Monday, January 9, 2017

Yaka Hiroshi 屋嘉 広

What a week! Hello everybody! This email I would like to take the time to talk more about someone who in a very short time has really made a big impact on me. His name is Yaka Hiroshi. Yaka is 67 years old and has lived on Okinawa his whole life. He has 2 children and 6 grandchildren. He has many hobbies but his favorite thing to do is watch old western movies. He absolutely loves coke and potato chips and says no matter what diet he goes on, he won't be giving those up. About 35 years ago, Yaka met with two missionaries from the LDS church. He loved their message and accepted all the teachings. He read from the Book of Mormon and prayed. He was going to get baptized but because of his addiction to smoking, was unable to quit and therefore unable to get baptized. Discouraged and upset he fell out of contact with the missionaries and he thought that was the end of his journey to coming to the church.

A little under two months ago, two sister missionaries who clearly were guided by the spirit happened to knock on his door and run into him. As they talked and he explained his story and the sister missionaries discussed about the gospel he had a desire to meet again and re learn what had long since been forgotten. Except this time, he made it quickly known to the missionaries that he had quit smoking all by himself 2 years ago and that wouldn't be a problem this time. The sisters excited to teach him taught him a couple days later and brought him to church. I saw him at church but wasn't able to meet him. That next week the sister missionaries invited us to his next lesson so we could take over the teaching. Since he is a male, usually we will pass the investigator to the missionaries that are of the same sex. Within the first lesson we had with him I could tell he was different than most people I have taught on my mission. He seemed more prepared and really ready to receive the gospel. That first lesson we had with him we set a baptismal date with him and ever since then we have met with him twice, sometimes three times a week. He came to church that following week and then continued to come and not miss a Sunday for 7 consecutive weeks. 

Throughout his teaching I had the opportunity to see him progress and grow very quickly in the gospel. As we taught him these restored truths the lessons he had heard over 35 years ago started to come back to his memory. He quickly relearned the simple gospel truths and had that same desire to follow Jesus Christ and to be baptized. As we taught all the commandments he had no problems with any of them and was always willing to follow anything we asked him to. He would read and pray daily. Since he has no car, members had to give him a ride to church. In order to give a permanent solution to that problem he bought a very expensive electric bicycle just so he could come to church and various other church activities! Since it has been almost 50 years he has said since he has ridden a bicycle right now he is practicing until he can get good enough to make it to church on his own. Every time I saw him I asked how the practice was going and excitedly he would reply, "I'm getting better!" He had mentioned he fell a couple times but I never realized the depth of his injury from falling until one time, unplanned I visited his home to drop off some goodies for him. When he came to the door he had a huge bandage on his leg I had never seen before, he pulled it off and showed us it was a huge cut covering his whole shin from falling of the bike due to his practice. Later that night I called him to see how he was doing and guess what he said he did right after we left? He hopped on the bike and practiced again! I have never met a person so driven to follow the commandments of God and always do the right thing. His faith is tremendous.

Just two days ago I had the privilege to baptize Yaka. He was the first person I had ever baptized so needless to say I was pretty nervous but also very excited. As I stood in the water with him I couldn't help but feel the spirit so strongly. After he came up out of the water he had this big smile and I asked him how he felt. He said, "my heart feels clean". After he said that I couldn't help but smile and give him a big hug. His baptism went really well and then that next day when he received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It all just went perfectly. 

I am so thankful to those missionaries that taught him over 35 years ago. His baptism is a standing witness that sometimes on a mission we don't always see the fruit of our labors. Because of those two missionaries that taught him, he was more prepared and able to accept this gospel at a later time in his life. Our service really does stretch farther than we realize sometimes. I'm so thankful I was able to work with Yaka and help him start on the path back to his Heavenly Father. This work is amazing and being a missionary is such a great experience. I love it! I hope you all have a great week! I have lots of pictures this week since I forgot to send some last week so I'll attach the baptism pictures to this email.


Elder Sherrill 

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