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.​

Week Fifty-Nine:Elder Oaks and Ballard are really cute

​Just a random kid on a bus. His hairstyle is really handsome according to Korean beauty standards right now.

Dear People,

The face to face with Elder Oaks and Ballard was so so encouraging. Please please please watch if you didn't. At one point an investigator sent in a question asking what she should do to know if the church is true. Elder Ballard's excited response will change the way I teach from now on. His advice was study the life of Jesus Christ. Find out everything he did and increase your faith in him and then you will naturally come to desire to know where the covenants and ordinances are today. 

Who can say too much of Jesus Christ?

I fall into this mode of trying to persuade others that because the restoration and the Book of Mormon makes sense you need to join the church. There is never power in that. That doesn't incite desire to change. That knowledge never incited me to change, it just made me proud that I knew about it and others didn't. 

Studying the life of Jesus Christ is drawing me to change with irresistible force.

Our fearless President and Sister Madsen came to our branch conference this Sunday to speak and give training to all the branch leaders in our district. It wasn't the words he spoke but the Spirit he brought that made a difference in the Gwangyang branch. The training after church was awesome as well. He had all the presidents and auxiliary leaders learn and sing the "Smile Song" (If you chance to meet a frown...) Elder Jackson and I got to stand in front of everyone and do the exaggerated facial expressions. Sometimes there is so much emphasis on trying to convert people to the church and not enough on making the church a place people want to be. Members of the church of Jesus Christ in whatever country they are in should be the most joyful people in that country with little exception. Otherwise there is no point in missionary work. Why would we want to take people from their happy fulfilled lifestyle and tie them to a group of discouraged depraved people.

Life is so good. Do the little things. 

​​If you aren't sweating by the end of it, it doesn't count.
Also we are looking for service projects to do for the light the world campaign. So if you can please think of and send ideas for service projects we could do here. The campaign officially starts on the 24th I dare you to be more excited that I am about it. 

-Elder Brown​

Week Fifty-Eight

Dear People,

Pepero is a famous Korean snack which is basically a biscuit stick dipped in chocolate. November 11th is "Pepero Day" because 11/11 looks like Pepero sticks. So all the boyfriends buy lots of Pepero for their girlfriends. A homeless-looking guy in a bus terminal gave me a box. In that same terminal while Elder Jackson and I were talking to a girl sitting on a bench, a college-aged couple sat next to me smiled really big and handed us each a soda saying "Because it's hard." (missionary work). I was taken completely off guard, this was a super weird scenario. Sometimes old weird people will buy us stuff, but I've never seen a young couple do anything like this. If he hadn't been with his girlfriend I would have honestly thought he was drunk. My mind was blank, so I just said thank you and smiled at them for like five seconds. Before either of us said anything else, someone called out that the bus we needed to take was about to leave so we just had to go, as I sat down on the bus I felt super bad that I didn't say anything more to this possibly golden investigator couple. Right as the bus was pulling out I heard a knock on the window right next to me and saw them standing there smiling. The boyfriend shouted in accent-less English "We're members!"

Members are the best.

I've grown so much in the last few weeks. Missionary work is so humbling. Something I started doing last week is listing all the little habits I've always wanted to eliminate or develop and I'm choosing one to focus on per week. (cracking my knuckles, drinking water, not making distressed noises etc.) I have seen awesome results. I've noticed that If I have too many goals I don't end up accomplishing anything and just get discouraged. 

I've finally got around to reading "Jesus the Christ" by James Talmage. The beauty of that book cannot be overstated. Yesterday I read the chapter of about His boy/young manhood. I never really appreciated that he grew up like any other boy. He studied the scriptures and prayed, only gradually coming to know that he was the promised Messiah. I never imagined Him studying his own words to Moses and the other Prophets humbling coming to realize that He was He that spoke them. I never imagined that Jesus was my age. He is becoming more real to me, and I'm better understanding the phrase "follow Him".

