Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sherwood Chourou - Week 2 in Japan

Konnichiwa mina-san!

Things are great over here in the field. The food's all good, the people are nice, and everything is beautiful! Missionary work is slow, but we're moving forward. We were taken out for sushi twice this week, which was fun. Today was temple pday, hence why I'm emailing today instead of 2 days ago. It was awesome.

Anyways, not much else happened, but I got some fun pictures to send! Please remember to email me, cuz not everyone has been contacting me. I love hearing from you all. Matte-ne!

P.S. I actually tried to send this yesterday, but our wifi was down. Sorry for the late email!

-The Only Trashcan (cigarette bin) in Japan
-Thomas the Tank Engine buses
-Cool model "crystal"
-Cool traditional style building
-Many ties
-Gudetama charm (the lazy egg)
-Pond in front of Sapporo Temple
-Olson Chorou (Elder) and I with a friend having sushi

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sherwood Chourou - Week 1 in Japan

Konnichiwa, minasan! I'm finally out in the field, and everything's going well.

I was assigned to the Iwamizawa area, a nice little town with a nice little ward. They gave us a ridiculous amount of food yesterday! One of the Sisters I met in the ward is the sweetest old lady, and she's only about half as tall as I am! I feel so tall now. I can barely understand anyone besides by companion, Elder Olson, but that's okay.

The work seems to be slow going over here, but one of our investigators, Kato san, came to church yesterday! Hopefully things will keep moving forward with him as we serve him.

Apparently, Elder Olson's last companion left some things for me here, including a pikachu charm, a pair of lightsaber chopsticks, and 2 missionary handbooks (bringing my total up to 4)! They're so cool!

So that's pretty much all that's gone down over here. There are some peoole we're teaching who don't want to act on what they learn, and a member who doesn't like going to church, so I'd love for everyone to think of them in your prayers! We need all the spiritual help we can get over here. Thank you for all your support, and please remember to email me! I love hearing from everyone, whether have anything to respond with or not.

Matte ne (later), minasan!

P.S. I bring gifts of pictures
1. My fellow missionaries from the MTC
2-3. Sapporo temple
4-6. Cool park
7. Light saber chop sticks
8. Picachu charm

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Sherwood Chourou - Traveling to Japan

Monday, May 6, 10:00 am (sent from LAX)
Konnichiwa, mina-san! I'm finally flying out into the mission field today! Sorry, I don't have any photos yet, but once I get to Japan, I'll take somed pics and send them homeward. Hope everyone's been well back home! Thank you everyone for your support and your emails! Please remember to contact me every week so I can hear from everyone! My p-day is Monday now, so I'll respond to everyone's messages then. Arigatou gozaimasu!

Tuesday, May 7, 12:00 am (sent from Tokyo)

I'm in Japan! These are my fellow Sapporo missionaries, a (at least mostly) Japanese meal I had on the plane, and what I'm guessing are mascots for the upcoming olympics.

(Mom is attaching photos from the mission president's wife and a photo Sherwood Chourou sent this morning)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Sherwood Shimai - Homecoming Talk

For those who were unable to attend church with us on April 28 when Sherwood Shimai gave her homecoming talk, here it is. And for those who did come, you can read the part she had to cut out due to time constraints.

