Sunday, December 28, 2014

Week 99 - December 22-28, 2014

Monday we had our Christmas dinner celebration Japanese style.  We bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for the Kumamoto/Nagamine missionaries and investigators.  Kentucky Fried Chicken did not have any Christmas cake this year so we make Christmas cake with strawberries, cake, whipped cream and a vanilla ice cream cup. 
We played Panda Chopsticks and Yahtzee and had a spiritual thought.   It was a fun evening.
Tuesday was district meeting in the morning and in the afternoon we went to Yamada Denki to find out how to have out Internet service stop when we leave Japan.  They had the cutest Christmas decorations.  Elder Koberstein is standing with their Santa Claus.

Wednesday evening was our last goodbyes at Eikaiwa.  It is hard to say goodbye as our 23 months of missionary service comes to a close. 
Thursday evening we took the last Elder who came into the Fukuoka mission the same transfer as we did out to dinner with all the Omuta Elders.  They chose Katsu Chicken.   Along with the chicken came all you can eat rice and cabbage salad.  It was an enjoyable evening.
Saturday was the day we said goodby to Kumamoto and drove to Fukuoka for our last day of service in the Fukuoka temple.  It was a wonderful day ending with dinner with two of the missionaries serving in Fukuoka ward.
The Elders chose to have dinner at the Fukuoka Hard Rock Café.  It is a bit of America in Fukuoka. 
Elder Koberstein and I enjoyed fajitas and the Elders chose hamburgers American style.  
Sunday we attended the Fukuoka Ward.  The number of members attending Sacrament Meeting has really grown over the last year.  It is amazing.  It was fun to say goodbye to old friends we knew from our time serving in the mission office a year ago. 
In the evening we met with President Gustafson and enjoyed dinner in the mission home.  Tomorrow is off to Tokyo by Shinkansen and our trip home begins.  The mission has been an amazing experience for both of us.  We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the people here in Japan and assist the young Elders and Sisters in the work they do.
Scripture of the Week 
Matthew 2:1-2
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?  for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Week 98 - December 15-21, 2014

Monday we had a chili and cornbread party with our Eikaiwa students from the International Center.  I made chili.  They helped me make cornbread and each brought something to share.  It was a feast of many delicious foods.  After lunch we played Panda chopsticks, Yahtzee and then
watched the video "The First Gift" on  It was an enjoyable afternoon together.
Tuesday was our last YMCA class.  When we arrived at the YMCA we found out that our teacher could not be there so our class had been cancelled.  The YMCA had left a phone message for us but between new and old phones the message was not received.  We got a new phone service provider on Friday and supposedly new phones.  New phones came on Sunday for the missionaries in the Kumamoto Ward.  We went shopping for Christmas cards instead.  On an elevator in the Tsuruya Store we ran into the Kumamoto kumamon.  I had my picture taken with him between floors. 
We enjoy looking at the beautiful Christmas decorations in the mall, shop windows and streets.
We had our last two apartment checks this week.  Thursday we inspected the Kumamoto/Nagamine Shimi's apartment.  They chose lunch at Stamina for their celestial rating.  It is always and enjoyable all you can eat lunch.  Friday we checked the Shimizu/Tusboi Shimi apartment.  They had seen a new restaurant that they wanted to try.  It was a okanomoyaki shop.  It was a fun place were you cook your own lunch.  Above is my lunch before it was cooked.  You stir it up and put in on a hot oiled grill in the center of the table to cook.
The okonomiyaki restaurant was down the street from the castle.  This view always delights me with the dencha's tracks in the center of the street and Kumamoto Castle on the hill.
The Kumamoto Ward Christmas party was Saturday night.  It was a potluck dinner.  I liked this beautiful eatable Christmas tree someone brought.  There was a nice program, Santa (two dancing Santa's) and a dinner.  It is always fun to taste all the different foods brought.

Sunday the Kumamoto Ward gave Elder Koberstein and I time to bear our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting.  Following Sacrament Meeting was a going away party for us.  The people here have been a wonderful support.  They have loved us even though we have a language barrier.  We are all brothers and sister in the gospel and I can feel of their love which makes good byes so hard to do.

Scripture of the Week
Luke 2:6-7
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Week 97 - December 8-14, 2014

Monday was a "Specialized Training" for the Japan Fukuoka Mission at the Fukuoka chapel.  It is the first and only whole mission training we have experienced.  The training was titled "He is the Gift".  We were taught by AMA Medical staff, President Gustafson and Brother Heaton.  I liked the ten steps to reduce stress taught the missionaries.  I think they are beneficial at any time in life.  We always have to deal with stress.  How we handle it is very important to our mental and physical well being. 

