Monday, September 28, 2015

Weakness is NOT sin

I always think of things to say right here that would be funny or serious, never works.  I think I'm giving up on it, its only been like 22 months.... 

Anyways!  This week was pretty dang awesome!  We started off this week with an awesome and surprising trip to the DMZ again!  Sick!  I thought it was awesome the first time!  It was great again the second time!  
I'm not fat.... its just the shirt.... maybe I can lose a couple of pounds...

It was a pretty sick even again!  More information, more love for the Korean people!

Then on Thursday we were called by a member to help translate for him at the police station.... Definitely didn't feel super comfortable but it was fine.  We were able to help him out and get his whole car accident situation taken care of.  (Side note: Translating at the DMZ for the Koreans all of the military words like Defect and Land Mine, NOT EASY.  In the same week translating police words like CAR INSURANCE, and CLAIMS, etc, also NOT EASY.   Thank Heavenly Father for the Gift of Tongues.)

Then the fun part began, Friday was our cleaning day because of the Korean holiday Chuseok.  We were able to clean our house all day, and then had a coordination meeting with our ward mission leader, in street clothes, while he was in full ACU.  Exciting.  

Saturday we had the awesome experience of going and celebrating a little bit as a mission!  We all went bowling together and then had a conference.

  Never have we felt sooo much love for the Korean people.  We learned more about the Korean war, and also about our missions history.  Seeing some of the big names come out of our mission is really great!  Elder Whiting called the Korea Seoul Mission the Cult mission.  People like Clayton M Christensen, Mack Wilberg, and others have all served here.  And it was awesome to hear their stories.  And to see the Church develop and flourish here because of the hard work of sooo many missionaries. 
 After the conference, I felt so bad.  I felt like I had failed my time in the Korean areas and so that's why I was sent to an English area.  I talked to president about it during my temple recommend interview and he (being the businessman that he is, very short) gave me a couple of words: "Elder, you're being short-sighted, stop."  Inspiring!  Haha, What a way with words this man has.  It would go on!  As we continued the interview, he asked me all the basic questions, and I felt they were all fine. Answered ok.  Then he asked if I felt  that I was worthy to go into the house of the Lord and perform the ordinances there.  And I choked up.  I couldn't get the words to come out.  Let's be clear, I haven't done anything wrong, but I just didn't feel it.  I'm not perfect, I still sin.  How could I go into the Lord's house when I am so weak and still sin?  To which (again great words!) he responded "Elder, The question is not 'Are you perfect?' the question really was 'What direction are you headed?'"  And as he had said that, the words of a great missionary from my home ward came to my mind "By following the steps in the addiction recovery manual, you will eventually be led straight to the steps of the temple" What a great reminder!  I had been working in the program to help one of our members who is struggling with pornography use.  Doing all the steps, and really trying to get into it so I can feel how he feels.  And I remembered this and thought, "Maybe this is also for me.  Maybe it's not just to help him, but to make me grow as well"  

So after a second of thought, I confidently turned to President Sonksen and responded "I'm headed to the temple!"  He smiled and I felt great.  

We all have weaknesses, we all sin.  But Gods question to us isn't " Are you perfect?"  It's "What direction are you headed?"  I have learned these past couple of days the difference between weakness and sin.  

Weakness is God-given, it's a blessing, a gift.

27 And if men come unto me will show unto them their weaknessgive unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then willmake weak things become strong unto them.

These weaknesses are given from God so that we may learn to rely on him and to receive help from him.  They are to help us grow so that we may become like him.  They are blessings in disguise. 
Sin, on the other hand, is willful disobedience to God's commandments.  It is evil, and from Satan.  

So we can see that although weakness leads to sin if we let it, it is up to us to overcome our weakness, to make it our strength, and to become like heavenly Father.  And so like Paul of the new testament I rejoice in my weakness.

 And lest should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest should be exalted above measure.
 For this thing besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for theefor my strength is made perfect in weakness.Most gladly therefore will rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 10 Therefore take pleasure in infirmitiesin reproaches, in necessities, in persecutionsin distresses for Christ’s sake: for when am weakthen am strong.

I know the gospel is true, I know it blesses families.  I know that Heavenly Father loves us and wants each of us to return to him as families.  I know that sin is from the devil, but that weakness is a gift of God. 

If you want to read more, It Isn’t a Sin to Be Weak
Love all of you!
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Elder Yamagata
Northern Military Branch, Korea Seoul Military District

Monday, September 21, 2015

English only? Somewhat?

