Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Skype!!!

This week was really awesome! I have already told you about pretty much everything up to Thursday in our Christmas Day conversation, but I will give a short overview of it for the sake of my devoted readers--haha! (love you guys *virtual fist bump*).

It all started on a cold wintery Tuesday in Fuchu.... It was the birthday for one of our investigators and we decided to make him a present. He was heading off to the U.S. the next day so we had to act quickly. As any thoughtful and caring friend would, we went straight to Daiso (the most amazing Japanese equivalent to a dollar store) and got some gag gifts for his trip. We put them in an emergency bag (also purchased at Daiso) and sent him on his way! It was pretty fun plus we got some solid contacts at the store. Hopefully we will be able to meet up with them this week. We then went out and tried to find people who wanted to hear our message.

Wednesday was the Christmas conference. The entire mission showed up and we had a great conference. We got to watch Meet the Mormons, which is an amazing movie and will be and probably already has been really good for missionary work (if you have any stories regarding that please send them to me!). We had a mission white elephant gift exchange and I got a really lame present. I gave a pretty good one with funny mixed with useful and I got a jump rope (purchased no doubt at Daiso) that broke within the hour. Wednesday night we had a game night at the church in Fuchu. A bunch of investigators and potential investigators and Eikaiwa students showed up. It was really great! They had a lot of fun and afterwards we sang some Christmas hymns and shared a Christmas message. There was a strong and wonderful Spirit there--a great night! We also gave away a bunch of Book of Mormons.

Thursday was alright. Certainly wasn't the best Christmas ever. It's a little bit harder here in Japan because nobody celebrates Christmas but the members, and they were all working. So we went around and caroled as a district. Elder W and I found some really cool guys from India who spoke perfect English. They were brothers. The younger brother was visiting his older brother who plays professional rugby here in Fuchu. We then went and taught a lesson to one of our progressing investigators--also really good. He got a call and suddenly in the middle of our lesson and had to leave, but we'll see him again this week. We ended the day as a district and went out to eat at a sushi-go-round place. It was delicious!

Friday I got to Skype with the family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was so awesome! I love my family so much! Thank you for being there for me and supporting me! That Skype session made this the best Christmas ever! I was scheduled to go on splits with the zone leaders right after we hung up, but the trains were shut down for some reason so it was rescheduled for this week.

Saturday we went and cleaned the church with the members. We then went out and taught a few lessons on the street.

Sunday great! Church was awesome; I felt the Spirit a lot. We also all went to the bishop's house for dinner. It was delicious! We shared a nice message with the family and then left. While we were walking home we met some pretty cool people and set up a meal with one of them this coming week!

Well that was my week! It was pretty good considering my companion was feeling pretty under the weather all week!

In my scripture study this week I read a lot of talks. One of them talked about trials that we have in our lives. The part that struck me the most is the way we are supposed to cope. We cope with the hard times in our lives through service to others. It is that process of turning our attention outward that allows us to help the Spirit heal others and to help heal us too. I love that. It is so contrary to what seems natural. Usually it seems like if you are going through a really hard time you have an excuse to kind of forget about others and turn inwards and figure it out. The Lord shows us that the opposite is true.

I love you and pray for you always! I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that you will have a great New Year as well!

-Siebach 長老

Monday, December 22, 2014

Meree Kooreesoomas!!!

Yay!! He got his Craisins!!

Meree Kooreesoomas (almost)!!

Here's a short rundown of the week: Monday started with studies and then we went to take a tour of a soda bottling plant (as I was deceived into thinking) in our area. One of the Nihonjin Elders really wanted to go. It turned out to be exclusively a brewery. Super lame, HUGE waste of precious p day time! I was super bummed. I wrote emails and went grocery shopping, had some good one on one time with an elder in my district who came to the mission at the same time. We got pretty close at the MTC and just talked for a while about how life is. It was good. For dinner we went to an investigator's house and had tacos and chicken pot pie. It was amazing!

Tuesday was awful. It was so cold and rained the entire day. We went to Kichijoji to get a new phone, and that's when I got your package! Yay!!!! 🎉🎊  Thank you so much--and thank Brother Edwards for bringing it all this way! Other than that, that day was just miserable, but we went out and worked hard trying to find people to teach. Turned out to not be very productive, but those who we talked to we invited and those who we invited we tried to help:)

Wednesday was good. We usually don't have a whole lot of dendo time on Wednesdays. Just three or four hours, so we made the most of our time and found a lot of cool people. We got to teach a couple lessons. We also found a really cool human jukebox. Then in the evening we taught the children's English class and the regular English class which took up the rest of our night. We were able to set up a lesson with one of the students for the following day!

Thursday is our weekly planning day. We came to the church at noon to plan then we had a lesson at 3:30 with that eikaiwa (英会話) student. It was really good. We got to talk to him a lot about Jesus and the Book of Mormon. We showed him the He is the Gift video and he cried. The Spirit was really strong. We have another lesson with him on Christmas day! That was also the night when Elder W and I were called by the APs and asked to go to the district leader training the following day and then to go on splits with them after (I was nervous).

