Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 16: The Unexpected Answer

Hey Everyone!

First, thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! I loved all the notes and emails - I'm sorry I can't respond to them all today. Sorry. :P

Anyways... This week was crazy. Flat out insane.

It started out with the mission website totally breaking - all the sudden, none of the pages were connecting as they should. Basically, we couldn't navigate the page at all. And then we tried to fix it - and the page went down entirely.

We spent pretty much every free moment working on that from Monday until Thursday, when we were finally able to find and fix the problem. So we were basically stuck around the office 24/7 for those days.

However, we still set our goals high, and prayed (and fasted a bit, too) for miracles. When we did this, I was honestly thinking that that would mean that the web page would be fixed quickly, and we would be able to resume normal work. However, I find more and more that prayers are answered in unexpected and incredible ways, that are beyond my own wisdom or even imagination. Looking back on it, the broken web page was, in itself, a large part of the miracle, even if I didn't see it in the moment.

The first miracle came on Wednesday. A less active member, Brother T. came to the church, which just so happens to be right next to the office, with a friend in the middle of the day. We were there at a time when no other missionary would have been available, but we took a break to go say hi.

It turned out that he brought a friend to play badminton, so we played them, and then "taught"  a message. And by taught, I mean we watched the less active teach and testify about the Plan of Salvation to his non-member friend. The Spirit was SO present, and we set a baptismal date with his friend! We are hoping that this will be the beginning of a great opportunity for both Brother T. and Brother M., his friend.

Then, Thursday, right as we were fixing up the last bits of the problem, we got a call on the office phone. No one else was in the office, and it would have gone unanswered.

When we picked up the phone, we "met," in a way, Brother S. He is as golden as investigators get.

He had met with missionaries 4 or 5 years back, and therefore had a really old flier. Most of the numbers no longer worked, but one had stayed the same - the office number. For some unknown reason, the missionaries stopped visiting him, but to explain how much of a golden investigator he is, I'll give a brief summary of the conversation

"Hello! Tokyo Mission mission home!"

"Hello this is Brother S! Is this the missionaries?"


"I haven't seen the missionaries in a while, and I'm starting to be a little worried - but I'm still keeping all the commandments!"

"Oh really! Do you want to be baptized?"


And then we went on from there to see where he lived to send the missionaries, only to find out he lives in our area! We met with him, and we challenged him to read from the Book of Mormon and Pray, he informed us that he was already doing so everyday! When we taught him, he showed that he still remembered a good portion of the lessons, and said that he believed it. When we set a baptismal date, he readily accepted.

Now, this flier that he had had several numbers on it - he had tried the others several times, with no luck. For some reason, he decided to try our number one more time, and we were there fixing the website.

So this was the unexpected answer. It was not the answer I wanted, or expected. I wanted Him to just come in and fix everything. But it didn't work that way. It came in the answer of hold on a little longer, keep going, and things will work out the way they are meant to. Understanding of the answer did not come immediately, and at first, things were a little frustrating. But in hindsight, God's way was by far superior to mine. Not only did we find the greatest golden investigators in the world, but I think I learned some, too. Sometimes it is hard to see things the way God does, and be patient enough to receive His answers, but it is always the best way in the end.

So God really does answer prayers, even if it is not in the way we want or expect!

So trust Him this week!

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

Elder O'Reilly lives on the 2nd floor of the white building in the background.
 (I think... I found it on google maps)

Me, messing around with the jack-o-lantern I got in my package. :)

District Lunch!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 15: When You are Asked to Build a Boat

Hey Everyone!!!

So, in one word, this week was CRAZY! I was transferred to Tech Staff, as I told you last week, but I DO still have an area, despite my concerns last week. There is a limit to 3 hours in the office each day, and we always shoot for as little office time as possible. However, transfer week is the busiest week for Tech Staff, and sticking to the 3 hour limit isn't always possible when there are deadlines, especially when both of us don't have too much experience working with the systems.

As far as telling you what I do as Tech Staff, I do a lot of phone support, a little bit of programming and such, and then a good amount of random errands. Every task we work on is a little different, but to give you a few ideas, we have: downloaded lists of missionaries and info and ran scripts on them to turn them into google contacts (and fixed some bugs on the script while we were at it), showed couple missionaries how to use Gmail and open files on their computer, and brought iPads with ruined screens to be fixed. SO... yeah. Basically any random task that has anything to do with technology - even if it is just "go find my camera. I think I left it somewhere in the office."

Now, my companion. His name is Elder Harrison. He is a massage therapist, has a little bit of tech experience, and about 7 months of missionary experience. Neither of us speak perfect Japanese, nor do we know the best ways to dendo... but we're both willing to try our best and work hard, so things should work out. Hopefully. And we get along super well, so it's been pretty fun. We basically just run around on the street and try to get people to talk to us. We've had a few stop that seemed that they might have interest, and they said they would come to eikaiwa, or call us later, etc, but none that have been willing to give out contact info... so not sure how that will go.

Currently, we have 3 "investigators." I haven't met any of them yet, and their interest still seems a little shaky when I hear about them. Hopefully I will be able to tell you more about them next week.

