Monday, June 26, 2017

"Let's go climb a mountain together" – week 44

Hey homies,

This week was super solid, me and Elder Garaycochea put in some solid work here in Ichinoseki. The work is slow here because this entire town is nothing but old people, but it's no worries because we're working hard to shift our focus to young people and build up our English Class and get an in with all the high schoolers and spread joy and change lives and bring some homies to SALVATION.

This week I had a chance to go on splits with the one and only ELDER LANDON PASKETT. That boy knows how to work, I'll tell you what. I might or might not have forgotten my helmet in Ichinoseki, so we were on foot all day, but we still were able to do and see some awesome stuff. He taught me the ways of Chirashi Kubari (distributing tracts) to high schoolers, and it was pretty sweet, the Kitakami Eikaiwa (English conversation class) is going to be bumping. Only problem is Elder Paskett is too tall, handsome, and 元気(energetic, happy), so every time we started talking to a group of high school girls they all started giggling like... well... a group of schoolgirls. But that's no worries, come for the handsome gaijin (foreigner) and stay for the gospel (good thing they put in sister missionaries in Kitakami). We got a couple of lessons in too, one with an investigator of theirs who is SUPER prepared and was talking about how it was stupid that there are tons of different churches with different interpretations of the same stuff and how Japanese shouldn't celebrate Christmas if they don't believe in Christ and how he gets power from reading the scriptures, and basically he should've been teaching the lesson, not us. And we got to meet with my homie Momone-chan (came to our last district p-day) and her little brother and we sang "I am a child of God" together and it sounded great (primarily thanks to Elder Paskett) and shared a little message about our individual worth as children of our Heavenly Father. Also, they have a cat named "Mame Daifuku" which means "Anko-mochi balls with beans" because he's white with a bunch of black spots; it's like the Japanese version of naming your cat 'Oreo' or something I guess haha.

So on Friday we went straight from splits to Zone Conference in Morioka, and Elder Paskett and I found ourselves standing on this super crowded train at some obscenely early time in the morning. I guess we were on a bit of a spiritual high from the day before because we worked super hard and were super obedient. We had to sprint to make the train and literally made it by three seconds, and we got on this super crowded train and were ridiculously sweaty (thank you 10000% humidity), but we were just glowing with the light of Christ (and, you know, I guess the sweat gave us a little bit of a glimmer as well). Anyway, I'm holding onto a pole so I don't fall over and bowl over a gaggle of 4-foot tall high-schoolers, and a group of girls points to my hand and makes the comment ”切り過ぎた”. Excuse me?! Girl, I did not cut my fingernails too short, who do you think you are?! Well, it turns out they were going to cosmetology school for hair and nails and stuff, so maybe knew their stuff, but still. They also offered to cut my hair (but I told them I already got my boy Diego lining me up). Anyway, we got talking to them and they were pretty cool but it turned into a little bit of a Joseph and Potiphar's wife, so luckily some people got on the train and split us up before Elder Paskett had to break any more hearts, but as Sir Galahad said "my strength is as the strength of 10 because my heart is pure".  Gotta stay away from peril.

On the train back from Zone Conference, it somehow ended up that the Kitakami Elders and Sisters, us, and the Yokote Elders were all in the same section of the same train. Needless to say, it was a party. I talked to a 21-year-old 社会人 who was super cool and gave me some solid recommendations on Japanese music for that post-mish and then talked a bit about why I am a missionary, talked to a bunch of high school students, and whadya know it, Potiphar's wife showed up again, this time in the form of a nice young office worker going home from work, and she invited me to climb 岩手山 (Mt. Iwate) with her. So needless to say I symbolically left my tunic and ran away.

The former Elder Barton also visited the branch, he finished his mission last week and is back already, and I got to talk to him and his family too, which was really cool. Low-key thought his family understood basically my entire talk because they looked like they were very attentive the entire time and nodding and stuff, so I just translated a couple of words into English that I'd had to look up to tell the story I wanted to tell. Nope, they spoke almost none, so I can only imagine what they thought I was talking about with the handful of English words I gave them haha.

Our last zone conference with President Smith was amazing; I am going to miss that guy so much. It was all centered around light and the Light of Christ, and how the most important thing for us as missionaries is for us to develop the Christ like Attributes we need to be the best missionaries we can be. I have been able to see that in the way President Smith has led the mission, the way he has done it has ensured every one of his missionaries develops lasting conversion that will ensure at least one total convert on their mission in an area of the world where the growth of the church is very slow. I learned for myself that I have a choice for how I can respond to any situation, and I can choose to have joy and share the light I have inside. Sometimes I choose not to be happy, to be overwhelmed by my circumstances and let that be my excuse for not being joyful and spreading joy, but I know that I am more than a mere result of my circumstances.

