Monday, February 29, 2016

Week 34: Small and Simple Things

Hello Everyone!

This week was interesting... We met with missionaries from two other different religions (they were curious about our church, but we probably won't meet with them again), and people that were interested in English (started to teach about the Gospel, but their expectations for meeting with an American were different....). We were going to meet with some investigators, but plans fell through and people were difficult to contact. So basically my week was waving down every person on the street (which is actually WAY fun. Everyone seems to like Americans. And I am pretty much the only one in Niigata, besides my companion who most people seem to think is Japanese. I actually have had some people walk up to me and try to speak some broken English), and as far as real solid lessons this week, we had a few with some less actives.

The first is only not coming to church because he has work on Sundays. That is tricky, but he is working on changing it so that he can come. He thinks that he should have a break on a Sunday in about 2 weeks. Basically the only problem is when he got his job, he didn't realize the importance of the Sacrament. Taking it every week made it seem less important, and now he regrets not going for a job that he could get Sundays off more often. However, he has been working hard, and he should be able to switch that soon. The Sacrament is SO important! It is the perfect time to align ourselves with our Father in Heaven. I don't know what I would do without the weekly reset. God knows too well how forgetful I can be.

The second is halfway between our church and Buddhism. He hasn't been to church in years, and the lack of Spiritual nourishment has clearly taken it's toll. He felt something good as we read Alma 5:12, watched the video of the Restoration, and discussed why he joined this church, but he was still convinced that there were other roads to happiness (which there certainly are, but this is the only one that leads to perfect, eternal happiness and growth). He says that he lets the missionaries over because he feels something that he can't otherwise. I wish that I could make him see that that is the Spirit!

It really made me think about the reason that God gave us commandments such as reading the scriptures, going to church, and praying daily. It really is the small and simple things that keep us safe! A loving Heavenly Father knew our imperfections perfectly, and provided a way to overcome them. Through the Atonement, we can overcome them day by day as we do the small and simple things. Not only that, but these things keep the Spirit in our life and make hard times bearable. Testimony is essential! It changes everything!

So my challenge for you is to remember the small things this week! You may not be able to do everything, but you can do what is necessary to always remember that your Heavenly Father is in control, loves you, and will always do what is best for you!

Have a fantastic week!

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

Elder O'Connor is in the foreground, holding the cookie dough we made purely for eating.
Elder Morishita, one of the Zone Leaders I live with is in the background.

Me and my companion by a Storm Trooper. He didn't join the church.
Apparently the dark side has good cookies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Week 33: NIIGATA!

Hello Everyone!!

I am  LOVING Niigata! There are about 50 people in the ward, and everyone of them is on FIRE. On top of that, they are the nicest people ever. They give the missionaries an unlimited supply of rice and eggs, give tons of other food, and take us out for nice lunches. I basically don't have to get groceries, which is pretty nice, not going to lie.

Their support for missionary work is shown pretty well by how kind they are to us. They are willing to work with us in anything, and are just as fired up as the missionaries! I am SOO excited to work here.

We have quite a few investigators in this area, and I am excited to get to know them all. To be honest, I have only really met two of them so far. There are 8 or so that we are working with pretty regularly, which is pretty good! I'm excited to meet all of them.

Now, to give you an image of my area, if I go to some parts of it, I feel almost like I am back in Tokyo, and some of it is totally countryside. Most of it is the countryside bit. If you look at the map, my area is about twice the area of both my last two areas combined - which happen to be the smallest, most central areas of the mission. I didn't know that before - but I guess I get to see more of the mission now! I think the reason the area is so big is because it is mostly countryside - which is why we get free rice and eggs from farmers.

Well... There are prepared people just like there were in Tokyo! We found someone named Bob - most common name ever, so I feel like I can share it - he is living in Tokyo, and is pretty interested in eternal marriage and family history. Hoping that we can meet with him sometime this week, but he seems pretty busy; we also found an 18 year old kid who wants to hear some about the church! We'll see how they turn out.

Probably the biggest miracle of the week is that the Tech Staff finally got a call through to Brother S (the investigator)! He is out of the hospital and down for meeting again. Elder Ikegami called me for info about him, and I feel confident that God blessed him because of my little brother's prayers! In fact, I am pretty sure I would have given up on him earlier if he hadn't been praying... Which would have resulted in my companion never hearing about him, and he would have been accidentally dropped (there are so many useless numbers in that phone that it would have been forever before he was called again). I suppose that shows the power of faithful prayer!

