Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Week Fifty-Four: Naganeupseung

Dear people,

This week felt like three.

First things first, the blessings really do come after the much tribulation. The last few weeks have been super hard, so many disappointments so much stress, but Sunday night made up for everything.

Around the time I first started serving with Elder Hyun we got a notification that a sister from Seoul wanted to refer her boyfriend who lives in our area. We called her and she gave the typical response of "I think he needs some time, I'll call you when he's ready"  We called once more about a month later to follow up and she gave the same response. We asked for his name so we could pray for him, but honestly we just kind of forgot about them.
On Sunday morning we got a call from an unrecognized number. He Identified himself as the boyfriend and said he wanted to meet today. We called the girlfriend to let her know the news and ask for any useful information about him. Apparently she asked him to call us. She warned us that he would probably be pretty quiet because he's investigating the church for her and doesn't have a ton of religious interest personally, so we braced ourselves.
We met at the church and had a really awkward first impression. I don't know how to describe it, it was just awkward. We painfully transitioned into trying to teach the first lesson. When he showed interest in family I gave him a proclamation to the world tri-fold and said that I thought he would like it if he had time to read it later. He opened it up right there and read the whole thing silently. He proceeded to pick up the restoration pamphlet and read the entire booklet as we just sat there in surprised silence. This was a first for me so I didn't really know what to do so I just let him keep reading. When he was done he seemed really satisfied. He liked how it encouraged people to study out and pray about the message before just accepting it. Long story short, we sat together in the church for over an hour, and even though we barely taught anything and his face showed almost no expression throughout the meeting, before he left he said he received a "conviction" that this was the church he needed to join and had a really good time. That's a really nice thing to hear as a missionary. We said a really emotional thank you-prayer right after he left.

I'm so excited about him. His name is Sung-ook by the way, and don't tell his girlfriend, but he told us he wants to marry her. The church is true. Families are forever.

There was an outpouring of other miracles this week but I'm out of time.

The church is true, I love you,

-Elder Brown

I finally have pictures. These are from Zone Conference when we went to a 600 year old village that is still inhabited by people who have continued the lifestyle of the original inhabitants making it a living museum. It was the coolest place I've been to so far. So many persimmon trees.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Week Fifty-Three

Dear People,

A couple weeks ago we met a Brother Jung who called off a free English advertisement. Yesterday was the fourth time we've met him. The second time we met we shared Mosiah 2:17 about when you serve others you are serving God because he is part of a service organization and says he feels really good about serving. He liked that and agreed to let us continue to share spiritual messages as we meet. Yesterday we shared the initiative video "Because of Him" which led into a discussion about his feelings on Christianity. He sheepishly shared how he doesn't go to church but he believes in God and Jesus Christ. He expressed his frustration with all the different groups that all seem to believe the same thing but fight with each other. The way he said it was almost apologetically, like he was sorry for not knowing more. We struggled to contain our excitement as we testified that our message explains why that is and how the original church of Christ has been restored in all its simplicity. He accepted a Book of Mormon and restoration pamphlet and is excited talk about it more next time. 
Meeting these kind of people is what makes all the memories of the hard times melt away.  

Everyone in Korea has these kind of feelings about religion, they feel that Jesus Christ is important, but the churches are corrupt. They are sick of having it pushed on them by hired "proselyters" that walk around giving out material and give robotic messages. 
We are so blessed in Korea that we can, like Ammon, first show our true intent by serving through teaching English. Service is awesome. Serve.

I still haven't watched all of Conference in English, but so far my favorite talk has been the finishing talk by Elder Anderson. The Spirit confirmed his special witness of the Savior that he gave at the beginning of his talk and it made me listen with more intent to everything else he said.

The church is true.

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Week Fifty-Two

Dear People,

I feel so boring for never sending pictures, we just don't really do anything cool. We should probably start doing cooler stuff. We're supposed to get smart phones in the next month or two so that will help. 

Last night I arm wrestled a super drunk guy. We were sitting at a bus stop, the street was basically empty besides him, he walked up to us with a big smile and said "let's arm wrestle". I won. We gave him a Word of Wisdom pamphlet.

A couple days as we got onto a bus one of the only passengers shouted "Foreigner! Hello" I sat next to him and started some small talk. He seemed very excited that we wanted to sit with him. He talked about sports and English and a bunch of random stuff. For some reason it didn't feel right to bring up the gospel and we soon learned why. He talked really fast and used words I've never heard talking about the intricacies of Buddhist doctrine, so I was mostly quiet and let my companion respond. Elder Hyun would address him as "Brother" like we do everyone so at one point he stopped us and said "That's so strange that you call me brother" to which we apologized but he said "No it's just that I don't have any brothers." He started crying as he explained that he used to have two really close friends but they have since turned away from him and now he feels like he has no one. He further explained all the trials he was going through and after we listened to him pour his heart out he told us that we were just like little brothers to him. We got his number to meet again and later that night he texted us that "You two healed my heart tonight. You are my models."

