Monday, November 25, 2013

Let The Beautiful Bluegrass Music Ring!

Well Hello Everybody!
 
Thank you for joining me for our weekly email chatting time.  I'll try not to disappoint everybody this week so hold on tight.  First of all, I bought a micro sd converter at the store the other day and it came with a free 4 gig micro sd card so I was thinking of taking lots of videos of Japan and sending it to you for Christmas!  Good idea right?!  So if you have any requests for videos that you want to see, please let me know. 
 
Now for some questions.  When we had our conference at Tokyo with Elder Evans he told us that we are getting our iPads in December sometime so it is officially official!  I'm pretty excited to get them because now we won't have to carry any books around everywhere!  At the conference I didn't get to see S....  I didn't know that she was in the south mission or I would have looked for her!  I haven't been able to get an electric blanket yet because we always have like 0 time to do anything!  But its been pretty warm because I use like 5 blankets and we even have some sleeping bags that we use.  Oh Grandma and Grandpa Stevens, thank you so much for the thanksgiving package!  The cookies and all the other goodies were soo good and the cookies still tasted really fresh!  Apparently they do let you ship homemade goodies to Japan!  So thank you soo much!  And of all the packages that I have gotten, 2 of the 4 have been inspected by the government.  They always put a huge sticker to let us know so idk if you should wrap the presents or not.  That'd be super fun to open though.  I was looking at the store today for some cinnamon sticks and they didn't have any :(   So I'll try to make do with cinnamon sugar.   For Thanksgiving we are going to have our missionary weekly planning.  They don't celebrate it here but I'm thinking of making some mashed potatoes and I'm saving one of grandmas cookies for the occasion.  I hope you have lots of fun at the family party.  Wish I could be there with you all.
 
So on to the good stuff.  We finally started the blue grass dendo.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a mandolin that was under $300 so I didn't get one.  The mission president's wife Sister Budge gave a missionary in our apartment a violin so I usually play that whenever we get together.  We must be really good because the other day a couple came up to us and asked us to play at their wedding.  Unfortunately it's in April so we will all probably be transferred by then.  That would be super fun though.  Also we found 2 new investigators yesterday while playing music. They are a really nice couple and they are coming to church this Sunday!  How cool is that!  Who knew that playing really fun music would help us to build the Church! 
 
So I'm sure that you have heard about our investigator named T....  He is 20 and the most humble guy that I have met.  No matter what the commandment that we teach him, he always says, " Well if God wants me to do it I'll do it."  He's just so awesome!  We taught him last night and asked him again to be baptized this week but he says that he wants another week to think it over.  He had a really rough childhood so I guess it's normal for him to think about things a lot, it's just that I love him a lot and I want him to be happy in the gospel.  We`ll keep working with him to get him baptized.  I know that it'll happen really soon. 
 
Well I'll wrap the letter up now.  I love you all so much!  Make sure to have tons of fun during Thanksgiving this week!  I wish I could be there with you but that'll just have to wait another 2 more years.  Love you and miss you lots!
 
Elder Stevens
 
ps Happy birthday grandpa Stevens!  Hope you had an awesome day!  love you!
 
 
Bi-Mission Conference.  My MTC Companions

 
Bluegrass Dendoing

 
We Traded In Our Missionary Bikes for This! Just Kidding!

 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guess What? I'm In Tokyo Again!



 
So Niigata is a pretty cool place, but nothing can keep me away from Tokyo for long.  It's just so cool!  I love all the hustle and the bustle and to just see all the people everywhere.  I missed that a lot in Niigata because it's a lot more country like.  You'll be happy to know that for the first time in a long time I don't feel tired, you know why? I slept for a few hours on the bus ride here.  It feels so amazing to not want to fall down and sleep on the ground.  And the best part is, I get to ride the bus again on Wednesday too so I won't be tired then either!  I love living so far away from the mission home. lol  The only downside is that it costs like $100 a trip, so we know where all the tithing money is going. lol
 
My companions and I are staying at the hombu tonight with the APs (Assistants to the President) and all of the really really good missionaries.  And I get to be with my old companion Elder Kerr again for a few nights because he's the AP.  It's just like old times.  He's so awesome and I can't believe that he is going to be leaving the mission in a few short months.  Actually, all of my trainers are going to be leaving before I am here for 10 months.  It's sort of sad to think about.  All the experienced missionaries are leaving and that leaves us.  I feel like I don't know enough Japanese to take their place but I'm sure the Lord will help us a lot.  I know that I need it.
 
