Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Week Thirteen: Koreans Don't Celebrate Christmas

Dear People,

Christmas is deeply woven into American culture; every snack brand changes their entire product line for it every year. Koreans do almost nothing at all. Super weird. A part-American family invited us over for their kind of Christmas-y kind of American dinner though, so we were ok.

I finally feel like I know what's going on. I've been lost most of the time since arriving in here. Mentally and directionally. But I now pretty comfortably know where I am on a map and in our lessons. I can understand 76% of what my companion says to people, and I can convey about 30% of what I want to get across in Korean. I know what I should be doing at every minute. I know where I am going. I am super happy, and super excited.

I'm emailing late today because this morning we taught an investigator named Soh Yu Ri (서유리). She 28 years old and is so prepared. She has been looking for God, literally looking; going to lots of different churches and talking to the pastors about religion. Her big issue with religion has been that everyone is focused on salvation and how to get to heaven, but she really just wants to know how to be happy right now. My companion is so excited about her, he is praying that he won't get transferred so he can be here when she gets baptized. We think she will. I've always known that baptisms aren't the measure of missionary success, that is especially true in Korea where the inactivity is 90%. Baptisms are not rare. Strong active families are. Reactivation of a family is so valuable. Families can be a slice of heaven on earth. Skyping home reminded me of that. Families are very central to the Plan of Salvation. 

One of our other new investigators is Kim Shi Youn (김시윤) He is 27 and also has a ton of potential. We haven't actually taught him yet, but when we first met him we talked about Christmas and he mentioned something about wanting to "become more like Jesus". Who says that? Hopefully we'll be able to teach him with 서유리 and they'll get married. That would be the best story ever.

During my Skype home, Austin asked how my conversion to Jesus Christ has changed, I didn't give a very good answer so I've been thinking about it since. That is a good question. Our conversion to Christ is never finished, so it really should be constantly changing. I've recognized that I'll never be done and that I'll always need to be pushing myself and my change of heart has been promising Him and myself that I will. I will never get into a comfort zone with my conversion.

So much is going on, there so many awesome stories I should probably be telling, but the missionary brain is day by day. Yesterday feels like weeks ago. If I don't write stuff down I don't know how I would remember anything. Time flies so fast. 

I love the Gospel. It is perfect. It is super difficult to live, but even that is perfect; most easy tasks aren't worth doing. Just do it. Live the Gospel, do what you know will make you truly happy. You don't need to wait for anything. At any moment you can think of something you should be doing if you try. Just get up and do it.

-Elder Brown

The attached temple photo is actually not a temple, but everyone has a theory that the church is just going to convert one of these two massive stake centers into a temple if they need to. They used to be the biggest stake centers in the world. 

The baby picture of me was given to me by the lady at my alien registration. When I was telling her my information she freaked out a little and asked if I had lived here before and showed me her screen with this guy on it. Korea keeps good records... The bowl cut is still super in style here by the way.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Week Twelve (This is actually good)

Dear People,

300,000 people live in my area of Gunsan, with two people making sure they all get to learn about the restored gospel. That is about as many people as the whole Provo Mission that has 150 missionaries in it. About 35 of these 300,000 people are active members of The Church. Yay! Those 35 people are the best people in the world.  There is a 17 year old sister named Kim Jeeun who is any missionary's favorite person: she refers her friends, fellowships investigators, and bears her testimony to our English class.

 Speaking of member missionary work, it's not optional.
"We will obtain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom only on the condition that we share with our Father's other children the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will bless our lives here and hereafter." "Freely you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you freely to share with his other sons and daughters these glorious truths."
-George Albert Smith

I can't believe how little member missionary work I did before this. Missionaries are supposed to have a member with them for every single lesson they teach to investigators. Make sure that the missionaries in your area are doing that. Call them and make sure they know that they can use you at anytime. Missionaries will talk about you, they'll pray about you, they'll brag to other missionaries that they have someone like you, and they'll write about you in their emails home.

