Monday, March 27, 2017

Doing Hard Things -- week 31

Hello friends, family, and fellow garlic enthusiasts,

Hey! How are you? That's good, I'm pretty good too!

So it's been another killer good week in the land of the rolling stone. I'm just going to start off by saying this town has an absolutely awesome aesthetic. I'm a bit of a 雰囲気 (ambience, atmosphere) junkie, and this town just has a super good ambiance in the evening with the mismatched pre/post tsunami buildings, the patchwork roads, the smell of the ocean and look of the dead grass and the natural beauty combined with rusted industrial buildings. I'm no writer and not much of a photographer so I can't capture it quite the way I'd like it, but trust me, it's great, slightly dark, and very unique. I feel so blessed to be able to be here and do everything I have to bring joy to the people here.

This week had a few things that made it just the best. The first one is my 日本人 (Japanese national) companion who I love very much, he is absolutely incredible and he also cooks the best food ever. His current hometown is Osaka, which is famous for its okonomiyaki - savory cabbage pancakes loaded with pickled ginger and crunchy dried shrimp and pork belly, then covered with a delicious savory fruity sauce with fish base and Japanese slightly sweet mayonnaise. Then topped with shaved fish flakes. That sounds super weird when I explain it, but it is absolutely AMAZING. He made it and taught me how this week, and the next three days after that I made it every day for breakfast. You can put pretty much anything in it, it's excellent with kimchi, and cheese is also excellent. You best bet I'll be making it for all of you back in America.

That wasn't even the best thing this week though. The best would've probably been getting to BENCH with one of the recent converts from Sendai who comes to 石巻 (Ishinomaki) each week for classes at the university. Long story short, ya boy can still throw up 1pl8 (plate) on bench LIGHTWEIGHT BABY AINT NOTHIN BUT A PEANUT🦍. Also, the weight room we went to had a super cool aesthetic as well since it had a bunch of old slightly rusty barbells and it was a little dark and the wind was blowing like crazy outside and it was making a bunch of weird noises and it echoed like crazy and basically it was amazing. 

The apartment here is still an absolute party, 工藤長老 (Elder Kudo) and ヒュストン長老 (Elder Houston) and ワーナー長老 (Elder Warner) are the best. We all went with one of the other Elder's investigators to play basketball and after that went to Aeon mall this last p-day and it was hilarious, Naoki, the investigator, is basically fluent in English and he's hilarious. I jokingly pointed out a girl and said "hey, I think I see your future wife over there" and he super obviously walked over to check her out and it's just a straight party hanging out with him. He's super close to baptism too, and I really hope he gets baptized because he's amazing and I know it would make him so much happier. I can see a little bit of myself in him. I also gave him a couple music recommendations and he low-key got really into drum and bass this last week from it. Sharing joy - one copy of the Book of Mormon/music recommendation at a time.

So I've been thinking a fair amount about preparation this week. There's a scripture I love, and use a ton, it's Alma 34:32 "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." I very well may have shared this scripture another time recently, but if I did, I'm sharing it again. This is so good. Now is a time to prepare! Every second we are preparing for something else. I spent 19 years preparing for my mission. I am preparing now to meet God. All of you are too. When you meet God and have a perfect recollection of everything you have ever done, how will you feel? Right now, God is using the experiences you are having right now, no matter how easy or hard they may be, to prepare you for something else, something even greater. God gave me the trial of depression to prepare me for something greater than myself, and through it I was made stronger, and better prepared to help people who have experienced the same kinds of things I have. I am preparing now to be a better husband and father in the future (part of the reason I'm learning to cook incredible food and stepping up my masseuse skills, husband me up ladies). We don't always see the big picture, in fact we rarely do, but we are all tools in God's hands to bless and bring joy to others. 