On a spiritual note, we have a really cool investigator right now that we are teaching named T...  I'm sure I've already mentioned about him, but he is going to be baptized this Sunday!  I'm so excited for him.  He is such an amazing person and a really good cook if I do say so myself.  He cooks for us every time that we meet.  He actually used to be a pro chef so he is really good at it. 
 
We had our wards primary program last week, with the 4 primary kids that we have in the ward.  It was actually really spiritual and all of the children were so cute!  I love Japanese kids!  And actually one of the primary kids isn't even a member, but don't worry, the Niigata's friendly neighborhood Elders are working on a baptism date for her.  Christmas is a time for miracles so we know that good things are going to happen. 
 
I'm pretty excited because we have a really sweet soccer game planned out for this Thursday.  I'm telling ya, I love all of this sports dendo stuff!  It's like dendoing and having lots of fun at the same time!  It's almost cheating!  But it really works and we have met so many cool people doing it.  Actually I'm thinking of buying some soccer cleats because we play so much!  Oh and speaking of which, I couldn't find any mandolins here that went under $100.  They're all so expensive so I'll probably just play the violin, I'm better at that anyway. 
 
Well another email day has come and gone.  They always go by so fast!  I love you all and miss you so much!  I think about you all the time and I can't wait to hear from you and see you again in now 20 more months.  Ai shite imasu yo!
 
Elder Stevens
 
P.S. Congrats on finding our house dad on Google!  That's so cool that you can do that! 
P.P.S. Kanasan dou.  Find out what that means!
 
video
 
video
 
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Cold Is Rolling In!

Hello everybody!
 
This week has been pretty crazy!  My companions left me to go to Tokyo for a missionary training conference so I was left with my roommates to dendo (share the gospel) for a few days.  So we were two, second-transfer missionaries and four, first-transfer missionary hitting the streets of Japan together, trying to understand what everyone was saying to us.  Elder Johnson and Allred are super good at Japanese though so we were fine.  I still need lots of work.  
 
Hey mom, Happy birthday!!!!!!!!!  I know that it's not the 11th yet in Ohio but in Japan it is!  I think you should send me some of your birthday cake!  I'm sure that it'll taste really good!  I wish I could be there for you on your birthday, but I'm thinking of you now.  And dad I didn't forget about you either!  So happy birthday last week! (Actually my birthday is next week).  Sorry it's a little bit late but I wish I could be there for you too.  It's crazy to think that I'm still going to miss one more of your birthdays before I come back home.  

Wow, you know so much about our mission!  We are all going up to the Tokyo South mission on the 19th of November for our two mission conference with Elder Evans speaking.  He is super amazing!  I would really recommend watching some of his General conference talks because they are all about missionary work and they really help with missionary work!  The bus ride should take like 6 hrs so I should be able to catch up on my sleep for a little bit.  We are going to be trained at the conference on how to use the new iPads that we are supposed to get in December.  So I should be able to Skype everyone through the iPad.  I'll just have to learn how to Skype first.  Unfortunately we didn't get to ride the bullet train to get to Niigata.  I was so sad but we should be able to ride it when we go to splits to some of the areas in our zone.  Also, my companions said that I will be able to go to Sado Island next transfer for splits.  That's the really cool island in our mission and it takes 3 hrs by ferry to get there.  I'm so excited! 

About the letter, I finally did get it.  Apparently they sent it to the sister missionaries in our area instead of me so that delayed it about 2 weeks.  I finally did get it last week though so it's all good.  Sorry I didn't get to write a letter two weeks ago.  I was super busy packing for the transfer and I had like no time to do anything else that p-day except to email and pack.  But you should get one this week because I wrote one last Monday so look for that.

