Sunday, November 23, 2014

My deepest gratitude is for the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 Dear Family,
Happy Thanksgiving!!!! Please celebrate it double for me, because there is no holiday here in Japan. No need to eat double for me though, because we have meal appointments out the roof scheduled this week!!
In honor of the holiday, let me try to explain why I am so GRATEFUL to be here right now. 
  Yesterday Sister Heimuli and I were in the church talking to a member when Chizuru shimai walked in pushing her 91 year old mom in a wheelchair. Chizuru shimais mother was baptized about 40 years ago. For almost 10 years, she has not been able to come to church because she is confined to a hospital. However, the branch worked together and got permission for her to leave and come to church for Chizuru shimais baptism!! So as they walked into the church, we walked toward Chizuru shimais mother, greeted her, and she put her hands up to her face and wept. She looked at us and just cried. Finally she was able to get out in a little 91 year old voice: ureshii! (happy!) and then she cried some more. And that moment was perhaps the most joyful moment I have experienced. She talked to us some more and said she has been praying for almost 40 years for her daughter to be baptized. She is so happy because she is able to give prayers of thanks for those who led her daughter to baptism. She cried throughout the whole service. Of course, the baptism was wonderful. It has been a marvelous journey to experience all of the faith and commitment and change with Chizuru shimai. But even more great than that, I think, is that now that family is one huge step closer on their way to an eternal family. That is what this is all about, isnt it? I am so grateful the Lord let me be a part of their journey. 
     We have been so blessed to be working with many part member families. More than half of our investigators (and the ones that are progressing better) come from part member families. I am grateful that the Lord has opened their hearts to us because as these investigators are feeling the Spirit and making changes, there is so much more happiness in their lives and the lives of the members too! 
     I was thinking about how interesting it is that this little branch, with so many recent converts and a branch president who has very little knowledge or experience in his calling, is still moving forward and progressing as well it is. It seems so unreal that the kind of experiences we are having are happening in the Niihama branch! But I was reminded that it is all because of the Lord. He is pouring out His love on the people here! 
    Everyday there is SO much to be grateful for! Of course I am so thankful that I am a missionary in Japan with all the best people, activities, food, and resources. I am also so very grateful that I get to serve with the one and only Sister Heimuli in the Niihama branch.  I feel so blessed to have my wonderful mission president and his wife and the MOST AMAZING family in the world supporting me at home. I am forever thankful for gifts of music and this world and I could go on and on. However, THE  greatest thing I (we) have to be grateful for is our Savior Jesus Christ, and His atonement, which saves us. We can be grateful everyday because of the joy, relief, support, comfort, happiness, hope, encouragement, vision, peace, and love that He gives us. 
    Remember that as you enjoy your turkey this week. 
I love you so much!!!!!
Sister Crofts

Monday, November 10, 2014

Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts

Monday, November 3, 2014

Power and Authority of God--神の力と権能

Dearest Family,
Shout out: JOEY!!! Joey, joey, joey, Joey!! Youll have a birthday, shout hooray!! I want to sing to you today!! One year older and WISER too! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!!!

Next Shout Out!: Dear Miss Idaho, good luck in your beauty contest!! Blow them away with your talent!! (and beauty.) Love ya!! ttfn.

