Week 90 – Leaving Nago

Transfer calls have come and what a surprise!
After only one transfer with Elder Baker… (and one week as a trio) I’m transferring.
I’ll be going to Izuka City in Fukuoka prefecture!

This week was a blast!  Honestly, our ‘awkward trio’ was one of the most fun companionships I’ve been in.  Not too much happened this week, we just knocked on doors and met a lot of people.

I’ll honestly be pretty sad to leave Nago and this companionship, but I’m sure there’s something I need to do or learn in Izuka.  I told Elder Baker today that every transfer has a purpose, it’s not just random.  I think life’s the same way.  Everywhere we go and everyone we meet, there’s something for us to learn or someone for us to help.
God sends us companions, or friends, or family, or total strangers to be ‘angels’ in our lives, and sometimes asks us to be one of those ‘angels,’ too.  Those opportunities are something to be grateful for.

Have a great week and do something nice for someone today!  I love you all!!
Elder Houseknecht

P.S. One more thought for this week:  “Whose needs am I really trying to meet?”
This transfer I’m trying to focus on charity and humility, especially by focusing on the needs of others.  I’ve found that when I focus only on myself, it’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up, but when I focus on others I feel motivated and I really feel like God is supporting me.  This question helps me keep perspective.



Week 85 – New companion, new calling

Hey everyone! How’s life?
I hope the weather is nice wherever you are.  It’s been rather chilly
the past few days, but it seems like it’s starting to warm up.

This week was full of goodbyes and hellos.  Elder Aoki is going
home so we…basically went out to eat every day.

Also, Elder Mizukawa is leaving…to Okinawa City!  So we’re still in the same zone and we’ll probably see each other pretty often.

We also went to the beach and took goodbye photos with Elder Aoki.  Elder Brinkerhoff still doesn’t know his trainer went home…  We told him Elder Aoki became zone leader in Fukuoka. 😅  I wonder when he’ll find out…
Elder Brinkerhoff and I are staying.  Elder Brinkerhoff gets a new companion, and I’m training.  Yep.  My companion is coming in straight from the MTC!

So I went up to Fukuoka to pick up my new companion (and get trained on how to train) with the other trainers from Okinawa, and we had a blast!  My new companion is Elder Baker from Maryland.  He’s half Korean, and his Japanese is pretty good!

That’s about all we did this week, other than some basketball dendou [missionary work]!

It was way sad to say goodbye, but I’m way excited to see what happens this transfer! Love you all!
Elder Houseknecht

Week 13 – Taikai!‏

This week was really fun, but also pretty packed! We seem to be getting busier and busier, but that’s a good thing I guess.

On Tuesday
we visited China kyoudai [brother] (we’ve been doing so almost every Tuesday), and taught him about following the prophet (from PMG* lesson 4). We showed him a picture of President Monson**, talked a little about Conference*** and about the Twelve Apostles^, and talked about testimony.

We told him that testimony is basically a combination of knowledge and kakushin [confirmation], and he said that he’s already gotten kakushin!

He’s started saying he wants to be baptized sooner rather that later!

*PMG: Preach My Gospel.  It’s a manual for missionaries to use as they teach investigators.
**President Monson: Thomas S. Monson, the current Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
***Conference: General Conference is a semi-annual meeting where members of the Church gather to listen to the current prophet and other Church leaders speak on a variety of gospel topics
^Twelve Apostles: Twelve men who are called of God, just as in the days of Jesus Christ

Sachiko san…
is still in Nago.
We’re going to call her this week to see if she’s back, so please pray that she’ll be back soon and be able to come to church!

On Wednesday
we had junkai [splits] with the Zone Leaders! I went with Wheeler chourou [Elder], and it was an interesting experience. He definitely has a different style of doing dendou [missionary work] than Garrard chourou.

We had some interesting happenings, including randomly housing* into a member family! and forgetting to share a message…Smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat
That was my unforgettable lesson from Junkai.