Friday we went back to kichijoji and participated in the district leader training meeting which went until about 4 and then I came back to Fuchu with one of the APs, Elder T (his katakana name is Saruman... Pretty dope), where we dendoed for a while and then went to a game night at the church with six of the eight Fuchu missionaries and a bunch of members, potential investigators, investigators, and recent converts. It was really good and we set up a lesson the following day at a sushi place!

Saturday rained a lot. We studied and then went to the sushi place where we had some great (cheap) sushi and had a great lesson! We taught about the Book of Mormon, word of wisdom, our relationship with God and prayer. He promised to pray everyday for a week! And to read the scriptures! It was a great lesson! We ran to the train and got Elder T back to Kichijoji for some meetings. Short but sweet! Came home and Elder W and I immediately went to the church for an Elders Quorum yakiniku party where we brought 7 investigators. It was amazing! Ward members have a crazy amount of power when it comes to missionary work! Missionaries can teach and bring the Spirit in but it is the members that make the church seem real and accessible. If investigators only ever see missionaries then that is their image of the church. If they get to see and get to know members then they see what the church is usually like, they see normal people and they have friends.

Sunday was really good. Church is tough as always, but I am starting to understand a lot more of what the speakers say. It is really hard still and I usually have a headache after. We then went out and dendoed and completely forgot to eat dinner. We went that way until we looked at our phone at 8:34 and realized that we had 26 minutes to make the 40ish minute walk home. Needless to say we booked it and made it with a few seconds to spare. I was praying the entire time for help and watched as all of the crosswalk lights changed to green a couple seconds before we got there. It was really a great night. We talked to so many great people and have a lot of appointments set up. Those nights are so rare. We must have been doing something right!

This past week had a lot of peaks and troughs and a bit of a painful amplitude. There were a few really low lows, but more really high highs! The district leader meeting was good. It helped me realize how much I need to improve. When I told that to the AP he told me that was good, that we don't have those meetings to help people to feel good about where they are, but to see where they need to be. That made me think about when the disciples said in John 6 "this is an hard saying; who can hear it?" I think about setting big goals and doing everything I can think of to live with God and become like him. That requires perfection. In order to get there I'm gonna need to be corrected a lot; to change a lot; to become a lot. Those are hard things. It is hard to be corrected, it is hard to see how imperfect you are. These are all hard sayings. I think the trick is being the type of person that those disciples are asking about, becoming the type of person who can hear it. Then we can deal with the hard things that we have to deal with in order to return to our Heavenly Father. I want to become someone who can hear it. I think the key to becoming that is having faith hope and charity, and of course no pride. That's what I need to work on.

Anyways, I love you guys! Merry Christmas!!! Can't wait to talk to y'all this week!
- Elder Siebach

Monday, December 15, 2014

Of Loved Ones and Language Tests

Today I found out that one of the guys from my MTC district is heading home right now. He fell off of his bike and broke his collarbone. He will be returning to get surgery and hopefully come back in about three months. Wow! I feel so bad for him! Despite the fact that I yearn to spend this precious season of giving and love with my family, I know that one day I will be rejoined with them. Going on a mission has made me realize how much I miss my loved ones and how much I want to spend time with them. I love the unique perspective that we have that includes the fact that righteous families who've been sealed in the temple will be able to live together forever. That's pretty cool! Whatever happens, we will be reunited again. At any moment our life or the lives of our loved ones can be snuffed out. That's scary... Being on a mission would be a lot harder if I didn't have the hope that one day, no matter what, I will see my family again. That hope is not just for us, it is for everyone. I love showing people pictures of my family and testifying about the plan of salvation and the potential families have. It's a cool experience and always brings the spirit. I encourage you to talk about your beliefs regarding families with someone this week!

So this past week has been pretty good. Our pool of potential investigators is growing and we got to teach a few lessons to some of them this week. One cool story is we were out at an omurice restaurant with one of the people we met this week. He is alright at English and wants to study it so we were speaking in English mostly with a little Japanese to clarify things (up to that point we hadn't talked a lot about the church) and then the man looked at me and, in Japanese, told me that he wanted to see how good I was at Japanese and asked me to talk. Of course I had no idea what to say, those situations are the worst! I decided to tell him about the MTC and how we learn how to teach and talk about the gospel. I told him that my best area of Japanese is teaching about our church and he said go for it. So I started talking about how the church has a lot of beliefs, but they are centered around Christ. I then asked him if he knew what the real reason and meaning of Christmas was. He said no, so we talked about Christ and ended up teaching this man most of the first two lessons. It was really amazing. He was interested and wants to learn more. The next step is to show him how incredibly important the gospel really is. I will send a picture of the meal!