And that brings me to the second part of the scripture. This day of life is a day for men to perform their labors. Life is work. Yeah, that kinda sucks, sometimes I wish I could get through life without work, and then I realize that would be awful! We have someone who is a recent convert to the church who we work with - he is 40 years old and has never worked a day in his life. I'm not going to go off on a rant about him, but I will suffice it to say this - he is able to work but he doesn't, he spends all of his time doing the things he wants to do, going to karaoke and watching tv and eating what he wants, and despite what he may say about his happiness, he is miserable. I asked him what his biggest accomplishment so far in life was, and he couldn't come up with anything. Doing hard things is good. Doing hard things is fun. Doing hard things will inevitably suck sometimes, but then we can look back at the mountain of problems we just climbed and say "well, the climb kinda sucked, but the view is great and I'm glad I did it". We all have mountains to climb, and I encourage you all to face them head-on, don't try to find a shortcut, don't try to skip this peak and climb towards the next, tighten your laces, get a little drink of water, and start climbing. There is joy in the satisfaction of doing hard things, and every mountain we summit prepares us better to climb the next one.

I love you all and pray for your success. Kill it this week.

Elder Orgill (オーギル長老) , Spiritual Mountaineer

One of the many okonomiyakis made in Ishinomaki

Add your own caption ____________________

Can't tell what the food ingredients are, but for sure there'll be a lot of cooking going on!

Can't even guess why missionaries need hard-hats

Looks like a picnic in the park

Ishinomaki missionaries (plus a few extras?)

Grilled meat (undoubtedly all-you-can-eat)

Pre-grilled meat

The carnivore twins

Our guess is that this looked so amazingly delicious, it wasn't until they were half-finished that they realized they hadn't taken the obligatory food-pic of the dish.
We snagged this from a Facebook post (we have people "on the inside"). This is from a Sendai Zone conference last week.

Monday, March 20, 2017

🔥🔥🌋💯🌋🔥🔥 - week 30

Hello friends, family, enemies, and potential future employers,

How are you? You're beautiful.

Anyway, this week was fun and we went to Indo-curry. Usually the spice level goes from one to five. But you can go higher. The mission record used to be 50. Then Elder Houston beat it with 51. Then Elder Parkinson beat it with 100, and he practically died. So I figured I'd do 150. But they don't do 150, they only go up to 100 here, so I did 100 and then just dumped more of the red pepper on until it was approximately equal to a 120. Honestly not bad, I was expecting to die, but it was surprisingly doable. I now have the mission record, but it looks like I'll have to go to Kamisugi to the place that does up to 200 and shatter the all-Japan record. If you believe, you can achieve 🇮🇳🦍🍛💯🔱🇮🇳

Besides attempting (and failing) to kill my taste buds this week, not too much crazy stuff happened. Me and 工藤 長老 (Elder Kudo, his companion) have been putting in straight work, and it's been a lot of fun as well, he is kinda serious but knows how to have fun. I have also taken to doing my t-Rex impression a lot more. It's a really fun apartment and a really fun area.

For my thought this week, it's gonna be a little weird, but bear with me for a second. I had a dream last night - in the dream I was cleaning out the food catcher in the sink. I found in the food-catcher about an entire pound of perfectly good ground beef that somebody had just dumped in there, which was now mixed with a bunch of gross vegetable matter and soap suds and stuff. I was appalled. Who would waste something so perfectly useful? I woke up and was thinking about it a bit, and I got something from it. I know, this is going to sound like I'm kind of stretching it for this one but it worked for me. I find myself hyper aware of how others waste things, time, talents, and nothing bugs me more than seeing others waste their life away doing nothing all the time, being unproductive and doing nothing useful. And sometimes I have a blind spot for myself, I let my talents go to waste, waste time, do unproductive things that don't help me at all in the long run. I've kind of seen the blind spot in myself, so I'm gonna be doing my best to not be wasteful, to appreciate and enjoy every single opportunity I get. SO. Please realize what you have, the opportunities you have, the incredible chance to learn from everything and spend every second of your life getting better, and I challenge you go do something productive with every second of every day so when you lie down to sleep you have that exhausted feeling of awesome that you did something good today.

I love you all and hope you all have a great week!

Elder Orgill (オーギル長老 )

Before eating ridiculously hot Indian curry ... a picture of food AND our missionary

Ishinomaki Missionaries

Monday, March 13, 2017

Shaking Things Up in the Windy City - week 29

Hey everyone from the fish paste capitol of North-Eastern Japan!

