Monday, 31 January 2011

Week 30

Last week I talked about being led by the Spirit without knowing. I know God truly puts us into the places we need to be. Last week, I said my companion lost our phone. And I also explained that we were going to meet an inactive man named Jeoung-Chul that day. How are the two connected?

So  on Monday, after I emailed, we had our usual P-day, shopping cleaning, and writing letters. Jeoung-Chul was the only appointment we had for that night, and he lives so far we really didn't have anything else on the plan. When we were about to grab a taxi, we called him to confirm again, and he said, "Oh, I can't today. I called you last night but you never answered or called back." He called during the time when our phone was in our Branch President's car. We and our district leader made several calls to it so we didn't notice Jeoung Chol's call among the dozen or so of our own.

So we were already half way to the church, and we had a lot of time now, so we decided to call one of the Single adults and ask him if he wants to eat with us. We named a place, and he said he'd meet us at the church first. We hadn't planned on going to the church at all. And if we had gotten Jeoung Chol's call, we would have made other plans elsewhere, or just stayed out of the cold, and call potential investigators.

Anyway, we get into the Church, and WHOA! Water everywhere. The day before, the upstairs pipes were frozen, so they left the heaters on... but they also left the kitchen sink on full blast. The water melted, and the faucet with nothing coming out then, was now spitting out gallons of water, for likely the last 24 or so hours. The water poured downstairs, and filled nearly all the rooms with 2 or 3 inches of water. The back entrance had huge sheets of frozen ice. I was slipping everywhere. We got snow shoves and brooms and just started pushing the water out, thousands of gallons at time. Our friend showed up and helped us, and our branch president came and wet/dry vac'ed the rooms with carpet. We spent the entire night there. As we were shoveling water out it would keep freezing!!!! It was that cold. When we would brake up the ice, and there was a lot of it, it sounded like were were breaking and shoveling glass everywhere. After over three hours of non-stop frantic work we got all the water out, and just had to let everything dry out.

If my companion hadn't left the phone in the car, we would not have been at the church that night. There would have been so much water, that the doors would have completely frozen shut. Everything is fine now, you can't even really tell that there was that much water everywhere.

Ok, so on Wednesday i received another greenie. There were 20 new missionaries. My trainer, was also training again, after four long transfers of being in the office. It was not as surreal as the first time, but it just felt good to be training alongside my trainer.

My streak of four Korean companions ends with my new companion. His name is Elder Hall, from Springville, UT! When they called our names, I yelled, "MY first white companion." Also, he's 6'3"! They put the shortest brown guy with the tallest pale guy. Fun times.

It's the first time I can speak better Korean than my companion since I've come to Korea (for obvious reasons). The branch loves him. Yesterday they all kept ripping on him though, but I think they're just really excited to have another new missionary. They would sarcastically tell him, "Wow! You're really good at English."

It's been a bit of a whirlwind for his first week. We've had someone take us to lunch or dinner everyday since he's been in Korea. And we have another one today too. We saw a man eat it on a bicycle his second day. And we saw a man get nailed while riding a scooter... DON'T worry, we helped them. But it's pretty scary.

It weird not having that crutch, or that reassurance that there's someone next to you who speaks the language perfectly. It's now a couple of really young missionaries together, but I know that because we are on the Lord's errand, we our entitled to the Lord's help.

-Elder Reyes 

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Week 29

Funny story...

I'M TRAINING AGAIN! We got our transfer calls a night early, because some of our Zone is going to the Temple tomorrow since they didn't go two weeks ago. The whole time I was thinking I'd get transferred, and I was treating yesterday as my last Sunday in Won-ju. It felt great, and it would have been a fine way to end my time here. Yesterday, 5 less-active members came to church! It was amazing. We had an investigator come to Sunday school before sacrament meeting, and it turns out his mom and the Sunday school teacher were friends in high school!

The day was amazing, except for the very end of the day, right before we were gonna head home. Even though it was snowing like crazy, we still hit all of our goals for the day.  By the end of the night, it had and was still snowing so hard that all the parked cars looked like giant marshmallows. We had dinner with our branch president at a less-active's house, and our branch president dropped us off at a taxi station. We get out, walk twenty yards or so and my companion says, "I think I just dropped the phone." I ask, "in the snow or in the car?"   He responds... "I don't know."