 I love you all!

Siebach 長老

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Getting Started...Again :)

Hello everybody! I hope you are all having a wonderful time! I encourage you to use the season to share your testimonies about Jesus Christ! Share that awesome video "He is the Gift"! I really love that scripture that they share at the end. John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

That is something that few people here in Japan know about. Very few even know why we celebrate Christmas! We can bring these "glad tidings" to those around us. I have been able to see the hope that comes from a knowledge of Jesus Christ and his atonement in the lives of some of the people here. This Saturday a man I got to teach named Hisashi was baptized. While I didn't get to go to the service, I know that the Spirit was there and testified to those in attendance that that is the way, that is the way to follow Jesus Christ, and in so doing, be enabled to live with our Heavenly Father again. Baptism is one of the first steps to get there. I am so excited for my friend. He has found the hope that Moroni talks about:

41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

So my new area is called Fuchu but it actually contains all of Chofu and another city called Inagi. I have not yet had a chance to visit either of the other two cities yet. We plan on heading over to Chofu tonight. The past couple days have been pretty good. They have actually been really cold. It has become a familiar feeling to gaze at an empty Areabook. This is my third time opening a companionship. It's pretty fun because we spend a lot of time finding people to teach; however, I worry that my teaching skills are not developed enough. Role playing only goes so far. The apartment is really nice. It's pretty big for a two man, but it doesn't have the gas turned on yet or desks, chairs, tables, cooking supplies, etc. Until today it didn't have a refrigerator, washing machine or microwave! Those three things came today and we are doing some much needed washing! Luckily the apartment has had beds and a little heater the entire time, so we haven't frozen yet! It will be exciting to have the gas turned on and be able to shower again! Today we went to the other Elder's apartment and got to shower. Up until now my companion and I have been braving the frigid tap water for just long enough to wash our hair! 

I will give you a little download on my companion. His name is Elder Wright. He has been out here for over a year now. Has just over eight months left. That's actually pretty old for this mission. He's a really funny guy, pretty entertaining to be around and a very hard worker. He has been in Fuchu for as long as I have been in the field, so this is his fourth transfer here. Right now we don't have anyone to teach, but we have managed to find a few potential investigators;-) We are working pretty hard on finding more people!

The work is moving forward, it always seems to be slow in the beginning, but I know that all of our hard work will start to pay off. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Siebach

Monday, December 1, 2014

Transfer Week: Headed to Fuchu!

Hello every one! How are y'all doing!? I'm doing pretty well! This week is transfers week, I have yet to get my call. I am guessing that I will stay here, but I will probably get the call while writing this! So I will let you know somewhere further down in my email!***

This week was pretty fun, I went on splits twice, once with a trainee from another district, his name is Elder Wanacott, and once with the district leader from my old district. Both were fun and we saw a lot of miracles. In the split with the district leader, we were in my area and we stumbled across a guy I contacted about a month ago. When we first met him, he wanted to learn about the gospel, but then he just dropped off the face of the earth. Now we have a lunch meeting with him later this week! He's probably 17 so our lessons will be entirely in Japanese. He will also come to our Eikaiwa (English) class.

We had an especially good day yesterday! We were on our way to visit a family going through a rough divorce when we decided to stop by a potential investigators house. He welcomed us in and we had a really spiritual discussion about how we have weaknesses (he was talking about his inclination to get angry at his son). We shared Jacob 4:7 and Ether 12:27. It was a great lesson in which we talked about how even Christ showed anger, but his motive in everything he did was love and obedience.

We then went to a members house. The father has moved out, so that leaves six kids who don't have a father! We went by to pay them a visit and to thank them for making a thanksgiving dinner for us! They are so kind. It was really nice of them. That was a really good visit. We got to share a nice message with them and feel and show the love:). Then we went out streeting and taught a lesson to a guy we met. Later we went to a meal with a member and some other missionaries from the other Machida district (my old area). They brought two people that I had contacted a couple months ago. I contacted them but they never got back to me and then they called the other missionaries! It was awesome! So I got to spend some time with them, get to know them and commit them to start taking the lessons! It was an awesome day, I really felt the spirit and saw a lot of miracles!

***Newsflash!! I am getting transferred to a place called Fuchu. It is in another zone north of here. Wow I did not think that that would happen! Shoot! I'm so pumped! My companion's name is Elder Wright. I have never met him, but it sounds like he is a pretty fun guy! He's been in Japan for over a year now... Pretty old guy for this mission.

I probably have to go now. Love you all and hope you're doing well!
Please write me if you have time!

Siebach 長老

Monday, November 24, 2014

What I Know...

