Saturday, January 24, 2015

This Week's Pictures - 19 January, 2015

Elder Tolen having fun
Elder Livingston at a shrine

Shinkansen - Bullet Train


Giant Bell

Shrine / Temple- Main Building

Random Statue #1

Random Statue #2

? Wood Carving ?

Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me - Letter to Mom - 19 January, 2015

Hey, Mom!!! :) <3

I hope that you are doing okay. I was happy to get all of your emails today and to hear that you are recovering. I know that it can be super hard and painful for you, but know that this is also so so good. The best things in life are often extemely painful, I feel like. Like leaving everyone to come serve a mission. It was definitely painful, and I miss you all so so much, but the joy that I am experiencing now, as well as the joy that I will feel when I can return home with honor far outway the pain. Don't worry about me. I am super safe, and only slightly lost some of the time. ;D haha The language is coming along well, and I can understand quite a bit, but I still have so so far to go! Thankfully with Elder Suzuki (the new Elder in the apartment) I will be able to listen more for how to speak Japanese, not just the words that Japanese people use. I miss you too, but I hope that this letter brings me a little bit closer to you!!

To explain the title, I need to turn to a  miracle from this last week, and share an incredible testimony strengthening experience for me. It was last Saturday, we had just finished District Meeting (which, by the way, I love district meetings. I am sitll trying to get over feeling just a little awkward that I am District Leader. haha :) I love it, but sometimes I feel way too inadequate and unexperienced to be district leader.) and we were walking towards the eki (train station) to go and do some streeting and housing in an area that we felt imipressed to go to. On the way we passed this park and saw a bunch of young boys playing soccer,  and I really wanted to play. Elder Tolen wanted to play too, but he told me that I ultimately had to decide because I was senior companion. Which is true. :P haha so we prayed about it, and we didn't feel like we should strongly do one activity or the other (soccer or streeting) so I decided to play soccer, and hang out with these boys. We found out later they are all about 12-13, as a frame of reference. We went over and asked if they could play, and the conversation that ensued was hilarious. They didn't know what to do with us, and I don't think they actually grasped that we understood Japanese so they looked at each other like, "Oh no. What do we do with the foreigners? Do we tell them to leave?" They decided that we could stay outside of the activity they were doing and play pass with the one odd man out. haha So, we did that for a while. All the while I was super curious as to whether or not we were wasting our time, or actually supposed to be there. After a bit, they had a break, and didn't really talk to us, and then they said, "Let's play a real game now." And we got to play soccer. Thank heavens. :) haha I actually got to play with them, and when we played they saw we were real people, and really friendly. They got way into it, and warmed up to us pretty quickly after we started playing. Soon they were tired, and took a break, and they started to ask us questions like why we were in Japan, and what food we liked, etc. We actually got to invite four of them to church! Sadly, they had a soccer game the next day. After that we went and played a version of kick the can (which can be difficult when you have to stay within sight and sound of a companion haha) and had a way good time. We said goodbye and gave them our number, and asked if they would call us to play soccer again sometime. And I didn't think about it a whole lot more after that. And then that night when Elder Tolen and I knelt down to pray in order to start our daily planning session, I heard the Spirit talk to me and tell me that playing soccer was exactly what we had needed to do that day. The Spirit filled my heart, and I knew that even if the reasons weren't clear to me right then, we needed to go and play soccer with those boys. When I was thinking about it later I thought of the scripture where Christ tells His disciples to suffer the little children to come to Him. I know that those boys will grow up with an image of the missionaries playing soccer with them. They will love that memory, and maybe someday when a missionary knocks on their door they will open it up.

Mom, you are an incredible woman. Your strength amazes me. I talk about you quite a bit to people here, and tell them how amazing you are, and how you always kept going even when you were sick. It really impressed me growing up, especially the more I came to realize just how poorly you felt. You are superwoman. That is the truth. I know that the Lord gives you these trials because He knows that you could handle them. You will. You are. It is amazing to see your strength and grace at times like these (with your surgery and everything). The Lord is really helping you to become exactly what He needs you to be. I feel much like President Eyring when he talked about his mother, saying that if a woman like his mom needed trials like she had to become more perfect, he had a lot still in store for him! haha I definitely hope that I can grow up and be like you someday. You are absolutely incredible, and your light shines. I love you so so much. :) Reach out to the neighbors in our area and help them know that you love them. When they do, they will be more open to the gospel. The Lord doesn't just call 18 year old boys and 19 year old girls on missions. He calls moms and dads. Look for the areas that He has called you in. Particularly with your calling of being a mother you have a sacred responsibility, and I have seen you magnify that calling in a way that no other woman has. I love you, so so so much, mom. <3 :) Know that I am thinking about you and praying for you!!

Love, Elder Livingston

P.S. Here is a Japanese Joke. :) haha Okay, so this man walks to a movie theater, and is so excited to see the new Hobbit!! However, when he arrives, no shows are playing that evening. What does he say? :)

Shoganai!!! hahaha get it? :) <3

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pictures for this week - 11 January, 2015

Elder Livingston in front of bamboo (Dream Team #1)

Elder Tolen in front of bamboo (Dream Team #2)

So many houses packed closely together

Mochitsuki #1

Mochitsuki #2

Mochitsuki #3

Mochitsuki #4

Mochitsuki #5

Yokohama skyline at night

Happy Birthday! - Letter to Dad - 11 January, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!! :) :)

How was your birthday? It sounds like it was pretty crazy! I wish that I could have been there for it. Know that I am thinking of you and praying for you, and I will send you a handwritten letter very soon. Sorry I haven't been very good at that, we do not have a ton of time to write handwritten letters. If you want me to send some, let me know, okay?

