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 Most of the people that we invited were pretty withdrawn about going to a gathering of people that they didn`t know, but a guy that we met on the train last transfer, and his friend came!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