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

Monday, September 7, 2015

More Violin Opportunities!

Hello everyone,

This week has been pretty good. I'm doing my best, and hanging on okay.

Tomorrow and the day after that we have special conferences that we need to go to Nagoya for, so the whole week is going to be really busy trying to get everything done. The first one which is on Tuesday is a meeting for all the trainers and trainees in the mission, so they will probably just talk about training. The second one which is on Wednesday is a special mission tour that the are president is conducting, so we have another general authority coming, Elder Whiting. Because of my musical abilities which apparently were more widely known in the mission than I thought they were, our district received the assignment a few days ago to prepare and perform a musical number for the mission tour. So we are singing "A Child's Prayer" and I got permission to use our ward mission leader's violin, so I'll be performing on the violin while everybody else sings.

We also performed in sacrament meeting yesterday in the same way, singing with piano accompaniment and me on the violin, and it went pretty well. Our ward mission leader has an awesome violin, too. It's really nice to play.

Things with my companion continue to be less than pleasant on a day to day basis, but I'm managing to keep myself busy with a bunch of goals I have, like studying Chinese Characters (I only have about 70 left to go before I know the 1006 characters Japanese kids learn in elementary
school), and reading Jesus the Christ in Japanese, and reading the Book of Mormon and highlighting all the references to Christ -- his names, attributes, actions and words -- so I have other things that I
can think about.

One thing that I am extremely grateful for is that I have no allergies to foods or medicine or anything like that. Dealing with my companions gluten intolerance is a nightmare. Especially since Japan is not like in America where there are lots more people with nutrition troubles, so they specially manufacture things so that they don't have gluten in them. Anyway, I've just been very grateful for the physical health that I have always been blessed with. I just need to make sure I maintain it well.

I called the mission president and had the chance to talk with him for a little while. He said that he thinks the Lord just wants me to do my best, and that I am enduring very well the challenges that I face. Hopefully I won't need to go through another transfer of this, but even if I do, I'm sure God will be helping me to endure to the end.

Aunt Jana sent me mustaches for my birthday, so I took them to the Japanese class that we do for the Brazilian member in the branch.


As you can see, we had some fun with those

Well, time continues to move along, much to my delight. The end is definitely near. I'm just hoping that I can work with another companion next transfer so that I can get some real missionary work done before I come home.

With love,

Elder Mueller

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adventures with Elder B

It turns out that my pronouncement that "All is well in Zion" was a little hasty. Things have again become difficult, though I am coping better and reacting more wisely. I'm sometimes baffled at just how immature and childish some missionaries can be. I can't say that I am always a model of dignity and repose myself, but I do feel a little out of place when around those individuals who think that nothing is more important than when the next meal is.

The highlight of my week was definitely my companion exchange with an elder in my district. He's a smart guy whose mission so far has been very similar to mine. But we had a great time just talking about missions and difficulties, as well as Ueda, where we both have served before. He also has seen a lot of anime, so we talked about that a lot and he gave me a list of ones that he suggested, so I have a lot of resources for keeping up my Japanese when I get back to America.

This is our English class. We gave them a whole bunch of words on pieces of paper and had them put the sentence that we took them from back together. It was maybe a bit more difficult than we anticipated. . .

We also had a sports activity this week! We played "soft volleyball," which is what the volleyball association invented to make volleyball more possible for older people and and kids and everyone else too. The ball is bigger and a lot softer. It's a lot easier to play than normal volleyball. Though the court is smaller, so the two people that were there who had a lot of volleyball experience kept hitting it out of bounds.


Here's a picture with everyone in strange poses.


Here's a picture of my team after we had just won! (I'm in the red shirt)


This is everyone who played. Two of the people, the one on the far left and on the far right are both English class students. The two Japanese people without name tags are members. And the rest of them are the Nakatsugawa missionaries.