Also, guess what happened on your birthday? I hit my 6 month I can not believe that it has really been six months since I left. The time has flown. Where does it go? Honestly, that six month mark has done weird stuff to my dreams haha. :) I keep having this dream where I am done with my mission and I think to myself that I didn't write every day in my journal (like every day since the day I had the dream was missing) so it feels weird. We decided this morning after it happened again that it might be a sign that I need to write better in my journal, so I will definitely be doing that! haha :)

So guess what I got to do this last weekend? I got to go to a mochitsuki!! It is the party/thing where you pound rice into this rice cake kind of a thing called mochi. It tastes so so good. It is super hard work. They have this special kind of rice, I believe that it is called mochigome, and it is really sticky. You pour it into this giant granite bowl (it is super super heavy, I could barely lift it for a second . . .and you know how ripped I am ;D haha) and then you take these hammers made of wood and you start massaging it down into the bowl, and just sort of pushing it together. It starts to turn into this single ball of stuff, (all the time you have someone adding water as needed, and putting the ends of the hammers in water to keep them able to come off of the super sticky mochi) and the transformation is way crazy. And then you get to hit it! haha It is a blast. I will send some pictures. You just pound the rice ball and it continues to get gooier and stick together better, and when it is all smooth and together with no individual rice pieces sticking out, you are done! And then you go and put various toppings on it, such as sesame seed stuff. It is super good. And so filling! One of the best parts of the entire party is that it is a really good and relaxed way for people who are not members to get acquainted with the ward members. We got to take Steven, one of our Eikaiwa students who we are hoping to introduce the gospel to soon. We are trying to build a really good relationship with him so that we can ask him naturally and he will be interested.

Also, today we got to relax a bit, and I got to play a ton of piano, actually! We just went to the church, and pulled out the ping pong table (every church here has one) and started playing ping pong and piano! haha It was so so nice to sight read again, and Elder Tolen actually brought a couple books of Jon Schmidt stuff and other Hymns, so it was really nice. I love the piano. I have been so surprised at how much I have been able to use it here on my mission. I always knew as a kid that I would use it, but I figured that it would be once a week in sacrament meeting. How wrong I was! haha I definitely am going to have all of my children learn at least some piano. If they want to branch off and play other instruments that is okay. :)

Thank you for what you said about listening to and following the Spirit. It really is so important. I think that a lot of times we don't have to expressly here his voice, though. We just need to follow what we feel, whether we are sure it is the Spirit or not. We may not recognize the Spirit as readily in the moment as we will when we can look back and see how inspired the events that transpired were. I have seen that before. Don't be afraid to just do things that you feel are correct, even if you don't have a huge confirmation from the Spirit. I know that this gospel is true. Don't forget that. Don't forget how important it is to read from the Book of Mormon. It really is the keystone of our religion, and any concerns that people may have with the church go back to that book. It is true. I have read the entire book, and I know that it is true. I have prayed about it. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that he saw our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, in a grove in the Spring of 1820. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the Earth today. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that through His Atonement we can overcome all things, and someday live with our families eternally. I love you, dad. I miss you so much, and I hope that you are healthy and happy. :) I love you!! <3

Love, Elder Livingston

Magic Towel!! - Letter to Mom - 11 January, 2015

Hey, mom! :) I am so so glad to hear that you are doing well and that you are recovering. That really is a relief to me. I  have prayed for you so much, and I will continue to pray for you. You are the most incredible mom in the universe!! :) Definitely the best mom that I have ever had. ;D haha

So, you know that miracle with the batteries? It may have been one upped this past week. Last Monday I commented to Elder Tolen on the scarcity of towels in our apartment, and how I thought that we needed to go and get some more. We did not end up getting any that day, however, so we mostly forgot it. The next day during study I here something thud in our mailbox at our door (for fliers and stuff) and I go over to find a package. It looks like a Happy New Year kind of package. :) So I open it up, and guess what was inside? A towel. :) haha A perfectly good brand new towel!! I love the little miracles, and just how evident it is that the Lord is in our lives. :) I promise that He is in yours and that if you take the time to look you will see so many more little miracles than you actually thought were occurring in your life. So take some time, and look.

Also, this week was transfer calls!! So, just so that you know, how that works is they call everyone in the mission on Monday to tell them where they are transferring, etc. and then everybody transfers on Thursday! So, this time they actually called early so everybody knew last night where they were going. :) I am . . .*drum roll*....staying in Hodogaya!!! haha This will be four transfers in Hodogaya, and about 6 months. :) Almost. haha AND....Elder Tolen is staying my companion!! :) I also get to stay district leader. However, one of the other Elders is transferring out, and we are so excited to welcome a Japanese Elder into the District! :) I am so so excited to finally have a 日本人 (Japanese Person) in our district. It is going to help our Japanese speaking ability tremendously.

Also, this past week Elder Tolen and I made it a goal to try and get one good picture a day while we are out and about. So, this week we have some much better pictures. I hope that you are continuing to try and make the scripture study that you have meaningful. That is so so important. :) Also, read Chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel and see how many connections you can find between the Christ-like Attributes. It is incredible. I did it for a training that I gave at district meeting and was in awe at just how many I found. After you have found them in the book, draw each word (faith, hope, etc.) and then connect lines between them. It was incredible to see just how many connect in the end. I didn't realize just how many connect until after I drew the picture. :) Try it!! It would be a really good Family Home Evening activity.

