Monday, November 19, 2012

Understanding A Little More Each Day, Shout out for Taylor

I am counting my blessings every day.  How grateful I feel for hearing regularly from our missionary!  May this season of gratitude fill your heart with happiness.

November 19, 2012

First, I'm super sad to hear about Uncle Roy and Sister Allen. Fortunately, we have the knowledge of the plan of salvation.  It's nice to know that death isn't a goodbye, but like leaving people behind, it's a "see you later."

This last week has been interesting.  Still trying to hit my stride with speaking the language, but I can honestly say that I've come a little bit of a ways since I've shown up on Korea's doorstep 4 weeks ago (hard to believe that 4 more days marks my one-month-iversary in South Korea).  While I don't understand everything... or even most things (I still feel oddly illiterate right now), I'm understanding a little more each day.  One thing I'm struggling with is how to keep a 전도 (Korean noun for proselyte) going on after somebody says, "I already attend a church."  The thing about Korea is that there are a ton of churches and the common teaching of, "it doesn't matter what doctrine you believe in, it only matters that you believe in Jesus Christ... then you'll go to heaven."  Frustrating to deal with... I'd even have trouble explaining this one in English.  And even then, you don't want the person you're 전도-ing to feel like you're a 전도사 (missionaries are 선교사... I'm not sure what the deeper meaning between 선교 and 전도 is... I've heard that 선교 has the conatation of bride... which would mean that 선교사 has the meaning of "one who bridges," whereas a 전도사 is "one who proselytes."  In any event, they can give a really bad image of what religion is... like a bad enough image so that people literally sprint away from people who look like they have anything to do with church...) There's also one more cultural thing that has been really hard to figure out how to work around... it's the notion of 부담.  The closest thing we have in English to it is pressure... like the type of pressure you feel when somebody expects you to perform.  In America, we have 부담, but it's easier to work around because we know the
culture.  But in Korea, the rules change, things that wouldn't create 부담 in America create 부담 in South Korea.  It's a learning curve, and you really have to follow the Spirit.  It's challenging, but hey, whatevs.

Different note, I don't regret coming on a mission at all.  I think I've learned more in a shorter amount of time than I ever have.  It's been fun and exciting, albeit difficult and frustrating. And, I think I should mention (I really hope Taylor reads this, or somebody who talks to Taylor on a regular basis) that living with Taylor for two years has proved to be the most invaluable preparation for living in an apartment with somebody else - he really taught me how to appreciate a clean living space.  It's been a work in progress, but I'm gradually cleaning up the apartment one day at a time (and the area book, but that's an entirely different story... I've also learned the value of keeping notes and records organized and user-friendly). So, in summary, thank-you, Taylor, for being an awesome roommate for
the past two years.

So, a few more questions fielded... I think I answered some of the culture stuff (there's more, but I'll save it for later emails... and as I learn more), but Annie asked me about the landscape.  This is pretty nifty.  It's not as green as I imagined (to be fair, it's Fall (leaves do change colors here too.  And there are some of the prettiest reds I've ever seen), and I'm in the city/I've only seen bits of the country - it's really pretty what I've seen).  The most
intersting thing is how mountainous Korea really is.  There aren't any really tall mountains anywhere, but there are a lot of small, tree covered ones.  The city of Gwangju (광주), and the part of Seoul (서울) that I've seen are built around the mountains.  So there's a ton of city, and then this mountain in the background, so it makes the city looks smaller, but then you get to the other side, and there's more city.  Oh yeah, and there are parks everywhere.  With little gazebo-like things that the elderly ladies just hang out on. Affectionately known to some missionaries as 할머니 pads - in English, Grandma pads. And Whitney, there are some days where I love tracting (that's door knocking, right?  or is it more broad and includes proselyting in general?  Cause door knocking is called 가가호호.  In order to really appreciate that, you should learn the Korean alphabet.  Sinister plot on my part, no?).  There's other days when I really think our time would be better spent (how, I'm not sure, we're struggling to find people, but some miracles coming up).  I've been rejected more times in the past three weeks than I have throughout my life, but I don't mind rejection.  It just feels like sometimes that the way we proselyte isn't effective, but then something miraculous happens.

