Tuesday, December 13, 2011

松本が完全に凍っていますよ! (Matsumoto is completely freezing!)

Japanese Nativity Scene, 19th century
Hey family! 

            Wow, well I thought things were cold before...this week has been FREEZING! (subject line is: Matsumoto is completely freezing!) It was -2 this morning and gets down really far at night. we had a good bit of snow and stuff and things are freezing solid. 
            This week went pretty well! I guess you already heard from Sister Baird, but we had the conference on Tuesday and all that good stuff...it was SUCH a good conference! President and Sister Baird and President and Sister Stevenson all gave talks, and I was able to learn so much! I conducted for the first session, and then I translated for Sister Baird during the afternoon session because the speakers would switch off and on from English to Japanese and back. I feel like we have been so blessed to have so many wonderful people come to visit our mission...Elder Chei, Elder Holland, Elder Rasband, Elder Stevenson...there is such a special spirit in the meetings when they are there!
            I guess another cool part of the conference was that I was able to see Elder Ogaki and hear how he`s been doing...it`s so strange to look back on things and see the difference that just eight months makes. We always had a good friendship, but it`s so neat to be able to communicate on even better level because of the things I`ve been able to learn in those eight months. 
            As for investigators, Otsuki we feel is doing good! He still has a sincere desire to work for receiving baptism, and we are doing everything to support and help him to accomplish that. We are still at a pretty low stage with investigators...we are really trying to build back our teaching pool and start getting things moving faster here...and that is something that I know will come as long as we keep working hard and follow the spirit. I feel the Lord`s love for the people here in Matsumoto and I know that there those who have been prepared for us, so we are just going to keep on searching for them! 
            I apologize for the short length of this e-mail...I spent more time than usual writing more individual e-mails and my letter to President Baird.  Hope you are all having a great week though, I love you so much! Two more weeks and we`ll get to talk to each other on the phone! :)

                                                                                                                                    -Elder Voss

Monday, December 5, 2011

Snow! Email 5 December 2011

This picture is from last year, when he was in Suwa, Japan. Matsumoto is looking similar right now!

Hey Family! 

          Well, this was a busy week! We had zone leader conference down in Nagoya, we had exchanges with the APs, and we had our first snow! It was actually while we were on our exchanges that it happened...we woke up on Friday morning as usual at 6:15 to find absolutely gigantic snow flakes falling steadily outside...we generally are outside running every morning, but that morning we had four people there so we decided to toss around a football amidst the snowflakes. It`s been getting steadily colder all the time...all the mountain tops around us are capped in snow, so it doesn`t really warm up that much in the day anymore. Never thought I would be in Nagano ken to see snow again...but here I am :) 
          Zone Leader conference was probably one of the best highlights of the week...Elder Brown, Elder Cruz, and I, are all zone leaders, and Elder Rust is one of the APs, so we were able to have everyone from our MTC room there at the conference. :) Hadn`t seen Elder Cruz since February, so that was great. Anyway, we were in the conference from 10 to 5 and it was awesome! I have always loved trainings that we have had with President Baird, but because there is only twelve zone leaders the meeting is a lot more close and personal. He is truly an AMAZING mission president. Every single time I have heard him talk I can just feel the spirit and power of his testimony. We all came away from that conference feeling like we had learned so much, and with a whole lot of fire for missionary work! As zone leaders we have been preparing a lot for a special zone conference that we will be having tomorrow morning. President Stevenson will be coming to speak to all of us :) President of the Asia North Area. I have been given the assignment to conduct the morning session, so that is something that I`m looking forward to/a little nervous about. haha. We will all be going down to Nagoya tonight to stay in other areas and then go to the Honbu in the morning. 
           As for things with investigators this week...Brother Otsuki is doing great! He has made huge progress this week, and even though we still haven`t been able to reschedule a baptism date with him, we feel that he is really doing well. We had somewhat of a surprise experience with someone that the shimai found while housing...they ran into a guy who after about five minutes talking with them said that he already believes in Jesus Christ and that he prays every day...oh and also that he would be very interested in learning more of what we have to hear! He wanted them to come in right then to start hearing our message. They told him that they would send us along to visit him, which we did that very day and had a great first lesson with him :) He is very interested in continuing to learn, but has such a crazy job schedule right now that he hasn`t had any time lately to even sleep, much less meet with anyone. We`re not really sure how we are going to pull off meeting with him a second time, but we exchanged phone numbers and have an appointment to call him this week. We`ll see what happens :) 
           I remember you asking about Christmas stuff...and I honestly can`t remember for the life of me if I ever answered...I think that the only things I can think of are shoes and hazelnuts...haha. That sounds like the weirdest Christmas request ever...but I think that would be awesome :) Well and of course getting to talk with all of you on the phone is a pretty big Christmas present all by itself!
           Anyway, I`d better run...but thank you for your e-mails! I didn`t really hear much of what was happening besides mom`s e-mail, but I hope you are all doing good! I also hope that those pictures that the honbu sent with that Christmas card aren`t too weird...there are some pretty odd ones floating around. haha. Have a great week, I love you!

