Sunday, November 27, 2016

Week 1... Home

Hello world!

Its so weird to be back here again. Writing my own blog posts instead of emailing them to my sister in law and having her put them up. 

I have a whole range of emotions right now. I am sure a lot of returned missionaries have these feelings. But I gotta write them out, or I might go crazy here. 

First off and foremost- I wanted to say thank you to everyone who supported me on my mission. People that I didn't expect to, wrote me and sent me packages and sent up lifting e-mails. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU. 

I was sitting here thinking of all the things that I wanted to write about from all the jumbled up thoughts in my head, when I really just wanted you all to understand how important the people around us are. How much of an influence we have on others. So I wanted to share a little bit about my mission that maybe you didn't read too much in my e-mails. And I just want to point out that I know I am not a blogger, nor a writer, nor a good story teller. These are just thoughts that I want to share with those who are interested. 

I was in one of my favorite areas- Nagamine. I love that area so much. My companions, the members, the other missionaries. So in love with everyone. Anyway, although I still loved everything about that area, I was having... a hard time. I was still homesick, I missed my normal life. I was TIRED (undderrstatteeementt) It was my third transfer. I was with a Japanese companion, and although she is the sweetest thing on this planet, at third transfer- I just did not speak any Japanese. At least very little. So she was speaking a lot more English to me than I was speaking Japanese to her. And it was hard for me. I felt like a failure. I was in Japan, I needed to speak her language, I needed to get out and work hard, I needed to not be so tired and I needed to be more positive. Maybe it was just the lack of sleep, or the fact that I hadn't still gotten used to sleeping on the floor (after 18 weeks in), or lack of communication but I just felt so sad. I wondered often why I was there. What good I was doing. Why the Lord wanted me to be in Nagamine at this specific time. So many emotions. and a lot of them sad. A little while later, as I looked back on my third transfer (and some of my fourth) I realized that 2 specific moments happened during that time that absolutely saved me when I desperately needed it.

1.) I received a package from my singles ward.  It was for Thanksgiving, and it was full of random treats, pop tarts, granola bars, little turkey drawings. It was all very cute and very sweet of them to send me something. It also came on a day where I felt like I couldn't breathe most of the day. It made me smile, and eased the pressure in my chest. But it wasn't the treats or the letters or the drawings of turkeys that saved me. It was this. 

Hidden in the bottom corner of the small manila enveloped packed to the brim of candy and treats. I almost didn't see it. Maybe someone had thrown it in at the last second. But I picked up the one little pebble and looked at it, and all of a sudden I had this incredible feeling of warmth and love come over me. I knew it was the Savior telling me "I understand. I am here." I turned it over and over again in my hand. I cried and immediately said a prayer of gratitude for something that was obviously in the Lord's hands. It was a tiny pebble, the size of a quarter, but it saved me that day. I looked at it everyday from then on. It reminded me that the Savior is there for us. Always. Forever. No matter what circumstances. 

2.) The second experience. I don't remember if it was before or after the pebble, but if it was after- it goes to show you how fickle I am (and I feel safe to say how fickle we all are). I again was having a hard moment. It always hit me in the mornings. I would wake up and feel like sense of "I can't do this. I can't do this." In fact, this specific morning I had felt like somehow I had lost all my faith. Never in my life had that happened to me before. I was drained. I was drained of energy, of positivity, of really any good emotion. I felt like I was going to cry any second and I had to get out of the apartment. So I asked another sister in the apartment if she would take the trash out with me. We walked outside not saying anything of importance. As we were walking back, before we walked back in, I looked at the apartment and I just started bawling. I couldn't do it. I couldn't go inside and face another day of not being able to speak Japanese to my companion, not being able to feel the spirit, not being able to pretend that I was okay. I just bawled into this sisters arms. I cried and told her that I thought I was losing my faith, that I didn't think I could do this anymore, that I didn't feel that God loved me anymore. That I couldn't feel any presence of the spirit. I cried, and she listened. And she listened and listened some more. And then she sat me down, and bore her testimony to me. She told me that God did love me. That I was supposed to be here. That I needed to go through this to make me stronger. She testified of missionary work, and even of the Japanese people. She testified of the Savior and His Atonement.  She testified with love, not only for me, but for the Savior. She brought the Spirit immediately back into my heart. And I immediately knew that what she was saying was true. She saved me that day.

