Elder Michael Ellsworth Arrives home on: December 20th, @ 3:17pm

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Elder Ellsworth's Waning days on the Mission


 Yeah, holy cow. Wow, Only like 10 days left. WOW. I'm really squeezing the most out of the time I have left. We have to leave in like 20 minutes, I cant wait to see you guys!! Haha, I'm almost laughing just thinking about how Its almost time, what the heck?!
    Today we're going to do some stuff with a member, and a couple of other things, I got some pretty awesome japanese stuff from a member, Mom is going to be way surprised. ... We do volunteer work for the last time this year. That's too bad that Natalie and Tom can't take the little ones home yet, (Their premature twin boys)    I'll see what I can do to lighten their burden when I get home. Is there anything you suggest I do before I go back or anything? ...I hope mom and the family are excited to see me, I cant wait to talk to everyone! Okay, I've gotta go...
Yo yo yo, have a little bit of time, so I'll tell you a little bit about what happened last week. We had a Zone Conference and it was off the wall, definitely the best one we've ever had. Guess who showed up randomly: ELDER GIBSON! I translated the entire meeting and it was insane. These two doctors showed up, one being Elder Gibson (Area medical advisors) and I translated their talks and I had some of my old companions in tears laughing [the ones who were Japanese], because they were like how on earth did you know that word?! One of them was: "to pretend to not be home", there is a word for that in Japanese, another one was, "biological clock", one other one that was funny [was that] Elder Gibson turned to me with a quizzical look on his face as if testing me: "Vicissitude, Do you know the word for that in Japanese?" "Kawariutsusu", I said, without even thinking. One of the japanese elders looked it up and was like "He's right". To say the least, it was hilariously fun.
   During the Zone conference, Gibson Choro (Elder) came up to me, and he is way flabbergasted, he knew I knew a ton of Kanji, but not a whole lot else. Oh, and I forgot to mention,... I had a solo, Silent Night, at the opening of the meeting, that I was not aware of, haha. 
   So I talked with Gibson Choro and he talked to me about stuff that I could do after the mission etc. Its still kind of up in the air, but he helped me to get a little direction, and he was just way smart, it was great. His wife was waaaay nice. and I told him that you guys really wanted to meet him so, he should come down to Vegas and we'll go out to dinner, or something. He said he definitely will, so I was happy about that. anyway, It was awesome. I gave my last testimony to everyone, and that was the end. Can't wait to see you guys, now I've really got to go! see ya later.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Missionaries become men!!!


   This was part of an e-mail conversation Mike and I had Sunday night.  Some of the conversation was personal as we talked about a certain family, and their daughter I talked to on Sunday, and whose identity I will remain silent on!

   Yo yo yo! How you doin my good man! Miss ya. This week was pretty hageshii, I got the flu really bad and its lasted up until today, I have a pretty bad cough. But I almost blew out my voice learning an Avenged Sevenfold song on the piano as my companion Emailed haha. 
You`d be proud. I can pretty much play anything on the piano if I have an hour to learn it. come to think of it, I should learn some hymns haha.
   Yeah, I had it real bad. We went on splits this week when it was at its peak and it was hilarious. I ate at the same Ramen shop I went too two days before the earthquake in my old area Izumi, remember that extremely hot ramen I talked about? He kept dumping mounds and mounds of cayenne pepper in it. I went into there again and comitted the man to seriously read the BOM, and he did. My old comp Lundell was way surprised, he`s never comitted yet. Anyway that was nostalgically weird... Plus the fact that I wanted to pass out and had to answer like 5 calls whilst trying to hold in hakumono... the urge to throw up. Way hilarious..
   Haha, going out with a package, (we just sent him his last care package) . Nah, havent gotten the package yet. Hopefully I get it before splits this Thursday. The mission overall is pretty dang good. Other than all of last week getting a shot because I had a terrible flu, and my throat was on fire, and I had a fever, it was the whole ten yards.. So I got that flu, I went to the drug store, bought some cold medicine and that really effed me up... I guess I`m not used to Japanese drugs or something, or like they aren't meant for Americans, because I got so messed up haha. I was like running into the wall, and stuff.
Yesterday we went to church, but the Members were telling me to go back to the apartment because I looked way sick, so we chilled there, and I think I`m all better now, besides this like crappy darui.. Like lethargic felling that`s probably a remnant of the drug still flowing through my blood stream, like a robber through a bank. (very funny) ... But other than that, last week was good.
   Good, thinking. (test out in Japanese when he gets home) I`ll see how many Japanese credits I can get right of, off the bat. I figure if I can understand Paul's writings in Japanese I can understand a Japanese test. So that`s one of the goals I`ve set, obviously not for that reason but that inevitably ends up occuring. The bible is crazy in Japanese.
I have to tell you what happened.
  (The Bathhouse)
(First of all, Michael's brother-inlaw Grahm had been telling Mike to go to a bathhouse before he left Japan, and this was his first opportunity
As we visited this member who lived two hours away by bike a couple of weeks ago, we saw a sign that say 桜温泉, or bathhouse, in Japanese.. `We have to go there..` I told my companion. Last week on P-day, it seemed like the opportune moment to go, so we started the long bike ride to this bathhouse, in the middle of nowhere. We arrive to see that it costs about 6 to seven dollars to enter. We buy this ticket. Hand it to the person working there then enter into the locker room.
``What on earth?!` I think to myself as I see like 5 dudes naked walk into the locker room acting like nothing is going on. 'Why on earth is everyone naked?! I think to myself... `Shoot what?!` I remember Grahm said something about how you had to be naked when you went into the bathhouse, but I`d forgotten up until the moment it was too late?
`So you don`t wear a towel when you go in?`
I ask my companion trying to sound nonchalant amidst `21 years of not being naked in front of people,` sanity being crushed to pieces, by a warped societies unwritten rules.
`Yeah, you are completely naked when you go in`
I ask my companion, he says to me without the slightest hint of something weird or detecting the battle going on in my head.
Okay I thought, whatever.`
It was the weirdest thing ever, so much different than America, it`s so weird being in a room where nobody cares about being naked or takes notice of anyone else.
But, it was great. The bathhouse was way cool, there was a part outside that was like a really hot Jacuzzi pool, and a sauna inside, and a bunch of different pools with different purposes inside. I love saunas, they`re way great. Ultimately, I got warped by the Japanese societies idea about being naked. It`s such a weird thing. But it was ultimately, probably, the most relaxing two hours I`ve ever spent in my life, why on earth I hadn't done this sooner I have no idea why? ...Thank goodness Rasmussen President came so I could have the opportunity.
Haha, I didn`t even think that philosophically about it. It was way relaxing to me, the sauna was great. I`m just way sick of being sick, this cough just won't fregging go away! I`ve tried singing it away, beating at the piano, but nothing seems to hack it.
How the family doing right now?
(Dad speaking: Okay gotta stop here. Maybe being nude goes back to Samurai days, no weapon, no cuttin' off  heads!  I guess it a good way to have a meeting!
   The weather has been really weird. Sometimes it randomly starts raining and its pretty much different every day.
(Mom's missionary report on Sunday:)Tell the ward I can`t wait to see them again, it`s going to be waaaay cool when I get back. But I can`t think about it! I have something like 7 or 8 weeks left! Holy cow, I`ll be back in no time! Wow, what on earth do I do with so little time?!
I need this sickness to go away so I can go crazy. I`m really tired of it.
I`ve had to help my japanese companion a lot too. He... was pretty much just living life, like a normal person up until the moment he left on his mission, haha. So I`ve had to help him... the Book of Mormon and stuff, and its been crazy.
The story of my mission? Help people... on their mission... Kinda hard but, it`s strengthened me quite a bit. there is pretty much no subject of doctrine that I haven't had to put down with the scriptures, or truth, so its been good. Some dark times though.. I`ll have to tell you about some when I get back.
Yeah, I`ve definitely been made. there have been many times where I could`ve given in but I promised to myself that I wouldn`t let that happen.
Mom told me something about it before I left. I do remember [just]before I left on the mission, Mom and I went bowling, and, I saw this old woman probably in her 70`s, ordering some nachos, and she was giving the worker so much bad attitude. `She`s had 70 something years to figure out how NOT to be that way.` I said to mother, `I can`t believe that. I promise I`ll never let that happen.`
   The mission has almost been proof of that idea. I`ve tried so hard to make the most of the time that I have whilst I`ve been here, experience a lot, become better at communicating with people. Recognizing the Spirit more clearly, understanding doctrine more fully, enduring high pressure filled situations, obeying leaders regardless of there being NO reason to do so, helping my companion in the midst of a crisis, Getting over obstacles, staring in the mirror and practicing smiling every day.
I`ve really tried hard to get over my weaknesses over the time of my mission, and sometimes I`ve gotten prideful, I`ve had to humble myself quite a bit I'm always carrying a piece of paper with my favorite inspiring quotes on it along with the picture of the family that you guys sent me last year when everyone went to the beach.
   I`ve learned to be prepared even when theres no chance you even need to bring anything. teach powerfully, interestingly and effectively so everyone is edified, and take the time to just sit and listen to my companion so that he feels like he`s really important to me, whilst trying to keep a schedule. Sometimes its way hard, and I fail, but I try to get better at it.
   Man, the mission is quite a ride.. like a rollar coaster you ride whilst your eyes are closed, most of the turns are controlled by A track you can`t see, `Mission president/revelation` and most of the time it`s like bungie jumping into a hole you can`t see the bottom of, you only know that you`ll come back up. Or at least you`re told you will haha. I have a couple hilarious dreams about the mission and I plan on sharing a few when I get back in my homecoming talk.
(talking about how hard it is for people to recognize the Lord's voice in our lives, 3 Nephi 10)
   It`s really interesting as well, that the people had to listen twice before understanding the voice. the heard the voice but they understood it not, I think that`s what it says. 
   Will enjoy that package and look forward to talking to you guys next week, Freak.. the time is so short and I feel like there is so much to do.... No time to waste.
Tell everyone I love em, talk to you guys next week.
(Now, this is an email every person wants to receive from their missionary!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 more months to go-and still working hard!


