Sunday, June 5, 2016

Aomori Transfer 11 Week 1

Friends and family,

I never thought I would have such an experience in this country, in this city, while on my mission on Monday evening. We visited a man with potential interest in the gospel who my companion and another elder found on splits the other week. The man came out with 2 books in hand and we walked to a nearby park to chat. The man's name is Brian, he is originally from Texas, he's like half African American with a Jewish background- kind of like Drake. But I believe he's a tad bit more intelligent than Drake. After an hour or so of thorough discussion on the Restoration, I had discovered the man I was talking to was a genius just packed full of information and facts. The two books he was holding happened to be in complete Hebrew, he is fluent in Hebrew and Greek, very very familiar with bible history and pretty much anything having to do with Hebrew-ism. The catch is he believes in Christianity! Not Judaism. Very interesting conversation where often times I had no idea what he was talking about and just had to refer and focus on the basics and on "feeling the word" not just trying to comprehend it in your brain. We're trying again to contact him tonight. But yes, very interesting, incredibly rare to find an American, in a somewhat smaller city of Japan, who knows the Bible inside and out and can speak fluent Hebrew and translate it word for word into English. It was also way way weird having such a thorough gospel lesson in English! 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in a 3 man companionship as we waited for a new elder to come to replace Elder Didericksen. It was a way different feel being with 2 other Japanese and no other Americans! Haven't had that feel yet in my mission. More submerged than usual in the culture and language. The new district leader is a young American who wants to do his best! He's a great example.

Fujita San is back and in full action. He quit his job and is still planning on heading out back down south of Sendai at the end of the month but literally has nothing to do til then so we can meet with him all we want. I'm not sure we can get him to the point where he'll  be baptized and converted to the gospel by the end of the month but I can't say enough about how much I love this guy. So genuine, down to earth, kind and selfless, way humble and just a lot of fun and good feel to be around. He's not a story of success so to say but he is an example to me in his character and how he sees life. 

He committed to come to church this past week so we did all we could to prepare. We called the members and asked them to pray for him and Sotoyama San, our other investigator with the deep logical questions, so that they can have an opportunity to feel the Spirit. Then we figured out who will be friends with them at church and help explain things so it's not just the missionaries with the relationship. And on Sunday, yesterday, we fasted and prayed for these guys to have an experience. 
Our lessons in Sunday school and the third hour were pretty tough subjects as far as investigators go- repentance and the law of tithing. Long story short, I learned that through participating in class and offering opinion and perspective, my investigator's heart was opened ever so slightly so to feel the warm confirmation of truth through the Holy Ghost. We talked about what he thought and felt after class and he said everything he heard yesterday at church just felt like it was truth. Like it was right and in place. Pretty incredible. Goes to show that those who are humble and meek are much more able to recognize truth than those who are more concerned about what others think and see things from a worldly perspective! 

Things here in Aomori just continue to get better and better. Elder Okamoto and I were talking the other day about how, in a non-prideful way, we're rising to another level, higher than the mission is at right now. A level deeper than finding new investigators and seeing baptisms, but a level that focuses on relationships and conversion. In building a home, the most important and time consuming part is the foundation, the base. If you don't spend very much time securing and building the foundation and it's strength, anything you try to add onto it, like your home, is prone to disaster!! Just like with the church. If the existing members, the foundation, isn't strong and don't have testimonies of their own, even if we do get baptisms and converts to the church, the foundation won't be able to support what is added on to it (retention). These are all prone to collapse in the winds, tornadoes and earthquakes of adversity if the foundation isn't where it needs to be! So, we are not only going to work on seeing baptisms and making that a focus, but also we're focusing on these members and their conviction to raise their kids in the gospel and believe and follow Christ. Whoa, intense. 

Hey, remember I love y'all and pray for your well-being. Go Dubs, Go. 

Elder Robins

Last PDAY with Didericksen C. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Aomori Transfer 11 Week 3

Hi y'all!

Hope you all had a good week. With school coming to an end and only two more weeks left til it's summer break, exciting stuff! By the way, talking with some people here about school vacation time- American schooling has roughly 1/3 of the year off due to vacation, not including weekends.. Japan has school year round with limited and spotty vacation periods plus their weekends more often than not have schooling, sporting and cramming school events. So be grateful for Americas schooling program:)

We had a really good week. Found some new peoples to teach, got to see all my friends in the mission and had the opportunity to see and hear from an area seventy, a member of the Presidency of the 70, and an apostle! 

