Monday, December 7, 2015

Last time best time!

Well, that's all folks, the 2 years are over.  I'm coming home.  As I was thinking this morning about what I wanted to say in my last email home, 2 thoughts came to my mind that I would share.

1. It has been an awesome experience to come on a mission.  To really develop in so many ways and learn things that would take me 10 years to learn back at home!  But most importantly. I have gained a stronger, more surefounded testimony of the savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Which if you knew me about 4 years ago, you would think I was agnostic or atheist or something... see how far I've come? haha)  I am grateful that I was able to stand as a witness of Him for two years in Korea.  And as people yelled and spit, screamed and cursed at me, I stood and testified like I would in front of a jury, that Jesus Christ lives, and that he loves us, and that His TRUE CHURCH is restored again to this earth.  And no matter what anyone says or does, my testimony remains sure and strong.  This is His work.  This is His Church.  And those who fight against it will not fight for long. 

2. As I walked to the PC 방 this morning getting ready to email, I was thinking about why I had to come on a mission.  There are the obvious reasons of serving and priesthood obligations, etc.  But one thing really stuck out to me.  I had to go through Hell to learn some of the best lessons of life.  The words of a song that I heard a while back came to my head, "I know it's gotta go like this I know.  Hell will always come before you Grow." (Roots, Imagine Dragons).  And I just chuckled to myself and said, "Wow, I guess that's true.  I really had to go through hell to learn some of the most valuable and important lessons of my life."  BUT!!!  Would I change that?  Would I go back given the chance and not go on a mission?....  OF COURSE NOT!!!!!  This has been the best two years [for my life] of my life!  I have made life long friends and learned life long lessons.  Yeah, it was hard, but it was work, DUH!  Of course, it will be hard!  If it wasn't hard it wasnt worth it!  I have sweated, screamed, bled, and cried for this work.  And I would do it again.  I did as Elder Holland said, "am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.” 

And Although  I wasn't crucified, I still have suffered just a bit of what my savior suffered for me.  And I'm proud of it.  I finish this mission and this letter off in the right way:

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Elder Yamagata

2 Weeks Left

Wow, its coming to an end sooo quickly.  I wish I could slow it down, but .....oh wait, who am I kidding???? HELLO AMERICA!!!!!! ITS BEEN SOOOO LONG!!!! DONT WORRY IM COMING SOON!!!!! WHOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok now that that is out of my system, onto what YOU want  to know about this week, because let me tell you it was a doozie.  

Monday: Got a random call about 20 minutes before the end of pday at 1800.  It's from the sisters investigator, Kara.  Hmmm.... interesting...  She tells me a Less active member will be coming with her this week.  Cool.......and.......what????? YOUR GETTING BAPTIZED????? I THOUGHT YOU HAD A DATE FOR AUGUST OF NEXT YEAR WHAT THE CRAP KARA????????   So I may or may not have been a little excited...  Anyways at FHE that night, she hadn't told the sisters yet, so we all waited (because everyone else knew at this point) and finally we hear the scream from sister Phillips as she finds out the good news!  We were all really excited! (Later that night sister Choi screamed and said yes and we all thought someone proposed to her, turns out brother Andreasen was doing a magic trick....)

Wednesday:  Awesome little miracle as we headed on post to grab a package that had just come in for me from Bro. Whitmore.  Finally, find him and my package (safe and sound), and then we get a random text from Bro. Major Galan.  Proceed to go with companion and bro Whitmore to give brother galan a blessing.  What a cool little tender mercy that we just happened to be on post, about 20 minutes away from his place instead of having to travel almost an hour to get there.  (Spc. Whitmore freaked out when he realized we entered command housing, and then got scared when a couple of majors walked down the hallway with an LTC, priceless face)  We were able to administer to him and help him with his sickness.  He told us later he was fine and able to sleep about 5 minutes after we left.  SICK!!! #PriesthoodPower

 (This is where the craziness starts)

Thursday:  THANKSGIVING!!! What an awesome day!  Was able to spend the majority of it over at our Branch Presidents house and had turkey and ham and all the fixins with a lot of cool members.  Finished off the day watching 17 miracles for the first time.  Great movie and we were all uplifted!  Last minute before we left, he approached me and asked if I could give a talk THIS SUNDAY.  Of course, I said yes, but I panicked still...

