Monday, December 28, 2015

No Time

This past week we got to Skype with Alex on Christmas Eve. He isn't really much of a talker and even though I asked him to come up with some stories ahead of time, he had NONE. 

We still had a good talk and took a few photos that didn't turn out well. It was very difficult to hear since his companion was in the same room talking to his family at the same time and Alex had to ask, "What was that?" sometimes three times before he heard us as we yelled our answers back to the computer. 

We could hear his companion singing in Japanese to his family. Alex said he'd try to get a video of the two of them singing something for us, but he didn't have time this week. I look forward to any kind of video from him.

His letter to everyone was very brief this week:

I don't have too much time to say anything, but this week was great. I
love being here every second! We had district p-day today, so not too
much time for writing.
The kanji of the week is: 机 pronounced "tsku-eh" and means desk.
We had many miracles this week. Sorry I don't have time for anything
else! Love you all and have a great week!
Elder ______

In the middle of October, Alex had a bike accident that left him with a very bloody knee. He showed us how it's healing, now more than 2 months later and it's still not healed completely. Ouch!

He's showing us his boot socks that we sent in his Christmas package and  he says that "everyone thinks they are awesome". haha

District Christmas activity

This is the video that is from the whole Sendai mission. It's 24 minutes long and I only spotted Alex in a few photos. I thought the photos of the painting on the rice fields were cool.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reach For the Sky!

From Alex's letter to me:
I did get new boots, and I had to get a size 28 (the go by centimeters here) for my boots. That is a rare thing in Japan, but luckily they had them in the boots I wanted. My clothes fit well still, and although I gained 10 pounds in the MTC, I haven't gained or lost any since then. It isn't fat either, but my muscle doesn't look that much bigger either, so I'm not sure. I do think I'm closer to 6 ft tall now, but I haven't been able to measure myself at all. I'm pretty sure I've grown a bit more since leaving on a mission though.
Elder A. and Alex

To Everyone:
All Disney quotes aside, things just seem to always be getting better. 

My scripture of the week is Helaman 10:12 "And behold, now it came to
pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop
and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes
who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to
declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him,
concerning their destruction if they did not repent." I chose this
because Nephi sacrificed comfort and safety to preach the word of God. 

The kanji of the week is: 苺 pronounced "ichigo" and means Strawberry. 

Monday was pretty uneventful in the day, but at night we had family
home evening with the branch president and his wife, and another

Tuesday was a lot of finding, visiting, and traveling. We didn't get
to see all the people we wanted to, but we did get to see a less
active, and also got to have fun talking with people. 
Christmas fun
Wednesday we went to a service for mentally handicapped people, and it
was fun. No matter where you go in the world, they're always so nice!
I had lots of memories come back of elementary school field trips to
schools for the exact same reason. Fun times! We also had a good time
in English class, but only four people again. 

Thursday we had splits, and I worked in Izumi for the day. We visited
less actives for most of the day, and had a great time with all of
them. One of them apparently was very open when we went to talk this
time than from previous visits. He was very nice, and a great person. 
Another missionary

Friday was district meeting, and we also tried to get some finding in.
Not remembering too much about that day. 
Saturday we went to lunch with a friend of the missionaries, and he
was great. He also helped us set up a Christmas tree for the Christmas
party we had later on that day. The rest of the day was prep and the
party. It was super fun, and we had lots of people come, members,
non-members, and less actives alike.

Sunday we visited the Sato family, and also talked with Sister Aizawa
for a little while. She is a wonderful person, and she loves the
missionaries and the gospel. 

This week has been pretty short, but so much has happened this week
that I don't know where what happened where, and can't cram it all
into this email! I hope you all have a great week, and I love you all
from the bottom of my heart! 

Elder ________ 
Alex said this is an old pic with Elder U. and a nice guy who likes to practice English with them, but isn't interested in hearing about the church. Alex just got this pic from him this past week when they met up again with Elder A. this time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Andes Mint Chip Soft Fudgy Chocolate Cookies

I recently made these for the first time and liked them so much that I had to make them again the next week. They are soft and big and perfect! Pretty sure these are my very favorite cookies now. Thanks to Averie Cooks for this recipe. These below were a little undercooked compared to the others I made, but I liked the gooey ones just fine too. 

