Sunday, December 30, 2012

Triple Combination

Hey all, hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  We loved our Skype visit with Elliott on Christmas Eve (his Christmas day)!  He looked so happy and pretty well adjusted after a rough start at the beginning of his last transfer. Read on for excerpts from his last 2 e-mails. No e-mail from Christmas week as our skype visit took the computer time for that week.  We should be hearing from him tomorrow, though, so check back in a day or two for more news!

December 9, 2012

So, the letter is coming a little later than I expected.  We haven't this threesome thing quite figured out.  But hey, something to work towards in the future...

It'll be challenging.  Three people is way harder to work with than 2. On a related note, I'm really struggling to learn this patience thing. It's super hard when you feel like you're being written out of the companionship a few days before the new transfer even begins.  But hey, I may or may not have brought this on myself.  I may or may not carry a lot of emotional baggage when I feel slighted, and I may or may not have any idea of what to do next.  And there's the rub. There's a lot of things I need to change.  Being patient with learning the language is one thing, being patient with somebody else is a whole new ball park.  Any suggestions?

The apartment is now clean and organized enough to hold 3 people. That was a project and a half.  And then some.  I don't think the last few transfers took care of the apartment as well as they should have. The sisters may be opening a new sister area, but I inheritted an apartment with about as much as the sisters had when they moved in. Very few cleaning supplies, food that was all bad, and a kitchen table converted into a hodgepodge of loose papers.

The language is coming along a little better.  Every week, I understand a little more and I'm able to speak a little more freely. I've been stepping out of my comfort zone a little more and asking for language help outside the companionship... incidently, it's a good way to start talking to people.  Sometimes, it's super effective; other times, less so.  Like last night.  The kid I was talking to was not super thrilled to answer my question (partly because I wasn't able to ask it correctly.  It's tricky when you don't know enough vocab or grammar to finish a sentence asking what a word is...), but the night before, a different kid was super friendly - he understood enough of my broken Korean (and enough English) to help me out.  And we might be able to meet with him later =D

Sorry about how short this public email is... we're working on figuring out this three-way email with only two computers thing.  I got the short end of the stick this week, but hopefully we'll figure it out soon.

Love you all so much!
-Elder Wedam

Here's the second letter.

December 16, 2012

Most important information first.   Christmas call.  Our recent convert is letting us use his computer for Skype.  (the rest of this paragraph contained plans to connect on Christmas.)
Alright, then the next most interesting part.  The exciting climax of last week.  Friday was super high stress after comp inventory.  People carry baggage (including me), and we all have three VERY different personalities.  Friday was a bit of a bust for missionary work.  None of us really wanted to do it... our proselyting efforts were half hearted.  At night, Elder Anderson told our district leader, Elder Allen, that we had a pretty stressful day (not just because of comp inventory either... a lot of our planned appointments were dropped. And I think we may have looked super stressed at English Class that night).  In any event, somebody told our zone leader, Elder Choi, and after some phone interviews and a two hour comp inventory afterwards, we all said what was on our minds and we worked through a lot of issues, and set some goals to improve.  Just so we're all on the same page, I'll share mine.  I realized I need to open up a little more and talk about something when I'm upset rather than let it bottle up, try to look for more good in my comps (measured by trying to find a new strength I like each week), and to be a better listener.  I then asked that Elder Houston and Elder Anderson be patient with me because those three things are and always have been super difficult for me (especially when I'm already frustrated and stressed out).  All in all, we had an approved bedtime at 1 AM (for the comp inventory) and we still had an awake and arise time at 6:30AM.  I'm still feeling that one.  We're going to a bath house today.  Might be a symbolic action... washing away the stress of last week.  I'm excited. ...And I'm purchasing Christmas gifts for my companions.  Already secured one without other people realizing it.  The second is going to be a little trickier =D.  But hey, it'll be worth it if I can pull it off.  So plan is set, goals made.  Hopefully, I'll be humble enough to work through the challenges of a threesome.  Huzzah! Thanks for giving me your suggestions.  They made me feel a lot better and have given me some hope that this transfer will be doable. Praying for help everyday... and for Elder Houston.  And for Elder Anderson.  On a tangent, it feels so good praying for them... especially a prayer to help them with their goals and desires.  So much easier when you don't have to guess what the other people need. Just sayin.