I already told you about the person who called off of one of our cards (명함)... he didn't come to church yesterday like he said he would.  But one of our other 구도자 came.  His name is 유근우 (Yoo gun-oo).  The day before, we set a baptismal date for him to be around Christmas (Dec 23... I think).  He wants to, it's just that he doesn't want to make his dad mad (...recall what I said about 전도사?  His concern is a matter of his dad's perception of Christianity, 기독교).  We've been trying to help build his faith and encourage him to talk to his dad.  But we haven't been able to be overly direct about it (see 부담).  Anyways, he's a nice kid, came to church yesterday (which shocked us because he said he wouldn't be abe to), and he enjoyed it. And, after I came back after my first split (down in 목포... Mok-Po...
make long o sounds), we ran into a woman who was a 구도자 like 10 years ago... we only found her because I was super incompotent at Korean and she was good enough at English to translate what another Korean was telling me (who, Elder Anderson talked to the night before... this Korean is a fifth degree blackbelt in TKD and he is a TKD instructor). After we got off the bus, we talked with this woman for a little bit, and while we were talking with her, a different person (number 3), just stood off to the side waiting to talk with us.  We talked with him (his English name is "Hobby"), he's a bit of an odd duck.  But he's nice.  And he has a lot of potential.  Like I feel like he's prepared to hear the gospel.  He always grabs the Book of Mormon and just starts reading randomly from it.  And he loves basketball.  And music.  Any other information I give would be me just guessing what he meant (he knows a little English and speaks super quick Korean... consequently, he's hard to understand...) Anyways, I know I'm not doing the story justice, but it's one of those "I really wish you were there to feel what I did" type things.

I'm learning a ton.  I finished "Our Search for Happiness" yesterday. It made me realize just how important this missionary call is and how important the gospel is.  It really made each rejection on the street last night heartbreaking.  Not like love-sick heartbreak, but the "I'm out here because I love you and you're not even listening to what I have to say" type  heartbreak.

Last thing, Mosiah 4:11-12 is super good.  I really do know that if we felt the goodness of God in our lives, we can't help but sing "How Great Thou Art."  The miracle of the Atonement is wonderful.  It truly is the remedy to all of life's ills.  It's not just for the sinner seeking forgiveness, but also for the faithful saint who stands in need of comfort.  Like it says in Isaiah 53 and Mosiah 14, Christ suffered so He could know how to best succor his people.  PS, Alisa, I give you full credit for introducing me to this scripture with the "Got Faith" pillowcase you gave me.

I love you all so much.  I always love hearing from you.  I'm sorry pictures have been 없어요.  This current area isn't super condusive to sending pictures... I'll work on troubleshooting that.

-Elder Wedam

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Third P-Day Abroad: Seeking to Build Charity and Enjoying Korean Delicacies

So glad we nurtured an adventurous attitude toward food! Elder Wedam is trying some shockingly interesting foodstuffs!  Way to go, Kiddo! Even happier that he is taking such sweet and positive action to nurture that most precious characteristic of Christ, love, within himself. Have a sweet day. Love, Elliott's Mom


