Sunday, 29 August 2010

Week 8 in Korea

First off, an early birthday greeting to mom!!! Second off, a very late HAPPY Anniversary to James and Hill. I was showing my photo album to a member, and I was explaining when my brothers got married, and then realized... SHOOT! I didn't say anything for August 1st. I can't believe it's been a year. Also, congrats, and it's been a long time coming, to Leona on her baptism. I wish I was there for that. I'm guessing a lot of 7th warders thought she was a member already. That's so amazing. I don't know Adam's e-mail, but pass along the hugs and hi-fives for me. Adam was the first person to write me in the MTC, and I miss him like crazy. Also let him know that his modeling pics for GT (GeekTyrant) are studly.

So we had our first Zone Conference this last Friday. They only do them once every other transfer here after the missions combined. One of the AP's called me a half hour before bedtime the night before to ask if I could do musical number. My response, "I don't know how to play hymns! But sure." I had to figure something out it half an hour, and had no practice going into it Friday morning, but it went off without a hitch. I played "All Creatures of Our God and King," and went all Rufus Wainwright on the Allelujah's.

The training focused on finding. And it all starts with properly planning and praying. Getting down on your knees makes all the difference in the world. Within two days after the training, we picked up 3 new investigators, and set up appointments for three more.

I also had my first Stake Conference here as well. Our Ward Choir sang, and it was great. The Stake Center here in our Area is MASSIVE! Four Stories tall and all sorts of fancy. Think of four Glendale Stake Centers stacked on top of each ther, with all the bathrooms having built in bidets and insane state of the art kitchens. The English branch also meets there, so I saw a lot of Americans, but honestly didn't have time to stop and talk.

It also rained like nobody's business on Sunday. It's as if someone took the ocean and put it into a bucket, and just poured it over Seoul. My umbrella did nothing. I've never seen it rain so hard in my life. Never, ever ever. Then by noon, the sky was blue, and by dinner... insane amounts of rain again. The thunder sounded like cars were driving off the roofs of the buildings around us.

I've seen so many miracles here in Korea, and I've only been here a couple months. What's really hard sometimes though is when those miracles don't end in someone progressing and accepting the message. But I just have to remind myself that they are still indeed miracles, and they do build my testimony, and show me plain and clear that the Lord's hand is in the work, because it is his work.

If anyone knows me, they know I hate riding the bus. Now that's all I do, but I remember taking the bus home in LA once and not knowing if I got on the right one. I was maybe 13 or 14. I prayed to have some kind of sign that I would know I was going to the right place. After I opened my eyes, I saw a Church member from our neighborhood get on the bus.

Flash forward to the mission. In the SLC airport, going to Korea, having a lady lend me her iPhone to my family, and it ends up her son is also serving in Seoul. That let me know, I was going to the right place. (I finally got to meet and thank the Elder who's mom lent me her phone last week.) Then, meeting the man I sat next to on the plane randomly on the street... when He lived an hour away from my area. Finding a guitar in front of my apt building, just lying there. Those are pretty big signs that pretty much slap me over the head that I'm in the right place.

But then there are just the quiet moments, walking down a street, reading my scriptures, teaching a lesson, when the spirit fills my soul, and lets me know I'm in the right place.

-Elder Reyes

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Week 7 in Korea

OK. So i forgot to mention last week that my companion, Lee Jee-Min got transferred a few days early, so he could be trained in the office. I probably didn't mention it because I still had no idea who my new companion would be. 

Also, "taking over" right after your first transfer is waaaaaaay scary. I don't have a good sense of direction to begin with, and I'm supposed to know an area twice the size of most areas??? It was quite the task. But I was more mad at myself for not using every minute I had with my native Korean companion to soak up the language. I was literally kicking myself as I talked about it with the companionship I got put with for three days while I didn't have a companion. Luckily it was Elder Hafen, and Elder Bessey, two of my favorite Elders. Elder Hafen is the one I went on a 3 day exchange with, and saw many miracles. Elder Bessey was my District leader, super funny guy. Unfortunately he got the boot, too, when transfer calls came.
So anyway, I was convinced I'd get put with an American Elder. Most Elders go the entire two years not getting put with a native, and here I had pretty much squandered what I had when I had it. The transfer call came Monday night, the Mission President calls me, and tells me, "we transferred Lee Jee-Min to the office, to replace Lee Jeoung-Hyun... We're sending Lee Jeoung-Hyun to you in Siheung."
Hi-fives all around!!!! So Elder Lee replaces Elder Lee, and I actually replaced an Elder Lee too! Weird. Anyway, I love my new companion. I feel like I've won the lottery twice. I've definitely been utilizing him a lot more in the language. And we've been able to get around our area just fine. He speaks English insanely well... he sounds American a lot of the time. So a lot of idioms are able to be made sense of ,that I didn't understand before. Coming from the office too, he is on the ball and is organized like crazy. I'm in good hands.
Last week, the hospital where we do service asked if I could bring my guitar to play a few songs for the patients there. So i did. We usually just do arts and crafts with them, so this week they rushed through it so I could play some songs for them. I played a couple songs , and it was sooo much fun! Then a few more employees showed up late and (politely) DEMANDED I play more. I obliged, and they said afterward... "Can you just play the entire time next week?" I've gotta learned more songs! I'll probably just bring the childrens hymn book and play songs for them in Korean.
On Saturday morning I went on exchanges with Zone Leaders from another area while my new comp had to take some test for the military. I actually had very close degrees of separation with both of the Zone leaders. Elder Bogner was one of my MTC teacher's last trainee. Buuuut, the other Elder....Elder Prue, was from Sandy, UT. I started out asking if he new Brie, Sarah or Elisha, but when I asked if he knew any Paurs, he's like, "Yeah, I know Paurs." We said Conor's name at the same time. He served with Conor in Iraq!!!! Small world. Anyway, I had a picture of Conor in my little photo album, of Conor in Venezuela. He was stoked! So i said i'd let Conor know.
I hope all is well. I've been getting bit up by mosquitoes again. Even though I slather myself with mosquito repellent, they find the places that don't get covered. First. my ears, then I started covering that. Then my palms. Then the bottom of my feet. I don't really like to use the word hate... but I hate mosquitoes. I love my family, I miss my friends, and the only time I feel like I'm in America is when I'm inhaling a Big-Mac.
I hope everyone is doing alright. I can't really write everything I've seen here, and I'm sure so much has changed there as well. These first 6 weeks flew by. It scares me a little, because I know that's how the whole mission will feel once it's done too.
Love you all.
  Elder Reyes

Friday, 20 August 2010

Week 6 in Korea

How was everybody week???! Did you do anything special for Issa's b-day? It's been raining a ton here in Korea. But no matter how hard it rains... it is HOT!

My companion and I have been sharing one tiny 12 inch fan, and we've been dying. We wanted to get another one, and then the one fan we did have died. So we wanted two fans... we had zero. We spent a day without it, and it was rough. They ok'd us to buy a new one, with a max budget of 50 bucks. When we went fan shopping, my mouth dropped... so many things are so much cheaper here in Korea, but home appliances are ridiculously overpriced!!!! 80 to 160 for fans that are anywhere from tiny little 8 inchers to 14 inchers. Then I looked at toasters... 60-90 dollars for something that would cost 15-20 in the states. So weird. Anyway, we went to a few well known appliance stores, and I just couldn't bring myself to buy any of them. SO I decided to check out some small hole in the wall fixture and hardware stores. and found a huge 19 inch fan that rocks! And only for 60 bucks. We can't put it past the second setting, it's sooo powerful. If we put it on it's highest setting it knocks books over! Appreciate AC for all those who have it.

