Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On the first day of Christmas, my parents gave to me ...

Merry Christmas Eve!
It is almost Christmas AND 2017. Most of my high school and West Point friends graduate from college this year...where does time go? I've recently been thinking a lot about that idea of time and how no matter what we do, it passes. President and Sister Egan, Elder Yamanashi, and I are currently traveling the mission over the course of three weeks to participate and give trainings in seven zone conferences (about 30 missionaries at each). This time, Elder Yamanashi and I felt we needed to teach on "The Pursuit of Happiness." (I won't go into too much detail because some missionaries who get this email haven't the training yet). 
Long story short, time will pass, and it is largely an individual choice whether we enjoy that time or not. President Russell M. Nelson of the Quourum of the Twelve Apostles teaches us, "If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we wil never know joy. ... Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is a gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life as taught by Jesus Christ." Thus, only true strict, whole-hearted obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His servants can we experience that true joy that even human on this earth hopes to feel.
Notes/Stories from the Week 
  • One the first day of Christmas, my parents gave to me...
    • My parents deserve a shout out for the best 12 days of Christmas ever! See pictures below for it to make more sense, but starting on December 13, we opened a present that included a scripture as a hint for what it was. The office staff loved opening it daily.
  • He's still around?
    • Shout out number two goes to the one and only Mismash Choro for sending all his companions (including me) my favorite food in Japan, furugura! It is my breakfast every day :) I promise all the new missionaries when they come in that if they eat it everyday they won't get sick. It's worked for me so far. Hopefully their is some truth in there!
  • Christmas party!!
    • Yesterday was the Fukuoka ward Christmas party! It was fantastic! The first hour was a show that depicted the life of Jesus Christ, as well as why that should matter to us today. The show itself was a combination of video clips and musical performances from members and missionaries. For some reason accross the world their is a correlation with a ridicuously high percentage of Mormons being ridiculously talented at music. One of the missionaries made a joke before we started practicing for it that he was a failure as a Mormon boy becuase he had no musical talents. Throughout the practice session, he, as well as the rest of us, were shocked that he has the voice of an angle if he actually puts forth effort (Just to clarify, even if music isn't your thing, that's okay:) ).
    • I performed an arrangement of "O Little Town of Bethelehem" that someone in my family performed at a Miss Tomi Christmas recitial in 2005, as well as a "Joy to the World/Angels We Have Heard on High" arrangement that I performed at a Miss Tomi Christmas recital in 2011 or so. Moral of the story, thanks Miss Tomi!
Miracle/"Tendy Mercy" for the Week
God is great! From my amazing district at the MTC, five of us came to Fukuoka (Elder Johnson, Elder Rowe, Sister Luczak, Sister Myers, and myself). Since we split up on September 24, 2015, I had the hope that at some point on the mission the five of us would be together again. My thinking was the same zone. A few transfers ago, four of the five of us were in the same zone, but Myers Shimai wasn't there. Last transfer at Missionary Leadership Conference, four of the five of us were there, but this time it was Sister Luczak who wasn't there.
Well, this past Tuesday we had Missionary Leadership Conference and all five of us were there! While I'm sure God had much more important reasons for putting each of us in our current positions than simply being reunited again, we felt a small glimpse of the joy that the sons of Mosiah and Alma felt when they met back up after years of being apart. "Therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth" (Alma 17:2).
Video and Invitation for the Week
One last chance! If you have ignored this part of this email for the past few weeks, please visit this link and choose one of the ideas to do. Elder Yamanashi and I have been working on the, "Take a moment to enter all of your friends’ birthdays into your mobile device. Then make a point to wish them well on their special day." We are trying to call all our missionaries on their birthday! What will you do to follow Christ's example for caring for loved ones?
Pictures for the Week.
-Set 1: 12 days of Christmas! See explanation above.














-Set 2:
1: The 5 of us from the MTC district in Fukuoka- September 2015

2: The 5 of us again! December 2016


3: The doki (all same transfer) at the Yamaguchi zone conference (Elder Rowe, Elder Barker, me, Sister Magleby, S. Olsen)


4-the end: all my companions! Test for you Mom and Dad, do you know all their names by memory??












Love you!!

Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

ケビン C. コルトン 長老
日本福岡伝道部

It's Still Christmas time in the City!

Merry Almost Christmas (again)!!!
Another transfer week is come and gone. To give a little perspective of transfers in the Fukuoka mission, we have 40+ flights, trains and buses for 100+ missionaries, and bike transportation for everyone transferring. Elder Yamanashi and I have the opportunity to coordinate all of that. The reason I bring any of this up, is to show how incredible it is that Elder Yamanashi doesn't stress during any of this. He stays calm and in control, despite new challenges appearing at seemingly every moment possible. Yesterday after all our missionaries had arrived safely, I asked him how is so calm and in controlled (For those who don't know me, I'm one to stress out a bit and get a bit snappy with others when things are going right). Elder Yamanashi explained to me that it was because he wasn't the one in charge, God was. He further clarified that there are thousands of details we can and do miss during this transfer process, but that every time we do, the Spirit informs him of what we missed, and he fixes it. Sure enough, it all worked out, as it always does when we do the work of God.
I'm not sure I've ever met someone with so much trust that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ truly leads this work. Elder Yamanashi knows without a shadow of a doubt that God lives, and that as missionaries for His church, we are simply tools to be used in His hands. It's pretty remarkable.
Notes/Stories from the Week 
  • Caroling!
    • Like I said last week, last Saturday we went to an outdoor mall to put on a caroling show! It was incredible. We had practiced for a few weeks when we had time, and it actually turned out pretty well. Throughout the 30 minute performance, hundreds of people stopped and watched at some point. Our ward is having a special sacrament meeting on Christmas day (Thanks Elder Oaks and Brother Gavin), so the primary kids passed out invitations to that. The night was the epitome of Christmas joy. See pictures and videos below!
  • Another Beginning, Middle, and End
    • From Tuesday to Thursday was all working with our missionaries. The new missionaries (18 of them) came in on Tuesday night, were trained by us on Wednesday, met their trainers Wednesday night, and then headed off to their areas on Thursday morning. 
    • Thursday was the day were all the rest of our missionaries transferred as well. This time about 80 of our missionaries transferred. That morning, we picked up all of the returning missionaries- 24 of them, including my senpai sisters :(. See pictures below. They had their final interviews with President Egan, did some last dendo, and then headed out on flights early Friday morning. It's amazing how fast the mission goes!
Miracle/"Tendy Mercy" for the Week
One of the highlights of transfer week is always the meeting where trainers meet the new missionaries they will be training. I'll try to explain the setting briefly: the trainers sit in the back of the chapel and stand up when the new missionaries start to file in. The new missionaries then sit in the rows in front of their trainers. The meeting starts with President Egan welcoming everyone, followed by everyone singing the first off, "I'll Go Where you Want Me to Go," (https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/ill-go-where-you-want-me-to-go?lang=eng) in English and Japanese. President Egan then talks for a few minutes and does one of the things he does best, invite the Spirit. 
President Egan than randomly calls up a new missionary, has them introduce themselves, and then tells them who their trainer will be. At the point, the trainer, who at this point still doesn't know who they will be training, stands and walks (sometimes jumps and sprints) up to the front, gives their new missionary a hug, and then sits with them off to the side. We do that for each new missionary and their trainer (this time 8 sisters and 10 Elders). Elder Yamanashi and I get to simply watch from the back and feel spiritual confirmations as each new missionary meets their trainer for the first time. 
President Egan, Elder Yamanashi, and I pray and fast in the weeks prior to all of that to help determine first who the Lord wants to train, and then which of the new missionaries (who we only know by paper) they should be with. Seeing it all unfold is always one of the most spiritual moments of the week for me. Like I keep saying, we are not in charge of this work. We simply do our best to follow the Spirit. 
Video and Invitation for the Week
If you didn't have a chance to check out this website last week, here is your second chance! 
Please check it out and then figure out at least 3 things you can do this Christmas season to "Light the World" around you.
Pictures for the Week.
-1: Some of our returning missionaries and their companions coming up for an early exit interview (left to right: E. Hassell, E. Yamanashi, me, E. Ballard, E. Krebs, S. Miller, S. Brown)
-2: The quartet-ish for the caroling event- left to right- S. Cox, S. Willson, S. Myers, Akichan, me, E. Yamanashi
 

-3: The comp

 
-4: The singing group!

 
-5: Elder Coleman- we sang about 300 meters in front of that

 
-6: The missionaries in the Fukuoka ward at the bishop's

 
-7: Sister Nohagi returning after her mission ended!

 
-8: Some of the best missionaries ever that are now back in the states- left to right- S. Jorgensen, S. Jesperson, S. Cox, E. Yamanashi

 
-9: The entire group of returning missionaries :(

 
-10: My companion's beautiful food creation!


 
Videos for the Week.
1: Sister Willson and S. Cox (me on the piano)

2: The quartet turned quintet (This might have been the start and end to my singing career)

3: The group



Love you!!

Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

ケビン C. コルトン 長老
日本福岡伝道部

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"What are you now? A Mormon?"



Merry Almost Christmas!!!
Not much time this week so this will be short!
Notes/Stories from the Week 
  • Companionship exchange with Elder Strickland
    • Like I've said before, many of the highlights of my mission have been 24 hour companion exchanges with other missionaries in the mission.The exchanges allow us to learn from other missionaries and help fix some any problems the mission is having. Up to this point I've been about 25 of them. Well this past Monday was one of the best yet! Elder Yamanashi and I headed down to Nagasaki to dendo with the zone leaders down there, Elder Strickland and Sherman. Elder Strickland and Sherman are half-Japanese, and Elder Yamanashi is complete Japanese, so I was once again humbled with my Japanese :) Elder Strickland and Sherman are two of the best missionaries we have in the mission, so lots was learned!
    • Anyways, one of the highlights was a college student who after a short 5 or so minute conversation on the street, said he had time right there to talk with us. It just so happened that a park was about 50 feet away. The three of us headed to the park, then talk this young college student a 40 minute lesson on what we call, "The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Elder Strickland is a ridiculous teacher and took charge like a boss. While teaching isn't a strong point of mine yet, I love watching people light up when they start to consider the possibility of a Heavenly Father than loves them and has a plan for them.
Miracle/"Tendy Mercy" for the Week
Every Monday, we hokoku (report??) with the zone leaders about how each of their zones are doing. Thus, we get to hear all of the miracles in the mission! One of the highlights this past week a young couple at one the military bases in Japan that have been investigating the church for the past few weeks. He is in the Navy and learned about the church from one of his friends while out a sea for a few months. When he came back to port a few weeks ago, he and his wife immediately found the missionaries and started taking the lessons. Their lives have completely transformed in these few weeks as they have begun living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
The day after they were taught the Word of Wisdom (The law of health that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith. Honestly what most people think of when they think of Mormons. See the link for part of why we follow is https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/principles-and-promises?lang=eng), they were at a party when one of the higher up officers offered him a beer. As he took a step of faith and politely refused, the officer remarked, "Huh? What are you now? A Mormon?" The young sailor smiled and replied, "Well, kind of." He and his wife will be entering into the waters of baptism next Saturday! They have never been happier.
Video and Invitation for the Week
This one doesn't need too much of an explanation. Visit the website and watch the "Light the World" video!
Pictures for the Week.
-1: trying to discretely eat on the train (look up onigiri)


-2: Incredible orange rolls from Sister Egan. She is incredible!!! (I ate mine a bit too fast...) 




Love you!!

Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

ケビン C. コルトン 長老
日本福岡伝道部

Monday, November 28, 2016

I am grateful for everyone who gets these emails!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Before any of you ask, no, Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in the slightest in Japan :( But, it certainly is in the mission home! Today is a P-day for the entire Fukuoka zone (about 28 missionaries) and we are going to have a good ol' Thanksgiving meal! Pictures to follow next week.
Notes/Stories from the Week 
  • Mission Leadership Council (MLC)
    • I am pretty sure that the two organizations in the world with the most acronyms are the US military and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This past week we had MLC with all the ZL's and STL's to help them plan for ZTM (わかった?). In other words, the 16 zone leaders and 14 sister training leaders came to the mission home on Tuesday for a party! Well, a missionary's version of a party. It was fantastic! I am always amazed at these types of trainings how much we can learn. The source of our teaching is always the scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, etc) and Preach my Gospel (How to Be a Missionary 101).  For the first time I played a part in the training, which was a strange experience. It helped me turn to prayer and fasting the days before to figure out with Elder Yamanashi what the mission needed. I keep saying this, but it's amazing how we aren't in charge of this week. God is. We are simply the tools He uses. 
    • I had a lot of take-aways, including 
      1. Revelation is the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The beautiful fact that the Heavens are not closed, and that God still speaks to us through both a modern day prophet, as well as to us individually, is what allows us to carry out God's work on this earth.
      2. While knowledge is important and comes from a number of means, but true intelligence as the Lord wants us to have is much more than knowledge, "and it cannot be obtained without obedience and revelation" (Elder Oaks, also see https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2012-01-012-patterns-of-light-spirit-of-revelation?lang=eng).
Miracle/"Tendy Mercy" for the Week
For those not of my faith who read these, I hope I have never offended you with my experiences or anything I say in my emails! I realize I can be a bit bold and not "politically correct," but I do my best to explain where I am coming from.
Anyways, the miracle this week was Elder Yamanashi and I learning what we needed to train on for MLC. To give some background, what we train on is then taken by all the zone leaders and sisters training leaders and taught to the missionaries in their zone two days later. Thus, roughly 200 missionaries receive this training. Leading up to the conference, we were thinking about training about something along the lines of how to effective work with members to strengthen investigators. Well, two days before, we both got a clear "stupor of thought," meaning we got stuck planning. The scriptures teach us that this is often a way that God communicates with us. The Lord tells us that "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2). 
Well, we took that as a clear sign that we were supposed to train on something else. After more study and prayer, it became very clear that we needed to train on what President Nelson of the 12 Apostles calls, "Begin With the End in Mind." The basic idea was that baptism is a great step to come unto Christ, but that baptism is only the start of the journey. God has so many blessings in store for us through the temple. As we help our investigators realize that, they can see the big picture and have that desire to go to the temple even before they are baptized.
The miracle to me was how clearly we felt we were able to figure out what the Lord wanted us to train on. Yes, it took a lot of study and prayer, but every time things flowed well we felt the Spirit working through us. When we got stuck, we realized that was simply the Spirit telling us to take a different direction.
The beauty of the Gospel is that we can all receive that clear guidance everyday in our lives!
Video and Invitation for the Week
Short and simple! A little gratitude goes a long way! Please watch and think through 10 things you are grateful for!
Pictures for the Week.
-1: Elder Sherrill (my 5th transfer companion) and I! He is now a zone leader so I get to see him every few weeks!

-2: The crew that flew up to MLC from Okinawa!


-3: Elder Yamanashi and I twinning!



Love you!!

Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

ケビン C. コルトン 長老
日本福岡伝道部

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Start, the Middle, and the End?

