Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week 34: March 27, 2017 - Greetings from...

Hey everybody,

I'll start with the biggest news I've had in a while, at least
Pertaining to me. Due to various things, one being Elder Erickson
being called as a trainer, I am no longer in Omuta! 6 weeks and
shipped out, and it was all way too fast. I have a few pictures from
the last pday, where I crammed as much history as possible, but
suffice it to say that I'll miss it. However, because I had to leave,
I am now on...


Crazy how quickly things change. So while I won't be able to send any cherry blossom pictures, I'll send some of the beach, and the greenery as soon as I get down to them. My new companion is Elder Sherrill, so I'll probably have some pictures of him and the other elders in the apartment, Elder Barker and Elder Mizukawa, sooner or later, as well. Sorry to disappoint, I know I promised flowers last week!

Leaving Omuta was a big surprise, and it was a touch hard. For starters, we had only just started expanding our horizons, and spent last pday looking at old coal mines, white tigers, and famous okonomiyaki. But the harder part is leaving the people, like Kodzuma (pictured) and Ippo, who are both preparing for baptism, and becoming more Christlike every day. And the members, who I got to know well because they were all so helpful. I can't think of a time where we didn't get help that we needed, where people didn't rearrange their lives to help the missionaries. So it was sad, even after such a short time.

But, now I have more members and more missionaries to work with! As part of Okinawa, we are right next to Kadena Air Force base, and so besides the Japanese ward we get to serve in, we also serve in the Gushikawa military branch. So lots of English, lots of Japanese, and lots of fun. I've only been to church once, but everyone in the area is very nice, and from the time I got here on Thursday, we haven't had to cook a single meal in the apartment, nor eat a meal with just missionaries. It's surprising to be here, but I'm ready to work hard and try to love the members as much as they already seem to love me.

That's the big news for this week, thanks for all the love, prayers, and letters. Love you all!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Monday, March 20, 2017

Week 33: March 20, 2017 - Spring is Here!

Hey everyone!

I'll start out by apologizing, there is a lack of pictures from the
past week. But, because spring is coming up, and I'm in Japan, cherry
blossoms will bloom soon! So keep posted, I'll make sure to send lots
of beautiful pictures next week, or the week after, or whenever they

With that said, besides the photographic evidence to the contrary,
this past week has been an amazing week! The biggest highlight is
probably the fact that we had not one, not two, but three
investigators come to church! Ippo, Kodzuma, and Idzuno all made it,
and they all benefited, as might be expected. I'm not Japanese, and
Elder Erickson isn't Japanese, but all the members are, and it helps
our investigators so much to understand everything. But more that
literal understanding, the feeling of church works miracles. Just by
coming, and feeling the warmth and love, you can see that it affects
people, it makes them want to learn more. It was a pretty big miracle
last week.

And in a similar fashion, we had miracles basically all the time.
Kodzuma and Ippo are both preparing for baptismal dates, and as part
of that, both of them are in the process of stopping smoking. Having
never gone through it, I can't compare how difficult it must be, but
both of them have found help from the heavens, and will be able to
make their dates. And, just in the past week, we have felt so much
love and help from the members with them. Kinoshita Kyodai and
Suziyoshi Shimai basically adopted our investigators, and so it's
impossible for them not to feel loved, and impossible for them to feel
alone. More than anything the help members can give has stuck out to
me, because it's exactly what Christ would do if he were here.

I also got to see a miracle on splits with Elder Christensen, who went
through the MTC with me in the other district. So we are both pretty
new to this whole missionary thing, but got to go out together in his
area, down in Kumamoto. As part of that we taught one of the families
he has found, teaching with a grand total of 11 months in the country
between us. But through the grace and help of God, the lady we taught
felt peace and comfort. I can promise that this is His true work,
because if it wasn't, sending two 20 year olds out wouldn't work. You
wouldn't have hundreds of missionaries going out in all types of
weather, 24/7, and finding people ready to change, to improve their
lives for the better if this wasn't true. God is in every aspect of
this work, and I love having the chance to be even the smallest
instrument in his hand.

Love you all, thanks for all the love and emails!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Monday, March 13, 2017

Week 32 :March 13, 2017 - Moving along

Hey everybody! Spring wishes coming your way from Omuta!

At least, I think it might be spring, I'm not 100% sure. But things
are going well, and it feels like we're progressing, so I'll take
whatever weather comes our way (but hopefully the nice spring
weather). As big news from the past week, not one, but two of the
people we have been working with, Ippo and Kodzuma, came to church
yesterday, and the both loved it! I love having the members here to
work with, because they make or break an investigators church
experience, and I've never felt like I have to worry about it.