                                                                                                    -Elder Voss

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Almost December! Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear Family, 

         It`s almost December! Is that crazy or what?? This year has come and gone in the blink of an eye! I realized the other day, that in three weeks when we get to talk on the phone, there is a possibility of me being in the exact same area that I was seven months ago when we talked on Mother`s Day! THAT`S a pretty strange thought. Everyone here in Matsumoto (or rather, all the members in Nagano ken) are always talking about how unusual it is for someone to be here as long as I have...they are always like "Elder Voss, I`m happy that you didn`t transfer because we love having you here...but really, when ARE you going to transfer??" haha. I`m glad that I have had the opportunity to be here so long though...I feel like I know pretty much all the members in the zone, and have been able to meet so many amazing in that time. 
         This has been another good week! We had a great experience while we were housing on Tuesday night! Well, I say housing...but what we were doing was going out to contact referrals that we had gotten from the sisters, and then doing the 10X housing pattern that President Baird introduced to us. It was probably one of the more far out places that I have been to in Matsumoto, and it was absolutely FREEZING that night. We biked out to a place close to the biggest college in Matsumoto (which for some reason is out in the middle of nowhere) and discovered that the place we were supposed to contact was actually right next to a  Juvenile Delinquent center (not a terribly promising environment I know). In the end we actually weren`t able to contact the referral, but we started 10Xing and after about 20 minutes we ran into this woman named Ikeda. The whole apartment had kekkou boxes (intercoms) and so we were afraid that nobody would actually come out to talk with us because it was so cold, but started talking to her and asked if she could come to the genkan for a couple minutes so that we could share our message with her, which she readily agreed to! She came out and it ended up turning into us teaching three of the principles from the first lesson, giving her a book of mormon, and inviting her to read and pray to know if it is true...which she agreed to as well! :) It was awesome!  That whole experience reminded me a lot of when when we first housed into Miyake shimai in Toyota and almost the exact same thing happened. We are going to go back this next week for another lesson, and we have a really good feeling about her. We also found several other PIs in that same building, so we are going to visit them too when we go back.
           Otsuki is progressing really well! We have had a couple lessons with him this week, and he is really working hard to prepare for baptism. It might take a little more time for him, but we feel confident that with the desire that he has to be baptized and to be on the right path, that he will receive the help that he needs from Heavenly Father. 
           Probably one of the coolest things that we had happen was when President and Sister Baird came to do two firesides this weekend. It was mainly focused around the in-active members in our branch, and it was a huge success! In specifically there were two members, one who we have been meeting every week, and one who just randomly showed up at Eikaiwa this week, who benefited from it so much! They both haven`t been to church in a very very long time, but during that fireside President Baird asked if they would commit to come to church and be as active as they could for three months, and also take the steps necessary to prepare to go to the temple, which they agreed to. I think that a lot of the members were kind of doubtful how that would turn out, but on Sunday they came, dressed in suits, and ready to follow exactly what they had committed to do! They had a great time at church, and really seem like they are ready to follow President Baird`s counsel. 
          Anyway, there was a whole lot more to the week...but I`ve got to run! I hope that everything is going well back home! On a little side-note...we actually did get to have somewhat of a Thanksgiving celebration! We got a whole bunch of less-actives (who brought a lot of their non-member friends!) and had blast making big apple pies, which we ate with vanilla ice cream...sooooo delicious! We also followed the traditions that we had from back home by talking about the things that we are grateful for...which in turn really brought a great spirit to the whole activity, and we were able to introduce some of the basic things about the church to the non members there. Gotta run! I love you all, have a wonderful week!! :) 

                                                                                                                         -Elder Voss

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving! (感謝際!) E-mail 21 November 2011

Dear Family,

             Hey!  Well, things are getting really cold here in Matsumoto! There have been a couple times when we have been freezing to our handlebars, but it`s been a really good week :) Otsuki came to church!! That is probably one of the most exciting things that we have had recently...he seemed to really like everyone there and was really impressed by the speakers. We did have a little bit of a issue come up with his baptism date for this next Sunday though. We introduced the Word of Wisdom to him a while back, and at that time he gave us the impression that he didn`t have any problem with keeping it, so we continued on with the lessons with the intention of reviewing it today and double checking just to be sure. Well, yesterday he talked with the branch president and it turns out that he actually does have some things that he will have to work through...so it might be a little longer before he is baptized. It definitely isn`t something that can`t be worked through though...we met with him today, talked over the word of wisdom, and he said that he wants to hang in there and work as much as he can to overcome those things...and that he really feels like this is where he needs to be going. We`re going to meet again with him on Saturday, and until that point he is going to work gradually to overcome those things one at a time. Despite the fact that his baptism is delayed for a bit, I feel that it is the best possible situation that it could be...and that his faith is just going to keep growing stronger and stronger. He is an amazing man, he really is. 
           We met with a couple other investigators this week...went out to do a service project for Yoshiya`s family again, and had some good lessons with others...but unfortunately I don`t have much time left at all. I guess to sum things up for this week...we are going to being having our first area district coordination meeting this week with all of the church leaders of Nagano ken on next Sunday, so that should be fun. I guess we have it once a month as zone leaders, and we just discuss all of things that will be happening with missionary work in the next month, and what we want to have happen. It feels so weird because I remember back in January when I first came to Nagano ken as a junior companion with Elder Kekauoha...and now almost a year later, I`m still in Nagano, but as a zone leader. Time flies. Actually, as zone leaders we had a bit of an exciting thing this week...I think I mentioned this before, but President Baird has recently been emphasizing on completely obeying the morning schedule down to the really little things. We have been working to help everyone so that they can accomplish that, and this past week we became the first zone in the mission to have everyone up at 6:15 instead of 6:30, and ready to go every morning! :) We were really excited about that...we feel that this zone is really feeling the blessings of that obedience. New investigators are showing up, current investigators are progressing, and everyone is feeling even more committed to the work! Really really exciting things to see :) 
             Thanks so much as always for your e-mails...sorry I can`t reply to more of them! I love all you guys so much, have a great week! The gospel is true! 