*Housing: going from house to house in order to find people who might be interested in hearing the missionaries’ message

The Taikai [Stake Conference]
Elder Choi (pronounced Che) and his wife gave us some really good training/talks, and Egan kaichou [President] and shimai [Sister] gave us some extra training. I basically compiled twelve points from the notes I took, so I’ll share a few:

1. Fill our lives with obedience. If you do, there will be no room for temptations or distractions. “Today I obey, tomorrow I understand” -Sister Hinckley
2. Elevate our thoughts. We are called as servants of Christ, but the invitation is to be Christ’s friends. (John 15:14-15) We do that by making our thoughts like His (Isaiah 55:8-9)
3. Happy wife, happy life. (they surprisingly talked a lot about marriage, but only to the elders…) Build habits now that will lead to a good marriage relationship. Do all you can to serve your douryou [companion].
4. I can baptize every week! We have to have high expectations to get high results.

They encouraged us to sing all the time, especially in dendou, especially when we get kekkou-ed [turned away]. They also talked a lot about involving members and working smart.

That’s about all that happened this week. I don’t really have any pictures to send this time, but I’ll be on the lookout for picture opportunities!I love you all!!!!!

Have a great week!! Thank you for all the support and prayers!

-Elder Houseknecht


To read more about prophets and apostles, click [ HERE ].  If you have any questions, leave a comment below, and we will do our best to answer!  🙂

Week 12‏

China kyoudai [brother]
is doing better.  Even though we told him we didn’t want to put too much pressure on him, he basically said ‘lay it on!’ (but in a more teinei [polite] way).

We told him that we still have some commandments we need to teach him, but that when he gets kakushin [confirmation] that the Church is true, he’ll be able to be baptized.
He said, ‘I already have kakushin‘.   ( ! )

Yep, China kyoudai knows the Church is true! He definitely wants to be baptized as soon as possible, but he also understands how big a commitment it is, so he wants to prepare right.

Sachiko san
is still in Nago… She said she should be back around this time, so we’re going to call her and see how she’s doing. Last time we called she said she doesn’t have time to go to church, but we’re praying that she’ll have enough desire to go that she’ll find the time.

So we’re continuing the hunt for new investigators.
We’re definitely working hard, but we haven’t found anyone yet. We probably need to find more ways to work smart.

(By the way, did I mention Egan kaichou’s [President’s] five steps to a successful missionary? If not, they’re:
1. Work hard 2. Work smart 3. Be strictly obedient 4. Have fun 5. Come home tired)

Actually, I said we haven’t found anyone new, but we have had some more people come to Eikaiwa*, including a photographer that speaks really good English and loves Mormons. He even came to Okinawa Stake Conference this week! Person raising both hands in celebration If he comes to church again, we’ll definitely have to teach him.

*Eikaiwa: Weekly English conversation classes that the Church offers to communities throughout Japan

Okinawa Stake conference
It was super fun, and really uplifting! President and Sister Egan were there, and though both of them spoke the real highlight was getting a hug from Egan kaichou.

Obon has been really loud. In Okinawa they have something called Eisa (or Eisa bon bon, as children call it) which involves a lot of drums and shamisen [a traditional Japanese stringed instrument]. In the middle of the night, almost right outside our apartment.

Anyway, it was kind of strange experiencing obon from the outside, without doing ohaka-mairi [visiting ancestors’ grave site] or anything**…

*Obon: A Buddhist summer custom to pay respect to the spirits of one’s ancestors. Usually held in mid-August, it is a four day-long period when it is believed that the spirits of one’s ancestors return to their former homes. On Obon, families get together to clean their ancestors’ graves, and offer food and incense to their ancestors on the first and the last days of Obon in order to greet them and then see them off. The way Obon is celebrated differs from region to region in Japan. 

**Elder Houseknecht participated in Obon when he lived in Japan two years ago.  
I love you all!!!
Thank you so much for all your prayers!
-Elder Houseknecht

Week 11 – Finding new investigators

All of our investigators are in limbo right now…
Sachiko san is in Nago, taking care of a cousin who just got released from the hospital. She’s super busy, so she said she wouldn’t be going to church or any activities there…Crying face
We’ll definitely pick her back up when she gets back, but she’ll be gone for at least the month, maybe longer.