Andes Mint Chip Soft Fudgy Chocolate Cookies
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 (3.7 - 3.9-oz.) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1/4 c. cocoa
1 t. instant espresso granules (optional)
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
Pinch salt
1 (10-oz.) bag Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips
2.5 - 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped 
Using paddle attachment, in mixing bowl combine the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed. After scraping down the sides of the bowl, add the pudding mix, cocoa, espresso granules, and mix on low just until combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low just until combined, about 1 minute.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the Andes chips and chopped chocolate, and mix on low only for about 30 seconds.

Using a large cookie scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup form into balls of dough, and flatten slightly. Place mounds on a tray and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. (Refrigerating is important for the cookies to keep their shape.)

Preheat oven to 350°, Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray (or use a Silpat). Place cookie dough on baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set and look slightly underdone.  Cool cookies on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. 
Cookies or dough can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Another Week, Another Improvement

While it's snowing like crazy here in Utah, Alex hasn't had any yet. But I'm sure he'll end up with more than we will as winter progresses. Here are a few paragraphs from his letter to me:

We still don't have any snow. It's been a blessing this winter though, because my boots broke (the zipper came apart), and I had sent it in last week to see how much it would cost. Seeing it would be well over $100, I figured I would just get new boots, but today is the first time I have the chance to do so. So it will probably snow after today or so. I bet. 

We are down to zero investigators now, because one won't answer his phone, and the other isn't that interested in listening and the ward has advised us not to meet with them for now. But that means we have lots of time to find new people, and I love doing that! It's so much fun!

For example, we were going around walking one day, and there was this one man who started walking next to me as he walked out of the train station. I started talking to him, and getting to know him, and we had a great conversation together. He asked me why I was in Japan, and I told him why and introduced the Book of Mormon to him. I got his email address, so we'll try and meet with him soon and get to know him some more, and teach him. It's so fun meeting new people. 

I sent Alex's Christmas package on Monday, November 30 and he got it the following Wednesday on December 9. I sure appreciate Japan's good mail system! He did pour out his stocking contents, but actually said he'll wait until Christmas to open his gifts this year. Last year, he opened them early. 

To Everyone:

I really improve so much from day to day, but weeks are a lot easier
to notice differences. I am surprised how much one can grow in just
the space of seven days. I supposed when you're being worked on by a
Being who created an entire world in only six days, it must be easy to
chance someone who's willing in a seven day period.

My scripture of the week is Genesis 48:11 "And Israel said unto
Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me
also thy seed." I chose this one, because I want to remember that God
blesses us more than we ever thought possible, just as Jacob never
thought that he would ever see Joseph's face again, but was able to
live and see Joseph's children as well. 

The kanji of the week is: 霊的な巨人 pronounced "ray-techy-nah-kyo-jean"
and means spiritual giant. Haven't heard that one used in church
before, but it's a literal translation, and correct as far as grammar

Monday we went to an internet cafe to email, so that we wouldn't have to spend that much time both using one iPad or trying to figure out some other way. Then we shopped a bit, and I also sent a package home (hopefully it gets to them in time for Christmas). In the evening, we had family home evening with the branch president, his wife, and one other member. It's the only one we're going to have this transfer, because the branch president is going to be busy for the rest of the year (not in town for most of it either). 

Tuesday we went and tried to find a new investigator. Sadly, no luck.
We also got some service opportunities planned out. Towards the end of
the evening, after it had been dark for a while, we called some people
who used to meet with the missionaries before, but none of them wanted
to meet either. 

Wednesday we had splits with the Assistants. It was kind of last
second (they called on Monday to warn us), but it ended up being
really well. It was a good "hump day" for us, because after that split
our week just kept getting better and better. I learned a lot from the
assistant I went with, and my companion learned a lot from the other
one. We met with a member, and had a good time going around and
talking to people, and finding. English Class in the evening was good
as usual, but there have only been the same three students coming the
last few weeks. 

Thursday we went back to Sendai, met up with our actual companions,
and then Elder A. and I returned to Furukawa. We tried to visit
some less active members, but none were available to meet. We also
went and talked to people for a while on the streets, and were able to
talk to lots of people about the gospel. We still had some studies to
do, so the last parts of the night was spent doing that. 