Well... I am finding more and more that this is the Lord's work everyday! I don't feel like I have learned how to be a good missionary, but I have learned that the Lord can do this great work through us if we pray to Him and ask in all sincerity to be a tool in His hands, and trust me, there is no greater joy than becoming such!

Love you all!
Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

Some questions/answers to his Mom this week:

companion name: Elder Thor (like, legitimately) O'Connor - Our names are pretty similar.
where is he from: Saitama, Japan. But he moved to Arkansas when he was young 
how long has he been out: 3 months? Ish? Two transfers. I've been out 5.
was he already in the area: Yes!
how is his japanese: Awesome. He is half Japanese.

how many are in your apartment: 4
how long did it take to get to your new area: 5 hours
did you travel by bus, train: Buses!
is this more of a bike area: yep. Definitely. I am exhausted.
more rural or big city: Both. Depends on where you go.
how big is the ward: 50 people

I think it is SO funny that you try to hang out with my companions families! Elder O'Connor is from Arkansas, so it will be a little harder this time. Sorry. :P

Hanging out with Elder Ikegami's sister, Alycia in Provo!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Week 32: The Joy of the Work

Hello Everyone!

Well... I am transferring. Crazy. Time flies SO fast. I am going to Niigata. I will be District Leader again, only this time a bigger district, and I don't know the missionaries. Little nervous, but I am confident that things will turn out. I've learned time and time again that God won't give me something I can't handle - with His help, that is.

Needless to say, I LOVED it here in Nakano. As a missionary, I came to love the Japanese people and made some close friends. As a District Leader, I came to feel as if my District was almost like my second family. I'm going to miss it here, but in the words of my recent convert, "It'll be ok. I'm sure that God will look over you where ever He sends you." He is so awesome; he has super strong faith.

In fact, he actually spoke in Sacrament meeting yesterday! He was asked to speak about the difference he felt before and after baptism. He spoke of his journey to baptism - how when he first met us, he was depressed, lacking in friends because he had just moved in, and was simply impressed by friendly voices. Then, he learned to rely on the Lord, and learned to love prayer and the Book of Mormon. He testified powerfully of the joy that those simple habits can bring into your life. And then he sang the favorite words of a pop song over the pulpit. Haha Best talk ever. He is actually a pretty good singer.

Then, I got to see him fulfill his calling - Sacrament Meeting Coordinator. He picked a less active to bless the Sacrament. He only came back to church because I told him I would transfer... Technically I didn't know when I told him, but office missionaries generally get 3 transfers, so I guessed and told him it was my last. Either way, he came last week and will come next week! And I committed him to come to church every week for the rest of eternity, so hopefully he is pretty solid.

Then, in that same meeting (Elders Quorum), we talked about who wasn't coming to church. And Bro H - the recent convert - volunteered to reach out to some friends he had made and bring them to church! He is such a solid member, and feeling joy from every bit of activity! There is so much joy to be found in this work, and it isn't just for missionaries.

To be honest, my favorite part of this week was just seeing people find that joy. It is incredible to feel it, and even better to share it. Filled with this excitement, and knowing my time was limited, I went on splits with one of the assistants - we live with them - and we went out finding for an hour tonight. We literally left running, and we gave it our all. We were bold, and we talked to everyone. We didn't do anything fancy, just asked if anyone was interested in learning about our church. Lots of people said no, but one person said yes! Just a proof that God really is preparing people EVERYWHERE! He's 18, and I am excited to be meeting him again tomorrow.

Well... I hope you are taking every opportunity to participate in this incredible work. I can promise that an incomprehensible joy will come to you and all those you help as you do! Not everyone will accept your help, people will say no, but those that say yes will be eternally grateful - whether you reach out to them through reactivation, temple and family history work, or talking to those that don't know about this glorious Gospel! So share the joy! And don't forget to take the time to remember it for yourself!

I hope that each of you knows that I know that God lives. He guides this work, and He has a plan for YOU! He loves each and every one of you, and because of that, there is never any need to fear. God will look over you no matter where He sends you.

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

Temple Day (last week)

Valentine decorations from home! Even though they were up, I forgot that it was Valentine's Day!
Remembered when I saw my email today.  :P

Lunch at the Kotters (They're taking the picture)! This is everyone in
my district. We had Mexican food. In Japan. Yep. Awesome!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 31: Temples - The Happiest Places on Earth

Hello Everyone!

