Sunday, November 27, 2016

You can eat anything if you put lemon on it" – week 14

Hey everyone!

It's been a killer good week in the beautiful city of Yamagata, the cherry capitol of Japan, the biggest city in the prefecture with the most ramen shops and ramens eaten per capita, the (alleged) home of Kendama (that cup ball thing which is actually the coolest thing ever, sweet pics to come), and the home of.... bucket pudding?
That's right. I learned three super sweet things this week unique to Yamagata. They have a giant pot of nabe (kind of like Japanese soup stew stuff) that is at least ten feet across that they stir with a backhoe that they do in august for a festival, a cool dance with those triangle rice hats at another festival, and they do something called bucket pudding. Which is where they make プリン (pudding - flan for everyone else) in a bucket, then flip it over onto a plate and pull up the bucket and it makes a massive jiggling dome of egg-yolkey goodness which loses all structural rigidity when someone takes the first scoop out of it and then it is basically a free-for-all of caramel flan eating. The bucket makes it approximately 17x more fun, and apparently it's a Yamagata only thing.
We got to see the dance on Saturday night, we had our ward talent show and it was amazing, the missionaries sang, there were some killer good musical numbers and kendama and fan dancing and stuff, and the Takahashi (高橋, it means tall bridge and it's like every third person's name here) family did that dance with the hats and it was amazing and hilarious. And we all ate taco rice. so basically a perfect day. I love this ward so much; they're all amazing and so strong.

So the thing about the lemons - we visited a couple this week, and apparently he isn't normally like this, but after the husband heard I was from California he started going off on Californians and how they can eat anything if they put lemon on it and made jokes about me eating his dog and then I made a Korean joke and from there the friendship was solidified. So basically he figured out that I'm secretly Superman (well technically senkyoushi (missionary) man, my glasses gave it away, and I draw my power from lemons because I'm from California and vitamin C is important and keeps you from getting scurvy. Like I said, I love the ward here and I love the members.

I've decided to call this segment "Things I wish I knew before my mission". Which is basically going to be stuff I've been learning, life lessons, all that fun stuff, things I'm basically learning/trying to learn/trying to improve, and collect my thoughts a little bit. This week I've been thinking about "Focusing on the Mark". We had a couple of talks last General Conference about it as far as doctrine and stuff is concerned, but I have been thinking about it in a slightly different context. I find myself sometimes thinking about plans after the mission, beyond just the big things like school and other just practical things. What I have realized is there is no point making plans for a person I basically don't even know yet. I'm still Jon, I still make obscure references and like boring repetitive electronic music and put way too much seasoning on my food, but my nature is changing, the kind of person I am. It's kind of hard to explain, and I guess I don't want to go into too much detail, but I'm not completely the same person I used to be, which is a really good thing. Everything we do as a missionary focuses on our purpose, we eat so we can dendo (proselyte), we sleep so we can dendo, we study so we can dendo, and we take p-day so we can get the fun things out of the way and have some more relaxing time so we can better dendo. We email family and friends so we can get a little bit of communication and then focus 100% on dendo throughout the week. Every second is spent focusing on our purpose; it's the first thing we memorize when we enter the MTC. It's the best. We focus a ton on setting goals for all sorts of things, and I find myself focusing on those goals, working towards them, and achieving more because of them. I really wish I had done a lot more of this before my mission, and I will most certainly be doing a whole lot of it when I get back from my mission.

I used to waste a lot of time. A LOT of time. I didn't really have any good goals, my goals were mostly along the lines of "figure out how to watch as much mindless TV and YouTube videos I can". So I internalized that goal, and if I wasn't working on that goal, I was avoiding other work so I could work on that. I had so much idle time where I wasn't helping anyone, improving myself, learning things, it drives me crazy now to realize how much time I threw away in stupid pursuits doing things I didn't even enjoy and being unproductive. I'm not saying we should schedule every fifteen minutes of every day, but I think that would be better than having no plan, no schedule, and no goals. So what kind of goals am I going to have when I get back? Well, for one, I want to be a conscientious consumer. Are the things I am consuming, the things I am doing, worth my while? Is this movie, this TV show, this book, going to make me a better, more cultured, kinder, or more Christ-like person? Is this food going to help me get SHREDDED? Am I using my time for something which will help me grow, learn, better myself, or help others do the same? Or am I merely existing, content with mediocrity and being a shadow of what I could be, a well-rounded, productive, happy, successful member of the human family whose dreams are being grasped? I haven't really figured it all out, and I am still figuring this out for myself, but I don't want to waste another precious minute of the time I have on earth in pursuit of that which is of no worth. I found a cool verse that kinda relates to this idea: Isaiah 55:2 "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."

