January 26, 2014

I Love Hachinohe!!!

 I love HACHINOHE!!! It was sad parting ways with my beloved companion sister Iwahashi. But I know she will do great things with her new companion in Akita and I know my companion sister Kanno and I have work to do in Hachinohe. I love sister Kanno! She is so easy going but at the same time a diligent, strong misisonary. She is mellower than sister Iwahashi but we already are laughing and having fun together. I am excited to learn a lot from sister Kanno. We have one progressing investigator named Shion, which is ZION in Japanese! She is 15 years old and she wants to get baptized. She first started the lessons about 4 weeks ago, and her mom is also reading the Book of Mormon. We are going to try to have a lesson with Shion and her mom this week before Eikaiwa (English class). Eikaiwa here is so fun! Akita`s was fun, but the missionaries here and so creative and it`s really fun! I am so happy to be with elder Low and elder Bodily, my two good friends from MTC district! I also feel so lucky to be with sister Watanabe and sister Miura, two awesome Nihonjin (Japanese). It`s me and 3 nijonjin, we only speak Japanese in the apartment!! やった!!Yay!!
   When I first walked in our new apartment, I was amazed! It`s the nicest apartment and it really feels like a home. I thought I`d be sleeping on a futon the whole rest of my mission but we have beds!!! I love these Japanese sisters and I love the members!
  There is such a different feeling in Hachinohe branch than Akita. All of us missionaries stood by the door at 9:30am and greeted every memeber as they walked in until Sacrament started at 10am. I am also so happy to be in this amazing ward because I`m learning Sign Language!!! In Japanese! I already can say a few things like, “yummy“ and “Thank you“ and different greetings. There`s 7 deaf members out of the 50 members. The Bishop, Bishop Yamanaka is so kind and creative! We have so many activities. Every week we have Eikaiwa Wednesday, but we also have sign language class the same day, and Thursday and Friday is “Open Space“. Open Space is for anyone and everyone to come play ping pong, piano, guitar, (now we`re adding a learn how to beat box class haha). It`s two hours and it`s so people can come to the Church and feel comfortable in the Church. It`s pretty low numbers now but our new district of missionaries is going to try and think of ideas to get more people to come. We also have Eikaiwa on Saturday too!
   We taught a lesson on Thursday to sister Kanno`s grandfather. He doesn`t seem to have much interest but I think it`s special for her to teach him. Her grandma is the YW president and Shion goes to YW`s. I love the classes on Sunday`s here. Every member is just so kind and fun! The first member I met Friday night came up to me and hugged me and as we talked she just shined! These members shine! Akita shines too, but these members have a special light.
   There`s a recent convert named Kohei and he`s 22. He is AMAZING!!! He has so much faith and is so kind to everyone! The past missionary before I came returned home from his mission but gave Kohei his bike and helmet. No one wears helmets in Japan but missionaries, no one! But Kohei wears the helmet to remember the missionary that gave him the bike. He has a special light about him too. We all ate at a members house last night for dinner!
   I haven`t really mentioned a lot about the Japanese food, but I keep getting asked about it. I`ll say one word…HEAVENLY. Japanese food has always been my favorite, but now being in Japan I get to eat the real stuff. Last night we ate smoked fish, rice, cucumbers, and this pickled vegetable that`s super good. We also had miso vegetable soup. I also drink lots of tea, that`s from a vegetable I don`t know in English. Sometimes I eat rice for breakfast, which is common in Japan to eat a meal for Breakfast that`s like dinner or lunch food. I love sushi!!! I eat octopus, squid, fish eggs, and this pancake that has vegetables and meat called “Okonomiyaki“ so GOOD! There isn`t anything I don`t like…except NATO! Nato hasn`t adjusted me with yet. It`s slimy fermented beans and it smells like it was in a gutter for 3 weeks. I heard though after eating it 3 times you come to like it. Well I`ve only eaten it once so I`ll have test out that theory.
   Thank you for all your prayers and love. I couldn`t be any happier. I have a wonderful companion, beautiful area! Oh I love riding my bike here! There`s this huge bridge that overlooks the city and today riding I saw 10 hawks flying! I`ve never seen that many Hawks before. They flew right above my head and the sun was shining through the clouds.
Heavenly Father is blessing us every moment, sometimes we just need to forget ourselves and list all of our blessings to remember Him.
I love you!!!
Sister Tori Butler

January 19, 2014

Last Week in Akita!

The time has come for me to leave amazing Akita and go on to bigger and better things!

