Thursday, June 26, 2014

Seeing God's Hand in My Life

Good morning beloved friends and family! How is everything!? I loved to read all of your emails! I am so glad Mom and Dad had a great time in Europe! those pictures look amazing! Speaking of pictures I don't have any for you today! Ya know this MTC thing is a lot of the same stuff every day:)

This past week has been awesome! We had a devotional from Janice Kapp Perry! She is the woman who wrote all of the truly great children's church songs: A Child's Prayer, As Sisters in Zion, Army of Helaman, just to name a few.  I don't remember a lot from Primary, but I remember her songs! The devotional was wonderful. We all sang with her and she shared some great stories. I felt the spirit so strongly. Then on Tuesday we had a devotional given by D. Todd Christofferson! It was amazing! he spoke on the worth of souls. I loved it and took a LOT of notes! Unfortunately I did not see President and Sister Welch. One of the sisters in my district is headed to Kobe though and she saw them!

Ok it is time for my weekly spiritual thought. A friend recently asked me how I saw God's hand in my life...

I have seen God's hand so many times over the past few days. I have seen it in the devotional given by D. Todd Christofferson and the devotional M. Russel Ballard. Also the devotional by Janice Kapp Perry. I have seen it in the scriptures and the general conference talks that I have been reading, but the one I will tell you abut is my experience at the temple last Thursday. Recently (a couple weeks ago) I was struggling. I felt like I was doing all these things correctly, I was obedient, I was worthy, I was reading my scriptures, I was serving others, I was studying the language really hard. I was doing all of these things, but I wasn't feeling the guidance from God that I have heard so many stories about and that I expected and quite frankly, felt I deserved. I felt like I kept putting my faith on trial and there was no witness. Anyways, It was really discouraging. I didn't feel like I was being guided in our lessons. I didn't feel like I was understanding my investigator's needs. I felt like I was failing. It was at a really tough point in the language as well. All of these things that (maybe I was hyper-analyzing) were very discouraging. Luckily I think I responded correctly, and instead of letting my faith wane I responded with an extra effort to be faithful. P-day finally rolled around. I love p-days. They are such a nice time to recoup from the super high levels of stress associated with learning a language and just the MTC in general. So we went to the temple and did an endowment session. Afterwards I was sitting in the room crying unto the Lord (silently), asking him to please be there, to please strengthen me, to please bless me in my efforts to learn the language and to teach with the spirit and to be like Christ and to love the people around me etc... After that prayer I looked up and there was this gorgeous chandelier. Every time I am there I just gaze at it for awhile because it is so amazing. This time when I looked, I felt this amazing feeling of peace and comfort come over me. It literally felt like it started at the top of my head and just washed over my entire body. The best part is that it wasn't a new feeling. It was the same feeling of peace (and specifically not-stress) that I had been feeling every once in a while, very subtly, for the last few weeks. To be honest I started to cry a little bit because I realized that God had been there the entire time. I was just too busy to listen to him. That Is how I saw God's hand in my life. He is always there, always waiting for us to turn to him. We need to learn how to take a step away from the busy-ness of life and just listen. Life can overwhelm you. Life can encompass you. The trivial temporal things can be all that you see. But God is there. God will lead you. God does love you. And God will NEVER abandon you. I know that (sore ga shinjitsu da to shite imasu(それが真実だとしています)! 

I love you all and I pray for you every day! Spencer welcome home! I can't wait to see you! 

Love, Siebach Choro!

P.S. Thank you so much for the pastries! You sent them just in time for the birthday of one of the Shimaitachi in my district! They were delicious! Love you all!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

1/3 of the way there!

Hello Family and Friends!

Wow I can't believe that I have already reached this point and I can't believe that it has taken so long to get here! Time here at the MTC is a strange beast. It moves rapidly during p-day, personal study, gym time, meal time, and sleep time, but it crawls though language study, class time, and lessons. It's like I have too much time to know what to do with, and at the same time I can't seem to get enough of it! It is a strange feeling. So it feels like I was sitting at this same computer only yesterday and it has been ages since I was here last. A lot and a little has happened this week. You could say that it was just like last week, and there is an incredibly monotonous feeling here, but so much has changed! All of our Diasempai (older Japanese missionaries) have left. My group is now the most senior of the Japanese missionaries. We are the example. We are the experienced ones. I was also released as district leader which was sad. I loved serving my district! Now my companion and I are zone leaders. So that is cool. I still get to be in a leadership position, but it doesn't have the personal feeling that district leader does. I love that. I loved to have people tell me what they are struggling with and then being able to help them with it! I have really grown to love service! I am so grateful that I got to be the first district leader, and I am grateful that I get to be the zone leader now.

So we have had two devotionals since I wrote last. They were both amazing! the first one was given by Sheri Dew. It was a wonderful talk about Grace (that's you Grem!). I felt the spirit so strongly! The second talk was given by M. Russell Ballard. I don't really know what his main topic was exactly, but he gave a lot of advice for missionary work. He also talked about judges. We as humans let a lot of things influence our lives and our decisions. We let public opinion influence us. We let the desire for wealth and worldly success influence us. Many people worry about which side of history they will fall on. Elder Ballard simply stated that the only judge that matters is God. He is the judge for eternity. I just loved that perspective! I have seen many people give in to public opinion. They have compromised their beliefs and eternal truths in order to be on the right side of history, to be on the right side of public opinion. They fail to see the temporary nature of this life and the eternal nature of our life to come. Something else that I thought was super cool was that Ballard simply said "follow [the prophets and apostles]. We will not, and cannot lead you astray" I loved that. I am sorry for the short letter! I am out of time! Love you all so much!

Siebach Choro
With Elder Visser--friend from my Japan days!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Full week!