The purpose of life, simply stated, is to have joy. Why would we spend time on that which doesn't bring us joy? There are things that make us happy for a little bit of time, but don't bring that true, real, center of your heart joy that the gospel brings. For me, I know I can get that joy by starting and raising a family built on love, by being strong in the church and having a strong testimony, by knowing I am in good standing with the Lord, by serving and helping others, by working hard in my career, by making and sharing music I love with others. If I do all that, there isn't a whole lot of time to waste being mediocre or consuming mediocrity.
TL;DR (means "too long; didn't read" for you non internet-savvy people) Work hard, have goals, don't tolerate mediocrity in your life

My goal for this next week comes from Proverbs, 20:13 "Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread." Sheesh, tell us how you really feel, Proverbs. Little bit of a slap to the face when I read that one, but then again, I'm on my mission to change, right ;)

Love you all,

Elder Orgill オーギル長

Kendama - Elder Orgill's new obsession

Elder Orgill and his companion, Elder Barr from Australia

Another delicious Yamagata ramen

"Bucket Pudding" party

Monday, November 21, 2016

"God is like Quentin Tarantino" – week 13

Hey y'all,

Super cool week this week (I say that every week, don't I), missionary work is so much fun and I love it. I mean, I don't always enjoy it, but I love it. My companion is the bomb (except for that ridiculous accent, he says he has never even eaten kangaroo and I am beginning to think it's fake), the ward members here are the bomb, and it's just the coolest thing ever to be a missionary. The funniest thing that happened to me this week happened when I was on splits with Elder Harolson, we were talking to this one random guy on the street, probably mid 20's, and he just goes off on one question about God, talking a million miles an hour, and all I could understand was the name "Quentin Tarantino". After he started abruptly walking away (in the same direction we were already walking, slightly awkward for him, hilarious for us), I asked my companion-of-the-day what he said. Basically something along the lines of comparing Quentin Tarantino to God, and saying he might as well worship Quentin Tarantino because he has had a larger influence on his life. It just makes me sad when people are staring limitless, eternal, true joy in the face, and say they are content with just watching Pulp Fiction instead. But still, pretty hilarious, and the funniest way I've been rejected so far.

We had some pretty cool stuff this last week, I got to go into 長町 Nagamachi (Suburb of 仙台 Sendai where the mission home is) for a new missionary conference this week, so I got to see all of my MTC homies (with the exception of the Tokyo missionaries (you're dead to me (just kidding I still love you))) which was legit, they're all KILLING IT and it's amazing to see how much everyone is progressing. I've almost been in the country for A FULL MONTH and it feels frighteningly natural being here, even though I can't understand half the people here. (Side note: It seems like everyone in Tohoku either speaks at a regular slowish pace or tries to spit out every word they say in the most difficult, speaking-with-their-lips-closed, fastest, craziest way possible).

Not too much other crazy stuff this week, just a normal, reasonably chilly week of bombski missionary work. One other fun thing though, we headed into 仙台 Sendai again to the Stake Center in Kamisugi for Stake Conference on Saturday and I got to meet some super cool people who knew my sister as a missionary. Don't worry, I got all sorts of embarrassing stories of hers. Everyone in the stake has been focusing on what they can individually do as missionaries to help the work move forward and progress so that Sendai can get a temple of their own (Sapporo is cool, but Tohoku is cooler). To get to the temple, it's about a seven hour bus ride, and some of the people in the stake are doing it monthly. They are so passionate about it, people who live close to a temple, please don't take it for granted.
I've been thinking about Thanksgiving a lot this week, and not just because we went to an all-you-can-eat (食べ放題) yakiniku (grilled meat) place today which was AMAZING. Japan has their national "Thanksgiving" holiday on Wednesday, though they don't do a whole lot, it just forces people to take a much-needed day off of work (people in Japan work like CRAZY, 40 hour workweeks are rare). Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude for EVERYTHING. Why? Because everything in your life is a blessing specifically tailored to you, ever trial is tailored to help you grow, everything you have that makes you happy is given to you. God wants us all to be happy, and when we show gratitude he blesses us even more. It is impossible to repay him, it is impossible to get out of the debt of blessings he has given us. That's not where I meant to go with this.

