Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Week Forty-Five: Hyun Kyung-Don

Dear People,

So, last Wednesday I rode a train to Deajeon to see off Elder Child and meet my new trainee. When I entered the room of new missionaries with all the other trainers, one of the trainees was standing up and translating for President Madsen. He was really handsome and yes, he's the one I got. His name is Hyun Kyung-Don. Upon our short introductions I learned that he is from Seoul, he's 19 but has already attended a year at BYU Hawaii and another year at BYU Provo. If you ask how, it's because he skipped high school to study for the ACT and TOEFL tests and got admitted to BYU-H when he was 17. He's fluent in English, which is a blessing and a curse because when I can't say something in Korean it's super tempting to just say it in English.

We had a crazy first day. We barely had time to dump his luggage at the apartment before running to an English teaching appointment. He flawlessly turned the English appointment into a lesson about true repentance and we got the investigator who previously only had English interest to agree to have religious discussions from here on.

We also met another potential investigator on his first day and he bore a super powerful testimony about why he chose to come on a mission. He has a really great habit of testifying in a way that makes it impossible to doubt that he believes what he is saying is true.

He is full of fire and dedication and so much humility. On our second day, we were in the middle of weekly planning and I asked him a question about an investigator. He paused and said: 

"I'm so so sorry, I'm trying to focus, but I'm really hungry, I think if I ate first I will be able to focus better." 

It was 7:00 and we had nothing but ramen for lunch. I forgot to feed him dinner. I'm a terrible person. He forgave me.  I'm so excited to serve with Hyun Kyung-don.

I keep on re-learning principles that I've already learned before but just aren't seeming to permanently change my behavior. For instance, I absolutely must stay clean and organized or the Spirit will be restrained. My progress seems slow and sometimes I don't feel successful as a missionary. I'm almost at my year mark and it's hard to feel like I've really made an impact on Korea, but I'm I need to remember that success is conversion to the Savior. I won't be successful by working hard the way I want to work hard. I will be successful when I give Him all my heart and all my will.

I'm finally understanding how everything about the commandments and ordinances of the gospel just leads back to following Christ. We were sitting with a potential investigator who was asking what his family can do to progress and be a better family. In my mind I was screaming "get baptized and follow the commandments!" and as I was thinking about why those things bring happiness it hit me that following the commandments is just following Christ. That's what brings happiness, not just abstaining from coffee or changing behavior on a certain day of the week. It's trying to live like Christ that brings the joy of the gospel.

I know Jesus Christ lives. I know that He is the path to lasting satisfaction. I bear my testimony of this in His name, amen.

I love you, 

-Elder Brown

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Week Forty-Four: I'm Training, Probs a Korean

Dear People,

Transfer calls were on Monday. I'm staying in Gwangyang for a fourth transfer and I'm training! I will meet the poor new Elder tomorrow morning. There are six new Elders coming in and five of them are natives so I'm likely going to to be training a Korean which is crazy stressful. This will be the first time I've been senior companion . . . I'm about to get super humbled.

My companion Elder Child is about to go home tomorrow after his 27 months of service. Watching a returning missionary pack up is a really good way for one to miss their family, but I'm glad I'm still here! I had a nightmare a while ago that I came home at the same spiritual state I'm in right now. I have so far to go. There is a great work to perform. There is a great harvest waiting for me to decide to plunge my sickle into. In my grandpa's words "I must start with the mission field that is my heart"

Because I'm going to train I've been thinking about how how I felt my first few days in the field, how consecrated I was, and how far I've dropped from that point. From the beginning of the MTC I thought it was just part of my nature to be super faithful and energetic about missionary work. I was proud that it seemed to come naturally to me, I was proud that I had been blessed with such great desire but my fuel tank of consecration has been running empty for a while and I've done little to refill it. 

While Elder Child was packing, I was reading some talks and stories about consecration and being worthy of the Spirit. It led me to offer a really powerful repentance prayer last night. I felt the power of Jesus Christ's Atonement.

A marvelous work is about to come forth among the people of Gwangyang and in the heart of Elder Brown.

I love you.

