Sunday, March 31, 2013


So it is March 31st and here in Ishinomaki it snowed!  And not only that it was pretty cold all day long -- not one of those spring snows where it warms up.  The snow didn't stick but definitely it is cold.  So here's hoping next week it will be April so maybe the lamb will be in sight!

What Kind of Missionaries Are We?!

For a review for both you and me, I thought I would write a little about how the MISSIONARY WORK is going.  You (and I) may remember we were called as "member and leadership support" missionaries.  That basically means that we are to help or support the members and leaders here in the Ishinomaki branch.  We were also told that we were to do whatever the mission president wanted us to do and be a support to the young elders and sisters here in the Sendai mission.

So how is it going?  I thought I'd review this past week:


Monday was p-day and we basically just skype and go shopping so I will skip over that and go to Tuesday. 

(Being a support to the missionaries:)  We got up and picked up the three sister missionaries at 8:30 a.m. and headed to Izumi for district meeting an hour or so away.  We had a good meeting which includes a spiritual thought, Japanese language tip of the week, English tip of the week, some thoughts from the zone leaders and then a lesson on finding and going about doing good by the district leader, Elder Hirao.  It was our last district meeting before transfers this weeks so there is always the photo opp:

Transfers are announced tomorrow so we don't know what will happen but it looks like our district is in for some major changes.  One of our sisters is ending her mission this week and we know that there will definitely be changes made in two of the other areas (that only leaves one area that could go untouched).  So everyone was in that "anticipation" type of mood.

When we started to go back home I asked the sisters where and when they would like us to treat them out to eat since we like to treat when someone is transferring or ending her mission.  Sister Fukuda said, "Well we are quite busy this week.  How about right now?!"  So we went to our favorite ALL YOU CAN EAT restaurant and stuffed ourselves silly:

(Supporting the members:)  So we got home and about three hours later we were still stuffed but our phone rang and one of the members in the branch INSISTED that she was taking us out to dinner right now!  We really weren't hungry but I must say I had one of the most delicious things I have eaten here.  It was a shrimp au gratin!  It was a baked cheese sauce with shrimp in it and it was baked in a small pasta dish and was served very hot (which is rare in Japan).  Calvin had this hamburger plate that was quite large!

(Supporting the branch:)  Then at 7:00 p.m. we had Institute.  We are studying the New Testament now.  The amazing thing was there were fourteen people there.  With a branch that sees 35-40 people at sacrament meeting that seems REALLY good!


(Supporting the missionaries and doing service:)  On Wednesday morning I made cookies and Calvin practiced singing with the sisters because in the afternoon we were doing a service project at a elderly care center.  The sisters decided we should do a musical program.  Sister Saito plays the flute, Sister Shuto the piano and Sister Fukuda sings.  So they did a few musical numbers:

And then we had Sister Shuto play the piano and the residents sang old traditional songs they knew.  They all had a good time and even did actions and clapping:

And finally we gave out the cookies in little cellophane bags that I had baked as a "present."  I thought it was funny that some of those people downed those cookies before we had finished passing them out.  I guess they knew a good thing when they saw it!

(Service:)  Then it was back to Ishinomaki where we had our English class at the church at 7:00 p.m.  We have gradually built up our class and now up to fourteen are attending and hardly any are members that we know. 


(Service:)  Thursday was our last time teaching our English class in Miyato.  We spent the day getting ready since we were having a "movie night" and showing a slide show Calvin made using photos we had taken of them during this past year we taught there. 

We took drinks, popcorn, and leftover cookies (!) and the community center added a few extra goodies of their own:

I guess you could call them chicken fingers and french fries and also they made some small pizzas.  AND they passed out LARGE drinks--ours were only small ones.

And then they gave us gifts and had another photo shoot:


(Service:)  So on Friday we left the apartment at 6:30 a.m. (after returning to our apartment at 9:30 p.m. the night before) to go to Omotehama to do some Helping Hands service.  We were to help harvest wakame (seaweed).  Here is Calvin cutting the wakame with a small two pronged knife:

We did this for about three hours until we were finished.  It was a little cold and drizzly but not all that hard.  There were bins full of wakame:

Afterwards the lady in charge of our area gave us some wakame to take home.  When you bring the water to a boil it turns bright green:

It doesn't taste bad.  In fact, I figure anything green has to be GOOD for you like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, avocados, mint chocolate ice cream;  well, you get the picture!

(member support:)  That afternoon we went the other direction an hour away and attended a mini concert at a temporary housing unit.  The opera singer that we know (son of a member) was in town for a concert the next day and agreed to sing to these people affected by the tsunami.  We also know someone who lives there and is a less active member.  They were there and I was armed with some doll clothes that I had made for their two little girls.  The concert was wonderful:

One of the highlights was when the father (branch member) sang O Solo Mio and did a wonderful job.  The people in the audience were so astounded that he could sing so well and not be a professional.