                                                                                                                                        -Elder Voss

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Surprises, Surprises! Email, November 7

My dear family! 

             Hey!   Wow, well there have been a whole ton of surprises that have come with transfers! I...am actually staying for my sixth transfer in Matsumoto! Something that I was totally not expecting...but I` m excited for it! :) Other things that I was not expecting...I`m continuing as the district leader here...but I also became one of the Nagano zone leaders!  Elder Wilson (same one as back in the times of Toyota) is my new companion, and so we will be serving as zone leaders together here in Matsumoto! I`m wayy stoked about that! He is an absolutely awesome elder, and I`m so excited to see what we can accomplish with this next transfer together! Elder Numakura is transferring down to become a senior in a little place called Ogaki in the Nagoya area...kind of sad that we don`t get to be together for more than one transfer! He has actually been one of my favorite companions so far...I honestly have probably mentioned this before, but I swear that he reminds me so much of Michael Ridgell! Really similar personalities, so it`s been a ton of fun.  :) 
            Wow, well we are really running short on time today...things got kind of taken up with transfer stuff, but this week has been good though! I was pretty surprised that I will be here in Matsumoto for another transfer, but I have felt more and more strongly over the course of my mission that I will be sent exactly where I am needed the most...exactly where I can best help people come unto Christ.  We really have been doing all that we can to help our investigators this past week...it kind of turned out to be one of those tough weeks though where appointments fall through and people can`t meet. We were able to meet with Otsuki though and Abe...and we feel that they are progressing well! We had some great things with less-actives this week too! Nancy and Karen the American mother and daughter that haven`t been to church in about a year finally came to sacrament meeting yesterday! Everyone was so happy to see them, and I think they really felt the love and caring from all of the members. Really hopeful that this is the start of long lasting pattern! We were really just able to have a ton of lessons with less-active members this week...kind of following the pattern that we have had for the past transfer. I really feel that through strengthening all of the less-actives that we have been working with and having them come back to church and show everyone that they are not gone for good...that is what will light the dendo fire for all of the FF and other member missionary work here. Really excited to see the things that will be happening in Matsumoto over this next transfer! 
            I`ve gotta run, I`m sorry this was so short...I loved all your e-mails! It was great hearing how things are going! I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week, the gospel is true! 

                                                                                                                                        -Elder Voss

Mission work is the best! November 14, Email

Dear Family, 

            Hello!  This week has been awesome!  I would say that it is one of the best things ever to be paired off with a companion that is so close in dendo age to yourself. On top of that, it`s Elder Wilson, so that makes it even better. We have been working as hard as we can, and been having a ton of success and fun! We were able to meet with our investigators a fair  amount this week, and Otsuki is progressing so well! He prays every single time that we meet, for Heavenly Father to help so that he can be baptized. His faith and testimony of prayer is truly amazing to see! He worked really hard to be able to come to church this past Sunday, but in the end he wasn`t able to make it because his mom`s condition has recently become worse, and was relying on him more than usual to come and take care of her. Because of that, he doesn`t have a set baptism date, but he is so committed to being able to receive baptism, and we feel that when we meet with him next on Wednesday that we will be able to reset that date for sure.  He has expressed lately how much he appreciates and is thankful for the efforts that we make to meet with him and call him every night to see how he is doing...saying thank you for caring and worrying about how I`m doing, but honestly I just feel like we have so much more to be greatful towards him for. He is one of the most pure and genuine people that I have met here...in Japanese we say 純粋な人 (jyunsui na hito). He has just become so dedicated to the goal of preparing for baptism...it is awesome to see :) 
           We have also been able to meet with Yoshiya a couple times...and oh my gosh! I realized something way cool that I had never thought of before...his name, Yoshiya (良矢) means "Good Arrow" how cool is that?? I love Japanese kanji...there are so many cool meanings like that. Anyway, we were able to meet with him and finish teaching about the restoration and are now teaching about the plan of salvation. It`s amazing because he already believes in so many of the things that we teach...he is so ready to receive this gospel!  He just needs to feel that this gospel is the path he needs to take...from all that he says, it has everything that he is looking for :) We also were able to meet with Nakatou and the brazilian Shotoku family...they`re doing good, and we`re hoping to be able to meet with them again soon! 
       Actually this week we had another really cool experience with our in-active members! Nancy and Karen Nakajima came to church again (the two American members)...but this time they didn`t just bring themselves, they brought another in-active member along with them, who we have been trying to contact for months! He came and participated in Sacrament Meeting and the branch meal that we had after church and seemed to have a pretty good time. We invited him to the sports night that we are having on the 25th of this month and he is planning on coming :) We are continuing to work with the other in-actives that we`ve been seeing lately, and have set a goal with one of them to have an interview with the branch president to prepare for receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood and entering the temple! Really excited for him :) Things are also going really well in preparation for the fireside that we will be having with President and Sister Baird on the 26th...the branch has created awesome fliers for it and are passing it out to all of the less-actives, so we are hoping to have a pretty big turn out :)
         Responsibilities as zone leader have been pretty interesting! In the end I actually am not going to be the district leader as well, so that is kind of a relief! Would`ve been fun I`m sure, but I think one at a time is good. Along with coordinating a lot more with the branch and district presidencies of Nagano ken, we talk a lot more with the APs and report all of the zone`s stats and that kind of stuff every Monday morning. It`s actually way fun because Elder Rust (the one that I was in the same room with in the MTC) just became one of the APs, so I get to hear from him more. Everyone is staying genki, Elder Shade and Sister West, the two bean chans, are adjusting quickly to things here in Nagano, and everyone`s dendo fire is up! :) Elder Skankey up in Ina is actually the new district leader, and we have been combined with Suwa...so every district meeting on Friday is almost the size of a zone conference! Lot of fun to see everyone more often though.
          Anyway, I think that I had better run here pretty quick...not a whole lot of time left...but I love all of you guys! Thanks as always for your e-mails and support...you mean the world to me :) Have a great week! 

