Sunrise from our apartment

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Okinawa, Japan - at least for a while anyway

Lunch at a Hawaiian restauant-napkins stored in a Spam can--Span flyswatter. Must be a theme thing.

They call this "Chicken Island" because chickens live on it. Elder Arnell in front of a playground which has a ship for kids to climb in overlooking the beach and Chicken Island.

We didn't know that there was an active volcano on the southern end of Japan near Kagoshima. The mountain is called Mt. Sacurajima and always has ash spewing out. They have had a little more ash activity during the past week. Earlier in the week I noticed that the air tasted funny and there was a film of dust on our car. Now I know why.

We took the mission car to the ferry at Kagoshima Tuesday morning and then flew to Okinawa that afternoon. We were met by Elder Philp Savage and his wife, Janet, who are the Military Relations couple assigned on the island. There are 14 military bases--mostly Marines. We are currently staying with Bill and Melene Mierzejewski. He is an assistant principle at an elementary school with DODS (Department of Defense Schools) and she has taught school full time and is currently a substitute teacher. They have five children who are all grown but not all married. None of them live at home. They have a nice American style home and have been in Okinawa for over 15 years. The plan is for us to be here at least six weeks and if we can not return to Tokyo by that time we will stay here permanently and when the Tokyo mission opens up again they will send a new mission couple to that area. If things settle down up there we will be packing up the car again by the end of April and driving back up through Japan. There are three people left at the Tokyo mission home--President Albrecht and Elder and Sister Hobbs, a Senior Missionary couple who arrived in Japan a month after we did. They said Tuesday they were able to get gas for all three mission vehicles and although there were some stations closed, the ones that were open did not have any cars lined up for fuel. Companies are reported to be bringing their employees back into Tokyo even though there are still issues with the nuclear plant. Last night they had pictures of the workers standing around talking in front of the plant and they were not wearing any extra protective clothing.

Meanwhile we will help out as much as possible here in Okinawa. We took a walk yesterday morning with Sister Mierzejewski down to the East China Sea (2 blocks away) and had lunch with her and the Savages at a Hawaiian restaurant on the beach. In the afternoon we went out with the Savages and took some blankets and a bicycle helmet to some Sister missionaries. They were both sick with the flu so were given a priesthood blessing. One of the sisters, Sister Lynch, is from the Tokyo mission. We also visited with Elder Jenkins, who had been with us in Fussa. It was nice to see that he was settling in nicely. Another Tokyo missionary, Elder Williams, assisted us last night when we had to go to the ferry to retrieve our car. It is always nice to have in interpreter nearby. This morning we unpacked the car and put things away. We will meet with the District President this evening and get a feel for what he would like us to do. Meanwhile I am happy to just sit quietly in this house today and maybe do some FamilySearch Indexing, reading or nothing. Elder Arnell is anxious to get out in the car and explore the island, but I need one more day to decompress after the past week of upheaval. I hope you enjoy these pictures.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kogoshima Prefecture-Southern Japan

A park near the Richmond Hotel in Kogoshima - southern tip of Mainland Japan

The flower were very beautiful and springlike.

This is our room in the Richmond Hotel. Very much like one in the U.S.
10,000 YEN - about 125 dollars.

For the first time since all of the events of the last 1o days I am feeling a bit displaced. I guess it's because we are way down on the tip of Japan and there are no Americans to rely on. We will drop off the mission car at the ferry tomorrow and then fly to Okinawa. Another military relations couple will meet us at the airport. We will be staying with a member family who are Department of Defense School teachers. If we don't find an apartment by April 1st there is a Captain in some branch of the service who is going to the States for three weeks and said we could live in their home while they are gone. I have no doubt we will be well taken care of. Our new adventure begins!!!

At the Fukuoka Mission Home

Living room of the Fuluoka Mission Home

Kitchen and additional dining area

The bedroom they call the General Authority room
Check out eh shower. There are multiple shower
heads that spray you in all different directions.
I actually slept eight hours!!! That's quite a treat for me.

