Monday, 29 November 2010

Week 21

First off, I wanted some Thanksgiving pics...where they at?!

Ok, so I'm writing this email right after eating upwards of 40 bucks worth of meat (like I said, the members here are amazing)... so I'm a little loopy. My English has gotten bad enough as it is. So this will be interesting.

Anyway. Thanksgiving was a blast. We ate a lot. Relaxed, played some card games. But still, it didn't feel like Thanksgiving without being with my family. It just felt like a day that I had to travel a lot. It's funny how "relaxing/eating" for a few hours is the closest thing we get to a vacation as a missionary. But that's good, it means we're focused on the work. 

We spent it with the Ratta family, who have been in Korea the past decade. The mom teaches Spanish and English here in Korea. She's a mean cook, she cooked enough for twenty people, even though there were only ten of us missionaries. I went right for the stuffing, and didn't look back. Aside from McD's and BK, this is the most legit American meal I've had. We had a little scare with one of the Elders in our District who had to be taken to the hospital. He thought there was something wrong with his heart, but after some tests they determined he's actually been having panic attacks. It was so weird, his companion looked so torn between eating the piece of pie he had on his plate, and taking his companion to the hospital.

It was a lot of fun, but the best part was the bus ride home. I was already in the food coma position, and I wanted to just find an empty set of chairs and sleep off the turkey. But for these long bus rides you have to sit in your assigned seat first and if there are empty seats then you can move around.

So a guy sits next to me, and now all I can think is find an empty seat. Bus starts moving and there are tons of them. But I feel glued to the seat. Here's a perfect opportunity to share the gospel... and all I can think about, and all my body is screaming at me is "SLEEP!" But I couldn't do it. I said a little prayer and started talking to him.

He was decked out in his army fatigues (there's a base in my area), so like the half-conscious missionary searching the right thing to say in Korean I ask, "Are you coming back form work." He looks at me like I'm stupid, because obviously he's in the military.

But we get to talking, and we become good friends. We talk about our families, and about an hour in or so I've exhausted all of my Korean ability, explained all about our church, and the Book of Mormon. And then I just ran out pf stuff to say. Luckily, he speaks English pretty well, so some of the small talk went a lot easier. We show each other family pics, and he sees some of the band pics. It tell him that whole story, and after a while he asks, "Why did you stop being in a band, that seems like the life?" I simply tell him that "this work is more important." It hits him hard. I can see it stewing in his head. As we near the stop, I give him a Book of Mormon. I give him one of our pass along cards with our number on it, and he says "Whoa, I got one of these yesterday." But he didn't realize they were missionaries. He asks for my name, and since they aren't allowed to have cell phones, says that when he gets time he really wants to meet, and will call us. Then he says, "Thank you for the book..." he looks me in the eye, and says, " I know this is really important."

It really sunk into him that the missionaries give up a lot to go on a mission and tell people about The Book of Mormon, and how it has blessed their lives. He may not have a full testimony, he may not even ever call, but the seed is planted. And he, at the very least, has a testimony that yes, that book is important, even if he doesn't fully understand 'why' yet. Hopefully that turns into a real testimony. You can only rely on the testimony of others for so long.

Ok, so I've got a bunch of pictures to send so I've gotta go. Miss you all, and I want pics.

-Elder Reyes


Sunday, 21 November 2010

Week 20

Wun-ju is intense. I seriously feels like I was pushed out of a moving car, and just had to hit the ground running. There is never a minute where we're not busy, or I don't feel this huge sense of urgency to get out  and share the gospel. So you can only imagine how I feel when I have to ride a bus for 2 and a half hours to get to special meetings in Seoul. Not just once, but SIX times!

We end up having to wake up at 4:25 in the morning to make it to the meetings on time. So they keep the bus pitch black so everyone can sleep. People riding the bus are so proper and upright when they sleep. They keep themselves dignified, clasp their hands together and assume some type of sunbathing like position. I, on the other hand, am too sleepy to have any control over what my body needs to do to get comfortable on the bus. My jacket, scarves and gloves are tossed around me like a bomb exploded. My face is buried in between reclined chairs, my butt is sticking up in the air like a dog digging for bones, and since I use my arms like make-shift pillows, my limbs shoot out from under me like weeds. Is there such a thing as bus lagged?

