Monday, October 26, 2015

Mission Accomplished!

Do you realize that this is the last time you'll get an email from me before you see me?

This week was great. Working with Elder M again is a blast. We work well together. Teaching is really fun with him because we have really good balance. I also just like teaching. That's something I've found out on my mission.

Last Tuesday we went to go drop off Elder N and on the way home we went through Toyohashi, which is where Elder Mitchell and I werecompanions earlier this year. And we had dinner with the Elders there at this restaurant that we used to go to all the time called Katsu Sato. It was really fun to go back there, especially with Elder M.

Of special note this week was the opportunity I had to play trios. There is a member in Shizuoka who is studying the cello, and she set up a time for us to go over to her teacher, who apparently is pretty
famous in this area, and he played for us a little bit. I'm not sure how, but they had found out that I play the violin, so they invited me to play something. And so we played together. Due to years of not
practicing, I was pretty rusty, but all things considered it went really well, I think. At the very least I had a good time. It made me want to practice though.

We also had a stake sports day. There were lots of little events like seeing how many plastic balls one team could throw into a laundry basket on a pole, and a relay, and a tug of war, and a speed walking race. It was great! But because I wore shorts, which I don't usually do outside, my calves got sunburned. That was pretty unexpected. But not really surprising since my legs are so pale now.

Well, I guess I should write about my impressions concerning my two years as a missionary now.

To be honest, I was never too excited about serving a mission when I grew up. Especially since as a teenager my life was not at all in harmony with what someone who planned to be a mission should be
living. But I knew it would be hard for me. And it was, in many ways I did expect and also many ways that I didn't expect. And I'm still not sure how I made it through the darkest of times that I've ever experienced. I have no explanation but the grace of God.

But it hasn't been all bad. It hasn't been something that I've just had to grit my teeth and bear. In fact, because of Christ, even the bad things have had good effects on my life. It has been a privilege. And now, being on the other side and knowing what I know now. I would not exchange my experiences in Japan for anything. And the reason is because I came to know who Christ was.

I'm happier now. I'm healthier now. And I'm hopeful about the future.

I've already said so much about this in previous letters that I can hardly keep from repeating myself, but I am glad that I had this chance to be broken down, so that I could be built up too. I'm grateful that I had the chance to come to know God in my extremities while serving in the Japan Nagoya Mission.

I'll see you soon,

Elder Alex Mueller

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Last Changes

Dear Mom,
Hello, it turns out that my companionship is changing again. Elder
N..moto was called to be an assistant to the mission president, so he
will be going to the mission home tomorrow, and it will just be me and
Elder M together again for two weeks. That is, unless something
else happens. It shouldn't. Unexpected transfers should be extremely
rare, but two have happened now.

It was definitely kind of sad to say goodbye to Elder McC last Tuesday, but I saw him at the Zone Conference last Friday, and he was doing well.

Working together with Elder M and Elder N..moto was pretty fun. It was a little strange. Being in a three-man companionship is way harder than it was in the MTC. But we had our fun. We even went out for pizza one time:


Elder N...moto with pizza
Elder N...moto's bike broke down while we were really far away from the apartment the other day, and we had to stop what we were doing so that we could go to the bike shop. That made for quite the adventure. We didn't have to walk there, but he did have to ride very carefully because the axel where the pedals attached to the frame was making really sketchy noises. Anyway, we were pretty exhausted after that ordeal, so we went to get pizza.
Zone conference was this week too. It was really good. It was the first one that President Ishii has done, and it was my last. It was really good. We've been talking a lot about faith and personal conversion this transfer, and the conference was about those things. We're reading the Book of Mormon as a mission, and highlighting things about Christ and faith and it's been going really well. Every time I read it I can't help but think about just how much I like it now. It's so much more engaging than it used to be. I guess it means that I'm different now, because the words sure haven't changed. They are exactly the same as they were when I was a kid.
President Ishii hasn't been mission president for very long, but he has emphasized over and over when he speaks the importance of having a testimony and of how the success of a missionary is not measured by the number of baptisms he performs or even by how many investigators he finds. It's about how much he changes. And whenever he says that, I feel happy, because I know I've done my best.
Here is the Shizuoka Zone.
Well, this is going to be my second to last letter home. And it feels strange. I never really thought that I would make it to this point. I just couldn't imagine it. I didn't know what to expect, but I am so glad that I am where I am now. When I was in Takayama, there was a friend of mine who I talked to a lot that transfer because I was just so discouraged, and he gave me a note when he left to go home to America, and he said that after trying to think of what he should write, he decided on four words. "You can do it." And I wanted to believe him, but I wasn't sure. But now here I am. I've done it.
It's a good time to be me.
With love,

