Sunday, September 27, 2015

He's in Japan!

Konnichi wa Tomodachi to Kazoku,

Well, I`m in Japan!!! I am living in a city called Shimonoseki with about 300,000 people in it. It is not touristy in the slightest...the only non-Japanese people I`ve seen here are my companion and the other two missionaries I am living with. Anyways, update on the week. I`ll try to go chronologically.
  1. Last Thoughts on the MTC: Overall, the MTC was an incredible experience. I spent nine week total there and loved just about every minute of it. I lucked out with an incredible Australian companion who taught me how to love everyone and to enjoy the small things in life. I had an incredible district (12 people who I did everything with) who helped me strengthen my testimony in Christ and His Gospel. I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to spend so much time in such an uplifting, motivating environment.
  2. The Supposedly Long Travel Day: Around 3am on Monday, September 21st, my journey from Provo, Utah to Fukuoka, Japan began. Around9pm on Tuesday, September 22, my journey ended at the missionary home in Fukuoka. While it took three flights and lots of driving, the entire experience flew by. I have a unique skill to be able to sleep anywhere (on planes, in the car, in class, in church) that is both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to traveling it`s pretty awesome. I spend the majority of the time on all the planes passed out. It also didn`t hurt that I love traveling and was just excited to leave the gates of the MTC in Provo for the first time in two months.
  3. The Solution to Jet Lag: I learned that the solution to jet lag is to just not accept that is it a thing. Our first day at the mission home, they put us to work starting at 6:30am. We (18 other missionaries from the MTC and I) spent the morning sitting through training on the Fukuoka mission (bike rules, mission rules, etc) and then were paired with a missionary who had been out for a while and started talking to people in the street! I was paired with a native Japanese missionary who could also speak English. For about 3 hours, we traveled the streets of Fukuoka talking to people in the street and knocking on doors. I understood absolutely none of what anyone said.
  4. President and Sister Egan: All LDS missions around the world are led by a missionary president and his wife. Mine, President Egan, is in charge of 204 missionaries across 4 or so islands. He is from Utah and will serve in that capacity for three or so years. Quite the responsibility. He and his wife were the ones who picked us up from the airport and hosted us for the first two days in Japan. They are both some of the most loving people I have ever met. I am honestly pumped to be able to serve under them for the next two years.
  5. Intro to Missionary Work: On Thursday, Elder Tschirki (one of my travel buddies) and I set out for Shimonoseki. We took four trains total over the course of a few hours, but somehow made it to Shimonoseki on time. Our companions met us at the train station, helped walk our luggage to our apartment, and then immediately put us to work with weekly planning. My companion, Elder Madsen, walked me through all of the Nihonjin (Japanese people) we are currently teaching. After that, we hit the streets and started talking to people.
  6. The Missionary Schedule: I apologize for the length of this email. If you are already bored and want to stop reading, I won`t be offended.
    • 0630- Wake up and work out
    • 0800- Personal study
    • 0900- Companionship study (two hours for the first 12 weeks)
    • 1000- Language study
    • 1100- Lunch
    • 1200-2100- Trying to spread and teach the good word of God. Dinner is also somewhere in that time frame.
  7.  The Heavenly Food: Americans could learn a thing or two about cooking from Nihonjin. The food here is incredible!! Sure, we may have rice at every meal, but even the rice here is incredible. To be honest, I`ve only had three meals from restaurants/cooked by Nihonjin over the past week, but they were all incredible. All consisted of rice, a soup, and some sort of meat/fish. Later today a member of the branch is taking the four elders in my apartment out to a sushi place for Elder Flippo`s birthday.
Pictures for the Week
1) The five members of my MTC district at the Fukuoka, Japan temple.
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2) My last moments with Bauer Choro as we head to the Salt Lake Airport.

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Video for the Week


Thank you all for your emails and support. I apologize if I didn`t have time this week to respond, but I read them all and truly appreciate them!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Week Eight (Final Week) at the Missionary Training Center

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi,

This is the last email I will be sending from the United States for the next two years! I fly out to Japan on Monday, will have a day of "training" in the mission home (where the Fukuoka mission president lives), and then will start missionary work the next day. I'm not even close to fluent, but am still incredibly excited.

This past week, as well as the seven before that, has flown by. We are in our own little bubble here at the MTC where we are protected from anything bad going on in the world. It's been pretty nice to be in such a safe, loving environment, but after two years at West Point and two months of being trapped in the gates of the MTC, I'm pretty pumped to be on my own in JAPAN!!!

Anyways, notes on the week:
  1. HOSTING MY COUSIN: Every Wednesday, 500 or so new missionaries come into the MTC. Every missionary has a "host" that welcomes them to the MTC. Here's the basic gist: 1) A car with a missionary and family pulls up to the curb, 2) The missionary and family get out, 3) Everyone starts crying, 4) The host takes the missionaries bags, 5) Goodbyes are said, 6) The host takes the missionary to a few places around the MTC, 7) The host drops the missionary off at the classroom.  The hosts are all missionaries that have been here for a few weeks already. Anyways, this past week, I had the opportunity to host my cousin, Max Clark! I might have worked the system a little to make sure I hosted him, but it was definitely worth it. I got to be a part of his family saying goodbye to him and to welcome him to the MTC. Such a memorable experience to be able to welcome him to the MTC and to be able to serve with him.
  2. The Bad Lesson: As a part of our training, we teach a few lessons each week to our teachers who role play as investigators. Well, I had my worst one this past week. The topic wasn't too complicated, but my mind went blank the entire time. I understand none of what our investigator said and couldn't speak any Japanese. It was like I was back to week one. I have a lot of ideas of why it happened, but overall it was a learning experience from me. During it, I just felt frustration and anger, but looking back, I'm glad it happened. It's in those challenging moments of our lives that I think define us. I told my district my first week that for most people, about 90% of our lives aren't all that bad. Life seems to make sense and we are relatively happy. Then the 10% happens (The number varies for each person) and our lives get rocked by some challenge we don't expect. Whether that challenge is something as small as us suddenly forgetting Japanese, or something as big as a family member passing away or losing a job, I think it is that 10% that truly defines who we truly are. It isn't too hard to be kind, loving, and grateful when life is going well. During that 10% however, it suddenly becomes much more difficult. In my life, I've found that if I push through that 10%, I learned to appreciate not only the 90%, but even the 10%. I hope that made sense...it's a theory I'm still trying to figure out. 
  3. Prayer is real: I try not to be too preach on these because I know many of y'all that read his are not of my faith, but this story was pretty incredible. If you know me well, you know that I tend to lose things at times (Ellett family, you can confirm this). Well, two weeks ago, I somehow lost my scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, etc.). Well, just about everything we do here involves using our scriptures, so I felt rather stupid for losing them. My companion and I searched everywhere but just couldn't find them. Over the course of a week or so, I prayed every night for help finding my scriptures. I was just at the point where I felt that God wanted me to learn a lesson about responsibility, when I decided to pray one more time. I prayed on a Tuesday night and got the distinct impression that if I prayed the next morning, I'd find them that day. Because the impression was so strong, I wrote down in my journal, "If you pray, you will find them tomorrow." Sure enough, around noon on Wednesday, these two sister missionaries  wanted into my classroom with my scriptures in their hands. Their teacher had picked them up the week prior in a computer lab, and had kept them in her classroom.
    • Call it a coincidence or superstitions if you want, but I know that it was a simple answer to my prayer. God knows all of us and wants us to succeed. Often all we have to do is humbly ask in prayer and God will help us out.
  4. Another performance: I had the opportunity to accompany a missionary this past Monday who sang, "Cast Your Burdens on the Lord" for the Senior Missionary Welcome Devotional. In additional to 80,000 or so missionaries my age, my church has thousands of more "senior missionaries" that serve in various capacities, ranging from missionary presidents responsible for 250 missionaries to church family history missionaries who dive into family history (If into family history/geneology, check out https://familysearch.org).
  5. GOING TO JAPAN: In case you didn't know by now, I'll be in Japan in FOUR DAYS.
Pictures from the week

1. Elder Porter had his Mom send my companion (an Australian) the most American tie I have ever seen. Elder Bauer rocked the tie and I think actually felt some American pride while wearing it.

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2. This past Sunday, all of the West Pointers at the MTC got together to take the annual "West Pointers at the MTC" picture. They are all my classmates from the past two years. Sadly, Elder Nielson left a few days before the picture, but he is one of us as well.

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3. Me and my cousin Max when I hosted him on his first day.

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Video for the week:
The video for this week is about families. In case you haven't noticed by now, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are pretty big into families. Call me ignorant, but I think about 90% of the problems in our society could be solved by stable, loving families. This one is pretty short. https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/mormon-messages-video-playlists?lang=eng

Love you all,

Elder Colton

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week Seven at the Missionary Training Center

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi,

Somehow another week has flown by at the good ol' Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Life here continues to go well. At this point, the daily routine is starting to get a bit old, but I'm sure in two weeks when I am in Japan and can't understand a word of what anyone says to me, I'll wish I was back here.

A few memorable events happened this past week that I'd like to share:

  1. The Conversation: Just like the military, there is an organizational structure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That organization carries down to the mission level, where there are both adults and missionaries in leadership positions. At the MTC, we are split up into districts and zones. My district has 12 members, and my zone is made up of 6 or so districts (72ish missionaries). We have two zone leaders, both missionaries like me, that help lead the zone. One of their responsibilities is to interview all of the missionaries in the zone periodically. Well, last week I had the opportunity to meet with one of them. On first impression, he just seems like an average missionary: about 5'10", just graduated high school, not shy, but not too outgoing. That was honestly my impression of him until I got to talk to him one on one. The interview started off as normal as he asked how I was doing, how it was going with my companion, etc. After the questioning finished, he asked if he could share a scripture with me. I honestly forget what scripture he shared and exactly what he said, but I'll never forget what I saw in him. As he was talking, I felt more Christ-like love coming from him than I have any other missionary I've met yet. I had no doubt that he knew exactly why he was here, what his purpose was, and who his Savior is. That's the kind of missionary I am striving to be! The kind that can inspire other to be better people, even through simple 5 minute conversations. No matter our religious beliefs, we can all aspire to be that type of person who simply inspires others.
  2. The Performance: This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to accompany Sister Rachel Sorensen on a piano/violin arrangement of "I Need Thee Every Hour" in an the MTC devotional. I performed the same song in church with her a few weeks ago (see August 27, http://elderkevincolton.blogspot.com), but this experience was different. It wasn't the 2500 other missionaries listening that was memorable to me (although that was pretty freaking cool, not gonna lie), but more so the music created. The piano part had no solo's, so my entire role was to follow her lead. Her violin filled up the entire auditorium. If you know me well, you know that music is my life, and that I feel the most consistent joy in life through music. Thanks to an incredible piano teacher and supporting parents, I've played in countless performances since I was 6. That being said, this was probably the most spiritual and memorable performance I've ever been a part of. See picture attached.
  3. The Other Performance: In Sacrament meeting this past Sunday (if you don't know what that means, think of it as church), I had another opportunity to accompany. This time it was 12 of the sister missionaries in my zone. The song was, "Jesus, Redeemer of My Soul." The three verse song started out with three sisters taking turns singing the first verse, the other nine joining in on the second, and then all 12 singing the third verse in Japanese. Another beautiful arrangement and beautiful song. Music is incredible!!
Video for the Week:
The video for this week is an inspiring story on selfless service. The first few minutes are a bit slow, but it gets better, so watch until the end! Selfless service is something that I've always struggled a bit with. I've often gotten too caught up in trying to perform well in school and other events, that I feel I am "too busy" to help everyone who asks for or even shows a sign they need help. Thanks to my good friend Antony Park, I've gotten better at this over the past two years. For those of you who don't know Antony Park, I hope you get to meet him and spend time with him at some point in this life. He takes selfless service to a whole new level. He will literally to ANYTHING to help anyone at any point. I roomed with him my first semester of sophomore year of college, and saw what it truly means to put others first.
Challenge for the Week:
It goes along with the video. Pick one person this week and do something nice for them everyday (if married, a spouse wouldn't be a bad idea). Keep track of what you do, and then write down how you feel at the end of the week.
 