China san is still here.
BUT we might not be able to teach him for a while.
He has a lot of stress and a really tough family situation that he needs to get sorted out before he can really progress. I think as much the gospel has been helping him (he himself has pointed out many times the peace it brings) it’s also a huge commitment and a little stressful for him. Crying face
so we’re just going to visit from time to time to check up on him.

So we have no progressing investigators. Smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat And we can’t really pick up any of our potential investigators until they come to church.

So we’re going to do a lot of finding! Person raising both hands in celebration
It’s kind of funny–I got here and was almost immediately given two investigators. One was already investigating, the other was a referral. So I don’t have any experience finding my own investigators! I don’t really know what to do!! Dizzy face
But I guess all there is to do is work and trust in the Lord!

This week was Zone Training Meeting!
The whole Ginowan zone was gathered to have training from Wheeler chourou [Elder] and Urata chourou.
I got to translate for our three Japanese missionaries.
So I discovered exactly what to focus on in Language study!
I really need to pick up more advanced phrase patterns, so I’m going to be studying from soutaikai! [General Conference] Person raising both hands in celebration

A member of the seventy is coming on a mission tour soon!
He’s from Korea. He’ll be here sometime next month, and I’m tanoshimi ni shiteru-ing [Looking forward to] the training he’ll give!

I love you all!!!
-Elder Houseknecht

Week 10

There are a lot of F-15s flying around here,
so sometimes if Garrard chourou [elder] and I are lucky we can see them taking off.
There was even a day when one passed less than 30 ft directly over my head to do a touch and go!
Aaaannd….sometimes I get distracted watching them and run into posts.*
Yep, I’ve crashed twice, but I managed to step off my bike as I was crashing both times, so I just scraped my elbows.
ElbowsIt’s not too bad Smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes

Update on investigators:
Sachiko San needs prayers so she can have courage to be baptized.

China San is doing pretty well. He’s reading and praying, and we’re getting ready to re invite him to a baptismal date.
There’s a cool thing we’re going to do called a baptism calendar, where we actually schedule out on a calendar what we have left to teach so they can have an easier time committing to a date.

Do you know what time we leave the apartment each day?
Here’s a typical day from last transfer.
Planner**Planner reads:
8:00 Personal study
9:00 Companion study
10:00 Language study
11:00 Lunch
12:00 Training
1:00 Mock lessons
1:30 Update Area Book
2:30 Adrian & Cindy
3:45 To Church (or Housing)
4:00 Lesson with Sachiko
5:00 Dinner
5:30 to Mizugama
6:00 Housing
7:45 to Michael & Roni
8:00 Michael & Roni
9:30 Daily planning

I leave the apartment at 2:30
We have studies, lunch, training, mogi [mock lessons*], then updating the Area Book Planner app (we have to load in all our old records..’ )

*Missionaries practice teaching with one Missionary acting as the teacher, and one as the investigator.

Here’s the fun part of the Area Book Planner app:
This is the legal hullabaloo that we have to navigate when we transfer records…
I’m not a fan of politics…
Oh well.
Area book

The Atonement:
I used to hate the new app (at least I hated transferring records, and the whole data privacy thing) but I’ve decided that I’m going to like it. So I’ll just ganbaru!! [Work hard and persevere!!!]

That’s something I’ve really been working on. It started with small things, like volleyball, and it’s moved to bigger things like the app.

I’ve realized that in order to receive the blessings of the Atonement, we need to change our attitudes, even in small ways like deciding to like something, or deciding not to be scared to try something.

I love you all!!!
Have a great week!