Ok, so pretty amazing week. We took one of our young men out for an ENTIRE day of missionary work. We knew it would be busy. And we knew we had a couple of meal appointments planned. But as I said last week, people just keep feeding us. We had FOUR meals... huge MEALS... and I thought this poor kid was going to vomit. We had appointments all day, visited a member in the hospital, looked for non-existent addresses, ya know, usual missionary stuff. As we often have to do, we literally ran from appointment to appointment... fool of food. He was great during the lessons, too. And since he spent half his life in America, he is completely fluent in both languages, which helps me a lot. We met a woman who we thought may be a little hostile. When my companion talked to her on the phone before, she seemed to think our Church was heretic. But what we didn't know, is in between that time, she had picked up one of our pamphlets on The Gospel of Jesus Christ. After reading about what we believe, all of her concerns about us were solved. She was super nice, and just loves our Church, and is excited to learn.

By the time we had the fourth meal we were all hurting pretty bad. But you cannot refuse food, unless you want to lose the trust you've built with your investigators and members. That's just how the culture is. So our last meal was with our Branch President at his house, and we had a family investigating the church with us. I was getting tunnel vision from all the food I was eating. I put my best face on, while my stomach was doing somersaults. To make it worse, the bathroom was right next to where we were eating... not fun.

On the cab ride back I thought for sure Kevin, the member we brought with us the whole day, would ask us not to invite him out again. It had been an exhausting day, and we were all on the verge of losing all four of our meals on the ride back. But to my surprise, he turned to me and said, "So when can I come and help you Elders again?"

In church yesterday, me, my companion, and Kevin all spoke. Kevin bore a great testimony about his experience with us. This work is hard, and in ways you don't imagine it will be, but it's amazing.

There are so many more things that happened this week, but I just can't write them all. Just know that I am praying for you everyday.

I wish you an early Happy Thanksgiving. My Zone will have a Thanksgiving meal with an American family, so I can't wait for that. But I know I will be missing you all, because I can just imagine the family together. So take lots of pictures, and be sure to send 'em my way.

-Elder Reyes

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Last Days in Siheung

Week 19: Transfer!

Transfer calls came... and I went. I am now in 원주 "wun-ju". I am in the mountains, but I'm in a much more populated area. Also, this house was a four-man house before, so it's GINORMOUS!!! My new companion, Elder Sung and I each have our own bathroom, and there's a room that's completely empty. It's on the fifteenth floor, so we have an amazing view of the city. The living room (i have a living room now), let's out into two huge glass doors. When I workout in the morning it's dark, and I literally watch the sunrise every morning. I've got the mountains behind the city scape, and it's so peaceful. The air, so clean. The Branch members are great, and there are so many investigators!!! I went from having three in Siheung, to over 30 here in Wun-Ju. It's hard to keep up. The people here keep feeding us, too. I haven't gone a day, not one, where lunch or dinner, or both, aren't provided or paid for by somebody. Today, as a matter of fact, investigators are taking us out for lunch and dinner. This place is magical. Even people we just contact on the street are like, "You're American? You're a missionary. How do you make money? You don't? Let me but you food."
It was also my companions birthday on Sunday, so our fridge is full of cake, and all sorts of other goodies. Most of which he can't eat because he's lactose intolerent. A lot of cake to eat. Elder Sung and I get along so great. We love all of the same music. We surprise each other everyday with the obscure bands we both love. He's my first non-native companion... but he is Korean. So he is one of the best non-native speakers, and he can actually explain how the grammar works instead of just saying, "I don't know, that's just how it is." I feel I'm progressing so much quicker now.
Leaving Shiheung was definitely bittersweet, though. I finally knew every member's full name (Brother Kim doesn't do when there's 12 of them), and I could get around  most everywhere. Also, they had a baptism yesterday. But guess who replaced me! My MTC companion, Elder Hilton. So I was really glad he would get a baptism his first week in Shiheung. The Elder before me left a baptism, so it's only fitting that I leave one for the next Elder. I talked to Elder Hilton this morning and he said he's been getting yelled at by the ward members for "not being Elder Reyes." He asks them that since he was my companion in the MTC if it makes the matter better... he said they say  "No." Haha! I know they will love him though.
I was definitely at peace leaving Shiheung, I think I needed the change. There hasn't been a slow minute here in Wun Ju. It's always go, go, go. It feels great crashing down in your bed at night, absolutely exhausted.
Here's something weird I discovered here: When I tell people my name is Reyes, they say, "Oh, that's funny. That translates to 'Yes, again."  No one ever told me that in Siheung. So I looked it up and  레 " The :"ray" sound is Reyes means re- or again. And 예스, just sound like the English "yes". But 예 on its own has several meanings. One is "example," and the others are "old days," "ancient," and.... "time". So within my name in Korean is... Time Again!!!!
Just another sign that I am where I need to be.
-Elder Reyes
PS: I will send pics of the new place when I get rid of the clutter.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Week 18 in Korea

Ok, so me and my companion had a bit of a slow week, and then yesterday just turned everything around. It felt like we couldn't give away Book of Mormons fast enough. Ok, well, three. But still, in the empty streets of Siheung and within an hour's time, three is huge! And all with appointments to meet again. Also, we have another baptism this Sunday, but we're waiting on the parent's permission to move forward, so we're doing a lot of praying. But, there's a good chance I won't be here for it. Transfer calls are tonight, so... we'll see. I have a day of bowling and dodging the rain to keep my mind occupied before then.