We look around and can't find it. My companion is freaking out, (I just started letting him hold the phone like a week and a half ago.) Long story short, after a bunch of back and forth phone calls between us (on a phone at a fried chicken place) and our DL, we find out that our phone was in the car, and end up getting home super late, with our Branch President waiting in front of our apt with our phone.

We get the transfer call maybe 8 or 9 minutes later, and I answer, my Mission President tells me the transfer news for the first time entirely in Korean, "Hello Elder Reyes. Did you find your phone?." "I believe so." "Ah. Ok, well you will be a trainer once again, and continue serving in Won-Ju." My companion hears this and goes wide-eyed, then he explains where my companion is going and Elder Yoo just throws himself on the chair, and wallows around the house the rest of the night. I wish we could have had more time together, we were both hoping to get to stay together, we're learning so much from each other.

I call my ZL, who already heard the news, and he picks up the phone and just laughs, " Ahaha ha ha! Again? I still haven't trained and I go home after this transfer!"

Ok, with that out of the way. I was in Seoul on Monday for a Leadership Training meeting, and we received some great training on asking inspired questions, listening, not being afraid of silence, and waiting for the promptings of the Spirit to discern their concerns.

Later that week, we are teaching a man who we've met a few times. At first we thought he didn't have much interest, because he wouldn't take a copy of the Book of Mormon. We planned to drop him as an investigator, but the last time we met him he had some great questions about what happens to us after this life, so we taught him the Plan of Salvation. When we tried to give him a pamphlet, he said, " I still need more time, before I can accept something like that."

So this last time, we focused on God, and the Book of Mormon. At the end of the discussion, I told him, "I know you didn't accept this last time, but we want to give you The Book of Mormon." We explained that everything we're teaching hinges on whether or not this book is true. We re-explained the promise in Moroni 10, and that if you pray to God with real intent, you can know through the Holy Ghost...

Again, he didn't accept it. He said, "I need more time. Later I will accept it." I asked, "What are you expecting to happen between now and 'later?' "He said he didn't know. I didn't respond, I just waited. The man squirmed in his chair, then just looked down at the table. The silence was definitely uncomfortable for him, but it was one of the most peaceful and clear moments of my life. I felt the Spirit prompt me to ask this, "You haven't told your wife you're meeting with us. That's why you can't take any of this home. Is that right?" As I said this, he looked up at me and said with a quiver in his voice, "Yes. I haven't told her." And then let out a big sigh.

Often times, we are being lead by the Spirit without realizing it. Like in Siheung, a 15 year old kid just coming up to me on the street and telling me he's a member of our Church. I'm so grateful we were able to reactivate him. The same type of things happened in Won-Ju, after a 2/12 hour bus ride from Seoul, a man came up to us and said the same thing, "Hey, I'm a member of your church." (We're meeting him for the third time today). I could have been walking down any street, a number of things could have put me and my companion on a different bus, but we were just put in the right place at the right time.

Other times, like with this man not telling us his real concern, the Spirit can be felt so strongly, and you can be guided so specifically, in what to say or do.

Either way, as long as we are striving to be worthy of the Spirit, we will be guided.

-Elder Reyes

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Week 28

I remember saying to myself during the summer... "I can't wait till it gets cold." Yesterday was negative 16 below Celsius. I can't wait till it's hot again. But at least there's no mosquitoes right now, right?

Yesterday (and pretty much the whole last week) I've had hand warmers shoved into my gloves, thermals, dress shirt, sweater, suit, fleece, jacket, earmuffs, and a scarf wrapped around my face... in other words, I look like a very overweight, non stealthy ninja. We were walking around and I thought, "this isn't so bad." And then my companion pointed to the scarf covering my mouth, it was completely covered in icicles!

Of course this doesn't compare to the type of cold James experienced in Russia, nor have I been bitten by a dog, or had my identity stolen... but it still felt pretty bad.

So this week was pretty amazing, we got a baptismal date, and we had another new person come to church yesterday! But the first part of the week was spent outside of my area again, so it was a little rough trying to catch up on everything.

I finally got to snag a picture with my trainer, me, and my trainee at the Temple. I feel bad cause I had two other chances to do it, but that was when I was on the brink of passing out when I was sick. So we were at the temple, and I finally met the Filipino Elder actually from the Philippines(he's the first to come to Korea!), who was supposed to come to Korea when we came, but they had tons of visa issues. He just got here 2 weeks ago!!! His mission is a 1/4 over and he just started. He started speaking to me in Tagalog (sp? sorry, bad Filipino) and I just said, "t'sup Elder. I don't speak Tagalog, sorry." Later on, outside the Temple, I hear Elder Mejia (the Filipino from Australia, my MTC buddy) yelling, "Elder Reyes, come here! We need a picture." I see him standing next to the other Filipino Elder. I yell back (not too loud cuz we're at the Temple but...) "I sense a theme here. Was I supposed to bring lumpia?"