AND afterwards, someone gave us a gift to take home:  WAKAME!  Actually this seaweed looks more like seaweed like I picture it.  It is green and stringy.   They salt it heavily to preserve it I think but I rinsed it off today and it was really good.  I think you make seaweed salad out of it.


(member support:)  On Saturday we had the other concert related to the one above!  It was in a nice hall with lots of people in attendance.  We had invited some of our English students to come and two of them came, along with a couple of other nonmembers we know and several people from the branch.  Here are some photos:

Afterwards one of the nonmembers insisted on taking us and some others in the branch out to dinner at a restaurant.  Onadera san is handicapped (has only one leg) and loves to listen to music:

Our food was beautifully presented and wonderful to eat:


(member and leader support:)  So today was Sunday and we went to branch presidency meeting this morning along with the rest of the meetings.  Then tonight we had single adult family home evening.  We have that once a month and I must say it is quite fun to just relax and enjoy.  Plus we have great refreshments that everyone brings.  One funny thing is that we were talking about earthquakes and what to do if you have a BIG ONE.  So to make a point, I guess,  about two hours before the FHE we had a 4.0 earthquake!

The man on the left is Brother Sato who is actually a less active member and we visited him after our wakame service because he lives close to where we did the service.  He has been coming fairly regularly lately so that is great!

So that was our week in review as missionaries.  In addition, we must add a few more things we have done:  Study, exercise, sew, bake, play Ticket to Ride card game that Melissa gave us before we left, and listen to BYU basketball on KSL radio (internet)!  Go Cougars!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Okay, so we have passed the spring equinox.  That means that we have pretty much equal night and day.  Here in Japan it means:  the sun rises at 5:00 a.m. and sets at 5:00 p.m.!  No kidding.

Also we learned that part of the ritual of the beginning of spring was to visit the gravesites of your ancestors.  I thought this was interesting because there are also some days in August (obon?) that are part of grave visiting.

Anyway, it doesn't really look or feel much like spring yet but we have heard that the cherry blossoms are out in southern Japan and it is not nearly as cold as it used to be.  Also our friends took off their snow tires yesterday (a sure sign that it will snow again sometime soon!).

Zone Conference

Maybe you are wondering what zone conference is or what we do at zone conference.  OKAY . . . probably you are not wondering but I will give you the brief overview whether you want it or not (you do have the option of not reading this blog you know!).

Our zone has about 25 missionaries and once a quarter we have zone conference under the direction of the mission president.  This past week we actually had two zones I think and it was not a typical zone conference since we had a visiting authority:  Elder Ringwood, president of the Asia North area and a Seventy. 

We picked up the sisters at 5:45 a.m. (!! yes you read right!) in order to get there by 7:30 a.m.  Once there, we had a hymn practice for a special number we were singing later in the day.  Then we had assigned places to sit or stand on the stage for our "official" pictures.  Around 9:00 a.m. the Rasmussens (mission president and wife) and the Ringwoods arrived.  We sang to them and then had "official" pictures taken:

Then before entering the chapel, we were able to greet and shake hands with the Ringwoods.

During the morning sessions we heard from the Rasmussens and the Ringwoods and had some practice "mogi" sessions.  These are role play type practice in talking to investigators or potential investigators.  Here we are mogi-ing:

The talks were all really great and the morning went by fast.  At noon we broke for lunch.  Some of the sisters in the Sendai stake made us lunch (which is typical) and before we eat, they line up and we sing them a song:

Lunch fare was huge bowls of rice and curry, salad, drinks and a plate of desserts (each person got a plate FULL of desserts!).

After lunch, more talking and instructions and some question and answer sessions.  We finished up around 3:00 p.m.   Really, the day goes by quite fast and the missionaries LOVE to see each other.  Most of the time they remind me of a "missionary pep rally" at times!  And YES, the photos are a part of all zone conferences whether there is a visiting authority or not!

Easter Eggs Again

So that same day we had our children's English class and we colored Easter eggs.  We did not even have time to go back home so we were plenty early but to our delight, Okuda san made us some big bowls of ramen noodles which were delicious.  Sorry no picture but you have seen bowls of ramen noodles before right?

This turned out to be a great activity which the kids loved.  And at times it was kind of wild.  Luckily we had a tarp under the tables because one whole bowl of dye ended up on the tarp--luckily it was yellow and Sister Fukuda who took the brunt of the dye was wearing black!  We took so many pictures and it was hard to choose just a few:


Then we had an egg/candy hunt:

And a fun time was had by all:

Other Randomness

*We made microwave popcorn for the weekly pingpong tournament and it was a hit since it is quite a rarity here.  AND I had some salsa flavored popcorn that I had gotten at an international store here.  It was really rather spicy so I didn't know how it would go over.  But quite a few people liked it.  And what did they think it tasted like?!  Well, I heard one person say it tasted like kimchee and another said it tasted like spicy curry!  Who knew that salsa was so international?!

