Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tender Elbows and Tender Mercies

Dear Friends and Family,

Well this has been a pretty great week. I went on splits twice--once on Wednesday and once on Friday. For the first one, my companion and I were with the traveling APs. This is the first transfer for them and it was actually really fun. It was windy and rainy and freezing cold but it was really fun! We talked to a lot of people and taught a few lessons on the street and we also visited some members. After that we had English class. In all it was a great fulfilling day. On Friday I went into the mission office and helped an Elder there rework the basic-training- requirements packet that all the missionaries who come to the mission go through with their trainers. It is almost like a secondary orientation for new missionaries and includes things from Japanese culture tutorials to basic lesson outlines for the first three lessons. The old training requirements were in dire need of help. I am grateful that I got to spend some time on that and think of ways to help the missionaries coming into the mission. 

The rest of the days we dendo-ed and taught. On Saturday we still hadn't had time to do our weekly planning for the upcoming week when we decided to postpone planning to the following day and go out and try to find some people to teach. We were riding pretty fast trying to get there when suddenly I was lying flat on the ground. I don't know how I fell but I did and landed pretty heavily on my right side. My hip and knee got pretty badly bruised and my elbow got cut up (I didn't know until I took my coat off when we got home and saw the blood on my shirt). The worst part is that, in order to keep my head from hitting the asphalt I took all of the impact with my elbow and, indirectly, my shoulder. It hurt pretty bad a the time, but I think it will be alright. Certainly not something to worry too much about. Anyways, I got up walked it off and kept riding to our dendo destination. We had a really great night and got to invite a lot of people to church and other activities. Eventually we limped back to the apartment to finish off a fun Saturday! Kind of a bummer to fall, but we saw some great miracles. 

Recently I have been trying to look for the tender mercies that the Lord gives us all the time and I have been blessed to  be able to see some of them. I know that Lord is watching over us and I know that he is perfectly aware of what we need. A lot of the tender mercies that I have noticed recently are just simple memories that make me happy or scriptures that I read a while ago that come to mind. Sometimes the off-hand words that someone says can completely brighten my day or add to my resolve to go work hard. Sometimes when I am looking for something to study, an old general conference talk will catch my eye and have the word of encouragement that I would benefit from. I am so grateful for those little things that, though small, in the end make all the difference. I know that God is very aware of each of us on an individual basis and that He knows exactly what we need and will provide the means for us to get it. Whether through the words of a friend, a scripture, a memory, a song, etc... We can receive that comfort and feel God's love. 

President Uchtdorf teaches:
"Listen for the voice of the Father in the bounties and beauties of nature, in the gentle whisperings of the Spirit. In your daily interactions with others, in the words of a hymn, in the laughter of a child, listen for His voice."

I know that the Voice of God is in everything around us. It is an expression of His love, and we dearly need to feel and to know of that love. "Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely." (The Love of God, October 2009 General Conference)

Elder Siebach

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Birthday and Some Miracles

Hello everybody! Had a great birthday here in Fuchu. Thanks for all the birthday wishes:) This is a new transfer which means new companion! Yay! His name is Elder O. He came into the mission at the same time I did and he actually studied at BYU at the same time I did. He was also living in B9 (which was right next to where I lived) but I never met him. Not even once. Bummer... But we got to be pretty good friends in the MTC and now we are with each other all day everyday! 

So this transfer technically started on Thursday. That is when we switch companions and everyone travels to their new areas. Elder O was coming from another part of Fuchu, so Thursday went off without a hitch. The whole day was completely taken up with transfers and weekly planning and picking up my newly repaired bike.

Friday we went out to Chofu on said bike and 'partied' there for a few hours. We got to talk to a lot of people and found a few potential investigators from it. Then we sped home and had game night at the church. That was really fun! We had a lot of our investigators and less active members there, so that was really great.

On Saturday I went to the hospital with one of the Nihonjin Elders. He is suffering with some kind of infection in his leg. Unfortunately, and as some of you may know, Japanese hospitals are pretty sketchy at best. We spent three hours of our study time there only to be told that there was nothing they could do and to go to a different hospital. However, the visit was not in vain. While I was sitting in the waiting room I looked across the room and spotted an old friend we have had a few lessons with, but who fell off the map a few weeks ago! I went over and sat next to him. Turns out he had to get knee surgery when and has been recovering since then. I was very grateful for that chance to talk to him. We will be meeting with him again soon. That was the first miracle.

The next one happened while we were walking from our apartment to get to the train station. As we were walking somebody called out "Elders!" It was pretty hard to hear. My companion didn't hear it at all, but I heard it again and walked back and found the man who was calling out to us. Turns out that he is a member from New Zealand that lives here with his family so that he can play rugby for Toshiba. He practices every day and is usually exhausted so he and his family slowly but surely stopped coming to church. We talked with him for a while and then he had to go. He is a really nice man. So on Sunday we went to drop off some banana bread and a note at his apartment (we found out where he lives from the ward directory and knew that they are usually gone on Sundays). When we got there, there was the entire family in the foyer heading up to their apartment. They invited us up and we went and had a nice visit with them. We will be meeting up again this week, but those were two huge miracles. Nobody has been able to contact them for over a year! I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to get to know them and help them.

That night(Saturday) we taught a lesson to a less active member of the chuech and I felt the spirit a ton. That was the first time we have ever taught him! I am excited to keep helping him.

Sunday we had church as always. Church is still pretty tough to follow. I don't understand a lot of what goes on besides the basic paths the talks and lessons are taking. However, I am so grateful for the opportunity to take the sacrament. I fail so often and I almost always come up short on what is expected of me, but I get an opportunity to start over, to try again, and to get a little better. I am so thankful for the amazing blessing of the sacrament.

