Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas

Hello all,

Christmas was very nice. Very quiet. But I got to talk to my family this week, which is always nice. Although talking to them makes me notice a lot how I've changed. I'm a lot different than I used to be. I behave differently around them than I did before.

However, on Saturday, during an exchange, I had a bit of an accident. I hit an icy patch in the road on my bike, and I slipped and fell. I was mostly okay, and luckily there weren't many cars on the road. However, my hands hurt a bit, and things seemed a little strange, so I went to the doctor this morning and they taped things up. However, something was hurting just now that didn't earlier, so I might need to go back tomorrow.

​Things are good. The gospel is still true.

Love,

Elder Mueller


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Hello!

The snow here this last week was ridiculous! And I'm really sore from all the snow shoveling that we did. It probably snowed about a meter and a half in two or three days! We were supposed to have a Christmas Zone Conference, but it was postponed because the trains weren't running at all.

Things should be good for Christmas this year. It's a lot quieter here. They don't celebrate it that much. Everyone just eats cake aparently. That's about the extent of the celebrations. But we have our ward Christmas party tomorrow; it's going to be really fun!

I love you all,

-Elder Mueller​

Monday, December 15, 2014

Engaged...

...in a good cause! Missionary work. It's good stuff, you know!

Hello, everyone!

This week, our mission got a special visit from Elder Ringwood of the Seventy. He did a mission tour, and so there were three conferences in different parts of the mission. But because the zone I'm in is so far away from everything else (Even just to get to the stake center takes three hours by train. Longer, if the tracks are icy), so we had a special one that was just our zone. The Spirit we were able to feel there was magnificent, and I was able to learn a lot and receive special revelation that I needed.

Last week, we also found our that Elder Ballard of the Twelve is visiting our mission in February, so that's going to be great to look forward to.

I'm working things out with Elder W. He's opening up more and being more honest with me about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and I think we are starting to understand each other more. 

One thing that I've been learning more and more about is to be less judgmental of people, especially myself. I am sometimes very hard on myself, but it's better to be more patient with myself and with others as we all try to get better. 

We also started to prepare things for the Christmas Party that we are having for the branch next week. The youth are putting together this ridiculous play based on an idea they stole from the Toy Story short that Disney made with the Hawaiian vacation. And at the end we are singing "Oh, Happy Day," a song from some Whoopi Goldberg movie. I feel so white when I sing it. And I'm singing with other white people and Asians. Oh well. しょがないね.

Keeping my head up,

Elder Mueller

Monday, December 8, 2014

Update from Alex's Mom

Hi, Everyone! Alex didn't send a general email this week, but he is an obedient missionary and wrote to his mom. Here are just a couple of thoughts I wanted to share...

"Well, things are a bit rough right now....But I'm figuring things out. And I'm learning a lot too. Of all the times on my mission, this is the one when I feel most connected to Heaven's power."

"It snowed here this last week, so things have been pretty cold. I'm staying warm though. I got some boots today, so when it snows again, I'll be able to walk through the snow more easily. We can't ride bikes in the snow very well. And it snows a lot here."

So, please keep Elder Mueller in your prayers. I know it helps him  a lot! Have a great week!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Taking the Plunge into December

Hello,

This week was transfer calls. Aaaaand. . . . . . . .everything is exactly the same. All of the Takayama Elders are still the same.

Because everything is still the same, I need to work really hard to do things differently. We didn't get a lot done last transfer. And though it's a lot easier to change things with a new companion or a new area, there isn't the luxury of that this transfer. This whole situation is just really. . .confusing. But I asked my district leader for a blessing today, so I am hoping for some guidance to come through that.

It's been kind of rainy today. But I think it's supposed to start snowing soon, so we will probably have to switch to working on foot. That will be a new adventure.

Lately, I've found just how much the Book of Mormon can help in times of trouble. Whenever I have been feeling confused or lonely, I just open the Book of Mormon and lose myself in the stories in there. I guess it's not that surprising that I do that. I did that with other books before my mission all the time.

I really like Japan. Japanese is really fun to speak and I like talking to Japanese people. Especially the members. I think the biggest bummer about eventually going home is that I won't be able to speak Japanese all the time. Maybe I'll have another Japanese companion, so I can just speak Japanese 24/7 again.

Love you all,

Elder Mueller​

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peace Amidst Confusion

Hello, my dearest correspondents,​

The weather here has been a little obnoxious. This week it got really cold. Not below freezing yet, but it was pushing it. And then it was really nice for a couple days, and today it's raining cats and dogs. It's been a bit ridiculous. But fun too. But the members are saying that it could snow any day now, so I'm a bit anxious for that. I'm not quite sure how it will be, trying to work in the snow. It will definitely be an adventure.

This week, I have been surprised at how bountifully the Lord gives me help even when things are difficult to understand. My companion, Elder W, though he said he had changed dramatically in the course of a week, still seems to be upset by the same things that he was before. And I try my best to support him and to help him and devote a significant portion of my day praying and pondering about what he needs and what I should do.