Sunday-Iwakuni Church

Sunset on the Expressway

We went to church at the small military branch that supports the Marines at Iwakuni. Originally this weekend was supposed to be District Conference for all the church members of the Japan Honshu Military District. With all that has gone on this week and the pending evacuations of Americans from Japan that was canceled. So I would suppose they were very happy to have two missionaries show up as guests. Especially since Elder Arnell is on the High Council and could represent the District Presidency.

There was one other member there who was invited to bear his testimony before we spoke. He had been living in Kichijoji, which is just west of Tokyo. After the earthquake and all the issues with Nuclear stuff he didn't know what to do since he was getting conflicting information from his employer, the news and well meaning friends. He talked to his father in law and was told "Just follow the missionaries." Whatever the church was doing for the missionaries that is what he was supposed to do. According to Elder Holland's press conference on March 15th if the Japanese government said to move people 10 KM away from the affected areas then the church would move them 30; if they were told to move 30 km then the church would move them 90. So he packed up his family any moved them down to the Hiroshima area. I guess this answers my question on why there was so much traffic on the road when we got to that area Saturday night.

It was very nice to finally meet the members of the Iwakuni Branch. Before these events they were out of our mission area but still in the Military District. Now they are actually in the Fukuoka mission boundaries. We will be down in Okinawa but there are planes that go between Iwakuni and Okinawa every day so we can catch a hop up there whenever we want.

After church we drove the rest of the way down to Iwakuni--about four hours. The mission home is in the bottom portion of the Fukuoka temple. We felt very blessed to be able to spend the night there in what they call the "General Authority" bedroom. I will post pictures in the next blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19th - Driving down the middle of Japan

The Japanese Alps along the way.

This was our driving route from Fussa (Yokota Air Force Base) to our new mission home in Fukuoka.

We left just before 9:00 AM and immediately had a hard time getting out of town because the road we usually take was jammed with cars trying to get fuel. We were finally able to back out and take a different route to get to the Chuo Expressway. We had filled up with fuel and decided to stop as frequently as possible and top off the tank. At the first stop we were limited to 1,000 yen (about $12.50). There was no fuel at the next stop. At the third stop we could get 10 liters. After that there were no issues. We had smooth sailing until about half way there when we came to the Kyoto/Kobe area. These people really aren't affected that much by the events up north except for maybe some shortages. Monday is a Japanese holiday and the cherry blossoms are popping out all over so I am sure there were a lot of travelers visiting the old capitol of Japan. It took us about an hour and a half just to get 30 km. The beauty of this trip is that the route you see in the picture is one long connection of expressways. We never had to get off. We could just pull into rest areas along the way. The little drawback for such a good road system is the cost of tolls-15,900 YEN so far (about $190 dollars and we aren't there yet). Near the end of our day trip though we encountered another backlog at Hiroshima so decided to get off the clogged expressway and travel the remainder 70 km (about 45 miles)on the surface road. Bad idea!! That took us over two hours to make that little jaunt--through the city and countryside. If it had been daylight we probably would have seen some nice scenery in the Hiroshima area. The base wasn't accepting anyone into their lodging facilities due to the evacuation orders from bases up north but then they called back when they found out we were coming from Yokota Base and said we could stay there. But we had already made arrangements to stay in the home of Sister Chambers, the Iwakuni Branch Relief Society President. I crashed as soon as I could get to the bed.

We will attend church at the Iwakuni Branch this morning and then will drive the remaining four hours to the Fukuoka Mission Home. Since Monday is a Japanese holiday we will stay in that area until Tuesday and then will fly to Okinawa. We have a church car which will be ferried over there sometime later that week. There is already a Military Relations couple in Okinawa so they are going to help us get set up. Apparently we will be staying with a member until we can find and apartment.

We are really excited about this new adventure.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Final post before we pull the plug and head for Okinawa, Japan

The car is packed, dishes done, floor vacuumed. It's almost 8:00 PM and we have a long day ahead of us. Just a few thoughts before I pull the plug on the router to the Internet and disconnect myself from all of you.