I have had a lot more of those moments throughout my mission than just those. I left on my mission thinking that I was going to be helping others, and serving others- and I hope I did. I hope I served others in the way that that sister missionary, and the way whoever thought to put that pebble in my package, saved me. But I came home having been helped more than I thought I would. Being changed more than I thought I would. I came home with an understanding that we are all weak. And it is OK to feel weak. It is OK to be vulnerable. It is OK to receive help from others. It is OK not to be the perfect missionary/mother/student/whateveryouare at all times. and its OK to make mistakes. Its OK to have panic attacks, and sad episodes. Its OK to be YOU. Because those things are the things that draw us closer to the Lord. Those are the things that make us realize we need to be saved, that we can't do it by ourselves. He has given us our weaknesses that we can be made strong through Him. I believe that will all of my heart.

I am so grateful for my mission. In words that I will never be able to say. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love studying about Him, and having studied Faith, Hope, Charity and Love, Virtue, Knowledge, Diligence, and Patience throughout my mission. He is the perfect example of all of those attributes. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon. I mean, every time I open that book, I feel lighter, I feel happier, things make more sense. I believe with all my heart that it is from God, and there are things in there that God wants us to learn about and to know. I am grateful for temples. I am grateful for prophets, I am grateful for the sacrament and church every week to feel uplifted weekly from others who have had different experiences than my own, but just as amazing. I am grateful for every single moment of my mission. From the hardest day to the best day. I am grateful for it all. 

Thank you those who kept up on my blog, and wrote me, and supported me in anyway. You all have helped me so much in your each individual way. Whether you're a missionary I served with, or a family member, or even someone I haven't seen in years just reading my blog off of Facebook. You have all played a huge role in my life. I love you so much!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Week 11 in Okinawa

Hey all! So this week was awesome as usual, but I don't have anytime
to write emails because we are going to this place called Ikei island.
Apparently it has a castle and it's super awesome. I'm way excited!
I'll probably send out another email later around 3:30(maybe??), but
here is a ton of pictures from the aquarium last week. It was so much
fun. The dolphin show was so awesome.

Week 10 in Okinawa

Now don't get me wrong here, I love this area so so much. It is seriously amazing, and I love everyone I meet. But here is possibly one of the biggest problems I encounter every day here. 
I don't eat enough Japanese food. It's a real problem. We get fed by Americans.. American food, we get groceries from the Americans, so we even make our own American food. We go out to eat on base... American food. But the problem is.. is that I live in Japan, and I am obsessed with Japanese food. Members here are like, what American food do you want that you just never get anymore?? And we are like, oh you can just make whatever you want, we love anything. And then.. ..they make enchiladas. Again don't get me wrong here, enchiladas are my actual favorite food. And at first I was so happy I almost cried when I ate my first enchilada here. But then one week we got fed enchiladas 4 meals in a row. Again, I still loved it, I probably could eat enchiladas the rest my life. But I was seriously deprived of Japanese food. So I've decided a remedy for that is to every chance I get eat as much Japanese food as I can. So for breakfast I've started eating nato and rice (for those of you who don't know what nato is.. it is fermented soybeans.) and no, I'm not actually a big fan of it, but I want to like it really bad, so I eat it everyday. Something we have been told here before was "if you don't like it.. like it!" So I'm gonna like nato if it kills me. I eat onigiri πŸ™and bentos πŸ± and ramen🍜 and sushi πŸ£ (yes they even have emojis for those because Japan πŸ‡―πŸ‡΅ actually controls all the internet.) for any meals that I have any power over. Also trying oden this week, which I'm super excited about. ( a variety of different weird Japanese foods, fried tofu... other things I don't know what they are), And I still don't feel like I get enough. I love Japanese food way too much. Enough to spend half of my email time writing about it. So that is what is going on with me lately.. haha no just kidding, I'll talk a little more about my week.
So this week.... has been kind of sad. Almost every single one of our lessons fell through, all of our return appointments stood us up, and we didn't have any member meals :( but it's okay, because even during sad weeks it was still a really good week. Because we didn't have a lot going on, we were able to dendo... a lot!! And we got to talk to so many people! We made a ton of return appointments for this next week. This week is so packed, we started having to do return appointments during our study time because we don't have any other time to do it! So still got to see so many miracles. Also, you know that obachan I talked about a couple weeks ago. The one who is so funny during Sunday school and she always makes the best comments and agrees with everything? Well we got to go visit her this week and I got a picture with her!! As we were leaving so walked down with us to our bikes, we put our helmets on and she said "I want to take a picture of you and your bikes!!" And.. she didn't have anything with her and we pointed out she didn't have a phone or camera and so she said "oh.. can I use your iPad?" Haha so she made me teach her how to take a picture on my iPad and she got it. She has a lot of energy for how old she is. Haha I love her so much. We call her grandmother willow.Other than that we had a Halloween party on Saturday at a chapel on Kadena Air Force base. Let's just say, I like our churches a lot better! There is definitely a different feeling, and you can feel it when you walk in. It's still a great place though, it was interesting to see all the differences of our church vs their church. And it was way nice of them to let us use it for our Halloween party. (Our church was booked for a different wards Halloween party). 