Another miracle I saw last week was last Monday night we were doing some phone calls to people in our phone that old missionaries had found, and we did not know who they were. Elder Tolen is on the phone (as a frame of reference, Japanese over the phone is way harder than Japanese normally) and this guy tells him that he has never met missionaries, and he has never been to English class. At this point Elder Tolen looks at me and whispers "What do I say??" You have to understand. At this point we have no idea how we have this man's number. :) haha So I told him to just go for it, and he asked the man if he wanted to meet! The man said yes, and we set up a time to meet in front of the ticket gate in Yokohama (Out of our area, but the Zone Leaders let us go to meet him). We went there Wednesday to meet and . . .he didn't show up. However, we saw this white guy (first of all, this is a rarity in Japan haha) walk up and look at the sign above the ticket gate, and then down at a paper, and then at the ticket machine, and back at the paper. Elder Tolen said, "Let's go help him right now!" and starts running over there. So I head after him, and we meet Tom, the English Teaching Canadian. He is super cool. We had a really good conversation, and helped him get a ticket, when it turns out we were heading to the same station to go back to Hodogaya! So we rode with him on the train back and had a super good conversation about the Plan of Salvation. We ended up giving him our phone number and he said that maybe he could call sometime and we could study the Bible! We have not heard from him yet, but it was incredible to see how many little things the Lord allowed to happen to set up that meeting in Yokohama with one of His lost children, to not only provide a good experience with the church, but to get him pointed in the right direction.

The miracles that we can see in the world are SOOO huge! There are so many miracles, and I am grateful for the miracles in my life. I am so grateful for the miracle that you have been for me, mom! :) I love you so so much. I miss you a lot, too, but I know that the Lord will continue to take care of you as I try to serve Him the best that I can out here on my mission. I know that the Lord is with you at all times, and in all things.

I love you so much, mom. Hang in there, even when the days are long and hard! Read Mosiah 24 on those days. :) It is such an incredible chapter about trials. I love you!! <3

Love, Elder Livingston

P.S. Get feeling well soon! I am praying for you!! :) <3

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pictures for this week - 5 January, 2015

A Beautiful Park #1

A Beautiful Park #2

Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston

Time Flies!! - Letter to Dad - 5 January, 2015

Hey Dad!!

I don't know if time actually flies, or if it just runs really really fast when you start emailing people, but it sure seems to move differently than normal! haha How are you doing this week? It sounds like it has been quite the week, and that a lot has been happening around home! Make sure that you keep Mom from working ;) and that she is taken care of. Thank you for showing me such a good example in how you treat Mom, and how you love her. That means a lot to me. I have learned so much from you, and I actually got to talk about you this past week with one of the Elders in my district who is struggling. I am so grateful for your example and for all that you do for our family.

So, you know how we want a Tesla? I know a guy who owns...a Lamborghini. Not quite a Tesla, but you know. ;) haha I haven't actually seen it, and I may have mentioned him before, but his name is Trevor. He is super cool, and speaks fluent English. He is actually the investigator for another area. I have met him before, and I actually got to meet with him all of the sudden today, and I had a really good conversation with him. I really learned today that listening is so important, and that is also something that I have learned from watching you too, Dad.  It really hit me just how much it means to people when we listen to them. I think that is something that I have changed over the time on my mission. I have learned a lot more how to listen instead of just talking (I guess not knowing the language can also play a part in that haha). I actually received a Christmas card from Qiu Shimai with her presents and she said in there that I was a very quiet person, but that I really listened to people and I was very sincere. It shocked me. Being called a quiet person has never come up in my life haha. :) But I like it. I love listening to people. If we only talked, we wouldn't know how to help people. We have to listen to them, and then we will know how we can best help them. Remember that in your calling Dad. You are teaching some amazing youth. Remember to listen to them. They will tell you with the things that they say and do exactly what they need in order to progress. Listen for it, and you will know how to help them. :)

I feel like this week has been a week of learning a lot about the Savior, and how we can have hope through Him. His Atonement is absolutely incredible, and all encompassing. I happened to read a talk by Elder Bednar from this past April Conference that talks about how the Atonement is not just for the cleansing of our sins, but also for the strengthening that we need in our times of trial. Turn to the Atonement, Dad. Turn there this week and you and Mom will see strength that you did not know existed. :) I promise.

Thank you for everything, Dad. I love you so so so much. I hope that you have a fantastic week! I will be praying for you! :)