We hung out around Seoul the rest of the day. And it snowed like crazy. We were running around, sliding in the powder. It felt amazing. Our Zone took a four hour bus ride to our ZL's area, and luckily I just got dad's package full of goodies that made the bus ride go so much faster. BTW, thanks for the ties as well, I'm wearing one right now.

When we go back to my area, I was on exchanges with my District Leader, Elder Rowe. It just so happened that most of the lessons were people were people I am teaching 30 min guitar 30 min gospel to. Elder Rowe doesn't play guitar, but by the end of the day, he was telling people what they were doing wrong too.

One of the lessons we talked all about baptism. At the end of the lesson we talked again about prayer. I felt our investigator think, "oh, here we go again." But it was a blessing though, I was prompted to explain that the reason we go over it in every lesson, is because it is absolutely vital in gaining a testimony of this gospel. I testified that God wants to hear from him. The Spirit filled the room, the whole atmosphere changed, I know he felt it too, we committed to be baptized next month. He said yes without hesitation.

If I don't pray in the morning, or before I go out, it's like going out into the freezing cold without clothes on. We need the protection that comes from prayer. We need to communicate with our Heavenly Father as often as we get the chance.

I will be praying for you as always.
-Elder Reyes

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Week 27

On January 5th, I hit my 6 month mark in Korea! So 9 months total. Of course it wasn't some crazy party or anything, I just hit the streets as usual. I didn't even have time to send texts to my MTC group to remind them, but I'm guessing they realized. My first day in Korea, my Mission President told me that people usually start really being able to understand and use the language when they hit their 6 month mark. Or course it's not some magical day where you become fluent.

After my first couple of months in Korea, I thought, "6 months... NO way!" The language is a beast. But since I've become a trainer, I truly have been blessed. I'm focused like I never have been, I'm praying harder than I ever have, and I'm not wasting a second. My learning truly is being quickened through diligently relying on the Lord. The weeks coming up to my 6 month mark, I began to see, that it kind of is a magical point in your mission. Especially for my case, training so "young,"and being with a person I'm forced to use Korean 24-7 with. Elder Yoo is such a blessing.

As a missionary you're never focused on yourself. I notice myself progressing only after the fact really. You're always thinking about the people you are teaching, their needs, and your companion, and his progression, and how you can help them become a more effective tool in the Lord's hands. But yesterday, I had a very cool experience with the language. When I first came to Korea it was like someone gave a walky-talky, I hear sounds, but I could only make out a few words. Lately it's like a cell phone that cuts out every few seconds, and you just have to rely on the Spirit to fill in the gaps.
It's like hearing, "I went back to that place you aloiydfgaliufb finally I had to liuawghef and since then I've been much better."
Every now and then you hear words that sound like other words so you think you're hearing:
 "Can you give that grape juice I asked you to fill out? If you're finished with it I can give it to the circus bear climate actor building place."

Yesterday, we brought one of our new investigators to church, and I introduced him to a couple of sisters in our ward who are English teachers here in Korea. One is Hawaiian, and the other is from New Zealand. Neither of them speak Korean, so I sat by them and said I would attempt to translate for them. The first speaker went up, Kevin, who is actually fluent in both languages, and spoke, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to convey any of the stuff he was talking about past the first 30 seconds of explaining what he was gonna talk about, and why it was a difficult subject. I whispered to the Sisters, " Sorry, he's giving analogies and he's using a ton of words I don't know... but he's speaking about unity."

So Kevin finished, and came down to translate for them. The next speaker went up and he wasn't translating for them. "Kevin, translate!" He whispered, " I can't, I'm not as fluent as you think." "YOU'RE completely fluent!"

So the final speaker was a member of the Stake presidency, and right before he got up to speak, Kevin had to go quiet down the young men who were literally punching each other (of course one of them was Gun-Ha, our recent convert/trouble maker). So I said a little prayer, and said " ok, Let's give this another try."

I was able to translate most of his twenty-minute talk. Again, the speaking in analogies and constantly quoting other people threw me off sometimes, but I was amazed I was able to do it.