We learned a lot about missionary work in church yesterday. I obviously know all about that, but it was still really good to hear from a members side of things. Like what makes it difficult to share the gospel with others. It makes me really want to work hard at missionary work when I get home. Even just making sure your doing your visiting teaching and home teaching is missionary work. Missionary work is sharing the gospel to whomever you come in contact with, whether that be a non member, a less active, a member you visit teach or even just your family. We as church members do missionary work every week as we go to church and participate and share our testimonies. It's just getting out there and doing a little more that you already are doing that's just a little bit harder. My branch president. Made a comment that I really loved he said that even if you don't have a desire to do missionary work, pray for the desire to do missionary work and your just one step closer and doing more than you did the day before. Missionary work doesn't have to be hard. It's just loving your neighbor, and when you love someone, you want them to be happy, and by wanting that it automatically makes you want to share what makes you happy. And for most of us it is simply the gospel of Jesus Christ! So I'm challenging you all, if you don't have a desire to do missionary work, pray for the desire. If you do have the desire, pray for opportunity. If you have the opportunity, then act!! 
Hope you all have a great week! Love you! 


Ps- going to an aquarium today and I am just crazy excited!  

Week 9 in Okinawa

Hi everyone!
As always, another good week. 
Monday- went over to Naha and walked around. It was fun. Also got my hair cut and ate dinner with a member. Does anyone even read these emails anymore? I'm so boring. Sorry!
Tuesday- we had a couple lessons with a couple of our investigators. It's so hard when they don't progress. Neither of them kept the commitments we gave them. We recommitted them. But as we were dendoing later, Omi Shimai gave a flyer to this super old grandpa who looked at it, accidentally spit food on it, and then said he didn't want it. And then gave it back to sister Omi. Haha she took it, but didn't know what to do with it. It was so gross, but so funny. It took everything in me to not burst out laughing. 
Wednesday- we got a new investigator from the elders! I'm so excited about her! She has taken the lessons before, but for some reason never got baptized. She is so sweet. We also went up a million hills today. Oh my goodness. I had heard so much about Okinawa, how pretty it is, how amazing the members were... (all true) but nobody told me about these hills! You literally go up hill going and coming no matter where you go. Bah.
Thursday- we had a lesson with another investigator. She is 11 and so cute. She remembered so much from our last lesson. It's just getting her mom to let her come to church. Her mom likes to play softball on Sundays. So... priorities I guess.  But this little girl really wants to get baptized! She told me she would try to get her mom to let her come. Slowly but surely.
Friday- weekly planning, early thanksgiving dinner with a member, and texting a less active like all day. Super good day. 
Saturday- we went to the other branches Halloween party. I'll send a picture of our costume but it's kind of weird haha. We had to come up with it like very last minute. We decided to be my companions name. I always make fun of her because her first name is satoko, which in my personal translation means sugar child (the first kanji is different and it actually means wisdom) but I always call her sugar child. And then I looked up her last name kanji on this Japanese translation thing and it gave me Omigyu, which is a famous beef in Japan apparently. So she went has the beef, and I went as the sugar child. Nobody got it. We had to explain it to everyone haha. But oh well. We will still probably do it for our Halloween party this next Saturday. (before this picture I had a lot more sugar cubes on me before, they all just fell off) 
Sunday- we had an awesome day at church. Lots of random people came to church that we got to talk to, it was way good. Then we went over to our relief society presidents house for dinner. It was so awesome. I am constantly amazed at military families. They are so amazing, you don't even know until you live around them and work with them. I still feel like I don't even know half of what they go through. I just feel so blessed to be around them and to get to work with them. 
I feel like my emails are the same every week. Sorry about that. Emailing is just hard sometimes. 
Have a good week!
White Shimai 