Okay, I may have pushed it a little too far this week...

The special zone conference was extremely fun...
   Last week, I sat reading the 9th chapter of Corinthians in Japanese (I have a goal to finish the writings of Paul in Japanese by the end of my mission) and was completely and totally hit with an exploding flash of insight. In Japanese the verse reads , by now its memorized. ``すなわち、自分の身体を打ちたたいてふく順させているのだ。 Not sure what it says in English, but in Japanese it means to hit your body and submit it, so that while you speak the gospel you dont get disqualified. right then. [So] I grabbed  my Kanji pen, wrote it on a piece of paper. Told my companion we`re going finding right now, got up, grabbed a Book of Mormon, put a pamphlet inside, we said a prayer, got out of the doors and started walking. `Where are you going?` my companion said. I was walking the opposite way of where the bikes were. `Finding`. He went and grabbed his bike. And I started sprinting down the road. Talking to everyone. I stopped using my bike. Now I sprint everywhere. One small word of advice, Never fast for more than 3 days... especially if you sprint everywhere.
I really realized what `keeping your eye single to the Glory of God` meant this last week, sprinting throughout the streets of Furukawa talking to every single person. Some of the members think I`m crazy, haha. Some hilarious things happened this week.
-Well last week, I started running everywhere, I lost 4 pounds haha. The members were noticeably saying that I looked thinner haha. I started a fast and it went 4 days, then as we were reading the white handbook, I realized it said you shouldn't fast for more than a day, so I stopped it.
 Lets just say yesterday I was unbelievably exhausted and sore, a week of sprinting and fasting really took a toll on me. I have a strong desire to show a good example of `to the death prosthelyting` to my comp. I think he saw it. Its really weird what happens when you remove basic desires from your body and do the exact opposite, your mind becomes super clear. I never bore testimony and confounded... more strongly more in my entire life, I wish I could tell you some of the things that happened in contacts, you`d be rolling.
-  I`ve been eating oatmeal and fruits and natural things only, just hook it up with the beef jerky.. they pretty much have Any american food I`d ever need here besides beef jerky..., and cheese, for some stupid reason they dont eat cheese here very much, haha;  but dont send cheese haha. I`ll think a little bit more. ohh by the way, I saw some combos the other day and started laughing, something like jalapeno flavored, I remembered how much you love those. (Dad)
-I`ve tried a ton of ways to lose fat on the mission. One constant. Eggs. No yolk.. If you hook it up with some candy, `ll have a piece and hook my companion up with some. I still need to lose more weight, I can see a small outline of a six pack, but I`m not even close yet, Remember Fiji water? (They have loads of Fiji water left over from the Quake, so Mike was given some.)
-I can`t believe Jaxboy (Travis Jacks)  is engaged! Holy crap! I`m just shocked at some of the things that happened. The very first time I realized Clayton (Stewart) got married is when I saw of picture of him and someone outside of the temple, flipping the picture and seeing `Clayton and his wife` I was like What the heck?! 
-Mo ii wa... Haha, yeah, Gonna be a lot different when I get back.. I`ve made a ton of friends on the mission as well, one really good friend who lives in Colorado springs.
-Can`t wait until we can go bowling, and watch some Masterpiece Theatre.
-(Swan's General Conference picture)
Yeah, I was way surprised. I was like. Hey! That was my young mens leader! Pretty funny. I was super exhausted though from running all week, I was really useless yesterday.(Conference Sunday in Japan)
-Yeah, it was pretty good. I was laughing way hard with  (Elder)Hollands talk, holy cow, that brother was way strong! I kind of had to pick my companion up after that talk haha
-Okay, I think I`m going to go now, As for stuff for the haloween package...I`m sure you know what kind of things I like. the Oatmeal really has helped a ton, thank you so much, Really saved me. I`m gonna do my best to finish my race here on the mission with flying colors. Just imagine me sprinting through the streets of Furukawa talking to everyone, that`s what I`ll be doing.  Yeah, (Elder Yamashita's) his was a good talk. I didn`t even realize, but I watched the whole thing in Japanese..... that was a first, usually people watch it in English. 
Love you all,
Michael


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Elder Ellsworth speaks.


When asked how he successfully communicates with the Japanese people, Mike says:

 ... I`m just way random when I talk to people, for some reason, I get really bored fast when talking to people, so I just point out things and talk about them, then fit that into the restoration in some way. Or when they try to give excuses I automatically come back with a hilarious reason as to why what they said is true in an Ironic way
.     Like a ton of people here are like `I`m Bhuddist!!` And I`m like `Yeah, thats exactly what we thought which is why we came, if we were from the same church we would be meaningless right?!` and we start laughing.
 With my last companion I would see something in their house that would show me that they were bhuddist and say, `We`re looking for people who are Bhuddist and who have no interest in Jesus Christ to teach today, have you ever heard of him before?` People would just get so confused that they would listen, its hilarious, I love it.

We asked him about the members in the branch, and how it is to translate for those who don't speak the language, Mike said:

...Lately its been kind of hard (keeping his weigh down) because one of the members loves us to come over and feeds us all the time. That oatmeal would really be a lifesaver, just get some water. I can eat plain oatmeal and be fine. so if I had that I could cut down a lot more (He wants his Oatmeal!)
   When I translated for a kid last week it was pretty good, for some of the sentences he said it took about half a second of thinking because there were like 3 sentences needed to be translated..., but, other than that it was pretty much instant, without hesitation. Kind of like when Rasmussen sister (Mission Presidents's wife) came and talked. 
   Its also kind of weird, because there are like A TON of different ways you could say things in Japanese because when you get up to speak in front of people you have to use more polite Japanese so it changes a lot, it was cool.
We were just informed last week that Elder Ellsworth will be returning home to Las Vegas on December 220th, 2011.  Let's home he can get those last two baptisms.  We'll keep everyone posted. 


Elder Ellsworth and his Japanese trainee companion

Hi Clark:
 
I'm volunteering in tsunami area over a long labor day weekend and the
'labor' volunteers are stationed in Furukawa, so, at the summer
festival held at the branch Saturday, I ran into your son. Thought
you'd like to see the picture of him and his new companion, Elder
Ogita from Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku who he is "training."
 
It was fun to meet and chat, but more fun to watch Elder Ellsworth
interact with the members and others attending. His Japanese, in my
opinion, is on the high-better end of the scale, and that serves well.
I'm sure you must be proud of him..I know I would be..as I felt like
a surragate dad for you standing there.
 
The core group of labor volunteers staying in Furukawa will join with
about 15 Sendai area missionares on Tuesday for a combined work
activity as well, so I'll be shoveling muck (or whatever they assign
us) alongside these elders and others. I'll be home Thursday and if
there are more pictures, I'll forward them you you,.
 
Kindest regards,
 
Todd Ogaard
Webmaster
Sendai Mission RM Site

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transition

Life goes on for all of us.  Last week Mike's sister Emily and her husband Merlin  had an 11 lb. baby boy named Henry Ivan Wollenzien.  It took forever, and finally they has to take the baby via a c-section, Henry was just too big.  We're having the family over for Teriyaki chicken and Beni Hanna fried rice, and we've enjoyed all the kids and the rain, thunder, and lightning.  
   Michael has had a hard time finding an internet connection, and so it's been pretty quiet, however we got a wonderful letter from him this week.  They are transitioning mission presidents this week, and he is very excited about his new mission president, President Rassmussen.  His new area is proving fertile, and if it hasn't already happened, they should have a baptism shortly.
   Michael is now  in the last six months of his mission, and we look forward to him having more success bring more Japanese people to the gospel.  We recently saw pictures posted on line at LDS Church news.com of the "Helping Hands" activities, and Mike is in one of the pictures wearing a dust mask.  We know they need a lot of help in the Sendai area, so we think periodically, the missionaries will go in and try to make a difference in the community.
   Tomorrow as a family, we are all going out to the Paiute Indian Reservation and set off our fireworks (got a bunch of stuff up in Pershing County in Central Nevada) and so to to Res we go, and it should be very fun.  We got a few rockets that will go up 300', some mortars, etc. We all should feel very fortunate to be citizens of the greatest country in the world.  We pray that our country can survive the economic downturn, and we can all see better days. We celebrate the Fourth of July, with a prayer in our heart that our great country will continue to be great.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gone Fishing...for investigators that is!

  Dear family and friends,

 We recently received an e-mail from Mike, and he is doing very well in his new area, Furakawa.  He is living in an apartment with his companion, and two other elders.  They've done alot of finding lately, and have had quite a bit of success  finding a man who was praying to know whether the Catholic Church was true, and they showed up on his doorstep!  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  He tells me that another investigator that they found has totally committed to following the gospel, and all of it's principles.  Both gentlemen are now preparing for baptism sometime in July, we hope.
  Right now, Michael is seeing the miraclous work the Lord can perform if missionaries are willing to be deligent, and work hard.  He is, however, having a rather difficult time finding a location he can e-mail from, so it should be interesting if they can find any other location to use in the coming weeks.

Michael speaking about one of his investigators says:

 "He`s like `I`m going to do everything you tell me to say because I know that its what God wants'. I couldn`t believe it. I should be getting two baptisms by the end of this month I think. (we hope)  I`m waaaay happy, God has blessed us with these people! I cant believe it... the mission is going soooo good right now... It`s all looking super optimistic. I`m loving the mission, every day is just more fun than the previous one."
Keep up the prayers, they seem to be working!
Love, Dad

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Missionary work resumes in the Sendai Mission...

 Hello all,
  From what we can tell from Mike's latest e-mail, all missionaries assigned to Sapporo are back and serving in the Sendai Mission.  Mike is serving in an area just on the outskirts of Sendai, called Furukawa, and it looks like perhaps, in the next transfer some missionaries might serve within the city as things return back to normal (whatever that might be).  This is my opinion, and not anything Mike has told me.  His Mission President and his wife, Pres. and Sist. Tateoka are in their last month of missionary service, and will soon be returning to Utah.  We wish them all the best, and God's speed back to their family. 
  We know the members in the mission really miss having the missionaries in their wards and branches, and I'm sure as conditions get better they will return to more areas.  We ask that all of you remember Mike in your prayers as they enter a new area, with virtually no investigator pool, and very few contacts.  So it looks like a lot of street contacting, and a lot more housing for them.
    As we listened to Michel speak to us in japanese, when we talked to him on Mother's Day, we were all so impressed about how much he had learned, and how much the gift of tongues has been a part of his life, and the lives of the missionaries in Japan, and so grateful for the Lord's help in his life. 
   We know that there are people in Japan, that Michael with his unique style, and command of the language can reach, and we are praying he can find them, teach them, and lead them into the waters of baptism. 
 Thank you all for your kind words, prayers, and thoughts concerning Mike.  It's helped a great deal.
Love, Clark

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sayonra to the Sapparo Mission! Konichiwa to the Sendai Mission!!

We received  a very nice letter from President
and Sister Daniels of the Sapporo Mission, along with a few pictures with 
Michael in them:
  All we can say in the Ellsworth Family is: 

                           Arigatou Gozaimasu Sapporo Mission!

Dear Ellsworth Family,

We wanted to thank you for sharing your son with us in the Japan Sapporo

 Mission. He is an amazing missionary and you can justifiably be proud of
 him.
 Although our time together was short, he and the other Sendai missionaries
 left an imprint on our mission and our mission is better as a result of their
 contribution. Thank you for raising such a wonderful son and helping him 
prepare to serve this mission. We appreciate your love and sacrifice and
 pray for you and your son as he continues to labor in Sendai. 
Our mission comes to a close at the end of this month and we will be moving
 back to Mapleton, Utah. We hope we will have the chance to meet you
 someday.

Love,

President and Sister Daniels







Friday, May 27, 2011

They're back!

 Michael and the rest of the Sendai missionaries are back on the big island.  Mike and his companion, Elder Lundell have been transfered to Furukawa, just north of Sendai, and a little east of the  from the Sendai mission home.  We haven't heard from him yet, but we should Sunday evening via e-mail. I think all the Sendai missionaries were pretty impressed by the Sapporo Mission, and particularly President Daniels and his wife.
   We were particularly delighted that they had a very active website that families could see regularly updated pictures of the elders and sister missionaries during meetings, conferences, etc.  It was nice to see them in the "flesh" so soon after the pictures were taken.  One picture of Michael showed him in a new japanese tailored suit, and we must say he's looking more and more japanese; the haircut, the suit, just the look, pretty humorous.
   As we look back on the whole earthquake experience we can see that it has been a great learning experience for all of us, and our trust and our dependence on the Lord has increased.  Mike's testimony has grown, he's developed a stronger spiritual side, and his confidence concerning his "mission" his grown.
   We as a family have grown closer, (if that is possible), and I think all of us have gained a greater insight into missionary work as it is performed today. I finally can say I'm grateful for the experience, just would not want it to happen again!  We love all of our family, and friend, and those who have followed Michael along through this experience.  Let's hope his last 6 months is productive, personally, as well as baptism wise. The countdown, for us begins.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Got the Call!

   I wasn't sure how to answer the question, when a representative from the Church Missionary Department called and asked us about our feelings concerning Elder Ellsworth returning to the Sendai Mission.  We knew it was likely he'd be asked to return, but, we weren't prepared for a call from the missionary department of the Church. I'm not sure this would've happened a generation ago, so we are very grateful in the decision by the church to provide parents with a voice in the decision making process.
    I have to admit, I was caught off guard, but, at the same time, very appreciative that Church authorities were concerned about the response by parents when asked about their missionary returning to those areas declared safe, after the earthquake, and tsunami
   I thought about our last e-mail conversation with Michael, that he loved the Sapporo Mission, and that he knew that they would most likely return to the Sendai Mission, but, that it was okay, not a big deal
     But, to us it is a VERY BIG DEAL, particularly, on Jeri's part. She has been very concerned about the radiation. Like many of you, we've lived just down the road from the Nevada Test Site, and yes. we remember the above ground testing.  Many, many Nevadans, and South Utahans, are now considered "downwinders", so we have definitely lived with concerns about radiation from the nuclear meltdown in Fukishima.
Since so many in our area suffer from higher than normal risk of cancer, we have worried about the effects of prolonged exposure of radiation on our missionaries. Radiation caused cancer is usually not diagnosed till years later.  So, only after some research,  listening to experts in the field, and pondering, and prayer, I became much more comfortable concerning the risks, but, Jeri is not so convinced, and still has questions.
   Our phone conversation, discussed that the Twelve had approved a return of missionaries to areas that are far away from the affected areas, that the contamination hasn't, and shouldn't affect any of the our missionaries returning to the Sendai Mission.  I guess, we must trust their decision, but, at the same time, pray concerning the safety of not only the missionaries, and the members, but, all those affected.
    Frankly, I really should have told him I'd discuss it with Jeri, who wasn't home at the time, and get back to him later, but, foolishly, I didn't. I kept reflecting on what Mike had said about returning, and, I think he was a little concerned his mom might call and ask that he stay in the Sapporo Mission.   I guess that was reflected in my answer, which was: "it really is up to Mike, not up to us, and, though we've worried about the radiation, it should be his decision." I did express our concern for his safety but, was assured he'd be placed in a safe area, so I agreed.  That is a "Dad" answer, but not a "Mom" one, ha, ha!
   I should have had that discussion with Jeri!!  She was none too happy about my "presumed" approval of the transfer, and boy did I hear about it! I deserved it! So, after conferring with some of our children, discussion about the various options,  and, then more discussion, it was "finally agreed" I was out of the doghouse! I have to say, I was sweating it, felt terrible about the whole thing, and was saying my prayers!
    I guess after nearly thirty-four years of marriage I should have known better than to give my blessing to the transfer, before the mother of our precious children gave her loving stamp of approval, I was humbled to say the least.
A mother's love is not to be trifled with!   I learned a valuble lesson, and, I won't soon forget...I love my son dearly, but... I didn't give birth to him!
 God bless all the mothers of missionaries, who sacrifice those most precious to them, in the service of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Dad

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Will or won't they stay in the Sapporo Mission!!

Once again we were able to be online with Mike:

Question: Do you think you guys will be transferred back to the Sendai Mission?
 No info about transfers, we figure out on the 23rd of this month. Its been a hilarious random week. Finding, raining like a mad man, almost snowing. Still pretty cold.
  ... Anyway. We had that mission conference that was really cool, then we returned back here. and in a few more days we go somewhere else! haha, its crazy... I`m pretty sure that we`ll go there next transfer... fine with me,... no big deal.
   The phone call home was great! I didnt really get homesick at all,  though. Sure I want to be with the family and do stuff with you guys but I didn't feel that returning back to missionary work was all that hard, though, I really do wish I could spend some time doing stuff with mother. I think I miss those things the most. Just going to the movies spontaneously and bowling or watching masterpeice theatre, those are the most trunky causing ideas. (I have to say I found this adorable, and really showed how Mike feels about his mother)
   I`m really trying to focus on things that are going to help a lot, and its been pretty good.
About the possibility of transferring back to the Sendai Mission:
     Yeah, I have no idea what to expect, but it will be wild.
 Has anything happened with the family? 
 How close is the next little one to be born? (1 month!)
 I cant wait until I can spend time with you guys again.
Question: Did you get our package?
THE PACKAGE!!!!!! yeah, I was soooooooooooooo happy when I got that. I`ve eaten almost all of the beeef jerkey with my companions,a nd all the other stuff in it was perfect! I was so happy, and you even snuck some spikes in there! I couldn't believe it, definitely the greatest gift I`ve ever gotten in my life, perfect, thank you guys so much for preparing it for me! I was really overjoyed when I recieved it.  (I guess care packages are pretty cool)
 I've got to go, its my comp's ( Elder Bigger) turn on the computer. I miss you guys. Our investigators are pretty good, not sure if there are any that are close to baptism right now, but there are a lot of people here that I know We`ll find, so we`ll get them. I can't wait to talk to you guys again. Till next Monday!!!!!!! Have fun and do some stuff, Enjoy doing things you know I cant  do right now haha. Tell the family I love them!
 Love, Mike

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Phone call

From Dad-
   Well we received our Mother's Day call from Michael.  He tells us he is really enjoying his time in Japan, and loves his companion Elder Bigger, and they are having a very good time right now in the Sapporo Mission.  He believes that eventually, they may both be transfered back to the Sendai Mission as more areas are reopened.  However, the areas surrounding Fukashima, and Mayagi Prefecture I'm sure will see limited missionary activity, until the most affected areas are rehabilitated, and rebuilt.
   We had an enjoyable time talking to his as a family, via a speaker setup attached to my celphone, and then Mike had an opportunity to talk individually to Jeri, and I, his three older brothers, his sister Emily via phone, and the rest of the family, and shared alittle about his experiences recently.  It was truly a feast as we listened to him describe some of his experiences, and tell us about some of the things that have happened.  I think he got to talk to 18 people!  This will be his last phone call till his return in seven months.  It was a long drink of water!
   Living a 1/2 mile from the ocean has been rather difficult for him, seeing that we've spent so much time down at the beach in So. Cal.  And the smell of salt in the air is surely very enticing to he and his companion.  He made us promise that as soon as he returned we'd make a trip to Huntington Beach.  I doesn't matter that it will be Christmas time, and winter!
   Everyone agreed that Mike has done a ton of growing up while out on his mission, and his focus has really shifted away from what he wants, to what is expected of him, and what the Lord expects of him, and we can really see that his experiences surrounding the earth quake have strengthened his resolve, have shown how truly the Lord really loves his missionaries, and the members, and how much the church thinks about its young servants.
   We also recently sent a couple of pictures of Mike from when he was a baby to his mission, which was preparing a special Mother's Day gift for president Daniels' wife.  Mike truly loves President Daniels' and his family, and is really enjoying his "vacation" in the Sapporo Mission.
   We as a family are so grateful that the Lord has built a program that takes young, and older members of the church, places them in an enviroment in which they learn to grow intellectually, emotionally, as well as spiritually, and are able to learn to love  others more than they love themselves.  I recall reading the apostles saying that they loved the lord, Why? Because Jesus loved them first.
   When I get an opportunity I'll transcribe some of what Mike sent us in his letter of letters, 19 pages!
Daddio'

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A "spirited" conversation. WOW!!!

Recently Elder Ellsworth wrote to us about a very unusual experience he and his young companion,  Elder Bigger had while knocking on doors...I felt chills going up my arm! 


     (When) we entered into the apartment(building) I had no idea what to expect.  My companion and I had seen it from a distance, looked at each other and said  "Lets go". We walked up to the very top floor, I knocked on the very last door at the very top, hit the doorbell and composed myself. An woman in her late sixties came to the door. 
   "Have you every been to america?" I asked enthusiastically, right after asking if she`d ever met us before. "No, and I don`t really care too."   `"that's really sad", I told her as I pointed to something in her house and said. "Where in the world did you get that?!" She told me what it was and,  I said:  "I`m not even sure that I like it but it`s cool", Then she said:  "You`re fun to talk to, come in".  So we came in and I looked around her house at her family pictures.  "My dad is dead: she said, in a kind of odd tone of voice. That was the first of about eight random times she would bring up her dead father. "Do you have a family?" I asked, showing interest in things about her. Her attitude was almost completely indifferent. "Where is you`re daughter?" "I don`t really care to talk to her anymore", she said stoically. "Why are you here in Japan?"  She said, as she started to pull a small book out. "To share our message, I said, carefully making sure... that she was showing interest before giving her everything;  building up a kind of response potential. 
  She`d pulled out some kind of budhist book. she started reading a page from it, words that aren't used anymore filled the air, words and forms of the language that aren't even used in normal conversation. She said that she based her life off of that book, turned it to me and passed it over. "You can't understand anything, can you?" She said slightly (re) pugnant. `Ehh.." I said, and I started reading from the pages with almost a complete comprehension. "Compared to the bible this is ridicoulous, I said to myself." Then thinking "Watch your pride boy..."  She turned the pages, to a page of straight kanji characters, and said `
"You can't understand this can you?"   ... I put my finger down on each of the characters and defined their meaning, sound, and Chinese reading. "Budhism is kind of interesting." I said, "I know nothing about it."
   We talked for a few minutes and I noticed something a little weird, with the atmosphere of he room. My companion did too. "Why are you here"?  Are you teaching about something? Propaganda? " "We`re teaching about the most famous person in the world and his teachings," I said, "Do you know who it is?  It`s not Michael Jackson.." She said  "Who?"  Then I pointed down at my name badge and said `イエスキリスト"Jesus Christ".   "We don`t talk about Jesus Christ here" She said, immediately without hesitation,  her facial expression darkening, and her eyes widening in kind of a furious bitter hatred filled expression.
    My companion had no idea what was going on, language wise, but knew exactly what happened then.  She`d completely changed.   I started to think about how she'd said she doesn't talk about Jesus. "WE don't talk about Jesus here."  There was nobody else living with her.  "Why?" I asked, realizing the craziness of the situation.
    It was then that she started talking about really evil things, things that my companion couldn't understand, I`m not going to type them out... Things that didn't make sense,  or have any link other than a pure hatred for what I`d said.  In the midst of the fear, I felt in that situation,  my curiosity was at a huge peak. "Do you think that Jesus was here on the earth." She proceeded to tell me about how whether or not He was here on the earth didn't matter,  and, that it was stupid to think that he has any link to God. And then in THAT moment,  I knew that the situation was bad. She never denied Jesus, it was almost if she had a perfect knowledge that He`d existed, but she hated it, even despised the idea that there was any link to God. I felt this was our cue to leave,  but for some reason I reached into my pocket, pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, then wrote the word 信仰 shinkou "Faith" and, as I set it down in front of her, she pointed at the kanjii, and did something I`ve never seen before. She described every line in the kanji and how the meaning created the individual kanji, she did this with miraculous speed,  and I was slightly astonished. "The first Kanji 信 means belief, the second Kanji 仰means to look up at the sky." Looking up at the sky is an action.  "Half of faith is action." ...
   She told me "I have faith",   "No you don`t", I said:  "Will you let us tell you our message". 
 "NO" she said, so I said : "Thanks for giving us this candy it tasted good."  I  got up and we left.  We should have left earlier than that. I just kind of knew it was going to make a really good story if I`d stayed a bit longer, haha! 
   That was the first possessed person I`ve ever talked to on my mission. (she)Never denied Jesus, but, denied anything Godly about him, (and) hated my mention of His name. (she)Started saying really evil things about Him and us. Really interesting experience, pretty scary, but for some reason, I really wanted to mess with her...
     It won't happen again...   Anyway. The last week here has been waaaaay crazy fun, I`m loving the mission.  Sometimes, I just get really tired of following up on people all the time, haha.  Anyway, love you guys. The reason I couldn't email yesterday is because we had a training in a city... 6 hours away so we were there yesterday,  and today, became P-day... I miss you guys, have a good week.
Michael

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michael's talk to the mission about his experiences:

Missionary Story: Elder Michael Ellsworth (Serving in Izumi-from Las Vegas NV)

   We were in the middle of a companion exchange and my companion was in the middle of writing down the changes and the room started shaking horizontally. We looked at each other and I thought this is going to be kind of interesting. It started getting a little worse and the pictures started shaking left and right. We wondered what was going on. It shook even more and we heard a crash and we both dove under a desk. My companion yelled “Inori!” (“Pray!”)
   Everything started crashing. The sink crashed and fell. The refrigerator crashed down and food fell out everywhere. My companion yelled again, “pray, pray!” The earthquake kept shaking for a few minutes and I just remember in those few minutes some really horrifying thoughts. I was honestly thinking that it was the end of me, that life was going to end right there. The earthquake kept happening but I found that I had time to think while believing that I was going to die. In that moment, I thought, “I could have gotten married and could have had kids. This is pretty sad.”
   I was waiting for it all to end and thinking that it was my time to die and the earthquake stopped. I jumped up and grabbed my pack-back and we raced out of the apartment. The stairs cracked in half as we were running down the apartment stairs. In the street all the construction workers were looking shocked and disbelieving. No one was talking but everyone was staring at everybody else.
    Everyone seemed really humbled by the quake. I still had the feeling that we were going to die. To my left a huge granite statue had fallen and broken into pieces all over the road. We could not have moved these huge pieces. It was shocking to see the statue broken in the road. Big buildings had their windows smashed out. We were wondering whether the Sister missionaries were okay. We decided to go to the church to see what had happened.
   As we were walking to the church, I saw the weirdest thing. There was a cat showing the weirdest behavior that I had ever seen in an animal before. It looked savage and in a rabid state. It was completely broken down to its animal behavior. It had lost all of its domestication. I felt the same way as the cat. We felt like we had been broken down in all of our feelings. The only thing left was to survive. There were old grandmothers on the side of the road crying. They were hysterical. We tried to help but they were hysterical and did not want help. We felt in a crazy state of mind and did not know how helpful we could be anyway. On the way to the church there were kids running through the streets and there were power lines hanging down everywhere. You never see power lines hanging down… Again there was the feeling, of “Can you believe this is happening!?” It was very surreal like being in a movie that you were thrown into but really did not have a part in. 
   We got to the church and hoped that the Sisters would be there . They ended up showing up about three or four minutes later. We stayed there a little bit later and then the weirdest thing started happening. A snow storm suddenly started. It was freezing outside and I was regretting the decision not to bring a jacket with me.
   I went back to the apartment to get a jacket. While we were returning back to the apartment, there were still tremors going on. They were pretty big but small in comparison to the first one. My companion waited outside and I went in and grabbed my jacket and my wallet and we headed back to the church.
   This is completely a miracle what happens here. We had a baptism date with a Chinese gentlemen (Leonardo Ruyao) for the Sunday. I am walking along wondering if he is okay. The craziest thing happens. On our way back, we saw him in the midst of this huge catastrophe. He had been posting pamphlets for his job and we happened to see him on the little road going to the church.  Of all the places he could be, he was working there. We asked him if he was okay. “Man, are you okay?” We invited him to come over to the church with us. He said,” I am going to finish up and then I will come over to the church.” The Sisters had managed to get a little bit of food and it was some kind of fruit, an orange I believe. So after this, I came into the church-Oh did I tell you his name was Leonardo? - and we came in and talked to him. Are you safe? He said he was good and that he wanted to talk to his parents. He said he was going back to his apartment. That is the last time I saw him. We found out after we got to Sapporo that he had left Japan and gone back to China. 
   At random times we went to get food and water from the apartment. We tried to get everything we could from the apartment and took it to the church. We slept at the church and it was freezing because it snowed the whole time.
   At one point we went to get water and the line was three miles long. As we joined the line, the line broke off into ten lines and we thought that we would never be able to get any water. Just then we got a call to go to Kamisugi, and on our way we met people who were coming to find us. It was Elder and Sister Phillips."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mike is in the groove...thanks to the Spirit...

Michael's latest e-mail to us.  Once again we were able to be online at the same time as mike.
 
 Hey, yeah, today has been crazy! I`m loving it here with my comp haha, I wish I could tell you everything that happened this week but to say it short saikou Top class. We got a call three days ago from an investigator and the craziest thing happened.
   She`s like, I have a friend here who wants to hear your lessons. So we went to her house immediately and In the middle of the lesson, After asking her about some things, I said `THAT feeling is called the Spirit` and she believed us and said `Yes, that feels right, maybe it was God trying to tell me something` and I said `That was definitely what happened, do you think we met by chance?` `No, we didnt` I and she said at the same time.
   In the middle of the lesson she turns to our previous investigator and says these exact words, but in japanese `This is what I wanted, I wanted people to come talk to me about this and to tell me what I need to do and for me to be able to ask questions like we are now!` and I was like, `WHAT?!" and I just couldn't believe it. I was like `Kamisama wa anato wo daiji ni shite imasu yo` and she started to cry, sorry, (in japanese).. `You are really important to God and he loves you.` and I started to link that feeling to the Spirit and she was agreeing. And at that moment. I was like `Will you pray to God and thank him for sending us to you?` and she said `Yes` and she did it! Yesterday she came to church after I invited her the previous day!!
  
 After church we went to eat lunch at the investigator's house with the golden investigator and I commited her to baptism. I hope I`m not transferred!!!!! Tomorrow is transfer day and I have no idea what`s going to happen!
   Yeah, yesterday it was kind of weird because she was a tiny bit different, but I know that she felt the Spirit and she does too, so it will only go up from there. the weather has been so weird here.. it was snowing this morning.
 (A recent talk was given by Mike, recorded, and transcribed and found it's way onto the Sendai Alumni Mission Site)
   Interesting, they took one of my talks and wrote it down haha. I`m almost done with the letter about my experience of the earthquake to you guys. I have it all almost written down. Its like 13 pages long. The letter stayed with me the whole time during the quake. By the way, I got moms letter. it came a few days ago.
 
   Well. we`re going to go now. Love you guys. I wish we could go do something together haha, after will be fine. Right now I`m loving life here in this mission. Can`t wait until I can talk to you guys. but I am getting VERY good at housing lately. I`ve developed a pretty good balance between being bold and stuff. Its been great. ...
 (I wrote to Mike that he had to own his experiences, and use them to help others)
You just gotta OWN it! Haha, my friend and I say that.... by the way it took like 3 weeks for moms letter to get to me here! haha, I`m going to send my letter tomorrow. The handwritten one, wait paitiently for that. Till NEXT WEEK!
 
Love, Mike

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Elder Ellsworth is getting his groove back!!!

Once again we were able to be online the same time Michael was on the computer.  A bit. frustrating with the lag time, but, faster than letters.

I got suuuupet sick last saturday haha, it sucked. I threw up like 14 times haha, yesterday we stayed in the apartment all day and I slept for like 12 hours haha. The fever is gone and I`m almost all better now. Yeah Im on here so you can ask anything you want and I can answer specifically.
 
I`m great! Moms letter.. Hmm, not gotten it yet, but I`m pretty sure all of the things being sent to sendai are getting forwarded here, So I think it might get here. I LOVE this new mission man! Its SOOOO much different than my first one, and all of the differences are pretty wonderful! I couldnt really be in much of a better state haha.
 
Haha, yeah I did eat like 70 eggs that week haha, yeah, that sickness hasnt quelled my desire to eat eggs at all, but by the way I lost like 7 pounds!!!!!!! Freggin great, its visibly noticeable too haha, I`m getting pretty ripped haha, I`m going to have it all lost by the time I return home. The temperature here is pretty freezing, last night it snowed all night haha, but now it haretteru meaning like sunny outside. No I couldnt write a letter last week, but I definitely will this week. Im continuing the letter I had with me during the earthquake, it came with me the whole way, it looks pretty beat up, We`re actually going bowling right after we`re done here with email and stuff. Yeah, the chapel here is pretty nice here in abashiri.
 
We`re still 3 missionaries here in Abashiri the oldest on is elder takashima, tall island, yes it was my apartment that he was referring too (Mike's apartment was destroyed in the quake), it was the only one that can`t be lived in anymore. I feel I have everything I need.

Yeah, at christmas time they usually get to see a movie, but other than that I have no idea, anyway we`re getting a new mission president in two months so I`ll have to yet again get used to a new one in a little bit, so I cant get too confortable or used to this one. I do love this guy though, his wife is also suuuuper nice too, I`m super excited for the future, I`m super optimistic about this place.
 
Hmm.. We`ve straight housed (tracting) here.. Theres really nothing else we can do here. Kinda boring sometimes, but I make it really interesting because I`m like the middle man between my two comps, one got here like 4 weeks ago, (Elder Bigger) and the other is an older japanese companion, so Its pretty cool being in the middle, and the japanese comp wants to take all of the responsibility it seems so I`m perfectly fine with that, haha.

  Ahh, yesterday I got my other baggage in the mail, My other suitcase came. It had the rest of my stuff in it. Other than a lot of my language learning stuff, and suits and stuff, which got left at my apartment. Anyway, Unfortunately, I can sense my companions want to go now. Wish I could talk to you guys more, but I will in a week, dont worry about me, I`m really good right now. there`s nothing really huge that I need right now, thanks so much for all that you guys do! I really love you, mom and dad. Cant wait until we can talk again so I can tell you everything that happened to me, It`ll be a good story, tell everyone I`ve been through hell and back, and that through the grace of God, somehow I`m fine, and happy. Say hey to the family for me, I miss them.
Michael



Friday, April 1, 2011

Breaking News!!! Sendai Mission President Reports on Earthquake

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President Tateoka's Personal Account of the Disaster and God's Hand in assuring the Safety of His Missionaries


Dear Brothers and Sisters, On Friday, March 11th, 2011 in the Koriyama, Japan chapel at approximately 2:47 p.m. our Heavenly Father once again taught his missionaries the importance of relying on the Spirit. For about two or three months prior, I had been receiving strong impressions that our missionaries and members must learn to receive and act upon personal revelation. At every teaching opportunity, in every sacrament meeting and in every zone conference and leadership meeting, we talked about the need to “. . .turn ye to the Lord . . .,” “. . .lean not to thine own understanding,” “. . . rely . . . [on] Him who is mighty to save.” We studied the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, Preach My Gospel and the conference talks. I provided opportunities to pray, to create their own Sacred Grove, to facilitate learning the “will of the Lord.” On March 11th, I understood why Heavenly Father had given the inspiration to emphasize the need to turn to the Lord. Due to a series of events, we had no one else to whom we could turn.
At the time of the earthquake, Sister Tateoka and I were listening to the second missionary lesson being taught by two young elders as part of our leadership training on Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: More Effective Teaching. Elder Carthew, a trainer and Elder Dowdy, a new Elder two weeks into his mission, finished the first concept of the first lesson. Elder Carthew taught with the Spirit and bore a strong testimony. Elder Dowdy spoke Japanese very well considering he was in his second week in the mission field. He testified boldly and explained gospel principles clearly and simply.
At that moment the Koriyama chapel windows began to rattle, then they began to bang violently as if someone had just slammed the door. Everyone froze, straining to listen and staring in amazement. The whole room began to shake vigorously. Chairs fell. Books bounced across the tables and dropped to the floor. Walls swayed. Out of the chaos, a clear voice commanded, “Open the door!” In the next few days, the Spirit would speak many times, to many people and through many people. Like the Sons of Helaman, we “did not ever doubt God would deliver [us]”.
I ran to the door and threw it open, holding it in place so we would not be trapped inside when the weight of the building came down on the door. Sister Tateoka and I shouted, “Get outside, right now!” “Help Sister Mizumoto!” The missionaries leaped to the stairwell and descended down the stairs. By now, the entire building jerked and swayed. Sister Mizumoto said, “We are safe in the church.” Her frail body had a difficult time negotiating the stairs as they rocked back and forth. We tried to coaxing her to leave but did not succeed. Sister Tateoka just put her arms around her and protected her until the shaking stopped and we could assist her down the stairs. We left to the sound of crashing dishes.
Once outside the building, the sky blackened. Snow pelted the earth. The cemetery in front of the church, told the story of earthquake’s destruction. Row after row of headstones lay helter-skelter on the ground. Where the once massive stone wall surrounding the cemetery once stood, stones had dropped to the ground, weakened by the shaking. The high rise behind the church had a visible crack from the sixth floor down to the first floor. Those exiting the apartment building had looks of fear and concern. In contrast, our elders and sister exhibited little fear. They knew Heavenly Father would look after them.
When we settled down and began to think about what we should do next, I called for a few volunteers to go back into the church. Sister Tateoka had left her purse and was uneasy about leaving it in the Church. So I ran back in. Once back in the building Elder Taylor shouted, “The sisters need their coats.” Inside, the chapel was a shamble of fallen chairs and tables. We moved the chairs and found the coats and we were about to run back out. One elder shouted, “Get our scriptures!” So we took what was most precious to us, our scriptures and run outside. I was proud of my elders that in a time of crisis they would be guided by the Spirit to think of the comfort of others and that they similarly would be guided to recognize the scriptures as their most cherished possession. In a time of crisis, it is amazing how clearly the promptings of the Holy Spirit come. I have thought many times since that initial earthquake about what is my most important possession. Nothing has come more clearly than the answer that we received in that time of crisis to turn to our scriptures first. The scriptures are our most important possession, “How rare a possession.”
A second jolt brought more dishes crashing down. We did not stay in the building to know what happened next. After evacuating the building, I instructed the Koriyama Zone missionaries to return to their areas. Little did I know that no public transportation would be running? Sister Tateoka and I then left to return to the mission home to help the remainder of our missionaries. On the way to the mission home, we tried to call the zone leaders to learn how everyone was doing. Because the phone systems became overburdened, we could not get word back. What should have been a routine phone check continued for hours with many missionaries not able to make contact. However, everyone reporting back was alright. We received word that the Koriyama zone missionaries would not be able to return home. Fortunately, they were all safe in the evacuation center in the fire station. The Lord had protected our missionaries by keeping them in Koriyama, had they returned home, they would have been placed in harm’s way.
By evening, after six hours of calling, thirty missionaries were accounted for and were all well. We received no contact from forty-two missionaries. That evening I was still not able to call out. Our mission has switched to cell phones, but the cell phone service was so limited and overwhelmed that only about one call in one hundred could make it through. (However, later I learned that phone service to one of our remote areas, Miyako, was only available through our carrier. Again, a tender mercy of the Lord allowed us to eventually contact our missionaries.)
We drove for over six hours. Because the freeways were closed and many of the roads were damaged, we could not make back home to Sendai. We drove until we reached a bridge that was out. Although we wanted to go back home, the Lord knew that we were needed in Koriyama so He would not let me make the mistake of going home. Instead, He guided me to return to Koriyama where the largest concentration of missionaries was staying safely in a evacuation center. We drove another two hours to return to Koriyama to be with our missionaries. We arrived at back in Koriyama around midnight.
Because our hotel was closed and our room was inaccessible, the lower two floors of the building were converted to an evacuation center. We stayed the night with those who were displaced from their homes or hotel rooms due to the earthquake. At 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by another earthquake. At that time another prompting came. Our evacuation center had access to the hotel’s landline. It is amazing how the Holy Ghost guides our every move. I reported to our Area Authority for the first time since the Daishinsei, the mega earth quake, as the Japanese call it. “Thirty missionaries are alive and doing well.” By the end of the first twenty-four hour period forty of our seventy-two missionaries would be accounted for.
Early, in the morning the Koriyama District President Matsumura came to meet us and our missionaries. He brought food, rice balls that showed his love, as well as his insight into our needs. Good district presidents like good members everywhere, often guided by the Spirit. The Spirit will tell us what we should do, like he told President Matsumura how he could serve God’s children. Because the Spirit continued to guide us, Sister Tateoka and I knew we could not be separated from our missionaries for long. Now, I realized the sole purpose for our going back to our Hotel was to be able to make telephone contact with the Area Presidency. Having accomplished our purpose, we reunited with our missionaries, and stayed with them in the fire station evacuation center. While we were there, we were also visited by the Koriyama branch president, President Akatsuka, who also was prompted to check on us.
After morning study, I assigned a few elders to find water. I assigned the sisters to find food. I assigned others to check transportation. We still wanted to send missionaries back to their areas. The rest of us went to clean the church. Elder Warren and Elder Kaneko, focusing on their true missionary purpose, found two investigators while waiting in line for water. The missionaries invited them to dinner with us and to Sacrament meeting the next morning. We held a testimony meeting that night after dinner and all bore a strong testimony of the goodness of the Lord in preserving us minute by minute. We realized then, in a manner even more strongly than we had known before, that we must rely on the Lord.
Later we learned that in Fukushima and Iwaki the nuclear reactors had failed and radiation threats were forcing evacuation of nearby residences. Through promptings of the Spirit the Iwaki elders as well as the Fukushima elders and sisters were safe in Koriyama. Mission presidents were instructed to hold frequent leadership conferences. Those attending leadership conference were to include all zone leaders, district leaders and trainers. The Iwaki Elders were not in the group invited to leadership training. But, another prompting of the Holy Spirit, told me that the Iwaki elders needed to be present, so they came, and were out of harm’s way. The Lord inspires his leaders to put his missionaries where they will be safe.
Moreover, the Lord controlled the time we were in Koriyama. Every other training and every other Zone Conference was completed in a week. These meetings were always held in Koriyama on Thursday. This time the Lord called for a Friday schedule since member district conference would be on Saturday and Sunday in Koriyama. Because the mega earthquake occurred on Friday, the Lord’s disciple, our Area President, was safe in Tokyo. Had the earthquake occurred twenty-four hours later, the Area President would have been trapped in Koriyama. The Lord had protected His servant from coming into an area where he would be without communication and transportation. Not only did the Lord, protect the Seventy, but He also protected His missionaries. He scheduled the missionaries where he wanted them, and when District Conference was canceled, the Lord allowed a member from Aizuwakamatsu to come to the canceled District Conference. This provided a way for the Aizuwakamatsu elders to return safely to their area. Other members, like my counselor President Yoshida, were prompted to come to Koriyama. He was in Niigata and drove to Koriyama. He was in precisely the right area so an elder could ride with him and his sick grandchild back to safety in Niigata. These members, too, received and heeded promptings of the Lord to be in a place where they could be of service to the Lord’s missionaries.
Early Sunday morning, I awoke early and was once given an impression to go to Fukushima to retrieve the elders’ and sisters’ possessions. Little did I know that the missionaries would be evacuated and would take the possessions that they retrieved that Sunday morning with them to Sapporo. At that time the world did not know anything about the radiation dangers, nor did I even know that Fukushima had a nuclear power plant. But the Lord knew and provided a way to not only get the elders and sisters safely out of harm’s way, but out of harm’s way with possessions in hand.
I had planned Sunday meetings previously so everything went relatively smoothly for Sunday services. Elder Satomi taught his last lesson in Koriyama before leaving for home. Sunday afternoon we were able to drive the three Fukushima Sisters and the two assistants safely to Niigata. The drive which would normally take a few hours by freeway took over six hours on side roads. We drove more than eighteen hours without a concern. God continues to be a God of miracles. The miracle of the non-consuming gas tank helped us realize that God continues to protect his missionaries. The gasoline fuel level, like the widow of Zarepath’s cruse of oil, “wasted not.”
