Sunday, May 6, 2012

アップルパイを飛び! Flied Apple Pie! 30 April 2012

Dear Family,
          This week I decided to send a couple pictures along for a change...the first one I thought Dad might enjoy in particular. Elder O`Hara and I were going to meet up with Elder Gottfredson and Elder Larkin after our exchanges a couple weeks back, and we happened to stop in a place called the "German Bakery" on our way through the Kanazawa train station. I saw that sign, and it reminded me of good old times :) The second picture is one we took a couple weeks ago at a place called Komaruyama Park with three of the brethren in the branch. From the left, it`s Brother Nakamura, Brother Kyumizu, and Brother Okazaki.  Actually, speaking of Kanazawa...met Elder Gottfredson`s new bean, and he is great! His name is Elder Gibb, and he is from Arizona...he actually had one of the same teachers in the MTC that I did (Sister Mcyntire) and so it was fun to hear a little bit about how things are going with her. She apparently got married recently, and is still going strong teaching lots of the new missionaries for Japan. Pretty crazy to think she taught both I and Elder Gibb, but with a two year gap in between.
           This past week we had a great success with our branch picnic! We had it on Saturday afternoon, and two non-members came! Most of the people that we invited were pretty withdrawn about going to a gathering of people that they didn`t know, but a guy that we met on the train last transfer, and his friend came! We had invited the one guy  when we ran into him on the train again a couple weeks ago, and he apparently invited his friend...they were waiting there in the parking lot when we got there...way awesome! They were fellowshipped by the members really well, and we were able to learn a little bit more about them and their religious backgrounds. Maybe one of the best things of the whole activity though, was that the first counselor and his whole family were able to come! Everyone in his family besides himself has been inactive for a long time, and this was the first time that either Elder Larkin or I had the chance to meet them. They are a beautiful family, they really are. The father is one of the most humble and sincere men that I have ever met, the mother is really friendly and kind, and their kids are adorable. (even if they are tremendously shy) They came towards the end of the activity, so we weren`t able to talk with them for all that long...but our branch president has expressed that they are one of the families that he wants to work with the most for re-activity, so we are hoping to be able to meet with them more soon.
           We had a little bit of a larger congregation yesterday than usual! We now have a set of couple missionaries assigned to Nanao! They are from Kanazawa and seem way cool. We also had another couple from Kanazawa who will be coming to Nanao once a month from now on to teach a class for LDS Family Services...and the husband is actually half German! I was way surprised...I thought there was something a little bit unusual about him (taller than the average guy, and different eyes) and then as we were talking a little bit after the class was over, we started talking about ancestry and he said "Yeah, I`m half-german!" then he heard that I have German ancestry and he got all excited and started asking me whether I`d been there or if I can speak German. Of course, sadly I had to say no to both of those questions...but actually he HAS been to Germany and can speak the language. He has been living in Japan for his whole life, but went there on a vacation once. Anyway, I`m not exactly sure why I wrote about that, but I thought it was pretty neat moment.
           In answer to your question Mom, yes I think that would be a lot of fun if we had a Family Home Evening with the Mayo family...actually I would love to hear more about how Elder Mayo is doing as well. Oh! And another question...the voting that we do doesn`t get us all that involved...we basically just fill out a form online to receive an absentee ballot, and then after receiving that, we fill it out, send it in, and we are done.
           Well, actually recently I have been having a harder and harder timing thinking of what to tell you guys about...there are lots of things that I could write, but often I just think "Ah, well I`ll be able to tell them about that soon...I`ll just wait" Terrible thought process, I know, but if there is anything that you would particularly like to hear about how things are going in Nanao I will do my best to answer those questions :)
            Hope you have a great week, I love you! The gospel is true!
                                                                                                                -Elder Voss


七尾で死ぬことになりました!Now to die in Nanao! 23 April 2012

Dear Family,
          Well, today was transfer calls! It has been decided that I will die [finish] in Nanao! I will be here for my last transfer, and I will be staying companions with Elder Larkin. Didn`t come as a whole lot of a surprise, but it is a kind of an odd/relieving feeling to know that here is where I will be ending my mission at. There were only two elders going home this transfer, and about  thirteen new elders and sisters coming in, so there have been a lot of changes. We are still in a district with Kanazawa, but Elder Gottfredson our district leader is going to be training, and his companion is becoming comanions with an old companion of mine! Do you remember Elder Numakura? He is going to be coming to Kanazawa! I`m pretty excited about that, it will be a lot of fun I think...all in all, for this transfer we will be a six elder district. Another cool thing is that Elder DeMille over in Toyama went senior! He was an awesome missionary back when we were companions, and is just becoming even more awesome.
           This another pretty tough one with meeting with people and having lessons. We were however able to meet with Sister --------, and we finished teaching her the message of the restoration, and invited her to prepare to be baptized! She didn`t accept, because she says that she doesn`t feel comfortable yet with the concept of there only being one correct religion...well, that and she feels like she has already found happiness and peace in life through meditation and those types of things, but we were able to understand a lot better of how she is feeling, and she was able to understand a lot better the goal that we are trying to help her achieve, so we feel it turned out really well all in all. She will be a lot more prepared to accept when we invite her again :) Unfortunately, she won`t be able to meet with us again until about May 6th, because of "Golden Week" that they have in Japan...but we are keeping contact with her through texts and dropping off notes to her house when we are in the area. The other couple that we hav been teaching...this past weekend they finally finished all of the celebrations and everything for their son`s wedding, so it looks like we will most likely be able to meet again this week. In the mean time, we have just been trying to talk to everyone that we can, and working with the members. We were able to find a lot of great potential investigators, and we actually had a really funny moment at one of the houses that we visited...involving a lady coming to the door with about a 15 inch brown stained knife...but I`ll save the details for later. haha.
              By the way, I got the package this past Saturday! :) Thank you so much! I love the journal, it`s way nice! It totally faked me out the first time I looked at the cover...I thought it was actually little ripped pieces of maps, all finely glued together! I spent a few seconds feeling the edges of it just to be sure...looks pretty convincing ! Also you just happened to include two of my favorite candies ever...soo good! (Elder Larkin enjoyed the ones that you sent for him too) And last of all, the card brought back so many memories. The very hungry caterpillar...brought back so many times sitting on the sofa and reading that with you mom. That was definitely one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Anyway, upon receiving that package, I really felt that I had turned thanks for the great birthday! I love you guys :)
             This past week I have been studying about the Atonement quite a bit, and I have just been struck again by what a wonderful blessing it is. I was reading through the section in PMG about our life on earth,  and the part where it says "in our mortal condition, we often yield to temptation, break God`s commandments, and sin..." caught my eye in particular. As mortals we often yield to temptation...and because of those sins, we are unable to return to our father in heaven unless we accept the atonement in our lives. I read that, and had a very vivid mental image of the process of repentance...we will make countless mistakes during our lives, and Christ has payed the price for them. When we repent, instead of desperately trying to cling to an ever increasing burden that is dragging us down to the ground, we lift up those burdens, show to them our Savior, and witness unto him that we recognize it as a burden that he has payed the price for.  We allow him to lift it from us through our sincere desire to change and to obtain forgiveness. We become more firm in the knowledge that there is not room for anything but the iron rod in our grip. I am so grateful for that gift in my life, and that is the gift that I desire so much for the people that we are teaching here to receive.
               My time is running short, so I will finish this, but thank you for being the wonderful, supportive family that you are! I you guys so much, have a great week!
                                                                                                                 -Elder Voss

