Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 27, 2013

First off, I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas!  Here at the MTC it was amazing, but I'll get there in a second.

So first off, last saturday we had a substitute teacher, Sister Sagers, teach our class because our teacher brother sung was out of the state for break.  She was a really nice teacher, till she started the class.... She gave us a little bit of background about herself (in korean, who would've guessed!)  so we had to kind of guess at what she was saying and hope she was right.  After a couple of minutes of talking in korean she said in very plain english that we had three minutes to prepare and then she was going to leave the room and start walking around our building.  We had to find her, stop her, and share a short message about the gospel before setting an appointment to come meet with her at her home.  What a disaster that was!!!  Our korean is still not the greatest and we rely on our TALL books for a lot of words and phrases that we dont know.  Long story short, we flagged her down, told her god wanted to talk to her, I told her I loved her on accident instead of I care about your salvation (how did I mess up that bad!?) and somehow managed to get her phone number to contact her next time.  It was rough and definitely a realization about how hard it would be to street contact in Korea.
Then sunday in sacrament meeting some of the elders got together and sang joesph smiths first vision to the tune of come thou fount of every blessing.  What a treat!  The spirit was so strong throughout the entire day!  One of our branch presidency spoke about faith in christ during sacrament meeting and told us we "...Have the power of life over death through Christ,"  and that we need to bring that power to as many people as we can come into contact with.  Later on during our temple walk we made a snowman around seven feet high! (I'll try to get pictures, I forgot my camera that day) and then I tackled it.  Everyone laughed and I had never seen our zone be so close together.  
Still during sunday, at our night devotional, we had Brother Christopher Randall Director of Administration for Missionary Work come talk to us about success and failure.  The best part of it was him bringing Sister Payne, a missionary from the show The District, to come talk to us about one of her investigators she taught at the time, and things to help us with our teaching.  It was a very insightful and spiritual meeting.
Slide over to monday and nothing big happened really.  However, I had several people come to me throughout the day and tell me things like I'm becoming a great leader and they are happy I'm zone leader, I even had one elder say he looks up to me for an example.  What encouraging words to know that my zone supports me in the things that I do!  

Now the fun part begins as Christmas Eve came over the MTC.  Several things happened this day, but I'll share the best.  In no particular order.  I thought about the Atonement a lot throughout the day and what it has done for me.  I even expressed my love to all the elders in my district and zone all day, and reminded them that this is the reason why we are working, the salvation and eternal life of all mankind.  I could see a light burn in all of them so brightly as most realized the seriousness of our work and immediately put their noses in their scriptures, language study books, etc to get to work.  As we left the classroom at night, another Haka had happened and it was awesome, we even had several missionaries from our zone join in.  It was really fun and spiritual until security came over and started trying to break it up.  One of the missionaries from my zone that joined in got really mad and kept dancing, getting closer and closer to him.  We had a couple of other missionaries pull him away and take him back to residence where he got really angry.  At the residence we pulled out music and sang and ate and danced till a little while after lights out at 1030.  Others stayed up till 4 in the morning from what I heard!  

Christmas day arrived and I'll mention the really cool stuff.  About mid morning we had a MTC talent show where many people got up and performed music, magic, dances, funny pieces, etc.  It was really cool especially because about 1/2 the acts were from our zone.  Later on after lunch we had the great privilege of hearing from Elder David A Bednar from the quorum of the 12.  He came in and told us that he wanted to have a Q&A with us, and when someone asked how he would do this, about 20 people walked in with christmas bags filled with cell phones!  He allowed us to use 200 cellphones to text questions that would go straight to his Ipad on the pulpit.  It was awesome! Although he didn't answer any of my questions directly, they were all answered through the Spirit.  Afterwards, I walked out my usual exit, and found a mass of people waiting for his car to leave so that we could head back to our residences.  The crowd slowly thinned till there was about 30 of us left after about 10 minutes of waiting.  I thought we were just waiting for his car to leave so we could wave, no big deal.  But soon enough he appeared in front of us and wanted to shake our hands.  After waiting another 2 minutes I had the privilege of shaking hands with Elder Bednar!!! I'm never going to wash that hand!  Haha, But It was cool.  Later on at night we were able to listen to Ray Smith, Accomplished jazz musician, and the MOTAB Christmas special.  Both were amazing and I was glad we were able to feel the spirit so strongly on that glorious day.  After that, Thursday wasn't anything special, I taught a lesson with Elder Jarrett to our investigator about the Book of Mormon, when about halfway through he looks up and asks us, "What's the gospel?'  Now normally in english this would be a no brainer, but throw me into  another language and I couldn't figure it out.  I felt so bad telling him that we would have to wait till our next appointment to answer his question, but thats all we could do.  After he said that, we couldn't continue the lesson and had to cut it short.  We felt bad but knew that we could answer it and continue the lesson next time.  