Love, Elder Livingston

Note:  Some names may have changed to protect privacy

The Battery Miracle!! - Letter to Mom - 5 January, 2015

Hey Mom!! 
First of all, I will be praying extra hard for you this week! Please please be safe, and let the other people in our family just take care of you. Even when it might be hard to just lay there, it also might be good for you. Just be patient with your body and it will all be okay. Honestly, I just laugh at how crazy you can be with your health problems sometimes! There is no end!! haha <3 :) You will be okay, mom. I promise. I know  that the Lord has very specific plans for you and that you will continue to progress/begin to progress in a way that you have never seen before in your life. I promise you that. Trust the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. Be not afraid, only believe. 
Well, to start out this week let us talk about the miracle of the batteries! haha So on New Years day (which is a much bigger deal in Japan than Christmas is) we decided that we wanted to meet with Norton san and have a little "Party" by watching the Testaments! haha So we emailed him (they email here like we text. It is kind of weird and a hard adjustment to get used to not calling it a text) and asked him if he could, and he said he would love too, but wondered if he could have the same member, Nakayama Shimai, come as well. We said that was fine, and we got to meet him! However, as we were setting up at the church with the TV and everything we realized we forgot the Testaments at the apartment! Miracle number one: They had a copy at the church! :) So that took care of that problem. However, there was the small language barrier (bahaha....small... ;D haha) between us and the investigators, so we needed to be able to set it up with the actual speaking in Japanese, and then with English subtitles. So, we needed the remote to work. However, upon inspecting the remote, not only were the batteries old, they had battery acid all over them. Not that conducive to ...well...working. :) And then Elder Tolen said, "Hey, I think I saw some batteries in the flower garden in front of the church!" So we went outside, and sure enough there were three batteries! The Lord knew that we forgetful missionaries would need some help, and for some reason prompted someone to dump their old batteries in the flower garden at the church. We only needed two of them to work, so we tried all three combinations, and the last one worked. It was such a huge miracle. We had a good time watching the movie, and while Norton san still has a hard time recognizing the feeling of the Spirit, he did say that he loved all of the things that Christ said in the video. It is so incredible to see him progressing. I love him and all of our investigators so so much.
In other news, because this last week was the New Year, everybody is super super super super super busy!!! Nobody could really meet us, except for Norton san. He is so awesome. But, because of the difficulty of meeting with people during the New Year time, members really reach out to missionaries, and we have had four meal appointments with members in the last three days. It has been amazing. We had some incredible food, everything from sukiyaki (really really good. You should look it up) to sushi, to meat loaf! haha It has been so great.
The point that I really want to emphasize in my letter home to you today, Mom, is the necessity and power that comes from personal study. Especially when you focus on other people. Mom, I promise that if you will devote the time that you are given or that you take for your personal study for the girls that you are supposed to lead in young womens you will inevitably find what you need to not only help them, but help our family and your own personal struggles. I have seen it so so frequently on my mission. Missions are not easy. Sometimes it can be extremely stressful. It is hard sometimes to not look at myself as such a young missionary with not much to offer in my position as district leader. Most people in my district have been on their missions for almost twice as long as me. Kind of crazy! haha But that is definitely not true. Every missionary from transfer one to transfer seventeen has so much to offer. It is incredible. I learn so much from Elder Tolen. He is such a great example to me of faith in the Lord. But this week as I have tried to study for other people, I have inevitably been edified as to how I can better improve my life and overcome the personal trials that I have. I am so so grateful for the opportunity that I have to study an hour every morning. Study the scriptures mom. Particularly the Book of Mormon. It is so powerful, and has the answer to all of the questions that you may be wondering, I promise. I love you so so much, mom!
Lastly, Just know that I am praying super hard for you, particularly this week. You are going to be blessed. I promise. This is a blessing in disguise. haha It has a pretty good disguise, huh? :) haha The Lord likes to do that to us. I know that trials that come in our life are there for a reason, and that the trials that you have are exactly what you need to refine you and make you the daughter of God that He needs you to be. You have a powerful testimony, Mom. I have felt it over and over again. Share it. :) I love you!! And thank you for sending me the email about the Blume's and Jenna! That was soo cool that she got to see them! I also loved that picture. <3 Speaking of which, send more pictures of our family too!! :) <3 <3 I love you!!
Love, Elder Livingston

Note:  Some names may have changed to protect privacy

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pictures for this week - 29 December, 2014

Elder Livingston - selfie

Elders Tolen and Livingston at the Hachimangu temple in Kamakura

Hachimangu temple in Kamakura #1

Hachimangu temple in Kamakura #2

Hachimangu temple in Kamakura #3


I told you to stop! - Email chat with Dad - 29 December, 2014

My letter to Elder Livingston was actually an email chat (first one ever for me) as I happened to be online when he sent Jen the “I told you to stop!” letter.  Don’t ask me why I was up at 2am, but I was.  He needs a keyboard for his iPad and we chatted about that, but I removed such boring, techie stuff.

Dad:  Great letter for Mom!!  I loved it. We will take good care of her.

Tanner:  Thanks, Dad!! I love you!! :)
Oh, also, I did some re-translating of the things that you have on my blog so I can send those to you. :)

Dad:  I’ll try to catch up on the blog tomorrow. I've fallen a few weeks behind. Ooops!  Good to email chat with you tonight though.

Tanner:  Yeah, it has been so so good!! Question . . .why are you awake right now? haha

Dad:  Mom's awake too. She says Hi. I was up walking down my Frankfurt Mission memory lane on Facebook. Mom isn't chatting so that you can get all those other letters written. Have a great day !

Tanner:  I bet that is cool. :) Tell her that I say hi!! Thanks. :) You know, if you want to chat for a bit it might take me longer (I might not get to write you a full email) but it would be really cool! Do you want to know where I went today? Look up Hachimangu in Google. :)

Dad:  The Shinto shrine? Hachimangu in Kamakura?

Tanner:  Yep! That is the one!

Dad:  It looks really cool !

Tanner:  It is incredible!! The artwork is fantastic. I also think it is cool that even in cultures that do not believe the same thing that we do, they have temples. They have part of that truth, even if they don't have all of it.

Dad:  Wow, cool. That is pretty far from your normal area. What took you down there?

Tanner:  P-day took me down there haha it is only about an hour by train!

Dad:  Guess what I got for Christmas?  Money to save for a trip to Japan!!  I also got a book about Tokyo that has history, maps, travel information, etc. Way cool, huh?  I really want to come and see everything there when you have completed your service.  Maybe we should put the shrine on our list of places to visit.

Tanner:  That's awesome! Ahh, do you really think that you will be able to come? Who all do you think will come? And Kamakura will be on there for sure, because it has a lot. I don't have a lot of time (I just need to send pictures and then we have to go), but respond if you can!

Dad:  Well I want to come if we can. That's a ways off so we'll see about who will be there.  Love you, Son. Have a great week.

I told you to stop! - Letter to Mom - 29 December, 2014

Hi my loving mother!!

So, I distinctly remember telling you over and over again, that you had to stop being sick. That was not permission to go and require surgery. ;) I love you so much, make sure that you are taking care of yourself, and that you are getting all of the R and R that you need. (I always feel so cool when I remember English phrases like that. ;) haha)

AHHHH!!! Seeing you this past week was so so so amazing! I love you so much! I have definitely missed your smiling face. :) <3 It was so good to see the whole family there, and that you all exist. Weird how that works, huh? You keep existing, even though it feels like I'm on a separate planet! haha I loved seeing you. Also, the magazine is absolutely incredible!! Holy cow. Everyone in my apartment was in awe. :) It is so cool! I am so so glad that you included Jenna in there too. ;) It especially made me smile when you said "Here are pictures of the whole clan!" or something like that and she was in the one with all of the sisters. :) that definitely made me smile. :) Did you send her one? I think that she would really like it! Oh yeah, what did you end up sending her? :) Also, I just realized, I do not know how much time that I will have to write this week, because I have a ton of people to write to! (It is Bonnie and Ben's birthday today, and Holly's tomorrow, so I need to write them today!) I will write as much as I can though. :)

Hmm....this last week...Well, first of all, Christmas here is so so different! Most people just eat Christmas cake on Christmas day, and that is about it. Kind of sad! And they have absolutely no concept of what Christmas caroling is! We tried to do it a couple of times, and people just ask, "What is that? You want to sing? Why?" It is super hilarious! We had a super incredible miracle, though!! Ahh, I loved it so so so much!! So, we were caroling on Christmas day as a district, and Sister Ashby decided that she wanted to knock on a super festive house's door. We did, and a lady came out. She told us to wait a minute, and then came back out with a coat and her son! We went to start singing and she asked us to wait for her mother. So we did. A few moments later, her mother came out, and again we started to get ready to sing. They then asked, "Actually, can we go and get our friends too?" And started running around the neighborhood knocking on a bunch of doors! It was an incredible Christmas miracle! All in all, 8 people plus the little boy came out to here us sing. It was so great, and the Spirit was there. It is moments like that which are so vital for people in Japan. They see us caroling, and they see us as real people who are kind and want to help. It melts the barrier between us and them, and allows us to return and share a message more easily.

There are miracles like that every single day here in Japan! For example, I went on splits with Elder Merrill again down in Kamakura and we met a man who lived there, but who was from my area! We only got to be on splits for a few hours, but the Lord placed a man who had connections to both of us in that few hour block. We saw some more incredible things, everywhere from a man who was Marxist and born in a communist home, to an old Japanese man who told us that he thought Buddhism was starting to die down, and that with the younger generation, Japan would become more and more Christian (This is unheard of. The old people in Japan are the ones that are super set in buddhism and shintoism). Splits really are a time to learn from new people, and see so many miracles. Also, fun note, I get to do a training with Elder Merrill this week at Zone Meeting! :D haha It is so crazy to see how much the Lord has blessed me to be able to try and push myself to learn how to be a leader, and how to step it up to the level of the older missionaries. In fact, a missionary named Elder Nebeker once told me to never think of myself as a young missionary. (I believe I was transfer one at the time). He said that there are only missionaries. If you think of yourself as a young or old missionary you will change your standard in some way, and that is not good. :) I loved that.

Mom, you are a missionary. You may not have a call right now to be a full-time missionary, but you are a missionary. Don't forget to serve others around you, even when the times are hard. Look for simple things. A smile really can make all of the difference in someone's life. Don't forget how much I love you, and even how much I miss you. :) <3 <3

I love you, mom!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Pictures for this week - 21 December, 2014

The elders' Christmas tree

Crazy Things!

Elders Tolen, Squire, and Livingston


Scripture cover made by a kind sister in the Hodogaya ward


This is exactly how we felt last Monday...hahaha  We lost elder Tolen at a train station!

Drink Vending Machine

A Humble Servant - Letter to Dad - 21 December, 2014

Hey Dad!!

So, guess what? I have some really big news! :) Do you remember in my Patriarchal Blessing where it says that on my mission I will have many opportunities of leadership? Well, the Lord decided that now would be a good time, I guess! haha This week I not only became a single Senior Companion, a single Trainer, but I also became District Leader for Hodogaya! I am so so humbled.

In Moses, we can read of a similar experience. Enoch, the prophet that helped bring people so close to Christ that they were taken from the Earth, was not always confident. When he was called he said, "Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?" I started to realize as I listened to the spirit exactly the burden and the responsibility that I was being given. The entire area of Hodogaya, probably upwards of 70-80 thousand people, was being put into my trust. That is extremely humbling. I think of the Japanese that I know, and especially the Japanese that I don't know. I am supposed to be the person that communicates with the ward, and coordinates the missionary efforts with them. That is a burden. I am supposed to help Elder Tolen be prepared to train by the end of this transfer (technically two, but President Wada really wants us to get them prepared to train after transfer one) and that includes teaching him how to teach lessons the way President Wada would like us to (as a foundation to build on, there definitely isn't one set way to teach), help him with Japanese so that he can get around. I have to train other members of the district (of which only Elder Tolen is my junior) by following the Spirit. And I know that I can do it with the Lord's help, but it was very humbling to look at it from that light. By looking not at myself, but at the work that the Lord was calling me to do, I saw exactly how small and insignificant I was, but how glorious the Lord saw that I could be if I followed Him. Which is what it comes down to. I must follow the Lord. I am doing all that I can to become more and more humble, and I am trying so hard to know how to help the people in my district, the investigators that I have, the investigators of the other members, and the members of the ward. But I know that I don't need to know exactly what to do, I just need to follow the Lord.