It's been a rough week in which I have been questioning and doubting myself and my ability to be a good missionary.  It's true that I/we can all always be doing more to be what I should be and to be what God wants me to be. That insufficient feeling, the feeling that you aren't good enough to accomplish what is expected of you is never more easily felt than when you are a missionary. Your weaknesses are in very sharp relief due to your own personal judgement and the visible strengths of those around you. Both of these are good things because they are very relevant. The correction and judgment you receive from yourself and missionary leaders is all based on fact and high familiarity with the situation and can be really very constructive. It is good correction and judgement. and I honestly welcome it:) I spent some time scrutinizing everything I have done since arriving in Japan, and despite the fact that it all shows a need for improvement, I feel at peace with it. God knows that I am trying and that it takes time.

I love you all so much. I don't have a lot more time. Right now we have 5 investigators and a lot of people that we are trying to turn into investigators. We are working well with the members and working on reactivation as well. Right now my companion and I are working with two great people that are less active. One of them is coming to church fairly regularly(three times this transfer) and the other one we started working with on Saturday and he has yet to come to church. One of the people I contacted last transfer and started teaching, now has a baptismal date for December 6th. That is two days after transfers, so I hope I get to be here to see it.

Today we went on a hike from Kamakura to Enoshima with all of the youth in our ward. It was a great experience and we have built some great relationships with the younger people and their advisors. We are certainly working hard and beginning to see the fruits of our labors. I have had a pretty bad headache pretty much everyday of this transfer starting in the first week. Sometimes it is painful to walk outside when it is bright, trains are also a little loud. Luckily it has not been enough to stop us.

I know that God loves us and I know that he is watching over us. I can feel him strengthening me when I am weak (all the time) and tired (all the time) and insufficient (all the time). I have seen some pretty amazing miracles this transfer and all of them have served to strengthen my testimony. I have been blessed to see the scriptures from a new perspective and glean greater understanding from that. I know that God's eye is on us. I know that he is cheering for us and heaping blessing upon us. I know that this is his work. I know that we are all His children and we all have incredible potential. I know that if we look at others as what they can become we can help them to reach that. I love you all and I hope you are all doing well.

- Siebach 長老

Monday, November 17, 2014

They Forsook Their Nets

My dearly beloved family!  Love Y'all! 😍

So this week was pretty good. We have had a lot of fun and seen a lot of miracles. Yesterday we went housing for a couple hours and we were able to accomplish our purpose many times over. Unfortunately no investigators have come from the work so far, but we were still able to invite a lot of people to learn about the church. In PMG (Preach My Gospel) we learn that success is achieved when you present a very clear decision to people that have been well informed on the matter. Unfortunately from that point we can do anything, we just hope that people make good choices with their agency. We were able to do that many times yesterday. I am getting a little short on time, so I
will share a quick thought.

Recently I have been studying Mark and I came across a scripture that you've probably all read many times. It is Mark 1:18 where it says "and straightway they forsook their nets and followed him."

I started to think about that verse and I saw it in a way I have never seen before. Normally I might read this verse (and verses like it) and conclude that their nets are the tools they use to provide for
themselves. Obviously this is the right conclusion; that is in fact what they are doing. I like that perspective. They dropped everything and followed the Lord. That mind state of faith and almost reckless willingness to follow the lord is certainly something to emulate. However, there is another perspective. I started thinking about what else nets do. They entangle, ensnare, hinder, and in some cases (especially with regards to fish) they lead to death. I looked up the word 'net' and this definition caught my eye: a net is a system or procedure used to ensnare or trap someone/thing. If I read the scripture and the apostles are the objects of the ensnaring and entrapping mechanism, that's something new to think about. Has Christ ever called on me to follow him, but I am ensnared, trapped and hindered by sin and regret. Christ said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!"(Luke 13:34).

He is always calling unto us, always reaching out, always patiently waiting for us to forsake our nets and follow him. I love that! I want to forsake my nets, I want to let go of my sins, my regrets, my safety, and my comfort. I want to become a fisher of men. I want to invite and help others come unto Christ. I want to leave the nets of the worldly in order to better follow Christ! Sometimes I just need a little reminder:)

Anyways! Love Y'all! Hope you're doing well! WRITE ME!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lunchtime Shenanigans

Hi Everyone!

Today we went and had lunch with a man who is a great photographer. He wanted to snap a few pics after the meal so these are a couple of them! I am so sorry about this week but I have almost no time to write--only enough to send off a few lines. Thank you all for writing to me! Your letters are wonderful! I'm glad to hear that everyone's doing well! Love you guys so much! I promise I will send a longer letter next week!
I love you all! You're the best!

Siebach 長老

Monday, November 3, 2014

Temple Week

Kanji: Japanese character for "Love"

I am on the train back from the temple right now. We had a great session conducted for the first time entirely in Japanese! I understood it pretty well, so that is pretty exciting! It is far easier right now for me to understand Japanese than to actually speak it. I don't think in a Japanese way yet. It is coming slowly but surely though! Ugh!