I have to say, it is really weird being transferred. It feels like I am starting all over. My last area started out this way - with a few investigators that haven't been met with recently, not knowing many church members (my companion has only spent a transfer here, and it was mostly spent doing a mission tour doing trainings - luckily I don't have to do that - so he doesn't know too many members either), and only really teaching 1 or 2 lessons a week. I still miss all the people I met and taught back in Urawa, but I'm excited to see this area become stronger, too.

The main difference, however, is that last time I just followed Elder Abo's lead. This time, when we plan and things, Elder Harrison is still learning as well, so I have to contribute some ideas. When we talk to people, there are times that he doesn't understand and there are times when I don't understand (they seem to be about equal), so we both have to take the lead occasionally.

I have to admit, that at times, this can seem overwhelming, even impossible. We don't know what we are doing, our time is limited, and our language skills more limited, but we are expected to run an area! However, as I thought about my situation, I thought again back to Nephi, about when he was asked to build a boat. I love his response - "whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten?" He didn't even know how to build a boat, but his first response wasn't "Wait, are you sure?" or "really, me?" or any other form of doubt, it was, "let's get started." So we decided to start in a similar way. We frequently pray and ask how we should spend our time, where we should go, etc. And like Nephi, we aren't told how to do it all at once, we have to go to the Lord frequently, so that "the Lord [can] show [us] from time to time after what manner [we] should work the timbers of the [area]." Sometimes, this is frustrating. I feel like I don't know how things are going to work out, and indeed, I don't. I don't have the big picture, or all of the skills to do what needs to be done, but in the moments of frustration and worry, I simply have to choose to trust in the One who holds the future, even though I may not know what the future holds.

So when you are asked to build a boat, whatever your boat may be, remember on Whom you can lean for support! "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

Bro. F, Abo Chourou, and I, sharing an inside joke and taking a pic on
my last night there.

My new companion and I at the Ikebukero Pokemon center.
My companion is pretty into Pokemon... haha.

A little more info about his area:

We have 6 Elders in the apartment. The Assistants, the Tech staff (me), and the Recorder/commissariat.

My companion is from Pine Valley, UT. He's been out 7 months - transfer 5 (I'm transfer 3). We get along! We both just want to dendo all day. :)

YES! There are Japanese Elders in the apartment, and I will frequently force my companion to speak Japanese with me. And I'm always asking the Japanese Elders questions. Hopefully I don't annoy them... :P

I live next to the Honbu! It is where you send the mail. :) It is a two story office building practically connected to the honbu - I live on the Second floor.

I got a letter and a package for my birthday this week. :) THANKS!!! Me and my companion LOVE it! And I was able to give Elder Abo his present from it before I left... it got here before the letter. :) I also got a small package from the Haleys! I will send a thank you, but make sure to tell them thank you in person for me!!! I and all the Elders LOVED what she sent! :)

Love you,
Elder O'Reilly

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Week 14: The Time for Preparation

Hello everyone!!!

This last little bit has been short since I wrote, but it's definitely been eventful.

First of all, I'm transferring. I'm really going to miss the people here, and it's going to be weird having a new companion. :P I'm going to be saying a lot of goodbyes tomorrow. But my next "area" should be
awesome, too!

I'm being transferred to... Tech Staff! Yep. They have those in this mission. So I will be fixing bugs, making blog posts, and helping people fix their iPads and such. Generally, Tech Staff doesn't get a lot of proselyting time - in fact, the name of my area was literally "Tech Staff." I think it is in Nakano, though, in case you were wondering. I will be living next door to the Mission President. Mostly works like a desk job, so that will be interesting... I'll tell you more about it next week. It should be good. :)

So... moving backwards... on Sunday, we had FOUR dinner appointments in this area, and two companionships... so every missionary went on splits to an appointment. Which means I had to go alone with a recent convert! I'm not going to lie, I was super nervous... but it was actually way cool. This family just happened to be the first family I ever visited in this area, and last time I went, I understood nothing of what was going on. This time, going alone, I had to hold a conversation, and share a message. I actually didn't have too much of a problem holding a natural conversation in Japanese, and the message went decently well. It was a great opportunity to see how much I've learned here, especially because they kept commenting on how much I had learned since the last time I had visited. haha. :P Anyways, just a cool coincidence - I went there for my second and last Sundays.

Then, definitely as the highlight of the week, I gave my first Priesthood blessing. We stopped in on a member to see how they were doing, and found out that their son was sick. I suggested he receive a Priesthood blessing, and he gladly accepted. His father is still a prospective Elder, so Elder Abo and I gave the blessing... and as a great trainer does, he let me take the lead on the blessing.

The moment he told me I was giving it (which came as a great surprise to me), a flood of memories came back. I thought of all the blessings my father had given me, and a sudden weight of responsibility hit me. I didn't think that I could do anything like what he did - his blessings were always inspired, always exactly what I needed to hear - but I did my best. And as I laid my hands on his head, all the worries went away. I don't think I was able to perfectly have and follow the Spirit, but I feel that at least a portion of my words were inspired (and he's better now, so it worked, right? ;)  ).