Howsit Yolobuns???? Sorry, that Konglish and it looks like YOLO which is kind of part of the fun but not what I am saying.  Don't worry, I didn't lose my sanity on my mission!

Well, this week was full of ups and downs like always. Monday and Tuesday were bittersweet, having to pack and get ready to leave an area that I just barely got to.  Going to my 6th area.  Oh man.  It was a rough bit on me.  Me and Elder Megargel had a lunch with our ward mission leader/1st counselor in bishopric and he (the ward mission leader) almost cried when we left.  It was really sad

But on Thursday it got even more fun.  I found out right before our transfer meeting ( a new meeting started by the president where we all meet and find out about transfers during a meeting instead of just going to the meeting place grabbing them and leaving) that I was going to have the pleasure of serving with what our president called "The hardest companion in the mission." Our AP told me right before the meeting so that I wouldn't be mad or upset, and so that when I was supposed to go up and receive him that if he didn't get up not to be surprised (he doesn't like showing off or anything like that).  So it was definitely a test of my faith.  I felt like I was being punished for something  that I had done and prayed in my heart for something to change.  As my name was called I walked to the front to wait for the name of my companion to be called, usually a surprise but to me it was no surprise.  His name was called -"Osborne" and my heart sank.  But immediately I was proven wrong.  He got up in the very back seat and yelled out "Come here and get your hug!  This is going to be great!"  I was proven wrong yet again on probably one of the biggest problems not only in my life but almost everywhere.  Judging people before we meet them.  Even if you just talked to someone, the information that you would give someone else on them is already outdated.  It doesn't matter what people say, we can't judge them till we meet them or have a correct understanding of them.  And so far it has been great.  He is definitely...Different.  But it has been great.  He is a wiz on church history and the scriptures.  He has read at least 40 different church history books while out here, as well as about 10 different Korean history books.  Written 3 or 4 essays and such.  It is pretty amazing!

He's been pretty good, and I love working up here on a military base.  It is definitely different, all English, talking to Americans.  We can't break social custom like we can with Koreans.  Etc.  It's pretty hard and I am trying my hardest, luckily the branch loves me!  It is awesome!  We have people from all walks of life and it is truly great to see our servicemen coming out and wanting to find more peace in their lives and in the lives of their family. It really makes me super happy to see them coming  out here to the church!

Well, I hope everyone has a great week, keep on praying, reading the scriptures, going to church, temple, etc.  Someone in a talk yesterday said, "The best answers are the primary ones because they are the foundation of our beliefs, and how we learn."  So stick to it!  

I love all of you!

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Elder Yamagata

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Peeps

So we will just go ahead and skip all the weird stuff I usually say at the beginnings of these and just opt for the crazy news instead:  IM TRANSFERRING!!!!

How nuts is that??? I just called to be the clerk only 7 weeks ago, and now I'm being called out again, to the last place I thought I would go in the mission, 동두천 (romanized: DongDuCheon).  I'm going to be serving in an English military branch!  I will be working really close to the DMZ!

So that was an upset, but other than that, nothing else really happened this week.  

We had a great zone training on following the spirit and especially on feeling it and recognizing it.  I felt extremely blessed for what my bishop had told me several years ago as I sat in his office talking to him about this strange feeling that I had about some problem at the time.  And he turned and just said "You have a gift for recognizing the spirit.  Moreso than most people."  I didn't know what an impact that recognition was, of that, being able to connect the two pieces together.  At the meeting, our zone leader asked if anyone knew the promptings of the spirit well and acted on them frequently. 

 I was the only person to raise my hand.   

What an interesting experience, though.  I thought it was so easy, it just speaks and you do it.  I didn't know that people struggled so hard to feel the spirit.  The spirit speaks to us in ways that we understand.  For me, it comes a lot through music, and random thoughts.  I know the thoughts arent mine, because I never would have thought of those things.  It comes through the scriptures, as things hit you strongly and you understand them more.  It comes in the form of words, sometimes pictures.  

I dont think any person can explain what the Spirit feels like more than any person can describe what salt tastes like.  We all know what salt tastes like, and quite honestly, most of us feel the spirit regularly, we just dont realize its there.  

Ever since that training I have been trying harder to follow the spirit, to do everything that it tells me to do.  At the training, I told a story about feeling the spirit, and that it comes through my thoughts.  That morning as I was studying, a random strong thought came to me to stop doing stupid things.  I knew what it meant.  So I wrote it down and committed to stop.  That night, the zone leaders went on exchanges with us and came to the house.  The f irst thing that he looked for was my sticky note that said, stop doing stupid things.  It was there, just like I said.