Pictures:
  1. Picture from after the devotional performance. From left to right: Sister Stay (the performer's companion), Sister Sorensen, me, and Elder Bauer (My companion). Yes, there is a missionary rule where we can't put our arms around members of the opposite sex in pictures...I apologize for the awkwardness.Displaying Picture 1.JPG
  2. My room has chips and queso night a few nights a week! Displaying Picture 2.JPG
 
I love you all!
 
Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

Friday, September 4, 2015

Week Six at the Missionary Training Center

Konnichi wa Tomodachi to Kazoku,

MTC de benkyo suru koto wa subarashi desu. I'll start this week's email by explaining what we typically do each week:

1) Practice teaching: In my opinion, the main purpose of us being here at the MTC is to 1) increase our conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 2) get better at teaching, and 3) learn Japanese. Almost everything we do here fits one of those three purposes. Every day or so, we teach one of our two teachers who act like non-members interested in our message. We always teach as companionships (so I'm always with the Australian). Once a week we get to practice teaching real members of our faith. For the past few weeks, they have been local members who speak Japanese. This past week, however, we got to Skype an actual member in Japan! She was an older lady who got me super excited to go to Japan. She spoke very simple Japanese for us, but I was shocked at how we could actually have a conversation and teach her something in Japanese. We chose to talk about faith in Christ.

2) Study, study, study: Monday through Saturday, we typically have two 3-hour language classes that focus on learning the Gospel of Christ in Japanese. In addition, we have another four hours each day to study on our own (well, with our companion within sight and sound). It is set up for us to use one of those hours for personal Gospel study, one hour for companionship study (planning for lessons, talking about sustaining and improving in the companionship, etc.), and one hour for personal language study. The fourth hour is to be used to study what we choose. So, we study for about 10 hours a day. I honestly love it, especially because there are no grades or official tests.

3) Go to devotionals: Every Tuesday and Sunday night, all 2000+ missionaries at the MTC go to a devotional where one of the leaders of our church speaks. Thus far, we've have some incredible speakers with inspirational messages, including President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks (both living apostles. Yes, we believe that just like Peter, James, and John from the New Testament, we have apostles on the earth today). Both incredible men who have devoted their entire lives to serving the Lord and others.

4) Work out: Each day we have 50 minutes of gym time. I typically do volleyball two days a week, then lift/do some sort of cardio the other four days.

5) Eat: Three solid meals a day. The food here is actually not that bad. It's buffet style so I normally stuff myself.

Pictures this week
1) My roommates (plus a friend) before two of them left for Brazil! We had just finished playing basketball. Pictures from left to right: Elder Johnson and Elder Rowe (Fukuoka, Japan), me, Elder Porter (Nagoya, Japan), Elder Bauer (my companion going to Nagoya, Japan), Elder Sant and Wyatt (somewhere in Brazil).

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2) One of my teachers, Chris Crandall, and I on his last day with us. He got switched to a new distract, sadly. He's the man.

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Video for the Week:
 The video from this week is about the importance of spending time with others and showing our love for them. If there is anything I've learned from both sets of my grandparents, it is that family matters most. As a kid, I asked my Granddad, "Granddad, are you rich?" He smiled at me, and replied, "Rich in love, Kevin. Rich in love." I hope I can say the same when I'm his age. I challenge all of you this week to call up a friend or family member and let them know how much you appreciate them. Maybe even apologize to that friend or family member who you haven't talked to in quite some time. It doesn't have to be weird or awkward. People appreciate being told they are loved.