-Elder Houseknecht


Some Photos

Had another typhoon day
on Saturday. We had to stay inside, but it wasn’t that hidoi [awful]. The weather was really pretty before the taifuu [typhoon], though

"The calm before the storm..." Panorama of the area outside Elder Houseknecht's apartment, before a typhoon

“The calm before the storm…”
Panorama of the area outside Elder Houseknecht’s apartment, before a typhoon

They say the prettier it is, the more hidoi it’ll be, but it wasn’t bad at all…

Shurijo [Shuri Castle]

Throne of the Ryuukyuu Kings

Shurijo was apparently the palace of the old Ryuku [the name of the island chain on the south of Japan that includes Okinawa] Kings.
Along with their ridiculous thrones Face Without Mouth
I kind of want one…




Shuri Jo courtyard

Shuri Jo courtyard

Someone took a lot of panoramas and air dropped (sent them over Bluetooth) to me. I have about twenty others…

Week 9 – Transfers!

This week is transfers*
so they moved pday to Tuesday (when we get our transfer calls).
I haven’t gotten an official transfer call yet, but it looks like I’ll be staying! At least, I assume so, since Garrard chourou [Elder] had a long ‘Trainer’s training’ yesterday. I guess he could get a new bean**…

*Transfers: missionaries are periodically transferred to different areas within the mission boundaries, as the mission president is inspired to move them.  The time between transfers varies from mission to mission, but a common length is six weeks.
Missionaries usually stay in an area for 3-6 months before being transferred.  

**Bean: as in ‘green bean’; missionary slang for a missionary who’s just come to the mission field from the MTC.

Here’s the update–
China kyoudai [Brother] is getting closer and closer to a baptismal date! We taught him about the qualifications for baptism (D&C* 20:37) and encouraged him to think specifically about when he wants to get baptized. He’s definitely reading and he’s praying now, so I’m sure he’ll get an answer. He’s definitely prepared for baptism (other than the lessons we haven’t taught him yet); he just needs to feel prepared, and I think he’ll commit to a date.

*D&C: the abbreviation for Doctrine and Covenants, a book of scripture contained in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ scriptural canon.  It contains divine revelation and inspired declarations for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days.  

[For more information, click this link.]

Sachiko san
might be slipping a little. She still comes to church every week and to almost every activity, but we haven’t been able to meet with her as often as we’d like. She definitely still loves the church, and she still wants to share the gospel with her family; she just needs a strong friend in the church to answer her questions and take her from class to class and such.

Please pray that we can find someone who will do that!

In the meantime, we’ll be teaching her good study habits so she can fill her life with goodness.

We’re also focusing
on finding English speaking investigators. We’ve found a new area with a lot of Americans (called Sunabe, if you want to check a map), so we’ll be proselyting there on evenings and weekends.

So. Transfers.
Malen chourou [elder] and Richards chourou [elder] are leaving! They’re ‘dying’ as they say here.

So we had a party yesterday with a bunch of members and some investigators. I’ll send pictures when I get a chance, but today we’re hanging out in a place called American Village near the base. I think there’s a beach, and some shops, but I’ve never been there before…

We’re leaving now, so I’ll have some catching up to do on emails next week! (transfer pdays are a little more hectic)

I love you all!!!
Have a great week!
-Elder Houseknecht

Week 8 – Miracles  

Houston, Elder Houseknecht, do you read?

I’ve been focusing on looking for miracles this week, and yappari [as expected] I’ve been seeing them everywhere.

Dendou [mission] update:
We’ve been teaching China kyoudai [brother China] the life of Christ, and this week we taught him about miracles, and how they relate allegorically to the Atonement.
We especially focused on Christ calming the tempest, and used hymn 103 (Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer) to illustrate our point.
It was a great lesson, and at the end we once again emphasized the importance of prayer.

China kyoudai hasn’t been praying in lessons (though he says he’s prayed alone), so we decided to go to the absolute basics.
We went around the room, each naming one thing we’re grateful for, and then Garrard chourou [Elder Garrard] demonstrated how to turn those things into a simple prayer (‘Dear Heavenly Father, we’re thankful for our families. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen’)
When we reached China kyoudai he said he’s grateful he met us.
So we committed him to put that feeling in a prayer, and he prayed!!!
China kyoudai finally prayed!!
Person raising both hands in celebrationPerson raising both hands in celebrationPerson raising both hands in celebration
Okay, I’m calm now.