Im grateful that I know the promptings of the spirit.  That the Lord can trust me to do what he wants me to do, without worrying if hes going to pickup on it.  I know that the spirit talks to us in the manner that we will be able to understand.  

Well hopefully more happens in this upcoming week!  Im looking forward to a new companion, even though I love my current one, and my new area.  Im sad Im leaving but happy to go and serve more people!  6 areas!  W00T!

Love all of you,

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Elder Yamagata

The days feel like months, weeks like seconds

Wow, this week has really been a blast and at the same time it has been forever and a half. 

This week has been filled with some great moments, though.  The first was a little less spiritual and that was buying a new camera.  I know it's late in my mission, but the thing I was using is junk now so I got rid of it, instead opting for the Samsung galaxy camera which has been a sick buy for my mission, brought my picture count back up because I actually want to take pictures.  It has been super cool and a great toy to play with on my mission.  Anyways~!  check out my google plus account or my blog to see all the pictures I have been uploading!

But then the next thing from this week was the opportunity to have my president and wife and our assistants to the president come to my district meeting this week.  After the meeting I was given a blessing for all the stuff that has been going on lately and was blessed that I would be able to fulfill my purpose as a missionary, which was something that I have definitely needed.  With all the stress of everything that is going on lately, I needed some love.  After the craziness of the day, our mission president took all of my district out to have 닭비 갈
which is a really good chicken spicy dish that is the specialty of the area.  It was extremely good.  

Saturday and Sunday were extra special!  It was Stake Conference!  On top of it just being a really great experience, our stake presidency was changed!  Our very hard working stake president was finally released after serving for 10 years (for the second time) as a stake president.  What a great man shows the strength of the members here in Korea.  Also, we were blessed to have a seventy come to our conference and offer great talks.  He talked to everyone, but it was great to hear him say one thing that kind of brought me back to reality.  He said, "Don't cheapen the atonement, it can fix anything, heal any scar.  It just requires your heart, all of it."  And It was great to hear that I can be clean and free of anything, I just have to be willing to do it!  I'm so grateful for the atonement in my life and for Christ and his willingness to do all things for us.  This life is still hard and filled with challenges that test our faith and we still have to live the commandments and so on and so forth, but It's always great to know that if I just continue to do all of the things that Christ has asked of me, nothing can ever go permanently wrong.  

The last thing (and it seems it always happens on Monday morning) spiritual this week was the great study I had this morning.  I was studying about how to control anger, and how to really become master of myself, when the simple words of a lost time came to my head at the cue of something I read in "For the Strength of Youth".  It simply said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."  I laughed at this, till I realized the simplicity and beauty of it. then this came "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  Really truly, words from a lost time.  When I was younger I would see those words and think, yeah whatever, I don't have those problems.  But how often have I??? They have always been there and I have figured out one of the pieces of the puzzle!  Just don't say anything!  That wasn't just a saying, this was a proverb of wisdom on key with the great philosophers of the world.  So I am excited to try out this new tidbit wisdom in my daily life here.

You know none of us are perfect, but if we all strive each and every day to be more perfect, the world will be a much better place!

I love all of you and can't wait to reunite with family and friends, but until then I gotta sprint to the finish.

With much love

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Elder Yamagata

Back Again! (2)

And a busy week coming up! (sorry I sent the email before I was ready!)  We have hardly any time, so hope we can still do our work!  

Please pray for all of us in the korea seoul mission!  Thank you!

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Elder Yamagata

Back to Back

It seems lately that I have been having to learn multiple lessons about life and stuff lately.  Being honest, being truthful, patient, kind, loving, caring, selfless.  Which I'm glad to do, because let us be honest, if I came back home the same that I left, I would have wasted two years of my life.  So onto the adventures that happened this week that have added to Elder Yamagata's stock of wisdom haha.