                                                                                                                                       -Elder Voss

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011, Email

Hello everybody!  ごめん、今日短くしないと行けない! 

          Well,  actually the title says "sorry, I have to make it short today"...time is pretty gone for e-mailing this p-day :P This has been a good enough week I guess! A lot of things that we were hoping to have happen fell through, but there were a lot of good things that happened too. We were able to meet twice with Otsuki, and he is definitely progressing really well! Despite the efforts that we made to help him come to church though, he wasn`t able to make it because he still goes every Sunday to spend time with his mom. We have daily contact with him though, and are meeting regularly...we are just going to keep working and praying hard that he can overcome that issue. 
         We were able to meet with Yoshiya as well, but weren`t able to have an official lesson...we did a service project with him and his family though, and were able to have some good discussions on gospel topics such as The Word of Wisdom. We have a lesson appointment scheduled for this Tuesday, so we are hoping to make a lot of progress with him then.
          The biggest success of this week was probably the Halloween Party and Dendo Fireside that we had. Now, just to make that clear...those were separate events, but they were both a lot of fun. ;) However, as unlikely as I might have thought it would be...we did manage to share a spiritual message before the party began. We all gathered in the chapel, sang an opening hymn and had a prayer...and then the shimai shared a message about in this church we really feel that families are important and that through the activities that we have, they can be strengthened. It was pretty cool :) A lot of in-active members came, as well as some non-members too. All in all, a really good success I feel. 
          We had been preparing a lot for the dendo fireside that we had on Sunday, and were feeling pretty nervous about the whole thing leading up to it...but it turned out really well! Elder and Sister Matsuhashi started it off by explaining and testifying about the revelations regarding Japan, and then the four of us younger missionaries took turns explaining each of the four sources for the pool of propinquity. From the things that we heard afterward, everyone seemed to come away with a good impression, and excitement for being a part of finding the people being prepared here in Matsumoto. I felt a certain air of excitment too as we explained those finding methods to everyone...felt the potential of having everyone involved and working with us on these things. That is definitely what is going to make the difference...getting everyone in the branch working right along side us  in our finding efforts. That`s of course a goal that has been strived for for a very long time...but I really feel that through the fireside that we had, and the ones that we will have in the next few weeks...we made a big step in the right direction for that.
          I guess another fun little experience was that Elder and Sister Bingham from Nagano made a surprise visit to our branch on Sunday, and they gave talks in Sacrament meeting which actually fit perfectly with the theme of our fireside. They talked about trusting the missionaries and working together with them to accomplish the Lord`s purposes here. Neither of them speak enough Japanese for a ten minute talk, so I stood up there at the podium with them to translate for the congregation...probably still one of the more awkward feelings I have experienced. 
          Transfers are already here this next Monday, and so we`ll see what happens! Until then, have a wonderful week...I hope everyone is doing well! Love you! 

                                                                                                                                     -Elder Voss 

Monday 24 October 2011, Email

Hello family!

