Monday, February 24, 2014

A Change of Scenery

So, things are a little different this week. . .okay a lot different. Because instead of being on the third floor in the Bishop's Office of the Numazu Church, I'm in an internet cafe in Fuji City. You might ask "Alex," or "Elder Mueller," or "Dude! I thought you said that transfers were two weeks ago and that you would be staying in Numazu for six more weeks. Why on earth are you in Fuji?" And to that I would reply "Well, that's a long story." Which story I will tell you right now. . .
In Fuji area, there are two sets of missionaries, one pair of Elders and another pair of Sisters. And last transfer the Elders here were Elder T and Elder P. And things were not going very well because they don't get along very well. I found out on an exchange with Elder P that he is extremely hard to live with. He has some strange habits such as the fact that he hardly ever says a word, he can't really make decisions. In all seriousness, he may have mental problems.
Through all of this, Elder T was not really handling it well, and for a while he would just tell everyone that he could talk to to listen to him tell the exact same stories about how hard it was to live with Elder P. And so Elder G who is the district leader was reporting to the Mission President, about how things were not going well, and trying to convince him that he needed to transfer them at the end of the transfer, far away from each other.
Soon before transfers, we had interviews with the mission president, and Elder T said that he told President Yamashita that he could do another transfer, but only so that no one else would have to deal with him. One of the things about having a mission president who doesn't speak your native language is that you have to be very clear about what you want to communicate, which -- as I have found -- is not one of Elder T's strengths. And because of that, President Yamashita thought that Elder T wanted to do another transfer with him, so that he could help him. And so Elder G continued to recommend that they transfer, but transfer calls came and went and they didn't get a transfer call which meant that they would be staying together for six more weeks.
Niether of them took it very well. Elder T pretty much gave up on missionary work, and Elder P started spending hours and hours on the toilet and sleeping. And things continued like that for a couple weeks, improving just a little when Elder T said that he wouldn't give up after all.
Then, last Wednesday, Elder G and I got a phone call from the Assistants to the President telling us that the Fuji Elders would be moving into the Numazu apartment and working in Numazu for the rest of the transfer on Saturday. We weren't happy. That apartment is not big enough for four people, and there is nothing for them to do. In Fuji they practically had no investigators, and we didn't have any investigators that we could give to them. It would have just been terrible, and so then that night, Elder G and I both had a terrible time sleeping because of the stress.
On Thursday morning, Elder G started trying to get in touch with the APs in order to get them to change their minds and find a different solution. He also called the Fuji Elders and asked Elder T what he thought, and Elder T thought it was a terrible idea too! And after hours of back and forth and anxious waiting, The President and his Assistants called and told us that they had decided that Elder G would become Elder P's companion and that I would be going to Fuji.
I really loved Numazu. The members love me, I know what I'm doing there, it was a gorgeous area and best of all, when I got there after having been in the MTC for so long, it felt like I was coming home. After that call I got really sad, but I knew it had to be done. Elder G got really sad too. He's had a really hard mission so far. Lots and lots of really hard companions that drove him to the brink of insanity, but he never gave up. Ever. But he said that training me was one of the best parts of his mission, and I really didn't want to be seperated from him.
All of Friday, we visited people I wasn't going to get to see again, and we had a lesson with our progressing investigator, A, who we commited to be baptized. If she does get baptized, I'm going to be able to go, and she might even have me perform the baptism. And all day, I had headaches off and on and I was pretty sad. And that night Elder G and I, instead of our normal banter back and forth in the evenings, sat in silence with our journals because neither of us wanted to say anything.
On Saturday, I packed all morning, and I had no appetite and I had a headache. They were going to take away my trainer and I was going to have to go somewhere else. And Elder G asked me for a blessing so I gave him one, and then they came. And we went to McDonalds and I sat in silence and looked out the window, and then we went to Fuji.
Since then, things have been getting better. That first night, I was not in good condition. Elder T has a habit of making things far more dramatic than they need to be, and so he made it sound like the Fuji ward was in huge trouble and that it was all on our heads if it came down, which is totally bogus, but I didn't realize it until I actually went to church the next day because my mental health was in serious trouble, but all it took was talking to the members and the Fuji Sisters for a while to know that I was going to be fine here, it was just going to take some adjusting.
Elder G called last night for weekly reporting and so I got to talk to him and he seems to be doing just fine, which is really good. I love him so much. He is the best missionary in the mission. I really believe that.
So that's why I'm in an internet cafe in Fuji. I'm getting a little better every day. And doing little things that help so that the trauma of being taken away from my bean area and thrown into an extremely hard situation, like cleaning the Fuji apartment or getting Elder T to stop complaining about Elder P, things are looking up.
Through all of this there was much prayer and trusting in the Lord that things would be alright in the end. And I am so grateful to Him. I know He's there. I know He listens. And if anyone who reads this is having a hard time, my advice is this. Please just pray. Just do it. Place your trust in God and everything will be alright in the end.
With love,
Elder Alex Mueller

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Day in the Life

Well, here it is, I finally found a good time to write about what a typical day in the life of me as a missionary is.

At 6:30 in the morning, the alarm goes off and I wake up, flip over and pray. It's usually cold, so getting out from under the blanket of the futon is a little hard, but somehow I manage. Most mornings, some kind of garbage needs to be taken out -- they seperate the garbage in Japan into plastics and burnables; other things need to go out on one of two special garbage days that happen each month --  so Elder G and I go outside and around the apartment to where the garbage pickup place is and hurry back inside so that we don't get too cold.

After that, I take a shower and brush my teeth and shave, or wait for Elder G to do those things if it's his turn to go first. And then I pour myself a bowl of cereal then eat during Personal Study which starts at about 8:00. Personal Study is one of my favorite times of the day. Lately I've been reading the Old Testemant and I just finished the Book of Judges. I love just reading the scriptures.

After Personal Study, we have Companionship study. That involves singing, praying, reading three pages from the White Handbook (The Missionary Rules), talking about what we learned in Personal Study and talking about the lessons that we are going to teach during the rest of the day, and if needs be, doing a Mogi (a roleplay) so that I can practice what I'm going to say in Japanese so that Elder G can be sure to let me help with the lesson. Because sometimes, if he's not careful, he just says everything for a lesson since he can just handle it by himself, and since I'm still not very good at Japanese.

After this, every day differs. Sometimes we will have a lesson at 10:30, so we go straight to that, or we will leave the apartment to go find some former investigators. There are were a lot of former investigators in our Area Book when Elder G got to the area, and so we've been working on contacting all of them to see if any of them have interest now or if they even live in the place that is on our records anymore.

Often these people that we visit live kind of far away, so we spend a lot of time on our bikes. And often the two of us will have a good conversation while we bike. We talk about a lot of things, like video games, or I will have a question about Japanese, or he will tell me about his old companions, or we will talk about our investigators or about the ward. Lots and lots of things. It's nice to have someone to talk to.

Teaching in Japanese is kind of hard, as you might expect, but people tell me my Japanese is pretty good, especially for a bean, and I try hard so I think God is happy with me for that.

Sometime after that, we have lunch and then usually do some language study. For that, I read the Book of Mormon in Japanese, and lately I've also been working on learning Kanji, which are the Chinese Characters. I'm making these really great flashcards so I can learn them.

After that, we go out and visit people again for a few hours, or try to do some housing if we don't have any appointments, and we go home and have some dinner. And then at 9:00 we plan for the next day. Then there is just a little time to read or draw or listen to music and get ready for bed before it's 10:30 which is when we pray and go to sleep. Which is a time I get excited for every day, because I'm really tired all the time, and falling asleep is a good relief.