-Elder Brown

Week Forty-Three

Dear People,

On Thursday morning our branch president called us early in the morning and said that our elders quorum president had a sudden heart attack and asked if we could go together to give him a blessing. We got all ready and were waiting outside, but then he called again and informed us that he had just passed away. That was super unexpected and sad. His wife is the Relief Society president, and they still have a couple young kids. Please pray for their family. Life is weird.

I watched a video on Mormon Channel in a series called Hope Works about making the distinction between our spirit and body that helped me understand that it really is all about returning to live with God.

Before we were sent to earth we were in God's presence. We knew we belonged there. We were at peace, we knew we were loved and understood. We were At-One with him. The Fall took us from that and dumped us in a field where we often don't feel love, and are rarely accepted by society. It is very clear to each of us that something is wrong. Something big is missing. From the time we become conscious everything we do is trying to fill that void, we are trying to return. We hopelessly try to fill this hole with money, power, knowledge, or beauty. Whether we know it our not, we are all trying to save our selves.

There is one way and one name by which we may be saved. There is one specific reliable way to gain all our deepest desires. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will fill the void. 

One of Elder Bednar's study methods is to prayerfully choose a topic he wants to understand deeper, get a cheap copy of the Book of Mormon, read it from cover to cover marking things that relate to the chosen topic, write a couple paragraphs about what he learned about that topic, put that piece of paper in the copy of the Book of Mormon, then place it on his bookshelf of other copies that he has followed this pattern with. "If you start doing this now, by the time your my age you should have a bookshelf of 400-500 copies"

I am starting my first copy with the topic of "Pray Always" I'm super excited.

I'm going to go play virtual golf now, but I love you all!

-Elder Brown

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Week Forty-Two

Dear People,

My area is the second hottest place in Korea and we be 'proaching the hottest time of the year... for the last couple of days we've been walking in a "real feel" 109 degrees. Sweat's flowing freely.  A couple days ago a random guy literally pulled us off the street into a convenience store to buy us a drink. "It's too hot! You're going to die!"

This Sunday we were asked to teach gospel principles class and we chose the topic of repentance. As we taught, I learned something about the principle of confession. When we don't confess in prayer our shortcomings, we are showing God that we believe we can overcome sin on our own. Changing undesirable behavior is not repentance. We must recognize our sin and confess the exact nature of it with no justification of our actions in order to repent of it. Changing our behavior does not remove the effect of that sin. Christ does.

 This week has been really hard, probably the hardest of my mission so far, but I wouldn't trade this for anything. The church is simply true. The Book of Mormon is simply true. It is seamless. It is the surest channel of the Spirit. It is a map to lasting happiness.

Insight about missionary work I got after failing to properly introduce our message to a man in an ice cream shop and trying to impress him with ourselves rather than our message:

Anyone who sees us will recognize these things: These sweaty teens are in a foreign country. They are learning a difficult foreign language. They are wearing very uncomfortable clothes. They must have a motivation to be doing so. Something very significant have compelled them away from family, school, friends, and their country. 

There are a couple possible compelling forces:

1. Money. They are either getting paid a lot of money, or through this mission thing they will eventually make a lot of money in their church. 

2. This is a study abroad. They like travel and want to see the world.

3. It's a mandatory thing. If they don't do this they have to do something harder, like military. 

4. It's a social/family/cultural thing, if they don't do this they will be estranged from their religious community 

5. They have discovered a glorious truth and can't bear to sit still until the whole world has had opportunity to partake of it's blessings.

If the missionary commandment to "open your mouth in proclaiming the gospel" is not upheld, our very presence in the field becomes a paradox. If we don't quickly and genuinely bring up our desire to share our message with everyone we come in contact with, our reason for being in the country will never be recognized as reason number 5. We must do everything we can to obliterate the possibility of people thinking we are here for reasons 1-4.

I am very very guilty of not displaying reason 5, but it's been an important step for me to recognize this problem. I am going to do my best to repent every day and love the Lord enough to open my mouth.

Heavenly Father lives and is anxious to bless us. He is doing literally everything in His power to help us return to Him, but the choice is up to us.

