by Devin Justesen
Devin Justesen is a graduate of Brigham Young University, where he studied English and Business Management. He is a writer, photographer, movie-fanatic, and a lover of street-tacos. He served his mission in Tokyo, Japan.
It was a cold winter day while we rode our bikes along the streets of Tokyo. Elder Hashimoto and I felt so excited for the many lessons we had planned that day. As we rode our bikes to our first lesson, the winter wind seemed to bite our faces, and the cold rain definitely did not help our situation. But we were excited, and ready to go and teach our close friends.
However, one by one, each lesson fell through. When the second to last lesson we had planned fell through, Elder Hashimoto and I looked at each with a growing sense of dread because we knew that if all of our lessons fell through, we would be outside the remainder of the day. He and I both had a strong love of talking with people on the street, but the cold winter days were the toughest. People would become very hesitant if not outright hostile to the idea of stopping and talking with us, and the short messages we would try to share often fell on deaf ears on days such as these.
I felt pretty discouraged, but thankfully Elder Hashimoto was an endless supply of positivity. After the last lesson fell through as well, Elder Hashimoto looked at me with a half smile and chuckled while he said, “Well, looks like our day is planned out and completely booked, Elder.” When he said that, he meant we would be outside the remainder of the day trying our best to talk with people on the streets and train stations, but Elder Hashimoto was always able to find the humor in each situation. We started walking toward the nearest train station and began trying to contact people surrounding the station.
We were met with some polite “no thank yous” and the usual “I just don’t have the time, I’m sorry.” Elder Hashimoto was always gracious in receiving rejection, often giving them a large smile and saying, “Alright, another time then!” before giving them a pass-along card of some sort.
As we diligently kept trying to share our message, we noticed more and more people began to stop and talk with us. Their warmth and kindness seemed to spread, and we began having wonderful conversations with a lot of great people.
Suddenly, a young man not much older than Elder Hashimoto and myself, approached us to say hello. We were so surprised that he spoke English so perfectly! He told us about his love of American music, and that he was the world’s biggest Taylor Swift fan. He was so happy to talk with two guys who were around his age, and as well for a chance to practice his English when he saw I was from the United States. When we explained why we were in Japan, we could sense he was unsure about our message.
However, when we mentioned that we believed in a loving Heavenly Father, his face instantly brightened. He said that when he was younger he always wanted to believe in God, but he had only heard about God being angry, vengeful, and not at all in the way we were describing Him. Elder Hashimoto reached into his backpack and pulled out a simple looking box that said “Plan of Salvation” on it.
We asked our new friend, Keito, if he wouldn’t mind sitting down with us for a minute just to talk about what we believe in terms of a loving Father in Heaven. He said he had some time and wouldn’t mind hearing what we had to say. I had only arrived in Japan just a month or so previously, and I still felt so nervous to teach something as complicated as the Plan of Salvation in Japanese, but Elder Hashimoto and I both knew it was the right thing for us to teach at that moment.
As we sat down on a bench, the rain pouring outside the station, we began to explain to Keito that this life has a purpose, and that it was a true gift from God. Elder Hashimoto perfectly explained the concept that God had designed this life with a plan in mind, and that we had lived with Him before this life. At that point, he smiled at me, handed me his Plan of Salvation Teaching Kit, and told Keito that I had a really great insight about this the other day. Instantly butterflies filled my stomach and my brain began to think about each phrase and how I should say it. But as I took out the pieces of the teaching kit, the words began to fill my heart as I explained that before this life we lived together with God, and that He sent us to this world to gain a body and to have a family.
With the small pieces in hand that read “Earth” and little piece shaped like a person, I explained that life was designed for us to have joy, and that death was not the end of our existence. I could feel Elder Hashimoto’s smile growing wider and wider as he watched me explain the Plan of Salvation, something he and I had practiced so much together during our Companion Study. Suddenly I realized that the Plan of Salvation wasn’t some sort of complicated plan about life before this one, and where we would go after, but it was a message of love. It was a carefully designed plan from a loving Heavenly Father to give us the purest and simplest joy. Joy in our families, friendships, and all the good things that this life has to offer. It infuses every interaction, every relationship, and every experience with a deeper meaning.
When we began to explain the Atonement of Jesus Christ to Keito, the Spirit immediately filled the area we were sitting. My shoes had been soaked through and through, but I couldn’t feel the cold at all. The warmth of the promise of a life after this one filled us all with so much peace. The small pieces of wood that compiled the Plan of Salvation Kit helped me to articulate mine and Elder Hashimoto’s testimonies in a language I had only started to learn a few months ago. As we finished our conversation with Keito, he told us he felt so warm and calm. We explained that we believed this to be the Spirit, which testified of truth and of things that are good. Keito said he hadn’t felt that calm in many years, and asked if we could meet again sometime. We met for many weeks until Keito received a work transfer and moved to the other side of the country. Unfortunately, I never learned if Keito was able to connect with the missionaries down there, but I will never forget our conversation that we had in that train station so many years ago.
I still have the little Plan of Salvation Kit, as Elder Hashimoto gave it to me when I was transferred to another area. The little pieces of wood are a little more faded now, but I still look over the little pieces and remember my time as a full-time missionary in Japan. Not only that, but it’s become such a fun way to teach our family during Family Home Evening. It’s been with me for so many years now, and the message it carries still brings warmth to my heart as it did so many years ago.
Click here to view our Plan of Salvation Teaching Kits. A perfect gift for your missionary, children, and family.