I'm enjoying my responsibilities as district leader a lot more than I did last transfer. There's a lot less pressure from the Zone Leaders than there was before, due to the new Zone Leader. And I'm just a little more used to preparing training and making sure everything gets done that needs too. It's also just a relief just to be able to talk to people other than my companion at the end of the day. We do reporting three times a week. So my evenings after we've planned for the day can be pretty busy, but I like talking to everyone. I think I might be more social than I thought I was. I really do enjoy talking to people, it's just that some people are difficult to work with. Especially when the leaders are trying so hard to keep everyone here. It's not like a job where people who cause problems can be fired. 

Anyway, the time is swiftly slipping away. And I am determined not to let even difficult companion relations, which is my least favorite thing about missions, ruin my mission experience for my last nine weeks. It would be such a waste. So I figure the only solution is to just do what I can, realize that this is the Lord's work, and so it can't be stopped, and to look for the good things that happen every day.

I send my regards and my love,

Elder Mueller


Monday, August 24, 2015

Unexpected Turn of Events

So I'm not exactly sure why things were as difficult as they were last week. But a spirit of friendship has entered my relationship with Elder A....quita. We have had some good times. It's still kind of a struggle to get things done. We have so much to do, and it's difficult to get him to move quickly. But at the very least we are friends. I don't think I could have asked for something better. I attribute it to your prayers there at home, as well as the prayers of my mission president, who I was working closely with this week before things seemed to be getting better.

In addition to being able to talk to my mission president face to face about the troubles I was having, I also enjoyed the privileges of working in the same zone as the mission home by having a temple recommend interview this past Friday when we were in Nagoya proper for
a Zone Training Meeting. It's been two years since I went to the house of the Lord and was endowed from on high. And it's been more than a year and a half since I last had the pleasure of going there. I've heard that the temple is the Lords university, and I think I'm a lot more ready to learn than I was last time that I visited.

We had the opportunity to go help a recent convert who was baptized just before I arrived in Nakatsugawa. In the past few years, he has lived alone and his house has turned into a real disaster. So we went up with the Branch President and his wife and helped clean. There was
a lot to throw away. Bags and bags of garbage. But I made an interesting find. I found a slide rule. That's what they used before they invented pocket calculators. I don't really know how it works, I can only multiply and divide numbers on it, but I thought it was worth saving because I heard they were hard to find now, so I got permission to take it home.

Finding food has proved to be quite the challenge since my companion has a gluten intolerance and thus has to be extremely careful about what he eats. So mealtime is a bit difficult since it takes time to make food that he can eat. But at least one effect that it is having it to increase my patience. It has also made me glad that I know how to read Japanese at least decently, since we have to check all the food he buys to make sure it won't kill him.

I've heard training a new missionary was similar to parenting. Trainers are even called "dads" sometimes, and now having finally become one, I can see what they must have meant. It's really interesting to have to take care of someone in an environment where they can't take care themselves. There's a totally new language, new customs, new culture, new life, higher standards. And trying to help someone get used to all of it as well as balancing all the work that needs to be done as missionaries is monumental. But I've seen the Lord blessing me in small and simple ways as I do my best to keep the commandments.

Missionary work is still hard. I'm not sure exactly the reason that it's still so difficult for me to talk to strangers. But the Lord must not think any less of me still, because he still blesses me. I've been trying for a long time to start doing this as well as other missionaries do, but I still struggle just to even talk to one or two people every day. It's easy to pass people by when there are so few on the street. And the mission is still focusing on talking to as many people as you can every day, so there's a lot of pressure, but I'm trying to move forward, and not to get discouraged.

I've served with a lot of missionaries, but even before I transfer places, I guess I have a reputation for being nice. I hear that from a lot of places. Before my mission, I never really thought of myself as someone nice. I was always the "smart" guy. The one who knew lots of stuff. But I've just tried to be nice and friendly to people. I wouldn't ever consider myself a great missionary. I can't do all the things that I feel like a missionary should be able to do. But I can say the I'm a better person than I was before I left on my mission. I think I can say that I've done my best within the various situations that have confronted me. So, maybe I'm not such a bad missionary like I once thought.

