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!!!!!