In the midst of this, I am working to overcome my own problems. Specifically, my lingering discomfort about talking to strangers. This makes it really hard to do streeting or housing. But more than I ever have before on my mission, I've been able to do these things. All of my own volition. It's just that having the companion that I have, it is extremely difficult for me to be able to stay calm and in control of finding situations. Perhaps because he has such a hard time staying calm and in control. And then he tears himself apart in his mind after he does things. But we don't have a lot of investigators right now. And so we have a lot of free time and a neccesity to find. But we haven't been able to find an investigator all transfer. And that makes it hard to not get discouraged.

It's difficult to communicate just what is going on, but this transfer more than any other, I have tried to admit my weaknesses to the Lord and to do what I can, despite of my circumstances. And the Lord has helped me. I know he has because I went on an exchange last week with a different Junior Companion and it was great. I was fine. And I worked hard. And I felt good, because I knew that I was doing what I was supposed to.

So, what I guess I'm trying to communicate is that I have been trying so hard to just keep going and to do what the Lord would have me do. Even though things aren't going as well as maybe they could have. This mission has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and I have had more extreme emotionally straining experiences than I thought would ever be possible before being set apart. But I'm still standing. I'm still doing what I can. I know the Lord is proud of me because I have not given up. And I won't ever give up. That is the only way to fail in this situation. I know there are unimaginably fun and good and happy times waiting for me ahead here in Japan. Right now is not very fun overall. But there are fun things. And more importantly, I have learned in the dross-consuming forge of the Master Refiner's fire, that Christ lives. That he knows me. That he loves me. That he has redeemed me from sin, and has provided a way for me to rise above my infirmities. And that through my experiences He is preparing me for life above.

There is still much I do not know. There is still much about me that is far from perfect. But I know that in Him, I can be made perfect.

I send these things with love.

Sincerely,

Elder Mueller

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hello

Dear people who read these e-mails,

Things have changed a lot this week. My companion has gotten out of the pit of his depression, and is going to do some great things. He's going to be okay.

There still isn't a lot that's happening here. We have yet to find some new investigators. But we're doing the best we can with what we have. 

One thing that's been a bit difficult is the fact that bears have started being seen all over the city. Someone actually died about a week ago. They don't have any food because a bunch of extremely big moths ate it all in the summer, so now the bears are hungry and aggressive. It's a bit scary, but I still haven't seen one yet. I expect that the missionaries will be fine. But there is still the need to be careful.

Other than that it's been a pretty slow week. Well, more like just a really slow transfer. But there's some fun stuff going on next weekend, so there's something to look forward to. 

With love,

-Elder Mueller 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wandering the streets of Takayama

Hello everyone!

I'm doing quite well. Even though things aren't moving very quickly right now. We only have two investigators right now, and our efforts to find new ones haven't shown any fruit yet. But I'm still 元気? Although I think my companion is depressed. He doesn't seem to be doing so well. I think he may miss his family. Also I think he wants to see missionary work get done, but isn't willing to put in the effort to do it himself. A bit frustrating and confusing. But I'm working day by day to know what the Lord would like me to do here. And the other two elders in the apartment are good friends, so I always have that to look forward to.

And here are some pictures :)


A giant gate. They have these outside shrines usually, but this one is just on one side of a bridge, and it's huge. If you want to know how big, just zoom in on the middle. I'm standing under it with my arms outstretched.
Halloween costume from mom. . .and Elder H and Elder W in the back.
New companion, Elder W.

Me in front of Takayama city

Love you!

-Elder Mueller

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

One Year of Love. . . . .I Mean Mission


​Hello.

I'm at the library right now. . .I mean the 図書館. I haven't been to a library in a long time. When I finish e-mailing, I'm going to explore the shelves a bit. And I'm typing on a laptop. How cool is that?

I caught a cold this week. But after being with Elder T...yama while he was sick for a week, and then being with Elder W while he was sick for a week, and the rapidly decreasing temperature, it would have been very hard to have further prevented it.

Takayama is a very beautiful place. It's a little frustrating to work here right now, just because Elder W and I are kind of having to start over with investigators and I'm still trying to get over my anxiety with talking to people so that we can find. And there isn't much we have done since I got here that has come to fruit at all since I've gotten here, but something's bound to happen soon. And if it doesn't even if I'm doing all I can, then しょうがない. The Lord must want us to learn something else.

It was my year mark this week too. Hence the loose Queen reference in the subject line. It makes me think a lot. A lot of stuff has happened in the last year. And I've grown a lot. Even though I'm not a super missionary with millions of baptisms who just finds golden investigators every two seconds. I'm pretty super compared to what I was before. I'm a lot more robust, emotionally and spiritually speaking. I'm a lot less easily upset or discouraged. I'm a lot more hopeful. And I know it's because I learned to rely on the Lord more. I heard his voice in my extremities. And I know that he will continue to guide me so that I become the servant that I need to be.