Ishinomaki is a straight party, it's super flat, very windy, and smells either like fish or the paper factory. And I love it. We had an earthquake on Sunday morning again; Ishinomaki loves to keep it fresh (fish joke) and shake (earthquake joke) things up ;)

This week wasn't crazy eventful, but it was definitely a fun one. There's a recent convert from Sendai who comes up to Ishinomaki once a week for college and he has a bit of time between two blocks of classes so we meet up and chill and teach him a little bit and he's the bomb. He's super into 筋トレ which is basically the Japanese word for muscle training, so it was super nostalgic to hear him talk about weightlifting and stuff, except it was super hard Japanese vocabulary having to do with muscles and stuff, basically the best half hour of my entire life. He does wrestling and stuff so any time you hug him he basically judo-throws you or goes in for a pin. We met him on Wednesday this week, and then I got to see him again on Friday when we were in Kamisugi (the center of Sendai) for splits with the Zone Leaders, and it was a straight party, we're going to be straight bro's.

We had the opportunity to work with the Zone Leaders in Kamisugi, basically the most lit spot in the mission. I got to work with my mission brother (we had the same "father", Elder Barr") and saw some legit miracles, found a new investigator because we both felt prompted to play basketball with some high school age kids, and I ate all of their grapefruit because they get given a ton by the members and they don't eat any. So in the space of 36 hours I probably had six or seven grapefruit because nothing gives me more joy than seeing food not go to waste. We also ate yakiniku (grilled meat) for breakfast and lunch because there is a less active member that gives them crazy amounts of meat every week. I'm going to quote the mission scripture on this one "Here am I, send me." My dad served there (quite possibly in the same apartment), my sister served there, and if President Smith feels inspired, maybe there's unfinished work there but that's in at least another transfer. Back to Ishinomaki.

I don't know where to put this part, but Ishinomaki has the most 精神病 (mentally ill) people of any place I've ever been ever. Maybe they're just easier to see because they're out walking all the time and we do service at a place with a bunch of Down syndrome and autistic people where we fold garbage bags, but it seems like they're everywhere. Just everywhere. Before I opened my mission call, I reminded myself that I wanted to go somewhere where I could meet some really really different people, which is basically anywhere, but I pretty much hit the jackpot here. I love em all to death, they're all children of God, and I have no idea where I was going with that, but just a little cultural tidbit.

Yesterday was the sixth year anniversary of the Tsunami and I got a little bit of time to think kind of this week leading up to it and during the moment of silence and everything. One of our investigators was talking this week about how in the space of a day, every material thing he possessed was gone. Everything. There's a scripture which says "where your treasure is, there is your heart also" (Matthew 6:21). Right before that in Matthew 6:20 it says “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”. I have kind of a few thoughts floating around that I want to piece together into something coherent, so here it goes.

Everything can turn to nothing in an instant; we never know when some sort of catastrophic event can take the things, or worse, the people, that you love the most. First off, as I have stated multiple times before I am grateful for the knowledge of what happens after death, that it is not the end. But I am also grateful for the knowledge that all our physical and mental trials are not just tests, but gifts from a loving God who will give us exactly as much as we can handle so we can stretch and grow and become better and become who He wants us to be. We can't pick and choose our trials; we can only choose how we react to what He gives us and make the most of everything. I have personally seen the greatest growth in myself and received the greatest blessings as a result of the most difficult trials I have ever faced.