イースターおめでとう! Happy Easter! 9 April 2012

Dear Family,
             Thank you for all of your happy birthday e-mails! :) They were wonderful to read. Thank you for sending the package too! I haven`t gotten it yet, but I`ll look forward to it :) My birthday this year is actually going to be pretty interesting I`s on Wednesday and we are going to have kind of a partial birthday party with our english class students so it should be fun. The zone activity that was planned actually got Elder Larkin and I ended up coming at the same time as usual to e-mail and we aren`t in as much of a rush as I thought we would be. Thanks for making the extra effort to get everything sent early though...I really appreciate it :)
             Well this week we had a really good experience in meeting with that woman who we visited last Sunday! She has a ton of questions all about where we came from before this life, why we are here, and where we are going to end up after we die...and is really enthusiastic about learning. She actually had so many questions and they were all so good that it was a little bit difficult to discern which ones we should focus on in that moment. It was pretty awesome too, because when we met with her she had a bunch of pictures and different things that she had gathered from going to St. George and different places in Utah, and was describing to us all the church locations that she had toured, and all that she had learned about Brigham Young, the pioneers, etc. Really really cool. We are going to be meeting with her again this next Wednesday and our branch president and one of the two sisters in our branch is going to be attending that we are excited for that.
              We had interviews this week! They were pretty good...probably the shortest that I have had so far though. Everything was on a really short schedule this time. I had the exchanges with Elder Gottfredson right after that which was really good too...actually his very first area in Japan was Nanao so he was able to share some more information on the background and situation of the area.
              General Conference was awesome! In the end, we stayed here in Nanao to watch it...the other members of the branch watched it in the main room of the church in Japanese and we watched it on the computer in English. So many great applicable things to the work is something that the branch has really been focusing on lately with getting the Home Teaching established again, and reaching out to fulfill the goals they have set for helping less-actives come back to church. I heard those talks and it just reaffirmed my testimony Heavenly Father knows exactly what his children need to hear the most, and reveals those things through his prophets and apostles.
               The gospel is true. I have felt the truth of it so much through the teaching experiences that we have had this past week, in my studies every day, and through listening to the messages shared in general conference. Even though there are people who stuff their fingers in their ears or run away in the opposite direction when we try sharing our message with them (both of which we experienced this past week), the gospel is true. Having people react in that way to our message is something that could be disheartening, but this week it has just strengthened my resolve and desire to share it with everyone that we can. Understanding for myself a little bit more every day the love the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us, and the happiness, the peace, the direction that can come from having the gospel in our lives...that is something that kindles the desire to do everything I can to help the people around me to feel that in their lives as well. To not run away or stuff their fingers in their ears, but to feel the love that their Heavenly Father and brother Jesus Christ has for them, to learn of the plan that has been made for them, and from it gain that peace and that happiness for themselves.
              My time is again gone, but I hope you have a wonderful week, I love you all so much! Again, Happy Easter!
                                                                                                                  -Elder Voss 