Well, I hope everyone is well. Thank you for all the Valentine's things, they are great. They made our apartment look much more happy and your card was very nice. I hope you had a nice birthday as well.

I love you all,

-Elder Mueller

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A New Transfer

I'm so sorry! I wrote a letter last week but then I apparently neglected to send it! I'm such a terrible son! Okay. Now I've sent it. Sorry.
Elder G and I decided to do something really fun this last week, we explored part of out area that we've never been to before. We just got a ward directory, and we found that there were some less-actives. It was a really pretty area, and even though of two people that we visited, one moved to Australia and one was a person who clearly didn't want anything to do with us, it was worth it.
Our progressing investigator, A-san, the Phillipino girl, came to church yesterday, so we taught her about the Plan of Salvation and she had some questions about the Word of Wisdom and she said that she'd be totally willing to follow it. And she also has told us that she wants to join the church, so we're really excited!
Last week, we had transfer calls, and of course we didn't get any because Elder G is still training me, but one unfortunate thing did happen, which will need some explaining.
The Elders in the other area in the district are Elder P and Elder T, and they do not work well together. Elder P does some really weird things that make him extremely hard to live with, and I have seen it firsthand on the exchanges I've been on. And it's driving Elder T crazy, and neither of them is handling it well. Elder G was trying to convince President Yamashita to transfer one of them, and he prayed about it a lot and he's tried to help them the best that he can, and I've been helping him. But transfer calls were last Saturday, and they did not get one. And so they've both pretty much given up. Period. They aren't going to do anything this transfer unless something happens fast. I wish I could convey better the seriousness of this problem, but unfortunately there isn't enough time for that. I pray for them a lot though in the hopes that things will get better somehow.
Snow in Numazu! This never happens. I keep telling Elder G that I brought the curse of the Salt Lake Valley to Numazu because the weather keeps changing so much.

Inline image 2
And this is Japan. Beautiful, no?

Anyway, that's all for this week. I hope everyone has a Happy Valentine's day!
I love you all!
-Elder Mueller

Week 6: Elder Mueller and the Terminating Transfer (This is last week's)

This is the last week of my first transfer. Wow! It's so exciting!
As you might expect, food is a little different here in Japan, and some things that I've eaten here are really really weird. For example, there is a food here called Nato, and it is fermented soybeans. It's sticky and slimy at the same time, and it tastes really bad. But I ate it. I eat everything that I'm served. Even when it's totally gross. But there are also some really good things too. Like Yakiniku! 

In the Numazu ward, we have a couple who arrived in Japan the same day that I got to Japan, and they are Brother and Sister F. The wife is a lady who lived here a long time ago and then stayed in America for quite a while. And the husband is a man who was a missionary here 10 years ago. They just got married in December and then moved here right after. Brother F is really cool and he helps us so much as missionaries. A lot of our appointments where we have a member there are with him.
Last Thursday, we had the opportunity to go visit T-san with F-kyodai which was great because we just found out that Brother F was one of the two missionaries who first contacted him. And that day we were going to challenge him to set a baptismal date because it felt like a good thing to do, and so we did, and he told us something that I don't think any of the previous missionaries that taught him knew. A long time ago, he along with forty-two other people swore to protect and take care of this Bhuddist shrine. And so he said that unless we want to kill the head priest, he can't be baptized now. But we are still going to teach him because he's great and even if he might not be able to be baptized in this life, I have no doubt in my mind that he is going to heaven, because he is the sweetest, humblest, most faithful man I think I have ever met.
On Saturday, I received the package you sent, which was perfect because it came on February 1st. And so I decorated the apartment with the things you sent and did origami and now I already have the paper crane memorized because it's the best one and I have them hanging from the ceiling by my desk.  It was great! Thank you so much! The candy is delicious :)

Alright, now I have to be off to a lesson with two of our progressing investigators who very well could be baptized in the next couple months if things go well.
Hope you're all well,
-Elder Alex Mueller

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