I would like to get a beginning kanji book so I can start studying the characters, but we have some funny rules here in the mission. We aren't supposed to go into any book or electronic stores because Inappropriate pictures and videos are too prevalent there. It's too bad. Otherwise it would be super easy to walk right in a grab one. Here's another one: at least in the Tokyo missions, we are not allowed to talk alone to women. It puts out a very bad image. If they talk to us we need to keep it simple, brief and straight forward, and hope to set up a time to meet together with them and their husbands or turn them over to the sisters.

Well I love you all and hope everything is going well with everyone. Thank you for the emails! You're the bomb!

                                                     Love, Siebach Choro   

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Life

Dear Friends and Family,

My new companion has been out for 5 transfers, working on his 6th. His name is Elder Leftwich. He is from Colorado and went to BYU for two semesters. We were there for the same fall semester but he lived off campus so I never met him there. He is my district leader as well as my companion. The other two in my apartment are on transfer 16 and transfer 8. They are great guys. 

So I got transferred to a new area and I have a completely different apartment and everything. On the day of transfers I got on a train, rode one stop, and dragged my bags up a massive hill to the new apartment. I walked into the apartment and was greeted by stuff everywhere and just all around messy. It was pretty bad. I didn't even unpack, I just started cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. Luckily my new companion helped me clean the apartment. That was good!  So that is how my first transfer went. Now the apartment is beautiful, but I don't want to see anything like that ever again. 

So Elder Leftwich and I have been sent to an area that has actually been struggling a lot. Up until last transfer it was in the same district as the other Machida district. But they were split from us last transfer when they got another Elders companion set. So Machida had two districts of six last transfer and now there are two districts of 8 missionaries. Their key indicators are crazy low last transfer and nobody really knows why. A couple of the people from the district were transferred away and four new missionaries were brought in, creating another companionship. We are going to try and breathe some new life into the district and the ward and see if we can't help the Lord in his work in Machida! 

So far we have certainly been blessed with success out here. We already have a new investigator who we found yesterday and are meeting him again today. Yesterday we gave out two Book of Mormons! It was awesome! The funny thing is, we spent four hours dendoing hard core to try and find some people interested with not much luck. Then a little later we had some extra time between finishing district leader duties and a zone conference call, so we went out and found four incredibly prepared people! It was interesting. We had to put in time to show the Lord that He could bless us with some success. He had to see our desire to bring people to Him before putting them in our path. It was really great--great lesson. Anyways, I need to go! Love you all!

Siebach 長老

Monday, October 20, 2014

Intra Machida Transfer!

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm getting transferred! I have to be in my new area by tomorrow. The area is called...wait for it...Machida! Machida 2 to be exact. So I'm in the area right next to my old one. It will be strange because I will be in the same church building and I'll often see the same people, but I will be in a different ward. My companion Elder Leftwich and I will be opening a new elders companionship. This is exactly what I did in my first area and I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty rough in the beginning. We hardly got to teach any lessons and we spent all of our time finding. It was hard to feel like I was accomplishing my purpose! Still, I'm pretty excited for the change.

This last transfer we have been able to see our work pay off a lot. Right now we have three progressing investigators. They seem to be interested in our message and they are keeping their commitments! I am excited to be able to stay close enough to watch them progress. Maybe I will see one of them get baptized! That would be wonderful to see!

We got to see some miracles this week. We actually had three investigators at church and four at an activity last night. We went to a place called Hachioji and listened to President Wada talk about the atonement and charity. It was great and all of our investigators had defining moments. I'll try to send another email tomorrow morning from my new area. Sorry I don't have tons of time right now. 

Love you guys!
Elder Siebach

Monday, October 13, 2014

General Conference!

Hello again everybody! I hope you're all doing well! I am doing very well actually! We got to watch general conference this past weekend which was an incredible experience. I love the words of guidance that we get to receive from the prophets. It is always so applicable. I only wish that I appreciated general conference more when I was younger! 

We also got to see some miracles this week! We gave a Book of Mormon to an investigator about two weeks ago and he finished it last Wednesday. When he showed to us it was all marked up and highlighted. I was so excited to see that! instead of blowing right through the book as fast as he could, he read for understanding and with purpose. When we asked him what he's learned, he immediately started talking about faith and how important it is. We were blown away because that was exactly what he had planned to talk about with him. He then came to both sessions of general conference on Sunday. We will be following up on that later this week. He's a great guy and he is practically teaching himself. I hope I get to see him baptized and maybe, someday before I leave, see him go through the temple! 

Another fun time was at dinner on Thursday night. We invited one of our potential investigators to go get some dinner together. During dinner we talked about normal and religious things and he showed some interest in the plan of salvation (we actually got onto that subject by talking about names and their origins. Elder Sawyer's name is Michael and so we mentioned that he was named after a very important angel. Then one thing led to another and YA!). So we got to share a pretty in-depth message about the plan of salvation. It was a great lesson and it was so powerful as we all felt the spirit as we testified of these wonderful truths.

