My dearly beloved family,
Thank you so much for the emails! Reading them made me so happy! Please know that I pray for y'all every night! Man I can't believe Grace is 18!!!!!!! She was 16 when I left! Dang! It's crazy how time flies! Happy Birthday Grem!
So this week has been pretty good. Some of the highlights are that we went to the temple on Tuesday, and to MLC (Mission Leadership Council) on Thursday. Then starting that night and lasting through the rest of Friday I went on splits with one of our District Leader's, Elder Brown. He's awesome! He came to Japan the same time I did, but I haven't really gotten to see him at all until this transfer. We found a lot of people and taught some pretty good lessons. In one of them we invited an investigator to get baptized and he said no... That was a bummer, but of course we will continue working him.
I would say that the best part of my week was also the most trying part of my week. Before I get into it I want to say that I think that we all have a capacity for sympathizing with hard things. That capacity can grow and shrink and be different depending on the person, but when we focus on ourselves and worry about what is making us uncomfortable we start to fill up that capacity to the point where we can't try to help other people because we can't see past our own struggles. That said, on the other hand we can stop focussing on ourselves or forget our sorrows altogether and focus entirely on helping others despite our own problems. If we are focusing on ourselves then we limit the capacity that we give to the Lord. The Lord will only give us what we can handle. For a lot of my mission I have had pretty rough headaches. Sometimes if it is bright outside I have to cover my eyes or else the pain grows exponentially. For a long time it was hard to think about anyone else's problems, much less try to help them to overcome them. Over the course of the last year+ the Lord has blessed me to slowly start forgetting my pains and problems and think about others. I am certainly not perfect at it or even good at it. I often find myself wallowing in self pity, and thus rendered impotent in the effort to bring about the Lord's work. Ok, I will tell my story now.
Elder Cook and I were riding the train home from MLC, and, of course, we were trying to talk to people. We were coming off of a solid hour where we were led to three people that are now investigators, teaching the Restoration to one of them(Jackson). Needless to say, we were pretty pumped up because three investigators in an hour is pretty rare. We got on the train and I fastened my eyes(Acts 3:4) on a small 60-something-year-old Japanese man, I knew I had to talk to him. The trains were pretty packed so it took a few minutes and train stops for the crush of the crowd to convey me to where he was. I ended up right next to him, greeted him and then began to chat him up. Turns out that he lives near Hachioji in an old area of mine, so I knew the place well, and that gave me an in. We were able to talk for a long time and using incredibly awkward but prying questions I was able to learn quite a bit about him. He is living alone now, but has a a wife and two kids that live far away. His kids are old and out of the house but his wife is still alive(not necessarily something you can assume here in Japan). Holding to my true nature I asked if he was divorced, no. Asked him if they were separated, no. At this point I am a little confused so I ask him why he is living away from his family. He then proceeded to tell me that he felt like he needed a better job for his family, so he moved away to find a job in the big city and promised to send them money. He fell into sin and infidelity while in that big city(Babylon) and decided that he would live there for a while longer. So he stayed. It has now been over 15 years since he left and has no plans or even desires to return home to his family. Continuing with my bold questions I asked him if that was because he felt too ashamed to see them. At that point he started tearing up and answered yes. There was a longer more I depth discussion following that. I asked more specifically about his religious beliefs and things like that and then wound up as missionaries always should. I bore my testimony to him more heartfelt than I ever have before I promised him that through Christ he can change, improve, return, love. I will be honest that I began to tear up for the first time on my mission. I could feel so strongly his self hatred, but I could also feel, even more strongly, the depth of his heavenly Fathers love for him. I invited him to pray right there in the middle of a somewhat less packed than before train. He told me it was too embarrassing. I invited him to pray at home. He told me he didn't feel worthy. I told him that God loves him and you are never too unworthy to pray. I invited him to pray on his own. He said maybe. I invited him to meet with me again. He said that if fate will have us meet again we would. I testified that instead of fate it is the will of God, I told him that God wanted us to meet that night and that he shouldn't waste this chance, he held out. I promised him that if it were the will of God we or some other missionary would meet again and made him promise to listen to my message when that time comes. He promised, I gave him my email(he wouldn't give me his) and then he got off the train.
That was one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission. I have never felt such guidance from the spirit nor such resistance from the devil. I know that that man's life has gone from deep in enemy territory to right on the brink. I have prayed for him, and I am pretty sure that there will be a missionary or a member, whether it is
me or not I don't know, but he will be given another chance. He will be given an opportunity to come to Christ.
I know that this experience wouldn't have happened if I was caught up thinking about my headache which I had that night. I know that God is preparing me, and you, to focus on others, to turn outward, and to forget ourselves. I urge y'all to forget yourselves and go to work. I love y'all so much. Y'all are the best family ever! Grace have a wonderful birthday! I will send a video next week probably! Sorry!