Friday:  STILL TECHNICALLY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!  This morning we did a great breakfast activity for our soldiers on post.  Breakfast and football what a great combo!  We got our less active brother miller to come out and he had a lot of fun!  Played board games and talked a lot with the members!  Super fun!!! (Miscalculated how long it would take, only expected 2 hours..... it was 7 hours long..... Ouch!!!!)  Finished my day off by packing!  (SIDE NOTE: Still haven't written talk yet...)

Saturday:  STILL THANKSGIVING!!!!! Finally was able to start writing my talk for the next day, was going to talk about how I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life more since I have started my mission.  Great topic, no idea what I am going to say.  Get called out of studies to do some more service and help some members cook... Service is service!  It was fun! Then at night we had THANKSGIVING DINNER AGAIN!!!!  So much food.... rolled home this night.  But what an amazing experience to be with our members soooo much throughout the week, really formed a new bond with them.  

Sunday:  Oh no, the talk still isn't finished, but the Lord will help (Right????) Get to church and I'm the first speaker (dangit... hoping for the second slot)  But I got up, and the Spirit took over.  Talked for 20 minutes, shed some tears, made the congregation cry, and had a great spiritual experience.  People came up afterwards, speechless, but just sooo happy and excited.  They couldn't express anything, but we all knew what that meant!  Forgot that I would be giving the talk again on post, so wasn't prepared emotionally, and kinda tanked it.... oh well.  They still enjoyed it!  

Then the fun part


We had to go down to Uijeongbu and take part in Kara's baptism!  I was chosen to perform the baptism and Brother Hunter confirmed her, even with a messed up shoulder that had surgery on it.  It was a great and spiritual experience.  Even her family got to be there over skype and see everything that was going on!  I was super excited as this has been the only person I have ever baptized on my mission!  It was such a sacred experience.  I can't put into words how I feel.  But it was amazing!  

It was awesome

And then everyone decided to have the ROAST OF ELDER YAMAGATA PT.2: "The Commandment to Multiply and Replenish the Earth has never been rescinded, Elder!"

It was fun!

Well 11 days left, next week I'll probably write something really mushy or something.   We will see
For now buckle down and focus

Love all of you

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Elder Yamagata

Monday, November 23, 2015

Put something here

Oh man, this week was awesome!  I keep saying that but that's because it always feels like each week was better than the last!

Monday was awesome because of the birthday, and the Wings were nice enough to buy me an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins and so we celebrated at Family Home Evening!  It was fun! 

Tuesday nothing much happened.  I went through the temple in Korean and what another experience!  I learned so much that I wish I could share, but... you know!  (It's not secret, just sacred).  But It was really cool and they even changed the voice acting to be ssooooh much better.  Stressfull as junk, though, but it was defintely worth it!

Wednesday, Thursday nothing special happened

Friday we had the wonderful pleasure of going on post to eat with one of our members.  On the way to the barracks, my companion had to hop off the bus all of a sudden and threw up behind the bus stop.  Kind of funny actually.  Didn't want to laugh then but now its pretty dang funny

The really cool thing this week though was that I was able to carve a pig at church on Sunday.  It was super massive and really fun!  The members started laughing and were enjoying my great conversation with the pig.  They always tell me that they like me because I'm not the boring regular missionary that everyone knows, but that I like to have fun within my bounds.  Its really cool to be recognized like that.

Other than that, I have had my nose buried in the "History of the Church in the Fulness of Times" manual this past week.  What a great read to be able to see the church history right next to secular history and be able to understand a little better why certain things were happening in the church, because of what was going on in the world (I cant remember how to phrase sentences anymore...).  I learned quite a bit and it was great to see reinforced that revelation that this church is the "stone cut without hands out of the rock" and it is destined to fill the entire earth.  Which it really already has.  Case in point, Im in korea!  