In other news, Elder Erickson and I kept ourselves pretty busy last
week, with a surprisingly large part of it in English! My highlight
might have been working in the fields with Maehara, an older,
traditional gentleman who speaks fluently. We started cultivating the
ground for him to plant pumpkins, and then learned more about the
history of Omuta, and the history of his house, which has been around
for 100 years! He does live in a different one now, but it's amazing
to learn how things were done, and it helps me understand the culture
so much better to see and feel parts of the history. But, while
Maehara was great, we also met with Yamada Shimai and Maria to eat
takoyaki and speak in English. While neither of them are American,
they both also speak really well, and it's an opportunity to build and
rebuild their relationships with the missionaries. I may be wrong, but
I feel like 9 out of 10 times, people don't talk to us simply because
they don't understand who we are, or what we're doing. All I'm asking
as a missionary is for consideration, for a little time, because I can
promise that because of Jesus Christ, because of His restored church,
I am a better person, I have found joy in my life, and every single
person, no matter what situation you are in, how bad it may seem, can
feel that joy. So services activities, meals, they are really fun
chances to be genuine, to get to know people and to be real people to
them, not just the two white guys in suits.

The last thing I have for this week is just the fact that Gods hand is
in this work. It's in the large things, like helping Ippo stop
smoking, or strengthening Kodzuma to come to church, and the small
ones, like the power of a testimony, where we can promise blessings,
promise truth, and know that it will happen. Other people feel it to,
that's how missionary work works. If God wasn't with us, no one would
open their door for a discussion on divine principles with two 20 year
old Americans, no one would be left dumbfounded by our simple
Japanese. But I've seen it happen, I've been part of it. The Spirit
drives this work, for it is Gods divine work, and I'm blessed to be an
instrument in His hands.

Love you all, thanks for the emails and updates on everything!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Week 31: March 6, 2017 - Time flies, almost as fast as missionaries going downhill

Hey everyone!

Glad to get a chance to send out an update, the past week has been
pretty big. No major updates or crazy changes (yet), but lots of
amazing things!

First, the biggest news was probably the Whiting conference. So he
didn't have to go to every single zone, we met in Kumamoto, and had
Nagasaki zone come down, and Kagoshima come up, bringing in all maybe
100 missionaries together. So, it was pretty cool to see most the
mission gathering in one place, realizing that we march united with
the knowledge of truth. But besides just seeing everyone, we got to
learn from a General Authority, one of the guys who speaks in general
conference! It was amazing to hear some of the wisdom he shared, both
about the gospel, about our missions, and about life afterwards. He
shared many things, but one of my favorites was the idea that Gods
work is both a work and a wonder. Oftentimes as missionaries we focus
on the work part. We do missionary  work, because that's what we're
called to do. But we need to stop and slow down, realizing that this
is also a wonder! Right now I'm sitting in the middle of Japan, typing
next to another white guy as we prepare to go out and teach in
Japanese. How wonderful is that?!?

And more wonderful than the fact that we are here, the fact that we
carry the Book of Mormon, translated not just from the plates into
English, but from that to Japanese, is wonderful. And on top of that,
we carry with us the authority to change lives. For example, this past
week we met with Kodzuma again. Already from the first time I meet him
I can tell he is a happier man. Where normal people look inwards, he's
starting to look out, trying to improve himself. And it shows, as he
reads the Book of Mormon he is finding this change. Or teaching Izuno,
who has spent most his life wondering how to cope with guilt, not sure
where he will go after death, among other deep questions. Knowing that
however imperfect our Japanese is, we are helping him, showing him the
perfect gospel of Christ, showing him a source of hope, is wonderful!
I've already seen as I've personally focused on these wonders, I've
become happier, more positive, and I love this work!

On top of just working with these amazing people, as missionaries we
also have the pleasure of biking around to meet them. It's another
wonder to bike around the countryside between appointments, though
sometimes that means we are in a hurry. So, for p-day Elder Erickson
and I spent some time in the mountains, enjoying and soaking it in.
Japan has such a rich culture and history, and I can't even imagine
the half of it. But even being around it, knowing that parts of this
country have been unchanged for hundreds of years, and being able to
see and be around those parts, it's just amazing. Again, there isn't a
better thing I can say than I've been blessed with this opportunity to
serve, and I love the time I've had here. God truly does watch over
each and every one of us, and we will see it as we slow down and look.

That's it for this week, love all of you back home! Thanks for all
your emails and letters!

Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Week 30: Feb 27, 2017 - The Standard Cats

Greetings from the land that might be getting warmer!

It's amazing how much more attention I pay to weather now that we go
out in it every day. So it might just me getting used to winter after
a couple months. But I think I might have decided spring is my new
favorite season, cause it's not (as) cold anymore! Either way, we get
the chance to go out every day, and share a message of joy and
gladness, so I know I'm not complaining. Just in a few months, I've
realized I'm so much more happy, and if there is any way other people
can feel this, I'll be out talking to them about it.