         Well, as the subject states...this was a great week! I think that the best part of it was definitely our lesson with Otsuki, and setting a baptism date with him! He is set for the 20th of November! We had committed him in our last lesson to pray specifically about how to overcome his problem with coming to church, and he followed through on it great :) When we asked about his experience with it, he said that despite the fact that he feels like there are going to be difficult parts, and that his mom still hates anything to do with religion...when he prayed, he felt that he would be guided by God to be able to accomplish what he needs to do. I feel like that is such an evidence of the amazing growth that he is experiencing with his testimony...it was a really exciting thing to hear! :) We are going to be working as hard as we can to get him to church every one of the next weeks leading up to his baptism, and to have the same faith that he does...that we will be guided by God to accomplish the things we need to do.
         Unfortunately, when it comes to investigators...he was the only one that we were able to meet with this past week, but we have been continuing to have great success with our in-actives! The fourteen year old boy that we have been working with, came to church yesterday for the second time in a row...and we feel that he really is well on his way back to full-activity. We were also able to meet three times with a less-active man, Hirabayashi who is actually the perfect age to become another melchizedek priesthood holder here in the branch. He is 23, and has been less-active for a long time due to his job on  Sunday, but he has a firm testimony of this gospel, and we are going to work with him so that he can talk to his boss about getting Sundays off. He has been helping us a lot with preparing for the Halloween activity and other stuff...it`s been a lot of fun getting to know him :) We were able to meet with several other less-actives as well, and we have been drafting up ideas for callings that they might be good to be considered for...which we plan on presenting to our branch president this next Sunday. It seems that a good percentage of the in-activity is due to not having responsibilities or callings...so we are trying to work on getting people some things to do :)
          We have been really busy planning out all of our activities and different things that will happening in the next little bit...Halloween and that sort of thing. We are also all really excited about the dendo firesides that we are planning on having once a month from now on...I think it will be an awesome tool to get everyone more involved in the missionary work in this branch. Kind of an intimidating thing really because I`m supposed to be the main speaker for those firesides, and explaining all of the finding methods that we are currently using in this mission... but I`m just going to do my best, pray a lot, and see how things turn out :)
          Honestly, I feel like I`ve learned a lot about relying on the Lord this past week. I`ve been feeling strongly this past week all of the weaknesses that I have...there have been a couple days when I just felt like at every turn I was getting knocked down over and over, and just getting more and more overwhelmed. Those feelings...stress and all that other good stuff, kept on building and building until I thought I was going to go crazy. I was sitting at my desk, wondering what in the world I could do with the situation to make things more manageable...and I suddenly realized that I had been facing the problems and stress, and trying to resolve it with nothing more than my own thoughts and reasoning. I decided that I would kneel down there at my desk and ask the Lord for help, ask him to help me find a way to overcome the way I was feeling. I did, explaining the way that I was feeling and the problems I was thinking about...acknowledging that I needed his help, and those feelings of stress, of worry, of aggravation...they literally just faded away. The difficult things were still there, but feelings of being completely overwhelmed were gone. I felt at that point so grateful for the power of prayer...so grateful that we always have that way of taking our worries and problems to Heavenly Father. Kind of funny, how no matter how many times I learn that I can`t do everything on my own, and that relying on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is such a crucial thing... I still do my darndest to do just that a lot of times. 
          This gospel is true family, it really is!  There is so much evidence of that in the blessings that we receive from being obedient to it`s teachings. Have a wonderful week, I love you all very much! 

                                                                                                   -Elder Voss

Monday, 17 October 2011, Email

Hey everyone! 

      We have had good things happening this week! I think that the biggest success, was that the 14 year old boy, Yoshiki, who we`ve been working with for To The Rescue, came to church yesterday! We were able to meet with him a couple times throughout the week, and committed him to come to church...which he kept, and seemed to have a great time! He is an incredibly bright kid, and despite being in-active for so long, really has a sound understanding of gospel principles. We were sitting in Sacrament Meeting with him, and he expressed that he wants to be able to pass the Sacrament, so hopefully we will be able to see that in the next few weeks too :) 
      We have been able to meet with several of our investigators this week...but everyone except one seems to be up against a wall when it comes to actually progressing. We are kind of going through a lot of tough decisions, trying to determine who is actual sincere investigator status, and who we might be better off not focusing on as much right now. We were able to meet with Yoshiya again this past week, and it went pretty well! He understands the things that he is reading in the book of mormon SO well! It`s totally the normal for most people to have a really hard time understanding the things that they read in the book of mormon at first...but with him it`s the complete opposite. He read, thought about it a lot, and then shared all of that with us there in the lesson. Needless to say, we thought it was pretty cool :) 
       We have been fighting off a cold or some sort of bug this past week, so that has made things a little bit difficult...started with headaches and sore throats and then little bits of fever and that sort of fun thing...we figure that it is most likely due to the fact that the temperature is fluctuating so much lately. Kind of pain, but we are just doing our best to keep things moving here and help the people in any way we can. 
       This past Saturday for an activity we had a ping pong tournament! Everyone invited their investigators, and we invited a lot of the in-active members that we have been visiting lately. It was a lot of fun! Well, I`m absolutely terrible at ping pong...but I gave it a whack, and it was a lot of fun to watch everyone else play like professionals. A lot of people play ping pong really intensely from the time they are little here...I never thought that so much form and technique could be applied to hitting a little ball across the table...till I came here. haha. Still on an activity note, we are having a FHE tonight at the church...(katei no yuube) and are really hoping to again get investigators and in-actives there. We`re making Taco Rice, and having games and things...so it should be pretty fun.      
        Last night we had an appointment with the Kawabata family (one of the largest families in the branch) and ended up sharing a message with them from this month`s Liahona about The Iron Rod. We have actually been teaching a lot about Lehi`s dream and the significance of The Iron Rod in Eikaiwa as well as investigator lessons...and I absolutely loved the article that Elder Bednar gave in the Liahona about holding on to it. He talks about the difference between merely holding onto The Iron Rod, and diligently, actively, holding onto it. When it comes to that, I think that it is so interesting to see the difference in perspective form before my mission, and now. Before my mission, I was trying to actively hold onto The Iron Rod as best I could...and now, I`m doing my best to actively hold on, while actively going out among the people lost in the darkness and helping to lead them to grasp the rod as well. It`s something that I`ve thought about before, it`s just hit me with particular clarity lately. That image really has just given me even a greater sense of urgency and importance for this work. 
          Thank you for all your love and support, I love you all so much! Have a wonderful week, the gospel is true! 