I'm doing good. I don't want to go home early, but I am glad that the end is in sight.

With love,

Elder Mueller

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tender Mercies

I was really excited to be a trainer, but things aren't going as well as I hoped. He's kind of taking over everything. Even though he just got out of the MTC in Provo and so he has no experience. He also gets upset at me when I don't agree with him, or when I ask him to follow mission rules, like going to bed on time at 10:30. I'm talking with my mission leaders to see if there is anything I need to do. But right now I'm kind of just enduring. It's not very pleasant.  But it's making it very difficult to get anything done.

But the Lord is showering me with tender mercies in many forms. Like finding a random Kit-Kat in the freezer that I must have put in there. Or the quotes on those cards that you gave me. On Saturday, a lot of things that were difficult to handle happened, but the quote for that day was "today's trial is tomorrow's testimony." Or the fact that an Elder who I was really good friends with while I was serving in Ueda and he was serving in my district became my Zone Leader,so I can talk to him about everything. Or like the fact that when we had to go to the next area over to buy a bike for my companion, we ran into a member on the way back, and she told us her conversion story, which was a pretty crazy story and she spoke fluent English, so she was switching back and forth between English and Japanese and she bore her testimony to us. Or how We showed up at the church in time to catch the last 30 minutes of a fireside that they broadcast from Tokyo that was really good.

It's still pretty hot here. Although the weather has been kind of strange this week. Almost like the rainy season again. It just starts raining unexpectedly a lot, but not usually for very long. You have to be careful about it though. We got caught in the rain without umbrellas and had to walk home in the pouring rain last Thursday.

I really like Nakatsugawa. I feel really close to the members here. Because there aren't that many of them, and I speak a lot more Japanese than I ever have before so it's easy to just talk. There are lots of mountains around us. And not a whole lot of people. This week there were 4 days of festivals that I didn't know we're happening. So we went to see fireworks and dancing. I think it was in conjunction with the Japanese festival of the dead (Obon), when it is said that all the ancestors come back from the world of spirits to their graves, so every has family gatherings and goes to visit the family grave, kind of like Memorial Day.

Still teaching English class. They do it in every city where there are missionaries in Japan. It's kind of fun. I still don't feel like I know what I am doing most of the time though. There isn't a lot of guidance as to what we are supposed to teach, which is okay, it just makes it difficult for our students to progress in their English skills. We also have a children's English class here in Nakatsugawa. They have them in some places, but this is the first one I've ever taught. It's crazy! It's just a bunch of little girls between the ages of 4 and 10. And some of them just make fun of you, but it's just "whatever" because their just crazy kids. There are also sister missionaries serving in Nakatsugawa,which is also a first for me. I've never really served in the same area as sister missionaries, other than the month when I was in Fuji.

But just know that things are a little tough right now, but I am doing my best to work through them. And I know that God is looking out for me. He manifests himself in funny ways sometimes, but I know He's there. I would love your prayers for things to work out with my companion.

Talk to you next week.

Alex





Monday, August 10, 2015

New Assignment

Another transfer has gone, and this new one I have a new responsibility:
I'm going to train a new missionary!

Training takes 12 weeks, so the rest of my mission is pretty much decided now, unless something crazy happens.

So I'm going to be companions with someone who's fresh out of the MTC. And I'm pretty excited about it. It's going to have it's difficulties but, I'm ready to do my best and leave the rest to heaven. Sister Hamamura who is serving here in Nakatsugawa is going to train a new missionary as well, so things are going to be kind of hectic these last two transfers.

This week was really busy due to the fact that I had to go on two companion exchanges this week just like last week. And because of long travel times, they tend to take up a lot of time, so Elder Johnson and I haven't been able to meet with our investigators much at all. But one of our investigators, Taguchi, came to the branch barbecue that we had on Saturday. And he seemed to enjoy himself a lot and made good friendships with the members there. We are really trying to do everything we can so that he can be baptized in the next couple months.