This last weekend was the Kanazawa Stake Conference. And so everyone in the zone stayed at the zone leader's apartment on Saturday night after the adult session. It was pretty crazy. Something like 20 missionaries all in the same apartment. But something that my missionary brother, Elder C (brother in that we have the same trainer, "dad") surprised me. We were talking about this mission, and some of the crazy history it's had in the past. And Elder C, who just was a zone leader last transfer, said that if President Yamashita felt that we needed to have lots of baptisms, that we would have them. Aparently the Kobe Japan Mission leader is doing just that right now. They are really focusing and they are seeing lots of baptisms. But that is not what President Yamashita is focusing on. He is focusing on letting people make their own decisions and find solutions to their own problems, having people find their own way of doing things, because he is trying to raise up the future leaders of the church. That made a lot of sense to me when I heard it. I haven't seen a lot of success on my mission, at least in terms of statistics. But what I have seen is tons of change, mostly in myself. Perhaps the Lord is preparing me for something else.

Love you,

-Elder Mueller

Monday, October 27, 2014

高山 Takayama

Hello from Gifu-ken!

I was really sad to have to leave Ueda. That place felt like my home. I already miss seeing M...zumi-kun all the time. But Takayama is really great.

On Tuesday, Elder T...yama and I went to Nagoya and parted ways. He was difficult to live with, but it was sad to have to leave him. He was always a good friend, and I truly grew to love him. But it was time to go. And so he returned to Ueda with his new companion, and I set forth into a new land. Venturing forth to an new journey, filled with new perils, new monsters, new friends, and new weather patterns.

My new companion's name is Elder W. He is only one transfer behind me, so our time at the MTC overlapped a bit. He was in a different zone though, so I didn't really know him at all. He's from a very small town in northern California. And well, I still haven't found much I have in common with him yet. He's already been in Takayama for 3 months, so he is the area senior, but I have the calling of Senior companion this transfer. But there are two companionships in Takayama, so we share an apartment with two more elders. Elder W was actually in the other companionship last transfer, so we are both new to the investigators. But because one elder here threw out his back really badly about two weeks into the transfer, they weren't able to do much for a month, so we are trying to get things up and running again. And there is definitely some slow acceleration that we are going to have to go through before things return to normal again. Last week we didn't get much done. 

One thing that is really nice about coming here, is that I just finished spending all day, every day with a Japanese person who spoke limited English, so I got really good at Japanese during that time. So that is a great blessing from the Lord, and really helpful since my companion is not very good at speaking Japanese. It's a little strange, because it feels like I'm with a missionary who hasn't been out for very long, but in reality, he's been out for only six weeks less than I have.

Our apartment is really big compared to Ueda's aparment. But I don't have a real desk. Elder W and I use two tables and we sit across from each other.

The other two Elders in Takayama are Elder V and Elder H. Elder V spent a long time in Ueda a few months before I was there, so I felt like I knew him a lot better that I did before now (I had only met him once) just from reading his name on records so much. Elder H was just a Bean-chan in Numazu -- my bean area -- so we have a lot to talk about. Elder V is the district leader, and our district is just our area, but he was Elder W's companion last transfer and so he's already helping a lot.

One thing that I really want to overcome this transfer is my aversion to talking to strangers. I have spent too long, both before my mission and during it up to now, being afraid of talking to people that I don't know. Talking to people that you don't know is hard enough for me already, but then that feeling is compounded by the fact that I'm supposed to talk to people about religion, something that most Japanese people do not want to talk about at all (probably because most of the religions here are crazy cults. Like the Ma-hikari who have their big headquarters temple thing just up the hill from our apartment here), and the fact that I have to do it in Japanese, which is a really hard language. BUT! I've been trying to overcome these feelings for a long time now, and this is the place where it's going to happen. I just have to stop freaking myself out. It's all just a mental game.

With love,

Elder Mueller

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Day of Goodbyes and the Night Before a New Adventure

Last Saturday was the day of transfer calls, and as everyone expected, I am transferring to a place called Takayama, in Gifu-ken. Even though I'm sad to have to leave Ueda after being here for 6 months, I'm really excited to have a new adventure and take the next step on my mission. 

My new companion's name is Elder W. Our MTC times overlapped a bit, so I've seen him before, but he was in a different Zone, so I didn't know him that well.

Takayama is notorious for getting lots of snow. One of my companions was there last winter and he said it was so bad that they couldn't use their bikes for a really long time. So when some of the Ueda investigators heard I was transferring there they brought me nice gloves and a scarf, and M...ami-chan brought a scarf, so I should stay plenty warm.

We also had the music night in Ina last Saturday. It was really nice, and quite a few people showed up, mostly non-members and investigators. There was no sheet music, so I had to improvise everything, but it went much better than I expected it to!

I had to say lots of goodbyes yesterday. I always knew that I really loved the members and investigators here, but I didn't really realize how much they loved me until yesterday. 

But the thing I like less about transfers than goodbyes is the fact that you have to pack everything up and move. It is extremely annoying to have to shove everything in two bags and send it off, and then pack up a bike and haul that all the way to Nagoya. Transfers are really the only time I wonder if I should have made a different bike purchase. My bike is really heavy!

Well, next time I e-mail you, I'll once again be in a new place. I'll talk to you then,

-Elder Mueller

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

General Conference

Hello, everyone.

