Sunday, April 24, 2016

New Area: Kawasaki

Hello my Beloved Family!

I hope that y'all had a great week with happy weddings and stuff! How was it!? So fun? Did it actually happen? Lame cuz I wasn't there? Who did the sealing? Did they get a bunch of good advice? I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING!

This past week was pretty good! I got to say goodbye to all of the good people in Kamiooka and hi to all of the good people in Kawasaki. Meeting with those Kamiooka  people was really good. I got to lay the groundwork for the remaining missionaries to see success. I looked at the stats this week and it looks like my old companionship now has two baptismal dates and 10 progressing investigators! That's pretty exciting! Those Elders are great missionaries. On the Kawasaki front there are literally millions of people. It's crazy how many people there are here. But we have some good investigators that are looking like they will be progressing well! Also with this new responsibility I get to call everyone around the mission and be their baptismal consultant. We talk about the people that have dates or need to have dates and set plans to make things happen. If needed I get to go to the area and meet the person and do it myself! Tons of fun. President Wada also wants us to be going around the mission and training the missionaries who are struggling a lot. About six months ago this mission was in a big harvesting stage and we saw a ton of baptisms and we adapted to that phase to make the baptisms happen, but now we have a bunch of missionaries who want to be harvesting but they don't have anything to harvest! They haven't figured out that they need to go finding now. So my job is to train them in that as well. We count our contacts in this mission, and the entire mission averages about 30 contacts a week, which is super low and far less than half the standards of excellence! So we need to start building some finders! That's what I do best!


Elder Driscoll, my new companion, is a great elder, he came to the mission a transfer after I did so he is old too. We both have a lot of experience under our belts, so we walk around and have a good time! There is no lack of trust or concern about your companion's abilities; you can have full faith in them that they will do a good job, so that is really nice.

I have a new hobby that I have been trying on occasion for a couple months now: that is going up to the Jehovah's Witnesses that stand in front of the train stations and teaching them. They often try to argue. There is one man who I talked to and as usual he started trying to bash the scriptures with me, but I testified to him that I am an authorized representative of Christ's true church, and Christ himself, and called to represent him to all of the people in this area. I testified to that man that I had the authority to receive special revelation for him and that I could give him a priesthood blessing that would help him overcome his debilitating fear of women (he was abused as a child). I know that he felt the power of God in my testimony and promise. His contentious heart was softened and he gave me his phone number and asked me to give him the blessing sometime this week.

I love the authority and power of my calling as a missionary. I am so sad that I only have such a short time in this role! But you better bet that I will be using every last second!

Love Y'all and hope you have a good week!
Elder Siebach

P.s. Congratulations Spencer and Marnie on your wedding! May the Spirit be with you! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Far-Away Earthquakes, a New Assignment and a Prayer for Inspiration

Dear Family,

I have a lot of big news this week!
1. There was a huge earthquake down in the more southern parts of Japan. Y'all probably know a lot more about it than I do but, I do know that I have an uncle and his family down there! I haven't heard anything so I assume they are ok! I only felt it a little bit. My companion was really disappointed that he didn't feel it at all!
2. I slept with my contacts in, which I almost always do, and woke up with a lot of pain in my right eye! Looks like I scratched it! It is incredibly sensitive to light and is pouring down tears constantly! I walk around with one eye closed always. It was kind of embarrassing as I stood in front of my beloved Kamiooka Ward with unemotional tears streaming down half of my face as I testified to them!
3. Despite the fact that I desired with all my heart to stay here in Kamiooka and die quietly with a few baptisms, I got a transfer call! I will be moving to a place called Kawasaki and I will serve there with a missionary named Elder Driscoll. He and I will be working as Traveling APs. That means that I get to be involved in all of the big talks and trainings and stuff in the mission, but instead of taking care of the administrative and boring stuff in the Mission office, I get to go on splits with a TON of missionaries! I am SO excited! I am super bummed to be leaving Kamiooka, but I am so excited to do this next thing too! It was actually kind of cool, I kept on wanting to stay here in Kamiooka, but every time I prayed about this coming transfer this new companionship popped into my mind! So I wasn't surprised at all when I got this call! God definitely prepared me to take the transfer call hit.
4. We met with tons of great investigators this past week. We were able to invite all of them to get baptized and 9 of them said yes! That was pretty dope. Never had that many commitments in one week before!

