Dear Family and Friends,
It had been over a month since I updated this blog so please read further down over six or seven postings to see what we have been doing over here in Japan.
We don't have a typical day routine on this mission but do keep pretty busy. On Wednesday nights we teach Eikaiwa (English) classes held at the church here in Fussa. Elder Arnell and I have been helping with the advanced class working on their pronounciation and conversational English. In turn we have been able to learn a few more Japanese words from our students. We have also been tasked to to missionary inspections in five of the nine zones in the mission which puts us out on the road two to three days of the week. We usually travel four to five hours a day on one of these trips. We get to meet with the missionaries--Elder Arnell tries to put on his military "white glove inspection" face, but they know he's a softee. We usually bring along some rootbeer, cheddar cheese, taco kits, toothpaste, deoderant or whatever else they are missing from the States as a reward. The requests from each companionship differs. We usually don't spend over $5 for what we bring but it brings joy into our hearts to see their faces light up when they see what they have been missing since they came out on their missions.
Our primary focus for our mission has been to get programs going for the Young Single Adults stationed at the three bases here in what is called the Honshu District of Tokyo. There are over 40 million people in this area. All of Japan is about the size of Californina and most of the people live in 1/8 of the land area--the rest of covered in dense forest or high mountains. It takes a long time to travel between the three bases or to the different apartments because of the congested traffic. The Japanese are very courteous drivers and there are very few road accidents and not even very many policemen out on the roads. In the almost four months that we have been here I think I have seen one policeman off the side of the road giving someone a ticket--maybe he wasn't even doing that. Elder Arnell got used to driving on the left side of the road pretty fast and we have become more experienced at driving and navigating the road system. We try to get over to the Tokyo Temple at least once a month with the Military District. They have English sessions at the temple on Thursday morning and Friday evening. You can go whenever you want thought and listen throught headphones.
There is usually a zone conference each month--usually split into three different days with three zones each because of the time it takes to get places. In one of the postings below you can read about the time all of the zones got together for Christmas. We attend as many of these zone conferences as we can so we can schedule apartment inspections while we have a big group of missionaries in one location. We all have cell phones and can keep close communications but being able to meet up with a group in person is always nice.
The missionary work differs at each of the three military locations. In Yokosuka they are mostly Navy and Marine. When the fleet is in there are a lot of people--when it's out it's a little sparce but then you have the needs of the families left behind to deal with. Since the ships are out 5-6 months at a time many of the families choose to go back to the states to visit while the military member is gone.
The Air Force is located at the base near Fussa and this is where we have our apartment. We live near a the major train station in Fussa and are about a five minute drive from the main gate. There aren't very many military YSA's here, but we do have four dependent kids as well as two Japanese sisters who both went to school at BYU-Hawaii and prefer to go to the Military English Speaking Branch of the church. This year we are going to combine the Yokota Branch YSA's with the Japanese Fussa Ward's YSA's and have family home evening and Institute classes together. We have been told that there are 4-5 Japanese young men who speak very good English. We have also been going out with the Branch President, Relief Society President, Branch Mission Leader and whoever else calls to meet with less actives.
Zama Branch supports the Army at Camp Zama as well as the Navy stationed at Atsugi Naval Air. The Navy is on the same timetable as Yokosuka as far as deployment goes. There are a lot of long term civilians working at the Zama base associated with intelligence, contracts, etc. Some of them have been over here longer than five years. It is the smallest of the three branches and there are only two active YSA's that we know of. I am sure there are more members of the church out here but they have chosen to keep their identity a secret.
We try to go to a different Branch each Sunday. Sometimes we stay overnight at the Navy Lodge or other base facility so we can meet with members of the branch at a time other than the three-hour church block. The Yen to Dollar rate is not very good at this time--about 83 cents will buy 100 yen. We have about $1,500 of fixed expenses each month with rent (71.000 yen), car, utilities, etc. Luckily we can buy gas (currently $3.05/gallon) on the base opposed to the 130 yen per liter off base. We do most of our grocery shopping at the commissary.
We hope all is going well for our family and friends back in the states as well as those on their own missions.