Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Week Sixty-Six: Can I go up?

Dear People,

Our golden investigator, Chang-eun: "What is going on?"

Elder Brown: "It's called testimony meeting, anyone who wants to can go up and bear their testimony about something."

Chang-eun: "Does everyone have to go up?"

Elder Brown: "Haha no, only if they want to."

Chang-eun: "Can I go up?"

Elder Brown: "          "  (the sound of me being speechless)

He gave a lovely testimony about how he's been praying before he starts work recently and has noticed a huge difference in how his day goes. He also talked about how the we've been texting him scriptures and even though he honestly has no idea what they mean, he feels that they contain truth and wisdom. His testimony more powerful that anyone else that went up day. 
It's so humbling to meet people that are as prepared as him.

Speaking of being humbled to meet spiritually mature people, last week I had a cool experience that I didn't have time to write about.
I was riding a train to somewhere and sat down next to an older woman who immediately started asking questions about Jesus Christ. After a lot of conversation she told me that she was Buddhist. It was obvious that she was devout and lived what she believed. She talked a lot about the most important principle I have learned on my mission.

She expressed her frustration with religions that contend with one another especially with Christians who persecute Buddhists and she shared a very important analogy and I'll paraphrase:

"Everyone is aiming for the same destination. You and I are both traveling to Daejeon and we both happen to be going by train, but if you had chosen to go by airplane that wouldn't be wrong, it would just be a different route. Some people are going by car, some might be walking. Some routes may be faster and some may be slower but they can all lead to the same place."

This analogy is full of truth but one thing is missing. It's so true that every human is aiming for the same destination. We crave lasting happiness and peace. Whether we know it or not, every decision we make is made because we are hoping it will lead us to that destination. The truth that is missing from the analogy is that we don't have a diverse selection of routes to pick from.

 "And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can [reach the destination they seek]. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ. . ." 2 Nephi 31:21

"And this is the means whereby [we reach our destination]. And there is none other [lasting peace and happiness] than this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can [feel completely clean] except the conditions which I have told you." Mosiah 4:8

I struggle so much and feel hypocritical to testify of Jesus Christ sometimes because I am barely learning to repent and be humble. But I really do know that He lives and is the only route that works. I know the plan of salvation is real. I know that when we break commandments we feel really bad and when we resist temptation we feel really good. Every time. It always works. If you have time to pray for me please pray that I will feel really bad when I make mistakes and really good when I resist temptation. 

Life is so good with Jesus Christ.

Elder Brown

Week Sixty-Five: I can transfer suddenly

Dear People,

So on Friday we were meeting with an investigator brother Jung along with his two nieces that he introduced to us and at the end he made a comment to them about how I am going to be in Gwangyang until October. I corrected him and said that that's just when I go home, but I will probably transfer in February and I can transfer suddenly before then. He was pretty sad about that and said he would cry when I left. (we're pretty close) 
Two minutes after they left we went to the clerks office to watch some smartphone training videos and I got a call from President Madsen:

President: "How are you doing? Are you happy? Is everything going ok down there?"
Elder Brown: "... Yes..."
President: "Great, how fast can you pack?"
Elder Brown: "By tonight"
President: "Great, you're coming to Daejeon tomorrow"

We went immediately outside to tell Brother Jung, who had barely left the building. He bought us chicken.

​So now I'm in Daejeon and my new companion Elder Choi Ho-jin and I are "technology assistants" which means if there are problems with the smartphones we get blamed. Needless to say, I'm psyched. I'm in my element. The possibilities that arise from this God-given technology are spiritually energizing. We are to go where the people are. The people are on their phones. In one of the training videos Elder Bednar mentioned how people don't go knock on their friend's doors to tell them to come out and do something, rather they message about it beforehand and then wait outside the house in their car and text: "here"

My new companion, Elder Choi, has been the assistant to the president since my fourth transfer or so and his calling was only changed to technology assistant this transfer, meaning that he was assistant for like seven transfers. I don't know what I was expecting when I found out I would serve with him but he is not what I was expecting. I've learned the power and importance of "simple". He doesn't have elaborate study plans, he doesn't have intricate routines for mornings and nights. He just recognizes the most important task at hand and accomplishes it without getting distracted.
I didn't realize how complicated I had made my life in Gwangyang. The peace I felt the first night here was an obvious contrast.

We have one investigator who is super golden. I say that about everyone who has the slightest curiosity about religion, but Chang-eun really is golden. He found the church online and just showed up at church a couple weeks ago. On Sunday we taught an overview of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he asked the YSA member we were meeting with about his baptism. We are making daily contact and he is talking about the peace he is finding.

The mission is doing a 58-day read the Book of Mormon and memorize The Living Christ challenge. It is going to be great. I love the Book of Mormon. It is so dense with truth. I cannot get enough of it. I want to wallpaper my room with it, be able to look at it all on one plane and connect everything with lines and colors. It really is a record of God’s dealings with His children in ancient America. It outlines the plan of salvation and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come. We can draw nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other way.

I know my Father lives and loves me too.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
And tells me it is true. 
He sent me here to earth, by faith to live his plan.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can,
And tells me that I can.

I love you,

Elder Brown

​A member buys tights for all the missionaries every Christmas.

​I know it's green but what else is about it?​

Week Sixty-Four: Chistmas

Dear People,

Gwanyang has on average about 40 members each week, for the last several months we have been trying really hard to push it up to 50 with is when we can get a bigger building. The week before Christmas Eve 49 people came and so we really wanted to make Christmas eve push our average over. President Ahn committed each of the members to invite someone to church and they followed through. 
We spent this whole week preparing for the seventeen people who the members, Elder Jackson and I had committed to come to church. On Saturday night we exercised some faith and set up all 74 chairs we had in the building.
On Sunday morning, not all the chairs were filled, but almost. We had 20 nonmembers show up making 66 total.
So yeah, we're getting a new building!

Lot's of spiritual experiences and growth this week, we actually have investigators with some potential right now so hopefully stories to follow. Sorry my emails have been really lame recently, I'll be better. Maybe.

-Elder Brown

I finally got to make lemon squares.

This guy occasionally walks through the Suncheon shopping center dragging a cross and preaching calls to repentance through his loud speaker. I love the expressions of the people looking at him. 
We got to talk to right before I took this video. He said he really likes our church's Bible videos. 

Week Sixty-Three: Sorry

Dear People,

Sorry literally no time at all.

But I love you and the church is true and stuff.

Gwangyang branch is on fire with Christmas spirit. Every seat in the chapel was full last week and this week it will overflow.
Merry Christmas.

Elder Brown

Friday, December 15, 2017

Week Sixty-Two: Transfer Calls!

Dear People,

We got our transfer calls after district meeting yesterday and you'll never guess where I'll be serving for the seventh transfer straight. 


I'll give you a hint: Gwangyang.

This is wonderful news because I've learned more in Gwangyang than I did in all my life before Gwangyang collectively, so why would I want to go anywhere else? 

I don't have much time but some highlights of the week were:

While preparing for a message to share with a member family Elder Jackson came up with a super cool object lesson. I forgot to take pictures of it so I'll try to be descriptive. We attached a few toilet paper tubes together and on one end taped a little drawing of the tree of life so if you shine a light behind the drawing you can see it when you look down the other end of the tube. When we visited the member we had them turn off the lights so the only light was the flashlight behind the tube. We had them each move in front of the beam of light coming out of the tube to see what was inside. We pointed out that in order to see the tree, they had to be directly in line with the tube (on the straight and narrow path/holding onto the rod) and if they moved to either side, the tree was obscured. Then we asked "If you move out of line with the tube, how do you know how to get back?" You follow the visible light coming out of the end! Without the flashlight, you would never know whether or not you were lined up.

Who is the light of the world?

Yup, Jesus.

Repenting is going back to the light. Studying and following His example again.

And then the message is super easily applied to missionary work thanks to Mat 11:14-16:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

"What can we do to be the light shining out the end of the tube that guides people to be able to see the tree?"

Yup. Make friends.

Maybe I'm just weird but I thought this analogy was awesome and it's helping me understand repentance.