The weather here has been crazy. On Friday it was so foggy that we could barely see the apartment building next to us. I asked my companion, 'Do you think it's gonna be cold?' He said, "Nah, since it's foggy, that means it'll be sunny when the afternoon comes." I thought to myself, well he's a native, so he must be right.... It was foggy and cold for the next 3 days straight... day and night. Nothing but fog. It cleared up this morning because of the massive lightning storms last night.

Alright, I forgot to mention last week: one of the happiest, if not the happiest I've been on my mission. We visited Lee Hyun Su and his wife, and of course, they were so happy. Even better though, Brother Lee told us that he refused some alcohol that his co-workers were pressuring him to drink while at dinner. He was so happy that he was
able to do it. Also, his wife said when she came home that night, he was studying the Book of Mormon on his own! Even better yet, his brothers who he wanted to share the gospel with have really noticed the change in him. At first Lee's brothers thought our church was a cult, but after seeing what a positive influence the church and its teachings have made on their big brother, they asked " Maybe we need to go too?!" To top it all off... yesterday, he recieved the Aaronic Priesthood.

It's so amazing what a difference a "willingness to believe" makes. I've met so many people on the street who seemed more prepared than him, eg. they have great questions about the gospel, or have had greater spiritual experiences than he had before he was baptized. But they aren't willing to fully believe, or commit. Ultimately, they don't progress. Then Lee Hyun Su comes, and I was a little skeptical at first. I thought he was just taking the lessons to please his wife... but the change in his countenance is so undeniable, he has truly been blessed because of his willingness to believe.

"...blessed are they who believe without being compelled to be humble...blessed is he that believeth the word of God, and is baptized without stubborness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know before they will believe." -Alma 32:16

Love you all! If you send me quick lines, tell me what's going on in
our lives, and I'll try to respond to all of them. Eveybody! Let me
know how you're doing!!!

-Elder Reyes

PS: Give my early Happy Birthday wish to Josh!!!! I'll get to email a
couple days before his b-day... what's his email address???  I know
Gizelle's and Auntie Cecile's are coming up too (exact dates(?))...
was PJ's in July and I totally forgot? Shoot... if so, sorry. I love
my family, that's all I gotta say.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Week 17 in Korea

I thought this week would just fly by, with exchanges on Monday, Temple/P-Day on Tuesday, and District meeting on Wednesday. But alas, (that's right, I said alas) it went by really slow.

That's just what happens though. But as I look back, things seem fast. I'll hit my 6 month mark in country at the beginning of next year. They say that's when you really begin to understand and speak the language. At times I feel I'm not progressing in speaking, but I'm able to understand a lot more. Other times, I feel completely comfortable speaking. It just depends on the situation, I guess. But either way, it's fun and scary.

The scariest thing is the mission itself is going through some big changes. My MTC group was the first group to come into the combined Seoul/Seoul West mission. And they're really pushing my group to "pass off" (the program that allows you to become a senior) by the end of this transfer... a.k.a next week. Apparently the mission is gonna get waaay more new elders than we have trainers for, so they want us on our own (same age missionaries together), and perhaps even training! That would be rough. Haha!

I was talking to some elders about our brothers and their missions. It was great getting to talk about James in Russia. As I was explaining how cold it was, the months of no sunlight, and the months of only sunlight, not to mention a stolen identity, all of us Elders realized how easy we have it here in Korea. People can be jerks, yes. But at least there aren't crooked cops or the mafia to deal with. The only thing we have to deal with is all of our food in the fridge smelling like Kimchee.

And when people are mean, or people don't come to appointments, I can understand why missionaries get discouraged. But I don't mind at all. Every minute we spend with a person who isn't prepared, is a minute we've lost in finding and teaching people who are.

I feel that applies to life after and before the mission as well. I felt that way about school (sorry Mom.) I felt is this what I'm supposed to be doing. Where will this lead me. Then eventually in the band I felt the same way, that same uneasiness. Every minute I wasn't preparing myself to go on a mission, and to do the Lord's work felt like a waste. There's always good, and there's even better. But when you align your will with the Lord's... it's the best.

-Elder Reyes