I've been wondering why I didn't make any member missionary efforts before this and I remember thinking: "I have so much personal progression I still need to be working on, that's what I need to be doing first." "I need to be focusing on my own gospel living inconsistencies" "I'm still working on myself" 
This was a selfish thought process. We will always be working on ourselves. We have no excuses at all! I found a quote somewhere that said "Missionary work doesn't require the pure, it purifies the unclean"

"Let there be cultivated an awareness in every member's heart of his own potential for bringing others to a knowledge of the truth. Let him work at it. Let him pray with great earnestness about it."
-Gordon B. Hinkley

It is so easy to just focus on personal progression. I wish I could just read about church history, the teachings of the prophets, all the Church's library of wealth all day. That is easy. Talking to people about the gospel is the opposite of easy. This is the hardest thing in the world. Missionary work is so so hard. Koreans are terrifying. Member missionary work might be even harder. I just have to talk to strangers that I won't see again, members have to talk to their best friends. I have nothing to lose out here. You have friends you can lose. You have to talk to people you have known your whole life. That is way way harder. But the gospel was never meant to be easy. Eternal life was never cheap, it demands everything we have. "Why should it be easy for us when it was never easy for Him?" -Elder Holland

Alright listen up. This is huge principle I didn't learn until now. Everyone knows the famous primary answer: "follow the prophet" "listen to the prophets". What does that even mean? It means we need to study the most recent general conference session as hard as we study the Book of Mormon. Mark the Conference edition of the Liahona or Ensign like you mark your scriptures. Keep them in the same place in your room. Memorize the scriptures that come from the mouths of living seers. Don't just listen to conference.

I love Korea and Korean people, but Korean food is a struggle... Kim-chi is an interesting concept. I've decided that in the beginning if they could have avoided making it they definitely would have, but they made it, and after eating it for a while you start to crave it apparently, so then they fed it to their babies until the babies liked it and fed it to their babies etc. It's a vicious cycle. Most of the other traditional cuisine follows this pattern. I'm clinging to the hope that I'll start craving it because right now I'm still in the mood for chicken sandwiches constantly.

I finally brought my camera and camera card this time, but not my SD card adapter. 
I'm over it already. I'm not even mad.
I don't even want to show off my awesome pictures.

-Elder Brown

Monday, December 12, 2016

Week Eleven: Rotting Fruit

Whenever I sit down and try to listen to the spirit, the first prompting I've started getting is "Clean up your desk. Get organized. clean the apartment" So I started doing that. Our apartment was crazy because it was designed for two but had three people, and we had nowhere to hang clothes, but we worked a little ever day, and I got super organized personally. 

About two seconds after I decided I was fully settled into the apartment, the President called me and informed me that I would be emergency-transferring the next morning to a different zone because someone went home early. Yay. So I was in my greeny area for about a week.

I've been in the new area for about three days. There is a U.S military base included in the area, so I'll be able to buy normally priced American stuff like peanut-butter and vanilla and speak in English a little bit. Yay. 

My new apartment is double the size of the last one with one fewer person and there is an oven, so that's super nice, but the second I stepped inside I was hit with the smell of rotting fruit. There seemed to be plastic bags of rotting fruit everywhere I looked; up in the cupboards, in the fridge, outside on the balcony thingy. So that was weird.

The apartment was just trashed in general, there was all sorts of stuff left over from dozens of companionship in the past. There is a missionary culture of just leaving all the stuff you decide you don't want for the next people. 
My new trainer Elder Benefiel has has been happily living in these conditions for the last seven weeks. He needed me. He's had five native Korean companions, so he's fluent, hopefully I'll learn fast. Right now, I'm understanding more than I thought I would be able to, unless someone is talking directly to me, then it's all out the window. I can say most things that I want to and get across most any general message, the struggle is interpreting the fast meshed together stuff. I'm loving it though. 

Spiritual stuff: 
The Spirit is not a stressful feeling.
The Spirit shows you what you need to change, but it's Satan that tell's you you need to be there immediately and are inadequate if you aren't rapidly getting to a certain point.
The Spirit works little by little. One thing at a time. He knows everything. "This is what you need to be doing differently right now" "Talk to that person" "Stop doing this little thing" 

It's never an overwhelmingly stressful feeling.

I've also come to appreciate goal setting. I've always had negative emotions associated with goal setting. Make broad goals that govern all the smaller goals. In Missionary work the weekly goals govern the daily goals. 

Do 21 "somethings" this week
Ok, so I have to do three each day
Ok, I will do one at this exact time, one during lunch, and one when I'm at this place.
If you don't make hourly goals to govern the bigger ones it won't happen.

