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.
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
Our new mission tie. "Kazoku wa Eien" meaning Family is Forever
The Suzuki fufu! Toyohashi reunion!
Bishop, Yamamoto, and Iwasaki Kyoudai
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.
The final state of the mission before I left
Of course they would misspell my name...
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