Thursday, April 27, 2017

Week Thirty: Families

Dear People,

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have all watched the Prince of Peace campaign videos and have shared them with your non-member friends. If you haven't, it's ok, don't beat yourself up about it, repentance is real. I watched the gratitude one again and and really liked the quote:
 "I have so much to be grateful for that it would be disrespectful to God if I wasn't happy."
This Sunday on the way home from church we were walking through a park full of happy families, doing their thing, playing, picnic-ing, playing sports, enjoying the spring weather. They all seemed so happy, I realized that Sundays are kind of their P-day; they work so hard all week and it's their only relaxing day. I said to my companion: "We are asking these people to give up their favorite day of the week, to give up all of this in exchange for sitting in a cramped church building for for hours. Why would anyone do that? Why would they give this up?"

Because the plan of salvation is real. We give up some short lived pleasures now and trust God's commandments so we can be with our families eternally.

Another realization I made as I watched all of those happy families, is that none of them will likely find the gospel until it is introduced to them by either a missionary or another member. For some reason, part of Gods plan for His children is that the gospel is introduced to them by their own brothers and sisters. We can choose to become God's tool in bringing the gospel to his beloved children that are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. The church will continue to grow, but our use of agency will affect the rate of that growth. 

The greatest joys of earth life come from family relationships. Do not take them for granted.

Elder Child and I have a goal to baptize two families on May 22. You all have plenty of things to pray about, but if you remember, please pray that we will find prepared families to teach.

Living according to the gospel will give you the best life you could ask for or imagine. There is simply no way to get around that. I know the gospel is true. I'm out of time, but I wish I could go on for hours to express how important the gospel is to me. It is everything.

I love you so much.

-Elder Brown

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Week Twenty-Nine: It's Probably Ulcerative Colitis

Dear People,

I mentioned last week that my companion Elder Child is gluten intolerant; that is actually just what we have all assumed because he's been sick since he started his mission and as soon as they put him on a gluten-free diet he got better (gluten is just calories or anything bad I think). Recently, however, he's been having other problems even when he is avoiding gluten, so President Madsen had us to go a hospital to confirm exactly what he has. In order to avoid leading the doctors to look in the wrong place for the problem, we were advised not to mention our suspicions that it is Celiacs Disease (even though his mom and grandma both have it) So we went to the doctor, told him the symptoms, the doctor prodded him a few times and was like "It's probably Ulcerative Colitis. We'll do a rectal scope." At that point we finally brought up the gluten thing, but he was like, "It couldn't be that" so they proceeded. Throughout the whole thing there was a woman named Cha Ah-rhym who was the interpreter for the Doctor and nurses. She's super cool and she's worked with a bunch of missionaries throughout the last couple years so she's heard a bit about the church. While my companion was doing his business, I got to give her a Book of Mormon introduction. It was awesome. I'm pretty sure Elder Child had to go through all that nonsense just so that Cha Ah-rhym. could hear a Book of Mormon intro. Poor guy. After they didn't find anything during the scope, we talked more about our near certainty that it was Celiacs and the doctor was like, "Hmm I actually don't know anything about that because it's not a thing in Korea" then he got out his phone in front of us and Googled it.

So that was ghetto.

Yesterday we met a sister member who was baptized like 20 years ago who has a powerful testimony of enduring to the end. Her husband has been coming to church every week for the last five years, but won't get baptized because he doesn't want to give up drinking with his friends. She talked to us about how the missionary that baptized her is now inactive and how it was hard when she found out about that, but when she read a journal entry from the time when she joined the church and was overwhelmed with peace. She asked us if we kept journals and I excitedly validated her feelings that they are so important. It's silly to deny that writing down spiritual experiences makes remembering them much easier and more powerful. Even if we are not having frequent spiritual moments, when we ponder and write each day, we will realize how we can change our lifestyle and thought processes to be able to deepen our conversion daily. I cannot imagine anyone losing their testimony if they would take just a couple minutes to think about each day of their life and write down their thoughts.

Enduring to the end is so deceptively difficult, but incomprehensibly rewarding. The gospel is so so simple. So simple that we overestimate our understanding of it constantly, fall into pride, and sin. Enduring to the end is the repetitive cycle of getting back out of the pride and repenting. Each time we go through this process we can learn a little bit about how to avoid doing the same thing over and over again.

An investigator that the Sister missionaries were teaching was baptized on Sunday. Baptism is just the first step. That becomes really apparent when you are in a country with 90% inactivity. Baptism is important, but it's the enduring repentance that brings the joy and conversion.

This week we had to drive out into the super back-country of old-Korea to visit that Peruvian sister we met a few weeks ago. We rode on really old bus full of incredibly old Korean women through the gorgeous hills and cherry blossoms listening to cassette tapes of traditional Korean music. T'was a serene experience.