I meant to talk about a feast. A feast we all have, prepared for us, all the time. It is written "Feast upon the words of words of Christ". There is a bunch of stuff that talks about "treasuring up the words of eternal life". Basically, feast upon the scriptures. Don't just read em. Don't scan em. They aren't the newspaper, you aren't looking for the highlights so you can talk to your buddies at work about what's happening with your favorite team or the election or the goings on in the world, the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, have nothing unimportant in them. No excess, no fat that you trim around to get to the meat, the Book of Mormon is straight meat, beginning to end. We talked this last week about the shortest verse in the Book of Mormon "Lehi dwelt in a tent". What basic doctrines do you learn? What gnarly specific advice to your specific life do you gain from these words alone? None. But you look at it in context - a man, a prophet of God, with plentiful riches, a large home in Jerusalem, probably a man of status with a nice comfy bed, took his family and left it all to move into the wilderness and live in a tent. A tent. He sacrificed everything to follow the word of the Lord. What would we be willing to sacrifice to be obedient to God? For me it used to be not much. It still isn't much. But it's increasing little by little, I'm realizing more and more the value of the a book I used to use to lift up my lamp an inch higher, which used to collect dust, a book which contains the true word of God. It took me hitting my all-time low, emotionally distraught and spiritually starved, before I reluctantly made my way back to the table where the spiritual feast of eternal life was prepared for me. Feast. There is something for whatever your taste is, whatever you need right now, you can find. Sometimes I find myself spiritually sitting at my plate, playing with my food, but I've had a few times where I have felt like I have really feasted, and I have found what I have been looking for, I have found answers. Please, feast upon the scriptures. Don't wait until you lose all your gains. Eat the protein of the soul which has been prepared for you and make the infinite gains that have been promised to you. You will find the answers you didn't know you were looking for.
Also, just show gratitude. Everyone is so cool. Tell people you love them. I heard a quote this week which was "Don't let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved". Life is tough, everyone has tough times, not everyone shows it, smile and love everyone because everyone is pretty cool.

Have a great week, I love you all lots :)

P.S. Eat some pecan pie for me

Pictures from Yamadera last week

Elder Orgill sending greetings from Yamadera

Yamadera panorama

Yamadera panorama #2

Monday, November 14, 2016

山寺!!! (Yamadera!!!) - week 12

今日はみなスクヮッド!(Konnichiwa Mina-Squad! = Hello everyone in the squad – This is 100% “Jonglish”)

Got a super cool week and a couple of just fantastic experiences to tell you about. So many blessings, so many cool things, so many cool people, it is incredible. The week started off incredible, we started off with last preparation day (“p-day” his one partial-day off during the week) hiking a super super sweet mountain that is really close to the apartment. Took some contemplative indie pics, of course. I love Yamagata so much, it is gorgeous. It's like a little city tucked into the mountains with so much personality, so much color, and so much culture. This time of year the leaves are changing, the ramen shops are starting to boom, snow is just starting to fall on the mountains, and chrysanthemums are everywhere. There are tons of little shrines and temples tucked all around the city and the architecture is gorgeous. I love it so much.

We visited an investigator this week at his soba shop (cold buckwheat noodles dipped in a fish-base sauce with green onions), and got some killer good soba (luckily it was a warm day), but we got talking with him after and ran out of time, so we said "ah, すみません、あまり時間がありませんですけど。。。” and said our goodbyes, and it was only while we were riding away that we realized we totally dipped on the bill. Yep, we dine-and-dashed on an investigator. Super quality. It's cool though, we went back later that night and they said it was no worries, and we made a friend out of his wife too out of it.
Found a verse that describes being a missionary perfectly. Joel 2:26 "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed." Yep, we eat plenty, praise God, and do embarrassing stuff but aren't ashamed about it. The church is true.

So our apartment is me, my companion Elder Barr the district leader, and Elders Mimaki and Brantley, two zone-leaders well past the one-year mark. So between the four of us we have probably over five years of missionary experience (of which I contribute three weeks). It's a little intimidating sometimes, and I absolutely love it. I also love that Elder Mimaki (from Fukuoka) is a super killer good cook and makes karaage, mabodofu, curry, and a bunch of other bombski food all the time. He's teaching me little by little, and one day I will be as jozu (talented/skilled) as him. But I've also learned the simple advice of my MTC sensei (teacher) Brother Petersen should probably be taken to heart: "Just don't eat two cups of rice a day". Whoops.