I had a feeling all this past week that I would be leaving Akita. I wasn`t 100% sure but sister Iwahashi and I both felt it would be the case. Last night would be our last night going out together trying to find someone in Akita who needs the Gospel. We prayed that we could find a new investigator. We were walking down the snowy streets and both felt we should go to an apartment complex we had been to the last week. Last week we were knocking on doors and surpirsely found O-san! He is from China and I had met him 4 months ago at the college campus. He was interested in Eikaiwa and came but because he`s been so busy as a college student he hasn`t been for the past 3 months. I was so surprised we knocked on his apartment door! We talked a little bit and then asked if we could come again some time. We talked a little about God and our relationship to Him, but not a lot because we didn`t feel it was the right time. Well last night we went to his apartment and had a lesson with him outside his apartment. We said a prayer together right there outside and gave him a Chinese Book of Mormon. He said the closing prayer and I was so impressed he prayed for the first time, especially because we were outside. The Lord answered our prayer to find a new investigator!!!
     It was 8:30pm by the time we returned to our apartment and then the transfer call came! I honestly had thought I would be going down South but I am going up north to Hachinohe! I will be companions with sister Kanno!!! She is Japanese!!! I feel so blessed because I really want to master this language! It`s so funny because sister Iwahashi was MTC companions with sister Kanno! Sister Iwahashi says she loves her and I am so lucky to be with her. I am so excited to meet sister Kanno Wednesday!
   This past week sister Iwahashi and I taught many joint lessons with our progressing investigator, Ayaka. She is really progressing in the Gospel and came to Church for the first time yesterday. Ayaka keeps saying “I want to become like Jesus Christ“. She`s been saying that since she watched the video “Finding Faith in Christ“. We brought up Baptism again for the third time in her lessons this week because both sister Iwahashi and I felt strongly after prayer that Ayaka needs a baptism date. One of my most spiritual lessons was when we taught Ayaka about Temples and Eternal family`s. I shared an experience where I went to the Temple with my cousin Emily in Washington 2 years ago. I felt the Spirit so strong and none of else could hold back tears. Ayaka needed that lesson because she says she wants an eternal family. Now that I am leaving I know sister Iwahashi and her new companion will keep teaching her.
I will miss all these amazing members in Akita! Such a small little branch but such strong faith. I am so grateful I had the experience of seeing members serve in so many ways when they would receive nothing in return. They never complained and were always so humble. I saw some members open up more throughout my time here and not so stiff. I noticed some members who had a hard time looking at me in the eyes in the beginning, just because Japanese people are more timid. But now these members and I can laugh together and give hugs.
  Sister Smith and sister Tuttle and I gave a Relief Society activity on American culture on Saturday. It was so fun! We got all the 8 sisters laughing and having fun, including our investigator Ayaka and her member friend Kiyoka. We did a trivia game about America and I ended up learning things I didn`t even know about America! Like New York`s state animal is a deer haha
    Sister Iwahashi and I also had a neat experience going to Ishida`s house! We had talked to him earlier in the week about coming by to teach his non-memeber mom a lesson. He said he thought it was a great idea. We had a lesson with his mom and I love Yoko san! She is so nice, and even if her time isn`t right now to join the Church, I know her son Ishida will be an example for her. I`ve been talking to Ishida about receiving his Patriarchal Blessing and he said he wants to next month. He is currently talking to Bishop Sato about it and I am so excited for him. He also is preparing to go to the Tokyo Temple in April! I am so happy for Ishida!
   I am excited to meet the members in Hachinohe! I don`t know what to expect but I know my mission just gets better and better from here. I love the Lord and I know this is His work!
Sister Butler

