Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Best Two Years

                                                               The Welcoming Party  

Well I've now been home for two weeks now! It's a strange feeling, I was in Japan busier than ever. On that last Friday night we had transfer calls. The whole week was packed with an investigator or member each day, a zone Christmas conference in Meito, and my last DTM. Said a lot of goodbyes. 

Last Eikaiwa


   Transfer calls happened on Friday night while we were having dinner at the Bishop's house. We were excited to hear who Elder McArthur's new companion would be, but in a surmise twist Elder McArthur was being transferred too. He was to go to Toyama (which you'll remember is next to my Takaoka) and we would have to give all of our investigators to the other elders, and in our place they were opening a new area for Sister Missionaries in Toyohashi (that was the secret I mentioned last time). We reentered the room a little bit more sad because now it was the last time for both of us to be in Toyohashi. 

  On Sunday we were met with so much love. People saying goodbye to both of us and bringing gifts and taking pictures. A sister even came from Seto to bring me something. Toyohashi is such a special ward to me, why you say? Because it was there that I finally felt that I was a missionary. Not just trying to be one but that I'd final reached a good level, that I could soar above and beyond everything before. Why? Simply because I saw differently than I did before, I had finally embraced more fully the 5 point mission culture that President Ishii gave us when he came; "Obedience is the Price, Faith is the Power, the Spirit is the Key, Love is the Motive, and Christ is the Reason."

   Monday morning we walked to Toyohashi station one last time. We were met by our investigator, Suzuki san, who is still determined to live the word of wisdom and be baptized next month. He said to us "I'm so thankful that we met on the street those 3 months ago." I was so thankful too, that the Lord knew where to put me, that I might, like Ammon, be the means of bringing some soul to repentance. 
Toyohashi Eki with Suzuki san

   I got on the train by myself, no companion, and made my way back to Nagoya. It was a surreal experience. As I came to Nagoya station and began taking the subway, I saw a familiar countenance. It was none other than my MTC friend, Elder Smith. We went to Meito together, later joined by Elder Tanner, Elder Williams, and Elder Moulton. And in the honbu by the rest of the MTC gang and my doryo, Elder Brown. Still brothers in the Lords work, now all with 2 years experience.

  We had some interviews with President Ishii, and then just sat in the honbu. Looking back on everything like "wait, did that really just happen?" "I hope so, because if this was a dream and we're all still in the MTC, I'd kill something." It was great to see how far we've come since those 9 weeks. We had a testimony meeting that night, it was for me, the most powerful testimony meeting I have ever attended. 

  I will never forget these faces. I am so thankful for each missionary in this mission, especially my brothers from MTC, my 12 companions, and my districts. I felt their love and concern for me as well. Like I said before, I know we were chosen before this life to be here at this time together. Each of them has changed my life, I am especially grateful for my last companion, Elder McArthur, for teaching me more than I could teach him, and keeping me going to the end. 
Last hurrah for the old gang

  The journey home was the LONGEST DAY of my whole life. We all went together , mostly, to Narita Airport and enjoyed an 8 hour layover. There we met a young Japanese  girl just heading to the MTC to begin her mission. How excited I was for her, I remembered being in her shoes a short time ago, and wished I could go back. We said goodbye to our brethren, with just Elder Moulton and I on the plane to Atlanta. He left for home and it was just me. Until I ran into a young man in a suit and tie, without a name tag, but his name as Elder Skousen. He was on his way to the MTC in Brazil to begin his mission there. We grabbed my first Chik fil a lunch in 2 years together and talked about missions. We were soon joined by a group of other Elders and Sisters going to Brazil. All I could tell them was "It's the best, it is so worth it."

  Then I landed in Myrtle Beach greeted by my family, and a bunch of guys with beards. It was good to see my friends and family, they shot so many questions and comments at once, all in English, and it was frying my brain. Being home is strange especially at first since I was now a different person from before thrown back into my old world. I don't know quite what to do from day to day without dendo. That is my new challenge.

   One thing my Stake President said he felt impressed to tell me was that I did everything I needed to do and I should not look back on my mission with any degree of shame. Indeed my mission will shape the rest of my life for the rest of eternity. Part of my heart will always belong on Nagoya, Japan. But I remember the words that President Yamashita said to us our very first day "You love the Lord, trust the Lord, and serve the Lord. Even after your mission, you serve the Lord." 

I wish to thank everyone who has read and followed my blog and my emails at any rate, and express my appreciation for your prayers, support, encouragement, and love. I hope that you have been strengthened through hearing of my experiences. I am no one special, just another missionary with a story, but I hope that it can help you feel the spirit and build upon your own story.