Grandpa Eveland, Sherwood Shimai, Grandma Eveland

Mom, Sherwood Shimai, Grandma Eveland

Topic: Teaching about Christ to non-Christian people and how you were able to develop relationships with them that would allow that.
Brothers and sisters, today I'd like to take a trip with you back to the Kansai area of Japan. Now, in Japanese, when anyone begins a talk they say 愛する兄弟姉妹の皆様、おはようございます!And then everybody says おはようございます back. In English, this means “beloved brothers and sisters, good morning!” Let's try it out for size: 愛する兄弟姉妹の皆様、おはようございます!
I'm sure you all want to know: what was Japan like? Well, Japan is an island by the sea and it's beautiful. Granted, as a missionary you see the sea maybe like twice, but you do certainly experience its effects in the form of sushi that goes around on a cool conveyer belt train for a dollar a plate, and also a record breaking amount of typhoons that cause your mother concern and create service projects for missionaries for months straight. There are so many mountains, and so. Many. Rice fields. 7-Elevens are your best friend, but the corn and mayo pizza is better off not being discussed. No I never saw any huge crazy futuristic robots, but I have seen my companion get her hand awkwardly kissed by an autistic teenage boy and danced at by an old man in a tracksuit. The quirks and wonderful things of Japan are so plentiful that I could go on forever, but you could never understand them. At least, not the way I do. The thing about Japan is that you can go and you can spend a long time there and think just the same thing that I thought when I was a brand new missionary, a bean chan, “wow Japan is such a lovely quaint little place, and the people are so kind and polite! I could live here forever!” You wouldn't be wrong if you thought this, but you also wouldn't have the whole story. You see, when you're a missionary, you get thrown face first into the soak zone of how the atonement of Jesus Christ is working and how it needs to work in the place where you're serving. It's different everywhere. And in Japan, the first thing you notice when you finally start understanding the “ありがとうございます”s and the ”すみません。申しわけないのですけれども仏教ですからけっこうです”s is that Japan is very, very not Christian. 
I remember first arriving in Japan and not really noticing this fact. I mean, I knew that only about 1% of the whole population of Japan is Christian, but I didn't feel it, not really anyway, as a young missionary. The Japanese people are kind. They are helpful. Generally speaking, they tend to keep to themselves and care a lot about good community manners. So you may not get yelled at for sitting like a dude on the train, but you will get some hardcore judgemental looks. So for the first few weeks you don't really realize how different it really is.
But just like every other missionary in Japan I've ever met, one day it hits you. These people really just do not know who God is. They really just do not know who Christ is. They just don't. And furthermore, they generally don't enjoy when you try to enlighten them on the subject. So you start trying to come up with all sorts of hoops to jump through and bells and whistles and carrots on a stick in hopes that maybe, just maybe, someone will finally listen to you for more than 5 seconds at a time. “Purpose of life? Nope how bout family history? No dice, really? Well can I interest you in some answers to the questions of soul and eternal happiness for the low low price of absolutely free? You're good? Don’t need it? Okay I'll put you down as a solid maybe!” This approach did not work. At all. At least not for me. And you know, that was hard. I kinda hated life for a while there. Hope was at an all-time low, because people just did not care. I didn't understand how people could not want everything that Christ has for us. I still don't understand, to be honest, but over the course of my mission I came to realize something very important. When introducing Christ to people, especially those who've never even heard of him, the most effective thing you can do, and really the only thing you can do, to bring someone to Christ is to reflect him.
You see, there is a noticeable consequence of not knowing Christ. This consequence is that not knowing Christ results in not knowing love. Not the lasting, unconditional, perfect love of God, anyway. This is because, as Moroni put it, "charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever." So if you don’t know Christ, by definition, you can’t know charity. You can get close, and I will be first to witness that the Japanese people are more than capable of getting really close, but there is a difference that comes into the life of a person when they experience the pure love of Christ on their behalf. A special sort of light comes into their life. It was the point I realized this that I really began to understand what it means to be a representative of Christ, what it means to be His servant, and what it means to teach of Him. 
Teaching of Christ is teaching of love. 
In all honesty, that’s all missionary work is when you boil it down. The first great commandment, as we read in Matthew 22:37-40, is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind...And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” A missionary’s purpose is to be a representative of Christ. To me, this means loving the children of God as He loves them. After all, that is what Christ did. Everything He did and does is out of love for us. He taught us to love, so as missionaries, we do that too.
Honestly, the best moments I had on my mission all centered around this principle of loving and being loved as Christ would. Each centered around a specific relationship that brought both of us closer to Him. I realized that throughout my mission I was called less to places, and more to certain people, especially in a country where the general public is starving for hope, faith, and love: the fruits of a Christ-centered life. I learned much about the critical necessity of building lasting relationships with people, of ministering as the Savior did. Without those relationships, I realized, the gospel can’t be taught. Consider the example of Ammon and Lamoni. If you ask me, the Lamanites are a near perfect allegory for the Japanese people (you know, minus the bloodshed). Believed in the traditions of their fathers, supposed that whatsoever they did was right, sounds like Japan to me. And how did Ammon teach Lamoni? “Ammon said unto him: Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die....I will be thy servant.” (Alma 17:23, 25) In other words, he spent his days loving, serving, ministering. In doing so, Ammon was able to bond with Lamoni in a powerful way, which not only led to Lamoni and his entire people being baptized, but which established a brotherly love which would eternally bless both Ammon and Lamoni.
I think every missionary ever wants to be like Ammon, to love like Ammon; to serve like Ammon. I know I sure did. And while I never baptized thousands, I had moments like Ammon. There are days I will never forget simply because they deeply involved people I can never forget. There are eternal friendships I have forged with people here that bring me indescribable joy. It's feels a little silly sometimes, but it's the little moments that I treasure. It’s the ones where someone I care about like my own family sends me something as simple as a shrimp emoji out of nowhere that really make my day. It's the simple but significant things, when the brother you've been trying so hard to minister to tells you “I didn't think I had any eternal friends, but now I know I have one” or when a sister tells you that what you said was exactly what she needed to hear. It's visiting the brother who lives an hour away by bike to give him a little business card with a note and finding out that he hasn't been visited by missionaries for three years. It's when a sister who's been investigating the church for years invites you to come with her and her family to visit the grave of her father. It's seeing a brother use the note you gave him encouraging him to go to the temple as the bookmark for his Book of Mormon. I love these people so much, and being with them, serving them, and loving them has brought me so much joy. There are so many amazing things that happen, and so many tender mercies every day, I can't list them all even though I want to. But being with people and sharing love with them, whether it be a spiritual moment, or when a 6 year old tells you he wants to serve a mission in Disneyland, has made my mission the joy that it is. 
I’ve come to know that there is a way to every human heart, and that way is always the pure love of Christ. For this reason, I love the Relief Society motto, “charity never faileth.” It really truly has never failed me. When people know and feel that you love them, they can know and feel how Christ loves them. If you asked me what my greatest contribution to my mission was, I'd probably give you a really impressive deer in the headlights look, but having had ample time to really think about it, I feel like some of the greatest miracles that I've seen at least has been with four specific people, and oddly, none of them were investigators. But I've realized that that doesn't really matter. We're all the Lord's investigators. 
The first two were when I served in a little area called Matsuyama. The first was our ward mission leader, Daisuke. Missionaries before us had explained in detail in the records how he wasn't a very good one, and never helped out, so we didn't go in with a very good impression of him, but certain things happened in just the right way that we were able to catch a glimpse of his potential, and my companions and I latched on to that spark. We aggressively did everything we could to encourage and support him in his calling, including making a cute bookmark for him, and it was the coolest thing because we got to see this little wallflower of a man blossom. We saw so many cool miracles with him. He started smiling and laughing more, and was always there to help us out. I don't know how he's doing now, but I know I was called there to help him feel the joy of the gospel that he'd forgotten in that season of his life. 
The second was another brother named Katsu. He’s an interesting soul, and he became a fast friend the second I drew him a picture. We ended up working with him a lot and helping him walk along the covenant path. There was no huge crazy change or anything with him, but he grew in his desire to learn of Christ, and he started making steps towards going to the temple. We called him our big brother, and he called us his little sisters. Right before I transfered, we had a family home evening with him and a few other members. I had the idea to do a silly thing I'd done in girls’ camp once where we went around in a circle and told each other why we loved each other. It was probably one of the most spiritual moments I've had on my mission, and had nothing else happened that transfer except for that, it would have been worth it. He still messaged me on occasion after I transfered, knowing full well I couldn't respond, with little messages telling me what he'd learned recently about patience or the priesthood, and wishing me luck in the work. I can't say I accomplished anything outstanding with this brother, but I do know it was critical for both him and for me as a missionary, and it remains one of the things that defined me as a missionary. 