*And remember I talked about the flagmen?  When we were out and about this week we saw many of them.  This one stood out particularly because as you neared the flagman, there were signs, flashing lights on the truck, two other flashing lights, PLUS the flagman who was VERY animated in his duties!

*Today at Church we had yet another Seventy visit our branch:  Elder Aoyagi.  He is one of the counselors in the Area Presidency.  It is always fun to have them visit our branch because they are so personal and tell stories of their conversion, marriage, and other stories.  We also had a linger-longer meal and a fireside-type meeting with him.  The food was amazing and I am always surprised that there is yet something else I have never eaten before! 

And it was Elder Aoyagi's birthday so someone brought a cake and we all sang, of course, "Happy Birthday to you" (with a Japanese accent!).  Funny, I guess some things just don't translate!

*At zone conference, President Rasmussen gave us these statistics about our mission:
         current young missionaries in our mission:  69
         young missionaries going home by Sept:     29
         new missionaries coming in by September: 90
         total young missionaries in September:       130

*Because of these AMAZING statistics, it has caused quite an uproar here and all over the world.  It is a wonderful blessing but the mission office is quite overwhelmed.  We will have 60 more missionaries in the next few months and they all need apartments, furnishings and arrangements have to be made for their travel.  New areas will probably need to be opened and there will be twice as many missionaries in each existing area.   Also we do not know if this is a temporary surge or a permanent number of missionaries for the mission so that is hard because apartments are so expensive in Japan.  The other "problem" is that we have to have "trainers" or senior companions for all of these new missionaries coming in.  The missionaries coming into the mission in two weeks may have to be trainers by September and many of the new missionaries are American sisters or elders who need to learn the language fast!

*It is an exciting time to be a missionary.  We are happy to be a part of it!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


So I guess missionary work is not all work . . . or so it seems this week.

We began the week with district p-day which turned out to be basically, eat, play games, lean back and relax, and enjoy ourselves for a few hours.  Here are the elders having a WONDERFUL time because we had MEXICAN FOOD!  Mexican food is one of the things that is pretty nonexistent here in Japan and you don't realize how much you like it until you get here and can't have it!  We had tacos and fajitas.

March 11th was also the two year anniversary of the big earthquake and tsunami.  It came and went with a minute of silence.  In our Wednesday English class we talked about hobbies and last week we invited all of the students (around 12-14) to come prepared to talk about their hobbies.  They all did a wonderful job but two stand out in my mind.  One man said his hobby is martial arts.  He said he had a lot of photos of him doing martial arts and getting awards but they were all destroyed in the tsunami.  Then our branch president said his hobby used to be painting but . . . you can guess the rest.  Anyway, he brought a recent picture he had drawn.  It seemed so sad to realize that not only were lives lost (which of course is the most significant loss) but also many tangible memories were lost.

On Thursday (March 14) it was White Day!  You have probably forgotten what White Day is so I will refresh your memory!   Well in Japan only the girls give on Valentines Day and the guys reciprocate on White Day!  So our week was filled with guys giving out things to the girls.  Like our branch president made cookies and gave them out at church; and another brother at church gave out bags of goodies (mostly chocolate) to the women; and I got some chocolates from Abe Kyodai who was recently baptized;  AND the guys in one of our branch families (actually the guys are not members) made me and Elder Sakamoto lunch.  Here are the guys cooking:

And this is the finished product.  Nabe!:

It was so good.  And there were also a few other things to go with it like this:

That little plate of meat that looks and has the texture of beef is actually WHALE!  I thought it tasted a little wild (more like elk or something like that) but it was okay.  Probably not something I would go looking for at the store anytime soon!

That evening we had our English class with the kids in Miyato.  It was Okuda-san's (the community center director's) birthday so we decided to throw a surprise party for him.  It worked out well since he had a meeting and came back just in time for us to celebrate.  Here are the boys decorating cakes:

Their finished products:

And the card that the girls created:

And us with Okuda-san looking pleased with the whole thing:

On Friday I decided to use the leftover pudding and whipped cream from the cakes and make another cake and take it to the weekly ping-pong night.  I found out that you ONLY have cakes at certain times in Japan.  I was asked several times during the night whose birthday it was!  Cakes are also very popular at Christmastime I remember.

On Saturday it was double party time.  I went to the annual Relief Society birthday party and Calvin went to a Young Men's cooking activity.