   I hope that you've stayed with me through this long letter, but I will just end with my testimony. Whereas before I believed that the church was true, now I know for sure that it is true. No I haven't seen God or angels, at least in the literal sense, but I have seen them just in ordinary things which if you have the spirit you can see His hand in your life and that there are angels among us. I have walked were Jesus walked, I know how He feels for each of us and I know that He suffered for us, and that He lives. He's there. I haven't seen Him but I know Him personally now. He wants us to come back to be with Him and the Father. I know this because I have felt this for each person I met. They love each and every one of us. In the end I personally didn't baptize anyone, but the greatest conversion was me. The Lord took me and made me something new and better. And I've still got a ways to go. 

   I wish you all the very best this still sort of Christmas season and as we go into the new year. Me? Well I'll be going back to school, working, and spreading the gospel in whatever way I can. I know we will meet again one day, that's what this plan is set up for. Until then, all I can say for anyone who wants to serve a mission or is thinking about it, stop thinking and DO IT. It will be the most important time of your life, if you make it such. It was indeed the best two years of my life, and because of that, better days are yet to come.

  I leave this two year testimony with you in the name of my friend, Jesus Christ, amen.

Former Elder Cullen Watkins

The Seto Elders Alred and Bunch

Cooking with Sister Gunnerson!

This District=Best District
Elders Lego, Miranda, me, Johnson, McArthur, Arscott
Sisters Liljinquist, Kittaka, Graviet

Christmas dinner!

Our new mission tie. "Kazoku wa Eien" meaning Family is Forever

The Suzuki fufu! Toyohashi reunion!

Murasawa san

Bishop, Yamamoto, and Iwasaki Kyoudai

Making mochi

Last restaurant in Japan

Catz Cafe in honor of Sister Nielson and the old Nagano days

Bye to Yuto kun

My helmet with my areas written on it

Farewell to the Nag Rider, my trusty steed. We fought well.

Elder Smith tellin crazy stories in the Honbu

Abe, Ishii, and Takaku Shimai =)

The Honbu elders, including my boy Nakamoto choro.

Last Supper

The final state of the mission before I left

Of course they would misspell my name...

Pretty ne?

Our drinking supply for 8 hours

Nap time in Narita

Young Shimai going to the Provo MTC

Elder Skousen heading for the Sao Paulo, Brazil MTC


Cheese stuffed crust!!!!!

Star Wars VII with the old gang

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fight the fight, Finish the course, Keep the Faith

Ayumi chan also one of the coolest girls in Toyohashi!

Well... It's my last email from Japan.

This week took some unexpected turns, some of which are a sort of
surprise for next time. So I won't spoil that here. But it was overall
a fantastic week. Elder McArthur did a good job being sempai just as I
knew he would. I went on my last two Kokans, one with Elder Arscott
and one with Elder Legault (Lego). And we met with members a ton!

  It's been stressful, I have a list of things I need to get done and
stuff to pack before I leave. With a ton of dendo stuff on top of it
all, which I'd rather just focus on that. Already I've had to say good
bye to some people who I won't see until after the mission. This is
the most good byes I've dealt with, since I'm basically leaving the
entire mission. I just hope all these missionaries and members know
that I love them, and no matter if I know them well or not, they are a
part of my family.

 We attended a concert in Meito put on by a brother from Osaka for
the Nagoya stakes. He invited the missionaries to sing a song with him
too. He told his life story basically and sang some great songs, one
of which was "Angels Among Us" by Alabama in Japanese. He talked about
how the missionaries are angels and how they help people. He also
mentioned the pre earth life and got me thinking about how all of us
in this mission might have known each other before this life and were
chosen then to be here now. It would certainly seem that way to me.

 I shared in testimony meeting yesterday with the ward some thoughts
I've had about returning home which I'd like to share with you. In the
mission we often think of our time out here as our life. When we came
here, we are born. When we go home, we call it dying. Many people are
afraid of death because they don't know what will happen. But I'm
starting to understand it more.

We believe that before this life we left friends and family and
heavenly parents to come to this world for a time. Here we gain a new
family, make new friends, some of whom we might have known before,
then when our time is up we say goodbye to those family and friends.
It's very sad, but there is an assurance that we will indeed meet
again. Then we take the many things we've learned, and return to the
spirit world to be once again with our heavenly parents and those who
have gone before us. What a wonderful reunion that will likely be!

Missions are exactly the same way. We leave our family for two years,
come to Japan and find new friends and family, go through some trials,
learn, and then we have to say goodbye to everyone. Very sad. That's
the part I'm at now. Then next week I'll cross through an airport
terminal in South Carolina, and be reunited with the family I knew
before. That is going to be a very happy time. And with that
knowledge, death isn't so scary as long as one is prepared I think.