Shout out #3: Happy Halloween!!! I hope it was at least half as good as mine.
The Lord answers prayers. Even those about Halloween parties. Even after the hours of planning and preparing that went into the Halloween party, we had high concerns that it might just be a flop. And so we prayed. And God answered our prayers! We had about 5 people from our branch at the party, and about 95 other people there!! Including two investigators who we have not been able to contact for a full transfer. And our neighbors who we invited the night before. (We talked to a woman who was pregnant and her mother. The mother said no way! My daughter could give birth any minute! And it was true...she was huge. We walked away from that home joking about somebody that pregnant showing up at a Halloween party. But to our surprise, the next evening, she walked into the party. And she brought with her her mother, her husband, her son, and her husbands mother too!!) We were shocked at how well the party turned out and that SO MANY people came! The branch was shocked too. Most of the members did not come, but President Manabe was in charge of the music, and he LOVED it. We visited him later in the week and he told us it was by far the best Halloween party he had been to! The Lord definitely answers prayers. 
     It has been made clear why Sister Heimuli and I have been put in Niihama. The Lord is using our talents to bless the people here. Last week when we visited the Ashitani couple (who have not been to the church in over 20 years), Sister Heimuli played a song on the piano and sang for them. Brother Ashitani was in tears. He told us he could feel the Saviors presence. And he decided (promised) to come to the music fireside we are having this week! At the request of the branch, we visited his daughter, Yumiko (who is also a less active member) last week. She was very friendly and let us right into her home. She told us how happy her father was to have us visit him, and she thanked us for opening his heart. She said that is very hard to do. She also thanked us for the special feeling that we brought into her own home. She said we were the first missionaries ever that have made her be okay with a second visit. But not only that, she decided as well to come with her husband and two children to the music fireside! The members of the branch have heard about it, and apparently it is a really big deal. They were talking to us a lot about how amazing it is that the Ashitani family will be coming into the church. To be honest, we did not feel like we did anything special at all! The Lord is just using the talents He gave us to bless this family at the time they are ready. 
     I continue to learn so much from Sister Heimuli every day. I am taking note of the things I learn from her, and it is becoming a nice small plates for me. She studies the scriptures diligently and puts her mind and heart into helping the investigators, members, and other missionaries. I am SO grateful for her example!! 
     Also, I am in the most beautiful mission in the world. I am beyond convinced of that. This morning we went running to a park. This park has HUGE trees that droop over a nice pathway surrounding a lake with cranes and Japanese-gazebos on it. There are shrines and the unique Japanese plants off the pathway, and we found a flight of stairs (so legs are like jello now!) that led to the top of a mountain where we could see the view of our whole area! We have mountains and an ocean and a nice view of so many little islands. It is beautiful!! We are so blessed. 
      Oh and Chizuru san too!! She is progressing so well. More to come next week! But really, she is so bright!
     I spent too much time sending pictures!! So that is it for today. Anyway, I love you to pieces!!! Enjoy November in America. I am loving it here in Japan!!
Sister Crofts
p.s. the church is true

Monday, October 20, 2014

DENDORIFIC (word of the week, by Sister Harris)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Walk with Me--私とともに歩みなさい