I love you all a BUNCH; hope you all have a killer week!

オーギル長老 (Elder Orgill)

"You cut your nails too short"

"Ya boy is no longer allergic to salmon"

All Japanese food is actually from Chinese food: Case A, Delicious
Fried Stuff

Case B, Taiwan ramen (ramen is technically from China)

Case C, 酢豚 Subuta, which is actually just sweet and sour pork

 Case D, butter miso ramen (this ramen alone convinced me to drop $4
on a tiny thing of real butter)

 (The former) Elder Barton's family visited less than a week of him
getting released from his mission

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Australian, the Hawaiian, the 日本人 (Japanese person), the Guatemalan, the Filipino, and the Spaniard – week 43

I'm going to do this whole email as if I'm a news reporter, so be patient and imagine it my news reporter voice. Seriously, this is going to sound really weird if you don't imagine someone reading it and enunciating everything way too much.

Thanks, Sherry, it does sound like those penguins will be having a CHILLY week *chuckles*. Elder Orgill here, reporting back from Tohoku Japan with a SPECIAL REPORT on how I have had the most diverse range of companions of any elder in this mission.

You may be wondering how that's possible. Well, our story all begins in the rural village of Brisbane, Australia, where some 20-something years ago a boy named Ethan Barr was born to two parents with ridiculous accents. He later found his way to the Japan Sendai mission as a service missionary, and after a short tenure as assistant to the president, he found himself called as trainer to yours truly, Elder Orgill. Following Elder Barr, our young missionary friend Elder Orgill was assigned another companion, none other than Hawaii-native Elder Kamehameha Fonoimoana, although his name is too difficult to pronounce so everyone just refers to him as Elder Fono. After a short transfer, Elder Orgill found himself surprised YET AGAIN with another foreigner, the one and only Elder Kudo. Born in Izumi, raised in Tokyo, and schooled in Osaka, Elder 工藤 (Kudo) taught our young friend Elder Orgill in the arts of Chinese cooking, and NOT having garbage language skills. But alas, Elder Orgill's time in 石巻 (Ishinomaki) was not long, for he found himself transferred out after only six short weeks to his new home, Ichinoseki. Was it cruel to send him to the two areas with the most similar names in the mission back to back? Specialists are still debating that point. Regardless, our young friend Elder Orgill found himself...

Just imagine that the news report ended abruptly like the documentary reporter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who gets randomly killed by a knight who rides on screen. I don't give TV anchors enough credit. Anyway, Elder De Leon is ethnically half Honduran and half Guatemalan, and Elder Ikeda looked Filipino, and now I'm with Elder Garaycochea whose dad moved to the states from age nine, so I am yet to have a real, football-eating hotdog-watching full-blooded American companion.

In other news, I have not changed much and am still very easily amused. I hope I haven't confused too many of you, and if I have, just ignore everything up until this point. Back to you, normal email writer person.

So this week was pretty solid, I was sad to see my little Filipino friend Elder Ikeda leave, but he's in good hands, and now it's me and Elder Garaycochea putting in work here in Ichinoseki.

So I would try and explain the funny stuff that happened this week, but I think enough people are already confused enough from the first couple paragraphs. Basically, in short, I accidentally jumbled my words in a way this week that had both of us practically in tears laughing inside of a Yoshinoya, and we both know a number of obscure references from internet culture, so our communication is borderline unintelligible for even native English speakers.

In other words, I bought a pound of pig guts this week and remembered that I don't actually like guts as much as I like normal meat. Who woulda thunk it. And Elder Ikeda and I went out to eat 冷麺, (reimen) an Iwate-ken specialty which consists of silky-smooth thick noodles in a cold spicy vinegary spicy kimchi broth. It was spectacular. And I'm pretty sure it was stolen from Korea. Also, yesterday I made another Iwate-ken specialty, じゃじゃ麺 (jajamen), which consists of noodles mixed with a pork and black miso-based sauce. The flavor was on point but I overboiled the udon and added waaaaay too much corn starch to the sauce, but next time I make it, it's going to be prime. We also had a little gyouza (pot stickers/dumplings) party to start off the transfer. Honestly the best and worst thing about this apartment is there's a super cheap supermarket next door to the apartment which is amazing and super useful, and also it makes it impossible to diet. Also the supermarket is painted bright yellow and straight up looks like a really new Mexican supermarket hah.

