Thursday, August 15, 2013

Monsoons, Accents, and Miracles

August 12, 2013
Well, Family, Friends, The Usual Suspects (Including Fan Club)
We'll start at the tops.  First story.  Monsoons.
Wow.  That's all I can say.  Tuesday was near pitch black at 3pm.  Elder Pruner was feeling sick, and NONE of our plans worked.  Then came a rainstorm.  False.  Then came a deluge.  Coupled with the heat, humidity, and shear volume of rainfall, we were soaked.  Head to foot.  We ducked into a 평의점 for shelter, for like 30 minutes.  And we made friends with the cashier.  I did at least.  Then, the rain lifted and SUNSHINE.  It was a strange day.  I have never seen weather change so fast (even in Klamath Falls).
Next story is better.  Accents.
I took the strangest phonecall ever on Wednesday.  Elder Pruner and I have been working super hard to advertise our English class, and we made a little pamphlet explaining our program.  We pass them out like a stranger gives out candy when we're on the streets, and we hope that people have interest and call us.  We finally got a phone call.  I'll give you the translated version of it:
"Hey, you gave me a pamphlet yesterday about your free English Program.  I want to learn; how can I do it?"
"Well, we're teaching a conversation class tonight at 7 if you're interested"
"Really.  Well, can you speak English well?"
"Yeah.  I'm American"
"Oh.  Well, I don't want to learn the American accent; it's difficult to keep it up in Korea.  Can you do a British accent?"
"Wait, what?"
"Yeah, a British accent."
"I don't know.  I'm American."
"Give it a shot."
"Right now?"
"Okay."  Then I gave it my best shot.
"Wasn't that Australlian?  That sounded more Australlian"
"I have no idea.  I'm American."
"Could you try an Australlian accent."
"Tell you what, I'll come by your church tonight.  What church is it?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints"
"Isn't that the Mormon Church?"
"Well, that's a nickname"
"Okay.  Well, if I have time, I'll come by." Hangs up.
Yeah.  He didn't come to English class that night.  But I had fun on the phone with him.
Last story is the best.
We had two people come to church yesterday!  There's two stories I have to tell to get this to make sense.
The first person is Korean.  She is SUPER shy and really loves learning English, and I think she might be a little bit lonely.  But, Elder Pruner and I have a great relationship with her, so it's totally cool if we ask her to come to church, if anything to make friends.  She comes.  Sacrament is great - she paid a lot of attention and really loved the same talks I did.  Then comes Gospel Principles.  We'll pause here - you need the other story now.
The second person is American.  He's dating one of our members (who WAS less active... not anymore.  She referred him to us yesterday).  She was translating for him in sacrament meeting, and well, she left me to translate in Gospel Principles (I did so bad).  The lesson was about the great council in heaven, which evolved into something significantly off topic (...I was stressing out trying to keep up with the lesson and translate it in such a way that would make sense to somebody who doesn't know a lot about our church.  Not much I could do when the topic that came up was schisms within the Church...).  But now I can cut back to the first story!
So, while I'm translating for the American (again, I was keeping track of a lot of things), our Korean volunteers some information (IT NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!!! I literally did a double take once what happened dawned on me).  And, she started taking steps to make friends with our Korean members... she really loved church yesterday!
Now, back to the second story.  I apologize for the lacking translation, but he was fine with it.  Then, it just seemed natural to invite him to meet with us for the third hour.  We talk with him, and really find out that he is SUPER interested in learning more about the Book of Mormon.  We introduce the Book of Mormon to him, and he wants to read it!  I was trying so hard not to sing from sheer happiness mid lesson!  The Spirit was so strong!
And that, my dear family and friends, was the week in a nutshell.  Let's go on to some other exciting news.
I learned so much.  Transfers are coming up, and yes, I'm nervous.  I could very well be transfering.  And I've been thinking a lot about my time here in 평택. I should probably explain a little bit more...
There's a mission wide push for missionaries to consecrate themselves to the Lord - it's advice that applies to every member, really.  And I've been thinking about this idea a lot.  I haven't been able to produce great numbers - some other missions have an average of 40 lessons a week.  I'm blessed to have 10.  I haven't had a baptism yet.  A lot of other missionaries have been blessed with the opportunity to do so.
We're promised great blessing if we can consecrate all our efforts to the Lord.  But I'm realizing that I shouldn't assume that I know what blessings will follow from consecrating myself.  Think of Mormon and Moroni - the last two prophets mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  I have no doubt that they were consecrated missionaries.  Read Mormon 9:6 - Mormon knows that he has "a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay."   He teaches of faith, hope, and charity, and he explains why we need them (see Moroni 7).  Moroni labored to compile the records so that the Lamanite might learn of the truth of God, yet the Lamanites hated the Nephites that would not deny the Christ (See Moroni 1).  Both these prophets had HARD missions, and they weren't able to prevent the Nephites from destruction.  Yet, I don't think that they were unhappy.  Mormon put his hope in Eternal Life, and had faith in Jesus Christ.  Moroni worked out of charity and love.
Yes, I would love to be blessed with tons of conversions, but if not, then what?  I'm satisfied knowing that I'm giving this effort my all.  Yes, I'm not perfect, but the Lord doesn't expect immediate perfection.  He just wants immediate progression.  And everyday I learn more and more about what it means to be a good missionary (and I mean this outside of being a full-time missionary).
The question I really care about is simply this: have I done all I could in my time here to strengthen the units I've been given a responsiblity to serve?  The answer is, yes.  With what I knew, I did my best.  With what I know now, I could do much better.  What does this mean?  I have a better idea of how to use my time wisely.  It's not just about finding new people to teach, it's about finding the people who need to be strengthened, whether it be by teaching them the gospel, being a friend, or just trying to show your love.
God lives.  Never forget that.  He knows us.  We lived with Him before this life.  We can live with Him after this life.  That's my hope - to stand in the presence of God with my family and friends, and to be able to spend eternity with the people whom I have come to love whilst in this life.
I love you.
Elder Wedam