これは本物です! This is the real thing! 2 April 2012

Dear Family,

            Well as it gets to about this time of year, I always get jealous of all of you guys being able to see General Conference a week early...I`m looking forward to it so much! I know I`ve probably said this as each general conference has happened in the past couple years...but six months is such a short amount of time! I used to feel like there was a huge stretch of time between October and April...but it`s a blink and it`s here. We have been talking with investigators and lots of other people this last week about the amazing opportunity it is to hear from prophets of God, to receive that guidance, and I am feeling that and looking forward to this weekend. We are going to be heading down to Kanazawa to see it...and actually from Thursday we have interviews, exchanges with the Kanazawa elders, and then a zone activity next p-day, so it`s looking like we are pretty much going to spend most of our time this next week down in Kanazawa. Actually, on that note of a zone activity...I love being able to read all your e-mails and hear what`s happening, so it would be awesome if for next week you could send your messages a little bit early. We are only going to have a couple hours to accomplish all our p-day stuff before leaving for the we`ll probably be e-mailing right after study in the morning, instead of in the afternoon like usual.
            We had some more exciting things happen! That soccer activity that happened this past p-day turned into a really good finding opportunity, just as we hoped that it would! :-) There was not only the Chinese 18 year old and his friend that we met on the train, but there was about ten different foreigners that live in or around Nanao. People from England, Australia, Singapore, America, all over the place. They were for the most working here as English teachers and that sort of thing...and they were really curious to know what we were doing here, so it turned into a really good opportunity to explain what we are doing here.
            The next day, Tuesday, we actually went to find a former investigator who had been progressing towards a baptism date...and that led us all the way up into probably one of the most remote places that I have ever been in Japan. We were following the GPS that we have on our phone, and it led us up up up the side of this really steep mountain for a good long while and then finally up on the crest, it dipped down into this little rice farming village nestled in a valley. Really really beautiful area. Anyway, the GPS stopped working, because it didn`t have coverage for that area, and so we went winding our way through the rice farms looking at printed maps and trying to figure out where the house was. In the end, some of the village kids spotted us and were way excited because we are foreigners and so we asked them if they knew where the guy lived. They led us right up through to one of the last houses, and then ran back down the hill. It didn`t  really look like anyone was home at the time, but we knocked anyway and called out a couple times to see if we could get any response. Turned he was sleeping right then, but he woke up, came to the door, and then after saying "oh hey I know who you guys are!" let us in and we sat down to talk in his kitchen. He is Chinese as well, and actually came here to Japan only about a year ago... so Japanese is still pretty difficult for him. We did our best to talk with him though about the things that he was learning before from the missionaries, and he said that all of it was really neat stuff. His biggest difficulty seems to be finding the time to meet, but we are going to do our best to start teaching him regularly again.
              Saturday was really good for a couple, we were able to meet with the couple who are our investigators, and two we met with our branch mission leader and branch president and together we were able to discuss and then set up home teaching for the branch! Home teaching is something that hasn`t really been happening here in a long time it seems...but now branch has plan to do it this next month and they are enthusiastic about it! :) A really good thing to see. The lesson that had with the couple went really well too. They have been saying that church things are really difficult for them to understand, but this past lesson we had a lesson about prophets, and they not only asked a lot of questions, but at the end they said they were really able to understand, so we were really excited to hear that progress.
              Sunday was one of the best days ever! A couple Sundays back, we housed into a guy who told us that he wouldn`t be home, but that we could come by the next Sunday and share our message with his family. We went back last week and unfortunately they weren`t home then, but yesterday we went back and after saying that we talked earlier with their son, the mother of the family came right out and started talking with us. Turns out that she is an English teacher and actually has spent a lot of time traveling or living in America. She speaks really really good English, and as soon as she heard who we are, she started sharing about all of the members of the church she knew in the states and how impressed she was with all of them. She has gone on a tour of temple square, and actually received and read a little of the book of mormon. One of the things that really blew us away was that as we were talking, she said "Yeah so I`ve heard a lot about how the members of your church give ten percent of your income as tithing, and I`ve heard a lot of good experiences about it from people. I think that it`s a really neat way to live, but I don`t really know how to apply that in my life. Maybe there is sometime that we could meet up and talk more!" We were like, " yeah, let`s...let`s do that! " Apparently her sons have just moved out recently and she has a lot of free time now...we have an appointment to meet with her this Wednesday! :)
              I think that is just about all that I have time for...oh yeah, but actually I was curious! Mom, I think before in the e-mail from Cory Smith there was something about a guy in Takaoka who could be contacted by the missionaries? Takaoka is here in my zone now, so I was thinking if there was any more information that Cory could send about that person than I could have the elders there go and contact him.
              I also just remembered your question about birthday stuff...hmm. To be honest I can`t really think of a whole lot of things that I need. Maybe a time machine...that would be nice. I can`t believe that I`m turning 21! (by the way , sorry for the double e-mail...I just hit the wrong key and sent it) Umm, really I would just love anything that you can send. All my socks are getting pretty holey so a couple new pairs might be nice. I`m not sure if my shoes are going to last until June (I know, pretty ridiculous...) but for right now they seem to be okay. Anyway, I`m looking forward to what ever it is that ends up arriving here :) haha. I love all of you guys! Have a great week!
                                                                                                    -Elder Voss

雹の土地からすべての雹! All hail from the land of , hail! 26 March 2012

Overlooking the town of Nanao, and Nanao bay
Hey family! 

           Wooooooooooooooooooooow the weather here has been something else this past week! Yesterday was one of the most bizarre days ever! We woke up as usual and it was sunny skies with a little bit of grey clouds in the distance and we thought "yes! It`s going to be a sunny Sunday!" but after about 20 minutes the whole sky had turned black, and we started into one of the most intense hail storms I`ve ever seen. We had just walked outside because it was sunny and we wanted to see how things were...and then it turned black and started shooting all the hail down. We were pretty surprised to say the least, but stayed out for a couple minutes with our umbrellas. We were about to head back inside, and right as I hung up my umbrella on the metal lattice outside of our door and stepped into the genkan, there was a HUGE clap of thunder and I heard Elder Larkin say "whoa!!" I turned around and he was staring at the place where I had just hung up my umbrella a second before. Apparently, right as I had walked in, there was the clap of thunder, and then lightning came down and struck the metal lattice right where I had been standing a couple seconds before! Elder Larkin said he heard it sizzle the air as it hit...crazy! It was kind of unnerving to think how close that came to sizzling ME. It`s all good though, I`m totally fine and just a little bit more wary of lightning now.haha. The hail continued for alllllll of Sunday...we would have about ten or fifteen minutes intervals where it would be all sunny...and then the wind of the ocean would blown in another wave of it and hit us with pea sized hail again. It finally cleared up just in time for the appointments in the evening that we actually had to go far for. 
           Church itself was really good...we had about six people this week due to some people being out of town, and so we ended up speaking in Sacrament meeting, blessing the sacrament, and then teaching the sunday school and priesthood lessons. Apparently that really happens a lot though, so Elder Larkin and I have been planning the next lessons just in case. We had the opportunity to finally meet the first counselor in our branch presidency! He is awesome, he really is. One of the nicest guys ever. Due to various things it`s difficult for him to make it to church a lot of the time, but I`m really looking forward to getting to know him better.
            We had a couple really neat finding experiences this week as well! We actually training in Kanazawa this past Thursday, so we had to ride the hour and a half down in the morning. While we were riding the train, this 18 year old Chinese kid came up to us (came up to us!) and starting talking. He was pretty unusually tall, and he had seen me and been curious to talk because of my height. We got talking with him and it turns out that he actually believes in God, and he has been praying to him ever since he was a little kid. He also believes that those prayers can be answered. We thought that was awesome, and asked him if we could meet up to talk with him more about that and he said we could anytime because he is on spring break :) He also invited us to play soccer with him and his friends, through which we hope to turn into an opportunity to start teaching them as well. Actually back tracking to the was really really good, and I was able to see Elder DeMille again! That was really good...first time I`ve seen him since I trained him, and he seems to be doing great.
            Oh yeah, one other thing that was kind of interesting! As I`m sure I`ve mentioned in past e-mails, we look for service that we can do every week for people, and opposed to my other areas, we actually have a set up service project here every week. We volunteer at a elderly hospital to change bed sheets and and do other things like that for the people there. It`s quite an experience! A lot of the patients there have pretty funny personalities and speak in extremely difficult to understand countryside dialect it`s an adventure! I forgot to mention that before Nanao, the dialects are intense! I got so used to the dialects in Nagano that it seemed like everyone everywhere spoke with the same Japanese around me...but I came here and that little world got turned upside down. The first few days here it was really difficult to understand what in the world people were saying...a good amount of words are different, and the intonation is really odd too. Fortunately though I`ve gotten used to it pretty quick and for the most part I understand normally now...but those first few days were something else.haha
I was going to share more, but our time is running short, we have to take care of a couple more things before p-day is over. Sorry! Everything is going well, the lightning hasn`t hit me yet, and we are excited for this next week! I love you guys! The gospel is true! 