So we found these peppermint eye drops a couple of weeks ago which are awesome and make your eyes feel minty fresh. But it got me thinking about giving people minty fresh winks. And then got me thinking about just the smiles I give people. Apologies if this is too similar to my thought for last week, but smiling is important. I've been thinking about how when we pass people on the street, we say "お早うございます" or "こんにちは" or "おばんです" (good morning, good day, or good evening) and there can be power to that, I want to get it to where I say konnichiwa and it's so powerful that it'll straight stop people on the street. And that may sound ridiculous, and it kind of is, but there's a recent convert in the ward here whose story is pretty incredible. He saw the missionaries on the street and saw a light in their eyes and HE stopped THEM and asked them what they were doing. When we do the right things, when we focus on the good, when we are trying to do everything to share the joy and the light we have, it doesn't matter how much people try to ignore it, people recognize that light. I want to get to the point where I can straight up bear my testimony in a single "konnichiwa" or with a single smile. Smiling is important. I said this last week, but I'm going to say it again - I think Jesus was a pretty smiley guy. You look at the prophets and apostles and stuff - I mean, Brigham Young was a bit of a serious one, but pretty much everyone else is cracking jokes and smiling and waving to people and messing around with little kids. There's that scripture "unless you become like one of these little kids you can't get enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" or something like that. Well, what are little kids like? They are patient (well, sometimes), they are believing, they are loving, they are humble, and they are happy. Yeah, there are serious things in this life and there is a time and a place for seriousness, but for the most part we could all use to relax a little bit and crack a tasteful joke and laugh at ourselves a little. Anyway, even if I spend two years and never find anyone who gets baptized or changes their life or any of that, I'll have spent two years bringing joy and smiles to the people here.

I love you all, and I'm going to drop a challenge in here. I CHALLENGE you all to try to make someone smile this week, and I promise you that as you do that, you'll feel joy as well. Keep it classy, San Diego.

Elder Orgill / オーギル長老

(The "keep it classy, San Diego" was an anchorman reference. Get it? It came full circle. It started off with news anchor stuff and ended with a news anchor reference. Comedy gold, I know.)

Cold Korean kimchi noodles and grilled meat and GUTS. The
noodles are pronounced reimen

Me and my noodles

Lonely tree in the background...

GYOUZA PRINCE and the patriot's plate

Made up some Jajamen and it kinda worked this time

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Fastest Missionary in Japan – week 42

Is my companion Elder Ikeda. Because after only three weeks in Ichinoseki, he is leaving me. I thought just six weeks in 石巻 (Ishinomaki) was fast, but he's got me beat. Anyway...

Hey everyone! This week was straight gold, I'm just gonna get right into it and skip any talk about garlic.

So this week was pretty dang busy, it consisted of a lot of time trying to contact people with varying success. But, luckily that made for some pretty cool experiences and stories. One day this week we drove 40 minutes with a member to visit an investigator (self-referral, long story), then drove another 40 minutes to this place called Kesennuma to visit less-active members, then drove an hour back and studied and had our Eikaiwa (English conversation class) and basically our entire day was spent. And it was great. We visited this one less-active member who was super funny and used some super impolite Japanese and he is possibly one of my favorite people in Japan. His mom, this super old smiley grandma sporting a snazzy silver wig, is a little hard of hearing. Elder Ikeda tried to say his name three or four times and she couldn't hear, so the son says ”バカ” (IDIOT) and writes it down really big and shows it to her. Then the member who drove us out there comments on how her hair looks cool, and the son says "It's a wig" and reaches to snatch it off of her head. Good thing grandma ducked right in time, but it was hilarious. Writing it down it sounds just like he is disrespectful and unkind, but grandma's got a little fight in her too so it's more of a back-and-forth. I can't capture it in words, but the three of us visiting were all choking back laughter.

That same day we visited another less-active member. About two months ago I think I wrote a letter in which I talked about this old guy who was lounging reading a book and straight ignoring us despite waving and ringing the doorbell for a solid 10 minutes until he spotted us and came to the door and talked to us. Well, we visited that house again. This time he came right out, but he told us "Ah, I don't have a lot of time to talk" and proceeded to talk for a solid 30 minutes straight in incomprehensible grandpa language that even the two other native Japanese speakers had a hard time understanding. For me it was utterly hopeless, I just kind of turned my brain off and alternated between practicing Japanese vocabulary and producing trap music in my head. We finally made our escape and get about 10 steps down the hill back to the car when much to our surprise and horror, Grandpa is right in step with us walking down the hill. "Maybe he's just heading to the convenience store" I optimistically thought, but nope, he was just walking down to continue the conversation. We had another 15 minutes at the car (10 of which our hands were LITERALLY on the door handles), and he almost snagged us with the windows rolled down to say goodbye. I still have no idea what he was talking about, and neither did my completely fluent Japanese companion.