This last weekend, all the members and all the missionaries in Nagano prefecture gathered in the Matsumoto branch building and watched General Conference. It was wonderful to be lifted and inspired by the words of the servants of God that we are so lucky to have guiding us by the inspiration of the Lord. I also thought it very interesting that all of the speakers now have the option of speaking in their own native language. Especially since now I am in a country where English is not the native language, so I have seen a lot of the difficulties of having to give talks in a language that is not your own!

Another really cool thing that happened just yesterday is that Elder T...yama and I met with a girl who just came up and started talking to me while I was on an companion exchange a couple weeks ago. She saw that we were foreigners and wanted to speak English. It turns out that she really likes philosophy, and has studied a bit about Christianity. And she is in an orchestra here and plays the violin. Crazy, right?! She's not an investigator yet, but she has a lot of potential. We talked for a while about philosophy and God and fate and things like that, and she seems to be really open-minded. I think she will be really sensitive to the Spirit.

The other way cool thing that's happening, is that we are going to a music night in Ina city on Saturday. Elder B....ers is putting on this way cool thing about the Book of Mormon and I get to play the piano for it! I'm really excited. 

This Saturday is also the day of transfer calls. So I'm just a bit nervous about what is going to happen next transfer. But I'm not all that worried. I know the Lord will have me go wherever I am needed.

With love,
Elder Mueller

Monday, October 6, 2014

A couple of Things

A messages from Alex's mom: This is a very short message from Alex, but I thought I would let you all know that Elder Mueller's grandfather passed away on Sunday. Although Alex is secure in his knowledge that his grandpa is now free and happy, I'm sure he could use your prayers this week as he is far away from home. :)

This is a really good talk that I heard

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/10/what-is-a-friend?lang=eng&query=Marvin+J+Ashton+Friend

Enjoy!



This is a picture of some people in my district. I think it looks like an album cover. 

Left to right: Elder B..well, District Leader; Elder M..ara, a Japanese Bean missionary; Me; Sister M.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have a New Favorite Apostle

Or rather I would have a new favorite if we were allowed to chose favorites. 

Since you sent me that flashdrive with music and conference talks, I have been filling it up with more and more talks. Lots and lots of really old talks, by people like Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton. And just now I tried listening to one of Elder Neal A. Maxwell's talks and I immediately fell in love. When I was a kid listening to general conference, I remember thinking that a lot of the talks were boring. Mostly because I didn't understand what was being talked about. But now I listen to the talks that were given when I was young, and I savor every word as I drink in the spirit that these servants of God bring. And the way that Elder Maxwell speaks is so rich and meaningful and the words he uses are so pleasing to my ears.

One of my favorite things that I have acquired during the course of the last year is my increased understanding and knowledge of the scriptures. Never before in my life have I been able to soak in the doctrines and principles of salvation much more fully that I ever have been able to before. And I am grateful for every moment I have to study.

The Gospel is true. And Jesus Christ lives. 

With love,

-Elder Mueller

Monday, September 22, 2014

Late Night Expeditions to Nagano City

Hello!

This week was good! My companion and I are getting along a lot better than we did last transfer, and so the days are quickly passing by. And I took some pictures:





First of all, there was a "piano fair" at the mall this week, so last p-day, I went to go mess around on the real pianos since that is a rare opportunity, and I found the piano that we have at home! It was pretty 懐かしい.



Second of all, it's starting to feel like autumn here. It gets pretty cool in the evenings now, and I've started wearing a sweater most of the time.



Also, I had a crazy exchange with a Zone Leader last Tuesday, and I forgot to get the keys from my companion, so the Mission home told us to go to Nagano area, because it's the closest (but it's still an hour away. Everything is just really far away in this Zone), and we got there super late. Because of infrequent trains and a Zone Leader who's priorities are a little wacky, it took us until 12:40 AM to get there. This is a picture of me waiting at the train station in front of the clock at 11:30 PM, by far the latest I have been out in a really long time.

Also, I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen this week. It was a little smaller than my palm. They just have really big spiders here.

My year mark is approaching quickly, and I was reflecting on a memory that came to me for some reason from when I was 4 or 5 years old. I was in the parking lot of the dance studio (not the building that Linda has now, the older one) and I think I was thinking about how I wanted to be 8 so that I could be baptized, but it was just so far away. But now I'm 19, and I've been on a mission in Japan -- a country I'm not sure I even knew existed at that age -- for nearly a year. Every year since I can remember has just gone by faster and faster. It's the same with transfers on a mission, too. Everything just keeps moving faster and faster, even the hard things too. I guess that just means that I'm growing up. 

Anyway, I'm doing great! I feel like I'm figuring things out and that I'm going to have a good week and a good transfer and a good mission and a good life. I can't wait to share it all with you!

With love,

Elder Mueller

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Keeping the Faith!

Hello,

Lately, we've been meeting with M...zumi-kun a lot. He's been teaching us how to play mahjong, and we've been trying to get him to progress towards baptism. Mahjong is a really complicated game, but it is really fun I'm getting really good. And I bought mahjong tiles with the rest of my birthday money. And I will be sending them home unopened because President Yamashita asked us not to have games in our apartment.

Also, M...zumi is praying every day to know if he should be baptized now. He keeps saying that the timing is bad right now and that he wants to do it later. But we're trying to help him to understand that the gospel isn't just something that would be good later, but something that will help him here and now. But it's really good that he is praying every day now. That's more than we have ever been able to get him to do in a long time. I just hope we can help him keep up the steam until we can see some results.

