Monday, January 25, 2016

Palm Trees, Snow Storms, and Peace and Warmth Inside


This southern end of Japan has a great climate, with palm trees, fruit trees, and plants that grow all year long.  They have changes of seasons, with beautiful cherry blossom springs, warm humid summers, mild autumns, and chilly winters.
Last winter, we had 3 or 4 days of snow flurries, but it didn’t stick to the roads or sidewalks.  It was a really nice winter.  It was cold, we wore coats, but there was no snow to shovel. 

Last week, we heard weather predictions of snow, but thought it would just be snow flurries like last year.  We waited and watched as the temperatures continued to drop over several days.  It went from (Fahrenheit) the 50s, to the 40s, to the 30s.  Then the bottom dropped out, into the 20s.  It started snowing Saturday night, and by early Sunday morning we had several inches.  As we watched the snow for several hours, we saw small flakes, sometimes big flakes, and occasionally the sun would peek out for a few minutes.  The LDS chapel is up on top of a very steep hill with narrow winding roads.  The branch leader, President Furue, counseled with other leaders, and decided to cancel church meetings.  Most people here have “summer tires” on their cars, and are not accustomed to driving in snow and ice.  This community does not have snow removal equipment, or road deicers.  President Furue sent out an email to let the members know of the cancellation.  The President, the two of us, four Elders missionaries, two Sister missionaries, and four members walked to the church, so we held a small Sacrament Meeting (we usually have about 60 people).  We missed all of the other members, but it was a really special time to be together in a warm and spiritual setting partaking of the sacrament.  We all took part in the small meeting playing the hymns, leading the songs, saying prayers, giving talks or testimonies.  It was the last Sunday for one of our young elders, Elder Wilcox, before going home and he was scheduled to speak and give a sort of farewell, so we were all blessed by his testimony, and experiences.  I also was asked to give my testimony, which I did—a simple one without a translator.  After the meeting Elder Rowe showed them the Japanese broadcast of the Elder Nelson Worldwide Young Adult meeting in place of Sunday School lessons.  Elder Rowe and I brought some food from home to feed anyone who came to church.  It was supposed to be the Sunday with the linger-longer to wish happy birthday to all who had birthdays for the month.  We had a special time visiting and eating, while a blizzard raged outside.  After eating we then watched this past week’s Face to Face worldwide broadcast with Elder Rasband, Sister Oscarson, and Brother Owen. Eventually the snow was lighter, so all 13 of us went home.
It continued to snow until just after midnight.  Things really seemed to freeze up.  When we awoke this morning, it was 12º in our home, the same temperature as outdoors.  Our hot water wouldn’t work, our wall heater didn’t seem to work, and frost came out of our mouths when we talked or breathed, and there was frost on the inside of the windows.  Luckily, our gas stove worked, so we boiled hot water for warm drinks.  Our microwave worked, so we made hot cereal.  We dressed in several layers of warm clothes. 

Later we talked to Sister Tuchida and her son Chiune about our hot water problem.  They prayed to know how to help us.  Their prayers and advice helped us.  Our hot water started working.  By 2:00 pm, the temperature rose to 34º, and roads started thawing a little. In spite of this cold adventure, we still count our blessings.  We are thankful for a sweet home here, wonderful neighbors and community, but especially for the awesome church friends.  They are like family.  We also know that while we cannot control the weather or various trials, we can control our attitude, faith, and how we help and serve others.     
By the way the two broadcasts were amazing, and it wasn’t just because we were sitting in a warm, comfortable place.  Please take the time to watch them—in Japanese or English.

Here are Elder and Sister Nelson’s talks:
https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/archive/worldwide-devotionals/2016/01?lang=eng

This is the beautiful theme song for the youth this year “Press Forward”: 
https://www.lds.org/youth/music?cid=YS-F-musicteaser&lang=eng

Here is the entire Face-to Face broadcast:
https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/face-to-face-events/rasband-oscarson-owen?lang=eng

Here are some pictures of our warm memories: 
 
Before the snow came, we had some rainy days, with an amazing rainbow.  We guess you could call this "the warm, before the storm".
 
 
The neighbor is walking along side the car, while his wife sees if she can turn the corner and go down the hill, without getting stuck or sliding on black ice.  We saw some cars with chains on the tires, but most don't have chains, so they stayed home.

 
Our small little group at church.  It was a special time.

 
A view out one of the church windows.

 
Another view out the side chapel window.
 
 
Notice the palm trees covered in snow.  Our great missionary, Sister Nohagi, took this photo of the missionaries in front of the church. 

 
An amazing photo by Sister-Mami Sasaki, by her home.

 
 Another wonderful photo by Sister-Mami Sasaki.  Thank you for sharing these with us.

 
 Walking to church in our Sunday clothes.  Luckily, the snow shook off pretty well, before entering the building.  

 
Our Monday morning view, with the 12 degree weather.  Brrrrr.
 
 
Glenn scraped a little snow away with a broom dust pan, because we don't have a snow shovel.  It helped to thaw the layer of ice on the porch from Sunday. 

 
Monday morning, walking through our neighborhood to go to the church, we saw only footprints, no tire tracks.  None of us wanted to get our cars stuck in the snow and ice.
 
 
An interesting view of our volcano, Monday morning.
 

Notice the steam clouds coming up from the water.  The water was cold, and yet it was warmer than the air.  And, another great view of the volcano.

 
We saved the best for last.  We love a good volcano sunrise photo.
 

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