Church is true. Christ lives. And I am His servant.

With love,

Elder Mueller

 On the bus home from the district activity last week.


BBQ!

We're Melting Over Here

Guess what! My companion and I went to Kasugai, the next area over, because our area doesn't have a good bike shop, and I needed to do some repairs. And there was a thermometer, and it said that it was 42 degrees Celsius. I'll let you have the joy of converting that temperature.

We had interviews this week with President Ishii for the first time. It was nice to be able to talk to a friend.

We are also going to go play tennis as a district in a couple hours, so I'm pretty excited.

Transfer calls are this Saturday, so everybody is going to get shuffled around. That's always exciting. It's also President Ishii's first transfers, so there will be an extra measure of unexpectedness.

Well, the work goes on. I'm still doing okay. Just trying to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. It's a bit difficult, but I think I'll manage okay. It's just kinda busy and hot.

I love you all,

Elder Mueller

Monday, July 27, 2015

Two Decades of Life, ACCOMPLISHED!

Hello. It my twentieth birthday today. It's pretty exciting. And I'm
down to 100 days of mission, so I'd better make the time count.

(Note from Alex's mom: his birthday gift was a book of 100 thoughts, one each for the last 100 days of his mission.) I got your package on Wednesday. Thanks for the present. I will use it well. It will also be a good exercise in self discipline. I've got to use some self control so that I don't just read all the cards and ruin the fun of it.



This week there were a lot of interesting things that I had to do. Such as getting called upon to go to another area in the district to perform in their music night. There's a sister missionary who can play the violin who is going home in just two weeks, so they had a mini concert. Or at least it was supposed o be mini. But their ward missionary wanted it to be 60 minutes long, so they needed more people to play. So I went. It was fun. I played a Japanese song from some movie that I've never seen. I got the sheet music from another missionary last year.

We also go to work in the fields of one of the members every week. And this week was pulling weeds in the tomato greenhouses. It was quite the afternoon.

The thing that just made my week though was getting a phone call on Thursday telling me that I would be giving a talk on Sunday about. . .wait for it. . .food storage. It's been the theme all month, so I was a little worried when I got the phone call in the first place. But with some preparation, it turned out pretty good, I think. Even if I did have to speak in Japanese. I think it was even long enough, too. Which has been a difficulty when I've given talks in the past. Like when my farewell talk only took up 7 minutes of the 10-15 minutes that I had been assigned. Oh well! That was a long time again.

My birthday has been pretty great so far. We had a lesson with an investigator this morning that went really well. I'm not sure he'll get baptized while I'm here, but I think he will eventually be baptized. The sisters of the area also decorated the church and gave me some cake. And you can tell I've changed a lot here, because it was cheesecake. And I ate it. And it was pretty good.

Here are some pictures:



package from home, including the traditional Thomas the Tank Engine birthday banner :)
video


So that was pretty great.

There's also an investigator who we are going to visit tonight when said that he would feed me shrimp fry when we went. So I'm excited for that

Anyway, I'm doing good. It seems like I'm doing better than I was on my birthday last year. So that's great!

Thanks for everything!

Elder Mueller

Monday, July 20, 2015

Faulty Typhoons

Hello. We had quite the week this week.

Nakatsugawa is really far away from everywhere in the district, and we have to ride trains just to get to other parts of our area in reasonable time, so money has been a little tight this week due to our having to go to Kasugai twice this week. The first time was for a companionship exchange. The events of which were eating pork chops, and visiting a less-active member who told me that I shouldn't settle for anything less than great and that I should do something awesome with my life. It was kind of a funny conversation, especially because he was trying to speak in both Japanese and English at the same time, but in all seriousness it made me think about what I want to do with myself once I come back to America.