Well it's getting super cold outside now.  It's getting down into the 1 and 2 degrees Celsius. I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit (35 degrees) but I'm sure that it's super cold.  We are supposed to get some snow tomorrow so luckily I've been stocking up on warm clothes and stuff so I should be fine.  I don't have an electric blanket yet so I still need to get one of those today.  I have been able to use my super cool brown Gortex shoes and they're so nice.  Its been raining everyday for the past week so they are really helpful!   I hope that it stops raining soon because it is not fun riding your bike in the pouring rain.  Oh and we even got to ride our bikes in the hail the other day!  It hurt so bad!  I don't want to do that again anytime soon. lol  But at least now I can say that I did it. lol

So I got a letter from the S... family in our stake in Dayton the other day with the address of their parents living in Japan, and one of their families is in our area!  We went to visit them on Saturday and they are so nice!  We talked to them about the church for a little bit and we set up a return appointment for next Friday.  It was such an amazing experience to be able to work with a family that I know from back home.  I know that the Lord will be helping us as we continue to share the gospel with them.  On that note, could you send me Brother and Sister S... email address?  I got permission from the mission president to email them from our fancy missionary email to update them on our progress and to get more background information on their family living here in Japan.  So maybe you can have them send you my emails to them.  Thanks a lot for everything!  It's so awesome to have an awesome family behind me. 

Well I love and miss you all so much!  Stay strong and have another awesome week!  I can't wait to hear from you again soon!  

Love you lots!

Elder Stevens
 
Sunset in Niigata

 
Soccer Stadium On Right

 
Sea of Japan

 
Breakfast



 
Eric Did Not Like Seafood Before His Mission

 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Come, Join With Us"

This was Eric's favorite conference talk. He gave a talk in church using this talk as his reference.


Come, Join with Us


Second Counselor in the First Presidency


Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.
Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy.
He met a nice couple who represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?”
We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”
The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach.
“Do you pay your people for all the work they do?” the man asked.
“Oh, no,” the couple explained. “They offer their time freely.”
“Also,” the couple continued, “every six months our Church members spend a weekend attending or watching 10 hours of general conference.”
“Ten hours of people giving talks?” the man wondered.
“What about your weekly church services? How long are they?”
“Three hours, every Sunday!”
“Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?”
“That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.”
The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?”
The couple smiled and said, “We thought you would never ask.”

Why Would Anyone Join Such a Church?

At a time when many churches throughout the world are experiencing significant decreases in numbers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—though small in comparison with many others—is one of the fastest growing churches in the world. As of September 2013 the Church has more than 15 million members around the world.
There are many reasons for this, but may I offer a few?

The Savior’s Church

First, this Church was restored in our day by Jesus Christ Himself. Here you will find the authority to act in His name—to baptize for the remission of sins, to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to seal on earth and in heaven.1
Those who join this Church love the Savior Jesus Christ and they wish to follow Him. They rejoice in the knowledge that God speaks to mankind again. When they receive sacred priesthood ordinances and make covenants with God, they can feel His power in their lives.2 When they enter the holy temple, they sense they are in His presence. When they read the holy scriptures3 and live the teachings of His prophets, they grow closer to the Savior they love so much.

An Active Faith

Another reason is because the Church provides opportunities for doing good.
Believing in God is commendable, but most people want to do more than listen to inspirational sermons or dream of their mansions above.4 They want to put their faith into practice. They want to roll up their sleeves and become engaged in this great cause.
And that is what happens when they join with us—they have many opportunities to transform their talents, compassion, and time into good works. Because we have no paid local clergy in our worldwide congregations, our members perform the work of ministry themselves. They are called by inspiration. Sometimes we volunteer; sometimes we are “volunteered.” We see assignments not as burdens but as opportunities to fulfill covenants we gladly make to serve God and His children.

Treasured Blessings

A third reason why people join the Church is because walking the path of discipleship leads to precious blessings.
We see baptism as the starting point in our journey of discipleship. Our daily walk with Jesus Christ leads to peace and purpose in this life and profound joy and eternal salvation in the world to come.
Those who follow this path faithfully avoid many of the pitfalls, sorrows, and regrets of life.
The poor in spirit and honest of heart find great treasures of knowledge here.
Those who suffer or grieve find healing here.
Those burdened with sin find forgiveness, liberty, and rest.

To Those Who Leave

The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.
One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”
Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.
Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.5

Unanswered Questions

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

Mistakes of Imperfect People

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.
In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6
This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.
It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspiration, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

There Is Room for You

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.
Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.
Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.7
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.8 We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.
If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.
Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.
All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.
Some might say, “I know a member of your Church who is a hypocrite. I could never join a church that had someone like him as a member.
If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!

Come, Join with Us!

In spite of our human imperfections, I am confident that you will find among the members of this Church many of the finest souls this world has to offer. The Church of Jesus Christ seems to attract the kind and the caring, the honest and the industrious.
If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God “which healeth the wounded soul,”9 and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them. In this age of waning faith—in this age when so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace—here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us!