My favorite scripture this week is 1 Nephi 10:5-6

Love y'all,

-Elder Brown

P.S. Several people (including Russians) have asked me if I am Russian. Apparently I look Russian. Awesome.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Week Twenty-Eight: Bought Diet Pills From a Yogurt Lady

Dear People,

So in Korea there are these ladies that wear pink and drive little portable refrigerators around selling yogurt and filling in the Ice cream truck niche. Last week one of them called out to us waving two coffee drinks at us, the conversation when roughly like this: 

"Hey! foreigners love coffee! buy my coffee!" 

"No thanks, we don't drink coffee."

"Buy my coffee!"

"Through a modern prophet we've received a commandment to avoid coffee tea. . .etc."

"No, it's totally cool to drink coffee!"

"I'll buy something else..."

The only other thing she had was some weird little apple drinks that were $2.50. I grudgingly bought one. When I looked closer at the label, I realized it was some sort of diet drink, when I opened the lid there were two little green pills stored in it. I was was supposed to take them and wash them down with the nasty drink. That was the best $2.50 I ever spent. We gave her a Word of Wisdom pamphlet.

So my new area is called Gwangyang and my new companion is Elder Child. He has been out on his mission for way too long and is super experienced so  I'm learning a lot from him. He discovered two transfers ago that he is gluten intolerant so he's struggling to survive in a culture where everything has soy-sauce in it. Gluten seems to be in everything and gluten intolerance is not an issue in Korea so they don't bother making it easy to find gluten free stuff... He's a champion about it though.

I love the new area, but we have no investigators at all, so that's rough. I have a goal to talk to everyone that is put in my path. My new branch president is fluent in English and served part of his mission on Saipan! He claims to be the first and last Korean missionary ever sent to that mission. He has a lot of stories.

Conference was awesome as usual but I was pretty sick during it so I'll probably get more out of it when I study it in the Liahona. I assume y'all are going to do the same. 

In case you are wondering, the church is true still. God's purpose and the purpose of our life on earth has not changed since Adam and Eve. Living the gospel has always been incredibly simple and deceptively difficult. Faith and humility are central to it. Don't underestimate the importance of the little things. Cling to daily prayer, scripture study, and church attendance like your peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come depends on it.

Be certain that you are spending your labor on that which will satisfy the soul.
I cannot describe how deeply I know God lives and that Joseph Smith was a prophet called by Him. I can't describe it and I don't have to, but I'm am determined to live according to that knowledge. It's never enough to know.

It doesn't matter where we are on the ladder of conversion, just what direction we are going. It doesn't matter how much faith you've exercised in the past if you have given up.

Life is so, so sweet. 

I love you all,

-Elder Brown

Monday, April 3, 2017

Week Twenty-Seven

Dear People,

Sorry I couldn't write last week, my house made elaborate plans to travel way out of the way for P-day and we predictably didn't make it home until 6:00. (I was against it from the beginning -  but no hard feelings)
I will be leaving my first area, Gunsan, tomorrow and transferring to a place called Gwanyang. I'm super excited. I've been really really happy for the last couple of days for some reason. Maybe it's just because winter is over and the flowers are blooming and I don't have to wear a coat. Sometimes I can't suppress a huge smile as I walk down the streets. I'm feeling good about the language and have gained a new passion for seeking the gift of tongues. 

I've been thinking a lot about a recent convert that all the missionaries are really close with. Even though he has really solid knowledge of the gospel, he has been struggling to come out to church and to keep some other basic commandments for the last few months and we've spent a lot of time with him. We joked about him being inactive, and light-heartedly urged him to do the basic stuff. Last week his grandpa suddenly passed away, and in the emotion of it, he turned to drinking. I know that if he had been doing the little things, that could have ended much differently. My testimony of the little things has really grown, and as a missionary I want to be sure to put sufficient emphasis on the little things like daily prayer, daily Book of Mormon reading, taking the sacrament every week, and doing family history work. These are the things that become the huge things when the hard times hit. 

The peace that comes from repentance is not a psychological discovery. Repentance is not just a behavior change from evil. Someone with immense will-power can turn their life around completely and have no desire to go back without actually repenting because the effect of sin is not removed completely until Jesus Christ is involved. 

I don't know how to start describing how much I love the gospel. It's the only thing I care about. If anyone has any doubts or has found an inconsistency with the gospel. Look harder. I look for an hour every day and I've developed some pretty keen study skills. The plan of happiness is perfect. There are no inconsistencies. Look harder, read Preach my Gospel chapter three it's pretty cool.

Page one of Preach My Gospel has a missionary's purpose: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end."

In Chapter three lesson two, the purpose of Earth life is beautifully expressed: "Have joy and prepare to return to God's presence."

Christ paid the price for us to be able to stand with perfected bodies in the presence of the Father. It will happen no matter what, and for some that will be torture.

Our job right now is to prepare ourselves to be capable of remaining in that glorious presence forever. Everything we do and think can tie back to that.

I'm happy, I'm sorry I'm not writing more normal stuff like what I'm doing... but I'm still super new to this missionary thing and I feel really unorganized. I hoping to have it all under control by my year and a half mark. :D

Thank you for writing to me, I read all the emails and love them even if I don't respond, time is just so short. 

I love you all.

-Elder Brown