In all it was a great week! Sorry I have hardly any time! Love you all!
Siebach 長老

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Typhoon That Wasn' Tokyo

Man, what a disappointing little rainstorm! I was so excited for some crazy wind and rain to rip through Machida, throwing cars and bikes around, shattering windows, snapping trees, but I watched from the warm comfort of my apartment, as the disappointing sprinkle brushed lightly against the window. The sad excuse for a hurricane could not have stood up to some of the torrential Texas deluges that I have witnessed. O typhoon, where is thy sting? O whirlwind, where is thy victory? There was none!..... Until I rode my bike for a little while and noticed that it was pretty humid! More humid than it has been for days! I guess that's what I get for making fun:)

This week was pretty great! I have seen a lot of great miracles. One of them is that the guy that I told you about last week, the one we gave a church tour to, is over 200 pages deep into the Book of Mormon! That puts him around the beginning of Mosiah (a Japanese Book of Mormon has about 750 pages). He really likes it! Which is great! Another thing is that he and a friend came to church yesterday! The greatest miracle of all is that we taught a lesson with our investigator right after church. We had a couple members attend the lesson too and it was an amazing experience! One of the members hasn't been to church in quite awhile, but he was there that Sunday and shared a great testimony of the Book of Mormon and about prayer. He talked about how we receive help in our lives when we read and pray and go to church. I am so grateful that he was able to recall his testimony about this simple truth. I think he will be coming to church more often now. I could tell that all five of us were feeling the spirit very strongly the entire time. That lesson was definitely a defining moment for the investigator and the less active member. It really strengthened my testimony as well that the more we share our beliefs with others, the stronger they become and we remember what we know and believe. That's what happened to our less active friend. He remembers what he has learned, known, and felt.

Another miracle happened with an investigator that we kind of share with the other elders in our area. He is 82 years old and has lost a lot of control over his mind. He can't maintain a line of conversation or thought for very long. Whenever we meet with him there are often 3 or 4 running conversations he switches between. It is mentally exhausting to keep up with him and even harder to teach him. So we met with him on Friday and talked to him for awhile. Here are the conversation topics we discussed: 1) a sword he thinks is cursed, 2) bullet trains
and their 50 year anniversary, 3) an eagle he saw 48 years ago that was so big it blew his mind, 4) his gall bladder, and 5) my future wedding and the speech he wants to make there. It was difficult to keep all of them straight! We finally managed to steer the conversation mainly to his gall bladder. He may need to have it removed, but he doesn't know if he should have this "very dangerous surgical procedure". He actually has a very deep feeling of unease and fear about it. After talking about it for awhile, we finally asked him if he wanted to pray about it. That stopped him right in his tracks. He told us he had never prayed before because he didn't think God had time for him. We used this opportunity to tell him about his relationship with God and how He loves us all and has plenty of time for each one of us. We finally convinced him to allow us to pray for him. Each one of us said a prayer: one given by my companion, one by yours truly, and one by our friend. By the time we were done the Spirit of the Lord was so strong in the room and I could see that the cloud of thought that had surrounded his mind had left. He was focused on the message we were sharing and on receiving an answer to his prayer. What a powerful testimony of prayer! I love being a missionary! 

I gotta go! Love you all!
Siebach 長老

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kendama and Other Cool Stuff...

Hello! This week was pretty good. We had a ton of appointments, plus we had temple p-day on Tuesday and then zone conference on Thursday. It was a packed week! One of the cool things that we did was give one of our investigators a church tour. He is a college student and really likes the kendama (Japanese toy consisting of a ball on a string connected to a stick with various cups on it. It is actually pretty entertaining and difficult to do.). In fact he practices for hours everyday at a park. He actually gave me one of his 40 kendama.

This is a Japanese kendama champion!

The church tour is actually a really good experience with an investigator. We start in the genkan(foyer) and explain some of the pictures that are hanging up there. Then we go into the chapel and talk about what we do there with a big focus on the sacrament and how it ties into the covenants we make. Then we take him to see the baptismal font and talk about the ordinance of baptism and the covenant that entails. We end on a picture of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. We talk about the atonement and then we tie it all back to how these things help us to be happy and live with God again. It is always a really great tour and that day our investigator really felt the spirit. We gave him a Book of Mormon at the end and made an appointment to meet again. I am excited to start working with him.

I also got to talk to another investigator about temples and the blessings that we receive from them. I showed him all of my family pictures (thanks to the iPad!) and told him about eternal families and the ability everyone has to live with their families forever. In all it was a great week! The only bad thing is that I got hardly any study time. Very little time to read the scriptures. I really noticed that lack this week. Anyways, sorry I have to go! Love you!

Elder Siebach

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another Temple P-Day

Hello family! How are you!? Sorry I forgot to tell you again that my pday would be late since we got to go to the temple! This week was pretty good and actually really busy, we didn't have a ton of dendo (proselyting) time, but in the time that we did have, we saw a lot of miracles! I will tell you about a couple of them! 

