Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Snot'chyo Nachos

The country

I had a cold this past week. I'm fine now, but most of the preceding days were just terrible. At least the weather was surprisingly sunny and warm, which is good if your out dendoing all day as opposed to the usual rain. I did my best most of the week to work in spite of the cough and stuffy nose, but on Saturday I could barely walk around  the apartment. I had a fever. I'd originally thought that it was just bad spring allergies. I called sister Yamashita and she instructed me to rest until I felt better.

  There was a cooking activity going on at the church that day, the relief society was learning how to make Mexican food (something I haven't seen in ages). The Bishop's wife called me and invited us to come over and have some, the other Elders were there already after all. I informed her that I wanted to but I have a cold so I'd better not, she told me it's okay and to take a rest. So there I was on a sunny day being robbed of Mexican food and dendo all thanks to the common cold. This makes the 5th cold I've had on my mission.

   I felt bad because I couldn't go out and work. The Lord once said to his disciples in the last week of His mortal life; "Are there not 12 hours in a day" indicating that we should work while we have time. I have 24 months in my "day" and only 8 more to go, I didn't want to let a moment pass me by. I thought "What did the Lord do when He was sick?" Then I thought "Well He didn't get sick. He healed the sick, so that's no help, right?" I was able to watch some church movies I recently got on my iPad including President Monson's Biography "On the Lord's Errand" (Y'all should watch it).  One of the stories recounted is actually the one he mentioned a few weeks back in General Conference in which he uses the missionary handbook to give a blessing to his fellow officer in the Navy. I'd been thinking of asking for a blessing all day. I live with 3 elders who all have a copy of that handbook (2 including the iPad one). But I didn't want to trouble them, for whatever reason I was hesitant. I still am just new to these guys after all. But as I remembered recent experiences, letters I'd received recently, the time my missionary friend asked me for a blessing not long ago and how surprised I was at his request, I gathered the courage to do the same.

  So I asked Elder Miranda if he'd ever given a blessing in English and he responded that he hadn't. I said "Do you wanna try?" to which he said "Uh... okay." When the other companionship returned I asked the bean chan to do the first part of the blessing and my companion for the second bit. It was I think, one of the most simple and nice blessings I've gotten. I was very thankful to have representatives of Christ with me.

  The next day at church, I was feeling much better. To my surprise, many of the members asked how my health was, if I'd taken medicine, etc. I guess if you tell the Bishop's wife the whole ward is in on it. It was very nice of them to be concerned for me.

   Sunday afternoon we were able to find 2 new investigators and receive and contact 2 referrals from a member. Wow, that's really unusual for a typical Sunday, I think the Lord helped us to make up for our lost time the day before. What a great end to the week.

   This week we celebrate Showa day on Wednesday and the ward is having a big Bar B Que party. Lots of folks will be there. I'm way excited. Love y'all lots!

Elder Watkins
Elder Smith had been looking far and wide for this "Bickle" drink. He wasn't having any luck. One night I thought wouldn't it be funny if I just randomly found some? Then I looked over and found a big bottle of the stuff. It was so funny, so I brought some back to share with him.

Showing a video to the video conferencing elders.

Takayama Elders skyping in to DTM because they live way far away.

First DTM with iPads

My companion has done it again! #brazilian

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sent From My iPad!

Me and my iPad!

For real guys! Nagoya's gone digital! We went to ZTM in Kanezawa and
were surprised when we were handed the long foretold devices. We
received training and set them up right there. There are 3 stages to
the iPad program, the first is just using them in normal dendo, then
in planning, and finally for online dendo, which means Facebook! I
have to say typing on a touch screen is really strange for me so these
emails might be wired haha. Right now we are only in stage one, just
getting familiar with the devices. But we have access to gospel
library app and some other church apps for dendo. It is pretty fun!
My iPad

This week I had an unusual experience with one of our investigators;
we stood in her doorway for 2 hours listening to her speak Portuguese
really fast and just chatting. Elder Miranda only got to speak about 5
times during all that. What was really annoying was that she looked me
in the eyes the whole time! I was just thinking, I have absolutely no
clue what your saying and my bag is soo heavy and I just wannabe sitting
down. I'd never experienced this before, at least when I first got to
Japan I knew some Japanese words and grammar, I had no idea what was
being said to me. My companion told me after everything she said.
Afterward we both just sat on the ground and laughed about the whole
Setting up the iPads

Sunday was a way good day. Takaoka ward is surprisingly very small.
I'm pretty sure there where more people in both of the branches I've
served in. But there was more brethren. I was asked to speak and lo
and behold President and Sister Yamashita happened to also be coming
and speaking that day. Now I had to speak in front of the mission
president who is also a seventy, it was exciting. I prepared a short
self introduction and lead that into a story about my past that would
invite the spirit, as I'd done in my past areas. This time I felt
impressed to share part of a letter Grandma had sent me including her
conversion story, which I keep safe in my journal. I practiced it in
Japanese and as I shared it I felt directed on what I should say in
every sentence. The result of that was I could feel the members
interest in my life and a sort of personal connection with each of
them. Many of them spoke with me after and wanted to get to know me
better, some invited us over for Family home evening. The Yamashitas
talks also went along great with what I'd shared and they commented
that they enjoyed my talk too.
Setting up the iPads

  After sacrament I was informed that we're responsible for teaching
the last of the After Baptism lessons to two recently baptized Chinese
sisters. Luckily this time I knew a thing or two of Chinese and they
knew Japanese ok at least. We taught them with two member tachiais, it
was the first proper lesson I'd taught in a good while. We didn't have
much prepared, but we just testified and shared what we knew and
talked about it. Normally I get really nervous before teaching but
this time I was relaxed and I quickly became friends with these two
sisters. I felt the spirit that entire lesson. It was great.