Quick rundown on all the cool stuff that happened today, for p-day we went to 山寺 (Yamadera) which means "Mountain Temple". And. It. Was. SO. COOL. If you know anything about me you probably know I love trees. Well, maybe not, but I DO love trees, in case you didn't already know. Anyway, we timed it PERFECTLY because it was straight snowing last week, but today was beautiful and sunny and the trees were changing colors and it was incredible. Tons of leaves falling off trees and all that, tons of little temples and statues all up this amazing mountain path (well, stairs), and it was amazing. We went as a district (the four Yamagata Elders, the two Yamagata Sisters, and the two Yonezawa Elders as well. So much fun, we took tons of pictures and had an awesome time. I can't really do it justice with words, but it was positively picturesque.

Editor’s note: we did NOT receive any photographs in this week’s e-mail so I had to resort to some stock photography of Yamadera at the end of this post as a place-holder.

We met an investigator this week in a train of events that can be only described as a miracle. In a city of, well, however many people Yamagata has (253,000), to have found this ONE person who had been prepared the way he had to hear our message was incredible. It started with us contacting an old potential investigator, someone who had said missionaries could come back and share more about six months ago, but nobody followed up until we did a bit over a week ago. We met someone who was super-prepared and ready and willing to hear our message, and we set up another appointment. However, he wasn't there when we followed up for our lesson. So on Friday night, we visited him on a whim to try and follow up again. He turned out to be there, but eating dinner, and told us to come back in a few minutes. My companion jokingly said to me after "Okay, we have time to teach ONE lesson to ONE new investigator and then we should come back." We then both looked at this one door. When we knocked on it, we were met by a rather jolly middle-aged man who told us he had been drinking, who chatted with us in surprisingly good English for a while. It turns out he had met missionaries 20 years ago in Sendai, read the entire Book of Mormon, but it hadn't gone anywhere. As we met with him again on Sunday, we learned more and more that he has been searching for truth, searching for the right way to live and find joy, searching for everything that we have. I know there were no coincidences in our meeting. If we hadn't decided to visit that couple, if they hadn't been prepared enough to listen, if they hadn't bailed on that appointment, if they had eaten dinner 10 minutes earlier, if my companion and I had just walked in a different direction, we wouldn't have met this man who has been so perfectly prepared and who so much needs the message and joy this gospel brings. Even if he hadn't been drinking, he might have had the typical response: "けっこだいじょぶあまりきょうみがないですけど。。。” (I’m fine; It’s ok; I don’t have too much interest). But everything fell together perfectly to bless our lives and his as well.

God has a perfect plan for all of us, for all of our lives. With the passing of my grandfather this past week, I have been thinking a lot about the Plan of Salvation -- God's plan for all of us. My parents and I lived with him the summer before last after we had sold our house in Danville. I was able to talk to him a lot, talk to him about his experiences as a missionary in Czechoslovakia, his experiences in the Navy in World War II, and the wealth of other knowledge and experience he had from 92.5 years on this earth. We bonded over a love for music, albeit very different kinds, and I was able to, just before my mission, play for him a song that I had almost completed. I miss him, I miss him a whole lot, but I'm not sad. I'm happy, happy for him. I know, without a doubt, that he is on the other side, currently in a joyous reunion with his beloved wife and son who crossed to the other side before him. I know that when I pass to the other side, he will be there waiting for me in his chair with a twisted suspender for me to fix. I know that we were together as spirits before this life in God's presence, and we can return to God's presence and be together as a family for time and all eternity after this life. I have felt comfort, and I feel joy knowing he is on the other side, smiling down at me, standing by our Heavenly Father, and seeing the things I am doing and the man I am becoming.

I love you all and I hope you all have a great week. Don't forget that God has a plan for you.
Elder Orgill

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Help us to always remember Christ's Parliamentary Seat" - week 11

Hey y'all,
Super sweet this week (as always). I love Japan so much, I love the people, I love the culture, I love the rice, I love the rest of the food, I love the language, and I love the convenience stores (“konbini”). Seven-Elevens here are like church buildings in Utah - basically one every two blocks. Konbini food is life. Black thunder ice cream bars, "big American dog" (these huge corndogs), steamed pizza buns, onigiri (stuffed rice balls wrapped with dry seaweed), it's amazing. Everything I have eaten here has been incredible (except the natto (sticky fermented soy beans) yakisoba (fried noodles) I made the other day, that was nasty but only because I burned the natto). I love it so much. Even if we're having a tough day, all it takes is a trip into the konbini to fix it and get me re-excited about the work. It's like a food version of reading your scriptures, every time I read, I get excited about the Gospel again. It's easy to forget about it, just like it's easy to forget that you ate a pizza-man (pronounced mon) ten minutes ago, but every time we get konbini food or read our scriptures we are re-invigorated and re-energized and get PUMPED ON LIFE. 