My big take away from the experience came as a quote from President Thomas S. Monson that came to my mind. "When the time for performance arrives, the time for preparation is past." Honestly, there is no way I could have known that I was going to give a blessing - and I think a lot of awesome opportunities to be the Lord's hands are the same way -  but preparation is definitely required. As I walked away from that experience, I had a new drive to have and recognize the Spirit, to really have the character required to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.

No, none of us will be perfectly prepared, but that is my challenge for the week. At some point, the Lord calls each of us to a work - and it will probably be a lot bigger than a simple Priesthood blessing (not that those aren't to be taken seriously as well) - and we have to be ready. There is no time to waste - the Lord is hastening His work! God knows that we aren't perfect, but He also knows that we can try our best, so that is what He expects. So this week, 頑張って下さい! (Try your best!)

Have a fantastic week!

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly
Me, on my bike, in front of a rainbow, in my rain gear. Yep.

The new missionary I went on splits with a while back.
It was way weird... we got dendod by missionaries for a Buddhist denomination...
and neither of us really understood what was going on. HaHa

The apartment I'm leaving :P

Friday, October 9, 2015

Week 13.5: The Secret to Happiness

Hey everyone!

I hope you all had a fantastic week and a half!! I'm sorry that it took me so long to write! P-day got pushed back so that we could go to the temple, which was amazing, by the way. Definitely one of my favorite places to be. So, if you haven't been recently, you should choose to increase your happiness by going sometime soon. :)

So... one of my favorite miracles of the week actually happened on the way to the temple!

We were all just sitting on the train (we being a few other missionaries and myself) not talking to anyone. It's kind of a mission culture thing - on the way to the temple, most missionaries just take a break and think about life, look at emails from home, etc. I was sitting there, doing the same thing, when I had the impression to talk with the boy standing next to me (the train was pretty packed, so a lot of people had to stand).

So, I turned to the guy next to me to strike up a conversation. I looked at him for a second to see if I could find a good way to talk to him, and I realized that he was reading what looked to be a play script - in Shakespeare style English. I asked him if he could speak English, and he said that he lived in America longer than he lived in
Japan (even though he was perfectly Japanese), so yes.

I have to be honest, this made me very excited. Japanese conversation is still pretty difficult. Basically I ask them about themselves, I catch bits and pieces of what they say, and then make a very natural transition into religion, by asking something like "what do you think about God?" So... not very natural. :P But it works - sometimes.

Anyways, doing it in English was much easier, and much more natural - especially since this person was just golden.

I talked with him for a few minutes, and he asked me why I was in Japan. I told him I was a volunteer and showed him my badge, and he said "Oh, you're one of those Mormons, aren't you!" I was rather surprised, but we continued, and he told me about how he had chatted online with missionaries before. I asked him if he'd be willing to study with Missionaries, and he said yes! Apparently he wants to study religion in college, and he seemed happy to do some studying in advance.

In the end, we talked about how God is our loving Heavenly Father, and not just some supreme existence (what he had previously thought). When I asked him what he thought about it, he said that that changes everything!

Then came the final question - I asked him where he lived so that I could refer him to the missionaries in his area - the temple is not anywhere near where I am. This is the part that makes a lot of missionaries hesitant to dendo on the way to the temple - it's a lot of work to only possibly give someone else an investigator, though it really shouldn't be seen that way :P - but he replied that he lived near Naka-Urawa, which is where I live! It was the craziest miracle! We should be meeting with him soon. :) He is a high school aged boy, and I hope that we will be able to meet with his family; if we can't, meeting with just him will still be awesome.

We saw many other miracles this week, but time is short, and I've wanted to talk about the Mormon helping hands project for a while now.

So... jumping backwards a bit. About two, maybe three weeks ago, there was a ton of rain, even typhoons and flooding in some areas. All the missionaries in our stake were asked to go and help clean up alongside
the members. On the drive up, we passed cars that had been tossed into ditches and fields, rice fields that had been ready to harvest flattened and ruined, homes that were pretty well destroyed, and just garbage everywhere. When we got to the home that we would be helping at, we realized that the people we were helping were rice farmers, which means that the flooding had just destroyed their livelihood for the next while, but they still greeted us with a smile on their face.

They divided us (2 members and 4 missionaries; the groups were companionships plus a member) into two groups. We went to different sheds, and started shoveling soiled rice supplies into garbage bags. After that, we threw away ruined furniture; the furniture was so badly damaged that some of it fell apart when we tried to pick it up.

What impressed me the most with the experience is that as we were throwing away their  ruined rice, furniture, and other things, all they expressed was an overwhelming gratitude. In fact, they even wanted to feed us before we left (we didn't take all that they offered us, but they made sure we took at least some)! I just loved how they
had such positive attitudes even though things had to be pretty difficult for them lately. It was also a great reminder to be grateful for all the blessings I have in my life - in hard times, and in the good ones. It can be easy to focus on the negative, but there are just so many blessings in life! If we instead focus on counting our
blessings, we will quickly discover the secret to happiness. It's so simple - but it is much easier said than done. But, if we really want to be happy, then we will find that taking a little time to be grateful is definitely worth the effort!

So take some time to be grateful this week!

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly