Thursday, July 30, 2015

We Love to Laugh, Long and Loud and Clear

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hello everyone!

So many things have happened this week. Ready for a roller coaster? Buckle up and enjoy the read. 

From the first week here, the other six shimaitachi (sisters in our district) excluded my companion and me a bit; they have similar personalities that perhaps don't really match ours. Wallace shimai and I often did our own thing during study time and she was sad about how they were acting. It's been like this until recently. Sister Wallace realized that she liked and even loved the others in our district. We talked to them, and she realized that she was excluding herself. She thought they didn't like her and didn't bother to fix her perspective until she realized that she did like and love them, that she had to change her own attitude and perception and forgive, more than the others (though they ARE cliquey).

Saturday was Pratt Chourou's (chourou = elder) birthday! Very fun & very happy. Mom sent him a lemon bundt cake and all of our district w/our Japanese teacher celebrated in the sun. Sisters James, Brady, Wallace and I made him an Oreo cookie lay and I lent him a stuffed animal for the day. The party was spontaneous, happy, and Elder Pratt was grinning for 90% of the time. Everyone now thinks that you, mom, are a super hero and Elder Pratt wants to personally thank you :)

Two Sundays ago, the sisters attended a special RS meeting where Sister Edmunds spoke to us. The most comforting thing she said was, "the Lord takes your noises and turns them into words," this was reassuring in light of Japanese. She also said "don't touch the Elders--but keep an eye on the ones you want to." We thought that was funny. She was pretty funny overall. And she lifted my spirits.

The MTC has not only bats in the belfry but also mice and rats in the gardens. When cheese is dropped outside, the friendly mice pick it up, eat it, or gather it. They are so cute. Meanwhile, when we study and feel the fall-approaching breeze, we watch Remy the rat gather nuts, acorns, and berries, scamper across the sidewalk, and dive into his burrow. Once, he jumped a foot-high little fence! Carrying things! 

We got our new name tags this week. They are in Japanese (no English) and the whole district loves them. Everyone was shouting, laughing, and not studying when the teacher brought them. We cannot yet wear them, however, because the new "baby missionaries" can't read Japanese yet. So we have to wait till Japan. Which is in 11 days. Oh gosh. Wow.

Like Sister Wallace, I needed an attitude check, only an even bigger one. A few days ago, I was not a happy camper and in my thoughts, I told everyone I met, that if they kept talking to me, I would chop off their heads. Keyword here, "in my thoughts." I was rather grumpy, to say the least. Everything struck me as stupid. The sky was stupid, the class was stupid, my companion was stupid, the flowers were stupid -- most likely everything was stupid because you amazing people were not with me! Predictably, the day was awful and I was miserable when I *could* have been happy (it really was a *good* day with lots of happy things in it). Granted, it's not like that for everyone and many do not have the luxury of choosing their emotional states. From now on, I have decided to smile as much as I can and not allow things to annoy me or make me glare at people for no real reason. 

Yesterday was a 39 minute language exam! Ugh. We were given hypothetical situations and had to talk about how we'd fix problems, explain a scripture, tell a personal experience, and all of it in Japanese. During our first week here, we took a short test (in Japanese) and for one of the answers, I resorted to German. Better than answering in English, I thought. Perhaps no one noticed. This week's exam was much better, and all in Japanese. 

On Monday, we had another miracle. Monday was long, and from the second I woke up after a nightmare, I felt exhausted. However, I was happy and didn't sleep in class or during study time though it was very tempting. So, come evening study, my brain was dead, and I told Heavenly Father, "I'm going to sleep now. Good night." Wallace Shimai and I were studying on the grass near two benches. Just as I lay down on the grass, Wallace said "Let's read the Book of Mormon in Japanese." (We received Japanese Books of Mormon the first day we got here. So fun & amazing.) And inwardly, I go "Oh boy." However, I sit up and just as we begin, a "golden tag investigator" comes up to us and asks what we are reading.

We talk to him, tell him we're reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese, and tell him about Joseph Smith, about how the Bible and Book of Mormon go hand in hand and are two testimonies of Christ, why we are sacrificing our time and time with our families to serve a mission/learn Japanese, and about the Church in general. He also told us that he suffered from Depression since his son died 12 years ago, and very often feels lonely. So, me being me (and learning that if I tell Heavenly Father I'm tired, He will make me not tired and give me something to do), I tell our Jorje (our GTI) that I understand how he feels. At the MTC, I have felt lonely and have had painful times, and it has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through, especially with having light anxiety issues. I tell Jorje that he is not alone. I am not alone, have never been alone. Christ has always been beside me, has loved me, has borne me up and has given me comfort when I was down and that he, Jorje, could feel that also. I told him that Christ is always with *him* also. Jorje then said I would touch lives, that he liked my stories, and that I was very empathetic. He left soon after that. Wallace Shimai and I are talking to him tonight (Thursday) and we are super thrilled to talk with him. 

I realized that loving people is what matters. I realized that honestly showing people you care about them is what counts, it is what people feel. So, all of you, know that I love you. More importantly, Christ and Heavenly Father love you. Jesus is with you when you feel down, when you feel abandoned or lonely for whatever reason; he helps you get back up and will never leave you. He loves you, knows you, listens to you, and is there to help you. 



Thursday, July 23, 2015

We Love to Laugh

From: Madeleine Cottle 
Date: 2015-07-23 18:04 GMT-06:00
Subject: We Love to Laugh


I love your letters and emails. They are like electronic hugs. You all make me feel SO happy and loved!

This week was very standard. Except for the fact that when we taught Takeuchi-san, we busted up laughing, had to leave the room, then return when calm, and continue teaching. Ironically, the lesson then had me almost crying "Spirit tears" and Takeuchi started developing faith and understanding that sometimes his prayers are answered in unconventional ways he didn't expect.

We also taught Mai--who is Tsukamoto sensei--and at the end of the lesson, she kicked us out! We asked her to go to church with us, and she wouldn't do it. (My companion and I suspect she suffered a sudden oncoming of morning sickness and needed to get rid of us. Our suspicions have not been confirmed.) You all know that these are practice and not real lessons, right? 

My iron levels, thanks to spinach wraps with spinach inside & pills, have stabilized and are normal (135 range). However, I'm still exhausted. On Wednesday, yesterday, I nearly fell asleep in morning and evening class. However, it was not too bad because Tsukamoto shimai wasn't there to teach (too sick), so that cancelled the lesson with her, and during the evening, we had our first lesson with Japanese people on Skype! 

So yes! We skyped with a Nihonjin ("Japanese person") and he was very sweet. Once we left and our teacher talked to him, the Nihonjin told our teacher that the two of us were very good at Japanese and that we were very sweet and nice. *happy*

We leave in 3 weeks! :O I cannot believe it. But it is happening and it will be marvelous!

I love you all each so, SO much and think of you all daily.
You are treasures,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ice cream, cookies, and cheesecake

July 16, 2015

Konichiwa minusan! Hello everyone!

This week was amazing! I loved spending time in class, loved walking around in the evening with my dorio one day, and once, by some sort of miracle, the cafeteria served amazing food again. Beef enchiladas that were incredible and stuffed with iron! The next night, by some other miracle, they served meatballs. 

Lessons with our "investigators" have been going well. With Mai, we have been blessed to have one amazing lesson. We taught her about faith and she said she had some, we told her that the Spirit comes in all sorts of feelings. Mai works/interns at a Speech Therapy clinic and helps children learn Japanese pronunciation (Mai, not Tsukamoto Shimai our teacher. Confusing, I know). We told her that the good feeling she gets after helping someone is the Spirit. Her eyes lit up, and it was wonderful to see. However, the day after, she flat out declined going to church! She goes shopping with friends on Sunday, you see. It was a bit of a shock, but that's how it will likely be in Japan. [It is all a bit confusing, I imagine. Our "investigators" in the MTC are pretend investigators to help us practice our Japanese.]

Takeuchi's lessons are sort of going all over the place, however, tomorrow we start teaching him about the Restoration and Joseph Smith's first vision. 

Sunday's devotional and Tuesday's devotionals were amazing. The speakers talked about 100% obedience and our Branch President Johnson has challenged us to be 100% obedient. It's been hard, but I've seen a few blessings come from it. Study time, reading the scriptures, and edible food, have (perhaps) all been blessings coming from our commitment. Oh, every Saturday, we have "Closeout" in which each district gets together, watches a heart-warming Mormon Message, and then everyone either bears their testimony, or says what they liked about the message. This week's message was about learning how trials and challenges strengthen us and can make us better people. "Bearing our Burdens With Hope" it was called, and it is worth seeing, at least once. 

This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Tsukamoto Shimai did personal coaching with companion sets and when it was Wallace Shimai's and my turn to be coached about daily/weekly planning, she gave us several huge goals to do each week. We are already scrambling to complete the goals we have already set! It was hard to hear because it made me feel like I wasn't doing enough, wasn't working hard enough, wasn't learning fast enough. 

However, seconds after the meeting, seconds after listening to my companion fume about how unfair Tsukamoto Shimai had been, Heavenly Father sent us a MTC worker to talk to us. He was Japanese, and told us ways to talk to people in Japan (for example, on a train, read the Book of Mormon, point to a difficult character, ask someone to explain what it means, and let the conversation go from there). He told us he wasn't a member, but he totally was and it was really funny to pretend he wasn't. However, he was so sweet, so kind, and we learned about Japanese culture (first born sons are duty bound to take up the religion of his parents, for example). For both Wallace Shimai and me, the Japanese MTC worker was a god send. 

Oh! Funny awesome thing going on this week. During a scripture study, I cross-referenced something from 3 Nephi 12 (Beatitudes) to Alma 26:6. The verse in Nephi 12 was about inheriting the world and the cross reference was something DIFFERENT than Alma 26:6! However, verse six was amazing. It explained that having the ability to weather the worst of Earth's tempests was what inheriting the earth was. Not being a master of everything on it, but being able to be on Earth without being torn down and succumb to the hardships we face here. I liked that. 

At the MTC, I pray for and look for service moments and it is amazing to see what little things I find I can do for people. When I give others sincere & simple compliments, their faces light up, they smile, and even if it's for a few seconds, their attitudes brighten. So, I have seen that simple service works and is not that hard to do.  

I think of you very often and love you all!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rain or Shine, on Happiness I Dine

Dear everyone!

Hi! I hope you are all doing well! You all mean SO much to me and I think of you all often. 

This week was exciting, well, every week is exciting. :) 30 days till I leave to Japan! *nervous excited ecstatic*

Japanese is going well. There are different counter particles and we have been learning those this week in class. As well as teaching another teacher who is pretending to be a less active member. We are still teaching Mai and Takeuchi. During Mai's lesson planning, it took us fifteen minutes to figure out a sentence. However, we did it on our own and it was correct. Japanese is very hard but very rewarding. We gave Mai a "Faith" puzzle with the different components that build faith, questions, a desire to know, finding an answer, praying to see if it's right, testing your faith. 

It rained yesterday and it made me happy! Every Sister in our district went out after late lessons and danced around, took photos, and got soaked. It was marvelous and everyone outside loved being outside and everyone loved my adorable raincoat. It is so soft, and on Sunday, during a morning devotional, the coat came in handy as a blanket in the freezing gym. I might start using it as a blanket in our freezing classroom. 

On Sunday, I became very discouraged. It was hard to do simple tasks, hard not to cry, and it was generally miserable. It was no fun and it was exhausting. Monday morning rose bright, and I felt numb. I saw Heavenly Father reach out to me through friendly Elders sitting with us to talk about nerdy things during a meal, Sisters randomly giving me hugs, and letters from family, however, the blues didn't leave. Then, in the morning lesson, we were practicing extending baptism invitations to each other. We took turns being the Investigator and then the missionary. When I was the missionary, I testified of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and suddenly, as I spoke, I was flooded with an all-consuming feeling of how much Heavenly Father loves me, how much he cares, and how much he hasn't forgotten me. It. Was. Incredible. Ever since then, the Spirit has stayed with me and I have been able to bear discouragement much better. 

Heavenly Father lives! He lives, he helps us when we cannot stand, and he loves us more than anyone ever will. So, when you are down, pray. The answer might not come immediately, you might suffer a bit or a lot, however, the wait, the answer God will give you will be the greatest feeling ever. Rely on him, have hope, and miracles happen. 

Other things that happened this week have not been as monumental. I am praying in Japanese and am remembering much better. Everywhere I look, however, Heavenly Father places German or French-speaking missionaries in my path, and I about explode in happiness to talk to them in French or German. For Monday night teaching, the first couple we taught spoke German! The sister's name was Liesel, and she had lived in Frankfurt druing her childhood. 