Sister Harris from BYU and the MTC

Hunt shimai

Heimuli shimai
Dearest Family,
Big news from last week: I slept in a bed. For the first time since the MTC! The Welchs invited us into their home the night before MLC, so Heimuli shimai and DeKlerk shimai and her companion and I all got to spend the evening talking with President and SIster Welch, eating AMERICAN food that they offered us, and then sleeping like queens in AMERICAN like rooms. Sometimes I do not realized how different Japan is until I get into those American settings. 
My companion: Wonderful! Her name is Sister (Hevynn)  Heimuli. She is part Hawaiian, Tongan, Japanese, Maori, and some other things. Her dad, who came from Samoa, was an NFL player. Her uncle too, you probably heard their names a lot if you were into football about 25 years ago. She is also a professional. She has lived in New Zealand for her dance career, Osaka for her singing career, and Chicago for her broadway career. She also graduated high school when she was 16 so she could get college done faster and begin law school. She will do that after her mission...and she is only 20!! So yes, she is wonderful. But more than all of that, she is a happy, pure, diligent missionary, so I feel joy working with her! 
My new area: Niihama. It is also wonderful! Because the branch is so small, I have been able to pray for each member by name daily, and in just 10 days, I have grown to love them! A big portion of the people attending church right now are fairly recent converts, so we are doing a lot of strengthening work. A member from one of the quorums of seventy, Elder Aoba, is also in our branch. And we have a senior missionary couple in our branch. They are SO sweet and cute!! 
Other big news from last week: there was a baptism! It was a young 19 year old man who the elders have been working with. He was brought into the church through a member friend. His testimony after the baptism was amazing! He talked about the influence the members had on him and how his life changed in ways he never imagined and he was SO grateful for the members who were willing to talk about the church and invite him. He also expressed deep gratitude for the elder who has taught him from the beginning. It was incredible to see the influence members and missionaries had on his life, and it encouraged me to keep being the best missionary I can be forever! 
We had a great lesson with an investigator last week. She asked the missionaries to teach her the word of wisdom, so we did. But because her testimony has not seemed very strong in the past, we tried to talk with her about it in a way that she could understand and apply it. She took it in very well. She did not even question whether or not she should obey it. She already knew she should and she wanted to! She is addicted to her coffee though, so she will need help, but it was great to feel the Spirit getting the message across to her.
Yesterday was district conference, so we met together in Matsuyama with all of the members, missionaries, and President and Sister Welch. We heard great talks about family history. I have always wanted to focus on family history here, especially because the Buddhist culture places so much emphasis on ancestors. The talks gave us more direction on how we can do that, so it was great! And we were able to watch the general womens conference. I just love conference! I am looking forward to next week! 
I feel like we have been receiving a lot of powerful training lately! We had Elder Ringwood come, Saturday and Sunday were full of meetings, and we had a fabulous MLC last week! We talked as leaders about the atonement. Of course, there is a lot to talk about that. But what was said had a great impact on me. We talked about how Christ is with us. He will not leave us and as we live the gospel and obey our covenants, we will be carried and our light will be magnified. It was powerful, and we were able to decide on the new mission theme: *Walk with Me.* I love this theme. It comes from Moses 6. In that chapter, Enoch explains how he came from a land of righteousness (which I feel like I do too) and how he was called to preach the gospel. Enoch also had the promise with him from the Lord that the Lord would abide in him, and he could abide in the Lord, and the Lord extended the invitation *walk with me.* I have felt that promise on my own mission as well. I feel like I am constantly being led to unknown places but there finding opportunities to bless others. Over and over I have had confusions and concerns, and then through the Lords mercy they have been answered. I experience the Lords tender mercies every day and I have had times when I can tangibly feel the Lord walking with me. I know because of the atonement, the Lord can walk with each one of us. As we live His teachings, He will guide us down paths with unimaginable blessings and opportunities. It is exciting to experience that in my own life, but more than that, to help and witness that in the lives of the people here in Niihama. This gospel is true!!