                                                                                                                          -Elder Voss

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

七尾 Seven Tails (Nanao)! 12 March 2012

Hey Family! 

       Thanks for your e-mails! I was a little bit shocked to read about Brother W`s funeral...last time I heard he seemed to be hanging in there pretty well. I guess with that kind of illness things can change pretty rapidly though. It sounds like it was a great service though...reading about all the fishing stories that were shared made me remember the funeral that was held for Kelly. 
       In answer to your question mom...10x is one of the finding techniques that President Baird introduced to us. When we are visiting a referral, less-active, investigator, pretty much anyone really, we go around in the immediate area and knock on doors until we have been able to share a message with at least 10 people. (hence the 10x) It`s something that has brought out a lot of success in areas all over the mission...lots of new investigators being found through it :) 
       This week was good! We ended Sunday night with everyone thinking that I was going to be here for another transfer...or even until the end, but the Lord had a different plan in mind. Transfer calls came and I got a call from President Baird saying that after being here in Matsumoto for eleven and a half months,  I will be transferring to Nanao! (NAH-NAH-OH) I was pretty shocked, as were all the members. Nanao is the farthest, most remote area in the mission! It has a branch of about 15 people, and the area is a peninsula, stretching out into the Sea of Japan. My new companion is going to be Elder Larkin, another Elder who I was together with for six weeks at the MTC...we were here together in Nagano ken back in last January, and now we are going to be together again as companions in Nanao. :) Elder Larkin is from Las Vegas. I`ve been having a lot of mixed feelings about this transfer...I feel really sad to be leaving matsumoto and all of the absolutely wonderful friends that I have made here, I feel sad that I will be leaving Elder Skankey behind`s been a way fun transfer, and we`ve had some of the best times, but I am also really looking forward to working with Elder Larkin there in Nanao. He is a great Elder and I hear it`s an absolutely beautiful place, and I`m going to be constantly by the ocean...that will be a big change from being surrounded by the snow covered alps here in Nagano! haha. Actually to explain the title of this e-mail...the translation for Nanao (七尾) is actually seven tails. There`s a story about that, but I`ll tell you about it later .  I feel like this will probably be my last area, and I`m going to put everything that I have into it, just like I have done here in Matsumoto. Looking forward to it :) 
         This last week in Matsumoto was really good...we found two more new investigators! Satou shimai is absolutely amazing! There has pretty not been a day that has gone by this past week, that we haven`t gotten a text from her, saying that she has another friend that she wants to introduce to us. She is so full of fire for missionary work right now, and it is so awesome to see her reaching out to all of her friends, inviting all of them to learn about the things that have brought her so much happiness! The first friend that she introduced to us this week was a lady from Ghana, someone who has been living here in Japan for about eight years, and got to know Satou shimai through work. We met with both of them at a library, and had a great lesson with her...after which we gave her the restoration pamphlet to read, and invited her to church. She actually didn`t end up being able to come, but we are looking forward to meeting with her again this week. (I won`t be able to now, but yeah) The second person was actually someone that I may have mentioned this past Monday...a guy from Sri Lanka who is a friend of Satou shimai`s husband. He came to church yesterday and loved it! We had a lesson with him and gave him a copy of the book of mormon in Sinhala, and then committed him to read and pray every day, and come to church next week, which he seemed very happy to accept. There is a small bit of a language barrier with him because neither English or Japanese are fluent for him...but through both of those and trying to connect words for him in Sinhala, we make do. He has a really great desire to learn, and I`m excited for the progress that he is making :) 
           We had an opportunity to go on exchanges with the Ina elders this week! It was a lot of was my first chance to be able to work with Elder Dinkel. He is a fifth transfer missionary and is absolutely on fire with enthusiasm for missionary work! He is doing great with Elder Tojo there in Ina. We had a bit of an adventure during the exchanges and then during the next few days though...we`ve been getting by a series of blizzards that just come and go...sometimes they are sleet and sometimes they`re snow. We got caught in one of those on the way back from an appointment towards the end of the exchange and I don`t know if I ever remember being so freezing...we were pretty purple. haha. It was totally fine in the end though once we warmed up in front of the heater...just another memorable mission experience! 
            I was pretty surprised to hear that you have already received my flight plans...that is intense! No, yeah, I really don`t want to think about that all that much right now, but thanks for letting me know :) I think that I will be getting those around the end of this transfer...and I guess we`ll just have to coordinate how things are going to happen when we call on Mother`s Day. 
            I`ve got to get going...P-day is about to end, and we are going to have a little bit of a good bye gathering later on tonight. Hope you all have a great week! I love you! 

                                                                                                                                      -Elder Voss

ぬかるみの感じ種類 Feeling kind of slushy 4 March 2012

Hi family! 