So on Friday we always have sports night at the church. We play volleyball or basketball or throw the frisbee or ping pong. It's a ton of fun, but recently we haven't had a ton of people show up. So Sawyer 長老 and I decided that, for the hour before sports night, we would go to a little sports park in the middle of downtown Machida and throw the
frisbee. We made the decision to do this during our planning session the night before and then we prayed and asked Heavenly Father to put prepared people in our path. Within five minutes of being in the park we had
contacted 6 high school seniors and in the end they made the thirty-minute walk from the park to the church for sports night. While we were there we had a ton of fun and we shared a spiritual message that piqued their interest. Now they want to come again and they want to learn about the gospel. Wow right!? 6 great young men! We will be meeting with some of them this week! That was such a cool experience! A huge miracle and something that I really needed.

Another miracle took place that same day. We planned to go to a park and write our testimonies in a few Books of Mormon. We hoped that somebody would see us and have interest in the book and then we could do what missionaries do. Well that didn't happen. Nobody was very interested, and though we got a few contacts at that park, we didn't get to give any of the books away. But later that night, at the sports night I already mentioned, some other missionaries had some investigators there and they needed a Book of Mormon to give to them. I offered the
one that I had written my testimony in. I was so happy to be prepared for that! I hope that that testimony helps the person who got it. We will see! 

Giving away a Book of Mormon at sports night

Anyways, sorry that this letter is so short! I have no more time! I love you all and I hope you're doing well!

- Siebach 長老

P.S. I have not given my approval to the new addition of the family, so tell Johanna if she wants to be truly accepted, she needs to send me a thoughtful package with lots of candy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Trusting in the Lord

Wow!!! Sounds like a lot is happening back at home! That's so exciting! I can't believe you're getting an exchange student! Will she be able to speak English pretty well? That is so exciting! Are mom and dad polishing up their German skills? Sorry about the short letter last week. I just had no time! No need to get worried Moot! ;) I am so glad to hear that Grace had a good birthday and it seems that Spencer is doing pretty well too! I hope y'all know that I love and cherish you. I've been teaching people about families and in so doing, I get to share my thoughts and feelings towards y'all. I have really realized just how much you mean to me. I love you all and I pray for each of you every day.

During sacrament meeting last week I was praying for all of the things I was fasting for, specifically in regards to missionary work, and in that incredible moment I got this small but enveloping feeling of peace as one of my favorite scriptures came into my mind:

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. (Nephi 4:19)

This is the psalm of Nephi in which he expresses his frustration at his propensity to sin. It may not be the most applicable scripture as I struggle with my lack of missionary skills, especially when read quickly and without much thought, but with a little more pondering I can liken it pretty well to any situation, and then of course I can apply it.) I love this verse because it gives me a little window into the hope and faith that Nephi can has in The Lord. So many things in life can feel like hindering walls that you constantly throw yourself at, yet they never budge. Frustration right? But, as with Nephi, if I trust in The Lord I can have the faith and the hope to overcome or endure those frustrations.

Now I'm finding out that that trust is so important. It is how I can tap into a heaven-sent resilience to get me through the frustrations of missionary life:) That little personal revelation was a huge comfort to me. If I trust in The Lord and do my best to be like Him (serve, love, endure, be "meek and lowly in heart", obey...), no matter what, things will be ok. Whether it's looking for a job, trying to do
missionary work, struggling in school, etc., strength will come, along with the tools needed to endure. I have seen it work in my family's life, and I've seen it work in my friend's lives, and I've definitely seen it work in mine:)

A final photo before the Machida district got "ripped to shreds"
So this week we had transfers. In my apartment we lost our zone leader but got a new one. He is a genius named Elder Berube. Recently he has been doing work in the mission home developing apps for the iPads that we are using. He has done amazing work there and has finally been unleashed upon the real world once again. He's a great guy and I am excited to work with him. Elder Sawyer and I are still together and sometime during this transfer we will be moving to a different apartment. Right now we have 12 missionaries in Machida and next transfer we should have 16! Maybe 18! It's crazy!

We met some great people this week and got to teach a few of them. We are starting to make friends and gather potential investigators. Right now what we really need to do is figure out how to change more of them into real, progressing investigators! We need some defining moments especially
with ward members and at church! We are working on it I assure you! Today we had a ward dinner activity. It's called a "yusuzumikai," (湯涼み会) which, directly translated, means a "hot water(湯) cooling off(涼み) meeting(会)". It's a strange translation, but essentially means a ward party. It was a lot of fun! We had 6 potential investigators there and the members really reached out to them and welcomed them and took care of them. It was a wonderful thing to see. The ward members have so much fellowshipping power and when they decide to really use it, amazing things will happen!