You know what's even more funny is we had an almost identical experience later in the week. Except I understood that one (because he told the same story about 7 times).

I also had my first bike crash this week. Except it wasn't really a crash, it was more like a three second 1. Brake test. 2. Flight test. 3. Publicity. It was remarkably similar to some of the Wright brothers' early tests, and consequently I now respond to the name "Orville" (either a reference to Orville Wright or Orville Redenbacher, I don't mind being associated with the popcorn and will take either as a compliment). The publicity part is because by second three I was giving a thumbs up, waving to the car, and smiling for the camera. Unfortunately the person just drove on and didn't turn into a new investigator, but no worries, I'm not going to sweat it. I will just say this though, you can keep your license in Japan until you're basically 106.
 Oh yeah, should probably mention transfers. My new companion is going to be Elder Garaycochea, who is one transfer below me and coming from (the promised land of) Yamagata 山形, my first area. He has been companions with both Elder Fono and Elder 工藤(Kudo), two of my past companions, and it's going to be a party.

The highlight of this week (besides a 15 minute phone call with a drunk, slightly crying, former investigator who called out of the blue) would probably have to be President Smith coming to visit the branch here. My companion and I moved heaven and earth to get an investigator or less active member to come to church so we could do a lesson together with Smith 会長(President), but in the end nobody ended up coming. But it was all OK, because we got to take the sacrament to a member who wasn't able to make it to church today, and he was so happy to see us. President Smith is the man and I am going to miss him so much when he goes home.

One thing I was thinking about this week is fear - I don't remember who said it, but fear is the opposite of faith. And that's so true. At the beginning of this transfer I got super freaked out because suddenly I had to be responsible and I couldn't just cruise and chill and be a lukewarm lackluster junior companion, I had to step it up, so I wrote down a list of all of these weaknesses that I didn't want to pass down to my "son" (the missionary you train), and one of those was fear. There are a lot of scary things we do as missionaries. You don't get a gun pointed in your face in Japan, but talking to people and putting yourself in awkward situations and contacting people who seem like they might not have interest is actually kind of scary sometimes. But, I have been trying super hard to lead by example these last couple of weeks and lead in doing the scary things and I don't know why, but it has gotten so much easier. Part of it is a love for the people sufficient to overcome the fear, part of it is a love for God sufficient to not care about what people may think or say, and part of it is just the thrill of doing kind of scary things, but my faith has grown and my fear has shrunk, and I think I have changed a lot with that. And I don't think that's just something inside of the mission, talking to people used to give me pretty gnarly anxiety, but if you just smile and go for it, it doesn't matter if you say something dumb or accidentally offend someone or they yell at you or tell you to go back to America, you gave it your best and you're still smiling.

And smiling - that's the other thing I've been thinking a lot about recently. There is this quote I really love which is "Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words". Reminds me of 1 Timothy 4:12 which talks about being an example of the believers. I've been trying to put as much emotion and love and joy into my smile as possible recently, there are times when we are walking somewhere because it's raining and there are TONS of cars driving past, and I realized at some point this last week - that's a golden opportunity right there. If I smile with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, people are going to see that and think "wow, that big white dude and his little Filipino-looking friend are walking through the rain to knock on people's doors and get rejected but they look really legitimately happy..." and it will sink deep into their soul and the next time we knock on their door, they will be ready. I think you can bear your testimony with just a smile. And there is nothing to support this, but I think Jesus was a pretty smiley guy and probably made a lot of people smile as well.

I love you all, keep on smiling! ニコニコがんばって (NikoNiko Ganbatte - smile and hang in there!)

Elder Orgill オーギル長


District day off

District missonaries

More food

Our missionary cooking up yakisoba

Teaching English with a flair

Meeting with President Smith in the background

Monday, June 5, 2017

Who's ready for a weekly update from Elder Orgill about garlic with absolutely no substance??!! - week 41

Hey there friends, family, and other... people... probably...