1.  Exercise your power to choose your reaction, your attitude.  Choose to be happy.  "The power of choice means that we are not merely a product of our past or of our genes; we are not a product of how other people treat us.  They unquestionably influence us, but they do not determine us." Stephen R. Covey
2.  Learn to be optimistic.  Challenge your negative beliefs. "It's not as bad as you think it is.  It will all work out.  I say this to myself every morning.  'Everything will work out.  Put your trust in God and go forward with faith and confidence in the future.  He will not abandon you.'" President Gordon B. Hinckley
3.  " and be happy and rejoice before the Lord" President Gordon B. Hinckley
4.  Avoid Perfectionism  "Our Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to become completely perfect in this life.  He knew His children would make mistakes when they were learning by their own experience in mortality." Perkins Oct06
5.  Keep a diary.  The American Medical Association says "You will have better health if you keep a diary.  It helps to write things that trouble you down on paper and get them out of yourself.  Write about upsetting events helps release stress, reduce anxiety and make depression more manageable.
6. Be thankful even in your adversities.  Write down three blessings daily and notice the change it brings into your life.  D&C 59:7  "Thou shalt thank the Lord they God in all things."
7.  Start to exercise regularly.  Dr. Walter Botz II said "There is not and never has been, any medicine that can guarantee good health, to such a degree as a lifelong exercise program."
8.  Get along well with your companion.  "Treat a man the way he is, and he will continue being what he is; treat him as he could and ought to be and he will become what he could and ought to be."  Goethe
9.  Strive to see yourself the way God sees you.  Don't compare yourself with others.  "God is your father.  He loves you.  He and your mother in heaven value you beyond any measure.  Your are unique.  One of a kind.....Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual."  President Spencer W. Kimball Ensign, Nov. 1978
10.  Have faith in yourself.  No one can take your place.
Tuesday found us biking to our YMCA nihongo practice session.  We have a wonderful teacher who is very fluent in English.  She has done a lot of review with us.  We have so enjoyed the hour each week with her.
Wednesday morning was a cold raining day.  We were so sad because we wanted to jog.  We remembered one of our Wednesday evening Eikaiwa students telling us about a free indoor jogging track in the Kumamoto sports complex.  We decided to try and see if we could find it.  What a pleasant surprise.  It was beautiful!  We had a nice dry indoor run.
This is a picture of the outside of the sports complex building. 
Saturday we worked at the Fukuoka Temple.  We were blessed with Akemi's company.
She had prepared nanban chicken bento's for our lunch.  They were wonderful.  It was a fun day with a hotdog at Costco before our return trip to Kumamoto.

Scripture of the Week
Luke 2:1-6
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, and all the world should be taxed......
And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be deliver.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Week 96 - December 1-7, 2014

The weather has turned cold.  Monday morning when we went jogging there were many leaves on the jogging path.  I think fall is really over.
It is time to get ready for Christmas.  I decorated the small tree sent to us a year ago by our family for Christmas and put the manger under it. 
Tuesday we walked by the Blue Bee.  This bee appears to be used by a shop that sells eye glasses to children.  I had to take a picture with this famous bee.
The second floor of the International center is decorated for Christmas.  We liked the climbing Santa Clauses on the end of shelves.
Thursday was our last transfer day in the mission.  It was not very busy as we took one Elder to the bus stop and picked up one Elder later in the day.

These unusual blossoms are called koutei darie (皇帝ダリア) or tree dahilis.  It is a winter pink flower/tree on Kyushu.  We have seen them blossoming from Oita to Kumamoto as we have driven over Aso.  They are a beautiful surprise in the winter time.  The round street mirror shows me taking the picture.
We finished up December birthday packages for our family, Christmas and some things from our mission for us and then made a trip to the post office this week.  I always hope I packaged items so that they will arrive at there destination without being broken or damaged.
Thanksgiving is over but I had to try making a pumpkin pie after the Nagamine Elders asked for a recipe to make a pie out of a Japanese pumpkin they had been given and said it was very good.  I had bought a can of whipped cream for Thanksgiving.  It was on the shopping list and did not get removed when there were no pies available at Costco.  The biggest challenge in making the pie in Japan is deciding what to do for the evaporated milk called for in the recipe.  I used powdered milk.  The pie tasted very good.
Christmas season is here.  When we were at the 100 Yen store Elder Koberstein found this cute little Santa Claus.  He has a photo cell that makes him dance.  It is time to enjoy the season as we celebrate the gift of Christ's birth.
Scripture of the Week
Luke 1:30-31
And the angel said unto her, Fear, not, Mary:  for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Week 95 - November 24-30, 2014

Fall beauty is everywhere.  This picture looks at the college down the street from our apartment building.  Our car is the gray Toyota on the left hand side of the picture.
Fall brings beautiful blossoms on the Camilla bushes at the jogging park.  Japan has beautiful flowers year around. 
My pansies like the cool weather and the two plants grown from seeds of last winters pansies are just starting to blossom.   
I think this is the biggest Kumamon in Kumamoto.  The picture is taken from our car in the street looking away from the Kumamoto castle. 