I love you all! Study up general conference well!!
Kurofusu shimai

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Dear Family,
I will begin by telling you about the conference with Elder Ringwood. From the seventy. It was absolutely amazing! I had been praying and studying to prepare for the conference, and I feel like every word that came out of peoples mouths that day addressed exactly what had been on my mind! The main thing I got out of it is the more we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more Jesus Christ helps us live better lives! And I felt the great urgency of this work. I was ready to get to work again just like I felt after leaving the MTC! 
I was also blessed to be able to have an interview with Elder Ringwood after the conference! We talked about my mission and my family and President Welch and things I learned from the conference. He loves Idaho. He told me he would trade any 2 missionaries from Utah for 1 from Idaho haha. At the end I asked him a question and to answer it, he talked about exhaustion exhilaration. He talked about how the best kind of days are those when you get home at night and you are SO exhausted because you have given it your ALL, and even though all you want to do is fall into your futon, it is such an exhilarating feeling, and all you can do is rejoice. He taught me how I can plan and work better in order to feel that feeling even better. It was a great interview!  
Right after the conference, though, things kind of took a twist. I was pulled into a room with the assistants and President and his wife and a few other sister missionaries, and I was told that to accommodate a sister returning home early and the need to train a new sister training leader, I would be transferring!!!! Bahhh!! I do not know if you have sensed from previous letters how much I LOVED Yonago, but I will tell you, it really hurt hearing I would be leaving!! After that I had two days to get back to Yonago, call everybody and meet as many people as possible to say goodbye, and then I was out of there! It was painful saying goodbye and a huge shock to my system (seriously my body reacted...).
One goodbye that I am grateful for was with Nakada shimai. She is the bright less active member who has been completely changing since we first visited her in June. She expressed very deep thanks for coming to her door and showing her so much love and helping her learn gospel things again. She talked about how she had been thinking about church and wanting to change a lot, and how when we came to her, it was perfect timing. She also expressed her desire to change and feel the happiness she felt 30 years ago when she was at church. We had a great lesson about the atonement and Jesus Christ and I do not think my testimony of the atonement had ever been more sure than in that lesson. ( I am grateful for the Spirit.) By the end of the lesson, she made a goal and committed to return to church!! 
Anyway, now I am here in Niihama, part of a little island south of the mainland. 
Let me tell you about Niihama.  This area is the most countryside of all the ones I have been in. There is never anybody on the streets! Just lots of rice fields and factories.  It is a tiny little branch with less than 20 members coming to church each week. It made learning all of their names on the first day pretty easy.  But they only have Relief Society/Priesthood once a month here, so church was only 2 hours! And one of the 2 primary kids turns 12 next month. It is so different than Yonago!
I had kind of a Laman/Lemuel moment. I was sitting feeling sorry for myself. Sad that I had to leave such a wonderful ward family and without even having time to say goodbye coming to this little old place on another island. BUT THEN. The Lord helped me overcome that. He blessed me with such a calm assuring feeling. He helped me feel a lot of love for this area and the people here. I know this is where I need to be now and I am excited to see how the Lord will use me to bless the branch members and investigators here! It is going to be a FABULOUS time of my mission, I know that! 
One thing that I know more than anything else is that God loves His children. I feel that no matter where I am and what is happening. It is a privilege to be serving them as a missionary. 
I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week!! 