As I continue my time into my 4th week here at the MTC I truly see the spirit working hard to strengthen me and guide me through my work.  There are times that I think there is no time to learn new words from Korean while preparing Lesson plans and studying out of the book of mormon while also memorizing our purpose and the baptismal commitment in korean.  But the spirit makes it happen and I feel it come into me as I diligently work hard and pray earnestly for the blessings that have been so helpful in my short time here.  I love it here, I love my family that I have made here and I am so thankful for every missionary in my zone.  I express my love and appreciation for them daily, telling them and encouraging them to work harder, try more, do better.  And they have, they make my days rough sometimes but I love them.  I love the work and I love my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for everything that they have given me, and all they have yet to give me.  I know this is the true church of Christ and that I have the power to bring eternal life and salvation to the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven.  I love all of you at home and reading this so much, and I hope that you can find these truths for yourself.  Pray and ask earnestly to have your Father in Heaven guide and direct your life, and he will show you the path back to him.  In the name of our beloved Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Without Wax,

-Elder Yamagata
December 25, 2013
Merry Christmas To Everyone in the Family!!!!!! I miss all of you soo much! But I wouldn't want to spend Christmas Eve/Day with anyone but my family here at the MTC.  The Spirit is definitely strong this holiday season!  I will write the details from these past couple days in my next big email as I only have a few minutes to be on right now. 

As this day comes and goes (go's?) I want everyone in the family to remember the real reason why we are celebrating this great day! The Birth of the Savior of the world is a tremendous thing for which we should all be grateful.  His birth, life, and death showed us what we can be when we become perfected after this life.  More importantly, we should be grateful for his atoning sacrifice that gives all of us the ability to have eternal life and eternal families!  It is because of him that me and many others in the world are leaving our families for a short time, so others can be together for eternity.  So during this amazing day that we spend with family and friends, I challenge all of you to take a second and remember the real reason we are celebrating this day, and then get on your knees and thank Heavenly Father for the greatest gift anyone could ever give you.

I miss all of you so much and I cant wait to spend Christmas in Korea and another here at home!  I am so thankful for the Lord and His atoning sacrifice.  I am thankful for this gospel and the opportunity it brings all of us to be together forever.  I know this church is true, and my testimony grows each day as I learn of the Lords hand in everything!  Have a Merry Christmas and be safe!


Elder Yamagata

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mom, Dad, and Family,


So This week has been absolutely awesome.  We have had a lot of stuff happen.  Firstly, this week is the first time that our district has had two investigators at the same time (both of them are our teachers who are acting as investigators they taught and baptized while in Korea).  It is really difficult sometimes for us to plan for both investigators and not having a lot of time to do so.  And then on top of it all, we still dont have mastery of the language well enough to actually have conversations with our investigators.  However, the Lord has blessed all of us with the gift of Tongues and Translation.  Just yesterday (Thursday) Me and my companion Elder Jarrett taught two lessons back to back, as I missed our lesson the night before because of new missionary orientation (more on that later).  As we sat in the rooms talking with them I had words and phrases come to me that I didn't even know.  I tried to bear my testimony sincerely to both of them and it came out so fluidly.  I was surprised as I came out that the spirit was so strong within me!  


Now these new missionaries.  So when our group came in we had 37 new missionaries in the zone.  Now with this group we have 7.... Such a tiny group! Only one district, with 6 elders and 1 sister.  They are all really nice people, but I feel so old talking to them even though most are only 1-2 years younger than me.  They really look up to all of us as we speak the language and give them advice and tips on what they should and shouldnt be doing.  Its really fun kind of being a mentor to these younguns.  It was funny last night though, as almost every thursday, we hang bed sheets over the shower area door and turn all the showers to hot to make a makeshift sauna.  The new missionaries just walked into the bathroom and were kind of surprised to see massive sheets covering their shower area.  Me and a couple other missionaries were inside relaxing, getting ready for our pday and service today.  We also talk about a lot of district and zone leader stuff as most of us who sauna are in leadership positions.  Some of them thought it was pretty funny and just walked out.  