January 13, 2014

This past week was full of so many good things! I started off the week by cutting my hair and now it`s shorter than it`s ever been! I love it though and forget that it`s short sometimes.
   This past week sister Iwahashi and I received many blessings. We took a train to Morioka for our Zone training with all the other missionaries. It`s always so fun seeing all the other missionaries. Sister Iwahashi and I had a goal to talk every single person we sit next to on the train. It`s gotten harder for me to talk to people on the train because I`ve learned that it`s never seen to talk to a person you don`t know on the train. Every one has earphones in or are reading something, or sleeping. My past Japanese companion sister Stevenson never talked to anyone on the train and anytime I`ve been with other Japanese missionaries I don`t ever see them talk to anyone either. Sister Iwahashi is a strong example though and she`s the first Japanese missionary I`ve seen talk to someone on the train. I was so proud of her when we made the goal to talk to people we don`t know and saw her talking to people. We met one girl who talked to us for an hour and said she wanted to hear more. She lives in Morioka though so we told the Morioka sister Missionaries about her and gave them her contact information. I`m excited to hear how things go with her.
   I also met a mom on the train who had never heard of Jesus Christ. I gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet about God`s plan for all His children and she was so excited to read it. Sister Iwahashi and I were walking down the snowy streets the other day and met a 19 year old college student. We talked to her and found out she wants to become a doctor because her brother has Leukemia and she wants to help other people. We told her we wanted to meet again and got her phone number. I meet many people and sometimes I don`t ever seem them again. Sometimes I`ve wondered when I will ever be able to meet someone and keep meeting, instead of a one time meeting, like on the train and the street. But then I` m reminded of the Lord`s promise to His missionaries that He will be by my side when I bear testimony of Him. That gives me comfort knowing that every person I talk to does have meaning, even if I never see the results.
   All of us 8 missionaries went bowling today with the youth and investigators. Our investigator Ayaka and her friend who`s a member Kiyoka came too. There were 25 of us bowling! It was a great turn out and everyone had fun! I bowled with Ishida and Luna who`s 11. We had a lesson with her dad last Sunday. He`s not a member but his wife (who`s columbian) and his two daughters are. The lesson was on the Book of Mormon and praying together as a family. We committed them to pray together every night as a family. I was so happy when we followed up through out the week on the committment and they were keeping it. Every day Sato san prayed with his wife and two daughters. He`s had the lessons many times I guess but has never wanted to change. He likes his alcohol and said he doesn`t really know if God`s real. During our lesson last Sunday with their family I felt that they will be an eternal family one day. Today though when Sato san came to pick up Luna from bowling I asked him how praying every day was with his family. He said he doesn`t want to continue praying as a family. I was so sad when he said that because I know how much it will bless his family. I am praying we can meet again with their family next Sunday.
   Sometimes there`s things that are sad out in the mission field. Appoitments get canceled, or members go in active. But with all the things that are sad in life, there are ALWAYS blessings, and the blessings ALWAYS outway the negative. I am so grateful to be a misisonary in Japan. I love these people. I love my district and our funny, awesome district leader elder Nishiee. I love my companion. I love all of you back home, my family and friends. And I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.
It`s probably my last week in Akita I`m feeling. Transfers calls come Sunday which means sister Iwahashi will be done training and we probably will no longer be companions. I`m going to cry just thinking about it because she`s been the greatest blessing on my mission. I could write a whole novel on the things I`ve learned from her…well I guess I have in my journal haha.
I wonder where I`ll be transferred to. My guess is down south, near Sendai. We`ll see! Who knows I could stay in Akita!
Count your many blessings!
Sister Butler

January 5, 2014

I know this year is going to be the best year yet!
Mom and dad thank you so much for the emails! You both asked about my investigators. Right now sister Iwahashi and I have 6 investigators! Sato san will meet with us soon we are praying. Akaya (not Ichyan dad, but you were close haha we laughed when I read that to my companion), we have a lesson with her on Wednesday and she is progressing! Yasuda san is in her 30`s and is a single mother. She`s had many lessons but her faith isn`t as strong. We gave her the “Finding Fath in Christ“ DVD to watch so hopefully our next lesson this week she will feel her Savior`s love. Chiemi who is 19 is very distant since she`s had her new boyfriend. We are going to try to meet this week, but every time we call she rejects the call. Minerva, our recent investigator had her second lesson and said she felt the Spirit. She is Catholic though and goes there each week. We are praying she can read the BOM and receive an answer herself that iit is true.
    New Years was huge in JAPAN! We all went to a shrine and I took pictures. It was really fun. After the shrine President Rasmussen said all of us missionaries were to go back to our apartments and read all of 3 Nephi. I was so grateful to have time to ponder and study 3 Nephi! I learned so many things I hadn`t recognized before. Ever since that reading invitation I`ve noticed little differences in the week and in lessons. Sister Iwahashi and I seem to be bolder and I can feel the Spirit guiding the whole lesson. We had a lesson with a LA youth Juli Shindo on the importance of coming to Church and keeping baptismal convenants. It was a powerful lesson. Not because we taught the Doctrine and testified, but because we focussed the whole lesson on Juli and told her how special she is. It was all focussed on how important she is in God`s plan and instead of committing by saying “Will you come to Church?“ we said “What can we do to help you come to Church Juli?“. This 14 year old girl said that she has a desire to take the Sacrament now and will come to Sacrament meeting next week. This is something we`ve been praying for and I know her parents have been too.
We also had our first lesson with Piedad shimai`s husband who`s not a member. We went to their house Sunday evening and I could feel a little nervous before starting because I didn`t want him to feel pressure or uncomfortable. But as we talked to him and sang “Families can be together Forever“ with their family, and listened to the two young daughters testifmonies, I think it softened the father`s heart and he said that he`s been reading the BOM. The mother and two girls were so surprised, they had no idea their dad has been reading the BOM. We invited them to kneel and pray as a family every night together for one week. They said they would. I`m excited to follow up and see how that brought them closer together as a family.
I am sorry this letter is so short, I had not much time to write today. I love you so much and am so excited for this new year to see many miracles!!!