Just a bit of an update first---We received the final word that we are going to Okinawa. We will drive the mission car south to Fukuoka and then take a plane to Okinawa sometime early next week and the car will be shipped via ferry. We were worried about the gas situation here. Our plan was to take one or two five-gallon gas cans with us so we wouldn't have to worry about fuel. One problem--most of the gas cans were already off the shelves. We did purchase a 2 1/2 liter can at a Japanese store--that will get us about 50 kilometer if we are lucky. We had a Japanese friend make some inquiries and apparently once you get about 327 KM out there are no more gas issues. We can make that easy!! It is an 11 hour drive to the nearest Military base--we may not make it that far. The Kobe Mission home is about an eight hour drive. We will just take the day as it comes and enjoy the journey.

Elder Arnell did a great job packing the car. It's nice not having to worry about the two suitcase, 50 lb limit yet. We will deal with that when we return to the States March 2012.

The voluntary evacuation is still taking place. Yokosuka is taking it very seriously while the other bases seem to be a bit more optimistic. Don't believe all you are seeing on the news. There may be some mayhem at Narita and Haneda airports but that is the only place. The trains were running again at the station near our apartment. People were out shopping--even during the three-hour utility blackout from 12:30 - 3:30. Many shops just opened up their doors to let enough light in and continued business as usual. Who needs electricity!!!

Guess that's about it. Thanks for all you comments. We are looking forward to Part Two of our Japan mission experience.

I hope to be able to post something along the way if there is internet access along with some pictures.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 18th--our projected travel plans

We mapped out the route between Fussa and Fukuoka. Google Maps says 1,107 KM (688 miles) and 14 hours 18 minutes. Much of this route is toll roads which makes traveling easier but of course more expensive (about $500 we hear). We will fill up with fuel at Yokota Air Force base and take a 5 gallon can of fuel with us in case we can't get fuel along the way. We are hoping the further we get away from the affected areas there won't be as many issues.

We had a pretty peaceful night--only a few noticeable tremors. Today will be busy getting stuff into suitcases and decide what to leave behind. We came over with with two suitcases and a carry-on so I guess that's all we should leave with. We have a small pantry filled with canned goods and a refrigerator with our food as well as what we retrieved from the Fussa Elder's apartment. We have left instructions to allocate it out to the members in the Japanese Fussa Ward or to whoever else needs it.

I will try to post one more time before we pull the Internet plug if something changes. Otherwise I will post on Facebook and if I have access to this blog along the travel route. Thank you all for your prayers in our behalf.

Elder Ellwood and Sister Shirley Arnell

Headed south to Fukuoka/Okinawa

We talked with the military relations office this morning and were told to pack our bags and relocate to the Fukuoka mission. There is already one Military Relations couple working in Okinawa where there are 14 US Military bases. There are two bases up near the mission home which do not currently have a Military Relations couple. Originally we were scheduled to fly out on Tuesday, March 22nd but then received a call this evening from our mission president and he said it would probably be better if we were just to pack our mission car and drive down there. It is about a 15 hour drive. We get pretty good gas mileage in the Toyota Corola but not tha t good. We are contemplating taking two 5-gallon gas cans of fuel in the trunk just in case we can't get fuel along the way. There are many gas stations up this way closed today because they are out of fuel. The further south we get things should be better.

This morning the President Albrecht, the Tokyo Japan mission president, put 140 missionaries on three different buses to be disbursed between three missions. He has 15 missionaries still at the mission home who will be flying back to the States tomorrow. After that he will be all alone in the mission home. My heart aches for him.

The US Embassy i n Japan issued a voluntary evacuation for Americans living in the affected areas. The will be flown to South Korea or Taiwan and from there they will have to find their own way to the final destinations. The military bases in our area are evacuating the dependents only--once again, on a voluntary basis. They will fly them to South Korea and then on to four selected locations in the United States and from there they would have to get to their final destination on their own.

Anyway, we will pack our two suitcases and whatever else we can fit into the car and drive away Saturday morning. I'll probably have time to post one more time tomorrow and then will have to pack away the router and will not have internet connection. There may be internet access at the rest stops a lon g th e way. We understand it is a very beautiful drive--and an expensive one with over $500 just in tolls. Keep us in your prayers.

We are still having scheduled blackouts. Yesterday it was from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM but the power came back o n at 8:30. These pictures were taken as we did our scripture study in the dark--Sister Arnell using the laptop and Elder Arnell lit up by his IPAD. Today the blackout time was 3:30 -6:30, just enough time for a nice long nap

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Received our marching orders - Wednesday, March 16th.