The older 덕지 (Dongi, Group) left us this past sunday and shrank our branch by half!  40 of them left to korea, excited to start the real work!  We had passdowns the day before they left, where they give us stuff that has been passed down from generations of elders.  We have a robe, a womans cardigan, slippers, boots, a mini fridge, blankets foam pads and more!  I got the mini fridge, and was told I would be getting the blanket soon, its for all the zone leaders and was started last year! It has been passed down from all the zone leaders since then and it will be mine in about 3 weeks.  It was really fun to see everyone get so excited over such small things.  Probably the craziest one was the model of the Salt Lake City temple made of cactus cooler cans.  It was passed to Elder Hendricks who now has the charge to finish it and pass it on.  The Traditions here are amazing and I love every second of it.  


Our Devotional this tuesday was with Elder Rasband, of the presidency of the 70. (I forgot to mention too but last week our devotional was with Quentin L Cook!)  Elder Rasband had an interesting talk prepared that had lots of slides that he called on missionaries to read.  Some of them unfortunately took that time to be silly and cast the spirit away from our presence.  One even got up and did a President Monson impersonation, to which Elder Rasband told him to go sit down, someone told me later that he was pulled out and talked to by his Branch President and the MTC president.  However, the talk was about spiritual gifts and how we are all blessed to have them.  Some people talked about the obvious ones, the gift of Tongues or of Translation.  Some brought up more obscure topics, the Gift of Patience, Diligence, Understanding, Love, Empathy.  Elder Rasband finished with a short bit about the Gift of the Atonement.  I could not believe as I sat in my seat, that I had never considered the atonement as a Gift.  Our Heavenly Father has given his only son for the redeeming of this people. How great a gift!  We are Truly blessed for the Atonement in our lives and the opportunity that we have to utilize it to the fullest extent.  I ask Heavenly Father everyday to bless me with power from the atonement.  I am so grateful for this amazing gift that the father has given to us.  


In our leadership training meeting this week we were talked to about receiving revelation for our respective areas.  Near the end as our Branch President was taking questions, I asked what if we don't receive revelation for our areas, and don't know how to lead them because of that?  He replied by telling me a story of how his son had sent him a letter a couple of months away from the end of his mission.  In it, the son told his family how he didn't know if he had a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  His mother sent him one back promptly, stating how he had a testimony, that if he were to doubt it, the Adversary would make it seem like he didn't have one.  The Branch President looked at all of us and recounted some of the things that we have done as leaders that have been through revelation and inspiration.  Taking care of emotional breakdowns, and rowdy missionaries, and guiding the branch in the direction it needs to through our exact obedience.  I was happy to hear that and all of us left there with big hearts, ready to make sure these missionaries are prepared to head into the mission field.  


I can't wait to leave to the mission field, already a bunch of us are getting anxious and are wanting to leave.  It's not the most fun thing being stuck in a class for 13 hours a day, but we are getting prepared.  


As Christmas comes upon us I wish I was at home with family.  But I would much rather be here serving the Lord where I know my family will be blessed.  I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas Season! It will be amazing here as we are given the day off and are having a talent show that day as well as some other things!  


I love all of you and miss you all!


-Elder Yamagata

Our District!

Me, Elder Jarett and the sisters that called me prison because of my "convict workout routines"

Older missionaries that just left for Korea

At the Provo Temple!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December, 13, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

So this week has been crazy.... Starting with Sunday, I GOT CALLED AS ZONE LEADER! ON MY THIRD DAY AT THE MTC!  Usually they call a district leader after they have about 4 weeks of training but President Yost said that he felt extremely inspired to call me as Zone Leader.  Its an important and stressful leadership calling.  As well as taking care of my self and my own things, learning the language, preparing lesson plans, TRC, etc etc, I have to worry about every other missionary in my branch.  Me and Elder peterson do a great job taking care of the zone.  Its not that hard but it is a very big responsibility.