And, sometimes, ok, most of the time, it's in Japanese! But it's ok,
because while I still don't know everything, I know enough. Not on my
own of course, but as God has a need for me to speak, I can speak.
It's probably good, because I've gotten quite adept at talking in
English, and I can't thing of what I would say if I was talking to
people in my mother tongue. But it would work out somehow!

But my improvements, and/or lack thereof, aren't as important as the
people we get to meet. One of my favorite from this week is a guy
named Noguchi who invited us over for dinner Thursday night. He met
the missionaries right before I got to Omuta, but he loves English,
and has been coming to Eikaiwa. The coolest thing about him though is
that he has never been outside of Japan. His English knowledge is
completely conversational, but it's only from self study for years. He
wanted to speak English, so he found a way. And now, it's payed of,
and he still studies, still tries to improve. If I can learn anything
from this, it's the importance of goals. When we set goals, and work
our hardest to obtain them, nothing can stop us.

And when the goals are righteous, like a missionaries desire to share
this love, we have God walking besides us to help us along. Like
Monday night, when we had an appointment cancel on us, only to house
into an amazing mother who welcomed us in two houses later. Or Friday,
when on Junkai in Nagamine (about an hour south) we met a lady who
lives in, of all places, Omuta, where I'm from. Or like I mentioned
earlier, having two white guys, neither over 20, walking around
teaching people in Japanese. This truly is a worked guided by a power
greater than we can even fathom.

Of course, we also get to have fun while sharing the gospel. For
example, sometimes we find cats (sorry for the blurry picture), and
they jump on our laps. Or they follow us around a neighborhood. It's
small things, like stopping to smell the roses, that really complete
the experience. I just started, but I wouldn't trade anything in the
world for this opportunity.

Love you all,
Elder Mitchell Woodhouse

Week 29: February 20, 2017 - Omuta, week 1 (or 2, I lost track)

Hey everyone!

It's great to get the chance to email again. It's only been one week,
but so much has happened. For starters, the big news was spoiled last
week, but I'm in Omuta city now! I don't know exactly how far the trip
was, but it took most of Thursday, and gave me my first full immersion
experience in Japan, because when you transfer, you're on your own (at
least part of the way). So, like any good missionary, I got to use
some nice alone time to think, and enjoy the beautiful countryside.
And then, I ended up miles away, right outside of Kumamoto-Ken, with a
new companion, new zone, and new area. But it's great, because the
Lord prepares people all around the world, no matter what city you
were in.

Being honest, I was worried about the move, because George was
preparing for his baptism on the 18th, and I really wanted to see it
and be there for him. But what do I find in Omuta, but two amazing
people preparing for their own baptisms. Sadly for me, neither of them
are Americans, so my into to teaching, English style, is now over.
Yet, I love both of them. Ippo is an extremely kind man, who loves the
missionaries, and has committed himself to reading two pages from the
Book of Mormon a day. The gospel has already changed him, helping him
to overcome smoking, and I am just amazed by how prepared he is. The
other person I've got the pleasure of working with is named Kodzuma,
and he also has seen miracles. Due to medical reasons, his legs
normally hurt a lot, but he was able to come to church yesterday, by
bike, and you could tell he loved the peace within. As I get to meet
both of them more, I will definitely share more about both of these
fantastic men.

Besides those two investigators, Omuta also has a bunch of less
actives that we as the missionaries get the pleasure of helping. Some
are old war veterans, some young families, but everyone has their own
story. In the little time I've had here so far, I can promise that
those stories are what make people unique. When you listen to a story,
it just helps you understand what is going on in a persons life, and
how to help them. Just getting to know people has been by far my
favorite thing so far.

And getting to know people is easy when you have an amazing companion.
Elder Erickson is amazingly genuine, and the people we meet can tell.
From less actives to investigators to members to random people on the
street, we have just been able to share the love of God. At the core,
that's all we are doing, and as people realize that the missionaries
aren't trying to sell something, you can see their hearts open up. As
just one sentence examples, the mother who gave us her love on behalf
of our own mothers, the people who walked with us to help us find an
apartment, a priest who talked with us to share his side, the atheist
with deep questions on life, the old man who taught us Japanese. I
could go on, but those are just some of the stories we've seen in the
past week. And there are many, many more to find. I love being out
here, having the chance to meet all of these people, because even
though I can't speak perfectly (or even well) these are real people I
can share joy with.

Wow, that got long really fast. I'll talk more about the members next
week, because they are amazing, and so helpful. But I just wanted to
close quickly with a segment of scripture I found, from the speech of
Samuel the Lamanite. "Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather
than light?" We can, as the Nephites of old, make that choice, because
our mentality determines everything. Let us all press on in our own
lives, choosing to be happy, and I promise we will find the greater

Love you all,
Elder Woodhouse