This past week we had a lesson appointment with a new investigator! Actually, how we found him was a huge miracle. We felt super guided. Turns out his father is actually a less active member! But this investigator called us on Thursday to confirm our appointment and said, "Oh by the way I tried to commit suicide two days ago and just got out of the hospital, so I need a really good pick me up". When he said that I got so scared! I have worked with a lot of suicidal people over the course of my mission. Lessons with those people are some of the more spiritual experiences I have had, but when I heard this young man tell me that he tried and was still thinking about doing it, my heart just sank. Every time I have taught lessons to people like that I have had a companion that was number one, in touch with the spirit more so than your average dude on the street, and number two, could speak Japanese. My current companion's spiritual sensitivity, while progressing by leaps and bounds, still hasn't overcome his lack of confidence, plus he can barely say hello! So it was all on me. I felt so scared! But from the time he called I started pouring out my heart in prayer for inspiration as to what to share with this young man! The next morning, the morning of the lesson we had with him, I devoted all of my personal study to studying for him. I was frantically trying to prepare and find something, anything to share. I certainly wasn't feeling good about anything that I was reading. Without having made any progress or any substantial plan formed in my mind, I hit my knees for my closing prayer. Before I prayed I took some time to gather my thoughts to prepare for my conversation with God. Having gathered my thoughts I said in my heart "Dear Heavenly Father, please" and right there I was just caught in one of the most powerful feelings of the Spirit that I have ever had in my entire life. My frantic thoughts were calmed and I just knew that God was pleased with my preparation and would make it all work out. We went to that young man's house and he had his parents there with him. All three of them had prepared themselves to hear the word of God. We had an indescribably good lesson with the most prepared people I have met on my mission. That was such an amazing testimony to me of how God uses his servants and enables them to accomplish his work. All He asks is that we be worthy and seek his guidance. Over the course of this past transfer I have felt in a bigger way than ever before that I am a true messenger of Jesus Christ. There were so many cool miracles this week! I am so sad to leave :'(

Hope Y'all are having a good Sunday! Love y'all!

Elder Siebach

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Why Not Choose to Believe?"


Dear Family, Wow.... General Conference was amazing! Do all you females watch or read the priesthood session!? IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!! The entire conference was incredible, but especially priesthood! Y'all should read them! So this conference my mission president wanted us all to watch it with the members in Japanese! I had a hard time and didn't get nearly as much out of it as I usually do, but my poor greenie companion didn't understand a thing! I felt so bad for him! 10 hours of Japanese translation is brutal! I am so grateful for our iPads! I have been doing my best to re-watch everything in English. We could also read the English as we were listening in Japanese. That was so nice! There were so many great talks this conference though! I wish I could write a summary of my thoughts on all of them and send it, but that would take forever! Gomennasai! There were a couple recurring themes that I noticed: families, temples, and remembering Christ. Lehi's dream came up a couple times. In the priesthood session President Eyring told us that an RM's highest priority should be taking the next step on the covenant path and preparing for and making the most important decision in her or his life. What a crazy thought! I can't believe that that is coming up! I am so glad I have learned how to receive revelation (at least kind of) and answers to questions. That decision would be a lot harder without guidance from someone that knows better!

This week we saw a lot of miracles. We found six new investigators. It was kinda crazy that we got that many because we were pretty busy with other stuff this week! But we really focused on praying and doing what the Lord would have us do! I certainly felt more this week than in times past that I was right where the Lord wanted me to be! I also had one of the strangest contacts I have ever had. This dude told me he was a Navy Seal, and then tried to tell me that there is no God, and then he testified to me about how our lives are a gift from God, and then he told me that nature is a gift from God and something we must take care of, and then he came to our church. We have an appointment with him on Tuesday. I am pretty sure that this man is schizophrenic, partly because he told me that he is, but mostly because he acted like he was two completely different people. He was, however, very fluent in English and was capable of narrowing down where I am from to eastern Texas just from hearing me speak. I'm a leaning towards that being a lucky guess because I don't have much of a Texas accent at all! It seems like the vast majority of investigators I find are mentally disabled. It's awful. I don't know why but that's all I seem to work with lately!

I also was asked by each of the two sisters in my district to give them a blessing. That is always a cool experience. I never remember the words I am prompted to say. The revelation for blessings comes in two ways. The first way is during the preparation, which includes personal prayers and the time where the other person is telling you about the problem. You have to pay really close attention to the thoughts and impressions that you get, but it is so cool how many things the Spirit tells you during that time. The second part of the revelation is the real time revelation that is coming during the blessing. Sometimes I pause for a long time while I am trying to feel and then confirm impressions. I hope the person I am blessing doesn't get uncomfortable! I always want to be very sure of what I say and usually the confirmation comes, but it would be bad to promise blessings that God doesn't want you to promise. God loves his daughters a lot. I feel so much more guidance when I am blessing a sister than when I am blessing an elder! 