And now my feelings are that of The Apostle Paul at the end of his
ministery. 2 Timothy 4:6-7 "6 For I am now ready to be offered, and
the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I
have finished my course, I have kept the faith." This has been my
motto for a while. Fight the fight, finish the course, keep the faith.
And never forget why you're here, because Christ is the Reason.

  Friday evening is transfer calls. Please pray for Elder McArthur
and everyone to have another good transfer. This week we are gonna be
way busy, but I hope that it will be the best week and that we'll see
some miracles. Next Monday I go to the honbu, then set out for Tokyo
with the Elders from my doki. From there we head home.

 Gonna give it my all this week. But I leave you folks back home with
the lyrics of a familiar song, "I'll be home for Christmas, you can
count on me."

 See you next week!
Fight the fight, finish the course, keep the faith
Elder Watkins
Toyohashi Ward


Our dendo shunin is awesome!

View of Toyohashi from a secret location

Last Kokan Tim tams

Ready for church

All of those gifts are for McArthur haha

Yuri chan, one of the coolest girls in Toyohashi

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Squanto Curry!

Our thanksgiving feast! It involves Indians just like the pilgrims!

It has been soooooo busy! Forget what I said a few months ago in
Takaoka, this is the busiest time of my mission! So many lessons with
investigators and members, meetings, Kokans, reporting, goals,
training, etc. Yesterday after church I felt like my brain was fried,
and we still had two more lessons to go! It's crazy, but it's good.

  Today begins a part of training we call sempai week. That's when me
and my trainee, Elder McArthur, switch roles for the week and he gets
to be senior companion and I get to be a junior companion. This is to
help the bean gain experience and apply skills. Should be fun to see
what he does, I think it will all go well.

 I did a Kokan last week with my old companion, elder Miranda. That
was was natsukashi! (Nostalgic). We visited a member and had a crazy
lesson with an investigator and a member featuring some deep doctrine.
We were all confused. Haha but it was fun. They've also been doing
some major work on the interior of the church so that has been kind of
a mess. We had to do some of our lessons and English conversation
class in a closet.
Kokan with Elder Farias from Brazil.

On Friday we had DTM and the zone leaders came to give some training.
That was way inspirational. Then I talked about member work. We did a
practice situation in front of everyone in which I was a really
awkward member and the Kariya elders were themselves and they had to
talk to me. It was SO funny, I was trying way hard to stay in
character and not laugh the whole time. Then we each shared a
scripture that motivates us to dendo, something we did in two of my
past districts, and it was really spiritual. I am so inspired by the
faith of each missionary in my district.

After that I went on a Kokan with Elder Farias, one of the Zone
Leaders. I asked him what I could do with the time I had left on my
mission and we discussed why we came on missions and suchlike. We had
very similar thoughts on it and recounting the experiences we've both
had really helped me think about not what I should do, but who I want
to be.

Like I said, member work has been off the charts this week! On
Thursday we met with Suzuki and the Bishop was our tachiai. Yamauchi
Bishop is a young guy, about 36 I suppose, but he is super spiritual.
He helped out a lot in the lesson in which we talked about having
faith to overcome his challenges and be baptized. Suzuki is doing
well, but still needs to stop smoking and talk to his brother.
Taniguchi family! They rock!

  We also had a member appointment on Friday, two on Saturday, and
one on Sunday. They were all fantastic! The ones on Saturday were mogi
lessons with the Ishii and Taniguchi families. The Ishiis are the son
and grandchildren of our mission President and the oldest of the three
kids is 11. They were so crazy! But we had a lot of fun. The Taniguchi
family has a 17 year old daughter and a 19 year old son, the dad is
the first councilor in the Bishopric. That reminded me of home so
much! We had a super spiritual lesson and then they gave us a ton of
Mexican food! Tacos! Been so long! It was so cool talking to the kids
and trying to teach them English. They gave us root beer floats too!
And a cake for my belated birthday. So cool.

 I love members and the spiritual power they have to help in dendo.
Their testimonies and love for the gospel are extraordinary and
their faith is something else. They are such an example to me,
especially in a place where no one is Christian, nor cares anything
about it.
My awesome district and zone leaders!

Well next week is my last email from Japan! Please email me! Anytime
is good, even if I can't respond to you, I can read new emails
anytime. I'd love to hear from everyone before I return as well as

Hope everyone has a good week and a good start to the holiday season.
Love to all!

Elder Watdawg Watkins

Kokan katsu with Miranda

Go go Samurai



Happy birthday to me!

Yuasa family dinner!