Families Can Be Together Forever

August 5, 2013
Hey family!  Friends!  Others!
It shounds like this week went super well.  I must say, I'm glad to not be at home with a crazy flooring project going on.  That looks rather stressful.  And like a lot of physical work.  All I'm gonna say is "Nananana boo boo.  I get to walk around in 90 degree weather with 50% humidity."  Small victories, right?
Well, a year has almost passed.  And what an almost year it has been.  8 transfers, 7 companions, one tricompanionship.  Training, senioring, letter writing, proselyting, weight losing, friendshipping, gospel learning... it's been one packed year.
I've learned more about who God is and what it takes to live a Christ-like life.  I'm learning more about what it takes to be an effective member missionary, and really what missionary work is (hey, by the way, it's not just going on the streets and talking at people.  It's all about relationships, and having solid, eternal friendships).  It's impossible to document everything that I think, feel, understand in one letter.  And I honestly think that all that I learned can't be put into words, but it can be seen in how I talk, write, speak, and appear.  I know I've changed.  I've grown.  But I really expect that everyone has.  A year is suprisingly short, but there's so much that can happen in it.
The days here are still similar.  There's always something new.  But as I've grown to love the Korean people, I've realized that I care more about the people I meet and have come to love than I care about being comfortable.  And, I can honestly say that I'm doing the best I know how, and everyday, I learn how to be a little bit better.
But this above all.  I know that families can be together forever.  Fun fact.  I haven't been able to sing that song all the way through during sacrament meeting - or anytime really - after primary.  It's because everytime I sing it and think about the words, the Holy Ghost testifies to me that it's true.  Families can be together forever.  And what a glorious promise that is; the promise extends beyond just blood.  We're all one eternal family - we are all God's sons and daughters, and so friendships can be eternal.  That's something that I'm grateful for; not just because of all the friends I've met here in Korea, but because of the friends I have back at home whom I already know and love (and don't think for one minute I ever forget anybody).  Why is this important?  Because it means that there is a purpose behind every relationship we've ever had, have, and will have.  Our friendships and kinships started before this life, and they will continue after.  Why?  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, because of His resurrection.
So why do I labor?  I labor hoping that God will grant unto me the grace to fulfill my desires.  I'm hoping that by working diligently and giving my all to the Lord that I can one day stand in God's presence with all the people whom I have come, am coming, and will come to love.
I love you all so much!  I hope your Sunday/Monday becomes well.  Until next week!
-Elder Wedam