One thing that I have been thinking about a lot is choices. President Monson gave me a four minute talk on choices that I really appreciated. There are a lot of kinds of choices, but I think that most of them involve a choice between acting in faith and not acting in faith. I used to pride myself in not asking for a priesthood blessing. I went 19 months of my mission without asking for one and I thought that that was a good thing. I was learning to rely on myself and trying not to bother others (God) with my problems. But then about three months ago I was really sick. I felt awful and I was coughing a lot and had a headache and I just hurt all over. During that time I was kind of angry with God. Why would you do this to me? Why would you make me be so useless in missionary work during these precious last months of my mission? Why would you put me through so much useless suffering? What am I supposed to learn from a silly little thing like this?... I had a lot of thoughts like that running through my cloudy head. Then I just had one thought come piercing through the fog: "Why not choose to believe?" And I felt so stupid! I was out here trying to learn how to trust in God and rely on him and here I was doing my best to not accomplish that! I have decided now that, if I have a thought that leads to a decision to act on faith or to not, I will default to the one that pushes my faith a little bit. Doing so has put me in the position to see so many miracles! It's wonderful! On a mission (or in life I guess) you can either do everything by yourself, rely on the "arm of flesh" so to speak, or you can choose to believe, rely on God, and see unspeakable things! I am so grateful that God gives us the witness after the trial of our faith. Those witnesses are really special.

The reason I bring this up is because my companion has become frustrated with how often I pray and make us pray together! He exploded a little bit yesterday when I asked him to do it for the fifth time in a row. "Why do you keep on making me pray!?" I looked at him and said "you know the reason don't you? I make you pray because I know you don't want to!" He got angrier and told me that it was a waste of time and we might as well be out finding or something, "we don't need to pray so often". It was a great teaching moment! :) While we were discussing I stopped the discussion and asked him to pray again. He turned so red and then he did it! I quoted the end of 2 Nephi 32 and told him that we must ALWAYS PRAY! Hopefully that was a good defining moment. It was cool to watch the Spirit soften his heart! Love Y'all!


2 Nephi 32: 8-9 -- And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How the Holy Ghost Can Change a 13-Year-Old Punk

Dear Family,

Well I got through three conference talks during my studies today! I loved all of them! I thought Sister Durham's talk was great! I have thought a lot about how I want to raise children and do my best to remember how my parents raised me. It's a scary thing! Walking around Japan makes me feel almost helpless! They don't have that solid moral background that I got to grow up with. As a result sexual relationships outside of marriage and at a young age, pornography and other things that we would consider immoral are just accepted and even promoted here. They don't teach abstinence to kids in school; they just teach prevention methods! I guess the US is pretty permissive as well, but at least everybody knows deep down that it is wrong. It would be quite the task to raise a child unscathed anywhere I guess. I really appreciated her talk. I need to practice making my missionary apartment a place of spiritual immersion.

Elder Halstrom's talk was also incredibly profound. He hit on a pretty common theme in the Book of Mormon which is to remember. When we are faced with trials and things that might make us question our faith and conviction, we need to remember our identity as a child of God. I think that is so important! I have always loved the 7th verse of How Firm a Foundation and I am always sad when they skip it in sacrament meeting! It's so beautiful! I feel like if it weren't silly the author would have written another verse of "never never never!" I know I would!

This week was long and kind of a struggle. My companion is battling with a severe lack of confidence and realizing that the faith he thought was so strong in the MTC is not nearly strong enough out here. I feel like that is common, but every time I offer him a blessing or ask if he is praying for help he says "Why would I do that if I don't have faith that it will actually help me?" I have done my fair share of testifying, reading the scriptures, even praying for him in English so that he can understand what I am feeling for him. I'm also doing my best to give him faith promoting experiences. He is lucky he came to a companionship with investigators and stuff. Very few companionships are like that and all they do is find. That's how my trainee experience was. It was such a grind! But on Friday I asked Elder H to invite our investigator to be baptized, and though he struggled through the invitation, our investigator said yes! Elder H was on cloud nine for the rest of the day! I think that was a good moment for him! 

But the BIG miracle this week came in the form of our beloved little recent convert Rakan, the 13-year-old punk that I told y'all about! If you were to ask him how he felt when he got baptized he would say, "Nothing special." If you were to ask him why he got baptized he would say "To pass out bread and water with my friends." If you were to ask him what changes he has seen since being baptized he would tell you there are none. But yesterday I came to know that he has changed! He asked a question during young men's that made me want to cry (I may or may not have let a tear or two go). He asked the teacher this "How can I beer my testimony like him (pointed at me) so that I can help my friends learn about God and Jesus Christ?" I know that the gospel, and the Holy Ghost changes the people that allow them to! If it can change that little punk even a little bit then it can change anyone! I am so excited to get a letter in a few years saying that he got his mission call. I know that someday he will be a very powerful missionary! That's just so exciting to me! 

Well I hope that all is well on the Homefront! I sure do love you all! It was pointed out to me that yesterday was my second to last fast Sunday in Japan. That's a very bitter and very sweet feeling! I can't wait to see Y'all again but I'm not ready yet!! Stay golden!

Elder Siebach