Monday, October 26, 2015

First person baptized

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi!

Missionary life is measured by transfers, which are 6-week periods of time where we serve in a certain place with a certain companion. Every 6 weeks, our mission president lets us know if we are going to stay in the same place with the same companion, or go somewhere else. My first transfer is coming to an end! But, as a new missionary, there is a 99% chance I will stay in the same place with the same person for next transfer. Still, time is flying by.

Highlight of the Week
This past Saturday one of our investigators got baptized!!!! Many of you are probably wondering, "What is baptism?" or maybe "What is baptism to Mormons?" or maybe "Why is it important?" I'll do my best to answer those questions. This will be baptism according to the knowledge of 20 year old Elder Colton, so it will by no means be a perfect explanation.

I'll begin with an analogy.
A kid goes outside, plays in some mud, and gets dirty. He tries to go back inside, but his Mom won't let Him back in because he is covered in mud. But, if he realizes how dirty he is and decides to let her spray him off with a hose to clean him up, he will be able to come back into the house. Thus it is with baptism. As humans, none of us our perfect. We try out best to live the best lives we can, but we all make mistakes. Because God is our loving Heavenly Father, He has given us a plan to be able to be "sprayed off" and return back to Him. This step is baptism.

Simply put, baptism is a promise, or a covenant, we make with God. It shows our willingness to follow Christ's example and to make promises with God. 

Specifically, we promise to 1) take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, 2) to keep His commandments, and 3) to serve Him to the end. In return, we are promised blessings, including the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost/Spirit, the remission of our sins, and the privilege of being spiritually reborn.

This ordinance is to be done by immersion in water. Why immersion? Well, 1) we believe that's the way God wants it. 2) Immersion is symbolic of the death of a person's sinful life and the rebirth into a spiritual life, dedicated to the service of God and His children. There's a bit more, but that's the gist.

I purposely didn't use scriptural references in order to save space and to not start a biblical debate. But, all of this is in the Bible and Book of Mormon. I am fully aware that many of you reading this do not have the same beliefs. My intentions are not to tell you that what you believe is wrong, but rather to explain my beliefs. Obviously, if I didn't believe it, I wouldn't be living in Japan right now.

Once again, this is baptism according to Elder Colton's knowledge and by no means a perfect explanation. See lds.org for more information.

A Bit More About My Purpose
In the book of Matthew (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commands His apostles to, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Similarly, I am in Japan trying to do just that.

Notes on the Week
  • A Lesson in Japanese: Like I said last week, Japanese has three alphabets: Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana (basic native Japanese words), and Katakana (foreign words adopted into Japanese). This week I'll talk a bit about Hiragana. Hiragana is the basic Japanese alphabet. Pretty much everything in Japanese can be written out in Hiragana, including Kanji. The first few sounds in the alphabet are: あ, い, う, え, and お, which correlate with the English letters: a, i, u, e, and o. For example, to say, "I am a missionary" in hiragana would be, "わたしはせんきょうしです," or "watashi wa senkyoshi desu."
  • Eikaiwa: Every Wednesday night, we teach a free English class. It is always one of the highlights of the week! Between the four missionaries, we teach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced class. Madson Choro (my companion) and I have taught the beginners class since I've been here. There are typically about 4 adults and 3 children that come to our class each week. This past week, the theme was health. We decided to play charades to help keep things interesting. I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time :) Watching these adults act out words like "sore," "health," "doctor," and "hospital" was rather amusing.

Spiritual Thought/Invitation
As a missionary, I'm sure I can be a bit too bold sometimes. When spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is your entire purpose, it is easy to get a bit too excited and appear to be forceful. If I ever seem forceful, I apologize. If you were as convinced as I am that the Gospel of Christ can bring you more joy and happiness than anything else in this world, you'd probably be a bit eager to share it as well.

Anyways, the invitation for this week is two fold, 1) to love more, and 2) to invite others to or to attend a baptismal service. 

1. In the Book of Matthew, Christ tells us that the second great commandment is to "love thy neighbour as thyself." This includes your family, best friends, enemies, those who have wronged you, and everyone else. Thus, my first invitation is simple. It's easier said than done, but simple love everyone more and show it.

2. My second invitation is to attend a Mormon baptismal service! If you are a member, find out when your congregation is having one and go to it, and invite your friends to it. An invite can be as simple as, "Hey Bob, as you know, I'm Mormon. This Saturday, my congregation is holding a baptismal service for so and so. Want to come and see what they are like?" If you are not a member, you could ask your Mormon friends something like, "Hey Bob, I know you're Mormon. My friend told me to ask you to go to a baptism service. Do you know of any coming up?"


Video for the Week
If you are into the Bible at all, the video for this week is for you. Even if you aren't, you'll still enjoy the videos! My church has produced tons of Bible videos portraying the life of Jesus Christ, as well as countless other stories from the Bible. Here is the link to one, but there are more below it. Share with anyone you think might be interested. https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-10-066-jesus-heals-a-man-born-blind?category=bible-videos-the-life-of-jesus-christ&lang=eng

Pictures for the Week
1. The Shimonoseki Branch: This was taken after the baptism on Saturday night, so it's not the entire congregation, but a bit over half. They are awesome!!!!



2. The Baptism:  This was taken before the baptism on Saturday. See from 4:27 to 4:45 in this video (https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2013-06-1031-ill-go-where-you-want-me-to-go?lang=eng) to see what the actual ordinance is like. Ask your Mormon friends if you have more questions, or anyone in my family!



I love you all!!!

Elder Kevin Cash Colton

Monday, October 19, 2015

A little about Japan and Japanese

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi!

Yet another week has gone by here in Shimonoseki, Japan. This past week was actually quite possibly the fastest of my life. The days are going faster and faster as I learn to give my 100% effort to this work. While the past three months haven't necessarily been the most fun weeks of my life, I can without hesitation say that they have been the best three for my life.

Notes on the Week
  • Time Spent Doing "Missionary Things:" Missionary life is pretty fantastic. Mentally exhausting, frustrating, but fantastic. We are kind of like salesman, but instead of selling a product, we hand out free pots of gold to whomever is interested. As of now, next week we are holding a baptism for an incredible lady who's husband was baptized about a year ago. I'll explain more about what baptism is and why it is so important next week. Another one of our investigators will be getting two weeks after that! Both are incredible people that I've learned to love as I've seen them grow closer to their Father in Heaven. Before coming to Japan, I was told that missionary work in Japan is slow. I refuse to accept that. I know that God is preparing many, many people here in Japan to receive His Gospel. It is my responsibility as a missionary to do everything I can to play my small part. I still have sooooooo much to learn and a lot of humbling to go through, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that the church will soon start to explode in Japan. I guess Colton stubbornness can have its perks. 
  • A Lesson in Japanese: Japanese has three alphabets: Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana (basic native Japanese words), and Katakana (foreign words adopted into Japanese). This week I'll talk a bit about Katakana. Katakana makes communicating much easier. Here are some examples: アイスクリーム is also written as aisu kurimu, and is pronounced I-sew-koo-ree-mew (ice cream). プリン is also written as purin, and is pronounced poo-reen (pudding). Pretty convenient.
  • Japanese Cuisine: I have still yet to eat something here that I don't love! This past week, a member in the Branch took us to a nearby all you can eat restaurant called a Tabehodai. Literally heaven on earth. All you can eat Sushi, meat, ice cream, vegetables, fruit, cotton candy, desert, and the list goes on. And is was all only about $10! Not a bad life.

Spiritual Thought/Invitation
Since I was 10 or so, I have kept a journal off and on. Some years I wrote a few times, and some I wrote close to everyday. Over the past few months, I have written in one everyday. There are few things I treasure more than my journals I have kept over the years. Being able to go back to Kevin as a freshman in high school and see what my life was actually like is pretty incredible. It may sound lame, but journaling is worth it! Whether is it a microsoft word document, an actual journal, or something else, I promise you that if you keep a journal everyday, or week, you will look back a few years from now and be glad you did. It also allows your kids and grandkids to be able to understand you better. 

This past General Conference (see last email if you don't know what that is, or the blog atelderkevincolton.blogspot.com), one of the talks was on the last words of prophets before they passed away. For those not of my faith, before you assume anything, I invite you to read this talk, specifically the latter part of it.https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/chosen-to-bear-testimony-of-my-name?lang=eng

Video for the Week
The video for this week is a short one. The attached link has tons of short videos of clips from General Conference. Feel free to watch more! https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2015-10-420-nothing-will-change-his-love-for-you-veme?category=october-2015-general-conference-video-quotes&lang=eng

Pictures for the Week
1. P-day Adventures: Every Monday, we have Preparation day, where from 10am to 5pm, we prepare for the rest of the week by doing laundry, shopping, and going on adventures! This past week, we biked about 30 minutes north, and then hiked about 45 minutes up a mountain, with no idea where it led. Our hope was that eventually we'd find a good view! Well, near the top, we did. To put it in perspective, we are looking at the southern tip of Honshu. Gorgeous view!



2. Buffet, Japanese style: See above (Japanese Cuisine) for more info, but this was at the all you can eat place! Yes, that is a grill in the middle of the table!



I love you all!!!

Elder Kevin Colton

Monday, October 12, 2015

Inspiration from Brad

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi!

Hello, again, from Japan! I've been here now for just under three weeks and am loving life. I spend the first few hours of everyday studying Japanese and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then the rest of the day trying to find Japanese people searching for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's an incredible exhausting, but rewarding life.

This week was overall a good one with some awesome experiences.

Notes from the Week/Life:

1. The Small Things: While at the MTC, my Australian companion taught me to appreciate the small things in life. At the MTC, it was things like sliding down railings (maybe not the most appropriate thing), using his Australian accent to get everyone to talk to everyone, and having chip/salsa night every night in the dorms. Here, I've continued looking for those "small things" that make everyday life more enjoyable. Here are some of what I try to do: 1) Japanese school children LOVE showing off their English. Whenever we pass them while we are on our bikes, we ask, "Hello. How are you?" Every time, an eruption of "I AM GOOD" or "I AM HAPPY" or "I AM FINE!!" takes place. 2) I also be sure to take some time each day to laugh at how much Madsen Choro stand out. Here are two relatively huge white guys biking around in suits with matching helmets and bike baskets talking to everyone we can in a language we can't fully speak. Good times.

2) General Conference! Every six months, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my church) holds a world-wide conference where the leaders of our church speak and give us divinely inspired counsel. Six, two hours sessions are broadcasted throughout the world and translated into pretty much every language possible. As a missionary, it is like Christmas, Thanksgiving and our birthdays all combined into one weekend. The conference was held last week in Salt Lake, but because of the time difference, we watched in this week in Japan. Luckily, I got to watch it in English. I learned a lot from it, but one of my take aways was that if we can start to see others through the eyes of a parent, even Heavenly Father, we can truly learn to love and appreciate everyone.   Here is the link to the talks: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2015/10?cid=HP_SU_10-4-2015_dPTH_fGC_xLIDyL1-C_&lang=eng.

Spiritual Thought/Invitation for the Week

In high school, my good friend Brad would send out weekly inspirational thoughts (mostly Bible verses) to his friends. I loved receiving them each week, so I figured I would start doing the same (after all, I am a missionary). They will all apply to everyone (Christian or not). The invitation from this week is to ponder a scripture/inspirational quote every week. I got the idea from a talk that was given at General Conference this past week. The basic steps are: 1) Pick a scripture/quote, 2) put it somewhere you will see it multiple times a day (for me it is the background of my iPad), 3) think about it throughout the week and how it can apply to your life, 4) Share it was others. If you do it with scriptures, think of how much closer you will get with the scriptures throughout your time doing it! If you do it with quotes, I am sure you will also be lifted up. I am starting now, and have a goal to do a new one each week for the next two years. I invite you to do the same.

Pictures for the Week
1) Like I previously said, we stand out a lot here. This was Madsen Choro and I on our way back from buying groceries.



2) This was taken from a nearby park. Shimonoseki is gorgeous! Not a bad place to live.



Video for the Week
I realize many on this list are not Christian, but I still invite you to watch this video- It's pretty incredible. This video describes much of what I believe. I've shared the Japanese version about 20 times over the past few weeks.
 