This last week, I went Smeagle (or Gollum... you know, LOTR) on a fish.  A member took us to lunch and ordered a soup (I don't have the name memorized, but I'd recognize it if I saw it)... it literally had an entire fish in it.  We're talking a whole fish... not just the meat.  We're talking head, tail, and everything in between.  I can legitimately say that if it's on a fish, I've probably eaten it.  The only other animal I can say that about is a chicken (except I haven't had the beak yet... I really hope that was a joke from one of the older missionaries).  Anyways, it was good, but I felt a little sick afterwards (not sure why... it may have been the massive amount of 김치 지깨 (Kimchi Soup, pronounced Kimchi Jiggae) broth that accompanied it. Or it may have been the thought of eating fish eyes (which aren't that bad, in all seriousness.  Eat it with some rice and broth, and it literally feels like a grape with a seed in it).  That was an adventure and a half by itself.

Bonus, the language is coming along a lot easier now.  I mean, it's still rough, but at least I can read more text and have a gist of what's going on.  And I'm understanding a little more about what's going on while we 전도.  It's fun.  At least, it's more fun than it was. If you can break past the first 2 전도, it's easy to keep going after that.  I'm finding the key is to ask a good question at the beginning (like, "Oh, you looking for a Christmas gift?" to a man looking in a shoe store window at the shoes - totally window shopping - only to find out he's Buddhist - and a super friendly guy.  While we're on the topic of Buddhists; they are my favorite people to 전도 to because if they are super serious about it, they are always super nice and always willing to listen to us missionaires).  Anyways, the question is the hard part... I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Korean sentence structure is backwards of the English construction... that's the tricky part.

I love you all!  I'm still healthy.  It's rough being halfway across the world, but time is flying (this last week slower than the other weeks... but I'm already 20 weeks in the mission.  6 more and I hit the 6 month mark.) Merry Christmas, and I'll talk to you next week!

-Elder Elliott Wedam

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What does "treasure up" mean to you?

Hope these Korean lessons are working better for you than they are for me! Keep reading! Hope you are all having a blessed Christmas season. Love M

December 2, 2012

Well, this certainly has been a great week.  It's super weird how fast these weeks fly by, yet so much has happened.  Productivity for the win?  

Before I get into the bulk of the letter, I should answer one other long-standing question that Sister Taysom asked me in a letter a while back... Why is the Korean last name Choi pronounced like Cha (with the "a" being a long "a" sound), and not like Choy (the "oy" making a sound as in boy).  I've got the answer, and it's helped my pronunciation quite a bit.  But it goes into some Korean language learning (hahaha, my master plan is to teach all y'all the Korean alphabet slowly yet surely.  There will be a quiz/test in two years. Study up).  So, the Korean spelling of Choi is 최 (the ㅊ character makes an aspirated "ch" sound, the ㅗ makes a long "o" sound - as in orange, and the ㅣ makes a long "e" sound - as in ear...) However, when you see ㅚ in a syllable, it makes a sound like weigh... except it's a really soft w, so it just sounds like a long "a" sound.  The application of this?  There's a verb (unconjugated) spelled 되다 (the ㄷ making a "d" sound, as in deer, but it also has a bit of a "t" sound - as in Terry - to it, and ㅏ making a short "a" sound - as in "say ahh). 되다 is a super useful verb in Korean, literally meaning "to become," but they use it for a ton of things, like telling you to stop (literally, "it becomes), or to change 하다 (literally, "to do") verbs (ㅎ making an "h" sound - as in "hurt") into their passive counterparts.  And other useful uses (redundancy =D).  Anyways, I hope that answers her question.  Anyways...

So, news about the next transfer (there's a lot to cover before I actually talk about the last week...).  I'll still be in 광주 (Gwangju - you may be able to figure out what sounds the other characters make? Brownie points if you do.  The test in two years will be much easier =D).  And will still be in 송정 (Songjeong - see last weeks letter for how to read the romanization), and Elder Anderson will still be my companion... at least one of them.  Yes, I'll be in a threesome companionship.  Our new companion is from our older MTC districts. His name is Elder Houston.  What this means - the mornings and evening in our apartment will be very busy up until Thursday when he comes... our apartment, as is, isn't organized enough for three people over a 6 week period.  I've been working on cleaning it, working on the fridge (that's been a project and a half... I don't think anybody cleaned it for the last few transfers).  I've got one shelf left (it's been a two week project thus far).  But, there's a ton of things I need to move around to prepare for a third companion. I've to figure out sleeping arrangements and study arrangements and clothing storage arrangements (Elder Anderson is busy enough with his responsibilities as senior companion).   So that's all very exciting.  And, we're getting sisters in the area.  We've been putting together their area book (Songjeong used to have sisters, but since left - their old area book was down in Naju, and we retrieved it/are updating it and ours at the same time).  Anyways, that's the news on my front, fresh from this morning (your evening).

So, this last week (finally here).  We've one progressing investigator - the husband of the family we found last Sunday (11/25?).  Anyways, they have primarily English interest, but Elder Anderson and I are getting a little more creative with our commitments... namely giving a reading assignment and a study question.  Last week, we taught about prophets and dispensations (Elder Anderson had a very clever graphic that worked SUPER well - I may steal it from him later in the mission).  Husband and wife understood dispensations and prophets well enough to explain it to each other, and we gave them a note paper with the question, "Why would it be important to my family if there were a living prophet today?" written on the top and we asked them to read the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and record their thoughts. We have an appointment with them this Wednesday and will follow-up/introduce Elder Houston to them.  Anyways, they're super awesome - 김보경 and 정성하.  I've already mentioned that they have two  daughters - 2 and 5 (American Age... there is a difference.  In Korea, kids are 1 when they're born and they turn a year older on January 1st.  So, in Korean, I'm 22, not 21.  And I'll turn 23 New Year's Day. I'm not expecting a birthday gift then =P).  Oh, and we also shared pictures with them.  They commented that Vera is super cute... and that Alisa is really pretty (we ran out of time to show the rest... we didn't make it to mission farewell).  And Nathan, we passed off as siblings... anyways, they're super nice, and I love them dearly already.

Oh, and in other exciting news, I was super low on MSF funds last week.  The two splits I went on ran me down 20 bucks (about 20000 won), so we survived on what food storage I built up (meaning the 30 oranges for 5 bucks, 10 patties for 10 bucks - that was a bargain, by the way, and the Kimchi and rice members have given us... and the 30 eggs for 4 bucks).  I've eaten so much Kimchi Fried Rice this last week, it's not even funny.  But it's good, and I'm getting fairly pro at using the rice cooker and making it.  It's been fun.  I'm budgeting my money a little better this time.  

Anyways, the diet is super weird to work with here.  I have no idea of the nutritional content of anything (it's all in Korean), and the prices/selection on the other side of the world vary enough so that my diet now resembles nothing like how it is in the states.  It's healthier... I think.  Depends on the nutritional content of dried seaweed (this is me dropping a hint asking for some information on this... what is the nutritional content of seaweed?).  And, the longstanding question of "where do I get any calcium from for an affordable price" has been answered by one of our ward members.  The answer - anchovies.  Don't be surprised if I just pop dried anchovies like candy when I come back.  So I'll be experimenting with them this week.  A couple weeks ago, I had anchovies (dried) marinated in soy sauce and peanuts... or maybe garlic?  In any event, I'll give it a shot this week.