December 29, 2013

This past Christmas has been my most favorite Christmas yet! With all the gifts and love from you and seeing my family on Skype, to spending Christmas serving others, I felt close to the true Spirit of Christmas and I just want to say thank you for all you did for me this Christmas. I will forever remember all the love you gave me this Christmas. I hope you found your present by now!
Well Christmas was amazing in Japan! It`s definitely not really celebrated though by the Japanese people. Many people do their normal life routine on Christmas day. The only time it`s celebrated is if you`r Christian (very low percentage) or are dating someone. If you are dating someone you spend the day together (sounds like valentines). It`s actually really funny because the Japanese people see our Americanized commercials and try to copy the holiday from what they see in the commercial! For example I guess they saw commercials of family eating Kentucky Fried Chicked KFC on Christmas dayand so now the tradition is to eat a bucket of chicken from KFC on Christmas day!! Haha I couldn`t stop laughing when I heard that, but it`s true!
  I loved going caroling to the Retirement homes and the the members and Less Actives homes. I will never forget going to brother Takaku`s house who got baptized last April. All of us 8 missionaries with Bishop Sato knocked on his door and when he saw us he started to cry. We sang “We wish you a merry Christmas“ and he could barely speak because he was in tears. I began to cry too and I think we all got a little emotional. He just kept saying “Thank you, thank you“ in English. He said it was the best present he`s ever received. This 60 year old man, who has no friends said that us caroling at his house was his best present. That made me reflect on how grateful I should always be for than many things I`m given. It was truly humbling.
  Sister Iwahashi and I taught two of our investigators Christmas day! Sato san who`s husband passed away two months ago and Ayaka chyan who`s 19. Ayaka chyan is really progressing and after our lesson about Jesus Christ she said, “I want to become like Jesus Christ“. I was so happy she had felt Christ`s love that lesson. Sister Iwahashi and I also visited a less active`s house named brother Taguchi. He owns a tobacco shop and hasn`t been to Church in 20 plus years. He doesn`t remember a lot about the Church`s teachings. I had been to his house twice with my trainer sister Stevenson but had never met his wife. This time I felt we should meet her, so I asked if we could. He said she`d be back later that night. So we came back and met Minerva! She is so nice and is from the Philippines! She grew up Catholic and attends the Catholic Church. As we talked she said that recently this past year her brother and mother passed away and she cries every night because she misses them. I and asked if she`d ever heard the lessons from our Church. She said she never had! I was so surprised. They`ve lived there 13 years and no missionaries have ever taught her! We asked if we could come share a message with her on Saturday and she said yes! We had our first lesson with Minerva and it was amazing! Especially since she speaks English and I got to teach my first lesson in English. I don`t know why but teaching in English feels more powerful. There`s many phrases we say in English you can`t say in Japanese because it`s not a very expressive language. The Spirit was in the lesson and she already says she says she believes the Book of Mormon is God`s word and is excited to read it. We will meet again next Saturday!
New Years Eve is clean the apartment day! Sounds like a different kind of New Years Eve but with us four sisters together there`s definitely going to be dancing and singing. We always have fun together and I just love sister Tuttle, sister Smith and my companion so much!
     Sister Iwahashi and I went to the store today to buy a lot of cleaning supplies for our apartment. I love stores in Japan! One, they are so organized and clean! There is not one thing in any store that is mismatched. And two, they Japanese workers are so friendly! In America someone can be having not the best day and maybe show it in their expressions, that`s normal right? Well, in Japan ever worker in any business you go has the biggest smile and is so respectful. At the cash register they get the change perfectly on the receipt and bow handing it to you saying “Arigato gozaimasu“ which means “Thank you“. Any time you walk in a store you hear all the workers say “Ira shai masse“ which means “Welcome“. Sometimes it`s a little too perfect, everyone seems like robots. I tried once to have a conversation one time with one worker and they looked so surprised because it`s very abnormal to have a conversation with someone you don`t know. I remember the nineteen year old kid just smiled and giggled and bowed haha.
    New Years day all of us missionaries are going to a Japanese Shrine! I`m so excited to learn some Japanese culture. New Years is HUGE in Japan! The biggest holiday!! I am excited to make some new year resolutions! I can feel 2014 will be the best year yet!!!
   I also feel that this next year I will grow closer to the Lord than I ever have.
I love you!!!
Sister Butler