       This week was good! There are so many things to be grateful for here in Matsumoto lately. Yesterday, I was struck particularly strong by the change in atmosphere at church here. I`m sure I`ve mentioned this in my letters before, but when I first came to Matsumoto, you could pretty much count on everyone disappearing from church within twenty or thirty minutes after church ended. Now it`s completely different from that...everyone is actually reaching out and trying to get to know each other better, and so now pretty much every week people will stay long after church has ended, to make the most of the opportunity that they have to talk and see each other. When I first came here, Ifelt it was an atmosphere of "We`re all completely unrelated, unfamiliar people, who happen to end up in the same building once a week" but now it really feels like everyone considers everyone else to actually be a member of their family. That has been a wonderful thing to see! Another great thing has been that again, when I first came here, testimony meeting was kind of a quiet thing. There would be a few people here and there that would get up, but then there would be big silences where nobody would get up. That also has flipped around pretty much 180 when we have testimony meeting, there are so many people that get up to bear their testimonies. That`s another that is just so wonderful to see, because I can see how much it strengthens all of them, binds them closer together as branch, to hear all of the blessings and experiences that have been occurring in each other`s lives. It`s also occurring more and more frequently that people express how much they appreciate and love the people here in our branch...another thing that didn`t happen at all before. 
          Things with our investigators are going pretty well! We weren`t able to meet with all of them this week, but we were really excited to be able to meet with O---- again finally and see how his progress is really doing. His work and other things have been making it pretty impossible for him to meet lately, but I think we have established a time that he will be able to meet more frequently from now on. He`s not really in a state where he is progressing right now...he is praying every day, but hasn`t been reading the book of mormon, and still won`t commit to come to church, so we aren`t sure how well he is going to be able to make progress until he accomplishes that...but we are going to keep doing our best. We are excited to meet again with one of our new investigators, the husband of the Philipina in-active member that we did family home evening with. We are meeting with them again tomorrow to have another family home evening and hopefully commit them both to come to church tomorrow.
            We have also been having some good success with 10X lately...that was how we found our new investigator this past week. Actually something that was really neat was an experience that we had on Sunday night. We were visiting former investigators, and even though we didn`t have any success with them, we found some great people whil 10Xing those places. We were walking down the stairs away from the last former investigator, and I felt like we should knock on the door of this person with a foreign name that we were passing by. We did, and the Brazilian man who came out, listened to our message, made a new appointment with us, and became our new investigator. (Elder Skankey was able to do all of that in Portuguese...I mainly just smiled and pretended that I knew what they were talking about...haha. Not really, I actually understood quite a bit, I just can`t speak worth a barrel of beans) Anyway, we finished talking with him, and then to continue 10x, we were trying to decide which building around us we should go into first. I felt kind of drawn to a building that I had never really noticed before, and so we started from the 9th floor of that building. One of the first doors that we knocked on, turned out to be a family from Peru, and the father was an old investigator who`s record I had read before! I feel like that was definitely not chance...I had had no recollection of that record before we started getting to know him and asked his name. He had been meeting a lot with the missionaries before and had come to church a couple was written on his record that he felt the book of mormon was true and that he wanted an eternal family, but that after meeting for a couple months, the missionaries had lost contact. I don`t think I could really explain meeting up with him in those unlikely circumstances as any other than us being guided there. We shared a short message with him, made a new appointment with him and his family for next Sunday, and then left to continue throughout the building. We are really excited to meet up with them again! We found several more potential investigators, and only got through one and a half there are still a lot of people to visit there too.
            It was so good to read about the baptism that Shane had recently! I haven`t been able to see the e-mails for the past few weeks and I so I was really wondering  how it all turned out...that is so great! :) I`m not sure if he is still getting my e-mails...but if so, congratulations! That is awesome news!  It sounds like it was a wonderful experience...with more in the near future! 
            I`d better get going, but I just want you guys to know I love you! :) Have a great week, I look forward to hearing from you next week! Actually next week is transfers, so it will be interesting to see what happens! I think that at this point if I stay in Matsumoto again, I`ll probably be here till the end of my mission. We`ll see though. Love you! 

                                                                                                                               -Elder Voss

ゾーン会議!Zone Conference! 27 February 2012

Hey Family! 

         Another week gone...and even busier than the last! We were able to teach a lot of lessons this week, and we also had Zone Conference on Tuesday! The first three hours of it was President and Sister Baird speaking to us with me translating, and then the last two or three hours was the APs speaking, then Elder Skankey and I speaking, and then at the end we had a testimony meeting. It turned out really well! The topics that they were training us on, we felt were exactly what everyone in our zone has needed recently, and even though Elder Skankey and I were pretty nervous about the training that we were going to be giving to everyone...I think it turned out well in the end. We had exchanges with the APs right after the zone conference and into the following day, which was a lot of fun as usual :) We all went back to the apartment after zone conference, looked over the plans for the day, set the goals that we wanted to achieve, and worked the best that we could to achieve them. We were talking to as many people as we possibly could, as we went to the separate appointments that we had...and by the end of the day, we were able to find four new investigators! It was a really great experience...really strengthened my faith in the fact that the Lord is leading those that he has prepared into our paths. 
          We have been awesome success in getting the family home evenings going with everyone here! Just for this week we already have three scheduled with different families, and at each one there will be non members or our investigators! Actually one of the new investigators that we had from last week, was the husband of the member that we did a family home evening with recently. We actually had a really cool experience last night while we were out visiting in-active members! This isn`t really related to family home evenings, but it just popped into my mind. It was my first time going to this person`s place, and it took us awhile to find it, but we knocked on their door, which they opened right away, and after talking with them for a few minutes invited us to come in and sit down to talk some more. That is something that is pretty rare actually...I might have mentioned it before. Anyway, it was the in-active member and his mom, and we sat down together with them in the living room and continued getting to know them a little better. Turns out that he was baptized a very long time ago, when he was in elementary or middle school, and that due to the fact that he hasn`t been going for so long, doesn`t really remember much about the church. As we were sitting there, I was trying to figure out how we could make a connection with those memories, how we could help him remember the good experiences that he had at I started asking him about the experience of when he had met the missionaries. (how he had met them, what he thought about them...etc) The one thing that he recalled, was that every time he had met with the missionaries, they had finished with a hymn and a prayer. We asked him if he had liked those hymns, to which he said yes, and that he likes kind of on the spot, right as we were about getting ready to go, I asked him if it would be okay if we sang a hymn with him and his mom and then say a prayer. He said yes, and so we pulled out our hymnbooks and sang " I Am a Child of God" with them, shared our testimonies of the fact that we all Heavenly Father`s children and that he loves all of us, and then prayed together. It was such a neat experience! It was really simple, but just by that short hymn and prayer I felt like the whole atmosphere changed, the spirit was with us, and we were all able to feel Heavenly Father`s love as we sang. His mom seemed particularly moved, and really seemed to want us to come and visit again...which we plan on doing maybe this next Sunday or around then. I just love the hymns so much! I`ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and I loved them before my mission as well, but of course as I have been out here I have had many many more opportunities to sing them, and feel the spirit that they can bring to us. I feel like they can bring so much strength to our testimonies...the invitation that we have heard many many times to memorize the words of hymns so that we are able to call them to our minds whenever we want to, has gained so much more meaning for me. While I`m riding my bike or doing other things during the day, I quite often have the lines of those hymns running through my just gives a whole different mood to the day :)
             On a completely random note...we a got an American dryer this week! That might not seem like a very significant thing...but we have been hanging our clothes on poles in front our gas heater for the past couple transfers, so it`s been a nice change. haha. It`s made things soo much easier for p-day! 
             You were mentioning a few things about the weather in your e-mails...yeah, it`s still snowing here on and off. The last few days it`s been more of a nice sleety time of feeling...but actually today was way sunny, just still cold. It`s not unbearable though, spring is coming! :) 
             I`d better go...I love all of you guys so much! Have a great week, I look forward to hearing from you next week! 