We did literally nothing but listen to him. If we had just robotically given our little presentation about our church I don't believe he would have opened up to us. It's so important to love.

We only have two investigators right now and we haven't been able to meet with either of them for over two weeks so that's really hard, but we've been meeting cool people and are almost finding a potential investigator every day. On Saturday we did a proselyting activity in a train station and a few people played the grand piano that's available for public use there. I sang "Homeward Bound".

I've grown so much this week. I've never been more humbled in my life.

I am focusing more on the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ. I used to think people who focused so much on Jesus Christ were kind of boring and I remember thinking that they didn't really appreciate all the other cool stuff about our church. Jesus Christ is everything. Everything else in the church is appendage. Everything else is just designed to help us get closer and learn more about Him. 

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Here is a picture of some bibimbab. I eat this sometimes. It's not even my picture another missionary sent it to me, I just feel so bad for not sending any pictures. I promise that members take pictures of stuff and I tell them to email them to me but they don't . . .

​Also here's the inviation for our musical fireside on the 29th. Y'all are invited.​


Week Fifty-One: One Year Older and Wiser Too

Dear People,

My year mark is on the 28th. Two years are short.

I just want to share one experience this week. We felt like we should try something new and take a bus to a part of our area where almost no one lives. Upon arriving, we realized the accuracy of my last statement. No one was there. We started walking to find a more central part of the city where there might be more people but stopped when we saw a super old, very sad woman walking out of a house towards us. She sat on a bench and we sat with her. She said she comes out to sit because her body hurts. We tried to talk about God a little and she told us that she doesn't believe in God or in anything else. "I don't know anything, go talk to people who know about God, there are probably some in that mart over there. Even if I died and came back to life I wouldn't know anything about God. " It was strikingly clear that nothing about the restoration or Book of Mormon would have any meaning to her and that the only thing we could do is try to help her feel that someone knows what she is going through and loves her. We testified accordingly and asked if before we go it would be ok if we could say a prayer with her. She didn't respond and just stared straight ahead. We said a simple prayer that her pain would go away and that she would feel God's love. She said Gamsamnida "thank you" and was silent until we left. 

The conversation lasted probably around 10 minutes because there was a lot of silence. I don't know if she felt anything by the end but I sure did.  Things like that help remind me that our message is not be complicated. If people really feel that the first principle "God is our loving Heavenly Father" is true, everything else falls into place: If God loves us of course there is a reason for our being here. Of course he would give us a way to be happy. I'm going to try to focus more on that principle.

Life is good, the church is true. I love you

-Elder Brown

Week Fifty

Dearest eternal family members,

When I first came to Gwangyang a few months ago we had a district proselyting activity in a nearby city called Suncheon. As we were walking into the park where we were going to do the activity I felt prompted to talk to a college-age guy walking next to me towards the same park. I honestly fought the prompting for a while but finally opened my mouth to find that he was super happy to talk. He said he not only had never seen missionaries before but had never spoken to a foreigner. I introduced our message a little bit but he politely said that because he already has a belief that it would be inappropriate to meet with our missionaries. Even though nothing came from it that experience has given me a lot of confidence with talking to people.

Because one of the Suncheon Elders was emergency-transferred out and couldn't be replaced, we have been in a trio with the remaining Suncheon Elder, Elder Summers, and have been covering both Gwangyang and Suncheon for the last two weeks. On Thursday morning, Elder Summers suggested that we go street contacting in a part of Suncheon that he's wanted to go for a while. We took a bus to a seemingly random place and after walking around for about an hour not finding anyone to really talk to, we took a break in a convenience store to sit down and have a snack.  After about five minutes, literally the only person that I know in Suncheon walks in: the student I met five months ago in the park. I jumped up and greeted him like an old friend. He was almost as excited as I was. Upon sitting down and talking with us we learned that in contrast to when I first met him, he has been looking for religion and also has interest in learning English because he wants to visit the US. We taught a simple version of the first lesson in that convenience store, he took a Book of Mormon and is excited to keep meeting. I'm just a little bit bummed that I won't be able to teach him because he's not in my area, but by this point it's pretty clear that I can trust God's plan for these people. 

That was one of the coolest miracles of my mission so far.