 Friday we went up to district meeting, and had a great time there.
There are eight people in our district, and the zone leaders came as
well, so it was a big party. A meeting party, but a party nonetheless.
We learned a lot and were able to have a very spiritual time. It was
raining that day, so we walked over to a less actives house, invited
her to a Christmas party we're having, and shared a message with her.
We also went to and street contacted a lot. It's so fun to do, and it
gets you a great opportunity to truly preach to every creature the
message we have to share with the world. 

 Saturday we started to house right of the bat, but after only a short
time of that, we both felt like no one was home because it was such a
nice day, so we went back to street contact. On the way back to our
bikes, we saw this family playing tag outside, so we went over and
invited them to our christmas party. We talked to lots of people after
that, the highlight being when we went to a park, and met a really
cute family. They had a nice and cute baby, and they were open to us.
The father had lived in America for a while for college, and even went
to a Christian church every week. The mother had moved from China, and
talked a bit in Chinese with my companion. The Father also had really
good English. The mother said she wants to come to English class, and
they might also start up the "free family English program" with us
(half english lesson, and half Japanese/gospel). 

Sunday was great at church, and we practiced for a bit after church
for our Christmas party skit we have planned as a ward. We also ate
lunch together, which was fried rice and sushi provided by one of the
members. Very delicious. We went out and tried to visit some less
actives after that, but didn't get to see any (at least we think we
didn't see any, but that's a long story), and we also visited a member
who was near the area. We then visited the branch president, who had a
friend from a different ward visiting their family, and shared a quick
message with them. It was probably the last time we could meet with
the branch president this year, so it was nice. 
Elder A. eating some Australian beef someone made them. I don't know what the ingredients are, but it looks good. 

They work and study, even when they're eating

That's our week! Lots of fun, and I enjoy every minute of being in
Japan (even if I sometimes think it's hard). I hope that all of your
weeks were great, and that you can see God's hand in your lives. Love
you all from the bottom of my heart! 

 Elder               長老

Monday, December 7, 2015

Miracles Abound

I found out in Alex's letter last night that we'll be Skyping on Christmas Eve. That'll be fun and I hope he has some stories for us.

He told me a little more about his companion. "Elder A. loves drama, and singing, and his old choir teacher is in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, if I heard correctly. He is an artist, and wants to be an animator for Disney."

To Everyone:
I wish I had time to write all the miracles that happen in my life, but I just don't have the time to do so. I hope that you all know that I do see miracles every day--whether great or small. It's a great blessing in and of itself, and wouldn't be possible if I didn't give of myself in service to others.

My scripture for the week is Alma 30:34: "And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?" I figured this would be an appropriate scripture to learn this Christmas season. 

The Kanji of the week is: 食事 pronounced "show-coo-jee" and means meal.

Nothing too particular happened on Monday, besides trying to figure out how to get my companion, Elder A., to email home. The iPad won't let him set up his email on it, so we ended up going to an internet cafe for him (we're at the same one right now). In the evening we tried to visit a less active member, but she said it was too late, so we couldn't share a message.

Tuesday we took a train out to a different city in our area to visit a less active member there. We saw some really cute elementary school kids, and they loved us. We talked with them for a bit while we tried to find the house, and when we eventually got to the house, the less active told us that it was bad for us to visit him. We then went to try and find people to talk to, and ended up talking to a sophomore outside his house. He was really nice, and hopefully he talks to his parents about the free family English program (half english teaching, half Japanese practice/gospel). We missed our train talking to him, so we ended up talking to some kids at the station for a while before the next train home. After we got back and had dinner, we went to visit a less active member, and we got there about the same time as Brother and Sister Yamauchi, a lovely couple in our ward. We had a good chat there.
Wednesday was spent trying to visit less actives, and we saw a few, but only got a lesson in with one. We talked about Christmas, and I think it went well. We also visited a potential investigators house, but he wasn't home. His grandmother loves the missionaries though. The evening was spent in English class, and we only had three come this week. It was a bit sad, but we still had lots of fun.
Elder A. and a cute, friendly dog
Thursday, we had a lesson with our recent convert, Sister Ishiyama. She is a great member, and loves the gospel. She said that she really learned how her questions can be answered through the scriptures.Other than that, we just did a bunch of finding. We walked around talking to people for a bit, and towards the end of the time, we talked with this one woman who might come to English class, and she said she might even come check out church. The rest of the day was weekly planning.

