This week in the Sapporo mission was quite fantastic and special! This past Thursday we were able to head down to Sapporo, because we had a special zone conference on Friday. It proved to be great timing, because I got to stay in Ebetsu the night before and even go out to dinner with the Ebetsu Shimai and a really fun 23 year old that I met on the street with Imanishi Shimai.
The reason we had a special zone conference is because Elder Yamashita, a member of the Quorum of the 70 who is from Fukuoka Japan, came to work with all of the missionaries here. It was a really great experience, because we don`t have the opportunity to hear from a member of the 70 too often -- for those of you who aren`t too familiar with our church`s structure, we believe in the same structure that Christ established for His church when he was on the earth. We are led by a living prophet who has two counselors, and then have 12 apostles, and then the 70 (Luke 10:1) and so on.
This is getting kind of off track... but with the selection of the new Pope (which I`ve honestly only heard minor details about, so I`m no expert), we`ve had a lot of opportunities lately to talk about the structure of the church. A lot of the Japanese people we meet on the street think that all Christian churches are the same and have the same beliefs, so they are super surprised when we say there are tons of varieties and are even more surprised to hear that we have no connection to the Pope.
Our church is probably a lot different from some other churches in that we don`t have any paid clergy -- everyone is working as a volunteer. For the worldwide leadership positions of the church the majority of people are probably still American, but there are people from all different countries, like Elder Yamashita, and for the most part they`ve retired from their regular jobs and are now serving in church positions. Local church leaders, like the Bishop of the churches people attend every week are just normal people who have normal day jobs in addition to volunteering at the church. The church is really a service organization designed for everyone to participate and share their talents so everyone can learn and be strengthened together. It`s way cool.
But anyways, back to this week... Tshuchida Shimai and I actually lucked out because not only did we get to hear Elder Yamashita and his wife speak on Friday at zone conference, we got to hear him at a member fireside in Asahikawa on Saturday and then they came to our church in Asahikawa yesterday. Then we met him on the street on the way to come here to mail! In church he talked a lot about the fatherly love that God has for us, and it was great. It was also fun because since Tsuchida Shimai is also from Fukuoka, their families know each other! Fun stuff.
My birthday was a lot of fun! I felt a lot of love. I got to go out to dinner with a friend from our English class, and then we went to hear Elder Yamashita speak together.
I am going way over on time though... so I better get off before someone says something!
You`re all fantastic! Hope you have a great day!!!