On monday and tuesday this week I had two more lessons with our progressing investigator.  I taught him how to pray and Elder Jarrett talked a bit about the spirit and the book of mormon.  Last week we committed him to go to church, and he did! This week we committed him to read the book of mormon and pray to know if it was true, and he did!  However on thursday, when we asked him when we could schedule another lesson and he told us he couldnt, he was going back to korea. How said me and my companion were to lose our investigator after only 3 lessons, we were slightly saddened, we had already developed a love for this man and a strong desire to teach him the gospel of christ.  But Im Won Sub had to leave.  Later on in the evening we were told we were getting our second language teacher, but that he would be about 5 minutes late.  Our district sat and waited patiently, studying and preparing for our new teacher.  The door creaked a couple of minutes into class and who walks in??? Im Won Sub, except this time he is wearing an MTC Teacher name tag, with the Words Brother Sung printed on them!  I was not expecting our investigator to be our teacher too!  What a great teacher he was too!  He immediately pushed us into review of our already present grammar forms and then taught us a new one, as well as about 25 new 다 거 (Words)!  He really upped the pace of the learning going on in our dsitrict, and now I think we are ahead of the other classes.  He is the best teacher of korean in the MTC presently.  The Standard for korean speaking missionaries is about 25 grammar forms and 500 words when you leave the MTC, his students leave with almost 50 grammar forms and around 1000-1200 words! What a huge jump! Our district has stepped up to the challenge though and we are doing well.  I really cant wait till about week 3 where we start becoming a bit more fluent and can talk to each other more and more.  However, being able to say full prayers in korean after only  a couple of days and giving basic lessons is great! My Knowledge increases exponentially each day!

Our oldest districts are leaving us on sunday, and its really sad!  I have already grown to like a lot of the older missionaries. Even some of the sisters!  (One of them always makes prison jokes around me because I do the Convict Conditioning workout, and when someone asked what it was she thought I said I went to prison, and it stuck)  But they are extremely excited to help us as much as possible before they leave.  A lot of them are getting really jittery to leave and finally get to korea though.  

Earlier this week on wednesday, I had kind of a break down.  Earlier that day I was told that I had done some things wrong, and then throughout the day I had a lot of people in my district bear down on me, and some sisters from the other districts tell me somethings as well.  None of it was very positive.  During dinner someone had said something to me and it was the last straw, I broke down and was sobbing during dinner, my companion tried to console me, but it wasnt working very well.  Just then one of the 9 weekers (the people getting ready to leave) walked up and sat down next to me.  He didnt ask me what was wrong, just started telling a story from his childhood about playing hide and go seek with his siblings.  He sat in a storage closet downstairs for an hour in the dark, even though he was scared.  His siblings had told him that if he turned on the lights at all, they wouldnt ever play with him again.  After about an hour of crying in this dark closet in the basement of his house, he walked out of it and turned on the light.  He then looked me dead in the eye and said, "Dont sit in the darkness like I did, and cry.  Stand up, walk out, and turn on the light"  It was one of the most inspiring things I had heard all day.  I got up and was determined to make everything right and be the best zone leader I could.  What a great missionary!

Before I go I want to share something with you guys that I thought of this week during one of my down moments.  The other zone leader asked me how my day was, and after everything I had been through, I looked him in the eyes and said "Every day in the Service of our Heavenly Father is a great day!"

I want all of you at home to remember that no matter what, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are there and stand ready to help you in everything that you do!  All you need to do is ask them for assistance and they will come down to help you in the way that they think is best, even if it is just a friend telling a story.  

And as for the food, Jeremiah 4:19-20

My abowels, my bowels! I am bpained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
 20 aDestruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my btents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.

I Love all of you at home and cant wait to write again! Send me letters I dont mind! I'll try to write back!
-Elder Yamagata

Me, my companion, and our teacher/investigator.

Elder Gildae trying to fart!


My notepad after a lesson!

My other zone leader.

Friday, December 6, 2013

First Letter Home!