So, what started off as a really rocky week quickly evolved into probably the single most educational and meaningful weeks thus far in Korea.  But we'll revisit this idea shortly.  First, some wicked awesome stories from this past week.
First, we had three member meals this past week.  Elder Anderson informed me that this is three more than he had last transfer.  Fun fact about Korean culture.  They love food.  And you are expected to eat everything they give you... and they happen to give you a feast every meal.  We're talking like a meal for 10 when there's only 5 people sitting around the table.  Wednesday was especially hard since we had a lunch AND dinner appointment.  And when they serve meat, they really serve meat.  Had pig-spine soup.  It was shockingly delicious.  It's the Korean equivalent to split-pea soup, but better.  They cook the soup with the pig spine in it.  On a related note.  I may or may not have swallowed a small bone by accident...  And the left over broth from the soup was quickly converted to kimchi ramen... and, the members also provided this delicious beef stuff (it wasn't bulgogi... they told me the name, but I forgot).  It was good.  It was a medley of beef, vegetable, and shrimp (not the mamby-pamby pre-beheaded shrimp they serve in the States... we're talking head, legs, and all.  I just about died of sheer happiness).  The members then told us about some other Korean cuisine.  Pig-Head soup, dog soup (don't tell Trex), and other delightful treats (no sarcasm.  I'm hoping for the experience). Then that night came some pork sausage stuff with a mustard dipping sauce.  Korean mustard is awesome.  Like really awesome.  It's like a better Grey Poupon (spelling may be off).  Last Saturday was our last member appointment for the week.  A nice elderly lady.  She made us bulgogi.  And provided lettuce for some lettuce wraps.  She has a Phillipina friend who we may or may not have made future appointment with (and may or may not in this sentence means I have no clue).  But it was a fun appointment.  The member was a little sick and asked us to pray for her and asked Elder Anderson to dedicate her house (which he did... although, he didn't eat all the rice.  See next paragraph).  We shared a quick message (see Mark 5:25-34),and left for another appointment with a potential investigator (who may be solid.  This story is a little more complex).
Another fun fact about Korean dining.  They serve a ton of side dishes (I can come close to pronouncing the word for side dish in Korean... I just don't remember the spelling, so I'm not even going to attempt a romanization - I might give you a totally wrong word instead).  We're talking like a soup/liquid dish, another plate of kimchi, maybe some pickled radish, some sort of mini-salad, maybe some mushrooms, boiled egg... kimchi sauced cucumbers... seaweed (dried and not dried), just to name a few that I had the pleasure of experiencing.  It's all family style too.  Except everyone gets their own bowl of rice (another fun fact - if you can't finish anything else, eat the rice.  It's not worth the risk of seriously offending somebody).
And mom, you may need to retrain me in proper table etiquette when I get back.  It's not frowned upon to make noises while you eat and to reach across the table with chopsticks to grab another side dish dealio.  And to eat absurdly fast (hence why I may or may not have swallowed a bone).  All those good American table manners you taught me have really been thrown under the bus.  I've adopted watching the natives eat and trying to imitate their mannerisms as best I can.  You have been warned.
So, Terry and Alisa, to answer your questions, the food is great.  I love it.  So much.
So, jumping back to the potential investigator.  Her name is Lynne, and she hails from the Phillipines.  She has quite the story about how she wound up in Korea (I think it's worth mentioning that South Korea feels like what I imagine Palmayra, New York to have felt like in Joseph Smith's time.  We're talking thousands of different denominations... some a little more colorful than others).  Anyways, through some crazy connections and experiences (crazy in the good sense... I really think the Lord has brought her to South Korea), and a very recent tragedy (her father just passed away, and her husband passed away a year prior), and a desire for her son to believe in God (he's atheist)... she wanted to meet.  She doesn't live in our area, but since Elder Anderson met her first, she asked to meet with Elder Anderson, and we invited the Elders who live in her area to come so we could pass her off to them.  She speaks English and feels more comfortable with English than with Korean (she knows Korean though... her son only speaks Korean, but she wants him to learn conversational English... oh, I should mention, we taught the plan of salvation both in English and in Korean.  This was one crazy appointment and circumstance).  She accepted the message well, and wants to continue meeting with the other Elders who live in her area.
Yeah, here's the crazy part, the above stories and fluff isn't even why this last week was so educational.  But I have to backtrack to last Monday and Tuesday to explain why...
So, last Monday (P-Day... Sunday for you), you may have caught on to that I was a little discouraged and frustrated... and that feeling didn't subside until Tuesday when Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the Seventy came for a mission tour.  Two things I learned: a new intepretation of "Charity endureth all things" and a new appreciation for the Pearl of Great Price... namely, Moses 1.  As I listened to President Furniss talk about charity, I thought that if I want to make it the next 21 months of my mission, I need to seek and develop charity... because it "endureth all things;" that is, with charity, you can endure all trials.  Then, I realized that this time in which I don't understand Korean is really a blessing... as I learn to speak Korean, I have this wonderful opportunity to learn how to be charitable and develop this pure love of Christ and show it through deeds, not just words.
Second, Moses 1.  Elder Ringwood taught and expouned on the scripture that says "and I shall make you stronger than many waters."  He explained that the Lord has blessed us with everything we need to be successful.  That blessing for Moses was very specific, and Moses needed to be stronger than the many waters in order to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians.  Similarly, the Lord has blessed us with everything we can possibly need as we serve Him.  That was another wonder bit of counsel.
And then came last Thursday... I'm getting better at goal setting.  So much so, that I'm starting to see the value of goal setting.  I've also learned the danger of setting only long-term goals, but the beauty of setting both long-term and short-term goals (a lesson I still remember Master Church teaching a couple of times... I never appreciated it until now).  Part of the reason why I was so discouraged last week was because I only had long-term goals... but no short-terms goals to help me progress to acheive them.
Example, I have a mission goal of 75 baptisms (Bishop Mortenson may or may not have committed me to this one).  Last week, this has been my main (and only) goal.  And I knew that in order to acheive said goal, I'd have to get better at the language and understand the doctrine of Christ.  And I was frustrated because I only had the long-term view in mind and wanted it to happen now... in short, I was impatient with myself (still am, but I'm working on it.  I actually have a plan =D).  Then, last Thursday, I made several daily goals to help me progress.  Like exercise, other missionary goals (like how many people I will contact and how many street lessons I will try to teach... thus far, 1 without the help of Elder Anderson... or organizing the Area Book) language study, scripture study, and personal goals (like writing in the journal, doing laundry, dishes, breakfast, lunch, dinner... etc).  And as I've done this, my days have been noticeably better and productive.
I really think that the key to overcoming homesickness is to be productive.  Not busy, but productive.  It's to set goals each day and work as hard as you can to acheive them.  It's like the story of the man pushing on the boulder (from a sacrament talk in 3rd ward a long time ago).  As long as we strive to improve and work our hardest to acheive what we want to accomplish, then the Lord will strengthen us, and we can't help but to improve!
I love you all so much!  I enjoyed hearing about bats, halloween, beavers, ducks, job offers, arizona, and general good news!
Take care!
Elder Wedam

