Monday, October 26, 2015

Meetings with President Sonksen

This week we did a lot. My favorite moment was 12-week follow-up meeting, where President and Sister Sonksen talked to trainers and trainees. A lot of things were talked about, but what I really remember taking out of it is that I only need to do as much as I can. There are so many thing to worry about all the time - planning, filling records, finding new people, preparing lessons, deciding how to help people, service, English class, studies. Then, most of these have to be in Korean. We are promised, however, that this is the Lord's work. If we just do our best and trust in Him, he will take care of the rest, making up for all our mistakes and shortcomings. Lately, I've been concerned about having useful and meaningful personal, companion, and language studies. There are so many things that I need to get done every day. There really isn't any way I can do this on my own. I rely heavily on the gifts of the Spirit every day to help me make it though, and even then sometimes I get tripped up and overwhelmed. I have realized from this week, however, that every time I feel overwhelmed or down, it is because I am thinking of myself. I am striving to get better at following simple advice at times like these: forget myself. This is the Lord's work. I have witnessed this week that when I am focused on serving others for the blessings it can bring to them, they understand me better, and I understand them better. When I am humble enough to just go and do because it's what the Lord asks of me, I am far happier and more able to accomplish everything I need to. 

Another very fun event this week was music night over in Gireum, an area bordering Jangwi. I was amazed repeatedly as different performers, especially piano players and a few singers, created some amazing music. One of my favorites was a ten year old who got up and played a very complex and beautiful piano solo perfectly. I attribute this to the fact that when Koreans want something, they work, work, and work for it. Students, especially, are extremely hard working. In the U.S., I would suggest that the most idolized people are sports figures or singers. In Korea, scholarship is what is considered accomplishment, and the title of "teacher" is one of the highest respected. Thus, Koreans must study hard their whole life in order to get into a good college, because it is so competitive and difficult. It is much the same with music or anything else one might pursue, even if it isn't their career or occupation - when they do something, they buckle down and work and practice so that they can do it very well. There was definitely no mediocrity during that music night, and I heard some pretty incredible musicians. There were a lot of investigators there and nonmembers performing, and I'm sure everyone had a great time, because I did. 

Another snippet of Korean culture I can't remember if I've shared is that every person has a title. There is no word for "you" in Korean (actually there is, but it is considered very rude and/or accusatory to use it). Thus, people are referred to by their titles, whether they be occupational, personal, or religious. For example, to a old lady on the street, I would call her "grandma," which sounds exactly like "harmony" in Korean. 

Thanks for the messages and encouragement I always get. It's very helpful and appreciated. I hope everyone is doing well!
Hiked up the Mountain on P-day again.  This is before sunrise.

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2015/10/25-We climbed the mountain today with a lot of the zone - from right to left - Elder Moore (orange hoodie), Elder Kim (blue sweatshirt), Elder Saunders (grey hoodie), Elder Yetter (you can just see his legs under Elder Sanders), Elder Bean (Black Shirt, red shorts), Elder Gottfredson (you can see a piece of his head behind Elder Bean), Elder Littlefield (blue t-shirt), Elder Seeley (bright red sweatshirt), Elder Cable (you can see just a piece of his head above Elder Seeley's left shoulder), and Elder Eagar (grey hoodie, furthest to the right). Elder Cable, Littfield, Cable, and Gottredson were all in the MTC with me.
Just before sunrise.

2015/10/25-​These are our mats. I sleep on the one that is second closest to the camera (the one next to the one with the soccerball on it)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Because my companion, Elder Moore, is district leader, and therefore has to go on exchange with every elder in our district once per transfer, and because we have 5 teams of elders in our district, we end up going on a lot of exchanges. Last week, we went on three exchanges. Exchanges last 24 hours, so, taking P-day out, I spent half my time with a different companion. It was really awesome, especially because two of those exchanges were with the zone leaders, Elder Bean and Elder Eagar. They are truly incredible missionaries. When they are talking or teaching about something, the Spirit enters into the room and just grows more and more powerful as they continue. Elder Bean trained me and his trainee, Elder Littlefield (whom I actually know from the MTC), about being spiritually open to everyone, all the time. He made a comparison to "Amish friendship bread," which is dough which, when continually added yeast and flour, will grow and produce more and more dough. This allows the person to cut parts off and share it with others, while the dough just keeps growing. The yeast and flour here refer to our own personal conversion, the things that make us stronger and more like Christ, such as sincere prayer, knowledge, and, most importantly, charity. As missionaries, we grow and build knowledge and faith every day through these things. It is our commission to share these things with others. He bore testimony about the power of sharing. Like the friendship bread, we obtain more room to grow as we share pieces of our testimony and the Spirit with others. He talked about a lot of other things, but what I really learned is that I need worry less and share more. It is so easy to say, "talk with everyone." It is much harder to actually do. I've felt prompted throughout this week that I need to start with my companion. We need to be completely open and comfortable sharing pieces of ourselves with each other so that we, as a powerful team, can bring the Spirit to others in a way that will astonish them. 