Alright, so, I think I reported on enough fluff stuff.  Let's take a turn for a little more spiritual.  So, I've been reading through the Book of Mormon, cover to cover, and am currently in Mosiah. Specifically, I read Mosiah 3,4, and 5 today.  And I realized that the Book of Mormon is significant because it shows that the ENTIRE world, not just Jerusalem, was looking forward to the birth of the Messiah. And that alone is significant.  Truly, the Book of Mormon supports and proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and not just another nation's God.  And it baffles me that so many people aren't willing to find out for themselves if the Book of Mormon is true or not.  I mean, as missionaries, we aren't telling people, "you must believe what we're teaching you," but rather, we're inviting them to have the faith necessary to find out for themselves from God if what we're teaching is true (this thought is what revolutionized our commitments.  We may not speak Korean very well, but I know that Heavenly Father knows Korean, and that the Holy Ghost is an infinitely better teacher than me).  And really, that's what it comes down to.  We're simply instruments instructing people how to have their own spiritual experiences... and that's really what missionary work is; it's inviting people and providing an atmosphere so that people can have their own spiritual experiences.  And we're not talking experiences of the same magnitude of the First Vision or seeing the finger of God, but we're talking experiences in which the spirit has a chance to be nourished by God's word, so that people have an opportunity to "treasure up" the doctrine of Christ. That's a phrase I really love: Treasure up.  I'm curious what it means to you.  Being away from family and friends, especially this holiday season, has made me understand what it means to treasure the time you have with people.  And I think that "treasuring up" means allowing something to become part of us.  For instance, I love 1st Nephi 17:50-51 "And I said unto them: if God had commanded me to do all things, I could do them.  If he should command that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, and if I should say it, it would be done. "And now, if the Lord has such great power and has worked so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?" Right now, my "ship" the Lord is asking me to build is to learn Korean... and so much more.  But the principle is the same, I'm on the Lord's errand, and if I should follow the promptings of the Spirit, then I'll be able to build the ship the Lord has asked me to build during this period of missionary service.  I also love, "and if I should say it, it would be done."  Our success is completely dependent on our willingness to act.  Hence why I am continuing to have daily, weekly, and monthly goals I'm working towards.  Heavenly Father has commanded that I should learn Korean, and if I should study and practice speaking it, I shall learn it. I think that once we have "likened" the scripture or the doctrine to our circumstances, then we begin the process of "treasuring it up." And as we treasure what we learn, we seek to find a deeper understanding of it and its significance in our lives.

Anyways, you're always in my prayers.  Stay happy, be safe.  Study the Korean alphabet.  Enjoy this holiday season and the wonderful spirit of charity it brings.  Christmas is so much more than giving gifts and being kind.  I really think that as we reflect on what Christ has done and can do for us, we truly will embody the spirit of Christmas - we will do good good works and be kind to everyone.  For more on my thoughts on the Christmas season and why I like it, read Mosiah 4!

I love you so much!  'til I write again!
-Elder Elliott Wedam

Saturday, December 1, 2012

WEEK 5 in South Korea

Greenie + Greenie + Konglish + Charitable People of Korea + Sincere obedient effort = Happy Thanksgiving. You will notice that I didn't delete the final paragraph of this letter, as directed by Elder Wedam. Thought everyone might appreciate just how much a missionary learns from a wide range of experiences while in the field! Have a good day!   M

November 26, 2012

So, as per popular request (mainly mom's), I will share how Koreans celebrate American Thanksgiving.  They don't.  But missionary companions do.  I had a most marvelous (slightly meager) meal of rice, potstickers, fried chicken, and oranges.  I should mention, I was on a split with another member of my generation... two greenies who aren't super good at Korean.  It was a blast.  We got lost multiple times, and had to ask for directions frequently.  All in all, it was a successful day.  We contacted 44 people (standards of excellence is 20 - Elder Ward, my split companion, was slightly disappointed that we didn't get the 50 we set out to do the night before), two street lessons (and placed a Book of Mormon.  More accurately, the person we were 전도-ing to just sort of took it), and got 2 phone numbers. Oh, and a less active member brought us some amazing bread and oranges (hence why I had oranges during my dinner.  Wouldn't have happened otherwise) and some foreigner neighbors (Americans too) ran by and gave us some pumpkin bread in honor of Thanksgiving (at 9:30 at night).  All in all, it was a good, busy, and exhausting day.  Who woulda thunk 2 greenies could do so much.  That was a confidence booster.  I discovered I know how to start asking for directions in Korean and can follow melodramatic hand gestures fairly well.