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Relationships and Christlike qualities

July 29, 2013
Family, Friends, Loved Ones.  Anybody Else,
Well, let me just start by saying THE OTHER COMPANIONSHIP HAD TWO PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO RECEIVE BAPTISM THIS LAST WEEK!  pardon the Korean verbage.
It was a nice service.  The ENTIRE ward came (to be fair, it was right after church and a fourth sunday, which means that the ward had an after church dinner), BUT THE ENTIRE WARD CAME.  Our ward mission leader did a great job orgainizing it, the spirit was super strong, and my goodness, I WAS SO HAPPY FOR BOTH ANGELA (that's her English name), HER SON, AND THE OTHER MISSIONARIES (Elder Lion and Elder Atkin).  And, the music was beautiful, the talks were nice, AND I JUST FELT THE SPIRIT SO STRONG.
Ten points if you guess how happy (albeit stressed - baptisms in Korea are a team affair, I'm finding out) I was.  I was just happy.  Almost in tears.  Like I get whenever I sing "Families Can Be Together Forever".  Yay!
The stress of training and senior companion-ing is, well, a lot, but hey, it comes with a lot of blessings.  Yes, I'm worried about the people we teach, and I always worry about Elder Pruner and making sure that he doesn't get discouraged with learning one of the toughest languages for English speakers to learn... and to make sure that he is involved with planning and teaching and finding (there is always the temptation to just do things my way.  But then I remind myself that I have no clue what I'm actually doing, and that other people usually have better ideas than me.  And then he gives me a really good idea, or at least a start, and we change it around just a bit to work in Korea).   But let me just say, with this added stress has come an increased love for studying the scriptures, and a dramatically improved Korean reading/writing/listening ability (speaking also has improved, but not as dramatically).  Oh, and there's been a dramatic increase in the capacity to love other people.  Yeah.  It's stressful, but hey, it's well worth it.  And, I'm figuring out what I like to do to blow off stress.  Write and talk to people (I LOVE talking with our investigators who are super interested in English - they're are really good... at least I think they are, but my opinion my be slightly skewed... and sometimes I get texts that just make me so happy that I can't help but laugh).  I also love living in these four-man apartments.  I've made some of my best friends living with a lot of people all at once.  Anywho...
Nobody we are teaching came out to church, but I'm fine with that right now.  What really happened is that I learned how to build a good relationship with people.  The secret is to be interested in their interests, ask them questions, and to just be nice.  I'm also learning that an honest well-wishing goes a long way.  I love the Korean people so much.  Everything here is just so fun and new!
Misisonary work is hard, but let's be honest here, relationships are never easy (see what I did there?  Missionary work is building relationships ^^).  It's fun.  I've never been so involved with trying to show people I love them (and not just tell them).  But I've learned a lot.
Speaking of things learned, I want to share this... I've been thinking a lot about what kind of person I envision Jesus Christ to be.  Like which qualities of His stand out the most to me.  And this is what I've discovered:
1) He seeks out the one who needs His help - My favorite story from the New Testament is the story of the woman with an issue of blood (I wanna say Mark 5, but I'm not sure).  The part that stands out the most to me is that Christ wanted to seek out the woman who sought His healing, even though He was on His way to help somebody else.  I love the fact that we can rely on the Lord whenever we need Him, and He won't be too busy for us.  If we but seek Him, He will seek us.  And He will minister to us in the way that we need.  I want to be the type of person who seeks out the one who needs help.  I may not be able to much, mere man that I am, but I can try and trust that God will do what I cannot.
2) He stands up for people who need a friend - I also love the story of the woman taken in adultery (See John 8).  I imagine when the Pharisees found this woman, they harassed her.  I'm sure the entire ordeal must have been difficult for her; I imagine the Pharisees and the scribes weren't exactly the kindest to this woman.  But Jesus Christ diffuses the situation by simply stating an obvious truth... that no man is perfect.  "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".  Then, I love the last lines.  I'll try quoting them from memory, but if they be wrong, know that I am human:
"Woman, where are thine accusers?  Hath no man condemned thee?"
"No man Lord"
"Neither do I condemn thee.  Go, and sin no more"
Not only does Christ save this woman from the judgement of religious zealots, but he doesn't pass judgement Himself and admonishes the woman to "go, and sin no more"
I imagine Christ to be a friend to the friendless.  That's somebody I would love to be.  To be a true friend, judging not, but loving.  And then inspiring my friends to be better.
I love you all so much!  I hope this week goes by smoothly!  Keep me posted on news, like people fending off grizzly bears, monsoons that rival Korean Bath Houses, and houses that look like warzones!
Until next week!
Elder Wedam