The language has come along a lot recently. It takes a ton of focus all day to try to improve at the rate I want, and I still more frequently fall short of how hard I want to be working on it. Elder Moore's example of diligently working is very impressive, though, and I am getting lots of great advice from him. 

We had a great fireside at the mission office yesterday (Sunday). The speaker, Mark A. Peterson, talked about religions most prominent in Korea - Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shamanism. I really loved it because I've been wanting to know more about what these religions believe. I knew very little about Buddhism and Confucianism, and almost nothing about Shamanism. He explained how each are similar to and different from what we believe. Each one has truth, and we don't seek to replace that. Rather, we want to add and build on the truths they already know. This is also a good way to help them understand what I'm teaching, they way Ammon helped King Limhi understand, and to be more open to the truth and spirit of what we are teaching. It was also very interesting to learn how Confucianism and Shamanism, thought hardly practiced at all today, is actually visible in every person in Korean culture. The respect of and deference to Elders, leaders, parents, and seniors is a very Confucian ideology. One very interesting thing I learned was that the ceremonies for ancestors that some of these religions hold are not ancestor worship, as we might tend to think. Rather, it is showing the same respect to their ancestors that they would have given to them in real life, such as bowing to them when greeting them. In fact, in our church, we do a lot of genealogical work and ancestral ceremonies in the temple. This is a similarity I've never seen before, and it is something I can use to introduce and relate the church to others in a way that may interest them. 

Another exchange I had last week was with Elder Yetter, who is incredibly sensitive to the Spirit's promptings. I learned from him how to recognize when we are receiving gifts or guidance from the Spirit, and I had an experience later in the week where this occurred. Elder Moore taught the first lesson to a student we met on the street a few days before. The lesson started a bit awkward, and Elder Moore and I were both praying for the Spirit. Our prayers were answered when we started to talk and testify about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. I experienced a miraculous remembrance of vocab and grammar I'd never used outside of study before, and it come much more quickly and clearer than ever before. It may not seem amazing to think about, but I know it was a gift from Heavenly Father at that moment, not because of the difference in ability that could intellectually be measured, but because of how it felt. The feeling was that of the Spirit, allowing me to help our investigator understand the importance of what I was saying. It's not always easy to know if it is the Spirit that is blessing us, but I'm am starting to learn a little about it. It has more to do with how we felt when we received it than how we can try to logically come to a conclusion. 

Thank you for your messages, advice, and wisdom. I love to hear how everyone is doing, and I hope you are all well!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Finally starting to know what's going on.

This week has been a spiritually uplifting week. Zone training on Wednesday was incredible. Our zone leaders are such great examples of missionaries and superb teachers. General conference, also, was fantastic (we watched it last weekend so that we could do it the same time as the ward, and it takes a week for it to be translated). I felt so uplifted and inspired to do better. I don't have time to write everything I learned, but there was certainly a focus on Sabbath day observance and family. My goal at the end of this week was to make a commitment to talk to everyone and to share what I can with them. In many cases, this may only be giving them a pass-along card, but I already know of one person who has a baptismal date because of only receiving a pass-along card. It's so easy to pass by someone on a bus or subway, but I've committed to spend every spare moment I have when moving from place to place and all my energy when proselyting to talk to everyone. Most don't want to hear about what I have to say, and it quickly can get frustrating and disheartening when people reject something that I know is unfathomably precious because they don't understand it or are too busy. But the few who may come closer to Christ because of anything I do make it more than worth it. 

Anyway, Korea is awesome. Before coming, I had never even taken a taxi or public bus in my life. Now, I am already familiar with the subway and taxi system around Jangwi, and taken several taxis. I still haven't been on a train. As far as the food goes, Korea food is great. Kimchi is especially delicious. I never liked spicy food before my mission, but I immediately loved all the spicy things here, which I thought was very interesting. Rice and kimchi are served with every meal. The pears here are called bae (not a real English word) and they are delicious. There was only one weird thing I've eaten so far, which was during mission conference. It was grey, rectangle, squishy, and floppy. I had to try hard not to gag and spit is out. Hopefully I can avoid this in the future. 

We've had several meals (called shieksaw in Korean) with members. What people have told me about Koreans trying to feed us as much as they can has proved true. I've learned to act like I'm stuffed before I really am, because then maybe they will only push one or two more courses upon us. Also, desert is actually fruit. After every meal, usually the last course is apples, pears, or grapes. The apples are the same, but the grapes and pears here are so good. 