Sachiko san is also doing well
We taught her this Saturday (it’s been about three weeks) and we had a really good lesson.
We reviewed Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and we told her we’d teach her how to study the scriptures next time.
She really likes studying, so she asked us to give her a triple combination (so she can read along in Sacrament meeting).
Oh, and this is good–she told us she wants to share the gospel with her children! She even said she’d try to bring her daughter to church with her soon.
So…she doesn’t think she’s ready to be baptized, but she is full of dendou [mission] fire.
I don’t get it, but it’s still good! Person raising both hands in celebration

I love you all!!!
Be happy, be awesome, be you!
-Elder Houseknecht

Week 7 – more not proselyting stuff

Hey everyone!!!
How are you all?

China kyoudai [brother]
and Sachiko san are both progressing…albeit a little more slowly than before. They’ve kind of plateaued at a point where they just want to study more before being baptized.

I think China kyoudai wants to finish the Bible and the Book of Mormon before he decides on a date (though he’s definitely willing to be baptized. He’s said many times that he’s grown to like Christianity more than Buddhism. He says that Christians are nicer), and he’s well on his way–he’s in Isaiah and Mosiah, respectively. (it’s only been three weeks Face Without Mouth)

Sachiko san

is already more active than half the ward members! She comes to eikaiwa* [English conversation class], katei no yube** [Family Home Evening], and church, and she’s really supportive of the missionaries.
We’re going to try to meet with her more often from now on (before, it was just on Sundays), but it all depends on whether we can get someone to joint for us (the rule of three and all that***).
Mostly, we need to help her develop good study habits and to start praying.
I think they both just need spiritual experiences. Their hearts are in the right places, they
just need to get an answer. Please pray for them!!! Person with folded hands

*The missionaries teach a weekly English conversation class as a way to fellowship the local residents

**Family Home Evenings are usually held on Mondays, when a family or a small group gets together and has a spiritual thought or mini lesson, plays games, sings songs, and has refreshments

***When teaching an investigator of the opposite gender, missionaries must have one extra member of the missionaries’ gender attending the lesson

As for non proselyting stuff–
We had another taifuu [typhoon] day!!!!! Person raising both hands in celebrationUmbrella with rain drops
Taifuu days are boooooorrrrriiiinnngg… We have to stay inside, and the weather wasn’t even that bad this time. (seriously. It was only a little windy. It didn’t even rain)

Some updates on ipad dendou [missionary work]*!
So, so far we’ve been using our ipads for study, and that’s it. We have the gospel library app, a cool dictionary app, and a bunch of other app options for language learning and teaching aids (like interactive pamphlets toka [and such]).
BUT this week they introduced the Area Book Planner** app!!! Person raising both hands in celebrationPerson raising both hands in celebration
It’s…exactly what it sounds like. A combined Area Book and planner.
BUT here’s the bad part–we have to transfer every record in our (super thick, disorganized) Area Book one at a time.
Which is what we did all day on taifuu day (Sat)

*Recently the missionaries were given ipads from the Church to help them be more effective in their missionary work

**The Area Book is where the missionaries keep their records of the people they’ve contacted or taught as they’ve served in the area

On to better things–
A week ago we did Junkai [splits]!!! Person raising both hands in celebration
Junkai are companion exchanges for training. We split with the district leader (and his companion) and they both join you in your area.
Junkai are apparently really good at bringing miracles, so we do junkai review at the end, where you say one thing you learned, one miracle, one thing you want to work on, and one thing for your (temporary) companion to work on. <hope that made sense
So last week I teamed up with Malen chourou [Elder] to bring some miracles to…his area. They had some appointments scheduled on junkai, so I was to going to go with Malen chourou to do those ( they all fell through though Crying face)

Before I forget–
there are some additional music rules for this mission–I can only listen to music if it’s officially church authorized (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, BYU men’s chorus) or if it’s Sacrament meeting appropriate.

Anyway, I think that’s it for this week!
I probably won’t have time to answer personal emails this week, but I’ll be sure to next week!
I love you guys so much!!!!!
Thank you for all your support and prayers!!!

-Elder Houseknecht