Another Week, Another Won

Enjoy Ellliott's reflections on motivation and keeping discouragement at bay.

July 21, 2013
Familia, Amigos, 이매일을 읽은 모든 분들!
Yes, it is P-Day.  Again.  And a lot of report on.
One of the benefits of being in the 서울남 선교부 is that we can go to the temple once a transfer.  Last week, I went to the temple.  It was marvelous.  Although it was small, I enjoyed it immensely.  I learned a lot, remembered a lot, and really just felt a lot.  One of the joys of the temple.
And, we have seen a lot of miracles in our district; Elder Pruner and I had 2 investigators come out to church yesterday that we weren't expecting to be there, and Elder Anderson and his companion (yes, my trainer/now district leader and his companion, Elder Hodges) had a baptism yesterday, which Elder Atkin and Elder Lion (the other companionship in our area) were able to take their soon-to-be-baptized investigator to.  Yes, that is amazing.  I'm super thrilled.
Training is going just fine.  Elder Pruner is great.  He just has a lot of fire.  He's fun, smart, and well.  He's blessed.  I'm lucky to be his companion.  And, he asks good questions.  Yesterday, he asked a good question... it was along the lines of "what keeps you motivated when you're discouraged?"
And, well, we had a super epic comp study after that.  Scriptures were flying, the spirit was pumping, and well, we came up with this answer.  At least, this was the answer I gave him:
What helped me when I first came to country was to set goals.  And then to do everything I could to accomplish them.  It didn't matter much if I actually acheived them, it just mattered that I gave it my all, because when I did, God blessed me to learn the language a lot faster.  But, it changed since then.  My foucs hasn't been to become the most knowledgable misisonary on the pennisula, nor the most fluent foreigner in Korean.  My focus has shifted to trying to become more like Jesus Christ, to really become a living example of faith, hope, and charity.  And it shifted because my own needs, my own desires, have required a change.  I'm fine with laboring everyday, giving my all, and walking away with no baptisms.  And I'm fine with it because I realize that the thing I wanted from the mission wasn't to baptize everyone I meet, but to come to know who Jesus Christ is so that everyone I meet can feel His love for them through me - that other people can feel loved even when they don't feel like they deserve it.
So, really the answer to what keeps me motivated?  It's by really having a vision of who I can be, and believing that it's not too late to live up to that potential.  And then to never lose that hope - to keep it by study, application, and becoming.  Sometimes we stumble - sometimes I stumble (or fall flat on my face), but it doesn't matter as long as I get back up again - as long as we get back up again and continue to press forward.
I love you all!  I can't wait until next week!
Elder Wedam

I really know this is God's work.