Sunday, November 4, 2012


So, Elliott's letter made me laugh really hard twice.  We miss him like crazy, but he is having quite a wonderful experience! He will overcome the language barriers soon enough. Until then, I feel grateful he is humble enough to share his struggles with good-natured humor. Have a good read!  Monica

Hello family, friends, people following the blog just for the fun of it...

Week 2 in Korea.  Before I keep going, let me just say, this mac that I'm typing away on has officially driven me to wit's end.  It sporadically says "Firefox."  I've tried muting it, but alas, the keyboard is wired weird.  So, if I type gibberish halfway through, I apologize.  Blame the computer.

This last week was tough.  Mostly because I have no idea what's going on.  Like ever. Because I still don't understand Korean all that well.  So, I'm still plugging away at it, hoping that I learn enough to be able to carry on a conversation rather than say some rehearsed door approach.  But until then, I'll be happy with said door approached.  It's varied slightly.  I've been using "We're missionaries from America" and "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" fairly interchangeably.  I think I'm going to try "May we share a quick message with you?" today.  And then I should probably have a quick message to share.  Boom.  Language study goal for the next couple of days.

On a related note, I'm starting to develop some real empathy for foreigners trying to learn English.  As hard as Korean is, I'm sure English is just as hard to learn (and it's a real treat when somebody wants to speak straight English =D).  It's been a real test of learning how to be patient with myself as I learn to speak and listen... and read and write.  I don't know if I'm passing said test, but I'm giving it my all.  And mom, I found the reference to the ever wise scriptural advice you always give me... Mosiah 4:27 - It's not meet for man to run faster than he has strength.  This has been a real doozie for me to try to apply.  I want so bad to be able to speak and listen, but I'm starting to realize that it's not going to happen all at once.  Bonus, I'm understanding a little more each day - so there's some hope right there.  And I'm super grateful that Elder Anderson is my trainer.