Elder Mueller

Sunday, October 11, 2015

General Conference is the Only Missionary Holiday

Hello,
Conference was pretty much the best one I've ever seen. I don't think
I've ever learned as much from a single conference than I did this
weekend. It was pretty amazing.

I especially liked all the talks emphasizing incremental improvement
through the guidance of the Spirit. I like that concept. It makes it a
lot more easy to see the path between where we are currently and the
celestial kingdom.

Still see plenty of spiders everywhere. It's just that time of year, I guess. Elder McC with a friend.

So, I'm actually losing another companion. There was an Elder who is going home, so my companion, Elder McC, is going to replace him in Numazu, which means that I get to stay here and work with the Zone Leaders. Another threesome. It will be fun. A big change from the peaceful, simple work that we've been doing up to now this transfer. The Zone Leaders are super busy all the time. Lots of appointments and things to do. And Elder McC and I have just been searching for investigators all day every day. So the change will be nice.

Making my way down to the last few weeks of my mission. It's hard to believe that I'll be leaving Japan soon. But I'm glad that I've gotten to learn and grow as much as I have. I struggle less, which I assume means that I'm a lot different than I was two years ago.

The Gospel is still true. God lives. We aren't alone. We can get better every day.

Love you,
Elder Mueller

Monday, October 5, 2015

Good Week!

This week has been kind of long, but it was really good.

This week's adventures included eating wasabi flavored ice cream. It was kinda gross. But it was worth trying once!

An old guy who is friends with the bishop of my companion's last area called us and took us out to eat at this amazing restaurant. They sold "katsu" which is a breaded fried pork cutlet. It was so good! This is the picture we took with him.

I'm doing really good right now. We still don't have anything really moving yet, so we are doing a lot of street contacting and door-to-door stuff, but it's not so bad.



We also had a Zone Training meeting this week. It was a pretty good time. Everyone in this zone has a lot of energy. Most of the missionaries are still pretty new as well, which makes quite a difference. I don't know if you recognize him up there, but my companion from the MTC, Elder Z just went home today. He was serving in the same zone as me. And this meeting was one of his last days which was a little strange to see, but just a lot of things, including this, make it feel like my mission is coming full circle.

There was a typhoon this week too. It hit at night time, so we didn't have to worry about going out in it or not, but the wind and the rain was so loud that it woke us up numerous time through the night. It was so loud that even though I could see the flash from the lightning, I couldn't hear any thunder.

The church is still true. And I'm still learning things everyday. There is no end to the things that one can learn. It's pretty nice if you think about it. I can imagine that if there were only a finite number of things that you could learn in life, it would get kind of boring. The key is to stay humble. That makes it so you can keep learning.

With love,

Elder Mueller

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shizuoka

Hello! My new area is great. Shizuoka is a good place to be. And other

than the occasional rain, the weather is great too.




This is my companion, Elder McC, at the beach.

This week has been pretty exciting. I left Nakatsugawa on Tuesday and said goodbye to my trainee. That was quite the relief. Then we spent three or four hours getting to Shizuoka, not counting the stop for lunch/dinner in Hamamatsu. So it was already pretty late once we got back. 

I'm staying with three other Elders here, and one of them happens to be my former companion, Elder M from Toyohashi. I haven't been able to see him at all ever since he transferred away from Toyohashi about six months ago, so it was nice to be able to see him again. It's a pretty fun apartment to be in.