I also presided at my first district meeting as a district leader this week. It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I think it turned out good. At the very least, my companion loved it.

We were also supposed to have a typhoon this week, but the center of it went over land too quickly for us to experience anything more than some bipolar rainstorms. Nevertheless, one of them caught us off guard yesterday when we had no umbrellas and we got soaked.

All in all, things are going pretty well. I'm definitely tired, and this is still not the the easiest thing in the world day-by-day, but it's definitely been made easier by those who have extended their love and kindness. And I'm feeling better every day.

God is still alive.

With love,
Elder Mueller

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer is Well Underway

Hello my friends,

I am doing great! Things seem to be working well. I get along with my companion, I enjoy my district leader responsibilities so far, and I feel like I've chopped through that incorrect thoughts and ideas that have held me prey for most of my mission, it's like finally getting to your machete and escaping from a python!

Elder J and I have been really busy this last week. We had to go to Nagoya twice. On Wednesday to meet the new mission president. That was great! I love President Ishii already. And I'm already pretty close to him after working with him in Toyohashi. And then the second time we went was for a Zone Training Meeting which we have every once in a while.

I have my first district training meeting as a district leader his week too. It's a bit nerve racking because the Zone Leaders will be there too. But I'm excited because I finally get to share some of the things I've learned on my mission.

There might be a typhoon coming this week too. If so we might have to stay inside all day.

We're also going to start using the iPads more in regards to planning and record keeping. I'm really excited for this because the paper records are a mess! It seems like nobody really got very used to using them the way they were supposed to be used. But now, it seems like everything will be a lot more organized and clear too.

Anyway, things are good. I'm feeling a lot better than I ever have. I also talked to my mission president about my fatigue problems and he said I should rest. "You need to be relaxed." So I can take a few minutes to nap or take a break if I need to.

I'm going to make it home in one piece!

With love,

Elder Mueller

Monday, July 6, 2015

A New Era

Hello everyone from Nakatsugawa Japan!

The weather is either hot or rainy, the hills are beastly, the branch has 15 active members, and I am having a great time.

It's hard work. There's a lot to be done, and there's a lot that you could potentially complain about, but I'm sure that you could do that anywhere being involved in anything at all. There's always something
to complain about.

Nevertheless, I feel good. I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to. Not that what I'm doing has changed much, mostly just my perspective. The church in Japan is still pretty young. But there have been many prophecies made concerning this island nation. And I will trust in
those. The Lord shall hasten His work in its time. So we missionaries need to be patient.

Elder J and I work really well together. He's still a pretty young missionary, having only come to the field about three months ago, so there are a lot of opportunities to help him. And he is really supportive of me. And he likes my cooking, so that's a bonus.

We're working with a new investigator that we found two weeks ago who is really humble and really anxious to read the Book of Mormon. We met with him twice this last week and we're going to see him tomorrow for another lesson. We actually just ran into him on the way to get my hair cut a couple hours ago, and he was pretty happy to see us. Hoping the he can get baptized eventually.
Elder Mueller's companion, Elder J above Nakatsugawa.

Monday, June 29, 2015

This is a Good Place

Hello from Nakatsugawa!

This place is hot and hilly. My legs are going to be pretty strong when I get back home. I just need to make sure I'm getting enough water to beat the heat.

I like this place though. We have a lot to do. And the ward members are really anxious to work with us. The branch is pretty small though. Apparently there are about 15 active members. So it's like being in Ueda again. It's a lot different from Toyohashi and having 70 people at church every week. It makes it a lot easier to learn everybody's names.

Being a district leader is so far a lot more fun than I anticipated. I really like just having conversations with people. And the people in my district are great! It's just that there are ten of us (usually there are only 6 or 8; sometimes even only 4) and so I have a lot to do. Just a lot of volume of work. But it keeps me occupied, so I'm not complaining.