It's vacation season right now, so our pool of investigators temporarily dropped this last week. So we had the opportunity to do a lot more finding activities. Muscles I didn't know I had were sore! We were able to visit some more members this week as well. I love getting to know and build relationships with the members here. The members in Korea are so strong!!! They have such amazing testimonies and stories of their conversion. I was able to share with them, our less actives, and our investigators the importance of reading the B.O.M everyday. I would relate to them two ways (on top of starting and ending with a prayer) that would help them study the scriptures, instead of just reading them:

First, have a question. Work out in your mind what the answer is, and then read. So many times, I've read the scriptures looking for a specific answer, and it's right there, plain in the scriptures. Sometimes though, or most times, you are inspired, or your thoughts are flooded by an overwhelming "yes" or "no" answer, or just a feeling of peace about the answer you have worked out before hand.

Second, read with the intent that you need to find something in the scriptures to share with someone. It's part of our schedule as missionaries, but I would relate a story about Dad to them about always looking for something to share. I would tell them: When I was a kid, my dad always gave me such great advice, and would always connect it with my situation at the time, or any rough patches I was going through. I would always think, " WOW! My dad is a genius!!!" When I began studying the scriptures, instead of just mindlessly reading words on the page, I began to realize, my Dad was just sharing principles that he had learned from the B.O.M with me.

Miracles: After our weekly planning session, we saw that we were slacking in our other lessons, since most of our investigators are on vacation. We were waaay behind. But that day, we got ALL of the rest of our lessons, for the rest of the week, with two extra days to spare. There was a bus ride, where Elder Lee and I were on different sides of the bus, teaching people, just full on lessons: pamphlets out, having them read scriptures, testifying. I would look over at my companion, and he would look over at me, i thought "this is amazing." On that one bus ride, we both placed B.O.M's and set up return appointments (the return appointment qualifies it as a lesson, or else you're just talking a lot.) It went like that the rest of the day, just one after the other!

If you think you can accomplish something, and you make plans and work hard, you'll most likely get that thing done. But if you put your trust in the Lord... you can accomplish so much more. Because it's not you, you're just an instrument in his hands.

I love all of you. I'm waiting on Comic Con pics and stories btw....! :) So jealous.

Let me leave you with something else that happened to me on Thursday. As I was walking to service, going over some phrase I was trying to learn, it just hit me so strong, the power of your prayers for me. I could feel them literally pushing me forward, keeping me safe, protecting me. Thank you sooo much.

-Elder Reyes

Week 5 in Korea

So Mondays are usually my P-days. But we went to the temple today, so yesterday was a regular proselyting day. It's a blessing that it was. We walk one way out of our apartment to go to the Church, and another way to go do e-mail. Since yesterday was a regular day, we were going to the church to grab some materials, and there it was, on top of a bunch of junk..... A GUITAR!!!!! I picked it up, expecting to see a cracked neck, or a broken bridge,but it was in good shape. I looked around, and there was a lady putting other junk on the curb, she yells "Just take it." I did. It was dusty, and the strings were rusted, but I just threw some pledge on it and took the strings off, hoping to get some strings later on in the week. It just so happens, we pass by three music stores in the area we were visiting some less-actives. And it just so happens, that when my foreign mission card wouldn't work, I had EXACTLY enough cash to buy a new set of strings. I'm meant to have a guitar I guess. I strung it up during lunch, and after a long day of contacting, we came back to our apt, and there it was...our house finally felt like a home! It works wonders to let loose at the end of the night.

Like I said last week, we did run into a member after emailing, and they wanted to buy us food, but we were running late so we had to turn it down.

So this week:

I met a kid on a bus ride back from interviews two Saturdays ago. His name is Lee Moon Hock. I called him that Monday, and the second he picks up, and I explain who I am, He says" I want to meet again. I want to come to your church. I grew up Buddhist, and I've always had a good feeling when I look at Christian churches." I ask when he's good to meet, "I'm on school vacation, there's a place I study for a little bit, but then I'm free the whole rest of the day." WOW! I got goosebumps. We scheduled to meet the next day.