I feel so often like I take two steps up the mountain and slide back one. I keep reverting to old habits, but I am not discouraged because there are just enough moments where I see how far I've come. God knows my desires, I desire to progress, to fill my potential.

I love the message of the Restoration. Nothing will get me more excited than this gospel. It is woven into me, I will never stop trying to improve and figure out how to talk to people in a way that lets the spirit work on them. I want to be God's instrument. It is so, so hard. It is almost impossible, but we can do anything if we lean Christ's atonement. I'm still trying to learn how to do that. This is our purpose on Earth. Joseph Smith taught that more than any other topic, we should be studying our purpose on Earth.

Alright, go read some books

-Elder Brown

I forgot my camera again this week...why...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Week Ten: Bath House

Dear People,

I'm in a super smoky PC-"Bong" and I can't breathe.

So I feel like I've been here for at least three weeks, so I'm not going to be able to pack in all the details I want of what has happened so far.

The airplane ride was sweet, I just read the Book of Mormon a ton and tried to not look at the movies playing on every screen around me. There was a RM behind me who was explaining who all the missionaries on the plane were to a woman going to the Philippines. I talked with her a little bit as well from behind my seat, and gave the RM a Restoration pamphlet to use. I wrote my testimony in a Book of Mormon and gave it to her at the end of the flight. The airline served bi-bim-bab which was fantastic, I was trying to eat it with chop-sticks but the flight attendant informed me that that's weird and Koreans use a spoon. Thanks flight attendant.

We met the president and ate Korean KFC on the bus ride to the Mission Home.

First morning in the Mission Home we ate our incredible last American breakfast for the next to years, and then the AP's took us to a "bath-house" where you get naked with all your best friends and some grandpa's you don't know and sit in a bunch of hot-tubs. I won't go into more details than that.

It turns out that I'm going to be training in a trio! They didn't have enough trainers so Elder Bradshaw is training me and Elder Tautaiolefue from my MTC District! I'm not alone! Everyone is super jealous except for Elder Bradshaw, who is super stressed about his situation. Poor Elder. They didn't warn him beforehand.

I was ridiculously stressed the second night or so because I was so used to MTC food portions, and Elder Bradshaw just gave us rice, kim, and two slices of "smart-ham" which is an even cheaper version of SPAM. I was super hungry as we were walking home in the cold with my trainer explaining to me how we aren't going to eat well in this area. I was certain I would be constantly starving for the next two years. But I quickly realized my trainer just throws away his money on hair products and random garbage, so I'm going to be eating super well. Meat is super expensive though, so I'll be eating a lot of tuna.

Korean missionaries do a 30/30 English teaching program. We will give a thirty minute free English lesson if they will let us teach them about the gospel for thirty minutes. This is how we find a lot of investigators. One of our investigators has a super sad story. He was a food delivery person for a few years, which is a super dangerous job because customers want their food fast and the bosses threaten them if they aren't fast, so they don't obey traffic rules. Within two years he wrecked ten times, getting a bunch of concussions and needing brain surgery. Now he has memory problems and can't live on his own. His daughter who he is living with is about to go to Canada for school, so he want's to learn English so he can go with her. His name is Choi Yong Ho. I love him so much.

Yesterday was my first time meeting the ward and I love them so much! I'm am memorizing names much easier than I thought I would be able to, and whenever I get a name right they always get super excited and say they are going to feed me... Also Choi Yong Ho showed up! I we invited him but I was not expecting him to because I assumed he just wanted the English lessons, and didn't seem too interested during the gospel part of the lesson. He left right after sacrament though and I didn't get to talk to him. The Church is also true in Korea if any one was wondering, It feels exactly the same. The people are exactly the same except they speak Korean and use two hands when they pass the sacrament. Everything is literally identical. Me and Elder Tau got to pass Sacrament and be part of a confirmation. A little girl was also baptized after church and we got to watch.

Yesterday's challenge for the Christmas initiative was to feed the missionaries and so we got a ton of food from members, I'm so happy.

Sorry I forgot to bring my camera, I'll send a bunch of pictures next week.

I love Korea and Korean, I'm out of time, there is so much I want to write about.


-Elder Brown