I'm really, really tired right now though. I've just been extremely fatigued again. I'm going to call the mission doctor today, but do you have any suggestions for what I could do? I haven't been sleeping very well lately. Maybe dad knows something.  Maybe I just need permission to take a break. It's just kind of precarious, because even though my psychological health is better, when I'm tired like this all the time, it's easy to slip into depression again. Anyway, I'm sure I will figure it out.

In addition, this weeks adventures include:

-visiting three times the recent convert (and by recent I mean "of two weeks") in the hospital because his kidneys recently both failed
-watching my companion slip on his bike while it was raining
-teaching English to a group of little girls aged 4-10 while their moms giggled at my funny Japanese
-making puns in our other English class
-visiting less active members with our super intense Branch President

 just to name a few.

Anyway, I love you all!

Elder Mueller

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Beginning of the End

So, another transfer has come and gone, and I'm leaving Toyohashi, and
so is Elder T...aka. The number of missionaries in the mission is going
down due to the bubble of missionaries that came after the age change
going home today, so there are a lot of companionships that are
closing, and ours is one of them.

I'm going to Nakatsugawa, in Gifu-ken. It's not too far from here, but
it is a lot smaller town than here. But it is in the same stake, so I
will probably be able to see everyone from here again. It's also in
the same zone as the mission home, so I'll be closer to there than I
ever have on my mission. Which will be nice, seeing as I'm already
friends with the mission president. It's right up next to the
mountains in Nagano-ken (the volcano that erupted last year is in my
area) so it should be pretty, but it's also notorious for being one of
the hottest areas in the mission during the summer, so I will have to
be careful about drinking water and such.

My companion is named Elder Jo.... I've never met him before, but I
talked to him on the phone yesterday, and he sounds like a nice guy.
He's going to be the youngest companion I have had yet, only having
been in the field for three months. But I'm sure we're going to have a
great time.

Also a bit of a surprise, I'm going to be a district leader this
transfer! I didn't think I would ever be a mission leader, but it
happened. There are going to be ten people in my district, which is on
the bigger side. But I'm excited to carry out my new responsibilities.

I've learned and grown a lot in Toyohashi. Met some great people. Made
a lot of new friends. Had some adventures. Have worked and played.
Have been sad and tired at times, and happy and full of energy
sometimes. And I feel like I've done what I've needed to. And I've
taken a huge step forward, not just for my mission, but for my entire
life.

Nakatsugawa is probably the last place I'll serve in before I return
to America, so I'm going to make sure my time counts there.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Transitions

Good morning,

I'm doing great. I think I finally did something that helps me more
than anything else. And that is realizing that everything is going to
be fine. And that a mission is something good, and is going to be of
benefit to the rest of my life, but it's not everything. It's only two
years out of eternity. And it's not a saving ordinance. And anyway, I
am here. And I'm doing what I can, so who can ask anything more?
Especially when I have occasionally thought that perhaps just going
home would be a better choice. Who can complain that I'm still here
trying my best?

There are some things that I don't think I will ever get used to about
the mission field. Like just the way that they encourage us and ask us
to do things. Or the way that it seems like we all need to become like
the same person in order to be good missionaries. Or the fact that I
just don't feel like me or my difficulties are understood very well by
my leaders. But God knows. He made a point of telling me that twice in
a blessing that I got a while back. And, I'm relying less on my
judgement, and more on the words of the scriptures, so I've been much
more successful in recognizing bad thinking patterns and replacing
them with good ones.

The senior couple missionaries in our area are leaving tomorrow, so
things are going to be a lot different. And President and Sister
Isshii are going to leave for the MTC this week, and are going to be
going to Nagoya to replace the Yamashitas in two weeks. So a lot is
going to change in the next little while, but it's good. I think I'm
ready for a change.

I really don't have that long left, so I'm trying to make the best of
the time I have. The next five months are going to go really fast.

Transfer calls are this Saturday, and I don't really want to transfer,
but I'm hoping for the best. And I'm sure I'll go or stay wherever I'm
needed.

With love,

Alex

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