What a marvelous opportunity though to be in Korea, serving a mission for the Lord.  I have learned soo much, and during this thanksgiving season, I have really reflected on how much we have to be grateful for.  We heard some awesome talks this past Sunday on gratefulness and I was amazed at all the things that I thought of that I can be grateful for.  
So lets all of us try to find something more to be grateful for throughout this week, and as we try we will see the hand of the Lord more in our lives!

Love you!

Elder Yamagata

P.s.: 18days left haha

Monday, November 16, 2015

Time flies quickly, enjoy it while you can

It's been a great week this week.  Had some really special miracles this week and some other cool experiences happen.  Shall we begin?....

The first thing that even happened this week was this past Monday.  We were supposed to have family home evening, but it got cancelled.  So we were sitting there like....."What we going to do? It's Monday night, we always have FHE!"  And we at the same time thought to visit bro. Andreasen.  So we called and started getting on post.  As we did, we ran into a potential investigator we were trying to see for days!  We talked for about 7 minutes before he had to leave with a friend, and right as he left, another potential came up that I haven't seen in 2 weeks.  I thought he was ignoring us, but he's been having phone issues.  Got on the bus and was able to set an appointment with him for the next day (he showed, w00t).  He gets off and who gets on?  Two more potentials, and ones the roommate of the member we are visiting, and a man we have been trying to teach for months!  WHAT??? MIRACLES DO HAPPEN!!!! #FAITH

Anyways we were able to visit him and what started out as a member visit, turned into a lesson with member present as we focused on his friend, it was spiritually uplifting for everyone!  

Thursday night (this is less spiritual more funny) we have pizza night on base.  So we go on as usual and everyone was on fire that night I guess with "Elder Yamagata needs to repent" jokes.  Haha. funny.  Anyways, after being roasted by a couple of members about how I used the words "crap" and "Lord" in the same sentence (It was a joke by all parties)[Army humor..?] I was talking to Brother Crown about his life and such.  And eventually I said to one-up him, "well you know I'm a missionary.  So I win" to which he replied, "I'm an RM, ha!"  So I threw out "I'm a convert!  Boom!" and then he killed me "Well, I baptized my wife and kids!"  Dangit.... beat me on the baptism card.

The last spiritual thing that happened this week was with this man that we met on the street this past week.  Elder Gildea was prompted to talk to this man getting off the train.  So we started talking, and he looked really off.  So he asked him how everything was going and he let out that he was going through a divorce and that she took all of his money.  We felt terrible for him.  And Elder Gildea was prompted to ask him when he last ate. "three days ago...."  It was hollow, empty.  

I immediately offered to not only buy him some dinner but also some groceries to hold him over to the next payday.  I didn't hesitate one second.  Funnily, Colonel Wing called and was talking about something when I told him what we were doing, and he started to kind of get worried.  Telling us about the different programs the military had.  But I felt no problems, this was a child of god, and he needed help. So I went to it, elder Gildea talked and I shopped.  got him the basics of life.  It was awesome.  I didn't want anything in return, and I didn't expect anything.  The only thought I had was "When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me"  And then the thought came in from a talk I heard recently "It's not your job to judge, to assume, to ask questions.  It's simply your job to give to the poor sick and needy, and not tell them how to spend it or anything."  It was a great experience to serve someone, even by doing something so small. 

Well, it was a great week!  And I'm glad that I'm able to serve hard in my last weeks!  It's getting faster.  Everyone tells you that, but it really does get faster and faster.  So I will keep it up and Endure to the End.  Thank you for all the prayers and thank you for the support everyone has given me.

Love you!

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Elder Yamagata
Northern Military Branch
Seoul Korea Military District

Monday, November 9, 2015

The reality of missionary work

You know, if anyone came out and actually told expecting missionaries what they were actually in for,  I think it would scare the junk out of them!  It's hard work out here, it isn't always fun, but it is always rewarding!!!