Then the next morning, finally got a hold of Na Kwang Yeoul, the man who miraculously found Elder Hafen and I when we were on exchanges. When I called him at night, he had never picked up, so I tried calling in the morning, and right away he answers, "WHEN can we meet!" So I was feeling great that morning. Everything was falling into place. But then we get a text from Lee Moon Hock... "Sorry, my mom won't let me go to your church." My heart was broken. My companion tried to cheer me up, saying that it happens all the time. But I didn't want to give up on someone this excited and this prepared. I suggested texting him back and seeing if we can go to the place where he studies, and just teach him there . He texts back, "Sure, I'm 20 minutes away from where you are, is that okay?" We tell him that we're on our way. Right before we're about to get on the bus to go and meet him he calls us, "You know what, I really want to see your church. I'm on my way over to you!"

He has no concept of God, and even the word itself is a bit strange to him, but he's as smart as a tack, and really enjoyed learning about the restoration. When we tried to give him a Book of Mormon to take home, he said his mom would freak out if she found it. He said, "What parts do you want me to read, I'll read it now." It was amazing, he ended up reading more than we asked hm too as well. I constructed a false cover for a Book of Mormon so it looks like a Disney story book, and we'll be giving it to him soon.

We finally got to meet with Na Kwang Yeoul on Thursday. My companion was a little skeptical, with what Elder Hafen and I have told him about Na and his friends. But when we got there, Na himself explained the story to Elder Lee, and affirmed, that it was "A miracle that I saw those two walking. I just had to invite them in, I know they were sent from God." The lesson went so well with him and his friend, that Elder Lee was just so excited afterward. Na even made sure it's okay to call us if he has any questions WHEN he reads the B.O.M. He's so committed. He went to China this last Sunday, but is excited to come to church and "See what the members are like."

We lost an investigator who had committed to Baptism after her mom put the ixnay on it. But after we saw her for the last time, I began to think. Maybe she really hadn't had a spiritual testimony, maybe she is just really nice. Our investigators need to use the tools we give them in order to receive that answer. Sometimes, we need an experience like how we met Na Kwang Yeoul, to really build our faith. So the next day, Elder Lee and I wanted to go tract somewhere we never had before. We wanted to go to this park, but we got super lost. We ended up seeing people walking through these huge rice paddies. We decide to go through there. But the further we got, the less people there were. And pretty soon we were surrounded by rice patties for over a mile in every direction.

We only talk to two people in about two hours of walking through some of the most amazing scenery (I didn't have my camera!!!), with some huge bugs and huge plants that make me feel like I'm in Wonderland. We finally get out of the rice fields, and I'm a bit disappointed. It felt like kind of a waste. But who do we see at the bus stop? Lee Moon Hock! He asks "What were you doing in there?" We tell him, we have no idea. But that we were probably meant to see him.

Ok, running out of time, glad to hear from all of you! Free and Joe, send me some comic-con pics and stories!!!!

Elider Reyes

P.S Happy Birthday ISSA! I sent you a card last week, hopefully it gets there in time for Sat. Also, this computer is gnarly, so feel free to correct any typos.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Monday, 2 August 2010

Week 4 in Korea

I don't know what it is about emailing my family, but the last two times I did, we ran into members who want to buy us food. 2 weeks ago, we ran into a less-active that we visit all the time, because he works on Sundays. He bought us Baskin Robbins ...Baskin Robbins ROCKS here in Korea! So different, but so good. I had Blueberry Oatmeal ice cream, so rich and delicious... and it kinda sounds healthy so I went with it.

Then last week, which was the only P-Day so far that I've gotten to wear regular clothes, (since we were going to a Zone Activity afterward), a lady starts yelling, "Elders! Elders!" Across a huge intersection.