First off this week, the most exciting, but not in a positive way, was a wonderful day where I felt like me and elder Megargel just needed some outside time, hitting the pavement trying to find people to teach.  Not much success there, so we decided to hit the phones and try to get some appointments set up for ourselves for later on  in the week.  On the way home, I felt like we needed to try one more guy.  "Maybe this is the one," I thought to myself.  My companion had started talking to a man and he waved us off.  I felt like I needed to keep trying to talk to him.  As I pushed just a little bit to get him to talk to me a little more, that's when all h**l broke loose.  Next thing I knew, he has his hands on my shirt grabbing at my shirt and neck.  My hands reach to his shirt and neck.  Elder Megargel eventually stepped in and he let go of me.  I thought "Ok time to go, this is way past what it was supposed to be, he's obviously not the one," and as I started to walk away he grabbed me by the belt and started talking about calling the police for me being aggressive and attacking him for not listening to me.  I almost lost it on him.  It took everything I had not to deck him in the face.  He would not let go of me, and started talking to people like "Oh this missionary American just was attacking me and is now trying to run!" (Both of them lies).  So they call the police and they came, started questioning both of us.  Eventually, they let me go while they continued to question him, I think they crossed him and he kind of confessed that I had not hit him or touched out of anger, only out of self-defense.  But so much happened in the middle, I freaked out (who wouldn't?).  I turned to elder Megargel after the man had let go of me to act out me hitting him to someone else and asked him to give me a blessing right there in the middle of the sidewalk with a bunch of people around.  He did so and I felt comfort and peace.  My Korean stayed with me enough to be able to tell the police my side of the story.  Eventually, they let us go (commenting that they were surprised at our Korean and that we were elders in our church).  I walked away, thinking of the scripture that says miracles follow those who believe.  And there was definitely a miracle there.  I walked away when a small voice spoke to me to my very heart: "You are my servant, and nothing will stop you from doing this work"  I knew the lord had taken care of me and had kept me safe and also from doing anything to make the situation worse.  It was the greatest blessing and miracle I had seen in a while!

After that, on Friday, we had a conference with the Mission President and the APs of the mission.  There we learned about finding methods and specifically focused on having the faith to baptize.  It has been something that I have talked about before, it's not easy getting a baptism in Korea.  Just like many other missions, it is not super high in that department.  But our mission president wants to change the culture of saying it's hard, and make it so we get more.  It was great to hear that from him.  He definitely brought questions to my mind, on in particular I'm now studying "How do I know if I am being rebellious or if I am simply denying to follow Church culture?"  This is a big question in my mind lately, and I'm happy to be trying to figure out the answer!  Later on that day had an interview with the president to talk about that event.  He wasn't mad, which was surprising, just asked me never to get that far again.  What a loving man, he makes me think of Christ.  How much we mess up and all that he asks us is to not do it again.  That's true love.  

Finally, the last experience I had this week was with Elder Megargel and I during our weekly companionship inventory.  I told him after praying about it that I felt inspired to tell him that he needed to start taking notes, especially about what the Spirit was telling him.  I talked about it for a while and then felt good.  He responded "Well that's great, but I don't think it's important or anything to take notes, so I appreciate but I don't know if I will do that."  I was stunned, I had never heard a missionary say that before.  I wanted to quickly come back, but I couldn't think of anything except that he had his agency to do what he chooses.  So I went to bed that night kinda upset and flustered (don't know if that's the right word).  As I prayed I felt prompted to talk about it tomorrow.  So the next day, Sunday, as we walked to church I brought up what he said.  And how I wasn't feeling the spirit super strongly.  He told me "I don't feel like we need to talk about it at all, I feel fine" reminded me of the Ricciardi letter that I love to read, and that we also just watched being read by President Uchtdorf at new mission presidents seminar.  So I turned to him and said "Elder, when missionaries get along, it is for two reasons.  1 They get along in obedience, or 2.  In Disobedience.  The reason missionaries don't get along is because one missionary wants to try, and the other doesn't care.  So tell me, elder, do you feel like you are doing what is right?  Because if you are, maybe I'm wrong and need to change."  We walked the rest of the way in silence.  When we got to the church I talked to him so more of pride and how our missions are places of growth and selflessness.  He told me that he didn't want to change in certain places in his life, that any change had to pass his "Checks"  I heard that and the words came to my mouth immediately "Any checks you have been immediately dropped when it passes the check:  Is this what the Lord wants me to do?"  

And he stopped, and then told me "Well, I do need to learn how to study, and if that involves taking notes, then I will do it."  Application of what we had learned the day before at mission conference of using our AGENCY to soften our HEARTS so that our WILL is given to God.  It was amazing and I am proud of him making that adjustment and being willing to learn and grow on his mission.

If we don't learn to grow and change and become like a child, willing to submit to all the things that the Father seeth fit to inflict upon us, then this life WILL SUCK!  It will not be fun, it will be like what the snipers do to get in position, skull dragging.  Let us learn this simple lesson, never be too prideful to change.  We are not perfect, and if someone tells us to change to become more like the master teacher and exemplar, Jesus Christ, then let us do so with a willing heart and mind. 

Love you all