Monday, March 30, 2015

Rejection and Growth

Dear Family,

I hate to break it you but I have almost no time to write again this week! I have to go on splits with the zone leaders pretty soon -- I'm sorry!! 

This week my companion and I taught a bunch of lessons and went finding a lot too. Pretty typical as far as weeks go. I was also asked to join a district leader training meeting, so that probably means something :)

During our finding this past week we were blessed with a couple new investigators and a TON of rejections. I am going to be so good at getting rejected when I get off my mission--haha! We get ignored, yelled at, laughed at, et cetera, and I LOVE it. I don't know why but there truly is a sense of satisfaction, be it small and/or bitter sweet, when you know that you have accomplished your purpose and invited people to embrace their Savior and Redeemer. I feel like I have gotten pretty good at giving people a clear, well-explained decision to make. They are just also really good at resisting the Spirit and using their agency to choose the path more traveled. It is a sad thing. It can get you down a lot, actually, so I try to focus on the beauty and truth of our message and on keeping the Spirit with me at all times.

6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee... (Acts 3:6)

Here is a chance to learn about and embrace eternal life, and the people we meet say no almost every time! Serving a mission here has helped me to understand that I am my most important investigator. Ha! It seems like it is pretty often that I am my only investigator. I have felt myself changing, improving, becoming. This mission is more like a refiner's fire than I thought it would be, but I wouldn't have it any other way! I am so grateful to be here and to give my all to these wonderful people.

I love you all!
Elder Siebach

Monday, March 23, 2015

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Hello family! 

How are y'all? Is everyone genki? I'm doing pretty well! This week was really awesome. The weather was pretty good so I went out with no coat or sweater! It was so nice! The big highlight of the week was the Nelson conference that we had. Unfortunately a lot of it was kind of lame. For example a man got up and told us about all of the new restrictions on iPads for an hour... That was hard to sit through. But there were some incredible parts as well! Elder Nelson shared some wonderful thoughts and then Elder Evans of the 70 shared a wonderful talk as well! I think that my favorite part of the conference was having the opportunity to stand with 11 other elders in front of 450 missionaries, an apostle, and various members of the seventy, and sing my heart out. We sang "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" and it was amazing. I felt the spirit so strongly as we belted those wonderful lyrics. That song is 4 verses entirely devoted to praising the Lord. I love it and I could feel the spirit carry the words to my heart. It was an incredible experience. That is definitely one of my favorite hymns of all time.

So we got new iPads and these ones don't have Facebook. It is kind of interesting, we were a test mission that was given iPads and Facebook to see how we did. All of the test missions did well enough so now iPads are being rolled out to a lot of missions, but Facebook will be rolled out a little later when missionaries get used to having and using iPads. Because we are no longer testing it we get to be bumped back to where everyone else seems to be, which is without Facebook. So that is kind of a bummer... We will get it back eventually. It is really inconvenient because there are a lot of old investigators and potential investigators that I was keeping in contact with via Facebook. Now that I don't have it I can't talk to them anymore. I hope they don't think that I am too rude! Anyways, that is that! The new iPads are black and have greater memory. Plus they gave us new cases that are see through. So now I have a picture of the family in my case that I can show people! It is pretty amazing how effective it is to show people pictures of your family. They love that here in Japan!

Let's see... Other highlights... We (my companion and I)had two investigators and a less active come to church, that plus the other less active that the other elders brought made our gospel principles class more full than usual. There was also a baptism for an 8 year old yesterday that we brought some people to, and that was really great too. A lot of people came to that.

Something that missionaries struggle with here is people that look at religion as a system of morals. Religion, at least to a lot of people I have met is a way of thinking as opposed to a way of finding truth and happiness. Right now we have an investigator who struggles a lot with this very issue. He is caught into some morally relativistic belief that whatever he likes, whatever he thinks is right is truth for him. His search for truth, instead of an x marks the spot treasure hunt, is more like walking through a candy shop and choosing whatever tastes the best and is easiest to chew. I know and testify that there is truth, there is a right and a wrong that is not relative to the individual but universal. While that feels like coercion, or a limit to their freedom, it is in fact liberating. It is a road map that leads to so much more than the moral self gratification of existentialism. It is the road map to everlasting joy and eternal life. I would turn your attention to the experience of Joseph Smith, when he, like everyone, found himself lacking wisdom. When he, like everyone, found himself surrounded by a tumult of opinions. He, as we all must do, went to the source of truth, he acted on faith and prayed to our Heavenly Father, who will give to all men liberally when they ask.

I don't know why, but I felt like I should share that! Hope you don't mind:) I love you all! Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Elder Siebach

Monday, March 16, 2015

Another Visit From an Apostle!

Well this past week has been pretty good. It rained a little bit and this coming week we are supposed to get a lot of rain. We spent a lot of time out finding and visiting less actives. Almost all of the less actives were gone and while we had a lot of good contacts none of them have turned into investigators yet. After all of our hard work last week we only had a few lessons to show for it and of all of the less actives that we visited only one came to church. Those are pretty disappointing statistics! Ya it was kind of a disappointing week, but I am really excited about that less active that came to church. plus my companion and I were exhausted at the end of every day. We came home, planned, and then fell asleep as we were falling into our futons.

This coming week we have a big mission conference on Wednesday with Elder Nelson in attendance. I am really excited for that. I hope that it is about really spiritual stuff, but it looks like this conference will be about the iPads and digital missionary work... Which is a little bit less exciting. We will see though! I guess if an Apostle is present that it is bound to be a pretty spiritual meeting if you want it to be.

I am sorry to say that I have almost no time to write anything else! We are really busy today! Take comfort in the fact that I have been receiving an elders weekly emails since leaving the MTC and he has yet to write more than a few lines....