On Monday we had some extra time before dendou for the rest of the evening so we went to the basketball courts to see a PI and play some basketball. By doing so, we found a new investigator and ran into the sister missionaries investigator and her daughter and got to talk a lot with them about good wholesome, deep things. Then we headed to the church and had a lesson with Fujita San.

Tuesday was a long meet with Fujita San. He made us food. Then him and Elder Okamoto had a jam session at a nearby park. Picture attached below. Had a lesson later that evening with a new investigator named Miura. Single guy, works at the prefectural office, pretty solid lesson, we're meeting with him again on Thursday.

Wednesday was the big event. The one time of year where the whole mission gathered together to hear from church leadership. We grabbed the morning bus to Sendai, grabbed some lunch at my favorite gyuutan place as an apartment (cow tongue, famous in Sendai) then headed to the church to be spiritually fed. We first heard from our President, Pres Smith and his wife. They bragged about our greatness in front of the other leaders present. We then heard from a member of the area presidency and his wife- the Yamashita`s (same ones that visited our mission in Januray.) They are so solid and full of character and just way genuine and fun Japanese people. We then heard from Elder Gong of the Presidency of the 70 and his wife. Although he has an asian name and face, he is very very english. Powerful man. We then sang as an entire mission of about 110 people "As Sisters in Zion, Armies of Helaman EFY Medley." Brought the house down. I couldnt sing for parts of it cause I was crying. Afterwhich, we heard from Elder Gary E Stevenson of the Quorum of the 12 and his wife. He is the youngest member of the 12 at 61, but is already so wise and powerful and just comfortable to be around. His wife is way cool too.

There was obviously a ton I learned and felt from all of these great leaders in the short 2 hours we were with them. Short, but filled with the spirit and packed with things that matter. I can share with you all about the things we need to do better to find and to help people be baptized but since most of that doesn't pertain to most of you, I will tell you the part I thought was way cool.
Elder Stevenson and President Smith both served in the Nagoya Japan mission. They served at the same time. They served in the same district. My mission president was older than him in the mission as to make him the senpai but I think they were both just stud missionaries. When president smith picked him up at the airport on Wednesday morning, elder stevenson mentioned it was like the sons of Mosiah reuniting in a good cause, but 40 years later instead of 14. What elder Stevenson told to us clearly and powerfully and sincerely is that he looked up to President Smith as a young missionary and still does today. He sees him as an example in his life. I thought that was so cool and so powerful for an apostle to be humble enough and sincere enough to pay such a compliment. And I feel so blessed to have President Smith as my mission president.

It was a great meeting and a powerful experience.

We set up a baptismal date for the middle of July with one of our new investigators named Takeuchi san. Way solid guy and he`ll make a great member. Sotoyama san came to church for us for the first hour then left for his animae event. Good week and the zone is on fire!!

Well, this is already long enough, so here`s some pictures.

Have another great week!!!

Elder Robins

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Aomori Transfer 11 Week 2

Friends and fam.

It's summer. We are down to just white shirts and slacks up here in Aomori. Yesterday as we got into a members car, it was a very nostalgic feeling of getting into my big black suburban in the middle of the summer after it's been sitting in the sun for hours. The air inside like an oven and the leather seats- hot plates. I can't complain though. I'm in the best place to be to stay cool in the summer. Which means once I get transferred, it can only get worse. 

Anyway, we had a great week. An unreal week. Best week either of us have had on our missions in terms of seeing growth and success. It was hard work but we kept it fun and entertaining and it paid off. We have really gotten our finding approaches (approaches we use on the street to random people that will spark interest in hearing our message- a very technical formula here in Japan as most no one has interest in religion let alone Christianity) down to a science and it's been working really well in finding those who the Lord is preparing to receive the message of the restoration.

Had splits this week with Elder Kudo! The stud "bean" in the district. A son of a stake president down in Osaka, 2nd largest city in Japan. He's not perfect, but he's a stud for being as young as he is. Kind of like Bryce Harper was. Young, but mature and knows how to play. We had a fun split and put in some good work.

Trying to put what we do on a day to day basis is way too hard to describe effectively. But very basically, we ride our bikes...We talk with everyone we see to give them the opportunity to change their lives and salvation. We visit members who haven't been coming to church. We teach an English class twice a week. We teach our investigators and members about the gospel. We plan. We prepare. And we ride our bikes some more. Then we sleep for 8 hours and do it all again the next day.

I'm having fun. Working hard. Trying my best. But in the end, it's all just a humbling experience that is helping refine me into who the Lord needs me to be.

Read your scriptures, say your prayers, go to church and it'll all work out. 