                                                                                                       -Elder Voss

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 10, 2011 E mail

        Hello everyone! This has been one busy week! I think that one of the best things that happened was that two of our investigators were able to come to general conference! I had been looking forward so much to seeing conference, and it made me so happy that even though none of investigators have been coming to church lately, two of them were finally able to make it to hear the prophet`s voice! I think I have mentioned this before, but it just seems that every time I watch conference, particularly since coming on my mission, I just get a bigger and bigger boost from it. Every time I watch it I get a stronger confirmation that each and every one of those men and women who speak, have been called of God to deliver his messages and guidance for us. I thought that Elder Carl B. Cook`s talk was incredibly apt in describing the way that prophets guide us...I feel like there are so many times that I slip into staring down, but then I read or listen to the prophet`s words, to their guidance, and it redirects my gaze towards our Heavenly Father, towards the joy of the gospel. I feel so so grateful for having that guidance again this past weekend...it`s helped me a lot to recognize things that were making my gaze maybe slip a little lately.
        I feel things have gone pretty well with investigators this week! We had the two investigators come to General Conference as I mentioned before, Nakatou and Otsuki, and we were able to meet with others throughout the week. Due to Yoshiya being out of town, we weren`t able to meet with him...but we have kept steady contact with him on the phone, and he has read up to chapter 12 of the book of mormon! We asked him a little bit about what he has learned so far, and he seems to be loving it! He was describing back to us the experiences that the family of Lehi were having, and seems excited to talk about it at our next appointment on Wednesday! He is awesome!
        Abe still seems to be having a hard time finding something that makes him really WANT to put in the effort for gaining an answer, but I felt the spirit there during our lesson with him, and Elder Numakura and I are looking forward to seeing what happens this next week.
        Kind of on a different topic, but kind of related...we have had an awesome success with one of the members on the "To The Rescue" list! He is fourteen years old, and has been in-active for majority of the time since he was baptized last year. We had called him a weeks ago with no answer, but then on Wednesday evening before Eikaiwa, we were surprise housed by him! He just knocked on our door, and asked if we could come to church and talk! We of course went with him, and ending up talking and playing ping pong with him until Eikaiwa started. He participated in that too, and then we all went home...thinking that we would get in touch with him again soon. Well, we did...but it was all through him again! The shimai ran into him on the street the very next day, and called us, saying that he wanted to meet with us again. He had actually left his bag at the church the night before, so we picked that up and then went over to his apartment. We were able to have a great lesson with him about "For The Strength of Youth" and he prayed at the end of the lesson! He wants to meet again this next Wednesday. He is written in our area book as being the fellowshipper for probably about a half dozen former investigators, and so are really hoping to talk with him about that as well and see if they can become investigators again :) We have really been trying to work a lot with the less-actives (as have the shimai) and I think we are really starting to make progress. Four of our less-actives were able to come to conference yesterday, which really made us happy :)
         It has been an awesome experience to have the Matsuhashi couple in our district so far! They are a ton of fun, and probably two of the kindest people ever. We have been doing our best to help them in any way that we can, and are excited to work with them more! It was kind of an intense district meeting this past Friday...while preparing I kind of felt like there couldn`t possibly be anything I could teach them because they have so much more experience than I, but I tried my best and I think the lesson turned out well.
        I actually totally forgot to mention it last week, but we had a really neat experience visiting a PI as well! About a month or so ago, we ran into a filipino lady, who said it would be okay if we came back and shared a message with her, right? Well, over the past weeks we have gone many times, but they have never been home...until finally the week before last, we dropped by and they were there! She was there with her boyfriend, and invited us to come as soon as she opened the door! (That is something I haven`t experienced in awhile!) They invited us into their living room, and said "we`re so sorry that we haven`t been able to meet lately, please share your message!" Kind of on a random side note, while we were getting to know them, we found out that her friend had been in scouts when he was a kid! Something that he had in common with me and Elder Numakura...we had a fun time talking about that :) Anyway though, we had a lesson mainly centered around Heavenly Father and us being his children, and invited them to read from the book of mormon and pray. The filipino lady already firmly believes in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and said that she really wants her friend to be able to gain that belief as well...it`s going to be great to teach them more!
      This transfer is just slipping away way too fast, but I`m determined to make the most of it! I`d better get going here pretty quick, but thank you as always for your wonderful examples and for all that you do for me, I love you all so much! The gospel is true!

                                                                     -Elder Voss

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, 3 October Email

Hello everyone!     