Funny story: So this week I was praying with some members and I was trying to say "please help us to always remember Christ's sacrifice", but I messed up the word for sacrifice and said ぎせき (“giseki”) instead of ぎせい(“gisei”), so I accidentally asked "Help us to always remember Christ's parliamentary seat". Luckily I think the members gave me a pass on that one.

Oh yeah, dad, the other missionaries met the arm wrestling guy (dad knew the national arm-wresting champion of Japan in Yamagata 34 years ago), send me a picture so I can show it to him, I think he's in our tanto (responsibility) this next two weeks.

So many cool opportunities this week. We had 手話 (“shuwa” – Japanese sign language) class this week, which was super cool, and one of the deaf sisters shared her incredible conversion story about how she was on the verge of death and started dreaming, and Christ came to her in the dream and pulled her out of the darkness. From that day she started searching for the right church, but it took probably 20 years until she met the Missionaries who shared with her the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and she received an answer to her prayers and was finally able to find truth after years of faithful searching. So incredible, and it was even more incredible to see it from her hands rather than hearing it from her mouth (my companion translated for me). We talked to another investigator who had an experience where he was inspired during an avalanche while he was climbing a mountain to do something that spared his life and the life of his friend, and since then he has had a belief in God who kept him from dying that day. He is so cool, we are going to go over to his house and shovel snow when it starts snowing. Everyone has cool experiences like that, and I love getting to know people and hear about those.

Probably the coolest thing that happened this week was hearing one of the member's testimonies. This one member, Brother Ookuma (different kanji, but it the word could mean big bear) who is this super funny bishop-looking guy probably in his 60's with super smiley eyes (he is usually wearing a face mask) talked about missionaries, but specifically my dad. He said that 34 years ago, he knew my dad just before he went home, and my dad left him with a book with all the missionary lessons and his business card and it just said "yoroshiku" (regards). He said that even though it was a long time ago, my dad was one of those missionaries he would never forget and that he was confident I (and the other missionaries in the ward) would be great missionaries he never forgot as well. Most of that I got translated from my companion, but it was still super great to hear about, I'll get a picture of the card next week.

I've been thinking a lot about change this week. Sometimes I feel like I hold onto weaknesses and flaws, I tell myself that they are part of my character, something I'm not willing to give up, but as I've given up one by one those little weaknesses, those little flaws, I've become so much more than I once was. I have become more humble and realized my weaknesses, of which I have plenty, and I am able to work with them and change them.

It doesn't matter if you're religious or not … if you want to make anything of yourself in life, you have to do it. Be real for a second and cut the BS, take stock of where you are, what you are doing with yourself, your time, your talents, what you are doing to overcome your weaknesses, and then think about not what you want to become, but who you want to become. Your attitude, your outlook, how kind you are, how generous you are, how hardworking you are, all that. Have a vision and every day work for it. There are so many people who just stagnate in life, they do the same thing every day, but not just that, they are passive with who they become. They are observers in their own life. There is a term in Japanese "Otaku", which essentially translates to “nerds”. They watch anime, play video games, collect figurines, and usually either work a wage-slave job or live off their parent's funds. They are going nowhere fast. There was a point in my life where I was a little bit like that (not watching anime, anime is the worst!), I didn't understand what I wanted, I didn't understand what I liked, I didn't understand who I was or wanted to become. I thought it was my nature to be angry, to be pessimistic, to be undisciplined, and to be unhappy. Since then, I've changed a lot, my very character itself has changed. I have a lot more changing to do, but it doesn't matter where we are at, it matters the trajectory we are on (f'(x) y'all). Understand who you are, internalize the vision of whom and what you want to become, and do everything that person would do and you can and will eventually become that.

I think there is a reason the concept of constant self-improvement is so universal - it is one of the main purposes of this life. This life is to become more like God and prepare to meet him in the life to come, and all of the good attributes we develop are attributes Christ exemplified as well. If we are humble and understand what God wants us to become, not what we just want for ourselves, we can become like hot metal in the hands of the master blacksmiths, and he can shape us into whatever he needs us to be. We need to go through the fire to be ready to be shaped, but when we have and when we are changed, we can become the tool He needs us to be for performing His work.

I love you all lots and would love to hear more from y'all :)
気をつけて下さい、(please take care)


Elder Orgill in Yamagata, Japan

Hands Burger? There are multiple possible interpretations here.

"Otousan" means father - note this is the "Cool Edition"
Pizza party in a outdoor wood-fired oven in a bamboo grove ... Elder Orgill thought he'd gone to heaven!
Picture of mountains around an "old-folks home" where they provide regular service