Good stuff is happening, I'm really happy. Yesterday we got transfer calls and I will be staying in Gwangyang to continue training Elder Hyun but this transfer I will also be district leader. That is an exciting new challenge, I'm going to learn so much especially because there will be two new missionaries in our district.

Ooh! I also got to sit next to a German guy on a 45 minute bus ride, that was pretty cool. He had never really heard anything about the church and assumed it wasn't in Germany. He was really good at English and I awkwardly told him that "Ich spreche ein 조금 Deutsche" Dang it Korean. After I gave a basic introduction to the church, he started talking about how all organizations like governments and churches no matter how well they start out, will all become corrupt eventually. If he had said "all organizations of men" he would have been correct.

1 Nephi 18:2 "Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men."

This work is led by God. I love how clear it is that the church is not an organization of man. It will not shift to the world's moral standards. I've been trying to put more focus on studying the words of living prophets in the recent general conference and I have felt the Spirit's strong witness that their words came through Him. 

I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that if we ask God, he will tell us where we need to place our priorities. I still don't know very much about Jesus Christ and my relationship with him is still weak, but I bear my testimony that He lives and will replace our weaknesses with joy if we let Him in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Brown

Week Forty-Nine

Dear People,

In a train station in Jeonju we met a very drunk previous investigator of the Jeonju Elders. He asked in English: 

"Are you happy?" 

I automatically responded that I was very happy to which he replied: 

"I'm happy right now too, but I don't know if I will be happy in a few days."

He talked about a bunch of random other stuff, that first response really struck me. Even in this man's drunken state he knew that his alcohol and the pack of cigarettes in his hand was only giving him temporary pleasure. He had no certainty in his future. I'm so grateful that I can be truly happy with no artificial aid and more importantly for my certain knowledge that throughout all my future this peace and happiness be remain. I know the unchanging keys to happiness and only I can remove myself from it. God's laws won't change.

The American Brother Youngs who moved into our branch a couple weeks ago was just called as the branch mission leader! Our last one was inactive so this is really good news. He is so amazing.
We taught Simone a super random string of principles going from the godhead to the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Book of Mormon. She seemed to be interested the whole time and we're really hopeful about her. Brother Youngs helped a lot.

I had a powerful Book of Mormon testimony building experience this week. I won't write about details but I tried Moroni's promise sincerely for the first time in my life. I've always felt awkward praying to know the Book of Mormon is true because I've always known it was true and have had so many different undeniable witnesses of it, but I figured that to testify of the specific promise I would need to have tried the specific promise, so I did this week with actual faith that I would get a clear answer. Right after the prayer, nothing unusual happened, it was just a spiritual prayer, but I didn't think much of it and got up to start making a lesson plan for Simone. For some reason I was writing out what I specifically wanted to say to her when testifying of the Book of Mormon. As I was about halfway through writing the sentence "It will bring you a greater knowledge and love of the Savior" when I was suddenly overwhelmed and started sobbing. Luckily Elder Hyun was praying in the other room or that would have been a little awkward.

I know God lives. I know that we are never unworthy to pray to Him. I know that Jesus Christ was more than an influential teacher. I know the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets inspired by God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as currently organized with Thomas S. Monson as it's president is Christ's authorized church. I bear my testimony of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Brown

Hey look I found another awkward picture of myself! The guy who's not a missionary is our fearless new branch mission leader Brother Youngs. He basically gave this member visit's whole spiritual message despite not even knowing MTC Korean gospel vocabulary.​​​

Week Forty-Eight

Dear People,

I'm out of time once more.
A couple days ago we were in a trio with one of the Suncheon Elders on our way home from a proselyting activity in Yeosu and we met an American woman in the bus station from Ohio. She is doing some English teaching thing in Korea and we found out she lives in our area Gwangyang! Her major is some theological something but she knew almost nothing about the church, lucky for us we had a forty minute bus ride to talk about it. This was one of maybe three times I've been able to teach in English and even though I kind of failed saying the first vision she understood really well and is super interested in the message. She also has Korean learning interest so we got her number and we are going to meet again for sure. I'm so so grateful that we have the recently moved in Brother Youngs to potentially fellowship her.

The biggest thing I've relearned recently is that success as a missionary is such an internal thing. Even if I am getting all the results and all the baptisms, I will still be a failure if I know deep down that I didn't give the Lord my whole heart and mind. We will not be happy until we do so. According to PMG Chapter 4: "He is anxious to support you in your practical and specific challenges." God is desperate for us to be happy but until we give up our whole heart and mind we are in a state contrary to happiness. He won't force us.

I love you,

-Elder Brown