So I have to get it out of the way - this week's update on garlic. A member in the ward, Konno 姉妹 (Sister), gave me garlic-steeped soy-sauce that has been maturing for upwards of a year. It's amazing. I have never been so close to hugging a female on my mission. I'm just hoping I get sent somewhere in Aomori-ken so I can visit Takomachi, the sister-city of Gilroy and garlic capitol of Japan. Don't worry, I'm brushing my teeth well and using mouthwash and eating mints like crazy so people still want to talk to me.

Anyway, this week was super fun! We had some pretty cool experiences, like somebody straight calling the church and requesting a Book of Mormon and asking to read it with the missionaries. That kind of stuff doesn't happen in Japan. Like, straight up doesn't happen. I think it is probably different for American missionaries, and probably happens all the time in Brazil, but that is like miracles upon miracles and we were lucky enough to be the closest pair of elders to get the blessings. The funny thing is the reason she wants to read it with us - is because she is completely blind. But she's super cool, and we visited her this week, and she has a pet cat which is waaaaaay too comfortable with everyone and I have a cat allergy so my allergies were craaaazy and I had to take a couple of Benadryl when I got back to the apartment and I low-key might have fallen asleep on the floor right before our Eikaiwa (English conversation class) started. Fun stuff.

So in addition to the split with Elder Holdaway my home SLICE from back in the MTC, I also got to go on splits with another old homie - the one and only ELDER NOAH KAMEHAMEHA LILIOKUONI FONOIMOANA. It was glorious, he roasted me about eating white bread every day and I made more than a few jests about eating spam, eggs, and rice for every meal, and it was all kinds of fun. That boy really puts in work, he has a little disease I call "stop literally everyone and talk to them" which includes side effects like stopping people on bikes in the rain, making your companion feel bad for not being as assertive as you, and making for one heck of a missionary. I learned a ton of stuff from him and it was really nice to be able to talk to him really straightforward and reminisce about old dumb stuff that happened and see how much the both of us have changed and progressed. So much fun, and if you can measure how good a companion exchange was based on the number of calories eaten, this one was probably at the top of my list (shout out to Abe's Kitchen mega Katsu curry and that random Chinese place we found). We also made a solid friend while devouring our gigantic plates of curry, which was pretty cool, the guys in Morioka are going to go out to eat with him again and he's probably gonna get baptized so ya know, pretty cool.

Elder Ikeda and I put in some serious work this week, and though we're only in a two-man apartment, we're making it pretty dang fun. We've gotten really tight over this last week, and it makes the work just that much better and more fun and more rewarding.

Oh yeah. You're all probably looking forward to my embarrassing moment of the week, right? No banging my head on a kotatsu this week, but something arguably worse which is going to stick with me basically until the end of my mission. So flashback to Tuesday night - we're starting language study and mid-prayer when the phone starts ringing. I speed-finish the prayer, whip out the phone, and look at it. On the phone it says 北上姉妹. I saw the 北上 and I'm thinking "Nice, the Elders from Kitakami are calling us back about that one question we had about Eikaiwa (English conversation class)!" So I whip open the phone and give my best booming deep "Hey heeyyyyy", only to hear a roar of laughter. What? WHAT? I pull away the phone and notice the little 姉妹 kanji. It wasn't the elders, it was the sisters calling basically for tablet-iPad tech support. Needless to say, every time I see one of those sisters now I am greeted mercilessly with a "Hey hey!", and since one of them is a first transfer missionary, that means it'll stay in the mission even after I've gone home.

So the biggest highlight of this week was by far interviews with President Smith. I am going to miss that guy SO MUCH. This was my last interview with him, and I low-key started tearing up when it ended. He's the best. I was going through a bit of a rough patch with some things, and he told me exactly what I needed to hear. One of the biggest things I took away was that it was not him that called me to this position as a trainer, but it was the Lord, and he expressed his confidence in my ability to do it too. I wasn't sent out here to fail as a missionary, and I wasn't picked to "fail" as a trainer, this is my opportunity to grow and see miracles.

One last thing I learned a little more this week - we all have specific little talents. One of mine is making (very certain types of) people laugh. And just being friendly and sociable. And what the heck am I doing not using those and developing them on my mission? So I have a goal - with every person I talk to, I want to be their friend within 30 seconds. I think I can hit probably a 50% success rate, but I'm gonna go for it. All of you have specific little talents, and though you might not recognize them, find what they are and develop them and use them and bless your own lives and the lives of others with them and I promise you will feel so much happiness and grow.

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

オーギル長老 (Elder Orgill)

With Elder Holdaway

Chinese food

Curry rice

District P-Day

Indian curry and naan bread

District Elders

Posing with political posters