         This week has been amazing!! I can honestly say that I feel I am in one of the best districts ever...by that, I mean that everyone in this district is full of dendo fire, everyone is working hard, and we are seeing miracles! One of the greatest miracles that I feel we have seen this past week is our new investigator, Yoshiya! We actually came to know his family through a mistaken phone call, and it absolutely amazes me the way that from something so small, we have something like this come from it. Yoshiya`s family is Chinese, they all speak English fluently, and have lived in Japan for most of their lives. They are non-denominational Christian, and all have a strong knowledge of the Bible. The parents and several others of this family (did I mention that there are 13 people in this family?) have a pretty set mindset in their beliefs, and don`t really want to learn about our church...but they had no problem with us talking to Yoshiya. He is 20 years old, a college student,and is pretty much living a party life right now...doing crazy things with his friends, and not really considering where he is going...at least until recently. We called him this past Tuesday, and we asked if we could meet with him and share a message with him about our church. He replied by saying yes, and that recently he has been having a lot of questions about the purpose of life, and how he can lead a life that will bring him happiness! I strongly felt at that moment, that he is being prepared and that we had been guided through something even as random as a mistake call, to someone who needs this gospel. We met with him, had a great lesson, and committed him to read from the book of mormon and pray every day...which he accepted! We are going to meet with him again tomorrow, and are really excited to see how things turn out :)
        We have had some great experiences with our other investigators as well...for the first time in a couple weeks, we were able to talk and meet in person with our investigator Abe, and finally able to have a joint lesson with one of our members who is preparing to go on a mission. It was awesome! He has been struggling a lot with having enthusiasm and desire to keep commitments and to progress, but I really feel like that lesson had an impact on him.
        Those were most likely the two greatest experiences that we had with investigators this past week, but that was just a small bit of good things that were happening. Elder Numakura and Sister Nishimuro just came in, so we met with President Itou to re-establish our desire to help him, and discuss the plans for dendo in Matsumoto. We had a great discussion, and he identified new people that he would like for us to focus on for To The Rescue, as well as asked for our help on a new list that he has created to bring back all the in-active children of member families here in the branch. Honestly, I love our branch president...he is a ton of fun, and he is really, really enthusiastic about the dendo here in Matsumoto!
         It has been a ton of fun to work with Elder Numakura so far...he is great! He is an awesome missionary, full of dendo fire, and he has great ideas for applying the trainings here in Matsumoto. Really looking forward to things that we will be able to accomplish during this transfer! It has been a really intense and busy week, and it has honestly been a really weird experience to get used to being the gaijin district leader of soon to be five Japanese missionaries. Honestly I must have changed a lot or something, because while we were meeting with President Itou, he was talking about how if you`re a gaijin you can use that factor as a good dendo tool...and he was like "It`s a pity that we don`t have any gaijin in Matsumoto anymore...Oh! Well except for Elder Voss...but you don`t really seem like a gaijin though!" Haha, we laughed quite a bit over that one.
         We had some great lessons with in-actives, have been making plans for our halloween and other activites, and preparing to welcome in the couple missionaries on Wednesday! The work is going absolutely great! I have been able to feel the joy of the gospel so much throughout this week...I love the people here so much, and I love learning about the gospel and growing with them. There is something so special about Japan...there difficulties for sure, but the people are so amazing :) The gospel is true!
         I love you all! As usual, have a wonderful week, I`ll look forward to hearing from you next week!

                                                                                                      -Elder Voss

P.S   The pictures that I`m sending are of our district after district meeting, and Elder Numakura and I outside of our apartment...we walked out the other morning to find that festival rope strung all over the buildings...there was a matsuri at the shrine that is next to our apartment. Don`t ask why we are eating it...we don`t know either :P

Thursday, September 29, 2011

26 September 2011, this week's letter

Hey Everybody!

       Well, kind of like I was speculating last week...we had a lot of changes for this next transfer! Despite that we were expecting me to transfer, if anyone...I will be staying here in Matsumoto for my fifth transfer, and Elder DeMille is transferring! He is transferring to a place called Toyama up in the Kanazawa area, and his new companion is Elder Kutney! It`s kind of gone around in a big circle...Elder Kutney trained me, I trained Elder DeMille, and now they are comps together. Elder Kutney is actually finishing his mission at the end of this transfer, so Elder DeMille is his last companion. As for me, I am getting another nihonjin companion! His name is Elder Numakura, and I haven`t really ever talked with him...but he was part of my kohai group in the MTC, and I`m looking forward to getting to know him better :) This next transfer will be a pretty interesting one actually...I am still district leader here in Matsumoto, but I will be the only gaijin amidst the five nihonjins in my district! Sister Kumagai left this morning for the honbu because she is finishing her mission, and Sister Shimoji got a new nihonjin companion. On top of that, there is a Japanese senior missionary couple who are coming in to Matsumoto in the next few weeks...so kind of like when I was with Elder Ogaki, I`m the only American person in the branch! It will be a lot of fun, just kind of an interesting feeling. haha. Anyway, pretty much every area in our zone changed, and we are all going to head down to Nagoya like usual tomorrow to pick up our new companions.
        This week has been a pretty interesting one! Haven`t had a lot of success with getting lessons to hold through again...but we aren`t giving up by a long shot, and we have continued to have really great activities that have been getting our in-actives out with the rest of the branch. We have also been able to see Jeewan some more through those too. We had probably one of the best activities ever this past weekend...we worked out with a member to get a big van together and put together a trip to a place called Kamikochi. It is pretty much the most famous place in the alps around here...and I think that you will probably be able to see why from the pictures...an absolutely amazing place! We had two in active members, a recent convert, the sisters, and Jeewan all along on it, and it was a really fun day. We actually had the opportunity to talk to a TON of people while were there...Kamikochi is a huge place for tourists, and we ran into a lot of different gaijins while we were there. We ran into a family from France who are living in Tokyo, and got to talk with them for good little while. They were all multi-lingual, and living here for two years while their father works. We exchanged names and phone numbers, and were getting to be good friends by the time that we left. We also got to talk to a really neat Japanese family, also from Tokyo, who all spoke a little bit of English...and a lot of Japanese. ;) haha. We talked with them all the time that we were walking back, and we are referring them to the Tokyo missionaries. They actually kept on telling us that they want us to come over to their house and visit. Pretty awesome!
         I actually don`t have a lot of time this week because of all of the things that we have to take care of...also Jeewan showed up at the church just now. We are having a family home evening tonight and he is coming to it :) Thanks for all of your e-mails, there were so many of them waiting for me! Natalie and Jake sent me some awesome pictures of Quirt...he is getting so big! I love you all so much, have a great week! The gospel is true! :)