Love Y'all! Y'all're the best! I will write a better one next week!

Elder Siebach

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Finding the Fun in Finding

Hello Family,

We had a pretty great week this past week. Elder Dana and I hit the streets pretty hard trying to find people to teach and visit less actives. We visited so many people last week and actually have a couple that promised to come to church this coming Sunday which I am pretty happy about! There are so many less actives in this ward! There are a lot of less actives in every area here in Tokyo. That was a lot of hard work, but we went all over the area so I got to know it pretty well. I think that I will be here for awhile.

It has been a lot of fun focusing so much on finding people. We have gotten to teach a lot of lessons on the street., which are really fun. We have another two-mission conference coming up next week! Elder Nelson is coming. I was asked to sing in a musical number for the conference which I am really excited about! We will be singing Praise to the Lord the Almighty. So cool!

Other than that there isn't a ton to write about. It seems to be getting warmer although it has been raining a lot. It still feels pretty cold a lot of the time. I wish I could put on weight to stay warmer or something but weight just seems to only want to fall off of me.

To those of you who have asked, yes, I am senior companion now, and while that does carry extra responsibilities, it isn't that big of a deal. It is really great for my Japanese though. I no longer have an older companion to rely on when speaking to people. Kind of forces me to improve, if you know what I mean:) Someday I do hope to get a Japanese companion. I think that that would be really awesome. I will keep praying for that.

Unfortunately I will not be able to get lunch with Bishop Johnson :(

I don't have anything specific to share with regards to a spiritual thought. I have certainly been able to see the guidance of the spirit in our finding and teaching. I am beginning to see the incredible blessings of preparation. All of those hours of studying are beginning to pay off as the spirit brings to my mind and my companion's mind things that we have studied that we can then share with those who we teach. It is so worth it to see that preparation pay off! It is also amazing to compare the way I feel now to the way I felt when I entered the MTC or got off the plane in Tokyo. The confidence that comes with getting better at the language and with the knowledge that I am doing everything I can to accomplish my part. That feeling is something that I never want to lose! Preparation is so important. In the end I guess that is kind of what this life is all about. Alma 34:32 says that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God." I know that if we do everything in our power to prepare, to do what is right, to do our part, then we will have our "confidence wax strong in the presence of the Lord".

I love you all!

Elder Siebach

Monday, March 2, 2015

Asking the Right Questions

Hello beautiful family how are y'all doing? I'm doing pretty well. I'm down here in Kohoku now! It is a pretty neat place! Sorry about saying I was at the hospital and not telling you why! I was there with another elder who needed to get a cortisone shot in his ankle. He just asked me to come with him :)

This past week was alright. I am really sad that I was called to leave Fuchu. There are a lot of people there that I was very sad to leave. Maybe one day I will be able to go back there and see them again. I was able to build a lot of really great relationships there with members and nonmembers. We had a bunch of great investigators and a goal for a couple baptisms by the end of next transfer. There were also a lot of people just one or two steps from becoming firmly interested in investigating the church of Jesus Christ. I am going to have to follow up with my old companion a lot to make sure that he is doing what he needs to :)

Kohoku is a pretty nice place there are a ton of houses here so I think that the elders in the past have primarily just done housing to try to find people. I have never felt like housing was very productive and so I have never taken the time to work on my technique. Consequently I am not very good at it.

Recently I have been trying really hard to help people have defining moments. There are a lot of investigators in this mission that have fallen into a rut where they meet with missionaries often and learn from them but refuse to make or keep commitments and so they don't make any progress. Meeting with missionaries becomes an interesting and entertaining hour a week where they can learn about some strange religion. It becomes more of a social study rather than an actual desire or effort to learn about the gospel, increase in spiritual understanding, and take necessary steps to progress along the road to salvation. One way to help them make the mental leap from mere interest in a strange belief to sincere desire to learn more requires an event that, for lack of a better phrase, "rattles their cage". This can happen many ways. Right now I am really trying to learn how to ask questions that will prompt them to think about something that they haven't ever thought about. This week on Thursday we taught a man who goes to English class. He has been meeting with missionaries before the class begins for a long time now and isn't making any progress. My new companion and I taught the man about the love that God has for him specifically. The spirit was very very strong and we could tell that he was feeling it. Up to this point he had learned a lot but didn't believe anything that we or other elders had taught him in their lessons, including God. He didn't believe that God exists. So when he was feeling the spirit we took a step back and told him that everybody has a question that they have to answer on their own. Everyone needs to know whether God exists or not. If he exists then he is the most important person that we need to come to know, If he doesn't then there is no reason to listen to missionaries. So either what we are teaching him is important or it isn't. We told that man that we can tell him all about God all day but that he will never know if what were are saying is true unless he tests it. We challenged him to do everything required in order to know for himself if God exists. He said he would and he is now a progressing investigator. So that is pretty exciting! I need to get a lot better at it though.

Yesterday we went to a Hispanic family's house for dinner and they had invited a bunch of friends over and we had a wonderful night. They were all so nice and we were able to share a message about building a foundation on Christ. As we were leaving one of the friends (not a member) came to the door and told us about how her 20 year old son had seen a man throw himself in front of an oncoming train (this actually happens a lot in Japan) and was struggling to deal with that image that will forever be engraved in his mind. Then she told us that she could tell we were holy and that she wanted us to help her son. So we got a referral from a nonmember! So that is pretty exciting! We got that last night so we haven't gotten to help him yet. It was really a neat experience though!

Anyways I love you all and hope you're doing well! As always I love getting emails from y'all so feel free!

Love, Elder Siebach