Sunday, September 2, 2012


So we were able to do a new service yesterday--participating in a Japanese dance (obon)!  It seems that we get to help do things that are actually the service projects of others most of the time.  This time we were invited to participate in what I would call the half-time activities of a track meet. 

We went to Kitakami about a half hour away to a junior high school where they were having an undo kai (exercise meet).  This is some of what we saw. The opening ceremonies going around the track:

May I just say that at times such as these, I realize how much I love our country:  the USA.  I am grateful to see these people with their flags and posting of their colors but I long to see those stars and stripes.  The Japanese are not as passionate about their country as we are.  Some did not even stand as their flag was raised, let alone revere it with hand over heart.  When we return, I will be much more thankful for the opportunity to stand and pause.

After the opening ceremonies, the "games" began.  There was a baton-passing relay and an obstacle course race among other things:

And there were plenty of fans to cheer them on:

I guess these things are serious business because they began promptly at 9:00 a.m. and were still going strong when we left after our performance.  At noon, they stopped for lunch (everyone brought their own). 

In the meantime, we were getting ready for our part:

Some people from fairly far away brought 40-50 yukatas (lighter weight kimonos worn in the summer and as robes at home) to give to people who lived in the temporary housing units.  So first they organized them into piles of yukatas for men and women. 

And then we donned our yukatas as well:

Voila!  This is how we looked:

And like I said, we get more out of these things than what we give, we were given these yukatas to keep for ourselves:

At this point we went down to the track, the yukatas were put on tables, and the announcers made the announcement that the yukatas were to be given away to those living in the temporary housing units if they would come up and dance with us.  With not much trouble, 50 people came forward and we began to dance in a large circle.

Unfortunately, the camera person was dancing so we don't have pictues of the actual dance but I will try to paint the picture:  we were in a circle and doing a short dance.  It went something like one arm forward one arm back, other arm forward other arm back, repeat, both arms to the side, repeat on other side, form mountain with hands, clap twice one side, clap once the other side.  Repeat from the beginning.  All the while we were moving around in a circle and supposedly doing some dance steps.  It was a pretty long song so we probably did this a hundred times!

It is kind of the Japanese version of line dancing . . . .

Afterward, the people got to choose their yukatas:

And I think most people went away happy with the event:

Miracles and Blessings

Our friends, the Franks, are on a mission in Germany.  They recently posted on their blog something that I LOVED.  They told about daily miracles that they were seeing.  So today I am stealing that idea from them and talking about miracles and blessings in our lives.  I pretty much decided that all miracles are blessings, although some blessings may not be considered miracles so that is why I have lumped the two together.

Daily, we are also blessed.  Just being on a mission is a HUGE blessing.  I think we are all blessed with miracles daily but sometimes we fail to see them.  Here, I think they are more noticeable because most of the time we are not distracted by the worldly side of life.  Some of the miracles and blessings we have seen lately are:

*  We have been telling you about the young sister missionaries coming to Ishinomaki.  Finding their apartment was truly a miracle.  We had been looking for a few weeks (going through apartment realtors) but there are just not many apartments available here because they are all taken by tsunami victims.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago our mission president called and said if we could not find an apartment right away he would send the sisters someplace else.  That night Elder Sakamoto and Brother Watanabe from our branch went out searching.  No success.  But then they both said a silent prayer and decided to go to the house of the landlord of our Church building.  The landlord was just pulling up to his house and they explained the situation to him.  The landlord was elated!  They were just going to list an apartment and they would be glad to rent the apartment to the Church because they knew they would be good renters.  Upon seeing the apartment, they knew this was a miracle.  It was everything they wanted:  close to the Church, post office, grocery store, convenience store, and  really a nice place in their price range.

*The next blessing always comes after I complain that I can't speak Japanese:  I am reminded that things are okay and I am doing allright.  Last week I went out to eat with Takie while Elder Sakamoto was at the baseball game.  We talked and had a good time.  All of a sudden, Takie said, "You can speak Japanese and understand too!"  I was pretty amazed. 

*We feel it a miracle and a blessing to be living in the land of our ancestors.

*This may not seem like a miracle or blessing but it is:  Last week we were at the store and I wanted to buy some pants for when Laura comes to visit us soon.  I looked at all the sale racks and found two pairs of pants for only about $10 each.  And because I am living in Japan, they don't need to be hemmed!

*One blessing we had lately is that we found a spaghetti squash at a store!  This may not seem like much but it was the best spaghetti squash I have ever eaten--because it was a taste of home.

*Another miracle that I may or may not have mentioned earlier is that I have met three people who have lived in the area we are from on three different occasions.  This may not seem like much but we were able to reminisce of people we knew and it was like God was telling me that he knows us personally and made sure we were able to connect with each other.

*The weather has been quite hot and humid lately.  These are two of the blessings I count as paramount in our lives:

Above is our air conditioner!  It actually works pretty well although we try not to run it 24/7.  Not that many people have these here--pretty much like not having anything in Utah only with 90 percent humidity!

*And lastly, our greatest miracle and blessing are all of you.  Can we just say that without the miracle of the internet and our family and friends back home, this would be a much harder thing to do.  We hear news, updates, and encouragement from you all.  Thank you so much.

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