                                                                                                                                 -Elder Voss

それはホワイト週間だった! 2012年2月19日---It's Been a White Week! 19 February 2012

Great baptism!
Hey family! 

          Well, as the title has been a white week! It was absolutely freezing and stormy for the first half or so of the week, and then it came to the weekend, and it cleared up to be perfectly blue and and absolutely beautiful weather...just in time for our baptism on Sunday! In answer to your questions, yes, S---- was baptized! :) I feel that this has been one of the most intensely busy and also one of the most miraculous weeks of my mission. We were continuing to meet with her throughout the week to finish the lessons, and getting her ready for the baptismal interview, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, ......kept on getting delayed, several times in a row. I honestly don`t think I have prayed for, or felt a desire for someone`s salvation, more than I did during this past week. Elder Skankey and I were praying for multiple times everyday, as a companionship, as well as personally, and we doing all that we could to be receptive to guidance as to what we could do to help her make her date on Sunday. With ... getting delayed, she felt a little less certain about things, but we kept contact with her every day and did our best to keep her spirits up and promise her that if we had faith and did all that we could to accomplish the goal that we had set, Heavenly Father would prepare a way for us to receive that permission. Well, it got down to Friday, we were on exchanges with Ueda so that Elder Matson could be here to do the baptism interview, and upon meeting with her at Brother Yamamoto`s place, Due to the fact that there was only two days left before the baptism, and Elder Matson was going back up to Ueda that afternoon, we talked some more with her, and decided that even though it looked like it would be impossible, we would keep on working together to get it and reset her baptism date for the next Sunday. Honestly we were all a little disappointed about it, but promised her that it wasn`t giving up, we would just be working for a new goal...We said a prayer with them, and then left for the train station to meet back up with our companions to end the exchanges. We got to Matsumoto train station, and were sitting in the train, waiting for it depart, when we suddenly got a call from both S---- and Brother Yamamoto, saying that they had just gotten a call from S----`s husband, she could be baptized! Needless to say, we were way surprised! We weren`t able to call her then, but we waited until we got to Ueda, and then called her to figure out what had happened. Apparently, she and Brother Yamamoto had been sitting there at his place, talking about the situation, and she had been just about to erase the reminder for the baptism that she had put down on the 19th, when she got a call from her husband, saying that it was okay for her to be baptized! It was one of the happiest phone calls that I have ever had in my life. Right after getting off the phone with her, we started calling everyone that we needed to to set up the baptism again, and set the interview for the next afternoon. She passed the interview just fine, and everyone in the branch was amazing about helping to get the baptism ready. We had it at 9:00 right before church started, and it was as all of the baptisms that I`ve been to, an experience that I will never forget. S---- asked me to baptize her, and one of the friends that she had made in the branch performed the confirmation. Due to a faulty connection in the plumbing, the water in the font was freezing for the baptism and so we were shivering pretty bad...but it went so so well :) We had a great program, and after the baptism S---- got up and bore one of the most beautiful testimonies that I have ever heard about the power that faith and prayer had had in enabling her to get baptized. The rest of the day was a blur of making sure everything was taken care of with records and all that stuff, but it was all so good. Seeing and hearing her faith and testimony of the power of prayer and the truthfulness of this gospel, meeting with her from the beginning and learning about the gospel and growing together has been one of the best experiences that I have ever had. My testimony of this gospel, and faith in prayer has been strengthened so much by seeing that growth, and the blessings and miracles that she has gained from this gospel. I love being a missionary, it is one of the happiest things in the world. 

             I am going to have to cut my e-mail short here pretty soon because we are down to one usable computer today, and Elder Skankey hasn`t been able to use it yet...but I just wanted to add a few more things in. We were able to have some absolutely awesome success with one of the family home evenings that we had this past Saturday night! We met with a sister in the branch who`s son has been in-active for well over a year, and we had a game, spiritual message, and then a little bit of refreshments that we had brought. We had a great time talking with the son while we were playing the game, and he seemed to really be moved by the message that we shared about families. He totally agreed that if they were able to do that every week as a family that they would be able to feel closer, and more happy...and he seemed to want that. Well, right when were leaving, we were saying "okay, see you next time!" and suddenly he turned to us and said "Actually I think I`m going to go to church I`ll see you then!" We were really surprised, but way happy, and said that we would look forward to seeing him. Sunday morning came, and he showed up for all three hours of church, dressed in a suit! It was so so good to have him there! His mom was really happy, all of the other members were really happy to see him too...and he seemed to have a really good time there. He said he is going to do his best to come next week too! :) 
             Anyway, I`ve really got to go now, but thank you for all your e-mails! I love you all so much! :) Have a wonderful week! 