Friday we went to Kamisugi for zone training meeting. It was really good, and I learned some things that helped us out this week. We also had interviews with President Smith, and that was awesome as well. We didn't have time for anything else besides studies that day.

Saturday was fun with lunch with one of our investigators, Sister Ishiyama (no relation to the above Sister Ishiyama). She and her husband are nice, and they say the have thought about getting baptized in the past. We'll continue working with them, and helping them get a stronger conviction and testimony. We went and tried to visit a house that had a lot of Christmas lights on it--a rare sight here in Japan--but no one was home, except a small boy. We then tried to talk to people some more, and were able to talk to two really nice ladies, one older, and the other younger with a cute kid. We asked both of them to visit the website to watch the new video "A Savior is Born." It suddenly started raining in the evening, so we walked to some peoples houses, but didn't get to talk with anyone.

Sunday brought another great opportunity to renew my covenants with God, and to remember the Savior. It was also fast Sunday, and that made it even better. We went to try and visit some people after lunch, and were able to get a conversation going with someone we handed a Book of Mormon to last transfer. We then saw that it was looking kind of stormy, so we decided to move some plans ahead and visit a less active first before it rained and we got caught in it (we have been asked not to ride our bikes in the rain). On the way we met a really nice dad who went out to the park with his cute three year old kid, and also stopped to talk to a man and give him a Book of Mormon, and share a Christmas video with him. Because of those people we stopped to talk to, we ended up arriving at the less actives house at the exact same time as other members (the Sato family). The less active wasn't home, so we asked if we could share a quick message with them right there. The instead invited us over to their house (we were going to visit on Tusday), and we ate dinner with them. The food was delicious, and we were able to have a really spiritual time with them. Brother Sato said that because of how everything worked out he was able to get an answer to a question he was asked by a different member, and could help him out. We then went and visited another man, but he wasn't too interested. He had taken a Book of Mormon earlier, and so we'll probably go check up on him again sometime and ask if he ever got a chance to read it yet. We also tried to visit a less active, but since she wasn't available we visited the branch president and his wife who lived in the same apartment complex as her. It was a good chance to talk and share a quick message with them, and we helped them out too. So many miracles that day!

I hope that you got something out of this email, and apologize for the length. I love you all, and wish you a great week!

Last week Alex sent a video of his new companion opening his first gift in Japan. I didn't post it since he mentioned his last name (for privacy). So I told him it was so fun to watch and asked if he could send a video of both of them and this is what he sent. Very short, but still fun to see them talk.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pasteles de Pollo con Verduras (Colombian-Style Chicken Pastries)

Yummmmm! Yummmmmm! I absolutely loved these. I made them for the first time to take to my parents' house for a family dinner. It only made around a dozen, but they are a good sized handheld pocket of deliciousness. Since there weren't very many to share, I only had 1 and I can't wait to make them again and maybe eat 2! Thanks to My Colombian Recipes for sharing this! 

The only thing I changed was that I brushed the tops with the egg wash.

Pasteles de Pollo con Verduras (Colombian-Style Chicken Pastries)
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
2 T. butter
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 t. ground cumin
2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 c. of peas
1/4 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten with 1 T. of water

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the onions, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, and cumin. Cook for 7 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add the shredded chicken, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the broth and peas; continue cooking over low heat for another 5 minutes.Let the chicken filling cool down.

Preheat an oven to 400°. Flour a clean, dry counter top or other flat working surface. Lay out the puff pasty on the floured surface. Flour the top of the dough. Roll out the puff pastry until it is half as thick (about 1/8-inch).

Using a large cookie cutter, cut into 24 circles and brush the edges of each circle with the egg. A little off center of 12 circles, place about 2 tablespoons of the filling. Place another circle on top to enclose the filling.

Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers. Repeat with the remaining pasteles, placing them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet as you go. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...