Elder Robins

Throwback. Taito kun and I.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Aomori Transfer 10 Week 6

Highlights of the last week of the transfer:
Tuesday was splits with elder uehara down in a place called Nagamachi, where the mission home is. Worked with elder uehara, a stud missionary that gives it his all to do the work and to do it right! Learned a lot from him and we put in a solid day of dirty, hard work. Felt good.
Wednesday morning was, like almost all days we have a train or bus to catch, a hustle and very last minute. And it always seems to be pouring rain when we have to run to catch trains and buses, as it was this time. After a nice long run from the subway to the bus station, I was wet. Wet not only with sweat but with water too. Anyways, caught my bus back to Aomori and had a couple hours left in the day to dendou!
Thursday was splits with the district leader and my homie, elder diderickson! He and I have grown pretty close these last 12 weeks and its been a lot of fun spending time with him and getting to talk with him a lot. He`s also a big basketball guy, loves the nba and all that so ya its been fun. We had a day full of just good solid mission work. Made a lot of good contacts and had fun doing it.

Sunday was a great day. Sotoyama san came to church. Did a lesson with him before hand explaining what goes on during church and all that and then another lesson after church. He`s great. Still trying to get him to feel something instead of simply thinking about it and keeping it in his head. Very much so an investigtor of the church, testing out the word. It was a great meeting with tons of spirit. Although it seems Holidays on Sundays here in Japan are just as normal as any other Sunday,  such as Mothers Day and Easter, it was still a great day. Also got to meet my companions family while he skyped them last night for Mothers day! His grandparents are actually Buddhist and have had no past history hearing about the church. So what elder Okamoto did last night was bold and powerful- he committed them, as missionaries do, to contact their local missionaries and set up a time to hear about what they do for their work. Starting small but planting and preparing the way for them to perhaps eventually hear and accept the gospel.

Transfer calls were a time bomb last night but they came! I am staying in Aomori for my 3rd transfer, with my homie elder okamoto! We`re excited for this opportunity to stay together and put some finishing touches on some of the work we`ve done here. Things are starting to get good here in Aomori, we`re expecting some big results coming up here in the next couple weeks and months.

This morning I got to talk with my family! Always a huge highlight of the year as a missionary. My mommy and I cried an appropraite amount together, about 10 seconds, just feeling the long distance love of mother and son. Love my momma Laurie. Shes a saint, a kind and selfless woman full of love for those around her and for the Lord. Such a huge influence on me and my life as shes taught me countless life lessons I can write a book on. Just wanted to give her as well as the other women in my life, Grandma Hagen and Grandma Robins, my older sister Jessi, my aunts and all others who have been mother like figures to me in my life. Love you all and the person you have helped me to become! Never change!

Thats about it for this week. Really quite a solid week with plenty to talk about but for times sake, Im wrapping it up. I love the Lord. I trust in His plan. He has a plan for all of us to return to Him, we have to choose to do so!


Elder Robins

Monday, May 2, 2016

Aomori Transfer 10 Week 5


This week was another week of meetings, planning, and trainings but overall a great week and lots of fun! After our trip over to Hirosaki to see the hanami- cherry blossom festival - we boarded our shinkansen- bullet train - down to Sendai for a training. 

Had a lesson with Sotoyama San in which we had planned to set a baptismal date but after a long lesson that seemed to go all over the place with a lot of questions about just about everything, we felt it would be a bit too much to do so in that lesson. So, we're waiting until the time is right to commit him to baptism but... he's doing way well, learning and progressing slowly but surely. 
No contact with Fujita San this week, he's in Sapporo for "Golden Week". Golden week is every year on the first week of May and serves as a nation wide week-off pretty much. Always way good for finding cause people are happy & genki and willing to talk. Anyway, Fujita is still in Sapporo but we plan on getting him back on track, discussing some of his concerns and helping him be part of something great.

We titled our ZTM this Friday as "Our Commission" which in Japanese sounds pretty sweet~ 私たちの使命〜watashitachi no shimei. We made it very activity based with lots of participation from everyone in the zone which made it pretty fun. Our Commission was a wide-based theme aimed to get us thinking about why we believe in the restoration, what blessings God gave us through Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and our job as missionaries to help others as well understand really how much God loves us and all the blessings He is ready to pour on us if we simply choose.

This week too I've been thinking a lot about becoming that light and brightness for others in their lives. There are plenty of ways to become that light; the most central and important being to develop Christ-like attributes that help you become who God wants us to be. But perhaps more tangible ways of doing so are to smile at everyone- share your joy with everyone. Compliment someone who looks like they're not enjoying life! Like they're stuck in a rut and need something from someone else to get out, pay them a nice but genuine compliment, something you really do like about them. It will make their day if not week. Refrain from criticizing, even to those who may deserve it. Encouragement goes much farther and is much more effective all around than criticizing. Smile, compliment others genuinely, and encourage instead of criticize are the things I've been working hard on applying and forming into habits to slowly become more like our Perfect Example, Jesus Christ. 