The other thing I wanted to say about this is about love. There's a quote from some philosopher that was sampled in this super indie band's album, and I actually really like it (the album and the quote). It goes something like this: "it is a part of life to ponder death... to look at skulls and skeletons and wonder what it would be like to go to sleep and never wake up... but you find it is very generative, for the presence of death is what makes life poignant". Super pretentious sounding, I know, they're from Portland, give 'em a break. But I like that, it's totally true, the more we realize that at some point we are going to die, the more we want to live life to the fullest and make every moment have meaning. It's the living life to the fullest part where some people get confused, and some people go off and party and YOLO and do dumb stuff, but I think the way to live life to the fullest is to have love. And I'm not talking valentines, hearts and roses and chocolates, French sounding music and holding hands in the moonlight, nah, that's cool and all but I mean real love. The kind of love you have for your family, a mother's love for her child, the kind of love you get when you serve someone and put them and their life and their happiness above your own. That kind of love hurts, it's risky, it's tough and it requires really putting yourself out there and really being selfless, but I want you all to ask yourself: Do I have love in my life? Do I really feel love towards everyone, want to lift up the hands that hang down, put a smile on every sad face, and have that "give everyone who's having a bad day a big hug" kind of love? I hope you can all work to generate that real, true love in your life, because you never know when everything could disappear.

I'll end with a Mister Rodgers quote: "Do you talk about love with someone you care about? I hope you do".

オーギル長 (Elder Orgill)

Eating sushi -- great that he is in a sea port town

Calm day on the bay

Pick-up basketball game in the park ... for a kid who didn't play hoops

Must have played baseball on P-day. It looks like it is snowing a bit.

He titled this one "Squad"

Haircut time again

The week wouldn't be complete without a food picture

This one also titled "Squad".

Sunday, March 5, 2017

🌊🌊🌊 - week 28

Hey everybody!

Oh man, Japan is so lit.

So as I mentioned in my last email, I transferred and now I am in Ishinomaki 石巻, which means the rolling stone. It's just north of Sendai, and right on the ocean. It's one of the towns most devastated by the tsunami that struck six years ago, and it's been really humbling to hear a bit of the experiences and see the effects it's had on a number of the people who it affected. A decent portion of the city is reasonably new buildings and apartments, primarily inhabited by those who lost everything in the tsunami. We tend to forget calamities maybe a year or two after they happen, but the effect the earthquake and tsunami had on Ishinomaki is something that can't be erased with the passing of time. Everyone knows someone who died, and I've met a number of people who were the only survivor from their family. Still, the amazing thing is that life goes on, the damages was cleaned up and people went back to work, many of the with unanswered questions about why a calamity like that could happen to them, where their loved ones were, if they would ever have the chance to see them ever again. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have of God's plan for all of us, and that I know that death isn't the end, that we can one day live with our family again in heaven. And I am so grateful I have the opportunity to share that knowledge every day here to these people who need that comfort and knowledge.

OK, that was a little heavy, but the whole week wasn't super majime (serious), it's actually been a super fun week despite hearing some crazy experiences. My new companion's name is Elder Kudo, and he's amazing. He is from Osaka(kind of), and he's teaching me Kansai-ben (western dialect) and we absolutely kill it. The apartment is an absolute party with me, him, Elder Houston the stud, and Elder Warner the half-Japanese 6'4 giant from my MTC doki (group). To put it simply, we put in work.

So funny enough, on the bus here I was thinking about what would happen if there were another catastrophic earthquake and tsunami (there's kind of been one predicted by scientists), thinking about what I would want to tell my family and friends if I were to die. It boiled down to basically this - I'm chill if I die as a missionary, that's like the second coming happen while you're in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless, that'd be legit. And the other thing, if it happens (we kinda got promised by President Whiting that that wouldn't happen), I would die helping everyone that I can as unselfishly as I can. But that's not going to happen, so don't worry mom. But the funny part is this - that evening after we got the the apartment... We felt an earthquake. I don't know if it was a sign, I don't know if I should read into it more, but it was pretty hilarious.

But that's kind of a good question - I think that'll be my think I wish I learned this week, if you were to die tomorrow, how would you feel. If you were to stand before God with a perfect recollection of everything you have ever done, how would you feel? If you're doing wrong things, you probably know it at some subconscious level or something. So basically, don't do dumb stuff and if you do, repent of it, leave it in the past, and be the best you you can be. Then, even if you do die, you're all good! But please don't die, I want to see all of you when I get back.

Keep it lit everyone and be the best you can be.

Elder Orgill (オーギル長)

A grapefruit-flavored vitamin drink with "jelly" ... close enough

Guess who found more noodles?

and more food shots

With new companion

Doing what he loves the most ... eating