Ok I'm actually out of time but I have one invitation to all you who are not full time missionaries: Have a physical copy of Preach my Gospel and read a little everyday. It needs to be physical. The Gospel Library version is an awkward format. Preach my gospel is what all the new programs of the church are based on: Come, Follow Me, The new monthly teacher meetings, Teaching in the Savior's Way, the English Connect English learning program, and a lot of other stuff. Preach my Gospel is the greatest.​​

Life's good, I love you, Merry Christmas,

-Elder Brown

Week Sixty-One: The best week of my mission

Dear People,

Christmas is the best. 

Elder Baker and I spent an entire exchange making a super sweet "Light the World" photo frame. He put on his Santa suit and we took pictures with a ton of students and tactfully got their numbers before they even suspected we were a cult church. Bwahahahaha! 

Analogy about corn that really impressed me: A new Elder in my district named Elder Lawrence has basically Celiacs disease except it's with corn instead of wheat. So he gets really sick for days if he even eats a speck of any corn product (corn syrup, corn starch, most natural flavors, red 40 etc.). In case you were unaware, if you are in America and you see food, it has corn in it. Luckily Korea is not as corn crazy as 'merca but he still has to be careful. Anyway, the other day at a service project we were talking and he compared it to living the gospel. When he went to BYU he got super good at monitoring his food and would not eat anything unless he prepared it himself or he could see the entire ingredient label. After going faithfully for a few months and feeling great he described how it was easy to think: "Maybe corn doesn't really hurt" "Maybe I was just imagining it" "Maybe I cured it" etc. but then once he slipped up it became very clear that corn still hurts. 
How often do we do that with the little things in the gospel? After we go a week of having really fervent morning and night prayers and reading the Book of Mormon and trying to follow the Spirit and life is just going great how often do we stop doing the things that led to that!? I do this all the time. I learn a spiritual truth (for instance that my physical attitude and location is really important for my nightly prayers,) I do it for five days, then I guess I convince myself that I've mastered it or something and I STOP!
I'm so silly.
Earth life is about doing the right things consistently. A lifetime of consistently doing the same things seems really boring, but it's small and simple things that bring the reward of joy.

Don't even look at the corn for too long!

From the beginning of our beloved President Madsen's reign, he has told the missionaries at every zone conference to each morning look in the mirror and audibly say "I am a child of God" and each night to say "I did my best". thoughout my mission. I probably did the morning one about thirty times throughout my first year (it usually wasn't very meaningful), and I probably said "I did my best" about five times max. Doing it every day of this week is what has made all the difference because honestly, I rarely did my best for the entire day and I felt awkward saying those words. Now that I know I will have to face myself and say it each night, I'm actually doing my best, and because that's all He asks of us, I am experiencing joy.

I know God lives, I know a relationship with Him brings more happiness that anything the world can offer. I know that Jesus Christ is my savior.

I love you,

Elder Brown

​​This was a service project that would have taken an hour for five people to finish but our whole zone got to go! I'm sure there will be much good that comes from it though.

Week Sixty: I'm living my dream

Dear People,

We frequently teach English as service here and on Sunday we were just having conversation practice with a potential investigator. A common conversation question is "What is your dream?" After I asked that I was silently thinking to myself about my own answer to that question. I realized that I am living my dream. There is nowhere I would rather be, nothing I would rather be doing. There is no greener-looking pasture on the other side of a fence. If I choose to, I am in a position where I can serve God with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I know that nothing is more rewarding. I just can't lose sight of that knowledge and convince myself there is something better, or fun.

Speaking of teaching English, speaking English to intermediate level English speakers is an art form. I've had a ton of practice so not to brag but I'm really good at it, but something that happens is when missionaries spend too much time doing it, our English gets kind of corrupted and we start saying unnatural sentences and new missionaries give us weird looks.

I got pretty sick early this week, which was the first time I've been sick my whole mission. I almost made it to my year-in-country mark (which is today!) 🎉

Lots of other great stuff happened this week but I'm out of time. The Light the World campaign is going great. Korea still doesn't celebrate Christmas which is just a little depressing, but it's ok.

I love y'all

-Elder Brown

​I splurged and bought a 64gb micro usb flashdrive​

The greatest street food on earth is sold right outside our house and the lady loves us so we're going to get fat.​