Elder Koberstein and I with help from Akemi enjoyed cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for the Elders and Sister in the Kumamoto and Nagamine Wards.  We bought a 14 pound turkey at Costco and was able to cook it in the oven in the church.  The church is next to our apartment building.  It was a little bit heavy to pack hot to the apartment though.  I was successful in making candied sweet potatoes and dressing.  The Internet is so helpful in finding spices needed, recipes etc.
I found pine cones while walking in Beppu.  Akemi and I made turkey table decorations out of them.
Akemi made a pilgrim hat and Indian head bands.  I showed her how to cut feathers out of color paper.  Everyone enjoyed taking pictures as Indians and pilgrims.  We all took the opportunity to share something we were thankful for this years.  I am thankful for my two families.  The first family is my family which includes my children, their spouses and their children and my extended family.  The second family I am part of is my Heavenly Father's eternal family, which includes everyone on earth.  There are so many wonderful people everywhere.  We feel so blessed to have been able to get to know those in the Kumamoto, Japan area.  We were brothers and sister in the spirit world before we came to earth.  On earth we are working together to once again return to our loving Heavenly Father when our time here is done.  It is a wonderful time of years to think about all we have to be thankful for.  I like these quote by Presdient Thomas S. Monson and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
"A grateful heart...comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives."  President Thomas S. Monson
"No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will Exceed our grandest expectations."  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Scripture of the Week
1 Chronicles 16:34
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is God; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Week 94 - November 17-23, 2014

Monday some of our Eikaiwa students from the International center took us to the Katsuhiko Ohno Art Museum in Aso.  This museum is ran by the brother of Shomei Yoh who is the author and illustrator of the book "On That Summer Day" and many others. 
This place has been used for inspiration for some of his artwork.  His books are unique in that they contain both English and Japanese text and that he is both the author and artist.  He also is from Kumamoto area and well known here.  We had previously read and translated his book "On That Summer Day" about the bombing of Nagasaki with our teacher at the International Center. 
We learned about the blue orchard bees, Osmia lignaris at the museum.  They are particularly good pollinators of early spring orchard crops.  This bee is native to America and found through out most of the United States.  These bees prefer to nest close to each other.  All females construct their nests independently.  They do not produce honey or wax.  They have little to defend and only sting in self defense.  Female bees collect pollen while constructing their nest to provide food for their larva.  In Kumamoto the blue bee has became a character in children's books. 
We then enjoyed a delicious lunch of very large flat noodles and rice.  I forgot what it was called.
The restaurant's ceiling was decorated with all kinds of different bells.  
It has a pirate and a Kumamon watching the cash register.
We then visited Daikanbo Lookout Area.  This point overlooks the old Aso volcanic cone.  From this vantage point one can see the five different newer cones made by Aso inside the old caldera.  Only one of the cones is active today.
This is a picture from the International Center of the ginkgo tree outside the second story window.  They are a beautiful yellow color this time of year in Kumamoto.  We had our Japanese class and taught one of our Eikaiwa classes here Wednesday afternoon.
Elder Koberstein and I have enjoyed watching the work being done on the riverbank and bridge as we bike to the International Center each week.  It is interesting how they made a road in the river bottom to help with the work on the river bank.
Pictured above are bales of rice straw we saw in Aso as we drove to Beppu on Thursday.  I asked our Eikaiwa students what the straw is used for as it is neatly wrapped in plastic.  They said shoes.  It is a valuable by product of growing rice.  My search on line made it clear why it is bailed so neatly as its uses are many.  Shoes, hats, tatami mats and ropes are a few uses for the straw. 
 Thursday we checked the Beppu Elder's apartment and Friday the Beppu Sister's apartment.  We enjoyed lunch with the Beppu Elders at yakuniku on Thursday.  The Beppu Sisters chose to eat at the YouMe food court on Friday.  We enjoyed Hiroshima okonomiyaki with them.  Pictured is a the big Christmas tree at the YouMe mall.
Saturday was our day to work at the Fukuoka Temple with the Kumamoto Stake.  It is always a fun day to work at the temple.  Akemi went with us and then the three of us went to Joltie for non curry before heading back to Kumamoto.
Scripture of the Week 
Ezekiel 37:16-17
Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 93 - November 10-16, 2014

Tuesday we went Christmas book shopping.  As we walked by the side of Kumamoto Jo I took this picture of these beautiful fall leaves.  I believe this is a picture of the only original tower of the castle from the mott side.
Fall has come to Kumamoto for sure.  These yellow fall leaves welcomed us to the park for a jog early Wednesday morning. 
We checked the Beppu Elder's apartment on Thursday and had the opportunity to enjoy nonbon chicken with them before we headed to Oita for the night.
Friday morning found us jogging on the ocean between Beppu and Oita.  It was a cloudy day but we did not get wet.
The Oita Elders surprised us with this delicious chocolate filled chocolate cake.  We are not often treated by the Elders when we do apartment checks.
Christmas is officially in Japan.  Santa has arrived.  We saw him as we drove back from Oita on Friday.  It seems he is a little early this year as it is not yet Thanksgiving in the USA.
But, maybe it is not to early as Santa's reindeer are also out in downtown Kumamoto.  The lights of Christmas made the long nights worth while. 
We are now riding home from the International Center of Wednesday in the twilight/dark.  It is starting to get dark by 5pm.  I am very grateful for the good headlights and red blinking tail lights we purchased for our bicycles this time of year.  A jacket/coat is also coming in handy these days.
Scripture of the Week
Acts 1:110-11
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?  this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.