December 24, 2013

 So many miracles this Christmas season! I am so grateful to be a missionary in Japan for at least one Christmas! Sister Iwahashi and I made it a goal to do as much service as we possibly could this past week and this upcoming week to show people Christ`s love. We`ve been searching out many service opportunities. All of us 8 missionaries went to another retirment home today to sing Christmas hymns and it was so FUN! My heart was touched watching these sweet, elderly Japanese people mumble along with us to the many differnt Christmas hymns. We sang for about 4 different groups at both places and introduced ourselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I saw many of these sweet peoples face light up and one old man said, “Senkyoshi san?!“ His eyes were wide and filled with hope. We said, “Hai, senkyoshi san desu“ with a big smile. As we sang I could see that man feel the Spirit as he looked into all of our eyes.
  Sister Iwahashi and I have been teaching our investigator of two weeks, Ayaka chyan. She wants to keep hearing the lessons but has a worry about her family since their buddhist. We are praying that she can continue to read the Book of Mormon and keep commitments so that her desire to be baptized will grow. We also had an amazing Christmas party on Saturday.Our investigator Sato san, who`s husband died two months ago from cancer, came. I was so happy she came and talked with two of the sisters, Usami shimai and Checketts shimai. We are going to bike to her house tomorrow to give her a Christmas present. I love these Akita memebers and they really worked hard for this party. It was all the members planning and it was the first time I saw members involved rather than missionaries planning. Our goal was 70 and the Lord blessed us with 75. The Lord is really in every aspect of our lives, not just missionary work and goals. I know this because I have asked for the smallest request and He always blesses me with more. I might not realize it at first, but it`s when I humble myself and look outside myself that I notice His abundant blessings.
OH one more thing! One of the cutest things I`ve ever seen was the bishopric come surprise us 4 sisters at our apartment wearing santa hats and saying “Merry Christmas“ with the cutest Japanese accent! We have Christmas presents under our little cardboard tree about 5 inches high! I  am loving this Christmas!!!

December 23, 2013

Today was amazing! All of us missionaries woke up at the crack of dawn 5:30am so that we could get picked up by 6:30am by our ward mission leader brother Checketts. He took us all snow hiking today in the mountains!! It was exactly in my element! I have missed doing outdoor activities other than walking and riding my bike! I`ve been craving outside hiking or sports for the whole time I`ve been in Japan. Once in a while basketball just wasn`t enough for my active playing energy! The snow in the mountains was picture perfect! We went sledding down huge hills and I laughed more than I have in a long time today watching all my friends, the other elders and sisters slide down the hill screaming. We had a huge snow ball fight and may or may not have ganged up on brother Checketts with a snow rage haha. It was so fun! Brother Checketts is the most outdoorsy, fun, and active 63 year old man I know! I want to be as active as him when I`m his age. It was the first time all of us missionaries got to go out and play with him and really get to know him better other than a Church setting.
  We all were EXHAUSTED by the end of 4 hours and headed back to the city to take change and get ready for a big performance. We all went to a little near by retirement home that sister Iwahashi and I had called to ask if we could go caroling. You should`ve seen the faces of the workers when we asked, I guess singing Christmas songs to elderly is really out of the ordinary in Japan. We all went and performed for 30 of the cutest little old Japanese people I`ve ever seen! Their faces really lit up and I was so grateful for the opportunity. We all sang in Japanese from our hymn books and had some of them sing a long too. After caroling sister Iwahashi and I went and brought our apartments groceries and then sister Iwahashi got to skype her parents!!! I love her parents, they are so sweet and humble! Just like their daughter! 40 minutes flew by waaay fast so now I`m preparing for that short time with my parents and Coomers! I`m so excited to see you my wonderful family!!!
There`s so much more to say but I don`t have any more time today. Tomorrow I get to email too, because since it`s Christmas week and I was so busy I emailed only an hour today and get to email another hour tomorrow!