At first I didn't know how she recognized us in street clothes, but then I realized, "Oh yeah, we're still wearing name tags!" Anyway, her daughter served a mission, and she goes to a ward 20 or so minutes away in Puchun. She leads us into a bakery, Paris Baguette (kinda like Portos), and tells us to grab whatever we want. I grab a couple of items and then she says to grab WAAAY more than that. I filled my tray with like 12 bucks worth of stuff, but she wanted me to grab more. "There's no more room on the tray." I've got my fingers crossed for this week.

This week I went on exchanges with one of my Zone Leaders, Elder Grant. I learned so much from him. He served in the area I'm serving in now for a long time, .with my companion now. He got to give me some great insight on the members in Siheung, and on my companion too. He definitely gave me some pointers on being more bold when contacting people on the street, especially when street boarding. When we exchanged back, me and my companion literally doubled the amount of people we were able to contact before during street boarding. I'd venture out, and really use all of my efforts to get people to stop and talk. I wouldn't know what they're saying half the time, but I progressed so much, just because I'm forced to blurt out everything I know in Korean to figure out what kind of needs they have, and what part of the Restoration I can relate back to their lives, or get them to think about.

Later on in the week, I ran into a man while passing out English Class fliers. I saw him eying me the whole time. I thought to myself, "This guy wants to Bible bash." I could feel it. The second he walked up, bad vibes all around. Even though he was respectful, I could tell how skeptical he was of me, and how he was trying to get me to slip up or something. He spoke English to me, and I would try to speak English back to him, but had to explain what I was saying in Korean afterward, if he didn't understand. He kept asking me about "posters."

"Where's the poster? Do you have a poster?" Why was he obsessed with some poster?
"Where did you see this poster?" I said.

I thought maybe he saw some anti-Mormon propaganda or something. "No, a poster, of someone who talks to people." After 5 minutes of this awkward back and forth, even him spelling out P-O-S-T-E-R, and me explaining that we believe both the Bible and The Book of Mormon to be the word of God, and that they work together in testifying of Christ, I was getting nowhere on the "Poster" subject.

I had convinced him that, yes, we are indeed Christian. But he kept going back to "Where is your poster. Does your Church have a poster?" "Yes, we have lots of things with pictures on them." I'd say. What are you trying to say, tell me in Korean! I speak Korean. I don't know what you're talking about." Finally, he tells me. "OOOOOOOOOOOoooooh! You mean a PASTOR!"

I'm glad that got cleared up, and I think I surprised him that I was so respectful, and willing to answer all of his (trying to be sneaky) backhanded questions.

This last Thursday, we met again with these two investigators we meet with every Tuesday and Thursday to teach them 30/30, half English, half gospel. They're both Korean teachers. Sister Park and Sister Im. And they're super nice, and very devout Presbyterians. They've heard a lot of weird things from their friends about our church, since we've been teaching them. But they know we're nice, and they feel there's a reason they met us. The last time we met them, we told them, "Write down everything you've heard about our Church that's bothering you. And we'll discuss that the next time we meet." Sister Park brought 7 things she wanted cleared up: The fact that we believe God, Jesus Christ and The Holy Ghost are three separate beings. That we don't believe in "hell." Plural marriage, etc. This is something that if not handled correctly, could feel like a Bible bash. But the big thing being handed down from the First Presidency, is to establish correct expectations, and resolve misconceptions from the start.

We were able to explain so simply and lovingly our beliefs on the subjects using both the B.O.M and The Bible. It was amazing to see their countenance change so much. Every time we'd explain something, they'd sigh with relief. Or give a "Wow! That does make sense."

At the end of it, Sister Park took back her list of questions, and put huge X's through all of them! And gave us a big satisfied smile. I've never been so happy to see someone cross something out before.

We've got to be up front about what we have, and what we believe. When explained in the right setting, with the Spirit there, it all does make perfect sense. But more importantly, the Spirit can testify of the truth of it.

Glad Mom and Issa's trip went alright. Dallen is gonna love the MTC! I miss it. More prayers per square foot than anywhere else I can think of. I miss you all, especially just the little things.

Send me a line, let me know how everyone is doing.

-Elder Reyes