Learn how to listen to the Spirit. In 3 Nephi 11 it was not until the people opened their ears that they could understand the voice of the Lord. Open your ears. The Spirit is trying to speak to you. I know that He is. One thing that stuck out to me that President Wada talked about in a District Leader Training that I went to on Friday was that we need to ask ourselves is the Holy Ghost speaking to me today? How is he speaking? We really need to learn not only how to be worthy of the Spirit, but how to recognize him. Perfect what you learn in Sunday throughout the weeks. I believe that if we took more time to carefully note what we learn on Sunday, and then apply it during the week, we would progress in our Spiritual life much faster than we think possible. The Lord is waiting to give us blessings both temporal and spiritual, we just need to live worthy of them, and seek for them. Thank you for talking about spiritual gifts in your email today, dad. That was a good reminder for me. Look for your spiritual gifts as well, and use them. I love you so so so much, dad. Never forget that! I can not wait to see you again! It has been too long since last September (I am so glad and lucky that I got to see you at the airport). Love you!

Love, Elder Livingston

Faith is like a little seed - Letter to Mom - 21 December, 2014

Hi mom!

How are you? I hope that the health battle is continuing to go well. :) And, even though it is hard, I know that it will pay off. That is definitely how missionary work goes! It can sometimes be hard when you walk along the streets for three hours straight, trying to talk to everyone, and either no one is around, or they all ignore you. It is intense how many times we get ignored a day! But, the only sad part is that they are not opening their ears to the gospel. I know that the Lord will continue to help us find those that are prepared to receive us!

Speaking of which, I love Norton san! The update with him for this week is one of the most incredible miracles I have seen on my mission. Possibly the biggest. This week, we walked in to set up for Eikaiwa (English Class) and saw him sitting at a table with one of the members. I had no idea what was going, so I walked over. I looked on the table (and what did I see [sung in a popcorn popping voice]?) and saw copies of the Book of Mormon splayed out. I was so thrilled! It turns out this member, Nakayama shimai, has really been reaching out to him. They have become really good friends, and we have been able to meet with him, and having her as a member present, twice since last Wednesday, and we have another appointment for tomorrow! I am so thrilled! But, what happened yesterday, was a miracle. Norton san sometimes has a hard time understanding the Book of Mormon. He really wants to understand it, so that he can understand us. But, yesterday, we read in Alma 32. It was a really good discussion, and we got to talk about faith, and how we do not always know everything with a perfect knowledge. I asked him, if he wanted faith. He said, "イエスキリストを信じる信仰?” which translates to, "Faith in Jesus Christ?" and I said yes. He replied, "Hmm...yes." and I was so so so so happy! This is the first time that he has said he wants to believe in Christ! I am so excited to continue to learn with him, and to help him come unto Christ.

As far as Dunkley san goes, we had to drop him this week. We went to visit, and his grandparents asked if we would stop talking to him about religion. It is very sad, but I continue to pray for him, and I know that the Lord will take care of him. We gave him an introduction to the gospel and he has felt what the Holy Ghost feels like. When the time is right, the Lord will remind him of that, and he will be able to progress once again.

I am so so so so excited to talk to you tomorrow! :) I am freaking out a little. :) haha and yes, if you called tomorrow at 7 pm (your time, 11 am my time) that would be perfect. My email address for the FaceTime is this one, so okay? I don't have a Skype account set up yet, so FaceTime it is! haha Also, I am so glad that everyone loved their gifts. :) It was very fun to try and find them, and to package them all up. And I am so so glad that they made it before Christmas!! I do think it is not quite fair though, that I have to wait to open mine, but you opened yours!! ;D haha I have been so obedient, despite the temptation that it is. haha

Mom, thank you for your example. You have always been such an incredible, amazing, smart, kind, perfect mother. Thank you for the influence that you have had on me. So many times I am reminded of the things that you have done for me and for our family as I learn about Christ, and what I need to do to become a better missionary.

I love you so so much, and I can not wait to see you tomorrow! Love you!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Note: some names may have changed for privacy

Pictures for this week - 14 December, 2014

Disney ?Something?

District Photo

Dad's Packing Lessons Come in Handy - Letter to Mom - 14 December, 2014

Hey mom!

How are you doing this week?  I hope that you are doing alright. Please let me know soon!

So, this last week has been absolutely insane, and a little hard as far as missionary work goes. We have completely lost contact with Dunkley san, and we didn't have a ton of time last week to go out and work because we had to help Elder Squire get ready to go home in three days. Crazy huh? But, Dad's packing lessons definitely helped! Haha I packed Elder Squires bags for him haha :) the only problem was that he didn't have very much stuff, it was just heavy. So it was too heavy to fit all in one bag, but when you split it up it didn't fit very well and stuff would roll around a little bit. That was a little disappointing, but it is okay. :) I was really pleased with how I packed the first bag, (I fit SOO much stuff in there!!!) but then it was too heavy which was a bit of a bummer. So we had to move a bunch of the stuff to a second bag.

It is kind of weird to me that Elder Squire is finally leaving. I have been with him all day everyday for about 15 weeks, and it is a strange thought to think of him not being there. But I am so excited to get to work one on one with Elder Tolen as well. He is an incredible missionary, and I have seen the Lord work so well through him. He really follows the Spirit, and does what the Lord needs him too. He doesn't let any barriers hinder the progress that the Lord needs him to make, and it shows. I am so grateful to have such amazing companions.

