly that.
Already I've meet amazing college students, young working men and
women, high school students trudging through the school system,
Americans, Indians, Nepalese, Chinese, and others. Each person has an
individual story, individual personalities, individual lives. Of any
goal, I want to get better at learning about these people. And besides
the Japanese people, I have the chance to meet a bunch of other
missionaries from around the US. I never realized before how much fun
different people and different personalities can be, as long as you
get with them.  So, that's my goal going forward, to really get to
know all the people I meet.

Sorry to be so broken up with the email this week, I'll try to improve
it next week. For p-day we are in Hofu with the elders there, and are
getting rushed everywhere. But I love you all, and loved hearing about
your breaks and events.

Start the new year well!
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse