This week was what I call my “rejuvenation phase.” In other words, I got back the fire that’s been missing the past month or so, and it felt so good.
On Monday we fled mission boundaries (with permission) and headed over to Shinjuku for a BYU Hawaii Concert at the glamorous Tokyo Opera City. Now there are two types of choirs. The traditional and…the not so much. The first song when they started bobbing heads and howling like someone from the Wild Wild West it was clear it was going to be *that* kind of choir. But besides some antics, we were amused and moved with pieces from the little mermaid, Saul’s conversion, Hana wo Saku, and an amazing rendition of “How Great thou Art.” When they sang Hana wo Saku, the song that was released to support benefits for the Earthquake in Japan, people were moved to tears. We got home pretty late, after a Cambodian on the train tried to convince us to come support the tourist industry in his country, and I realized it’s been about a year since I’ve gone to bed after 10:30. Isn’t that strange? Who knows how I’ll adjust back to college life.
The next day down in Kawasaki, I passed out an English flyer to a man who scoffed when I said the class was free and I called him back, saying, “What? You don’t believe me!?” And then we had an hour long conversation about why I was in Japan. Turns out he celebrated his birthday with missionaries a year ago and he’s a very strong believer in karma.
On Wednesday I had the chance to go on splits with my beloved step-mother (Follow-up trainer)! As opposed to a year ago, the fact that we got along perfectly, had no language barrier, and had an amazing time together is a testament to the fact that a mission really changes you for the better. We just spent the day teaching and talking to everyone. We taught one woman about the word of wisdom, and by the end of the lesson she handed us all her cigarettes and said she would quit then and there.
In the evening we went with two great friends to an indocurry restaurant and spent the hour learning how to order in Hindi and getting free naan as a reward.
This week we also met our new mission president! His wife kept accidentally calling him Professor Warnick instead of President, proving that this new life is just as much of an adjustment if not more for them than it is for us. His first message was a throw down on the importance of obedience to mission rules, so it’s safe to say the Warnicks will be running a tight ship here in Tokyo South.
On Friday we met a Filipina woman and were invited inside to teach. Most of the lesson dealt with dispelling misconceptions about what we believe, but I had the chance to just talk about my favorite book in the world. In the end she committed to read it, and that’s all I could ask for.
Finally, on Sunday, in church there was a meeting where anyone who wanted could come up and share their feelings and thoughts and beliefs. The last speaker came up and talked about how he attended a youth camp for Americans in Japan. During the talent show portion, a group sang the Japanese national anthem and he noted how beautiful and moving it was. But then, as some performers started to sing the American National anthem, he was stunned as hundreds and hundreds of teens stood up and joined in singing. He passionately admonished the Japanese people to “love your country as much as the Americans love America!” And then he sat down. I was baffled. But appropriately, the next day was Independence Day.
Later, I was asked to help translate a survey of a girl that had studied abroad in America and given out a survey. One of the questions, pertaining to World War Two, shocked me. The American high schooler had written, “The Japanese used to be our enemy, but not all of them. I don’t think they were fighting to protect their country like we were fighting to protect ours.” The narrow-mindedness of his answer, assuming only American soldiers were fighting to protect their loved ones, illustrated to me how much we need intercultural interaction and sharing. That evening Tanimoto Shimai and I had a long talk about World War Two and the feelings of people as they went to war and how it fit into religion. It was an amazingly eye-opening experience and I learned an entirely new perspective on history that I’ve never gotten from a history book.
That evening we had an amazing time talking to people and ended up meeting several Muslim families. Finally, in the distance I overheard loud laughter and American accents and decided I had to check it out. We had found the mother load of ex-pat manga-loving fluent-Japanese-speaking English teachers. We knocked on the door and they opened it, a little confused, only to find the Mormon missionaries saying they heard there was a Fourth of July party and had decided to come check it out. The novelty of the situation was hilarious to them and we were quickly invited in for barbecue and water. It was 38 degrees so you could say that was the only decent humane thing to do.
Lastly. I’ve been thinking about integrity a lot lately. I think for a time in my life I didn’t understand the real importance of the attribute, or thought it was overrated. There was a while when I lived with a disconnect between what I did and said and believed, often
without even noticing it, and yet it caused me so much mental and emotional pain and stress.
I read an article recently that mentioned the play “A Man of All Seasons,” following the story of Sir Thomas More, who refused to betray his integrity to support King Henry’s carnal desires to start his own church so that he could divorce one Queen to marry another.
“At the climax of the play, Sir Thomas More is falsely tried for treason. Sir Richard Rich commits the perjury necessary to convict him. As Sir Richard exits the courtroom, Sir Thomas More asks him, “That’s a chain of office you are wearing. … What [is it]?”
Prosecutor Thomas Cromwell replies, “Sir Richard is appointed Attorney-General for Wales.”
More then looks into Rich’s face with great disdain and retorts, “For Wales? Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales!”
Sometimes I wonder what we compromise our integrity for? To fit in? To get a grade? A promotion? Because it’s easier?… But is it worth it?
Some of the points that I loved outlined the following:
1. Integrity is the foundation of our character.
2. Integrity isn’t just doing what’s legal, but what’s moral.
3. Integrity is disclosing the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
4. Integrity knows no alibis or excuses.
5. Integrity is keeping our covenants and our commitments, even in times of inconvenience.
6. Integrity is not governed by the presence of others. It is internally, not externally, driven.
I love This chance to be in Japan! Excited to go strong until the end.