Our awesome district!
Wow this week has been full! There is so much to do (study the language, speak the language as much as possible, study the scriptures, exercise, serve, district leader responsibilities, lesson planning, eat, sleep, PRAY) and so little time to do it! There are so many things that I think are of the utmost importance, I have to study the scriptures, I have to study the grammar, I have to study vocab. It gets really overwhelming and can be a little bit stressful. I can certainly see the stress in my district. We all needed a p day, a day to take care of the little things, a day to attend the temple and feel the peace and comfort that comes from that, and a day to play some district volleyball! Last Saturday my district played against another district in our zone and, of course, we won--haha! I felt really bad because when I was serving I pegged two of the shimai-tachi (sisters) in the face! I felt awful! To be fair they were pretty light serves and it was their own fault for not watching. How is that for meekness and humility?

Here in the MTC we get investigator actors, or investigator scenarios created by some of the people that work here. This is what Michael does!  We will get two new investigators by the end of the week. Right now we only have one. His name is Hasegawa-san and he is being acted by one of my teachers. When the teachers act out investigators they are actually recreating an investigator they had during their mission. So it is a really neat experience for them because they are emotionally invested in it. Kind of makes me want to do everything I can to make our lessons amazing! Yesterday we taught about God and the plan of salvation. It was a really good lesson and I was really happy with how little my companion and I used our notes! We are getting better every day, and we owe it all to the Lord. Without his help wee wouldn't be near where we are today. Dad mentioned the spread that NPR did on the MTC. It is true that the Spirit is what makes this place so effective. The teaching method is great and has been honed over years of experience, but without the Spirit, it is just a teaching method. With it, it is the gift of tongues and infinitely more effective. I have gained a testimony of that over these past two weeks.

Something else that I have gained a testimony of is scripture study. I wish I had studied them far more than I did! The words of God and instructions for our return to him are contained in them. Same thing with prayer. Prayer is huge when teaching. We forgot to pray in the beginning of one of our lessons and we could really notice the lack of the Spirit. Something was just missing. It took awhile to get there, whereas if we had prayed we would have had it there immediately and the whole time. Something truly amazing is hearing an "investigator" or a teacher pray in perfect Japanese. It gives me hope, a light at the end of this intimidating and foreboding Japanese tunnel.:)
Tyler's baptism!
I am so glad to hear that Tyler got baptized! He has taken a huge step and begun his journey down the path of the Gospel. It is going to be difficult, and, like all of us, he will mess up a lot. But the beauty of the infinite atonement is that we can mess up an infinite amount of times and Christ will still be there beckoning us back, pleading for us to come back. That is why the sacrament is so important. It gives us the chance to renew those covenants with God that we have broken and realign ourselves with God. My favorite message of hope in the Atonement is in 2 Nephi 4 starting at around verse 16 (I think?) It is the psalm of Nephi. In it he expresses frustration at his propensity for sin. He is so distraught that he knows what is right, knows the importance of obedience, and despite that he continues to sin. I love how speaks of his frustration but also his faith that he will be redeemed. He ends by saying

 35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

I pray that I may have the faith of Nephi and that this will be my response when I mess up, and when I get discouraged or feel that my task is too heavy. Alone, our task is too heavy, but if we have the Lord on our side and we use the incredible gift that is the Atonement we will be able to overcome any obstacle that may hedge up our way.

Siebach Choro

P.S. I would love some more pictures of the family. I don't know if Ms. L is getting these emails but I know she would like to! Will you please get them to her and get my contact information to her? Same thing with Landen? I don't have his email and I would like to talk with him! I love you guys so much and miss you so much too!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One Down; One Hundred Three To Go!

My first week at the MTC is over and it was packed! The very first day I got all of my stuff up to my room and then immediately went to language class,. There I was greeted by an returned missionary that was frantically speaking to me in Nihongo. It was an experience that made me immediately regret going on a mission! My sensei's name is Gauthier Kyodai (Brother Gauthier) and now I think he is awesome! That first day, however, I was not a fan. It was so stressful and I had no idea what I could do to ease the stress. Luckily I had 9 other brand new senkyoshi that were feeling the exact same way that I was. In this we all found strength. Over the past few days the burden has lightened or maybe we have all just gotten used to it:) I have noticed that as we focus on learning Japanese our English abilities suffer. Hopefully that Is only temporary though! 

With regards to the language I now know how to pray and share my testimony. I can say a lot of basic phrases and I can read and almost write hiragana. It is kind of exciting to see how quickly we progress!

My Doryo (companion) is also doing well! We get along pretty well all the time and have never really disagreed on anything. Every once in a while there is a little bit of friction between us on how to teach a lesson or what we should study or where we should go. It is difficult to be attached at the hip like this! But he and I are very similar.
Elder Siebach and Elder Christensen
My district has a lot of great people in in it! we have only one international and he is from New Zealand. His name is Elder Moa. He is Tongan and really funny. 

Our first investigator went by the name of Koyama-San. He was really a return missionary but he was acting as a 50 year-old Japanese man that didn't speak any English. It was so frustrating to teach someone that you can't really communicate with. We would ask him questions to try to gauge his understanding and not be able to interpret his response. This was a great lesson on faith and the power of the Holy Ghost because, despite the language barrier. we were actually able to have some great experiences while teaching! 

I am having an amazing time here at the MTC and loving every minute of it! I am sorry that this email is so short, I spent most of my time trying to put pictures on the computer only to find out that they don't let you do it on almost all of them! I promise I will get some out eventually!

I love you guys and I hope all is well. Grace, thank you for your dear elder! You need to send me more info though! I want to know everything! Also thank you Mom for the package. I will need that rain gear and I would love to get the family names to take to the temple! Love you lots!

Siebach Choro