Sunday evening brought another challenge. In our weekly call in, several missionaries were not accounted for. Ishinomaki was hit hard by the tsunami as was Miyako and Tagajo. The Ishinomaki sisters initially reported they were safe in the emergency shelter. However, they failed to report in Sunday evening. Their rescue will be described in more detail below. The Miyako elders, similarly were safe in the evacuation shelter only to learn that rising water stranded the elders, first in the auditorium, then to the first floor and then to the second floor. We would later learn that the government considered rescuing these elders by helicopter. The water receded just sufficient enough to allow a member to drive them inland to safety in the Morioka Church. The Tagajo elders were trapped for over twenty hours in the church while the tsunami raged around them. Their bikes were swept away by the tsunami, the elders walked through the ravaged city until they were picked up by a member and driven to the next closest chapel at Kamisugi were they would stay with the Kamisugi Zone Leaders and others displaced by the earthquake and the tsunami. In each instance, the missionaries in the three most damaged cities, initially, found safe shelter, and then were subsequently rescued as a result of their initially listening to the prompting of the Spirit and then being assisted by someone else who was directed by the Spirit to come to their assistance.
On Monday, March 14th, we tried to hold training as usual in Niigata, but continued to field concerned calls from the Area Presidency and anxious missionaries. Eventually I turned the meeting over to my assistants and focused on a plan to move all the elders to what the Area Presidency and I deemed green zones, areas where the missionaries would not be required to stay in emergency shelters, where they could have running water, electricity and gas. In Niigata we were blessed with electricity and telephone service. The mission home was still without electricity and water, Koriyama had no water. Being in Niigata was a blessing and another tender mercy of the Lord. In Niigata we had continual communication with the Area Authority and the opportunity to develop an evacuation plan
On Tuesday, March 15, we traveled to Tokyo to present our evacuation plan from red zones to safe green zones to the Area Authority. We had not heard anything from the Ishinomaki Sisters since Friday. Our concern elevated each time we heard of the numerous casualties in Ishinomaki. When we reached Tokyo, our first priority was to find the Ishinomaki sisters. Sister Tateoka and I had prayed and fasted that they might be found. By then we had organized a search for them and the first day yielded no results. They could not be found in the evacuation center. My concern was that they were attempting to contact their recent convert who was scheduled to be out at sea on his fishing boat. In Tokyo, Brother Wada, the director of temporal affairs, acting on a prompting of the Spirit, suggested that we trace all the Ishinomaki sister’s telephone calls. After calling the most recent recipients of telephone calls, we learned that the sisters were well. They were out by day doing what missionaries do best, being an example of Christ-like service. We dispatched members to pick up the sisters and deliver them safely to the Nagamachi sisters, the closest area to the mission home.
On Tuesday, while in Tokyo we arranged for a van and a bus to take our elders and sisters out of difficult situations to more comfortable, safe areas. Gasoline was unavailable. Public transportation was not available in the central corridor of our mission, nor was it available on the hard hit east coast. Private cars and a single charter bus were all that was available. Buses ran on diesel fuel and were able to continue some service. Sister Tateoka and I would personally pick up elders in remote areas where bus or van access was not practical. Back on Tuesday night we called out the transfers.
On Wednesday, March 16th Elder Holland made his announcement that our missionaries would be moved to Sapporo and our transfer plans became more intense. Because we could not buy gasoline in the interior of our mission, a rescue attempt was precarious. On route to pick up the elders for the originally scheduled transfer, we learned of the need to evacuate. Due to a blessing of the Lord, we already had the means of transportation in place for a total evacuation. We simply called the elders and sister who were originally not transferring and told them that they too, must board the bus as well. Arriving by bus and limited public transportation, almost, two thirds of our missionaries arrived safely in our mission’s northern most city, Aomori. The bus had miraculously been arranged for the day before when roads were still impassable and gas almost impossible to obtain. The missionaries spent the night in Aomori before they flew south to Tokyo. Then they flew back up north again, across Aomori over the Aomori Bay to Sapporo where they would be safe. One companionship of sisters was scheduled to travel by ferry from their seaport town of Akita to Aomori. But the sea was too rough to travel. But by another tender mercy of the Lord, one train on the northern part of the island was running, the train from Akita to Aomori. The Sisters were able to catch the train to Aomori where they joined the other missionaries. Only our Heavenly Father could orchestrate such a smooth transition in such a short time. God directs his missionaries and their leaders.
About one forth of our missionaries moved from Koriyama, a city approximately 100 kilometers from the now well-known Fukushima nuclear reactors, to a city where they would be safe. One of the Lord’s tender mercies was that at the time of the evacuation, I had already moved five missionaries in my van, one came with president Yoshida and two had traveled with a member, so the Presiding Bishopric van was sufficient to remove the remaining Koriyama missionaries to Niigata. Having arrived in Niigata, the Koriyama elders who rode in the Presiding Bishopric van and those we moved previously were safe. From there, part of the Koriyama zone continued to Tokyo in the Presiding Bishopric van, while the other part of the Koriyama zone and the Niigata zone traveled by bullet train. From Tokyo both zones flew to Sapporo.
Wednesday, March 16th was a long day. Sister Tateoka and I drove to the mission home to pick up passports. The original plan was for us to pick up the Mission home elders, but they were instructed to board the bus going to Aomori. This enabled us up to pick up the four elders who now remained in our mission. After picking up the first companionship in Yamagata at about 5:30 p.m., we traveled across the mountains. Shortly, after picking up the elders, the weather changed. Driving snow hindered our progress. We encountered blizzard-like conditions. Visibility was near zero, yet we persevered. We reached the summit at 7:30 p.m. happy to have traveled so far in safety, but having sufficiently depleted our gasoline supply. The blizzard had not deterred us. But an avalanche and the ensuing road closure forced us to turn around and go back to Yamagata, the city where we picked up the elders originally. Once in Yamagata, we had insufficient gasoline to travel on to our destination, Niigata. Gasoline was not available to be purchased at any time, let alone at 8:00 p.m.
We prayed again for a miracle. The elders began to call all the members to see if they could find some gasoline. Initially, no gasoline could be found and none could be purchased. Finally, the missionaries found a less-active member, who they had been working with (once again another tender mercy of the Lord) who had gasoline. Brother Tsuchihashi, lived sixty kilometer north of Yamagata (the opposite direction from where we wanted to go) in a small town called Shinjo. He could give us twenty liters of gasoline. We determined, if we received twenty liters of gasoline, but had to travel sixty kilometers out of our way and back to receive it, we would still benefit by approximately 10 liters. This would be precisely enough gasoline to take us to Niigata. So the trip was worthwhile.
We call the blessing of obtaining gasoline at 10:30 at night the “miracle of Shinjo.” But the miracle does not end there. Outside of Shinjo is another mountain pass, not often traveled. My counselor called and was surprised to learn we were in Shinjo. He exclaimed, “You are in Shinjo. From there you can take the mountain pass to the Tsuruoka elder’s apartment.” Unbeknown to us, our back tracking put us precisely in line to go around the avalanche to reach our elders in Tsuruoka. We said another prayer thanking the Lord for his goodness and traveled to the last elder’s apartment. We reached the Tsuruoka elders’ apartment at approximately midnight, happy to be safe and well. Traveling to Niigata, we looked down at the turbulent Sea of Japan, were grateful that our Akita sisters traveled by train rather than take a ferry. The Lord had once again protected his missionaries. We then traveled by car to Niigata, by bullet train to Tokyo and then by airplane to Sapporo.
I have contemplated many times upon the chain of miracles necessary to evacuate all of our missionaries. The Lord watches out for his missionaries. He blesses us minute by minute. He answers our prayers. The Holy Ghost inspires us as to what we must do and when we must do it. He comforts us and assists us with faith and understanding to carry on successfully. If we rely on the Lord, everything will work out alright. God lives. His leaders are inspired. He loves each one of us. He gives us breath, direction, hope and salvation. He goes before us and is on our right hand and left hand and sends his angels to bear us up. I thank Him for the blessing of working with His missionaries. That blessing is only surpassed by the blessing of now being able to work with those members who must now live and rebuild in this troubled area. The miracles continue each day. I am blessed to be here and to see the Lord’s work. This work will roll forth until it sounds in every ear. I am happy to be a part of it. I say these things in the name of our Savior, our Lord and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
Presently, all are missionaries are safely in Sapporo. This week the water came back on here in Sendai. All of the members of our 4 member Districts are accounted for and are in good health. We have had family members pass away, family members that are not accounted for. Some home that have been completely lost, or destroyed. We still have some member and their families living in shelters. The Church response has be overwhelming. People are starting to go back to work. Everyone seem to be able to get food and water. Gasoline is in short supply. The lines are three hours long for 20 liters. Food is coming back on the shelves. The freeways are opened this week. Airlines and railroad serve is stopped in the core areas of our mission. The member are in good spirits. We have been greatly blessed by the Lord. Testimony meetings are incredible. We are truly thankful for each day of life. The Lord gives us our daily bread. In the tsunami effected area, the homes are all gutted, cars overturned, mud is everywhere and everyone is working on making conditions livable. Many volunteers have come to help. Trucks bring water and fuel oil and food. No one seems to question, “why?” They just remain grateful for their family and for what little they have been able to salvage. One church is severely damaged, and one missionary apartment is severely damaged and will be closed. Two other churches have structural damage, but for the most part our buildings we unharmed. Thank you for your prayers and love. There is no place we would rather be. The Gospel is true. God loves his children. He knows each one of us by name and by need. He answer prayers, both uttered and unexpressed. He protects us minute by minute. He provides for us hour by hour. He is our Redeemer and Savior. It is a privilege to be able to be part of his church and to serve in this wonderful land.
Many people have asked how they could help. If you are so inclined, we have ask the Church for a huge sum of money to help with the relief effort. Any contributions to the Church Humanitarian effort specifically earmarked for Japan Sendai would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help.
Love,
Reid and Shauna