                                                                                                                       -Elder Voss

2012年2月13日 -- 13 February 2012

Hello Family! 

          Time continues to fly on by! There has been so much happening this week! Due to the fact that we are teaching the shimai`s old investigators now too, we have really needed the members help to make sure all our lessons have a sit-in, and they have really risen to the need :) We had a great lesson with one of the shimai`s investigators and the first counselor in our branch presidency this past Tuesday, and she seems like she is in a good place to progress right now. She is a school teacher, so she is super busy all the time, but we re-established the purpose for the missionaries meeting with her, and she committed to read and pray. We have another appointment with her next week. O----- we were also able to meet with on Saturday which was a relief! It was great to be able to meet with him in person again instead of just talking on the phone every night. He told us that he feels pretty confident that he has overcome the difficulty he had before, and now just has a little bit of a concern regarding the law of tithing. We are planning to meet this week with him and a member, teach tithing and hopefully be able to resolve his concern with that and keep him all set for his date on the 26th. 

           S---- has been doing amazing! We were able to have four lessons with her this past week, and she is doing so well! She was a little worried about both the word of wisdom and law of tithing, but we had great help from the members with teaching those things and she is having no trouble with them :) After we taught the word of wisdom, she had an experience that completely confirmed for her that it is a commandment of God, and from that really strengthened her desire to follow it. She continues to share with us every day the feelings that she has as she reads the scriptures and prays, and it has been such a wonderful experience to see her testimony grow, not so much little by little as by leaps and bounds :) She wasn`t able to come to church this past Sunday because she was sick, which was unfortunate because we were going to ask her husband for permission then for her to be baptized, but she is feeling better now, and we have an appointment to do that on Wednesday. She is really really doing great...we are so excited for her! :) 

         Something else that we have been excited about lately is family home evenings  with the less active members here in the branch! I`ve probably mentioned this several times, but one of the things that President Baird has suggested that we do is get family home evening activities going with the less actives to strengthen them and bring them back to church. We have been having some good success with scheduling those, so we are looking forward to that. 

         I was going to write more, but we actually just got a call from S---- saying that she is actually going to be in Matsumoto this evening and wants to meet up in twenty minutes! :) We`ve got to run and get things ready. Hope you have an awesome week everyone, I love you! 

                                                                                                                          -Elder Voss

2月おめでとう!Happy February!

Hey Family! 

          This week has just flown by! The first week after transfers is always pretty crazy...and this one was no exception. The sister missionaries are gone from Matsumoto, so we have been trying to get all of their records and investigators sorted out...and that along with all of our normal activities has kept us super busy! Every area in our zone changed, and there are first time senior companions and district leaders, so things already feel busier than last transfer...but it`s fun! Elder Skankey has been way fun to work with so far, and has really been a huge help to get things running smoothly for this new transfer. 
          This week we weren`t actually able to meet for a lesson with S---- due to first having her move the appointment from Wednesday to Friday, and then on Thursday night we got a e-mail from the honbu saying that we had zone leader conference the next morning down in Nagoya...which we had completely not known about. haha. That was kind of a hectic rush to get everything ready to go down there, but it was a great experience like the other two I`ve been to. We have three new zone leaders this transfer, and two of them are Japanese, so for the first time since I became a zone leader we did the whole six hour meeting in Japanese. That was pretty cool. Anyway though, we weren`t able to meet for an official lesson, but she came to church again yesterday, and brought her husband this time! :) It was way way good...he seems to be a really nice guy, and when we talked to him about his wife learning about the church he didn`t have any problem with it. He left early, but S---- stayed for the whole three hours, and then later on in the evening the relief society president invited her and a few other people over to her house to have dinner and get to know each other better. We went together with the matsuhashi couple, and after the meal they shared a great message about the values and things that we promote as a church. We have our next appointment on Wednesday and she looks all good for her baptism date on the 19th. So excited for her! :)
           O----- has been busy this week...haven`t really been able to meet, but he has had a lot more success with keeping the commitments that we gave him. 
           We actually had a really cool experience today, when we were coming back from shopping. It was raining pretty good, and I was just biking along, thinking about how many times I had taken that exact same trip for groceries every Monday, and then as silly as it seems, a movie advertisement caught my eye, and we stopped for a second to see what it was. We were standing there for probably about 10 seconds, talking, when this older looking guy came walking around the corner  and started staring at us. We didn`t really think much of it, because people stare at us all the time, but he came over to us and started talking with us by saying " Hey, are you from Utah?" in English! We were pretty surprised, but I assured him that no, I`m not from Utah, I`m from California and that we are missionaries. He was like "Yeah, you`re the mormons, right? Do you have English class at your church?" We told him yes and gave him a flier for eikaiwa and then exchanged phone numbers with him...not really sure if he really plans on coming, but he seemed pretty interested, and that he might want to learn more than just about English. Anyway, to make a long story was just a neat little reminder for me that no matter how many times I feel like I have taken that road, and know it backwards and forwards, the Lord is still guiding people that we can talk to into those paths. 
            Oh, one other interesting that came up in zone leader conference....we are going to be doing zone conference on the 21st of this month, and as zone leaders we have been assigned to give two hours of training during it! It`s a pretty long time block, and it`s my first time actually doing training like that at a zone conference...but I think it`s going to be fun :) I guess it`s pretty much just like the district meetings that I taught as a district leader, just about 30 minutes longer and along with another person to help.
             Yeah, actually I`ve gotta get going...but have a great week, I`ll look forward to seeing your e-mails next week! :) I love you! 

                                                                                                                                          -Elder Voss

Monday, January 30, 2012

再び転送! Transfers Again! 30 January 2012

Adam with his companion Elder DeMille (the one referred to in this Email) on a Pday outing last Fall in Kamikochi. 

Hey everyone! 