Week 8 in Okinawa

Miracles upon miracles upon miracles this week you guys!
It has been such an amazing week.
Tuesday- as we were outside knocking on doors, we got this phone call
from a person I didn't recognize. She was in our phone, but I
personally didn't know who she was. It turns out that she was a former
investigator in Nagoya, and that she bumped into the missionaries
here, exchanged numbers but never had the missionaries over again. She
called saying that she thought her daughter was having a really hard
time and wanted the missionaries to come over and teach her from the
Book of Mormon because every time they did in Nagoya they always felt
better. So we were super excited and went over to their house that
night. But it turns out, her daughter seemed completely fine, it was
her that really needed the help. She was very stressed out and just
wanted to find some peace. We read the Book of Mormon with her and she
started to cry and said that she had found her answer and was so
grateful that we came over. All we did was testify of Gods love for
her. It was so amazing. She wants us to come over every week and study
with her. She told us she wasn't baptized before because she didn't
know if she could make the change, but she said she really wants to
change now. I'm so excited for her! I hope we can help her to keep
having spiritual experiences.
Wednesday - we dendoed all day, and met the coolest people! We got
quite a few return appointments and then we ate dinner with a member.
Members =😍
Thursday- we had an appointment with a less active member and their
daughter who hasn't been baptized yet. The less active has been coming
to church quite regularly recently, and when we went to go talk to the
daughter about getting baptized she was so excited. She wants to
really bad. They only catch is her mom in California has a couple of
terms she wants her daughter to meet before she gets baptized.
(Totally valid terms) so we will be working with her daughter to be
able to meet those. Basically just help her grow her testimony and
understand why baptism is so important.
Friday- we went and helped the new senior couple get registered at
city hall and open a bank account. Basically what happened was, my
companion translated complicated Japanese into simple Japanese, and I
translated simple Japanese into English for 5 hours haha. It takes so
long to do things in Japan. But we got them all set up! Then we had
three return appointments we had to go rush off to. And it started
pouring rain. We were soaked!! But it was fun and a good day.
Saturday- we had specialized training. Trainings are always fun.
Somehow President Egan has so much energy, he always energizes us and
uplifts us. He is a way good person. Him and Sister Egan are my
favorite, I love them.
Saturday- weekly planning because we didn't have time to do it before. Futsu
Sunday- I love Sundays here!! They are so amazing. Yesterday was
especially good. We went to our military branch which was good and
then we had our Japanese branch. As soon as the meeting started, I
looked down at the program (which I can't really read-kanji-) and I
see the kanji for missionaries, and sing. So I was like, oh cool, we
are all singing a missionary song today. Then when they started to
announce the program after the sacrament, I found out that WE the
missionaries were singing. I looked around at the elders and the other
sisters, and they were looking at each other. And it hit me.. that
nobody knew about it at all. Haha so I quietly walked around to all
the missionaries and talked to them all, and we put together a musical
number in the middle of sacrament meeting. It wasn't the best, but we
did it. Haha at one point I had gotten around to all the missionaries
except for one, he was sitting next to a member.. and also asleep (btw
there are 10 missionaries in this ward) so I sat down right before we
were supposed to go up and then I looked over and saw the missionary I
didn't tell and was like crap, who is gonna tell rowley chourou?! But
thankfully he woke up right before we went up and saw the rest of us
going up so he came up too. It was an exciting sacrament meeting.
Afterward someone in the bishopric came up to us and thanked us, and
that's when he found out we didn't know about it, and also when we
found out he had told an elder last week about it. The elder wasn't
there that week because he was on splits, and he didn't tell anyone
else about it. It's always an adventure! I was way sad our
investigator wasn't able to come to church yesterday, she would have
thought it was hilarious.
Then afterward, we had a shokuji with the Japanese Ward (like a
potluck dinner) and then went to a members house for actual dinner.