I'm learning a lot about Korean culture and language. It's still really hard and very different. Even if something is translated exactly into English, it still makes no sense. For example, I know all the words for "how are you," but saying them in Korean would make no sense at all. Translating how a Korean would actually say that would be, "rice ate?" It makes sense after being explained to me, because in Korean history, right after the Korean war, the people had nothing. To ask how someone was doing, one might ask if they had eaten rice, because food was so scarce at that time. So, the saying is still, "Did you eat rice today?" The Korean Language's words can often be way more specific and can only be used in one way and one situation, whereas in English every word is pretty versatile. Still, it's getting better, and I'm starting to pick out words here and there that people say. 

Thanks for your messages and thoughts. I hope everyone is doing well. Conference was great, and I look forward to hearing from our new apostles again in the future!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Character of Christ

This week I've learned so much about the character of Christ and our mission to develop that character in ourselves. I'm only beginning to see why it is so important as a missionary to develop these attributes. In order to teach with the power and authority that we see in the scriptures from Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we can't just believe the things we teach. A testimony is great, but it is only a start. A testimony is our incentive and drive to be converted. We hear this word a lot, but I don't think I ever considered what the word literally means: to convert, or to change from one thing to another. The key word here is "change", and to me, this means repentance. To truly change from the more natural man to a more Christlike character requires constant repentance. Repentance requires the Atonement. Thus, the Atonement is not just there for us to use when we feel we have made a mistake. Though this is a great blessing it provides, the Atonement is really there for us to become like Christ - to change. I made a goal a few weeks ago to use the Atonement every day to progress in some aspect that I feel needs to be improved. I actually wondered a first if I could think of something every day that I would need to repent of. The answer to this has been a resounding "yes." One attribute in particular that I have focused on is humility. Humility is incredibly important because it enables and gives us the desire to change. Repentance, or changing/converting ourselves to become more like Christ, requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In other words, without humility, we cannot develop any of the other of the Christlike attributes. It is the channel through which we can use the Atonement to develop and progress. 

I have found humility is important when interacting with other missionaries, especially my companion. We are not the same person, and therefore don't agree on everything. It is so easy to get irritated or frustrated when I don't fully agree with the way he does things. Nobody is perfect, however. 3 Nephi 14:3-5 teaches us that we must first seek to cast off our own flaws and imperfections and forsake the natural man (to be converted unto Christ). After we have done this, we can seek to help others to cast off theirs. But, how do we know when we have sufficiently been humbled and cast off the natural man, so as to be able to help and care for others? I feel that 2 Peter 1:5-7 answers this question very well. Our conversion starts with faith. Then, we add to our faith, in this order: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, then, finally, charity. It is very significant to me that the final Christlike attribute is charity. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, is an incredible gift. In Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ" talk, he tells us that charity is the character and natural tendency to turn outward in love and compassion during all our trials, rather than in to ourselves, as the natural man would do. When we have obtained this genuine charity, we can no longer fall away or be led astray. Thus, it is when we have obtained this love for others that we can seek to cast off their imperfections, because we are doing so out of love. The desire to teach, serve, and correct should come from Christlike charity. It is this attribute that allows miracles to occur, because we seek only to use the power and gifts of God to bless others. When we do nothing for ourselves or because of our own pride, the Spirit can powerfully manifest that love to those who speak to and serve.

 It is my hope and goal to develop at least a little of the love and charity that Christ manifests. I know I have so much to learn and do before I can do this, including improving in my diligence in obtaining knowledge, and especially in being patient. I am so thankful for the Atonement, which allows us to strive towards this goal, despite how quickly and easily I fall astray. I need Christ to show me my weaknesses and provide me with opportunities to be humbled, because I know on my own I am extremely prideful. I need Him to give me His word and guidance in order to see the path I must follow toward my goals, and to happiness. I need Him to help me stay on this path, and be with me every hour to pick me up when I fall down. It isn't easy, but it was unimaginably more difficult for Him; and, because He did suffer for all of our shortcomings, I know that if I only do all I can, I cannot fail. 

The last week had a lot of ups and downs. We met a man in the park who told us he wants to know why there are so many different churches and interpretations of the same scriptures. At first I though he would be a golden investigator, because he asked all the same questions as Joseph Smith, but it turned out that he didn't really want to believe anything we were teaching about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. He just wanted to talk about the Bible. We met lots of people randomly this week who also seem quite interested and willing to meet. The Lord places all kinds of people in our path, often when we aren't even looking for it. I just need to get better and talking to everyone and doing what I can, because the Lord can take care of the rest. Just yesterday a man called back that we had only given our card to on the street as he was running past, saying that he just "wants to believe." We don't really have any idea what we are doing out here. It's the Spirit that does 99% of the work. We just need to be there to provide the opportunity for someone to feel it. 

Thanks for all your messages and encouragement! I hope someday I will understand what someone says in Korean. It's a very deceptive language, because it is so easy to read. I thought for sure it would only be a matter of memorizing words, but the grammar is so different and weird. Most things, if not all things, when translated from Korean to English word for word would make absolutely no sense. It's improving, though, and I'm always praying and fasting for the Lord's help. We watch general conference next week, so I'm excited for that!