    Whoa, wait, what?? I didn`t know that Brother Kaye speaks Japanese!  Much less Portuguese and Romanian...the only one I knew about already was Dutch. That`s crazy! Is he fluent in all of those languages? That would be pretty interesting to have someone in our ward at home who can speak Japanese...I`ve been thinking all along that I`m going to come home and there won`t be anyone who can. [Referring to Brother Kaye's talk in Sacrament Meeting that we told Adam about--no, Bro. Kaye is only fluent in Dutch, but learned to bear his testimony in the other languages for that talk] 
      Anyway, I guess on to the events of the week! Transfers were a little unusual this time...or should I say completely usual? Not sure, but anyway...heading into my 14th of 16 total transfers, and I will be staying here for my eighth transfer in Matsumoto! Actually from what I`ve been hearing, I`m only the second missionary in the history of the mission staying in an area for that long...the only other one being Elder Brown, my MTC companion. It will make 11 1/2 months here in Matsumoto...and I`m excited for what this transfer is going to bring! I will still be a zone leader for Nagano Zone, but Elder Wilson is transferring to Toyama to be with Elder DeMille (pictured above) for his last two transfers...and Elder Skankey is coming over from Ina to be my new companion. I`ve already mentioned a lot about him in previous e-mails...but he is from Arizona, and was in the group of missionaries right after me in the MTC. It will most likely only be one transfer that we are together, due to the fact that I`ve already been here for as long as I have...but we`ll see! There was a bit of a surprising change with the districts this time around too...both of the sister missionaries transferred out of Matsumoto out to a place called Shizuoka on the coast, and new set of sister missionaries are transferring up to Nagano City. We`ve become a district with Nagano and Ueda for this transfer. I guess the most interesting part of the whole change that from now on we will be taking over the sister`s investigators and other people they were meeting with! This is going to be a busy transfer! 
      There was some exciting things that happened this week! (other than the stuff I just wrote about... ;) ) S----san has a baptism date for the 19th of next month! :) We met with her again at the house of the member who referred her, and finished teaching her about the  Restoration, after which we invited her to prepare to receive baptism on that date. She told us that she received baptism in the catholic church at the age of 30, at which point her life totally changed...but that much like Joseph Smith, she noticed that the doctrines of the different churches didn`t agree with each other. She said that she has been searching for truth since that time, and that she feels that search has ended upon learning about our church! She expressed that when she reads the book of mormon, prays, and also when she meets with us, she has good feelings, she feels like the teachings of the gospel are correct. SO awesome! She came to church yesterday, and is already becoming fast friends with a lot of the members...things are going great with her :) I think that she is definitely someone that I would say is an honest seeker of truth. 
        O----- wasn`t able to meet with the date that he had for the 29th...still some things that he is working through right now. I feel like I might have mentioned this in last week`s e-mail...but he has a new date for February 26th, and so now we are working with him to achieve that. 

        We also had interviews, and then went on exchanges with the which I finally got the opportunity to work with Elder Rust! It was a great exchange...we found some great PIs and taught a couple lessons together :) Actually on a somewhat related topic...(not really I guess, but anyway...) it has been SOOOO cold! From what everyone is saying  , the temperature right now between here and Sapporo up in Hokkaido is about the same. It reminds me a lot of Suwa...everything is just frozen. haha.

         I`ve got to run, but thanks as always for being the wonderful family that you are :) You`re the best, I love all of you guys! Have a wonderful week! 

                                                                                Elder Voss

偉大な今週 Great Week! Sunday, January 23

                                                      The Darumas are visible at the bottom

I just realized that I forgot to answer any of your questions in the other e-mail! Umm, no that`s great that you put up those pictures! Thanks :) I didn`t know they were called that [Daruma dolls pictured previously], but since you sent that we have learned a lot about them from the members. I actually have seen several people playing shamisens...there were a couple last summer at the taiko drum festival...they were electric, and they had two people "dueling" with them on the open air stage. Haven`t seen a whole lot of art galleries...but there actually is a big art museum here in Matsumoto...just haven`t gone yet. There are a ton of shrines EVERYWHERE. No matter where you go there are always shrines...big ones, small ones...all over the places :) This past week there was actually a Ice Festival at Matsumoto castle. Ice sculptors from all over Japan came to compete and create the "best" ice sculpture. they did it with chainsaws, and then set up the statues all around the edges of Matsumoto Castle. It was pretty cool! Got to run...

Elder Voss

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ヘイ Hey!

Japanese Daruma ceremonial doll used in the bonfire celebration pictured above--paint one eye in when you make a wish, paint the other eye in when it comes true, then burn it on the end of a stick. The people pictured are also  roasting rice balls. Learning about Japanese traditions!


        This week has been awesome! I feel like our prayers have really been answered for finding new investigators. We went to a recent convert's house for the after baptism lessons that we have with him every week, and just out of the blue this friend of his drops by to see how he is doing. He introduced us to her--She started telling us how she has a lot of interest in Christianity, and how she loves pictures of Jesus Christ. We had a great conversation with her right there for about 15 minutes, and invited her to come to church on Sunday...which she actually declined, because she felt she would be too busy with her kids on that day. We thought to ourselves "okay, well I guess we`ll just have to meet up another time next week or something like that", and ended up leaving shortly after that. Well, Sunday came around and we had our co-ordination meeting that morning like usual, and then when entered the chapel, the member that we had visited was there, along with his friend! He apparently hadn`t given up on getting her to church that week, and she had worked really hard to make sure everything at home was taken care of early so that she could go! She ended up staying for the whole three hours of church, participating in the branch lunch that we had afterward! We have an appointment with her and the member this next Friday, and she says she has a lot of interest in learning more. She also wants us to meet her husband, who is from Sri Lanka and apparently speaks English. Oh, AND she has a lot of friends who are interested in learning English, and so it looks like we will be having the opportunity to start another English class where we could meet a whole lot more people with interest in learning about the church :) 
          We actually did end up moving this week! We only moved a few blocks away, but it is a super new, super nice apartment that is quite a bit bigger than the old that is a really nice change! We spent most of Thursday with the elders from the Honbu moving all our stuff and getting everything set up. It`s still really close to the church, so that`s nice. I think this new apartment is pretty much the first place with security cameras that I have ever lived`s pretty weird! haha. 
           O----- is doing really well! We had a lesson with him while we were actually on exchanges with the Ina elders. He is continuing to get ready for his baptism date on the 29th :) 
            I have to run because we have to catch a train down to Nagoya for leadership training tomorrow morning.  I love you all, have a great week! 

                                                                                                    -Elder Voss