The last instructions from the mission home Tuesday night was for all missionaries to get to the stores first thing in the morning and purchase two weeks worth of food and water and then go back to their apartments and stay inside. Low levels of radiation have been tracked at Yokosuka and Atsugi Naval Air near Zama Army base but nothing yet at Yokota Air Force Base. At 6:30 AM we received a text from the mission home to disregard the previous night's message and for all missionaries to pack one suitcase and small bag and be prepared to move to another mission in Japan tomorrow. Their other bag and bicycle would be collected later and forwarded on to them. Later in the morning this instruction was changed to have them pack both suitcases and leave their bicycles. Since we are in a bit of a different circumstance than the younger missionaries we don't know what is in store for us. We are assigned as Military Relations missionaries so don't know how useful we would be in a regular Japanese mission since we don't know the language. We do have access to a mission car so could be of help transporting missionaries around. Right now we are just packing up a few things that had purchased to have mailed back to the states. We will wait for the mission president to call and tell us what to do. It is a bit difficult for me (Sister Arnell) not to know what is going on, but it did give me the opportunity to update this blog before we take of to points unknown and maybe not have access to the Internet for awhile.

I was able to post our status on Facebook as events unfolded so when my family woke up on Friday morning in the States to the news they could get the real story from my previous posts. Telephone and cell phone service has been very spotty since Friday but people have been able to post data on Facebook or by sending text messages.

We will keep you posted on what is happening.

Earthquake - March 11, 2011

About 45 minutes after arriving back at the Yokosuka Navy Base from our previous post we felt the trembling from an earthquake--2:45 PM. We had heard before our mission that Japan had a lot of earthquakes but had only felt a few very minor tremors in the 5 1/2 months since we arrived. This one lasted about four minutes and the car was rocking in the parking lot but everyone could keep their footing as the ground shook. Nothing fell off the shelves or walls of John and Lora Lund's home where we were staying. After watching the news though, we soon discovered it was much more severe than we had first thought. We followed the news on the Armed Forces Network as well as the Japanese networks and watching the tsunami hit the Sendai area. There were also explosions at a storage facility and refinery for gas in the neighboring Chiba prefecture. The area of the Earthquake is about 200 miles northeast of Yokota Air Force Base. Since we were at Yokosuka for the weekend we felt a few more of the aftershocks that those up at Yokota.

I mentioned previously that we had attended a 3-zone conference in Yokohama on Thursday, March 10th. We were supposed to be at the 3-zone conference at the Mission Home with the missionaries from the Musashino, Tokyo and Chiba Zones on Friday, March 11th. This conference had just finished with their closing prayer when the earthquake hit. Therefore, all of the missionaries in the hardest hit areas of the mission were all safe and accounted for at the mission home (except for us, but we were safe at the Navy base). These 3-zone conferences had been scheduled for the following week but at the first of the month President Albrecht decided to move them up one week. It will be interesting to hear why he felt impressed to make that change. The mission just north of ours--the Sendai mission--is located closest to the epicenter. For quite some time no one was able to locate these missionaries but it turns out that they too were all together at a zone conference and were able to be together at a fire station. As of today, Wednesday March 16th they are still in the same clothes they had on since Friday, but they are all safe. Another mission in the north, the Sapporo mission, has a similar story. All of the missionaries were attending a zone conference when the quake hit. We are calling this the Japanese Missionary Miracle.

We stayed in Yokosuka for the weekend and attended church meetings Sunday morning. We all had to smile when cell phones went off during Sunday School issuing an earthquake alert and then feeling the 8 story office building where they hold church meetings sway and tremble a bit. After church we felt we were leaving the Garden of Eden and going out into the Lone and Dreary World to go back to Fussa and Yokota Air Force base. We took the country route home along the Sea of Japan and straight up inland instead of traveling on the crowded highway with many ramps, bridges and elevated roads that we usually take. It was a beautiful day for a drive and people were out on their surfboards and walking along the beaches. Inland the only differences we saw were lines forming at the gas stations.