I went to the temple today. It was INCREDIBLE! I've never gone to the Temple and not had all my questions answered. I can't promise you that if you go to the Temple you will get questions answered and such - there is always the Lord's timing - but if there were a way to speed up the Lord's timing, it would be going to the Temple. Aside from that, the feelings of peace and strength that come from the Temple are worth it regardless. Yep. The Temple is basically proof that Disneyland is not the happiest place on earth. haha

Well... We had some AWESOME first lessons this week! We only ended up having two - one got pushed back to next week, and one for now is cancelled - but they went very well, I think.

Both of them have religions that they already believe and enjoy - a real rarity in Japan, I'm used to working with blank slates - but they are willing to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it... Reminds me of a sign that hung outside a Baptist (I think) church. "Don't read the Book of Mormon and pray about it - that's how they get you." We've totally got them! Haha. I'm glad that we have a message that people can know for themselves, and that I can be confident that they will find their answer. The converting power of the Book of Mormon is AWESOME!

On Monday - I don't know if I already wrote about this or not - we helped the Sisters move. We, therefore, had very little time left over. But while we were helping them move, we ran into Brother J - I don't know if you remember him, one of our super deep investigators - and he wanted to meet! So we had a lesson with him. He wants to get closer to God and really have God work through him. I think we can help him! I love it when investigators have golden desires.

Well... We are still really looking for new investigators. We found a few this week, and we will see how much potential they have soon. But I want to tell you about our new finding method.

We walk around with a picture of Jesus Christ being baptized, and tell people that we are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that we are teaching about how to get closer to God through following the example of Jesus Christ. We found a lot of people that weren't interested. However, we also found some interested people. It's a really good way to sort through who has interest and who didn't.

That sums up some of the great miracles of the week! Hope things are going well for all of you!

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly

At the temple with Elder Ikegami

Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 30: So Great A Cause!

Hello everyone!

This week has been INCREDIBLE! We started out with just one investigator at the beginning of this week (had a few people drop off the map recently), but we found/or came back into contact with 4 people for the upcoming week! I'm excited to see them progress in the Gospel! The week started with the goal of having a teaching pool (goal set with my companion) and finding someone to baptize (goal set by little brother, Jace over email. He is WAY too cute to let down). So we worked hard, and prayed harder, and found four people to teach that all seem like they could be baptized to me!

Now, I want it to be clear that it is God that granted us success. Sure, we worked hard, but success never seems to be directly connected to our work. As we strive to be more obedient (there are always little rules that I should be paying more attention to) and follow the Spirit (one of the people we came in contact with we actually contacted while we were planning on going out finding; however, we had the strongest feeling we needed to call someone. We looked in the phone, which has a large collection of numbers obtained by missionaries. We called the obvious choice - a man nicknamed "wolf man" in the phone - and he is coming to church this week. Further attempts to contact show that while he is very willing to coordinate and make a time to call or meet, but because he is busy, we have to call at just the right time.). Of course, God doesn't give success to people that aren't working, but I can honestly tell you, that this work has NOTHING to do with me or my ability, which is actually quite the relief.

I'm excited to talk about them more next week!

One of my favorite things that happened this week is the implementation of the area plan. I think everyone should be doing that now, but I'm not sure. However, I really love the area plan for the Asia North Area. The vision is "Because we want to live with Heavenly Father again, we love, elevate, simplify, strive, strengthen, invite, and find joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." As we talked about the plan together as a ward, and particularly with the Bishopric (we had a planning meeting with the missionaries and the Bishopric for the year), I really felt two things.

First, the Spirit really confirmed to me these simple truths, that this is God's work, and He is prepared as ever to perform it through us, if we will let Him.

Second, this message is really simple! We first find joy for ourselves, then we share that joy with those we love. It isn't another thing to be put onto a never ending checklist, but should be a natural flow because this Gospel is absolutely AMAZING!

Aside from that, as I really thought about what matters to me in life. NOTHING matters more to me than returning with my family to live with Heavenly Father again. In the end, nothing else will really matter all that much. Sometimes school, work, and stress make things foggy and it seems difficult, but when we set our goals high, it takes hard work to fulfill! However, as we remember that purpose, the difficulties fade, and it all becomes worth it!

So let's all choose to remember how AWESOME this Gospel is and share it with those we love! Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder O'Reilly
P.S. I'm going to the temple this week (can't wait!!!!), so I will be emailing on next Tuesday!

Ultimate Frisbee in the park (Zone P-day)! My team was undefeated! :-)

We're in Tokyo! I think this was a on the 10th floor