Currently on another 5 hour bus ride to Sendai for companion exchanges with Elder Uehara but I hope you all have a fabulous week full of happy. 

Here are some pics!

Elder Robins

Hirosaki Castle last week

Other thought of the week- for those who have tasted of the fruit of the tree of life know it's the best and know it is God's pure love. But temptation and the aching need to be accepted of others can be deceiving. Stay strong, have faith in God and His plan for us and remember God's judgement is much more important to consider than the world's. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Aomori Transfer 10 Week 4

Hello minasan!

So it's springtime here in northern Japan which means Sakura season. "Sakura" is cherry blossom trees. Sakura is practically a worshipped tree here in Japan to the point where if you hurt one there's a penalty. The American equivalent of Sakura season is the equivalent of the Fourth of July in terms of excitement and the presidential election in terms of it being the main and immediate go-to for small talk conversation. In the Aomori zone is a place called hirosaki- one of the most famous Sakura cities in all of Japan with a famous park where tens of thousands visit during this week and a half period of Sakura blooming. As I write this I'm on an absolutely packed train to Hirosaki, having had special permission to leave our area boundaries, and we are going to see the Sakura at its peak as a district! Today is sunny, 16° C and beautiful. By next week, the Sakura flowers will be on their way out and green leaves come in so the timing for visiting Hirosaki is perfect. 
I was in Akita last year during Sakura season, another pretty famous city for its Sakura- again, blessed to be where I am when I am.

Our two main and most promising investigators were able to meet this week and both were awesome meetings. However, bad news came about Fujita- he'll be moving at the end of next month down south north of Fukushima which is close to the radiation zone. I was so saddened to hear that and gave him a hard time. His response to me being sad- you can't talk! You're the one who leaves and moves around all the time with transfers! He had a good point but I'm still a little heartbroken as he'll be moving to an inaka area, a place where no one really lives and is far from where missionaries function. We will be meeting with him quite often during May and try to help and prepare him to receive baptism but it will need some extra help from heaven. 
Sotoyama San is genki and very interested in our church's message and the difference between us and Jehovahs Witness. It's quite funny how often we run into people on the streets and they say they've already talked to people like us before, and we being surprised to hear that ask about what it was like, they always say they were two older women that gave them a bible- Jehovahs Witness missionaries. Pretty funny. Anyway, he's a good guy with lots of good questions and starting to progress well.
Had two splits this week! On Tuesday, with elder Sugimoto who is in my douki! Which means he was in the same group that came with us to Japan last year. It was both of our first times going on splits with someone in our douki and man was it a fun day. Met a member and sang her happy birthday, gave her chocolate and shared a spiritually uplifting message, fed a fish an old man caught to a crow, got ice cream with my favorite English student and her daughter and then had dinner with the funniest couple I've met here in Japan. And found a great PI. Fun day.

On Thursday, I got to return back to dendou in Misawa! I was with elder Hawker, a new missionary from Connecticut! He's a great man with a ton of hope and good attitude. We met with Kashiwazaki Shimai, a recent convert, Ebina Shimai was sick so we gave her a priesthood blessing. Then we found a new investigator who taught herself fluent English and is already Christian- two very rare things to randomly find on the street in a small town like Misawa. Then we had dinner with a member on base. Jumped on a trampoline for the first time in 9 months. we had Mexican food!!! such a wonderful tender mercy for my stomach. That was great. Then we had English class which was a blast! And ended the night by successfully visiting Nagano Kyoudai who is a member who's lost his way and we're trying to help him back to the light. 
Doesn't sound like a whole lot in Misawa but it felt just like home and we saw a lot of small miracles. 

Being companions with elder Okamoto has been such a great learning and humbling experience. But not because he's difficult! In any way! Rather, I'm learning so much every day because of his great and thorough work, his ability to teach and his patience, kindness and firm testimony. Working with him daily helps me keep in mind my weaknesses and improvement points. Something I enjoy. Always learning. And together, our experiences of seeing the great effects of the light of this gospel on others is also increasing! 