July 14, 2013
I give up on this transfer count thing... 8-1? 7-4?
Hey ya'll!
This week has been super good.  First things first, I'm training Elder Pruner.  He's a sweet guy from the Bay Area of California.  He's really nice.  Full of the Spirit and eager to work.  Reminds me of what I would have been like if I were fearless.  We get along super well.  Granted, now that the stress of last week is over, I can focus on this week.  And really focus on building up 평택.  And, if you want a play by play of last week:
We have a small pool of 5 investigators, almost 6.  But, each of them have great potential to really progress on the road to conversion.  All of them have potential to come to church next week if we just ask.  And our ward is GREAT at fellowshipping.  That's the summary.  Here's the story, starting on Monday.
Monday - we get a call from a person whom I never met before (and whose name was in our phone because she met with missionaries 1 time last year).  She says she wants to learn english, and I call her back.  After the single most awkward conversation, we have an appointment with her on Tuesday.
Tuesday - we meet with her (her name is 김정하 , Kim Jeong Ha), and it's the single worst first lesson I have ever taught.  My Korean wasn't working, and we just didn't have a solid lesson plan.  But, we still set a return appointment for Thursday.
Wednesday - she cancels Thursdays appointment.  Which was actually a blessing in disguise (it'll make more sense in a bit).  I have to go to Seoul Wednesday night for trainer/trainee orientation on Thursday morning.  I have a good talk with one of my new found friends (he was at the mission home that night too, and he transfered to a new area the next day).
Thursday - The trainer meeting goes on way longer than expected, so we wouldn't have been able to keep our appointment anyways.  We come home, grab dinner, and meet with a potential investigator (she lives near our apartment).  We have a good talk, and she opened up a lot to us... she told us about some of her trials.  And, a former calls us wanting to meet on Friday.  We can't because we literally don't have time, but we invite him to church, and he says he will.  In two weeks.  And he wants to too.
Friday - We meet with 박기철, Bak Gi Cheol.  He pays me the nicest compliment ever (the thing is, I can't really accept it.  It was along the lines of "my passion to learn about religion again is back because of meeting with Elder Wedam."  I seriously just exist and be genuine - the Spirit does everything for me).  And he's still fired up about the Book of Mormon.  He gives himself a commitment to come to church in two weeks, and invites us to his house this next week to meet his wife.  We confirm our appointment on Saturday with Scott (the husband of our potential we met with on Friday) and Kim Jeong Ha
Saturday - Scott cancels because of work up in Seoul... and it's his wife's birthday.  We make her brownies, and she and Scott were super grateful.  We are able to meet with Kim Jeong Ha with a member who just graduated from BYU Hawaii.  He invites her to church, and she timidly accepts.  Afterwards, there's a ward activity Elder Pruner and I attended, and we improved our relationship with the ward.  Then, I try confirming our Sunday appointment with our new investigator, Moon Cheong Yeol, but he isn't able to meet.  But, we have a deeper relationship now - we had a good talk.
Sunday - Kim Jeong Ha comes to church!  And our ward members took care of her.  We talked afterwards a little about baptism, and I got a semi-yes to a really soft baptismal commitment.  Which is huge for her - she's really shy.  We set up another appointment on Tuesday, and invited her to come to church the next week.  Both of which were a yes.^^
So, yeah, we've been seeing miracles abound.  I really know this is God's work.  He is more than capable of doing it Himself.  I'm just happy to be along for the ride, albeit, I'm sprinting to keep up with it.
I want to share some really neat stuff I'm learning... that missionary work is all about building and maintaining relationships.  Its about being a genuine, sincere friend, and really seeking after other people's happiness.  I truly believe that is only possible by trying to become more like Jesus Christ.  If we want to be a good friend, we need to have faith, hope, charity, patience, knowledge, and humility.  We need to seek after knowledge and seek ways to help our friends be happier.  We need to be obedient and loyal to God and to our friends.  I love Alma 5:19 and 2 Nephi 25:23.  My goal has always been to know who my Savior is, and I know that is possible through striving to be like Him.
I love you all so much!  I can't wait to hear from you again next week!
Elder Elliott Wedam