The third was my companion, Sister Jones. She came at the perfect time, and I know it was for her that I needed to be where I was, and what happened needed to happen. In the hardest transfer of my mission. Had anything been different, I would never have been in the position to help her like I did. She and I had an awesome relationship, and the Lord helped everything fall into place that I was able to spend 12 awesome weeks with her at a time when she was at her most low. I don't know why the Lord chose me to be the one to help her, but I'm humbled and grateful that He did. While I was with her, she did really well. She still had days where she struggled, but the overall experience for her was good, and I as well had the opportunity to really learn and grow as a person. She taught me a lot of things, and I hope I was able to return the favor. I still struggle to really know what it was I did that helped her so much, but I suppose that it is true that charity truly never faileth. I really learned to love because of her. And I think that a significant amount of who I am as a missionary and my purpose here was for her. 

The fourth is more recent, and far more unexpected, yet wonderfully miraculous in its own way. In Yamatokoriyama there is a young man named Takahiro, who, to be frank, is not very well liked by a lot of people because he's just a strange human when you first meet him. I remember making awkward eye contact with him my first Sunday in the area and vaguely thinking that he was a bit odd, but harmless. My companion later told me to steer clear of him, but I still distinctly felt that there was nothing dangerous about him, and I, having made it a habit with everyone, continued to just consistently ask him if there was anything I could do to help him. This continued for about a transfer and I didn't think anything of it until one day in my last transfer, he asked rather incredulously, “do you really want to help that much?” I said of course I did, and he sighed and said he'd come up with something before I went home, so we swapped contact info so he could tell me when he though of something. I sent him a message that night and said something to the effect of “it was great to see you! Let us know if you need anything” and he responded with “your energy and joy is already helpful.” In the span of about a week, we became super good friends, and the elders were absolutely floored. To be honest, I don't even really know what happened, but somehow I was able to befriend this brother and get past a wall that no missionary had previously been able to overcome. He's started progressing so much in his personal conversion, and it's been the coolest miracle to see. I feel that my purpose in coming here was to be his friend, and honestly, if I accomplished nothing else except for that, I would be happy, because watching him exercise faith and come back to church and become more active has brought me immeasurable joy. 
I know you’re all probably wanting to hear me speak Japanese for a bit, so I’d like to bear my testimony to you in Japanese.

Final MTC Week - Sherwood Chourou

Konnichiwa mina-san!

I'm officially on my last week here at the MTC! It still feels like I only just got here, but I can't wait to go to the field! I've had a wonderful experience learning here with my fellow missionaries, and I'll treasure it forever.

I got to see Brittney today! She couldn't stay long, but it was great to be able to hug and talk to eachother before I leave.

Thanks again for everyone's support! Please remember to email me, even if I can't respond, as I enjoy hearing from everyone. Matte ne (bye)!

1: Birt and I
2: Holy Bible! And bonus companion
3: My district at the temple

Sherwood Chourou - Week 38 in Japan

Konnichiwa! We are back to the slowish days once more. We've been dendoing and teaching plenty, but nothing outstanding has arisen ...