My companion right now is an Elder T...yama. He is from Hokkaido, the island that is the northernmost part of Japan. He has been out for about a year and three months. He's also on the older side for a missionary, he just had his twenty-fifth birthday two months ago.

Now, I will explain a bit of Japanese to you. There's a word (well, it's kind of a word. Maybe it's a suffix. You tag it on the end of other words), "ppoi." Which means something like "looks like ___," and that makes it into an adjective. For example, someone that is America-ppoi would probably be kind of fat and love guns and football. 

So something that I think is kind of funny is that my last companion, Elder B, was one of the most America-ppoi people I have ever met. He loved guns and football and is big and loud and eats a ton. But my companion now is the most Japan-ppoi in all of 日本. He loves anime and is small and quiet and nervous and hates to share his own opinion. The contrast is amazing. 

Right now I am definitely able to see the effects of the language and cultural barriers between America and Japan. I am extremely different from my companion. And even though I'm getting a lot better at speaking Japanese, communication is still really hard. Not only do we not speak the same language, but he isn't very willing to open up how he feels about things because it's rude to share your own opinion in Japan, so I have to interpret the little sounds he makes and ask him lots of direct questions to be able to do things specific to his needs. It's really frustrating sometimes. But our relationship has gotten a lot better in the last week. And I'm finding it easier to be patient with him than how it was last transfer.

Anyway, I'm still having difficulties with companionships, but I'm trying to do my best and trying to learn everything I can.

Keepin' the faith,

-Elder Mueller

Monday, September 8, 2014

Transfer 7


Hello everybody! 

I am a transfer 7 missionary now. I don't know how many of you understand that, but we have 16 transfers in total and that means I'm getting really close to the mid-point and it makes me feel really old. This mission is going to be over before I even notice. AH!

I am staying in Ueda with my companion, Elder T...yama. Elder T...yama and I do not get along all that well. We think very differently and disagree a lot and are not good at communicating well. But my Mission President has already assured me many times that this was done by revelation and that Elder T...yama needs my help. He gets discouraged very easily, and worries a lot. And it's very irritating. But I believe that we are going to see a lot of great things happen here in the next 6 weeks. 

M...zumi-kun is praying right now about when he should be baptized. We have finally gotten him to pray every day, and he has real intent, and so now he needs all the help he can get! And so I want to ask all of you to pray this week that M...zumi-kun can receive his answer. Please do it! 

On another note, as I get better at Japanese, my English is getting a little strange sometimes. Especially when I type. But my Mission President called this morning, and I said 'moshi moshi' which is what you say when you pick up the phone, and he said my pronunciation was perfect, so that made me really happy.

I really wish you could all meet my friends here, like M...zumi-kun and M...mi-chan. I love these people. They're great. They are way good people, and they are way cool. And they think I'm the bomb, which is really awesome. 

So, this is what my life is like right now. I'm a missionary. My name is Elder Mueller. And I speak Japanese.

愛しています。さよなら!

ミュラ長老より

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hello!

My companion has been kind of struggling recently. He is very nervous and very worrisome, but he doesn't have a lot of motivation to get things done and it seems to really wear him out.

But our mission president had the change to talk to him and encourage him when he visited this week, and after that he was doing a lot better. However, after a day or two he seemed to be struggling again. I think that he is feeling a lot of pressure from the mission president and from his own sense of duty, and also is very angry with the other Japanese people in our district and with the Japanese people that we talk to on the street when we OYM. He has said to me before that he really likes foreigners and also that he would like to serve in an area that has a lot of foreigners in it. Also, I did ask him if he liked Ueda or not and he said he doesn't really like it here. Ueda is kind of a hard area to work in. And I think the fact that we don't have a lot of numerical success stresses him out a lot.

As for myself, I am doing quite well. I love the people in Ueda and I feel that the talents and the condition I am in fits really well with Ueda. I would really like to stay here if I can. 

Our investigator, M...zumi-kun, is praying about when he should receive baptism. He thinks that he will eventually be baptized, but he thinks that the timing is bad right now, and so he doesn't really have much motivation to do it. But yesterday, we got to go to the Baptism that was in Nagano with him, and although we were late for the baptism, we were able to go to the lunch that was afterwards, and he got to speak with the Tokyo temple president for a while, and afterwards I was able to talk to him about how he can receive an answer to his question through prayer. I think that we will be able to see a lot of miracles with him soon.

Also, here are two songs I played  for a little girl who comes to English class with Brother W...bayashi for her birthday. The singing isn't very good, (playing the piano and singing at the same time is really hard!) but it was pretty fun.











Have a good week!

-Elder Mueller

Monday, August 25, 2014

Re: Working Hard Enough

Here is an excerpt from Alex's letter this week. It's a response to his dad's latest letter regarding what it means to "work hard":

It's actually interesting that you mention goals. There's a lot of push to make and achieve goals in this mission. Though I think that from reading "Preach My Gospel" that's just the general case here. I don't know if you remember this, but I've never been much for goals myself. But we set goals everyday for finding investigators and for all the different kinds of lessons that we teach. Our Mission President is pretty big on goals. Since I've gotten here the big goal that the mission has been working towards is "One companionship, one month, one baptism." 