We arrived in Fussa to find our apartment intact with nothing fallen or damaged. On Monday we went to the commissary to pick up some extra water. Last month Sister Arnell felt it important to talk to her children about getting prepared for upcoming events and to get a 3 month supply of food and water. Taking her advice we had purchased $200 worth of canned goods and food to stock our shelves. Therefore we didn't have to buy much on this trip. The shelves were still fully stocked but every grocery cart was in use at the Commissary. There is fuel available at Yokota with no limitations. When we left Yokosuka on Sunday they had imposed a 10 gallon limit with the price being $3.31/gallon. Out in Japan they have imposed a 5 gallon limit at 144 Yen per liter. Right now the exchange rate is $.80 to 100 Yen. On Tuesday, March 14th Yokosuka Navy Base and Zama Army base was out of fuel for personal vehicles.

We follow the earthquakes at a site on the internet - Earthquakes in the last seven days - just to see what is happening. The picture at the top of this post shows how many quakes hit the area in 2 1/2 days after the first one hit.
Along with the Earthquake and tsunami damage is the problem with some nuclear reactors in the area having some explosions and leaking radiation. Since we have connections with personnel at the Air Force and Navy bases as well as family members who work in the industry in the States we have been able to discern what is truth verses sensationalism with what is being reported on TV and the Internet.

Utilities are being rationed because of the refinery fire as well as the nuclear issues. There are three-hour blackouts of all electricity and water usage. The first day--Monday, March 14th it was scheduled for 12:30 - 3:30 PM. We figured--well, we might as well take a nap!! It didn't happen though. Tuesday's blackout was scheduled from 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM. A little more tricky. Sister Arnell is an early riser but not so for Elder Arnell. We did get up by 5:00 AM and showered and had breakfast. At 6:00 AM we heard announcements made from loud speakers but since we can't understand the language we have no idea what they are saying. For all we know they could be saying "Tsunami coming-get to higher ground!!" and we would just be sitting in our apartment posting on Facebook or whatever. Anyway, 6:30 AM came around and we still had power. We have discovered these blackouts are scheduled as needed and if people are conserving energy on their own it isn't necessary to force a shutdown of power. The Japanese people are very courteous of others around them. There has been no issues of looting or panic. Even in downtown Tokyo on the first day when millions of people were left stranded in the city because all of the trains were taken down, people stood quietly in lines and accepted the donated Snickers bars and toilet paper while waiting for buses to come to take them out of town. The major train station next to our apartment in Fussa has been closed along with half of the normal rail traffic in the country to conserve resources. Many factories and businesses are closed because people can't get to work and also to conserve utilities. We anticipate the trickle down effect to the economy when people aren't getting paid to work and therefore are not shopping--even if there were food on the shelves. I mentioned that we had food and fuel on the base but it is not the same out in town.

Before going to bed on Wednesday night at 10:30 PM we felt another strong earthquake. We turned on the TV and the English translated Internet channel to find out that this quake was actually in the south just 30 KM from Yokosuka base near Mt. Fuji instead of where all of the previous quakes had been happening. We thought--"Great. That's all we need, a volcano to add to the trifecta of events." So far that was the only quake in that area, so far.


March 11th--Shrine off of Route 134-southeast of Yokosuka Japan

We attended a 3 zone conference in Yokohama on March 10th and since we had scheduled ourselves to be in Yokosuka we decided to stay for the weekend. On Friday we drove to this shrine/grave site which is south of Yokosuka on the shoreline of Route 134. There is one very large statue and several small ones all nestled on the hillside.

Grave markers.
They put little hats and scarves on these little statues
Steps leading up to the shrine and gravemarkers

Path leading down
One neat grave marker
Statues along the way

Grave marker
Sister Arnell in front of a statue

Elder Arnell and Sister Arnell in front of hands

This statue is huge!!
Sister Arnell is stading on the ledge at the base of the statue.

After visiting this shrine we drove back to Yokosuka arriving about 45 minutes
before the 8.9 earthquake hit Japan and changed the whole mission for us!!!

February 15, 2011-Visit from Elder Jeffery R Holland-Tokyo Japan

On Tuesday, February 15, 2011 the missionaries in the Japan Tokyo mission were able to visit with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Ronald Rasband who is one of the Presidents of the Seventy. Their wives also accompanied them. The meeting was held in the church adjacent to the Tokyo temple. They had a late morning meeting with just the missionaries and then another meeting that evening with all of the LDS members in the are. I will try to post some of the main points of their talks.