Afterward, I thought to myself, ok, 6 months... the magical mark.

This was a pretty amazing week, despite it being painfully cold. Literally, your talk gets numb from the cold, and it throws off your pronunciation!!! So bad. But we got a lot of investigators progressing, especially the ones we picked up this week.

Sometimes it takes big moments to recognize how far you've come. But you will only progress through hard work, and continually building and exercising your faith. I will soon hit my one year mark as a missionary, and around the same time I'll hit my 25 year mark as a person, as a son, as a brother, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

-Elder Reyes

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Week 26

I got to see and meet Elder Yoon Hwan Choi of the Seventy yesterday for our "Mission Tour". He spoke to us for like 4 hours.... it was great! He did that talk a few General Conferences ago, "I like loud boys," about those rowdy kids in his neighborhood in Korea who eventually all got baptized and served missions. Anyway, I got to learn so much from him, and received many impressions from the Spirit.

It was really funny because he reprimanded the entire mission for printing small versions of Preach My Gospel, English/Korean side by side. Even our mission President guiltily pulled out his small copy and laughed. After all the explaining of why we're not supposed to have them, Elder Choi picked one up, flipped through one of the side by side copies, and said, "Hey, this IS convenient!!!" Nevertheless, they want us taking notes in the big copies.

Now that I've bored you with those "only missionaries will find that funny" details, thanks Issa and Ka-El for the pics! New Years and Christmas looked like a blast. Everyone looks the same, but different. It's weird. Even Kali looks the same! That girl needs to grow. Sadie is big now though, she looks a lot like Loryn now. And Mike, wow! THAT'S AMAZING. Christmas games looked like a blast. I'll never forget last year's games, I thought I was gonna die laughing.

After the Mission Tour yesterday, we we got our mail, I had the biggest stack! I thought the UT missionaries would have droves of mail, but the kid from Glendale seems to have the best WARD/stake and friends! It made me miss everyone sooo much. It also made the three hour ride back to my area go by a lot faster. But...

I accidentally got sent Elder Unotoa's Christmas Cards from the primary, and I'm guessing he has mine. So I need his mission address, and I can send him those cards directly.

So I finally left the hospital last Thursday. The whole time I was there, the nursing staff only ever saw me in my hospital pajama type wear, unshaven, with needles and tubes sticking in me. So when I finally got all shaved up, showered, and back in my suit and tie, I think it freaked them out a little. I felt like Ron Burgandy, "that dude cleans up good!" 

It feels good to finally be back in my area. My second night back my Branch had a New Year's Eve party. It was so great, and it was amazing how worried everyone was for me. I'm still sad though that I missed the Christmas Party. A lot of less actives came out, and I finally got to introduce my greenie to the branch. Everyone was having so much fun, I haven't seen the Branch that unified before... that's why I didn't have the heart to tell them that they were all eating cake that had coffee in it. My companion and I just politely declined.

We only got a chance to be in our area for 2 1/2 days before we had to get had back to Seoul for that mission tour yesterday. But we were able to pick up 2 new investigators, and my ZL and DL's jaws dropped when they saw how much work we were able to do in such a short amount of time. But it was tough, I'm not gonna lie. My muscles became weak from resting all day in my hospital bed, and the 12 pills a day I'm on make me super tired. Not to mention that me and Elder Eisenhauer got sick of the food mid-way through, and from then on our diet mainly consisted of the taffy the La Crescenta Stake Presidency sent me. 

But I'm finding my strength again, and the joy I get from sharing the gospel is all that I need. We found some really great new people, and Elder Yoo, my new companion, is amazing, truly amazing.

I hope everyone has some good New Year's resolutions. Elder Choi yesterday talked about how the gospel makes people progress. That if someone got up 15 years after being baptized and said, "I haven't changed," then he wasn't truly converted. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ helps us to always better ourselves. Satan's traps are always evolving, and we have to become stronger to fight against them. After I got off the phone with you, I longed for how these were when I left. For "the good ol' days." But I know that when I get back, things won't be the same, I hope everyone is actively trying to better themselves, and draw closer to the Savior. If we do the latter, naturally we will become better, and we will be blessed.

-Elder Reyes

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

I don't know what order it's in but there are hospital pics, with my greenie acting sick, Elder Eisenhauer for some odd reason eating a double quarter-pounder very sensually for our Christmas eve dinner, and Army Base Stew (Bu day Cheegay) I made this morning... SO GOOD.