This week was pretty dang good.  I'm going to skip around a little bit for my email this week as I am pretty scattered

Yesterday I had a pretty interesting experience while we were walking from our apartment to the post.  I was inwardly kicking myself, telling myself that my mission has been a failure.  I still have anger issues, still get tempted to do stupid things, can't control myself sometimes, still have a hard time not being condescending, etc.  And I was mad, so mad.  Furious that I had wasted two years of my life.  So I resolved to have an interview with president about how I felt.  Then I heard the voice of my mission president in my head and he said "Let's sit down and talk"  It was kinda funny, but realistic at the same time.  So I was in my head sitting and talking with my mission president.  He told me something a couple of months ago that I won't forget "You're being short sighted, Elder."  And so I reflected on how I was being shortsighted.  I have learned tons on my mission,  how to control my anger better, how to be nicer, how to love people I couldn't love, how to be more patient, etc, ad infinitum.  Too many things to list here.  And the voice came back in my head after I had listed some off and he said "This was not a waste, it was a learning opportunity.  You were not expected to be perfect, you were expected to learn and work hard."  And I thought about my mission, and I am so grateful that I was able to come out and experience these things.  It is not about being perfect out here, but it's about working hard and leaving it all out here.  God does not care who we were, or who we even ARE.  He cares about who we are trying to become!  And I have had that reinforced a lot this past week.  I was listening to a song and in the lyrics it said, "He's the only one who ever knows, who I am, who I'm not, and who I want to be"  It was true.  So it's been great reflecting on that and being grateful for these blessings that I have been given.  

Another cool thing that happened this week.  Elder Gildea and I were walking up and down the streets trying to find people to talk to.  And I had this heavy feeling on me, that something was wrong.  And I couldn't place it.  I was praying deep in my heart for an answer to what this was, but nothing was coming.  Finally, I decided to sit down and contemplate.  And I felt like something I had done had upset my companion.  So I asked him and he said no everything was ok.  Then I prayed again and just felt like I should tell him I love him.  So I did, and he was a little freaked but at the same time knew it was genuine.  We hugged it out and were on our way.  But it just showed to me how heavenly father is in the details of our lives.  He sends his spirit to show us and do things so that we can be better people all the time.  I had been judging my companion that day and when the spirit touched me like that it softened my heart. What a tremendous blessing that heavenly father could give me.

My last little thing is about someone today.  Our new investigator Calistus (pronounced Ka-leees-toos)  He's from Nigeria and we met him on the train on tuesday and set something up for friday night. I expected him to forget like many other people but when we called he was excited and was ready to meet.  We taught him and at first was a little uneasy (and I mean like the slightest amount possible) but quickly lightened up and felt the spirit and loved what we were teaching.  We invited him to pray about Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon, and he replied with "I will, but I already know the answer, its true, 100%"  My heart swelled with joy.  It almost felt like bursting!  He was a devout catholic, who had done everything when he was young and had attended faithfully for all of his life.  When we finished he stated, "I have never heard any gospel like this, this must be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ"  It was amazing!!!!!!! WHOO!!!!!! PROGRESS!!!!!

Anyways, this week has some potential in it too.  Elder Gildea and I are working our butts off to find people.   And I am trying to stay sane my last couple of weeks here.   I can know count on one hand how many weeks I have left and 32days!!!!!  W00t!  Stay in it till the end!  I love my mission!
Korea Seoul Mission is the Best!!!!!  
Love you all!

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Elder Yamagata

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hey Family!!

Some crazy stuff happened this week!  But I'll only lay down a couple of things...

So first off a crazy story, not spiritual, just really weird.  On the way back from transfers this week we got on the wrong train going home, so we had to get off a couple of stops early and wait for another train.  While doing so, a kid about 17-18 years old comes up the stairs with an obvious mental handicap.  Nobody minds him, but he starts running across the platform and goes and hits the emergency stop button and then sits down.  Everyone is now really surprised.  The security comes out and checks the rails and everything is ok.  So they clear it and walk off.  At the same time, this kid walks right next to elder Gildea, pulls his pants down and starts peeing on the platform... elder Gildea looks me dead in the eye and says "Is he peeing" "yeah" "is it getting on me" "no" "ok we are good"  Crazy!!! So to shorten this story, this kid pushes the emergency stop button 3 more times and finally gets arrested.  It was really sad but at the same time very necessary. He was stalling a lot of trains and it was not good for the company.  IT was nuts though (side note, they never cleaned up the pee...)