Anyways, I gotta run! I love you all and I pray for you! Please, please, please write me! I have loved the emails! I'm sorry that I haven't been able to respond to many of them :(

- love
Siebach 長老
This is a little festival we came upon this week:

P.S. We went to Costco today! There is one in our area! It was an amazing thing! I got a slice of pizza AND a hot dog, burned through them, and had to restrain myself from running back for more. You just don't get portions like that very often here in Japan! I am now at the tightest hole on my belt and will have to poke another hole in it soon! Crazy huh!?

P.P.S. Love you Grem, love you Moot, love you Dad, love you Spencer, love you Kirsten, love you Dumdum!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Grace!

Couldn't resist putting up this little gem that Sterling sent to his beloved "Grem" on her birthday :)  Enjoy!

Love these two!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Families are Forever

 Wow, this has been a good week! I finally got to teach a real lesson to a real investigator! It was amazing! You've seen a picture of him, but I'm not  really supposed to tell you his name:) I was on splits with the zone leader, elder Hadlock, when we taught him. It was a very spirit lead lesson. We were originally just going to RPLA (read ponder liken apply) a scripture about baptism with him, but it quickly jumped the tracks to a full-blown lesson on feeling and receiving revelation from the Spirit, and temples. It was really good. This man is looking and waiting for a huge answer, a huge feeling, a huge event, to tell him of the truthfulness of what he's learning. His is a desire that I can relate to. Sometimes I feel like a glutton for punishment because I always expect this crazy feeling of knowledge crashing into my brain, but it never turns out that way. Or at least it rarely turns out that way. Feeling the spirit is something that we are always doing in a very small way. In a way that we often don't realize. He just never really realizes that he is feeling the Spirit. I had a similar experience when I visited the temple while in the MTC. I think I wrote an email about it!

I feel like my love for the Japanese people has grown a lot this week. My companion and I were talking to a bunch of high schoolers yesterday when I glanced up and saw three people walking by. It was a quick look, but what I saw I can still vividly see. Two of the three were pretty messy, scary-looking people. A guy with piercings all over his face, a dark thrasher looking shirt with dark pants and dark hair. He was just a dark, scary looking guy that I would unconsciously avoid. He was probably mid to late 20s. The woman, whose hand he was holding, looked the same: kind of scary, piercings and tattoos, but I also noticed a glimmering ring on her left ring finger, the same hand that was clasping her husbands hand. Strapped to the husband's shoulders and hanging in front of his chest was one of those baby sacks, and in it was a ridiculously adorable Nihonjin baby girl, resting her head on her fathers chest, fast asleep. What a picture right? The beauty of that scene struck me. Here were these two, by typical standards, kind of unsavory people; people you wouldn't think would have their life together; people that would fit well into unsavory areas. Two people that are young, but two people that are in love, and together have a child. Wow! That is such a rare thing right? Families are scary, families are hard, families are on a downward slope. More and more people are opting out of having families. But here are these three, against great odds, ganbaru-ing it (ganbaru is a verb the means to go for it, to try your best, to hope. It sometimes takes on the connotation of a leap of faith or acting in hope). What an incredible thing! The gospel can take their uncertain lives and fill them with confidence and knowledge. The gospel can take their shaky, new, little family and turn it into a strong eternal one: a family with the potential to live together forever in pure and complete happiness. What a great thing!

We were teaching another man yesterday. He is 82 and his memory is a little shaky. He's been investigating for a long time now. Something that characterizes him is his love of photographs. He always says seeing is believing. So he puts a lot of significance in pictures and mementos and proof. It's funny because he has so much faith but he still likes that proof. So I decided to show him my family pictures (it's really easy to do because it is just on our iPads). I got to take him through 30 or so pictures from tons of different times in our lives. This was a perfect activity for him because he loves these pictures. At the end I have one of the last pictures that we have that has all five of us in it. We are standing I front of some sort of barn in the middle of Grapevine. When he saw this picture he commented on how happy we look and said that in all the pictures he saw, he noticed a genuine joy. At that moment I got to bear my testimony of temples and family and I got to tell him about eternal families. I told him that we are happy because we know that we can all be together again forever. I told him how not long after that picture was taken my brother left on his mission for two years, and then, before he got back, I left on my mission. I told him how we won't be able to all be together for about four years. That's a hard thing! I yearn to be with my family every single day. I love them so much. But it's also easy because I know that one day we will all be together again. Come what may, we will be together again, and someday we will never have to leave. We all felt the Spirit so strongly testifying of that truth. It was such an amazing feeling and I could tell that he was feeling it. Afterwards he asked me if I would print a copy of that family picture and give it to him so that he can add it to his collection. He's a good man! He posed for a picture, holding my iPad with that picture showing, that I'll send along with a couple others.

These two experiences have strengthened my testimony so much this week. I love the gospel and I love that we will be able to be together with our families forever. That is such a huge blessing. I love you all and hope you're doing well!

Siebach 長老