                                                                                              -Elder Voss

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This week's letter, September 20, 2011

Hey everyone!

        Wow, well I feel like this is happening a lot lately...but we ended up having to do e-mail today, instead of Monday. We got on yesterday to do it, but ran out of time before we could do anything more than read what we had received. Yesterday, was a holiday here...so our investigators were actually able to meet, and we felt like that was a good sacrifice to make. Anyway though...on to the week!
        This one was a pretty tough week all in all...the busy life of Japan got to everybody again, and despite all that we did to schedule and keep appointments with our investigators, we weren`t able to meet with any of them. We also had a really unfortunate happening with Kasamatsu. This whole week we wanted to meet with him, and we finally got in touch with him on Saturday...but the reply that he gave us when he picked up the phone, was that he was still very depressed, wasn`t in the state of mind to meet or go to church, and that from now he is going to stop meeting with us. Yeah...that was a pretty big downer. Seeing the progress that he was able to make from that first Sunday that he walked into church, throughout the lessons and meetings that we had...and then seeing him walk away from it, was probably one of the saddest things that I have experienced on my mission so far. Seeing someone who had been brought down to the lowest and unhappiest of circumstances in his life, and then seeing them throw away the one life preserver that they`ve been given...I don`t know, this experience in particular hit me hard. I guess I could just see so clearly the ways that it was helping and boosting him up...bringing him out of the unhappiness that he was trying to escape from. On the other hand, I really strongly feel that he was guided to walk into the church that Sunday for a very specific reason...and I don`t think it was just to learn about the gospel and then turn away from it. I think that it might be a little while, but that he will be brought about to realize that this is what he needs.
         In other news from this week...we were able to have some good activities! We had a Taco Rice party on Saturday, for members and investigators which was a lot of fun...and we had the opportunity to go fishing, for the first time on my mission! A member in the branch set up an appointment with a friend of his, who apparently used to take the lessons...and is an avid fisherman :) We all went out to a reservoir and spent a couple hours fishing and getting to know each other. We didn`t any fish except for a little bass...but we became friends with the guy, and he wants to meet up with us again :) So that was a lot of fun. We also had the baptism on Sunday for the shimai`s investigator! It was a REALLY great experience...Kanade was so happy, and so was everyone else in the branch :) The spirit was there so strongly during her baptism, and the four of us missionaries had the opportunity to sing a song for Kanade before she was baptized, and Sister Shimoji gave a great talk too. President and Sister Baird actually came for the baptism as well, and so it was great to have them here again too. Actually, speaking of talks and President Baird and all that stuff...a speaker that was assigned to speak in Sacrament Meeting suddenly canceled, and so late Saturday night we were called and I was given the talk! haha, this is like the third time in a row that that has happened here...kind of funny. Anyway, I was pretty nervous due to the fact that I had so little time to prepare, and also that President and Sister Baird were going to be sitting like three feet behind me the whole time...but it turned out really well :) I had felt prompted when I was preparing, to talk about an article that I had read in the Liahona..."Am I A Child of God?" and I hadn`t even been thinking about Kanade`s baptism, but it turned out to fit perfectly with the talks that had been given there.
       In answer to a question that was asked a few weeks ago(sorry for the delay), for shopping we generally buy as many fruits and vegetables as we can...they are way expensive here, but we both like eating healthy. We also typically get eggs, chicken, yakisoba, sometimes gyouza, juice, milk, bread, cheese, spaghetti, tuna...that kind of thing.
       Another question that was asked...what do I want for Christmas? Haha, it seems so odd to think about that right now...but I guess it really is going to be just in a couple more months :P I`m not sure if things will change between now and then...but I`m thinking that when it comes to clothes, the only thing that I might really need is maybe another pair of shoes. The pair that I have right now are still in really good condition, but I don`t know whether that will be able to last all the till next June. I`m sure that other things will come to my mind in the next little while...but for now that is what comes to mind :)
       Kind of crazy, but this week is the last one of transfers...we have calls next Monday! We`re looking forward to seeing what happens with everything! Gotta go, but thank you for all your e-mails, and have a good week! I love you!

                                                                                           -Elder Voss