Hey mom and dad!
  It has been so amazing since I have entered the MTC!  Immediately after being dropped off I was ushered through all my entrance stuff by an Elder Payne who is actually in my Branch.  (Korean Celestial Branch).  He exclaimed to everyone on the way that I was going to korea and many people greeted me with the usual Annyong Hassaeyo (Hello in Korean) and shook my hand.  I found out we received 37 missionaries going to Korea on Wednesday which made us the largest branch in the MTC at 77 missionaries.  I was moved off to my room after getting all of my language and learning books, so many!  Probably around 7-8 different books that I have to study from, including a korean bible and triple combination, language learning books and MTC help books.  I dropped my stuff in the room and then was hurried to my classroom where I met some of my district members, who were all standing eagerly with their companions.  I felt left out because my companion wasn't there yet.  I found out later his plane was delayed for 5 hours in Montana where he is from.  His name is Elder Jarrett and he is a pretty cool but shy kid.  I will try to send pictures of him and me, but he has the biggest heart out of all of us in the district.  He is very patient and has helped me deal with somethings already.  Later in the day we had our first lesson!  It was in a big group of maybe 40 of us but they were acting like real investigators (supposedly they were actors, but when some of us asked they said that they were real investigators) One elder in our 3rd lesson out of 3 got up and told the actor/investigator that telling her information is fine but she wont learn about the gospel unless it is structured and planned, the investigator responded by getting out of her chair in the front of the class and yelling at him telling him that she wanted to learn how she wanted to learn!  Some of us scrambled to try to cover up his blunder but it was a great lesson on not telling people how to learn, but inviting them to come on their own.  Speaking of companions it is very weird having to be with mine all the time.  The only time I can leave him is if we are at residence and we want to shower or bathroom, or visit other missionaries but we cant leave the floor we are on, 4th btw, hard to deal with after a long day of learning,..  We live in a dorm with two other missionaries, Elders Moore and Gildae who are a companionship as well, ones from Texas and the other is from the Military haha he's very stern and serious at first but is probably one of the funniest guys in our district.  Our room is small and im surprised it holds all of us comfortably but I guess when you have nothing in there but beds, desks, and closets and nothing else everything fits fine.  Our district (which is ten of us, all elders going to the Korea Seoul Mission)  Live right next door to each other and have even taken to having district prayers before service projects, reciting our purpose as missionaries every morning and night, and also reciting D&C 4 as well.  We are very close knit and all love each other.  We are constantly with each other in the classroom or at residence or working out, never away for more than a few minutes.  Eating the food here is good, so far the Orange Juice has not had any adverse affects on any of us.  We drink it along with the chocolate milk or some soda for almost all meals.  The campus was confusing at first but now on our 2nd full day we are getting the hang of getting around, it is amazing how much you can learn in just 2 days!!!  Me and Jarrett have gone through so many classes and orientations and workshops in the past 2 days and all of us in the district have learned a lot!  In our People & Our Purpose class we had, we talked about how listening is always more important than speaking.  An elder got up and told us that "We have two ears and one mouth, and should us them proportionately"  It was funny but definitely a valid statement.  We have to listen the those who we are teaching and then plan and respond with love and compassion and help them understand that the gospel can help with their problems. 

Elder Jarrett says hi! Haha he is sitting right next to me in the laundry room waiting for me to finish.

Yesterday the new people met the Branch Presidency.  As soon as we met president yost, he taught us some new stuff.  Our coats should match our pants, coats are to be on at all times unless instructed to take them off. He didnt seem too happy with some of us.  But later in interviews I got to meet with Brother Snow who is 2nd counselor in the branch presidency out of 4!  He was an amazing man and expressed his love for me when I walked into the interview.  He also told me someone had called him personally and expressed their concern for me serving in Korea.  He told me later that he had been thinking about me a lot before I had even entered the MTC and so that was a great thing to hear that someone cared so much about me.  Later they decided on district leaders.  I was really hoping that I would get called to serve in the position but Elder Taylor was instead.  I was both sad and happy?  I was sad that I didnt get called to serve in district leadership, but happy that he did.  I did learn a lesson in humility and pride though and shouldnt be disappointed if I am not called to do something, there will be multiple opportunities to serve both here and in them mission field. 

Yesterday we also learned a lot of Korean and most of us can now read the different things that we have, although not very well and we definitely don't know what exactly we are reading.  It is exciting to already be able to communicate a little in a language I knew nothing about a couple of days ago.  I cant wait to be at the proficiency level of some of our zone leaders and the other older missionaries. 

Well I cant think of much more now, hope everyone writes me asap!!! I was a little hurt no one had written me but It's ok.  Send me letters and emails or whatever you want!  My Email is on the blog and so is my mailing address. 

I love everyone and miss you guys so much! 

Anyeong Hikayseo  ( I have no korean characters so I cant write it properly)