Monday, September 22, 2014


This is what we do in Japan to make our cheeks look smaller in pics!  
Dear Family,
Missionary work is the best. It just keeps getting better and better every week! I wonder what it would be like if I was serving for 100 years. Would it get better and better each week? I do not know. I cannot imagine it getting any better than this! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!! 
A week ago we had FHE at the Bishops home. It was a BBQ with members and investigators and missionaries. It was a blast! I do not love the food at Japanese BBQs, but they are fun.  And I love Bishops wife. We have a great relationship with her and lately she has been telling us about her friends who need help and we are working together. There is a lot of joy in working with members! She also told us how comforting it is to know that we are praying for her and her family and friends. Shout out to all Bishops and their wives and to members who are doing missionary work! 
Tuesday we went to the beach to pick up garbage. Japanese people are SO CLEAN, but they do not have garbage cans, and hence, the beach had a lot of garbage. Anyway, we put on our service vests and chose one section to clean, and we got it CLEAN. When we were close to finishing, a woman came up to us and started talking with us. Then her sister and niece and nephew and mother all came and we were talking together, then they started helping us clean up. They were so grateful for us. As we were walking away, we had many other people come up to us and express thanks. They are very proud of the beautiful nature, so they were glad we were helping out. I love helping the people here. They mean the world to me. 
After service we rushed to teach Pat. Pat prayed!! She is still insistent that she is meeting with us not to talk about to religion, just to practice English. But she is drawing so close to Christ. On Tuesday we put on a scavenger hunt for her through the church. It was so much fun, and the last clue led her into the chapel. We had music playing and we sat down together and just looked to the front (we have stained glass in our chapel.) After a few minutes, we asked how she felt. She said sacred and repentant. Then she said she felt like she was sitting in front of a big waterfall, and she was full of wonder. We talked about how that was Gods love for her, and how through prayer she can feel that. We invited her to pray, and she never said yes or no, she just sat there. But we followed up with her a couple days later, and she did it! She said it is not very often at all that she prays, but she did, and she said it was a great experience. I am excited to hear more about it when we meet with her again this week. 
Wednesday was an adventure with Dateyama kyoudai. Apparently he wanted to do something with us that would make us happy, because he knew that would make his wife happy to see the missionaries happy. So he took us to grape vines. Let me explain. We walk into the orchard, and there are grapes hanging from vines. Grapes and grapes and grapes. And he said, begin eating!! So we did. Japanese fruits are amazing. Their grapes taste like grape flavored candy in America. And they are huge. And we just plucked and ate and plucked more and ate more. It was fabulous. 
Better than the grapes was the lesson with Dateyama kyoudai afterward. We went to his house and began to talk about his concerns again. He has always had the same plan: die, accept baptsim in the next world, and ask somebody in his death will to do his temple work for him so he can be sealed to his wife. We have tried many times to tell him that it does not work out that easily. Last time we met, it finally clicked with him. It was actually heart wrenching. When he found out that in order to really be sealed to his wife forever he has to be baptized in this life, he looked in pain. He promised himself he would never be baptized, but he promised his wife he would do what he needs to to live with her forever. I felt like crying for him. He sat there in such deep thought and we could feel the Spirit working with him. At the end of the lesson, he finally said that he decided to be baptized in this lifetime!! That is a step forward!! It is so wonderful to see the Lord working so closely with this great man. I just love it! And him!
On Thursday after meeting with the wonderful Eiko shimai (she fed us pumpkin quiche and pumpkin soup and pumpkin seed ice cream. I could not be happier) we went over to the Yonago train station to talk to people and look for a few less active members homes. We were walking down a street when we saw a poster on one of the shops for *bubble waffles.* they looked divine, so we stopped to get a better look at the poster. Then we looked inside the shop and the person at the register was waving back at us. We went in to talk with her. Turns out, she has a lot of interest in religion, and she is picking us up at her shop next week to take us to her house so we can have a lesson! Once again, my appetite has led us to somebody ready for the gospel.
Friday was a spiritually uplifting day at district meeting. We talked about visions and goals. I love spiritually uplifting discussions. This week will be with a member of the quorum of the seventy. I will have to tell you more about it next week, but I am excited!!
Saturday was also fabulous. We had a lesson with Angel ( a philipine woman), and we decided to show up a little early with lunch. So we made her stew, and she was so surprised to see us with food! We ate together, and she decided to share with us her hot dog spaghetti with some other ingredients that made us so sick. Anyway, we had a fabulous lesson about Jesus Christ, and at the end we invited her to be baptized. She pulled the classic line that I never thought I would hear: But I cannot swim! ha we helped calm her fears about that one, and then she accepted to be baptized. Yes!! It was sincere lesson and I was impressed by her desire to follow Jesus Christ. 
After coming back from her lesson, we were so sick. There was something in that spaghetti. We were lying on our apartment floor just moaning and laughing and rejoicing that she accepted to be baptized but so sick. Her lesson was long and we had another lesson cancel so we had to change our plans, and we just had no idea what to do. We were lying there like sick dogs with no clue how to help the people here. We prayed, and we were still just stumped. And sick. After a few minutes, we finally decided to just go outside and work. We did not take our bikes, we just walked. We went to some houses, tried to contact some less active members, and then we kept walking. We did not know where to go, but I think we were led. We both had a Book of Mormon in our hands, and we were able to meet 2 people who were interested in the Book of Mormon and accepted to take the book and read it! I love testifying of the Book of Mormon. It is so true and powerful. 
I think the Lord blessed us for getting up and going to work, because as we were out and about, we got a phone call from a member telling us that she was bringing her friend to church, she wanted us to teach her, and then we were invited to dinner at her home! At church on Sunday, a cheerful, friendly 28 year old lady came up to us, shook our hands, and introduced herself as Uchida san. She said it was her first time at church and she was excited! After sacrament meeting, she seemed in awe. Deklerk shimai and a member taught her a lesson during 2nd hour and apparently it was such a good lesson. (I was not there because I was translating for an Australian 11 year old. His family of 8 came to our ward because his mother served here 15 years ago. It was a blast to translate for him!!!!) Anyway, we had dinner that night with Uchida san and another nonmember the Ueda family, and it was a wonderful time. Again, when members are involved, it goes by so wonderfully. I am grateful to be in Yonago ward where the members are so faithful and loving and great missionaries! It is a joy to be establishing the church here with them!!! 
Family, this is the Lords work. I see it every day and I feel His hand in this work every day. We are all working together to help others return safely back to our Heavenly Father. The more we serve Him, the more joy we feel. It is a blessing to be alive at this time!!!
I love you all so much! Thank you for your prayers and love. :)