Mom, there is an invention here that I really really wish I could get you for Christmas. There is only one problem. . . It is a table hahaha :) it is called a kotatsu and is a table that has a top sheet that you
lift up, and you put blankets on it so the blankets hang down and over your body. It is so great. But the best part is that underneath the blankets is another piece of wood, and hooked to the bottom of that wood is, wait for it, a heater. :) yep. You turn it on and out your feet underneath (normal ones are small tables, but you can get full size too) and the blankets trap in all of the heat from the heater so
you get super super warm! Anyway, that's a fun fact. You should look it up and see if you can find any, because you would love it. :)

I love missionary work. It is so fun, and so hard, and so rewarding, etc. it is so great to talk with people, and just teach the gospel. When I think about it too hard I laugh at how weird it is sometimes.
I'm nineteen. But I've talked to so many people here that are old (like in their nineties. Japanese people are extremely healthy for how old they are. It is super cool. :) ) and I'm here to teach them how they can be happy by living a gospel centered life. It is such a testimony to me that the Lord is in charge of this work. We could not teach people and touch their hearts if it was not for the Spirit. I am
so grateful for the Spirit. Mom, you are so incredible, and you are such an influence of good. The girls that you serve in young women's are going to be changed for their entire lives because of the things that you say and do. Listen to the Spirit and he will guide and direct you as to what you need to say and do to change these girls for the better and to help them come unto Christ. I promise that you will know how to help them. Pray for them always.

Mom, thanks for being so amazing. You are so kind, sweet, loving, patient, and. . .well, I guess perfect is a good word for it. ;) I love you so so so much, and I miss you tons. I can't wait to see your
beautiful, smiling face at Christmas time! Find out when works best for you to Skype/FaceTime me, and we will coordinate it, okay? I love you!

Love, Elder Livingston

Early Mail! - Letter to Dad - 14 December, 2014

Hey dad!

This is coming early to you today, and I don't actually have a keyboard right now, so please excuse me if I have a bunch of spelling mistakes and I don't get to write as much as I usually do. Speaking of
which, is there any way that you can send me a Bluetooth keyboard? Or maybe I can get one here. What do you think would be best?

Languages are so fascinating and so so cool! I absolutely love it. :)  I love Japanese with my whole heart! I love reading, writing, speaking, etc. in Japanese! I will admit though that I really do like singing in English more. Haha but Japanese is so so so cool, and I can understand a bit of it now. :) As I continue to study, I learn more and more. Oh! I am actually starting to understand probably. . .50% or so of the scriptures that I read. I think that I can probably credit that more to the fact that I have read the Book of Mormon multiple times than the actually fact that I am learning Japanese. Haha but I love it. :) It is so cool what you can learn when you read multiple languages. Dad, I really challenge you to keep your German up. If it is rustier than you would like it to be, than work at it. The Lord called you to Germany for a reason, and the German that you had then will come back faster than you know. You will be able to bless so many lives when you practice it. The Lord will trust you with opportunities to use it to testify of Him only if you are preparing to use it. Trust Him. He will guide you as to how to learn it and use it. Stretch yourself in the language. Study the scriptures in both languages. I promise you will be blessed not only with time to do it, but with the resources and capacity of mind to learn more than you could know.

It really is interesting how languages work though. I am saying sounds and forming words that sound like gibberish in English but make complete sense to me. I do it on a daily basis. But it makes sense  to me. I read from the Book of Mormon, going through the characters, and I literally can't not read it (does that make sense?) haha I definitely don't understand all of the words, but I can generally tell
you where words are (there aren't any spaces in between words) and where particles are (other extremely important parts of Japanese), etc. it really is incredible to see how the Lord works in our lives. The gift of tongues is real. But why talk about all of this Japanese? It is because I want to talk to you about another language.

The most important language that any missionary will ever learn on their mission is the language of the spirit. Ultimately that is the only language that is important for them to learn. If you were under
the complete influence of the Holy Ghost you could speak any language that the Lord needed you to. I think that is absolutely incredible. The message that I want to leave with you today is that you should always strive to have the spirit in your life. Keep the commandments, be obedient in all things, magnify your calling. The spirit will guide and direct you in all things. I love you so much, dad, and I hope that you know that. I miss you a lot, but I am excited that I have the opportunity to serve here in Japan. I can't wait to see you at Christmas over Skype (or FaceTime actually! That would work.) speaking of which, when do you want to skype? I can from the 22-25 anytime, so you let me know when works for you! It will have to be 40 min at the longest, but I am way excited! Love you!

Love, Elder Livingston

Pictures for this week - 9 December, 2014

Missionary District - with member family

Mount Fuji

Shrine 1

Shrine 2

Little Witnesses - Letter to Dad - 9 December, 2014

Hey dad!!

This past week has been totally crazy! We have had to do a lot of busy work and traveling. We have been to the Kichijoji church twice (look it up on haha ;) Also, the building right by the church, like in the same parking lot, is the honbu (mission office).). It is about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes away from Hodogaya by train, so it has been a traveling week! But, one thing that we went there for Saturday was a christmas concert put on by the Shibuya institute students. Some of them are in our ward.

The Little Witnesses concert was so incredible. We took Norton san to it. It really explains simply the reason that we have Christmas, and why Christ was important. It was a super good experience for him. Please pray for him. He is so incredible. He has a hard time recognizing the Spirit, but in the past week we have been able to help him recognize it a little bit more for the first two times in his life!! It has been so so cool. :) I love missionary work. I am so grateful for the Lord and the way that He perfectly lines up little things like Institute concerts that meet the needs of the people that we are trying to help.