Hello from Fukuoka Japan!
This week definitely wins for the strangest week of the mission! I had the opportunity to see 17 missionaries start the mission and 13 of the best missionaries I know end theirs. Two years is short...way too short!
Notes/Stories from the Week 
  • The Start (Tuesday)
    • One of the best parts about my current position is meeting all of the brand new missionaries off the airplane. On Tuesday night, 17 missionaries (These round included Japanese, American, British, and Brazilian missionaries) came to Fukuoka where we picked them up and brought them back. Most of them have been studying Japanese for only 2 months (see my September 2015 entries of my blog at elderkevincolton.blogspot.com to see how I felt when I first came here) and are now expected to help bring others unto Christ in Japanese. It's way fun :)
    • Anyways, we spend all of Tuesday night and Wednesday with them before sending them off on Thursday morning with their trainers to their new areas. Kind of like the first day of when I was a cadet squad leader with 10 new new cadets, except completely different. I liked this setting a lot more. 
    • The highlight was Wednesday night when they all met their trainers at the Fukuoka stake center. Over the past few weeks, Elder Yamanashi and I have been praying and fasting with President Egan to determine who are the right missionaries to train them. It was one of the the most spiritual experiences I have ever been a part of.
    • Well, as each new missionary went to the front of the chapel that Wednesday night and met their trainer after Egan Kaicho told them who it'd be, I had no doubt the God had chosen each and every one of them. I said this last week, but President Egan isn't in charge of this work. Our Loving Heavenly Father is. It's pretty incredible actually.  
  • The Middle
    • Thursday was transfer day in our mission. Transfer day is crazy. Our mission covers 5 islands that require everything from planes to subways to buses to bullet trains to travel across. Elder Yamanashi are pretty much travel agents that book all their travel. So if you ever come to this part of Japan and need help with travel, let me know!
    • Anyways, we always get to see tons of our missionaries that day. There is nothing like the relationships you make on your mission.
  • The End
    • The rest of Thursday and Friday morning were spent the returning missionaries that have given it their all for the past 18 months (sisters) or 2 years (Elders). Now that was a strange experience. I had gotten to most of them very well (past assistants, my zone leaders, and even a past companion). Taking them to the airport on Friday morning and sending them through security helped me realized how short these two years really are. We have only two years to give literally all our time and dedication to the work of the Lord. I to often forget that!
Miracle/"Tendy Mercy" for the Week
Miracles happen allll the time here in honbu. One of the coolest from this week was actually this morning. The stake had put on a mission preparation day for the youth on the island of Kyushu. In all, about 60 youth and YSA came to the stake center. For 45 minutes of that, Elder Yamanashi and I gave a training about what life is like in the Fukuoka mission. For those who knew me well, you know that public speaking has never been a strong point of mine. Growing up with a stutter, I have always dreaded public speaking.
Over the mission, one of my favorite scriptures have been Ether 12:27 from the Book of Mormon which says, 
"And if men come unto me wilshow unto them their weaknessgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all methat humble themselves beforme; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faitin me, then will make weak things become strong unto them."
To me, the prophet Moroni is telling us that if we come unto Christ, we will be made humble through being shown our weaknesses. The beauty of Christ's Gospel, however, is that at that point Jesus Christ will pick us up and help our weaknesses become strengths if we let him.
Well, I have been shown my weakness in public speaking time and time again in my life. It wasn't until I came on my mission that I began to start letting Jesus Christ help me. While I still have a lot way to go to get to where the normal person is at, the fact that today I could give a 45 minute presentation in Japanese with Elder Yamanashi is nothing short of a miracle. I don't say this to brag. I am still worse than the average person :) but through Christ's help we can all get there! 
Thus, if you are sick and tired of a weakness you have, I beg you to turn to Jesus Christ. He will not leave you abandoned. I often thought He had left me, but oh how wrong I was!!
Video and Invitation for the Week
I've showed  this before, but it is always a favorite of mine. For those without a Christian background, you will surely have some questions about what it means, but I encourage you to reach out to a Mormon you know and ask!
Pictures for the Week.
-1: The new office! From left to right: Elder Haoka (Mission supply manager), Elder Hassell (The recorder), Elder Hazalbarth (Financial secretary), Sister Hazalbarth (Office secretary), President and Sister Egan, me, and my incredible companion, Elder Yamanashi!



-2: An unexpected visit!



-3: Role play. Gotta love it



-4: Three of my role models on the mission who just finished there missions. Left to right: Elder Davis (my zone leader my 5th transfer), Elder Mismash (4th transfer companion), Elder Pettit (my assistant for transfers 6-9).



-5: Elder Mismash and his Mom picking him up.





-6: The recorder and MSN!
Love you!!



Elder Kevin Cash Colton
Japan Fukuoka Mission

ケビン C. コルトン 長老
日本福岡伝道部