The Relief Society party was AMAZING!!!   Very Japanese and so fun!  We entered to find as the decoration, a Girl's Day (Hina Matsuri) display:

Girl's Day was March 3rd and these displays are typical.  Next, we sat down and had make-your-own dessert (to save for later).  It was sakura mochi.  Sakura is the cherry blossoms and mochi is the mooshed up rice.  Anyway, these were the ingredients we had to work with:

And here is the finished product which we made using plastic gloves:

So yes, mooshed rice, sweetened mooshed beans, and a leaf--and yes, you EAT the leaf!  But yum it was so good!  Next course the soup:

Also really yummy.  And then some tempura and other meats.  The pink things are shrimp chips:

And then this wonderful sushi rice:

There was so much food that we all took tons home!  And we were so stuffed!  We also had a short program and a video of the Relief Society activities in our stake this past year.  It's no wonder I can't lose weight!

So, while we did the above, the Young Men were cooking their own concoction of omu rice:

Here it is up close and personal:

It is basically a Spanish rice with scrambled egg on top.  Hate to say it, but somehow I was glad I was a Relief Society sister that night!

Then if that was not enough partying.  Tonight we were invited to our branch president's home for a birthday party for Brother Abe.  We ate okonomiyake and birthday cake and I think I almost had to roll home once again. 

The diet begins tomorrow!!!

And really . . . we are on a mission!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


So, yes, McDonald's Idaho Burger made it to Japan!  I'm not sure you all have it back in the states but here it is:

If you can't tell from the photo, it looks like it features a couple of pieces of bacon, cheese, onions and a couple of different sauces -- and oh -- a leftover potato pattie from their breakfast menu.  OKAY . . . so I am not a big McDonald's hamburger fan.  Our friend Marie did say she had one and loved it . . . but then again she might be biased the other way:  her fiance goes to BYU Idaho!

More Food

I guess I could have said more burgers because we went to Big Boy for dinner one night.  One of our members, Brother Matsuyama, insisted he was treating the missionaries.  Anyway, you might remember JB's Big Boy if you are as old as I am.  Japan's version is NO WHERE near that.  They have hamburgers -- technically correct.  They are hamburger PATTIES with no bun.  And I was telling some of our kids that what you see is what you get around here.  The menus around here usually feature photos.  If you order something that looks like three SMALL FRENCH FRIES on the side . . . .  This is what Calvin got:

It was chicken (always with the skin on) and some radish sauce on top and another sauce to dip the chicken into and THREE SMALL FRENCH FRIES!  But don't fear.  We didn't go hungry.  It comes with an all-you-can eat salad bar which also features soup, rice, curry, fruit and some puddings and jello.  Here we are (for those who need a visual reminder of this place):

Traffic Control/Flag Men

I have been wanting to tell you about the flag men (and women) around here.  They are EVERYWHERE!  Even when someone is building a house, there is someone directing the traffic in front of the construction site.  And of course, when there is any street construction there are multiple flag men.  And it goes on and on and on.  Honestly, there have been some days that we have probably seen 25 or 30 flag men at different places.  AND they all seem to love their job.  They wave their batons with such commanding vigor and, of course, bow as you pass by:


This week in our children's English class we made terrariums and I have to give myself a pat on the back because the kids liked doing them:


We made them out of plastic water bottles, rocks, soil, plants, seeds and figurines.  The sisters have been coming and helping out so it makes my job a lot easier!

Easter Activity

Even though Easter isn't until the last day of the month, all of the Saturdays were taken up this month except this past Saturday so that is when we had our Primary Easter activity. 

Last year I had Becca buy me some Easter egg dye kits and send them to me so I would have them for this year and I have to admit it was genius on my part because it turned out to be a great activity.  The really fun thing was that neither children nor parents nor Primary leaders had EVER dyed eggs before!  They were AMAZED!:

Some of the finished products:

And the all important group photo:

And we decorated Easter cookies and the kids are so cute:

Sunday Dinner

And just as I was about to cook dinner, we got a call that the sisters and a couple of other families were making dinner at the Church tonight!  So we shuffled on down and ate royally:

We ate Hiroshima okonomiyake, yaki soba, yaki meshi, and I made some deviled eggs (which they loved and had never had) with the leftover Easter eggs.  (Translation:  vegetable pancake, pan fried noodles and fried rice).

Oh and we had this interesting thing that someone had given to the branch president's wife.  It looked like jello with fruit in it.  I was volunteered to taste it.  The branch president's wife asked me, "so what does it taste like?" and I thought for a moment since my Japanese struggles.  I said, "Aji wa
nai."  (Translation:  It doesn't have any taste.)  She looked at me kind of funny and asked someone else to taste it . . . with the same results.  It wasn't bad . . .just like eating jello with no taste.

Random Photos

Our conference photo with the General Authorities:

And the sisters having a lot of fun:

Oh, and the best thing about this week:  we got to skype Tyson and Bethany's newest little one -- Molly's baby blessing!  It was great to be part of the blessing and to talk to a lot of people there.  May your week be filled with great blessings too!