Sister Rasband (AM Meeting): She talked about holding up your light so it can shine forth. Christ is the light.

Elder Rasband (AM Meeting): He stated that Japan is not the most difficult mission in the church, but one of the hardest. He said the purpose for the church in these latter days is for the Gathering of Israel and the Lord's elect. He quoted Doctrine and Covenants 123:12 about the elect being blinded by the craftiness of men. He said we need to have great earnestness in finding the Lord's elect. He talked about Names. The Lord knows us all by Name. Names are important. In the temples we do work for one Name at a time--everyone is an individual.

Sister Holland (AM Meeting): She told of a woman in Norway who felt the power of the Priesthood in the missionaries as they walked by her little shop each day. She wanted to find out about that source of power so she stopped them one day to talk. Soon she was baptized and raised her sons to become missionaries. Power can emanate from a missionary. Others will sense his power and will want to know why you glow. She asked the missionaries to show the glow of angel light in their souls. She said "You don't have to be perfect to have Heavenly Father's love, but you have to be trying to become perfect."

Elder Holland (AM Meeting): He thanked the missionaries for serving their missions. He said that the General authorities can not duplicate themselves and be everywhere they need to be to do missionary work so they rely on the missionaries to be emissary's for the restored church. Missionary work is the miracle of the Restoration. Invite others to come and see what we have to offer. Missionaries are the foot soldiers in God's Kingdom.

The most powerful thing he said was this: "If I find you at some later date and learn that you have gone inactive in this church, I will find you. How Dare You be here in Japan, telling others to change their lives, and not be willing to change your own. You have been guaranteed one convert on your mission--YOU! So get up on time and study!!" He said that it took seven years to write Preach My Gospel and it was created out of concern for the return missionary inactivity. Convert the missionary and then the investigator. He said that study has to be personal and powerful. Obedience is the first law of everything. We are going to Spiritual Medical School every day. Be ready to save spiritual lives.

The evening session was held in Kichijoji Chapel. Nine stakes were invited. Most of them were Japanese members of the church but there were some other members from the Tokyo South District which consists of three English speaking branches. There are three branches from the Honshu Military District in the Tokyo area.

Sister Holland - PM Session: She said that we believe we are all brothers and sisters of Eternal parents. Jesus was sent to show us what Godlike love is like. It isn't our outward appearance that will make us happy. Our happiness is not obtained by jobs or education or how talented we might be. Our greatest achievement and joy is our relationship with other people and with our families. She said the Japanese have the quality of patience.

Elder Holland - PM Session: The church is destined to fill the world. This Church bears His name and the Priesthood bears His name. He guides from heaven. The challenge of the leaders is to administrate the 2,900 Stakes in the church-30,000 wards and branches-342 missions with 127 new mission presidents. There can only be three members in the Presidency and 12 Apostles. Currently there are 14 million members of the church. The Presidency is trying to get out to large groups. Currently it would take 29 years to have an apostle visit each stake--that is if there were no more growth. All they can do is wave and send you a kiss.

He said the real message he has to give was that God knows each of us by name. In the Gospel we are saved one person at a time. When we are baptized we take upon the name of Christ. You are born with a name, baptized by name, ordination and temple blessings individualize us. Christ bore our sins personally, not collectively. He quoted Doctrine & Covenants 18:10--a missionary verse "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God."

He told of two missionaries who were only a footnote in church history--Eliazer Miller and Alphias Gifford (sp?). In 1832 they left their families to serve a mission and only had two baptisms--Brigham Young and Heber C Kimball. I'm sure they did not think they were successful missionaries. Abinidi didn't know what the outcome of his speech to King Noah and his priests. He didn't know Alma by name or that Alma was changed by his preaching. Alma equals everyone in the church. Do you understand why God loves you individually? He spoke about God's individual and personal love for each of us. He said. "We don't tell stories about stakes, wards or groups. We tell stories about individuals. Yes, working together as a family for salvation is so extremely important, but that is not enough until you are in it personally. It is about the individual's conversion. It is about YOU." You never know how you can impact the world.