I love this work and I love you.

-Elder Brown

Week Forty-One

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

No time today, but life's good. We've been doing a lot of district proselyting activities focused on Teaching English, they've been pretty effective. We're racking our brains and praying hard for ways to touch people's hearts. Finding is really hard. Missionaries need members.

My favorite scripture this week is 2 Nephi 2:8 

"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. . ."

Everything about our message really just leads back to returning to remain in God's presence. We will all return to God regardless of our actions on earth, but without preparing for that time by following the gospel of Jesus Christ we will not stay in His presence for very long.

I know that God lives. I know that he answers prayers, especially ones asking how we can draw closer to Him. I'm pretty sure those are His favorite prayers to answer.

-Elder Brown

Monday, July 17, 2017

Week Forty: Rainy Season

Dear People,

Once upon a time it rained. A lot. And I had holes in my shoes.

I'm still not tired of missionary work. I am shocked when I realize how much time has passed and how little I understand about everything. We will never know everything we can about Jesus Christ before we die. We will never understand the Book of Mormon enough to not study it diligently and methodically every day, we will never become perfect at sharing these things with others. 

I had a pretty discouraging experience yesterday on a bus talking to a really nice atheist guy. I felt so insufficient in presenting the message according to his needs, and by the end of the conversation when I tried to get his number he just laughed and said "I don't believe". 

There is nothing more humbling than this work, but there is also nothing that makes it more clear that God lives. I have learned for myself that God lives. He loves all of His children. Nothing we do will keep him from desiring to help us.

That's what it comes down to. I feel like everything else is really just appendage to that.

Something that experience and several others have helped me appreciate is the truth that no one else's actions, belief, or lack of belief can negatively effect our own joy in living the gospel. No one else's lack of belief in the Book of Mormon will detract from the joy and wonder that I receive while studying it. 

A member's son was baptized on Sunday. Even though it wasn't an investigator baptism it was really cool to see the progress of the church in Korea in that simple way. Sometimes I forget how new the church is to Korea. There are very few multi-generational families, almost everyone over 30 years old is a convert. 

Keep doing good stuff. Read Preach my Gospel. Ask me questions because I don't really know what to write about...

I love you.

-Elder Brown

Monday, July 10, 2017

Week Thirty-Nine

Dear People,

This is going to be short because I want to go bowling.
Yesterday we found a taxi driver that seemed so gold. He talked about how he goes to church every week even though he feels like it's not completely true and doesn't like that there are lots of churches. We super tactfully introduced our message and we felt like we were doing everything right but he just nodded and grunted and showed not even a glimmer of interest. This happens so frequently and it is so frustrating. Everyday it becomes more and more plain to me that the church is true, and because it seems so objective in my mind I noticed that I got into a habit of planning my lessons in a way that logically presents the truth of the message. I try to convince in a way that I don't feel the Spirit and we don't see results.
I was on a split with Elder Anderson who talked to me about Brigham Young's conversion in Chapter 11 of Preach My Gospel. I learned a lot as I read it.

“If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true”

Having faith in the converting power of the Spirit is going to be my focus for a while. I struggle with this, I'm such an objective thinker: "If we can just explain it in this way in this order and make them understand this, there will be no way they won't know it's true!" There is no lasting conversion without the Spirit. There is no lasting conversion without repentance involving the savior.

Oh fun story, at the beginning of the week a member called us and asked:

"Do you know Jung Dong-Wook?"
 We go through all our previous investigators and are like: "Uhhh, no..." 
He's like: "Hmmm...  come to my house at 7:00 Thursday prepared to teach the first lesson"

So we get all excited and are role playing for this new referral and are so happy that the members are doing missionary work. We show up at his house and just his family is there and they seem happy to see us, but there is no investigator in sight. We're just talking with them too nervous to bring up the referral but then he sits us down with his 8 year-old son who is about to get baptized and we realize that Jung Dong-wook is his son. So that was a little awkward but teaching him was really fun and was the first time I've taught a little person.

Life is good. Pray for missionary opportunities.

-Elder Brown