After church we had that meeting with the family from New Zealand. Then (Spencer will like this part) we went and ate authentic homemade Chinese food with two of our Chinese investigators! It was really good. They are here studying Japanese, but don't speak very much. Luckily we had a member (Franky) with us who speaks Japanese, Chinese, and English almost fluently (he speaks Chinese 100% fluently because he is in fact Chinese). After these guys get good enough at Japanese they are planning to study clothing design. We got to kind of share a thought with them and give them a Book of Mormon in Chinese. It was really fun and hopefully will lead to more meetings. Spencer if you have any advice please let me know!

After that we ran home (to make it there by 9:30 (which we made by 30 seconds!!) That's actually a pretty common occurrence so we are working on being more timely:)

This week I have been studying self-mastery. There are a lot of great talks on this subject and a lot of great things that I have learned. One of my favorite things that I have read is this poem by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,       
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud:
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed. …

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I really love those last two lines. We are the masters of our respective fates and we are the captains of our respective souls. We, I especially, like to blame a lot of the things I have done or the things I haven't done on my circumstances. While a lot of things are the direct result of events outside of our control, we, in the end, are given everything we need to make the right decisions and are accountable for the things we have done. We have been given that situation through the gift of agency and the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
2 Nephi 2:27

I really love the first point that Elder Klebingat made in the October 2014 General Conference. They are words to live by: 

"Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being. Stop blaming others for your circumstances, stop justifying, and stop making excuses for why you may not be fully striving to be obedient. Accept that you are “free according to the flesh” and “free to choose liberty and eternal life” (2 Nephi 2:27). The Lord knows your circumstances perfectly, but He also knows perfectly well whether you simply choose not to fully live the gospel. If that is the case, be honest enough to admit it, and strive to be perfect within your own sphere of circumstances. Spiritual confidence increases when you take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being by applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ daily."

I love you all! 

Elder Siebach

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mochitsuki and a New Companion

Hey everyone! 

I have almost no time today so sorry in advance for the short letter. We got transfer calls last night (Sunday night) which was weird because it was a day earlier than normal. I will be staying here in Fuchu with a new companion. He is actually from one of the other companionships already here in Fuchu. His name is Elder O and he and I came to Japan at the same time. He's a really cool guy. He also was a freshman at BYU while I was there. He is from Colorado. I really like him and I'm really excited to work with him. Elder W will be going to the coast in Yokohama somewhere.

Today we got to do a mochitsuki which is pounding rice into mochi. It was a lot of fun. We had a ton of investigators and potential investigators and Eikaiwa students there, along with the entire ward. I think that we will see a lot of good come from it. Lots of people got to see the real church and its members--not just missionaries. That is so important. Members have such a lot of missionary power and one of the things they do well is make the church more normal. People can learn a lot about missionaries and have missionaries be the image of the church or they can meet the members and see the church as the group of incredibly happy people that love God. The Fuchu ward is getting a lot better compared to what it was at the beginning of this transfer. I was so happy to see the members fellowshipping all of the nonmembers that came. The missionaries alone would have been overwhelmed.

That's all I have time for right now. I might have time later today to write. We will see! I love you all!

Siebach Choro

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Sunrise of the New Year

First sunrise of the New Year--Happy 2015!!

Shivering at the top!
Dear family,
I hope that this email finds you well and in good spirits, although it sounds as if at least a few of you are a little under the weather. My companion and I are in a similar situation here on the other side of the world. We were invited to hike a mountain, 高尾山, early on the first. We got on a train at 3:30, off again at 4:30 and proceeded to
hike to the top, where we would await in freezing anticipation for the first sunrise of the year, 初日の出. It was freezing!! Add to it the drying sweat from the hike up: it was unbearably cold. Miserable to say the least. However I took many beautiful photos. I hope they were worth the risk of body and life and the sacrifice of the following days! We got sick that night, fell asleep around 9:45, and slept restlessly until the alarm went off. We checked our temperatures. I just had a horrible cold, but Elder W was running a fever so we went back to bed. We have been home bound, under orders from Sister Wada, for four days now. Anyways, the sunrise was beautiful, I will send pictures. The best part is that I got to talk with our investigator, Zen, about setting goals. I used Dad's approach of physical, mental, spiritual (I dropped the social aspect for my chat with him, although I brought it up later). We had a good conversation and I was able to help him to set a goal to know whether or not God exists. It was a good chat :)

As I have mentioned, since then we have been cooped up in our apartment. We got out last night and went and got Chinese food with some Chinese guys we met. It was really good! They don't speak Japanese or English, but we had some pig leg that was really good. It was really just skin fat and cartilage, but I actually liked it a lot. Weird, huh?

Over the past week, naturally I have had a ton of time to myself to think and to ponder on things like being a missionary, Japan, our investigators, the scriptures, the language, and the like. I am actually really grateful for this time I have been given. It has allowed me to figure out some goals, consider where I want to be in a year, and make plans to reach that. It has been great. That being said, I am super excited to get out of the apartment and start doing more missionary work! The most I have been able to do is try and reach people on our phone.

One of my favorite scriptures lately is D&C 6:36:
"Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

I really love how simple that scripture is. It's actually really hard to do, yet so simple. I often find myself doubting and fearing a lot. There are so many variables and so many places where I come up short. I think in the end, if we aren't looking unto Christ in every thought then we do have cause to doubt. But if we do look to Christ,
remember him and what he has done for us, then we can move forward with the confidence that, though life has trials and we have to go through hard things, if we trust in the Lord, in his simple but absolute truths, and act on them, then there is no reason to doubt or fear. I love it!!

I love you all and hope you're doing well! Sweet dreams!
Elder Siebach