While I'm still on the topic of the split, here's another little tidbit about Korean culture.  For the most part, they LOVE Americans. That aside, there are some SUPER friendly and helpful Koreans too. When Elder Ward and I were lost, we asked this 60+ year old man for some directions.  Rather than be satisfied with just telling us where to go, he literally walked us to where we needed to go... a task that was completed a mile later.  I was literally at a loss for words.  You rarely see that in the States (I've yet to see it), and it was truly a humbling experience.  I was really impressed with how charitable this man was (Korean people generally are super busy and super hard workers.  He literally went an hour out of his way to help us).  We thanked him profously for his help.  He even suggested a place where we could eat!  Elder Ward gave him our contact card and told him that if he ever needed help with anything, to give the missionaries a call. All in all, it was a good experience.

Elder Anderson and I have seen some super amazing miracles this week. Despite some investigators not turning out not to be real and many people waving us off, we've had a ton of success this past week. We've got 5 new invesitgators (3 of which were referals - one from our recent convert and 2 from a current investigator), and the last two are the mom and dad from a family (they have two daughters ages 5 and 2).  We met this family last night.  They invited us in (a thing Elder Anderson keeps telling me is a super rare occurance, but it's happened 3 times this transfer), and gave us some apple juice (there's a lot of apple flavored things here.  Like apple ice cream.  I actually really like the apple ice cream).  They're interested in learning English from us, but they also have some gospel interest.  We have an appointment with them on Wednesday.  I'm super stoked.  They just look like they'd be good members.  Last night, we spent time finding a good member couple to help fellowship this family into the ward.  We think we have the right couple in mind - they invited us over for dinner week 3... maybe? (unfortunately, I can't remember their names... Korean names are super tricky to get down).  Did I mention I'm super stoked about finding this family?

And a less missionary-related note, language is coming along.  When we're 전도-ing, I'm finding I'm able to get the gist of the conversation about half the time and am able to follow more and more each day.  One of the more frustrating things is that I still speak super slow, which is why it's always a tender mercy when we find somebody who has enough time for me to stumble through a street contact or door approach.  And we seem to be finding a lot of people who know enough English (and I know enough Korean) where I can follow slow Konglish.  It's been fairly exciting.  Next up is reading comprehesnion.  Korean grammar is so radically different from English or other Latin based grammars. Seriously, everything is slightly topsy-turvy.  Example - last night during companionship study, we were reading the Restoration pamphlet together and translating as we went.  Adjectives (generally defined to be something that describes or modifies a noun - this could be a single words or phrase) preceed the noun they modify.  Adjective phrases sometimes contain pronouns that refer to the noun they're modifying.  Summary, I realize I need a ton of practice reading Korean texts.  Fortunately, I've got pamphlets and scripture passages galore (spelling?) to study from.  And a neat little phrase-book full of little gospel sentences.  While we're on the topic language, I have the First Vision and James 1:5 down in Korean.  And by down, I mean I can recite them fairly slowly...

I don't know what else to really say - the daily goal plan is still going strong, and I'm progressing slowly, yet surely.  This week, I'm working on organizing and cleaning the fridge... shelf-by-shelf.  That reminds me... so I've also had to try my hand at plumbing yesterday. The moments where I watched dad messing around with the plunger in the toilet tank (the thing that actually causes the flush) has paid off in dividends.  The chain that connects the plunger with the handle fell off the handle Saturday night.  I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to reattach it.  It worked.  The toilet now sort of flushes instead of doing nothing.  I'll be playing with it a little later to get it to work according to my standards of flush.  Random tangent, done.  Mom, you can delete this paragraph before posting it on the blog.

Anyways, I gots to go.  I love you all so much!  Take care, work hard, do well.

-Elder Wedam