March 17, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
First of all we love and appreciate all of you. Thank you for your support and love and letters and emails and cards and packages and prayers. We truly feel so blessed to have such wonderful support back home. Please know of our gratitude, even though we don’t always respond to each of you, we thank you for being there for us. Every day we thank our Heavenly Father for wonderful family and friends.
We have had another unbelievable six week ride in the “land of the rising sun”. We sometimes like to think that we are doing better at getting things down. Then we have experiences that remind us that we still have so much to learn and challenges to overcome. At times it can be pretty difficult and lonely and depressing. Other times we are so full of joy and happiness and so thankful for this wonderful experience and opportunity. It has truly been an experience of a lifetime. There have been so many spiritual highs and then on occasion some low valleys to walk through. Sometimes it seems like we have been gone for a long time and then other times it seems like the time has flown by.
My Japanese is getting a little better, and my English is getting a little worse. I’m at a point that I don’t speak either language very well. The Japanese don’t understand my Japanese and the Americans don’t understand my English. So I’ve resorted to a lot of grunts and hand signs and pointing. I am so excited to play “Pictionary” when we get home! There have been times when I will ask one of the very best Elders what someone just said, and they will say to me, “President, I’m not sure.” It makes me feel so good when the very talented Elders and Sisters don’t always understand either. Somehow, we all seem to communicate and help one another understand what the other is saying. To be able to communicate is one of the many “tender mercies” of a loving Heavenly Father.
We completed our Zone Conferences this past month, with the help of Elder and Sister Mead and Elder and Sister Brown. They live in Tokyo and are the Area Mental Health and Medical Health doctors. It is comforting to have them available to help us with any serious problems that might come up. We were on the road for 8 days and were ready to get back to our home. It is always so wonderful to be with the missionaries and feel their enthusiasm and youthfulness. They seem to buoy us up more than anything that we can do for them. They have strong testimonies and I feel so confident in the future of the church being led by these wonderful young men and women.
I probably say this every letter, but it seems like each six week cycle gets busier and busier. This past Zone Conference schedule was a long time to be on the road at once, however we had to do it this way so we could accomplish everything else we had going on. We had two District Conferences in February that took up two weekends. Then we had the privilege of having Elder and Sister Oaks come on February 9th and 10th. And then we had Janice Kapp Perry and her husband and a Japanese singer, Nobuaki Irie on March 10th and 11th. We also had our biggest group of missionaries so far going home and a similar size group of new missionaries coming in.
Elder Oaks and his wife were so great to be with. We shuttled them from the airport to their hotel and then later that evening we picked them up and had a member meeting with them in Fukuoka. We had 20 missionaries sleep in our home that night after the member meeting because they live so far away. The next day we had a missionary meeting with them. We televised the meeting to the missionaries in Okinawa, Ishigaki and Miyako islands. Prior to the meeting they greeted and shook each of the missionary’s hand, and we took pictures with them. Elder and Sister Oaks taught us many wonderful things. I have three pages of typed notes that I took from this wonderful meeting. After the meeting we drove them to the mission home where we had lunch with them and Elder and Sister Yamashita (Area Seventy), President and Sister Miyashita (Temple President), and Sherry and I. Sherry cooked a great meal. (Sherry has cooked more meals for guests and missionaries in the last eight months, than the previous 34 years of our married life). After lunch we toured the Fukuoka Temple with them and the mission offices and then took them to the airport. I asked my assistants Elder Stevenson and Elder Richardson if they would like to drive us all to the airport. They thought that I had given them a million dollars! They were able to ask Sister Oaks what it was like to date an apostle. They also asked Elder Oaks how he decided what he wanted to do as a profession when he was their age. They were so warm and “down to earth” to be with. We had a delightful time with them.
At the missionary meeting I was able to announce that the Hiroshima Mission that is north of us on a separate island of Japan will be consolidated into the Fukuoka and Kobe Missions. As you are probably aware the church announced the consolidation of several missions throughout the world. It just so happens that one of the consolidations is happening here in Japan. I was made aware of this in November. It was good to finally be able to share this with the missionaries. They were very surprised. This means that we will be getting 32 more missionaries around the end of June. It will include another District and another Stake. I’m not sure how we will handle this addition, but the Lord has blessed us thus far and I know he will help us with this added responsibility. We pray we can bring these wonderful missionaries from the Hiroshima Mission into the Fukuoka Mission family and that they will feel our love and excitement to have them be with us.
While down in Okinawa we experienced an earthquake on February the 27th. We were on the sixth floor of the hotel when it occurred at 5:30 in the morning. We were very nervous, even though it lasted only about 30 seconds, you are not sure when it will end. You pray that it ends before the building falls. It shook us pretty good; however there was very little damage to any buildings, and no people hurt. We made sure all the missionaries were OK and then we continued with the day’s schedule. Sunday afternoon we heard alarms for a tsunami warning, because of the Chili earthquake. Again we called the missionaries and had the missionaries stay away from any coastal areas. Again everyone was fine.
This past Wednesday evening we attended a concert put on by a Japanese singer Nobuaki Irie and Janice Kapp Perry and her husband. It was amazing to hear so many of the songs that she wrote that are such a big part of our music in the church. She is an extremely talented composer and writer of church songs. As I mentioned earlier, they stayed with us in the mission home and it was a delight to be able to visit with them and hear of their many experiences in life. They are in their seventies and have served a senior mission in Chili. They were there at the time Elder Holland was presiding as the Area President.
We picked up Kristin our daughter at the airport on March 12th and are so excited to be with her and show her a little of the Japanese sights, sounds, people and food. It was so good to see her again after almost nine months. After being with her for just a few hours it seemed like we had never been apart. We have enjoyed taking her on some excursions. We have been to some sights we have not taken the time to see. Her being here has given us an excuse to get out and truly see Japan. It has charged are batteries. I’m so glad that we can have visits from our family. It gives us something to look forward to. We are hopeful that all of our family can come out in the next couple of years.
The missionary work continues to move forward hear in the Japan Fukuoka Mission. We enjoy the opportunity to serve and to help where we can. Once again thank you for all you prayers and thoughts in our behalf. We miss you all and look forward to seeing you all in a couple more years and a few months.
Sherm and Sherry