It's also interesting that you mention the difficulty of achieving goals that regard things that have a high level of variability and are out of our control, because in fact, that's all of our goals.There are of course things that we can do to influence those things, but in the end, it's not up to us. What's also interesting is what it says in the first chapter of "PMG" about what a successful missionary is. And not one of those things has to do with achieving goals. 

When I was being trained, my trainer told me that in the mission, the rhetoric swings back and forth between "we need to get numbers" and "numbers don't tell you that you are a successful missionary." And it turns out that he's right. Right now we are in the "numbers are important" phase, and that may have some relation to the degree of stress that I've been feeling regarding "working hard," especially because I have a companion who is very worried about numbers, but not very willing to work in order to try to get those numbers.

But what I've come to understand more and more is that the Lord just wants us to keep going, to keep trying. If the Lord was really focused on getting high numbers, about getting people baptized, he could do it. Like my district leader told me the other day, he could just send a natural disaster, humble a lot of people really fast and lots of people would get baptized, like what happened in Sendai in 2011. If He was focused on that then every companionship would be perfect and no one would ever feel discouraged about missionary work. But that is not the case. 

The Lord lets a lot of things happen on missions. Lots of things that are really hard. But I think that more than you help anyone else change during your mission, whether that be companions, members, or investigators, he changes you so many hundred times more.

On a different topic, I had a chance to talk with a very interesting, quite old man whose been investigating the church for about 10 years. He has traveled all over the world, and used to be a researcher who studied culture, specifically that of developing countries and he is very impressed with Mormon missionaries. Also, since he's been in contact with missionaries for a long time and being a person who just thinks about lots of things, he has thought a lot about how the church could do things for non-members that would help missionary work a lot. 

Anyway, I talked to him for about an hour and a half on Friday, and two more hours on Saturday and it was very interesting and all in English which was a nice change.

Have a good week,

-Alex

Monday, August 18, 2014

They Have Really Big Spiders Here!

Hello!

Ueda is good. I still really love Nagano-ken. It's really pretty here. We had some rain last week, so it was pretty cool here for a few days. It's a typical summer's day right now though, but it should start feeling more like fall in the next few weeks.

This week, there was a traditional festival all over Japan called O-bon. During the week of O-bon, the spirits of all the ancestors are said to come back to the earth, and people go and visit the graves of their relatives all over the country, so it was a little hard for us to visit people this week. But we took some time after an appointment to go to a Buddhist temple with Brother Wakabayashi and see all the special things they had for the festival.

I found this guy while housing yesterday. He was about the size of a. . .well, a pretty big spider. I don't think these ones bite though.

The church is still true. Christ is our Savior. Through Him we can become mighty. 

This is a really cool video the church made for Easter:
http://easter.mormon.org/

With love,

-Elder Mueller

'Allo 'Allo

Here are some random answers to your random questions. I did feel an earthquake in May. And last night I had a dream that there was an earthquake so big that it made our apartment fall over. We had a little rain this weekend because there was a typhoon, but we were on the edge of it, so the wind wasn't that strong. It was pretty cool from the rain, but I think it's going to heat up again today.

I am having kind of a hard time. I don't know how to help myself learn to work hard. Through having difficult companions who don't want to work, I let my fear of talking to people lead to not wanting to do missionary work which lead to laziness, a heavy dose of apathy and an eternal feeling of discouragement and dissatisfaction. 

My new companion is the kind of senior companion who worries a lot. Worries about statistics a lot, worries about whether or not we are doing the right thing. But despite all his worrying, he won't take the steps of action necessary to get things done. And so if I do not make things happen, they don't get done. 

He does speak pretty good English though. We probably speak about 50-50 Japanese and English. And we are a lot more able to communicate than I was with my last native companion. 

But we did some pretty fun stuff this week. We went with some members and people we are trying to make into investigators to see the fireworks show last Tuesday. It was way cool, and we wore kimonos:


and I also used the recipe you gave me to make a cake for our investigator, J...o-san. Her knees have been hurting a lot lately, so we haven't been able to meet with her for a while, but we took her a cake. This a picture of our counter while I was making it.

It turned out pretty good, and she was very happy with it.

Finally, yesterday, Elder Aoyagi of the Asia North Area Presidency visited our branch yesterday. He is extremely nice, and very spiritually powerful. Later I was looking at the Liahona, and I saw his picture in the new area presidency assignments page. It was very interesting to think "I just saw that man earlier today, and here's his picture in the Liahona."

Okay, that's all for this week.

Farewell,

-Elder Mueller

Monday, August 4, 2014

The State of the Work in Ueda


Hello all,

A new transfer has begun. I have a new companion.

Last Monday night, Elder B and I had to take a train to Matsumoto and stay there for the night so that we could be at the bus terminal at 5:15, all so that we get to transfers at Nagoya Station on time.

My new companion is Elder T...yama. He's kind of short and is Japanese. I am his Junior companion, and so I'm trying to figure out how to teach him about the area, having been here longer, while figuring out what we should do.