Love you all! I apologize if I haven't responded to those who have written me. We have 75 minutes each week to email, and this email takes up most of that time. But, I truly do appreciate all who have written me!
 
Elder Kevin Cash Colton

Monday, October 5, 2015

Missionary firsts...

Konnichi wa Kazoku to Tomodachi!
 
Another week in Japan has come and gone. Japan is a pretty incredible country with incredible people. I`m excited to continue to learn Japanese so that I can continue to understand the people and this culture!
 
Anyways, lots of memorable moments from the week:
  • Why I`m here: Earlier this week, we approached a man walking on the street and starting talking to him. When he found out what we do (share the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), he got a bit frustrated with us and told us that as missionaries, we should be focused on helping impoverished countries with electricity, water, education, etc. While he had a good point and I am a strong believer in that type of service, that is not why I am here. I am here in Japan to help improve lives through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. If you teach a man the Gospel, you feed him for Eternity. Yes, that is a bit bold, but I wouldn`t be here if I didn`t believe it from the bottom of my heart. My purpose is not to force my beliefs on anyone else. Neither is it to tell  anyone that their beliefs are wrong. Rather, it is to simply invite others to come unto Christ and experience more joy and peace than anything else in this world can give them. While humanitarian work is necessary and many LDS missionaries around the world are in fact assigned to do just that, my purpose is to invite others to find something greater than anything money or education can get them.
  • The Police: It seems like every missionary has an awkward/terrifying encounter with the police at some point in their mission. For me, it happened my second week in Japan! As a missionary, much of our time is spent knocking doors and talking to people in the street (my companion and I call it housing and streeting). Well around 8:30 a few minutes ago, we were knocking on some doors in an apartment complex when a truck pulled up and slammed on it`s brakes. To our surprise, a man stepped out and started chewing us out. Luckily for me, I don`t really understand too much Japanese, so I wasn`t quite sure what he was saying. Still, because he was about a foot away from us and screaming, I figured he was pretty upset. Before I knew it, he had his phone out and was making a phone call. A bit terrified (we were in a pretty sketchy area), I told my companion we should leave. He just laughed and told me the man called the police and that we should stay. He didn`t quite catch all of what the man said, but the basic gist was that he was upset for us being out so late and knocking on doors, as well as me locking my bike to a pole. According to this man, both were against the law. Long story short, the police came and were total bros. They calmed the man down, sent him on his way, and they talked to my companion and I about life in Japan. We gave them an invitation to our English class we teach on Wednesday. We`ll see if they actually come.
  • Other firsts that happened this week:
    • Eating Sushi in Japan.
    • Having had a door slammed in my face.
    • Biking in down pouring rain (on the way back from buying my bike while wearing a suit. Fun times.)
  • The Shimonoseki Branch: The branch (congregation) here is absolutely incredible. It has about 40 active members that are all firmly rooted in the Gospel and extremely supportive of the missionaries. One older man makes bread for us each week, and another lady gets milk for us each week. They also love to come and help us in our lessons to people. To put it in perspective, the first Sunday of every month, all the leaders of the congregations (about 10 or so) meet at a nearby park at 6am to pray for missionary work in the area. The work is a bit slow still, but I can feel momentum building.
Video for the Week
Everyone reading this probably knows someone who has suffered from or is currently suffering from some sort of an addiction. Whether it is alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, food, or any other type of addictions, addictions are real and can destroy lives. Luckily, through a higher power, any addictions can be overcome through change. The LDS church has a 12 step recovery program that is open to all. They recently came out with 12 videos that explain 12 real stories of addiction recovery. Just a heads up, because of the nature of addictions, the videos are a bit intense. Here is the trailer and website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW1fkViJLPk
 
Pictures for the Week:

1. Madsen Choro (my companion) and I

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2. Shimonoseki is apparently famous for Puffer-fish. One of the other missionaries in my apartment always wanted to get a picture with this giant painting.

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My Address:
My address for mailing letters and packages is the address for the mission office:
     Elder Kevin Colton
     Japan Fukuoka Mission
     9-16 Hirao-josuimachi, Chuo-ku
     Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810-0029
     Japan

Love you all!