Elders McC, N...moto, M, and Mueller

The other two missionaries in our apartment are Zone Leaders, so I get a peek into what the mission leaders are doing. Which is kind of fun. I've always wanted to be a Zone Leaders just for a little while just to see how the mission leadership works, but it looks like I'm not going to be able to get that opportunity after all.

Things are a lot more low key this transfer. Last time I had a lot of responsibility, what with being District leader of a really big district and being a trainer. But this transfer is a lot simpler. I'm actually junior companion, technically. So it's a nice opportunity just to work hard on my own area with my companion and not worry about much else.

Elder McClellan, my companion right now, is a really good guy. He's pretty mild mannered, but he does get passionate about one thing: food. If you ask him what his favorite food is, he says "pretty much anything." He's always on the hunt for good restaurants. We don't have much money right now because it cost a lot to get here and it's almost the end of the month, but I'm sure we're going to eat some pretty good food this transfer.

Since there were not missionaries working in our places before we got here, we have to start from zero. When I first got here, that was a little daunting, due to the fact that I still don't like knocking on doors or talking to people on the street much. But we found an investigator yesterday, so hopefully we will be able to get things off the ground here!

I got a blessing yesterday, because I've just been really fatigued and felt kind of sick for weeks and a little down too, and the Lord told me to remember that He is always there, which is something that I tend to forget.  It was emphasized two or three times in the blessing. I remember another blessing that I got when almost the exact same thing was said too. Also in the blessing it said that I have done the right thing on my mission. It was really comforting. As you know I tend to take things too seriously, and so it's easy to think that a lot of things that have happened or didn't happen on my mission are my fault. That if I had been better, my mission would have been a lot different. But that's not the case. I have done what I'm supposed to. And I have tried so hard to be good. 

It also said that the Lord wants me to pray about everything, even things that it seems like God wouldn't really care about and that I would be helped.I took comfort in that and almost immediately put that promise to test when five minutes later, I was looking for my name tag, and couldn't find it. I said a short prayer, and thirty seconds later I realized where it must have been. That was the same day that we found our new investigator. 

I guess the Lord doesn't just like playing games with us. He's not just waiting for us to fulfill a huge list of requirements before He blesses us. He is anxious to bless us always. Blessings are not like a computer where if even just one little thing is wrong it won't work. Being a missionary isn't about just trying to find the perfect combination of good things to do in order to magically get people into the baptismal font. It's about faith in Christ and patience. And hope that the Lord will lead you to the people that He needs you to. And "a perfect brightness of hope" that as long as you are doing your best you cannot fail the Lord. 

My mission is nearly over, which I am grateful for, because nothing has ever made me feel so inadequate and vulnerable than missionary work. But I'm so grateful to know that my two years in the Lord's service has not been a waste, but that it will bless me so much and everyone I've met so much and everyone I meet ever again. Because I'm different now. And Japan is just a little different now because I had the faith enough to accept the call to serve. So I'm happy. And less worried that I'll mess up now.

With love,
Elder Mueller

Monday, September 21, 2015

All's Well That Ends Well

So another transfer has come and gone, and much to my relief, I am separating from my companion. Working with him has been like reliving all the difficult companionships that I've experienced up to this point, so it's going to be a relief to be able to say goodbye tomorrow.

I am transferring to Shizuoka. And I am very excited. During my first few months in Japan, I got to go to Shizuoka a number of times, and I had very good impressions of it. It's also a big city. Definitely the biggest one I will work in ever.

My companion is also someone I know already, so I am not worried about things there. He's someone who was in my district this transfer. In fact, I worked with him on a companion exchange last week! His name is Elder McC, and he's from a small town near San Jose.

The number of missionaries in Shizuoka also is changing from two elders and two sisters to four elders and two sisters, so my companion and I will be starting from nothing. It's going to be a great chance to work really hard and go out strong.

I think I've learned a lot about working with others on my mission. I didn't particularly enjoy working with others before, but when things work out, it can be really great. But even when you are working with someone that you don't match up well with, you can still do your best
to avoid fights, to compromise and to see things from the perspective of the person that you aren't getting along with. A lot of fights I had with my siblings could definitely have been avoided if I had known that and actually thought that way back then.