On the 24th of this month the church will release the "Light the World" campaign. We already got to see the video because missionaries are cooler than normal members. It is so good. Please don't let this campaign just pass by. It is inspired. This zone conference, after watching the video, we each made our commitments to "Light the World" I thought about mine for a long time and decided that I would battle sarcasm and negativity, I realized that my sarcasm was chasing away the Spirit and I feel really good about my goal.

Isn't it so wonderful that we can change and improve and that we aren't just the result of our environment? Change is so joyful. That is the joy of missionary work: changing and seeing others change. There is no joy in submerging someone in water, but there is great joy in seeing someone change and become happier.

Just change. There is no satisfactory alternative. You'll just be discontent.

I love you all,

Elder Brown​​​

Friday, November 10, 2017

Week Fifty-Seven: Elder Jackson

Dear People,

My new trainee is Elder Jackson. He reminds me of a mix between Sterling, Elder Calhoon, and Kip. We get along great. He helps me calm down when I start feeling responsible for the spiritual nourishment of all our 150+ less actives. He reminds me that we just need to be obedient and find new investigators. ​​For example yesterday I was getting stressed about something and he suggested we just go outside and talk to people. We looked at the map, said a prayer, and started going wherever we felt prompted to go. I felt like going to a park I've seen a few times but have never visited, but there was no one there. On the way to somewhere else we felt like going, I saw a middle aged man leaning against his car a good ways away from us. He was far enough that Satan convinced me not to go over to talk to him but as we walked past I kept looking at him and when we made eye contact I greeted him. He got excited and asked where we were going so we walked over to him and started talking. He apparently studied American history so he knew about Utah and stuff​​. He was catholic we talked about religion and it was really hard to get him to understand that we weren't just another branch of Christianity, but once he figured out our message he seemed very interested and asked if he could keep the pamphlet I had been reading with him. He wants to meet again so that could be awesome.

My brain has been so fried. I'm happy and working hard and learning, but my thoughts are just gone. I just need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. 

One thing that isn't fried is my love of the Book of Mormon. I love it and know that it is true.

Ooh, another principle that was reinforced with me this week was the necessity of member missionary work. Members are just undercover missionaries. If I try to be nice and show interest in people or offer help it is often rejected because my motive can appear to be impure. "He's only talking to me so he can eventually talk about his church" Just talk to everyone! Be friendly, ask questions, make friends with people. I sometimes feel like it would be more effective if I didn't wear a tag and just wore casual clothes everywhere because then people would talk and believe that I wanted to be their friend and am talking to them because I am genuinely interested in them. That's were the real missionary work happens. The real Christlike fellowship from members. The full time missionary's job is to leave the heavy commitments and make sure they understand the doctrine.

I love you all, pray to know who will accept your friendship and be a real friend.

Elder Brown

​The Korea Burgerking guy. He's the mascot for a bagillion companies here cuz he's super handsome.​
Elder Jackson learning how to use chopsticks

I'm doing a video journal thing. This was an especially stressful day.​

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Week Fifty-Six: Smart Phones and Training Again

Dear People,

Transfer calls yesterday. I'm staying for my 6th transfer in Gwangyang and I'm training again! Apparently I still haven't learned the lesson that I was supposed to learn here. . . I've been here since April's general conference. This is going to be an interesting transfer.

My mind still hasn't processed that we are going to be using smartphones, I'll write about it later probably.

For the last couple months we've been planning this musical family home evening with the three branches in our district and it finally happened this Sunday. The night before I was stressed about how little I had been focusing on it and felt like I should have done more as a district leader for it. On Sunday morning I prayed saying I know I should have prepared better for this, and you have been giving us so much, but please just let this work out.  Seven investigators came. It was super awesome, everything worked out. 

I can't even think right now, so much is happening, I need to prepare for my new companion, but here's my spiritual message for the week. There is no faith without obedience. We won't have faith to see miracles if we aren't striving for exact obedience because we will know deep down that we are unworthy. We won't be able to believe miracles will happen, because they won't. 

Life's good, the church is true. Be good

-Elder Brown

Here are persimmon picking pictures from a couple weeks ago. I'll be able to send pictures every week now because I have a camera!