M...zumi-kun is trying to figure out his life right now. We're trying to tell him that his life will get better if he follows Christ, but we haven't made much headway with him for a while. I just asked him to pray to know what God wants him to do last time we saw him, so hopefully, we will be able to help him figure out what he should do soon.

M...yama is another one of our investigators. He's really worried about his future right now, and he hasn't been listening to us at all until last Friday, we had lunch with him, and he started getting really down and talking about how he has no future and that he has no options, but then we shared a scripture with him that says that today is today and to let tomorrow worry about itself and he was really happy after that. He hasn't been open to anything gospel related before, so hopefully we can make some progress with him.

We had lunch with Brother W...yashi and Sister N...zawa on Saturday for my birthday. Sister N...zawa made some something with noodles. I don't know what it's called, but it was really delicious.

I still haven't made my birthday cake. . .but I will eventually. Maybe this week.

With love,


-Elder Mueller

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The End of a Transfer

Hello,

We had transfer calls last Saturday. And I am staying in Ueda, and getting a new companion, Elder T-yama. I haven't met him before. But, I'm excitied. He's Japanese, from Sapporo in the north. That's really all I know.

This past Tuesday, M...mi-kun chan took us and M...zumi-kun to a teddy bear museum. It was really fun and I took lots of pictures.




My companion in a bear suit


Me, Elder B and M...zumi


That was super great.

Also, we went to a festival last Saturday, and I wore a kimono that one of our investigators gave me:


And then Sunday was my birthday. And I had a talk in sacrament meeting that went pretty well. I prepared a lot for it this week, so the Stake President, who was visiting yesterday was really pleased. We also visited the Ides and they fed us because it was my birthday. And they gave me this really cute tie:



I don't really feel different. Maybe it's because we didn't really do much for my birthday. But now I'm 19. And I'm on my sixth transfer as a missionary. That's exciting.

Anyway, Have a good week.

-Elder Mueller

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Japan Q&A

From Alex's Mom: Alex is having a busy P-day, so he just sent an email to me. But he answered some questions, so I thought I would share his answers with you!

Q: Did you ever resolve your sleep issues?
A: As far as sleeping issues, I bought a sleep mask, so I can sleep a little better, but unfortunately it still lets some light in, so I usually wake up once before it's actually time to get up still. 

Q: Are you eating much with chopsticks?
A: I have eaten pretty much every meal every day for the past seven months with chopsticks.

Q: Have you seen any odd English or signs?
A: There is a lot of strange English in this country. Every once in a while I'll see a person with a t-shirt that makes absolutely no sense. And sometimes stores have funny signs too. I remember going past a Pachinko parlor called Concorde in Numazu with my trainer that had a sign that said, "Have you tried the Pachinko and Slot of Concorde? If not it will repent of most your life."

Q: How about any weird products?
A: I can't think of any weird products off the top of my head, but there is this really weird store in malls sometimes called "Village Vanguard." The only way I can think to describe it is that it is a "hipster" store. It has a lot of strange things. Weird books, weird clothes, sunglasses, toys, and lots of other stuff. I'll take some pictures next time I go by one.

Q: How are your investigators doing? We are praying for them!
A: We don't really have any investigators who are progressing right now, which is unfortunate. But maybe things will change soon.

This week is transfer calls and also there is a member who is throwing me a birthday party, so I will take lots of pictures and send them home. 

Okay, I love you.

-Alex

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Really Good Weekend

こんにちは皆さん!

My really good weekend started out with an exchange with my District leader, Elder Y. On Friday It was really good, he had a lot of good things to say to me, and he's really interesting to talk to. And I finally found a good book for learning kanji that he showed me. 

     The next day, we we took the train to Matsumoto in the morning so that we could go to interviews with the Mission President. We were there all day, until we had to rush back to Ueda in the afternoon with a Ueda member who was also in Matsumoto so that we could get back in time for the talent show. 

     At the talent show, I conducted the bell choir that the Ueda members, Elder B ate a bowl of cereal without milk in front of everyone, and I played the piano among other things. Unfortunately we were late so we missed some of the acts. But one of the coolest things was that Brother W..ashi and his friend from the neighboring branch of Sua played their guitars. They used be in a band together with another guy. I got a video of one of their songs on video. I played "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen -- I got the sheet music from one of our investigators a while ago -- and "Claire de Lune." Lots of people came, including member's friends and some people from our English class.



The next day, Sunday was Ueda's Branch Conference. The Mission President, His wife, and other people from the mission and stake presidencies came, so we had about twice as many people as usual there. It was great! And everyone brought lots of delicious things for lunch. 

That night, we had an appointment to teach English and the Gospel to our investigators, the Ide family. It went really well. We've mostly been focusing our efforts on the daughter, M..ami, but when we talked about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, the dad was really interested in it. 

M..zumi isn't getting baptized this week. He keeps telling us that the timing isn't good right now, and that when his life settles down a bit, then he can get baptized, but I think that he has some other concerns or problems that we don't know about yet that are holding him back. But I think he will be fine. 