Now to get spiritual, this week I had two realizations.  The first came to me in fast and testimony meeting.  As I got up to bear my testimony, I thought about what I would say.  And the words came to me crystal clear, "Talk about the love the prophets and apostles have for us"  So I did.  And I realized how much they love us.  And we can see it in the weirdest ways.  Through the manuals is the way I saw it this week, in how much time effort thought and prayer they put into those manuals for our spiritual well being.  I could feel the love as if they were there with me!

The other thing that happened (and I'm sorry these are terribly condensed  I have nooo time) was my realization of my testimony.  I was thinking about a time when I came to know the book of Mormon was true and the church was true, etc.  And I was thinking about it, the words of my patriarchal blessing came to my mind "You were taught the gospel in the premortal existence by your heavenly father, and when it was taught to you here, you remembered it."  And that's exactly what my thoughts felt like,  there was never a time I didn't know the book of Mormon was true, I just remembered it was true.  There wasn't a time when I was like "Wow the church really is true"  I just came to a remembrance of that fact.  And I felt it was true.  And I knew that I was taught in the premortal existence, even if I can't remember that time.  It was an incredible feeling.  And it continues to grow inside of me, getting stronger every day as I test it, bear it, and take care of it.  The finding of a testimony is in bearing it often.  And that's what we have been doing!  What a great experience!

I wish I could send more, but my time is limited with having to do college stuff and other things as well!  Btw GO WOLVERINES! haha.  Had to do it.  

Hope I can share more with you next week!  
Love everyone
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Elder Yamagata

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hey Family

Sorry not so much time this week!  I will give you some brief stories and such!

Tuesday we had the amazing opportunity as always to go to the temple.  What a great place to be.  But on top of just attending and doing the work of the lord, we had the opportunity to hear our returning missionaries final testimonies.  A last chance for them to bear testimony, and for us to hear and learn something from old experienced missionaries.  I was surprised to see my own companion get up, and bear heartfelt testimony about the face that God can feel pain.  It was a crude start, that turned into a deeply moving testimony.  My companion is very...straightforward individual, and usually the butt of many jokes, and a lot of people look at him weirdly.  But he had almost every missionary in that room with tears.  It was a very moving experience.  He said, "For 734 days I have been a missionary, and except for 1 or 2 of those days, I would have rather had been dead.  But at least I have felt a small bit of what our savior has felt for us."  It was truly touching.  

Unfortunately, a couple of days later, tensions ran high between us and we were separated for the remainder of the transfer (6 days).  It was heartbreaking for me.  It really sucks to have that happened.  I really love this guy.  And I wish it would not have happened, I wish a lot of things were different, but ultimately, I feel that it  was the best thing that could have happened for us.  

Now Elder Gildea, and I are together.  And it's been fun.  Do I hurt still?  Yeah.  Have I just decided to be humble and learn from this.  Yeah.  That's all I can do at this point.  I hope in the future I can fix some wounds and such, but as we all know, there are wounds only time itself can heal.  

So me and Elder Gildea are making the best of it.  We already have a baptismal date, and some investigators to church so things are looking up.  We got our transfer calls and had predicted that they were going to close the other elders area and just have us together, we were right.  So next transfer me and elder Gildea  will be together alone.  So I'm excited, I know my last companion.  

Nearing the end of my mission, its getting harder.  Everyone keeps emailing me "Sprint to the finish" etc.  I'm going to be honest, Its hard  just to keep walking sometimes.  But elder Gildea is hard working and is going to push me to the end.  

So everyone pray for me.  We are going into the last weeks left and I don't want to leave any regrets to be had.  I'm going to leave everything on the table and just work my butt off.  As my old band director used to say "Hearts out and butts off"  and that's the only way I run.
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Elder Yamagata