Subtle transition to a different, yet related topic (subtle indeed).  Yesterday was the first fast and testimony meeting in Korea.  I tried to bear mine (in Korean).  That was super hard and terrifying.  I remember being that terrified only once in my life as I was bearing testimony... and that was a super long time ago (like maybe fifth grade?).  All in all, it was a good meeting (I enjoyed the portions that I could understand), and Elder Anderson went up to bear his testimony (at the request of our recent convert, 조영상.  I enjoyed his testimony (I understood maybe half and was able to fill in the blanks as needed).  The next two hours were a blur.  I only understood that they spent the first part of Elder's Quorum talking about home-teaching (that was a pure guess too.  I literally had to think about how Priesthood meeting usually went like in a family ward.  Then a list went around with ward member names, addresses, and phone numbers).  Then came the lesson.  I thought they were talking about people we can share the gospel with.  Elder Anderson informed me afterwards that they were talking about things that people might regret on their deathbed.  I was close.

After Church, Elder Anderson and I received our first invite to a member's house for dinner (so, Terry, to answer your question, the Korean food I've had has been sitting well with me.  But I hear that restaurant Korean food and homemade food are two different ballgames.  As in, the members feed you a ton.  Just a rumor though).  And we were invited to lunch on the same day.  All in all, Wednesday will be a good day.  I'll report on said experience next week.

A few more things... so we have mission tour tomorrow.  Elder Ringwood of the Seventy is coming.  That'll be fun.  A spiritual feast.  President Furniss asked us to read Moroni 7 in preparation.  I'm excited.  A day to really get to understand faith, hope, and charity a little more in-depth, and there are some pretty good gems about missionary work in there too (I read it today.  Picked up on a few extra things I haven't noticed before - read verses 29-31... made me feel pretty good after I picked up on them).  And I'm excited to get another glimpse at it tomorrow and pick up even more things that I missed.

And this last week, there was a Halloween Party for the YSA aged people.  It was fun.  I worked down in the Haunted House. I pretty much spent 2 hours scaring people as they searched for things we hid throughout the church basement.  I got a couple of good screams.  We also had some good props.  Like a real dead cat just chillin in the basement.  That's exciting.

Oh, and Elder Anderson had me share the thought at English Class this last week.  I went with 1st Nephi `17:50-51.  I talked about how if we have faith that God will help us, He will.  What I didn't share, right now, my ship is learning how to speak Korean.

Despite how hard this last week has been, I'm still loving every minute of this mission call.  It's been quite the empathy building experience already.  And quite a humbling experience too.  Prayer is fast becoming my favorite part of the day.  I love how close I feel to Heavenly Father as I pray.  It's been a real comfort to know that He hears my prayers and that Jesus Christ knows exactly how I feel right now.  I realize that parts of this email may sound overly negative, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated sometimes, but I know that every hardship I'm facing now is only for a short time.   What's happened so far is that I'm learning to really love the Book of Mormon and to rely on God and trust that He knows what He's doing with me.  For instance, I love 1st Nephi 15... I feel like Nephi in verse 5 right now.  And I love what he did in response to how he felt.  He worked hard.  He taught with the Spirit, and really just immersed himself in the Lord's work.  That was a great find in personal study too.  I can't even begin to describe just how tender of a mercy that was... I really know that God is mindful of me and my needs.

Anyways, I love you all so much.  And I miss you all.  Sometimes I'm homesick, but I really am trying to work hard through the homesickness.  Terry, good luck on second round of interviews and job hunting.  Dad, I'm looking forward to watching Phineas and Ferb in 2014 =D

Before I go, one last scripture reference.  This one has been on my mind for quite a while.  Ecclesiastes 3:1.  I'll forever be grateful that Elder Bowman unknowingly helped me find this scripture while we were teaching at the MTC.  The Old and New Testaments are super tricky to navigate in Korean.

Well.  I've just about had it with this computer.  It's a bit nutskey.  I can't even count how many times I've heard the word firefox...and the entire wHTML address I'm on during the course of this email =D

Elder Elliott Wedam