I want to add one last thing and that's my testimony about the plan the Lord has prepared for us, His children, after our life here on earth. My little brother Jared was part of a role play at his high school meant to warn and prevent kids from drug and alcohol usage. The program is called "every 15 minutes" and my little brother was chosen to be one who suffered the consequences of those driving under the influence and was 'killed'. Although it was merely a role play, it acts as a good reminder to us all about the short and precious time we have here on earth, to use it wisely and be smart. However, accidents and unforetold events happen and lives are lost but our Father is loving and provided a plan for all families and friends to reunite again during the resurrection. And we can live forever if we live faithfully and partake of the covenants only able to be performed in temples. 

Love y'all! Have a good one!

Elder Robins

Sakura today! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Aomori Transfer 10 week 3

Fam, friends, others tuning in,

I had a busy, successful and enriching week full of events! It was great. Here's more! (Sorry, it's longer than usual.. But has good stuff!)

Saturday we had Zone conference: the theme being We Are the Message and the light. Some impressions I had during the conference that I think can also apply to everyday people as well but I will write it as it applies to me. 
-who I am and what I do, what I say or what I don't do or say as a missionary matters more than I can imagine. Everything I do, my body language and everything- people are watching and it has the ability to convert. The light I possess and we possess as missionaries has the power by itself to soften people's hearts and eventually change their lives! Our mission president gave examples of this and it's reality, one of them being a true story about a blind woman with two amputated legs asking her daughter, "what are those two lights in front of our house?" The daughter opens the front door and says, "oh just two young men in white shirts and ties." The mother responds, "go get them, they have what we need [the gospel]." The woman and her family eventually converted and found joy again in their lives. Basically, as we are worthy servants and representatives of Christ, the light we illuminate can be physically felt and visibly seen. We are the message of Christ's restored gospel.
-the rewards that come from patience, kindness, and humility towards others. Brother Seza. The most amazing man, Saint, example, and light of a human I have ever met, is a result of two kind, patient and meek missionaries in the past who when they first knocked on his door and presented the message, were rejected utterly by brother Seza. Brother Seza was a punk of a kid and there was no light in him (he showed us a picture.) and through those first two elders utmost patience, kindness and love for this punk kid, he ultimately, 40 years later has turned into a complete role model for me and a huge example to many others. He is now my mission presidents first counselor but he was my first missionary coordinator back in downtown Sendai. Huge hero to me. 

Why I Believe Fireside- a fireside president smith has been doing this year intended to having people share their stories and why they believe in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints along with music and simple power points, the meeting being only 1 hour long. A great event just full of love and good vibes, a great opportunity for non members and members alike. That was yesterday. I went to this same event back when I was in Sendai, and this time was much more relaxed and fun, it was great.

Yamada Youko San. An English student who this week has helped me feel the sheer joy that comes from people realizing they want the gospel in their lives. 
Through a series of events this week including me showing a church video as an English example for class and that same video being shared in the fireside which she attended, she told me "when you showed me that video for eikaiwa,  I didn't know what it was that made me so emotional." She said, "I realize now what it is. It's that this is what I want for me and my family. President Smiths family looks so happy and is so beautiful! That is what I need and want for my family. It's perfect." 
She is the coolest mom with two young kids, single and just an amazingly kind, service giving woman. So funny and cool. And she now sees, feels, and realizes that this is what the gospel can bring to her life and her family. Joy, peace, and love. Fills me with joy thinking about it!

Two splits. One with a new elder in our district from the same exact area my companion is from who's dad actually grew up here in Aomori but moved years ago down to Osaka. We found two new investigators for our companionship. One was an old investigator willing to talk and meet again named Satou San. but the other one was a miracle in our eyes. On our way to a practice lesson with a member, we were walking across the bridge over the train tracks (a very loud and noisy bridge, always windy too, so it's hard to have good convo there) but nonetheless, we ran into a kinjin. He was interested in Christianity, had received a bible from our friends the JW's and we told him we had a another book for him that we would love to share and explain. So, we walked him to the church and instead of doing that practice lesson, we just had the member join in on our lesson and had a good first lesson. Met again with him this week on Friday, again on splits but this time with a younger American missionary. This mans name is Sotoyama San. He didn't feel like coming to church nor to the fireside our mission president had, which was a bummer cause it would've been great for him to see and hear. But he's Great! He's young and asks good but difficult questions. Meeting him again on Wednesday.

 No contact with my man Fujita San this week, a bit worried about him and hope he comes back to English class. Fujita San is such a good man, love him with all my heart and can so clearly see the amazingly positive effect following Christ and joining this church would have on his life. It's tough when they don't desire for more. 

Two weeks later and I realize I can't get back to everyone who wished me happy birthday but I say from my heart thank you to each one of you for your love. I really do appreciate it lots.
Y'all have a good week. 
Here's some pics!