Will Ye Also Go Away?

I am reminded of a time in the Savior’s life when many abandoned Him.10 Jesus asked His twelve disciples:
“Will ye also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”11
There are times when we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we, like Peter, hold fast to the words of eternal life?
If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us!
If you have left the faith you once embraced: Come back again. Join with us!
If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.
I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him.12
Come, join with us! For here you will find what is precious beyond price.
I testify that here you will find the words of eternal life, the promise of blessed redemption, and the pathway to peace and happiness.
I earnestly pray that your own search for truth will impress upon your heart the desire to come and join with us. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Show References

    Notes

  1. 1. See Matthew 16:18–19; Helaman 10:7.
  2. 2. See Doctrine and Covenants 84:20.
  3. 3. See 2 Nephi 33:10.
  4. 4. See “Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.
  5. 5. See Articles of Faith 1:11.
  6. 6. Title page of the Book of Mormon; see Mormon 8:17.
  7. 7. See Hebrews 11:1; Alma 32:21.
  8. 8. See F. F. Bosworth, Christ the Healer (1924), 23.
  9. 9. Jacob 2:8.
  10. 10. See John 6:66.
  11. 11. John 6:67–68.
  12. 12. See Matthew 16:24.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I'm Not a Popsicle Yet...

Hello Everybody!  How is everybody doing?  Things are going pretty well in Niigata and we are getting a lot done!  I was able to buy some more jackets and stuff before I left and that's a really good idea about the electronic blanket.  I'll have to get one.  I'll ask my companions what they think about getting boots and what else they suggest I should get before winter comes.  But we have some really nice heaters in our apartment so we usually stay nice and toasty during the days.  The nights can get a little cold though. 
 
So on to my new companions.  Their names are Elder Hall and Elder Shibuta.  And they are super chill.  Elder Shibuta is actually from Brazil so I'm sure that he'd be super good friends with Elder Dallin Toronto.  Luckily for me he speaks fluent English, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Spanish so I can understand him when he speaks English.  Elder Hall is from Utah, of course, and he is on his 12th transfer so he's also a pro at Japanese.  And we all love soccer!  There's a big soccer stadium 5 min from our apartment and we go over there to play soccer every morning for our exercise time.  We also are going to meet some of our investigators there on Saturday next week and we are going to play some soccer with them.  Soccer's super big up here and they have a really good pro team that plays all the time.  Actually one of our investigators is going to get us free tickets to one of their games that is coming up soon.  I'm super excited and we are already inviting other investigators to come up with us.  I really like this way of doing missionary work. lol  I'll make sure to send a lot of pictures of the games and of the practice field that we play on.  Oh speaking of which, sorry I didn't send any pictures this week, (actually he did send one picture, see below) it has just been so busy with all of the unpacking and everything that has been going on this week.  I'll get some to you next week.
 
Niigata is so beautiful.  It really reminds me of Beavercreek because there are a lot of shops and malls but there are also beautiful parks and fields and forests everywhere.  The only thing that's different is that we are right next to the Sea of Japan so we get a lot of salty sea air.  So I have something to tell everyone, Japanese is harder than I thought it was. lol  We have taught a few lessons in Japanese and I always feel totally lost!  They just speak so fast and it sounds like just one big word.  Whenever my companions speak I can understand them because they talk slower but the Japanese people just talk way too fast for me to understand, yet.  But I will continue to study a lot and hopefully I'll learn the language soon.  We went to Church yesterday and I even bore my testimony in front of everybody!
 
About N... the mathematician, he actually missed our appointment so I wasn't able to teach him because I left Tokyo the next day.  But I heard that the missionaries that are in that area now have set up another appointment to meet up with him so I'll try to keep in touch.  We have an amazing investigator in Niigata whose name is T... and he's super golden!  He's getting baptized on the 16th of November and he is really excited.  His family actually completely disowned him so he's living and working for himself.  It's a really sad story but I know that the gospel has really blessed his life and made him a lot happier.
 
 
Well I hope that everyone back home is doing well and having fun!  Make sure to have another awesome week this week!  I love all of you.  Hope to hear from you soon!
 
Love Eric Stevens


 
Soccer in Niigata City

 
Soccer Stadium, Niigata City

 
Niigata City
 
 
Elders Stevens, Hall, and Shibuta
(Soccer Stadium in background)