During our specialized training I was asked to give a short talk on
how Jesus Christ has carried me through my mission and as I was
preparing I realized that he has carried me so much through my
weaknesses.  Erode I left on my mission I chose Ether 12:27 as my
scripture for my plaque, and that could not be more true. We are shown
our weaknesses so much. But through the atonement they become
strengths. The biggest thing I think that has helped me make those
weaknesses strengths is the time I have been given on my mission. It
takes time to create those strengths and to be able to focus on Christ
and understand why we have those weaknesses, it just makes more sense.
I am so grateful for weaknesses. I don't necessarily like them, but I
understand their purpose. It's to help us grow closer to Christ. I am
so so grateful for my mission.
Love you all!

Week 7 in Okinawa

Hi everyone!
General conference was amazing!! It was so good, I have so many
favorite parts! I think everyone I've heard has gotten something
different, or thought the theme of conference was different. It's way
cool to see what people get from conference. I thought it focused a
lot on the future and being prepared and preparing our families. I
loved loved loved the talk by Elder Brett Nattress in the Sunday
afternoon session. That was so awesome. I feel like it was just one
big testimony on the savior, but I learned so much. I hope everyone
was able to learn from conference. If not, go read them again. I'm
excited to go through them again and read them over.
Other than general conference, not too much has happened. I got my new
companion Sister Omi. She is so so cute. I love her so much. She loves
laughing and is so good at English. She works so hard. We listened to
the morning sessions of general conference in English and then the
afternoon sessions in Japanese. Then we went to an American members
house for dinner on Sunday. Lots of English for her, but she has such
a positive attitude and is excited about learning English. She's
amazing. I try to only speak Japanese with her though, I know how hard
it is to be bombarded with a different language. It's exhausting. But
dendoing with her is so fun. We've been able to see a lot of fun
miracles. It's cool to see when you are in the right place at the
right time. I feel like I have had a lot of those moments this week.
Sometimes being a missionary is just uplifting someone, even if you
might never see them again. It is so easy to be nice to someone.
Complimenting their smile, showing interest in their interests,
telling them that God loves them, listening to old obachans (grandmas)
who just want to talk to someone for a little bit. It's a fun
experience. I love it so much :)
Anyway, here is a picture of me and Omi Shimai!
Talk to you next week!
White Shimai

Week 6 in Okinawa

Hi everyone!

It's been an interesting week! Biggest thing but also the most low key thing is that a huge typhoon hit yesterday. We were inside all day. All of the military were freaking out about it, but it didn't seem too bad to me at least. I feel like the one I was in last year in Miyakonojo was bigger than this one. But they said this one was a category 5. Idk. It was a nice relaxing day inside. We deep cleaned the apartment- like deep deep cleaned. It took most of the day and we had already done our phone dendo, so we ended up playing some card games and making a lot of food... because we had the time! 
Other than that, I studied a lot yesterday too and oh my gosh, I love reading the Joseph Smith teaching of the presidents manual! It has so much information in it. It's all stuff I know, but expounded on and I feel like I learned so much reading it. I'm going to continue studying it. 
I have been thinking back on my mission lately, and I don't know if I could ever put into words how grateful I am to be here. I love it so much. Every day is hard but it is so worth it coming home dead tired, falling into my futon at the end of every day. I've been able to see so many miracles and I feel so lucky. I feel like I have become a very different person than who I used to be. It's been amazing, I'm so happy I'm here.

Anyway, for transfer information. I'm with hopefully my last companion. Her name is Sister Omi and she is Japanese. She is coming into a military branch, so lots of speaking English for her! I'm excited to help her with English, and excited to learn a lot more Japanese! I feel like I haven't had to use Japanese as much this last transfer, so I'm excited to use it a lot more this transfer! It's going to be so good! 
Have a great week!! 
Sister White