Another really cool thing that happened at the institute concert is that I met one of the people that I taught in the MTC! There is this program in the MTC called TRC which is where people who speak the language you are learning go and volunteer to be taught a lesson. Yuki is one of the people that I got to teach! (I actually taught him more than once, I believe.) He is super cool, and has really good English. He is applying to BYU Idaho and Provo soon, and he is a little bit nervous, but I know that he will make it. However, in Kichijoji at the concert I ran into him! It was way fun. We said hi and talked a tiny bit before the concert, but then we had to go sit down. And then after the concert he came and found me outside to say hi and take a picture! It really touched me. I didn't realize just how much I had affected him, or how much it had meant to him to meet me again. It really made me stop and think about how we do not really know the effect that we having on people simply by doing our best to teach and help them. You might think that it is just another Sunday School lesson that you teach, but when you go into it every single week with the same attitude that you did to teach the investigators in Germany, the Spirit will guide you. Dad, those kids need you. They are entering a stage of their life that is fraught with temptation and they need the armor of God. You can't force them to put on that armor. But little by little you can show them the pieces of the armor, how to put them on securely, and how to make sure that they stay clean and fresh. I know that the Lord has called you to teach them at this time because you will impact their lives. Never forget that. Follow the Spirit and you will know what you need to teach them to arm them against satan.

Also, tell Dave and Terron congratulations for me!! I am super happy for both of them! I am proud of them for getting their Eagle Scouts. :) They are amazing young men, and they are going to change so many lives. Keep me posted as David gets closer to turning in his papers! :) (Cameron too!)

Please pray that I can receive the gift of tongues even more!! I really really want to be able to speak fluently, and I know that I can, but I would love even more support. I am actually working on a huge translation project right now that is super super fun, and such a good exercise for my Japanese. I'll send you the Gospel of Jesus Christ note I made in English so you can see it, and then I'll keep you posted on the translation progress.

Thanks for everything, dad!! :) I love you, Dad!! You are so incredible. :) Keep helping mom, and let her know how much I love her!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Note: Some names may have been changed for privacy

I meet an interesting . . .entirely sober? man - Letter to Mom - 9 December, 2014

Hey mom!!

So, to explain the subject, let me tell you a fun story. The other day we were at a 7/11 (They totally have those here. It is bigger here than it is in the states haha) and this guy comes up and starts talking to us in English! I think that he really likes English, and foreigners, so he wanted to talk. He actually invited us to go drinking at his house! Sadly, Elder Tolen and I are underage. (He is me and Elder Squire's new companion). So we had to turn him down. But, he wanted to talk and exchange information anyway. He said that anytime we get in trouble that we can call him. He is a fuel engineer for X-Mobile and is super cool. His name is Kenji Machi. When he told us that, I told him he had a cool name. He bent over in laughter, and then walked up to me, turned around, jumped backwards at me, and hit my arm with his rear. . . .hence, we are not sure he was entirely sober!! haha Welcome to Japan.

However, I want to talk a little bit about Elder Tolen. First off, he is super cool.  He actually grew up in PG! haha So right now, we have a Lehi Pioneer, a PG Viking, and an AF Caveman in our companionship. However, as far as the district goes, AF still dominates with two people. Hurrah!! ;D haha He is super dendo fired!! (Dendo is missionary work). It is super fun to go out working with him, and just see his enthusiastic spirit, and desire to help everyone. He really reaches out, even when it may be hard. He is a hard worker, and I am super excited to see how this next transfer goes.

Elder Squire is also doing well. He goes home, next Thursday!! How crazy is that? He is as grumpy as ever (or so he tells me, I don't believe he is actually grumpy ;D ) and super awesome! He knows how to love people. That is what I have learned from him more than anything else. He is super loving. He reaches out to the one. He makes every single person feel loved individually, which is exactly what the Savior would do. In fact it is what He did. If you read in 3 Nephi, it is really cool that it specifically points out that the Savior took time for each person individually.

Let's see. . .well, satan really likes to hit when life starts to line up with the Lord's will. It has been hard to meet with Dunkley san recently, so we are moving his baptismal date back. He is super prepared, and has such a real desire to know what is true. We are meeting with him Friday, though, so pray for us! We will be resetting his baptismal date, and outlining how many times we need to meet with him in order to make it happen, and then we will be teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Speaking of which, I created a cool document for my personal study this past week or so in the notes application, so I will send it to you! Which brings me to the point that I really want to share with you, mom. Make the personal study you have with the Lord count every day. Sometimes you might be super tired when you study. Sometimes you might not know what to study. But always put in your effort and try to follow the Spirit and I promise that you will learn something. Also, make sure that you take good notes. There is no point for the Spirit to whisper revelation to you if you are not going to record it/act on it. So take good notes. Some people really like study journals. For me, I like to write them right in my scriptures, or in the digital copy of the conference talks, etc. Whatever you like to do, make sure that you take careful notes of what the Spirit is telling you, regardless of what you are actually studying. The Spirit is the Key.

Mom, I love you so much! I know that right now it isn't easy.  Remember, however, that Christ is always with you. He has felt 100% of the pain and suffering that you have felt. He loves you and will help you with everything. I know that. Training isn't easy. There is a lot of responsibility that you have. In a week, I will be the senior companion, and I will be the one that has to lead the lessons, and be confident in my Japanese. That isn't easy. But the Lord always qualifies you. This past week we were over at a members house for dinner, and one of the members said that I was really good at something (I couldn't remember if it was Japanese or Piano) and I needed to share it more. And then that night my Japanese sky-rocketed, and I spoke to the members so much better than before. I walked out of there and thought, "How in the world did I do that? That was normal conversation, not just gospel stuff. We talked about Europe, and types of chocolate, and famous actors and movies, and I understood!" It was incredible. The Gift of Tongues is so real. I definitely have so so far to go with my Japanese abilities, but I know that the Lord will help me to know exactly what I need to say.

Love you, mom!! You are so incredible. :) Thank you so much for the package!! It came last week, and I still haven't opened it! ;D haha I sent yours off too, so let me know when it gets there. :) I love you!!

Love, Elder Livingston

Note: Some names may have been changed for privacy