This is M..zumi:



Oh yeah, one other thing happened this week. On Thursday, we weren't allowed to go outside at all because of the typhoon. . . it was severely underwhelming. It didn't come. So we just sat around all day. So exciting!! I'm glad that because it didn't come, no one was hurt or killed or anything. But I was really looking forward to seeing a crazy storm. Here's a picture I drew that day on a little whiteboard:


The Japanese on the right says "Innochi no Ki" or "Tree of Life."
I also made Elder B play chess with me:


I won.

Anyway, that was this week. 

さよなら!
-Elder Mueller

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Update from the Mom

Hi, Everyone!
Alex didn't have time to send out a general email this week. He is doing well and is staying very busy.

There is a major storm headed for Japan. Where Alex is shouldn't get hit very hard, but the entire country will definitely see LOTS of rain this week and the south (like Okinawa) will definitely have to deal with high wind. So please pray for the Japanese people and for the missionaries.

It's Alex's birthday at the end of the month, so I'm sure it would be an awesome gift if he heard from you this month! Thanks for being such a great support to him.

:)
Jill

Monday, June 30, 2014

Travels Through Tambos

Hello!

This week Elder B and I went with our investigators, the M...zawas, to eat sushi and to see the fireflies at a really famous place here in Ueda. 

They have these places here called Kaitensushi which I think means "conveyor belt sushi." Next to your table, they have a conveyor belt with plates of sushi on them. And if you want something specific that you don't see on the conveyor belt, they have a little computer menu, and after you send in your order, they send it out to you on a train. It's about 100 yen for one plate, so the plates stack up pretty high. Especially if someone else is paying for it. M, the dad of the family told us that we could eat as much as we wanted. My companion is a pretty big guy, so he ate 23 plates before stopping. But he could have eaten more. He just had mercy on M's wallet.

Then we went to go see fireflies, they were really pretty. And we played with their crazy kids.

Here are some pictures from Sunday.


Getting ready to practice the hand bell choir


Our investigator, M...ami-chan
We are teaching M...ami's whole family English and the Gospel, but because her parents are stubborn and don't want to listen to us, we are focusing on her. She has a lot of interest in the Gospel. She is really curious I think. And because we are such good friends with her parents, she might be able to be baptized in a couple months.

That's all I have time for this week. I hope you're all doing well.

-Elder Mueller

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

District Conference

Hello,

We had a District Conference in Matsumoto this week for all the branches in Nagano. And I went to the adult session of a conference for the first time. That was a bit strange. But Elder B and I were half an hour late because we had to take the train there, and we got lost while we were trying to get to the church. We were there for most of the meeting though. 
     It was really good. They talked about member missionary work a lot. I don't know how things are in America right now in the church, but they have been focusing a lot on member missionary work in Japan. President Yamashita spoke as well.
     That night, all of the Elders stayed in the Matsumoto missionaries apartment. All twelve of us. It was really crowded. And I didn't sleep very well, because there wasn't much room. But it was really fun to get the chance to talk to people for a while.
     On Sunday we watched a broadcast that I think the showed in all the Stakes and districts in Japan. Elder Christofferson spoke, and Bishop Stevenson of the Presiding Bishopric also spoke. 
     This coming Saturday, our investigators, the M...zawas are going to take us to see the fireflies in the evening. It's going to be really amazing! Elder B and I saw just one at the church on Tuesday, and just the one was really amazing. They look like tiny electric lights floating in the air.
      As for pictures, I will try to remember to take more pictures of everything. Especially the people I meet. But here are a few.
      

This is a picture I took of the train map so that I could learn it better. The trains in Nagano are ridiculously complicated.

M...zumi-kun, our investigator, works at a watch store, so I bought a new watch band from him.


This is the Ueda branch chapel. That's all the stand. On the left is the sacrament table. and on the right is our electric piano. Since there are only 12 active members, half the ward sits on the stand during sacrament meeting.

This is one of the many strange bugs I've seen in Japan. And my shoe. It had HUGE antennae.

Okay. That's all for this week. I hope you're all well. You should e-mail me :D

-Elder Mueller

Monday, June 16, 2014

Work, Work, Work, Work Work

Hello,

Elder B and I have been very, very busy this week. Last night we even had to go on a split with two members because we had two appointments at the same time. And so we are really tired all the time. We have a lot of investigators and we are working really hard to help them progress. 

We had transfer calls this last Saturday and. . . . .Elder B and I are both staying in Ueda. Hooray! I could not have handled being area senpai right now, nor could I have handled transferring to a new area, so I'm pretty happy about that.

Here are some pictures!


A picture of my companion and I


Ueda市

Rice fields and mountains. Two things which are very abundant here.

上田の山

More mountains

The view east from the bridge we have to cross every day. That other bridge is a train track.

The view west from the bridge. As you can see, the clouds are really pretty here. Especially with the mountains.
Daisies I found.



This transfer we have a talent show the day before Branch Conference, and, among other things, I am conducting a bell choir in playing "Scarborough Fair" and maybe "I am a Child of God." God has given me lots and lots of opportunities to use my musical talents ever since I got here and I'm really grateful for that. I will take a video in a few weeks when the talent show happens.

Okay! Have a good week, everybody!


-Elder Mueller

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