    During priesthood I sat next to president Yamashita. Well I'd
forgotten my text book and couldn't follow along with the reading and my companion only had Portuguese. President Yamashita look at me and said, "Elder Watkins,
you know, you have iPad. You can read on your gospel library." I got a
kick out of that, he's too funny sometimes. Haha.
This is the sister who knew my stake President!

   Afterward we had the most filling shokujikai I've been to in a
while. During which more members spoke with me. One sister surprised
me by saying she knew where South Carolina was. Usually I have to say
it's near Florida. The next thing she said absolutely shocked me. I
could literally feel my face change color. "One of the Elders who
taught me before I was baptized was from South Carolina. His name was
Barfield Choro. Clifton Barfield." "That's my Stake President!" I
excitedly exclaimed. He had served in the Kobe mission and in Okinawa
so I didn't think I'd actually meet anyone he knew. She was pretty
surprised too and asked how he was. So awesome.

   Things are getting better. The weather is rainy one day and sunny
the next. The other missionaries in my district are pretty funny. I
enjoyed going to Kanezawa and taking a crazy bus ride with them all to
the church. I hope next week brings more pleasant surprises. Love

Elder Watkins
Sent from my iPad
Playing basket ball and "Futal" in a gym with the Young Men.

The big Buddha in Takaoka, its bigger up close

This church looks like an American church building!!

This church looks like an American church building!!

Go Go's Curry, famous in Toyama ken

A movie theater, don't see those too often

Biking in the country

Playing basket ball and "Futal" in a gym with the Young Men.


Kanezawa castle with Elder Nakamoto

Kanezawa castle with Elder Nakamoto



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Transfer 11: Sons of Tu'Akoi

Our Dad!
We met at Nagoya Station on tuesday. This time there were a lot of final farewells as many well-known missionaries are about to return home within the next two transfers, including 3 of my past companions. Elder Yamada goes home actually tomorrow. I was afraid I wouldn't see him again before that, but he was at the eki saying goodbye to everyone. I only got to speak for a minute with him but it was good to see this great friend and example one more time. Elders Jackson and Beck go home at the same time in June. It is really strange to think that they are almost done, I'm not that much far behind them either. With all these familiar faces leaving and a new mission president on the way, this mission will look really different come summer. 

Off to the clock...

    I took a 4 hour train ride around the Japanese Alps to get to Takaoka with my new District. I don't know any of them except for Sister Grecco who came with me from Nonami district. Some of them are older missionaries about to go home, most of them are younger than I am and I've never met before. It was a fun train ride getting to know each other. It reminded me of a year ago taking a similar long train ride with my district back then. It is strange to be surrounded by so many new faces, but fun too. They are some interesting characters. 

    Takaoka is an interesting place, it's really out in the boonies. Nothing too fancy, but there are some cool sites from old Japan. It was getting warm in Nagoya, but it is still cold in Takaoka. My companion is Elder Irlan Miranda from Brazil. He is really cool. His english is a bit funny, but I understand what he means. His Japanese is pretty good too. He also cooks really good food. And he was also trained by my trainer, Elder TuAkoi, as I said before.  Almost all our investigators are Brazilian too along with some members. Looks like I might need to learn some Portuguese haha. We live with 2 other Elders, Esplin from Utah and Smith from Oregon (not my Elder Smith). They are really funny and really energetic missionaries. Elder Esplin is training Elder Smith and he is also the District leader. 

All my Seto Companions!

     I haven't met many members yet because we had conference, but the ones I have met including the Bishop seem really friendly. I love how the church is the same no matter where you are. I haven't really found my groove in this area yet, still don't know much, and I miss Nonami a lot more than I thought I would. I kind of felt like I was just lost earlier this week. But last night I had a small spiritual experience. 

    We went to a far out part of the area to visit someone. It was night and we were in a small, quiet town. Not many people around. As we walked I noticed a familiar smell in the wind, one I had not smelled in a long time. We walked in that general direction come to find that we were at the beach and we were looking at the sea of Japan! It was the first time I'd seen the ocean since I was at Myrtle Beach back home. It was very calm and peaceful. I looked at the stars and thought to myself how the Lord made all of this, and "without Him was not anything made that was made." It was so nice to see the ocean again.

Elders Eadie, Frost, Me, and Mianda

    We also watched General conference. There were lots of inspiring messages that got me thinking about what kind of Returned Missionary I want to be. I also recognized many people I've had the chance to meet in person, Like Elder Ballard who commented about shaking the hands of missionaries around the world. It was cool to think I was one of those. Also if you look close you can see President Yamashita sitting on the stand with the other 70's. And there were other people I knew too including people in the choir. President Monson of course was still one of my favorite speakers.

    Well thanks as always for your prayers and letters. They help me out a lot  just knowing I'm thought of, especially when times when I feel alone in an a place I don't know. But I know that this transfer I will make new friends, have more great experiences, and as the Choro tachi like to say; "Give 'em Heaven!"

  Much love, yours,
Elder Watkins
Bowling on P-day in Nonami.  

Bowling at round 1


Round 1
Leaving the Shimai apartment.

This always feels so strange.

Last selfie with Yamada.

Me and Jackie
Takayama...He's going to Nonami in my place.

Everybody at the eki.

Elder Bills
Beck being Beck, haha!

Mineta Shimai and Grecco Shimai on the train.

Elders Esplin and Smith
The Fukuoka Mission?

Brings back memories.

Come out sun!

Huh, Fukuoka is in our area.

Our apartment

My desk


Service with elderly people. One lady was 104 years old!

Traditional Big Lion dance.


Still some Sakura.

View of the ocean from the train.

More ocean