It's definitely not easy though. Especially when there are things that need to get done. It's hard to remember to be loving and gentle when work needs to be done. But I think that God cares a lot more about us acting kindly to others even if they don't do what they should. God
weeps when his children fight and hate each other, it says so in Moses 7:28-33.

I am worried about Elder A. I'm worried because I know he will have difficulties with others, and because I know that until he humbles himself and follows his leaders, that he will not be able to be a successful missionary. But I don't think that there is anything more that I could have done. I tried to instruct him with love and tolerance, and he has rejected my counsel. And now there's no time left but to just be nice (as patience trying as that can be) and hope that he will figure out someday that you can't just ignore everyone else and insist that you are right all the time. It's okay to be wrong.

God will bless us with love, as we ask for it. And as we repent as we make mistakes, we will be strengthened by power from heaven. Because that's what the gospel is really about. It's about being strengthened and blessed to do things we couldn't before.

Love,

Elder Mueller

Monday, September 14, 2015

Our Mission Got Called to Repentance!

Time continues to just move faster and faster. I think it's a sign that I'm an adult now. It's certainly a lot easier to be patient and wait for things nowadays. As a kid everything always just felt so long.

We had a special mission conference this week with Elder Whiting of the Seventy. He's presiding over the Asia North area, which includes Japan, Korea, and some of the small pacific islands. At the beginning of the conference, they opened up the time for some questions (in my experience with general authorities, they really like to do this. At least they do with missionaries). And I was able to ask a question: "How does one rely on the Atonement of Christ?" And after letting his wife answer and talk about grace, he started talking about faith and how it's related to power which was the topic that he was planning on speaking about. So it felt like the entire conference was just answering my question. I thought that was pretty cool.

We also performed "A Child's Prayer," and I played the violin. There were other people singing, but I had to practice with Sister Bunker, the pianist who is sitting on the right, a little more before we performed.


Anyway, what Elder Whiting related was an experience from a few months ago, when Elder Ballard visited. This was the same time that we had the special mission conference last February. But apparently Elder Ballard met with the area presidency and they gave a report about what kind of things were going on in the area. Once they had finished, Elder Ballard asked them why we aren't baptizing people here. And the only answer that he would accept, is that we don't have enough faith. So we started talking about faith and how we can exercise it and whether or not we have the faith to baptize. 

It was a really good conference. And I think it will definitely help us as a mission to move forward together. It was definitely helpful to me, and has led my prayers to be more sincere and less desperate.

On Friday, after a companion exchange, we stayed in Seto, and went to play soccer with some investigators and some kids. It was really fun! I like soccer a lot. And I got to be on a team with some of the kids, and they thought I was best, because my name, Mueller, is the same as one of the best players on the German soccer team that competed at the World Cup last year. That and pass the ball in times other than when I'm in trouble.


Me and my team

Something that I've never done before Nakatsugawa is teach a English Class for kids. But we have one every week here. And it's pretty fun. The kids can get pretty crazy sometimes. And not having a native-level grasp on their language can make it easy for things to get out of hand. At least we have a native missionary here though. She helps a lot!

Also, they're all girls.

Anyway, things are going okay. Although it's hard to get anything done still with this companion of mine. This has definitely been one of my more difficult transfers.

I finished the Book of Mormon again yesterday. It's still true, in case you were wondering. And if dad was going to ask, yes, the Nephites still all die at the end. Something that I did differently this time was that I went through with my markers and marked all of the places where it mentions Christ's names, as well as His name, and where He is directly quoted. It has made me more aware of how the Lord works with us. As well as just how often it says "you will prosper if you keep the commandments." It says it so much. 



We just got back from an all-you-can-eat restaurant with the district.

It's a pretty good week! The weather has been lovely ever since the typhoon passed on Tuesday (the sun started shining through the clouds in the middle of the mission conference). And it's not too hot anymore. I'm just enduring to the end with a brightness of hope and faith in Christ.

With love,

Elder Mueller

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