Sisters Brady and James got to go to the airport to help a new sister. The new person had taken someone else's bag from the airport. So James and Brady accompanied the sister missionary (who did not yet have a companion) back to the airport on the shuttle. Brady and James Shimaitachi had a lot of fun being in the airport, but the rest of us in the district were worried because the front desk forgot to tell anyone where they had gone. In the end we were happy they had a good time. 

I love you all so much!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Email Number Three: Friends & Family

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Madeleine Cottle 
Date: 2015-07-02 16:50 GMT-06:00
Subject: Email Number Three: Friends & Family

Hello everyone!
How are you? What are you doing with your summers? It's so hot here now. Though in our classroom, it is so cold I always bring a blanket. 

This week was rather thrilling on various levels. The Mission President Seminar is over now. During the seminar, on Saturday, my companion and I were invited for a little visit with the MTC president. I think the clinic mentioned something about my fatigue so he wanted to make sure I was alright. While I waited to speak with the president, I was sitting in the hall, and there was Elder Bednar. I shook his hand. And Mom, he remembers Ursula! (Ursula is probably about Elder Bednar's age?) I told him about you, and when I told him your last name, Wöss, he said, "Ursula?" And I said, "no, Michaela, but Ursula is my aunt." And he smiled. 

The branch here is very sweet. All of the shimaitachi (sisters) say that my dorio (companion) and I are the sweetest & cutest ever. Haha. I'm still tired most of the time, but I manage to push through it and continue through personal study, lessons, Japanese. It's hard but doable and I Mom, you'll be happy to hear, I do it with minimal complaining :)

On Sunday, I got to watch President Monson get out of his car, into a wheelchair, and be helped into the MTC. It. Was. Awesome. I feel so honored. It was funny because one of the security women let slip to someone in our class building that President Monson was coming that morning. So ... all of the missionaries crowded in stairwells, crouched on stairs to wait. When our whispers got loud, a husky security guard warned us that if we were too loud, he'd have to shoo us away. We become silent and wait. Until the noise builds up again. However, we finally got the quiet thing down and waited, all on pins and needles until the security guard told us, "regretfully," that he had to shoo us away. Broken-hearted, all of us, about 150 of us, went away. However, I didn't want to give up so easily, so I went to an upper window and waited. And then I saw President Monson arrive! It was fun & awesome. 

The lessons with Takeuchi-san (who is also Brother Wilcox) are going better. The last lesson with him really flowed and I was amazed at everything my dorio and I were able to say & understand, and also that we were understood. It was a miracle. 

I love Japanese & love how the language sounds. It's really amazing and I cannot believe I have been here for three weeks! I was happy that I was able to put together a note to Tsukamoto Shimai (Sister Tsukamoto, my other Japanese teacher) in Japanese. It was two paragraphs long :) 

One of the Shimaitachi (sisters) here was very sick & for an activity on Monday, Wallace Shimai and I did splits with them. I stayed with the sick sister and the other two were able to go to the activity. The Sister I stayed with was very happy, we got along well (both of us being a bit nerdy). 

At Tuesday's devotional, Elder Sitati and his wife spoke to us and it was excellent. They are from Nigeria and helped to build up the Church there. Members first met in one family's home, the classes were in rooms, and Sacrament in the main living room. I loved listening to their stories. They talked about choosing to be happy and to follow Heavenly Father and the promptings He sends. 

And by the way, in the wake of the mission presidents' week, the usual cafeteria cardboard food has temporarily turned into 3 star restaurant food as we are now eating the leftovers from the mission president seminar :) Baked potatoes with cheese, boeuf bourguignon, asparagus, zucchini, shrimp, and best of all, smoked salmon with lemon. We think we should always eat like this :) But perhaps it would not prepare us as well to living out field?  

Random note, every night at 10:15, a kind of "Big Brother" voice comes over the intercom to tell us to have "quiet time." The voice comes back on at 10:30 pm to tell us it is bedtime. It's slightly odd and slightly creepy but also funny. I think it sparked a dream where I lived in 1984 a few nights ago! 

I love you all! I pray you are doing well & are happy.
Sister Cottle