Monday, September 30, 2013

Hello! (September 30, 2013)


Had a baptism this week! Remember the 이상남 (9-year old kid) that I wrote about maybe one or two weeks ago? Things worked out such that it was best that he get baptized this Sunday, so we kind of had to scramble to get everything ready. Elder Jo told me that it would be a good experience for me to give it, so I did.

Didn't have time to take pictures, but a sister in the ward was acting as photographer, so I'll ask her for some, and probably just sent it back home by mail. Sorry!

The actual baptismal service went well, but the baptism itself was pretty crazy. We didn't explain about baptism very well, and so 이상남 was a little confused. I was in the water, and he came into the font. He immendiately ducked down up to his neck - he was ready to go into the water! We got ready to baptize him, but as I was getting ready to say the prayer, he started to lean back and go into the water.

I guess we never told him that we pray first? So I kind of had to hold him up out of the water (which is the exact opposite reason that I was in the water in the first place...), which other people explained what was going on. He understood, so I said the prayer, and baptized him.

He kicked his legs out of the water, so I had to do it again... as I was getting ready to pray for what felt like the 5th time, he suddenly worried about water getting into his ears, and put both hands over his ears.

There's no way that he could be baptized like that, and so people were trying to tell him not to worry, but he had his hands over his hears.

After awhile, we got things sorted out, and I baptized him. The branch president told me to use one of my legs to block his (I though for a brief moment then that it must look like I'm baptizing him using some sort of judo throw...), so no problems the second time around.

All in all, it probably took like 3-4 minutes in the water, which is much longer than it needed to be. I felt very helpless there - I don't know enough Korean to explain things well to him. Next time, we need to prepare the investigator a little better. But hey, we got a baptism in my first area!

So that's my big news or the week. Giving baptism was a little stressful - maybe someone a little older would have been easier. It was a learning experience, as they say. I felt the Spirit as I was doing the baptismal prayer though, so that's good.

Maybe another reason that it was all a little stressful is because I had to give a talk in church. Didn't have enough time to prepare it all that well (because we had a baptismal service!), so I'm not really happy with it. I did what I could with what I had I guess, but it's too bad that I couldn't give a better talk. Nobody told me that I did a good job after my talk... ;o; Next time, next time.

No time, so real quick - met with some lady who had a heart condition, and is apparently going to die soon. She's a little weird, and is obsessed with going to heaven (she's kind of known in our distirct as "the lady who is going to die soon"). She was really interested in baptism, but we kind of feel like she doesn't have a lot of real intent, if that makes sense.
It kind of feels like she thinks being baptized is an easy way to be guaranteed to go to heaven, and that's why she's so interested; not because she has faith or really believes what we've taught, or whatever.

Needless to say, she's kind of a hard investigator to work with. On one hand, we need to teach her quickly because she's sick, but on the other hand, we don't want to baptize her if she doesn't have faith. I guess we'll see where she goes as we continue teaching her...

Thanks for all you do! Thanks for your prayers! I'll work hard.

- Elder Luke


이상남: I Sangnam, the boy's name.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hello! (September 23, 2013)


This p-day marks roughly my second month in Korea. Time seems to go by pretty fast here, though people tell me it goes by even faster later.

Didn't get a letter from home this week. :(

Oh, and General Conference is coming up! I'm kind of excited, which is strange since I've never been all that pumped for it ("10 hours of hearing people speak...!?"). I'm not sure if I'll get to hear it in English, which means trying to stay awake will be quite the challenge. I'll get to read the talks eventually in English though (all missionaries get the "Liahona").

Not sure what to write about, but here's a couple of snapshots of this week I guess...!

Met one Robert on a bus. He's from Malawi (somewhere in Africa...). He saw us, asked us what we were doing, where we were from, etc. We told him we were missionaries, and he started asking us about the Gospel, what we need to do to be saved, basically asking us what we believe in. We were excited - finally, someone interested (and he doesn't speak Korean, so we got to talk to him in English!)! We got his number, and agreed to meet again later.

It turns out that he's some kind of minister or preacher at a nearby church (He's Presbyterian, I think), and he's here in Korea to finish up some kind of degree in religion. So the lesson didn't go as we had thought it woudl.

Haha, we wanted to teach him about the Restoration, but we were surprised to find out that he wanted to teach us! He totally led the discussion, which was kind of funny (we met at a nearby park, and he opened with "Well, to get to know each other a little better, I would like to hear about you. Where are you from? What do you like to do? Tell me about your family, that sort of thing."). He even offered to say a prayer to start!

Teaching him was a little frustrating, just because he wasn't there to be taught - oh boy, was he ever there to teach. I guess basically, he doesn't believe that prophets are needed after Christ came to the Earth, and he also believes that the Bible is the only book we need to learn about God. He knew the Bible really well, which was impressive - he used a lot of scriptures to explain what he believes, and lay down some serious doctrines on us.

We didn't really get anywhere, but it was still kind of fun. He gave us a commitment to read the entire Bible -_-. I don't know how much he learned about us, and I think he just concluded that we were sincere but confused. He was a really nice man though; he said he was concerned because we didn't study the Bible enough. 

We met for like an hour and a half, with him speaking like 80% of the time. Towards the end, I gave up on teaching, and just tried to focus on bearing testimony and telling him what I know. I felt good about it afterwards, and I'm glad that I didn't try to "Bible-bash" or outsmart him or whatever (not that I would have won anyways!).

Not sure if we're going to every try and meet with him again... we want to help him, but I'm not sure if we wants our help. We'll see!

Met another man who speaks English (yes!). We were at a local college, and met a guy named Amin. He's from Iran, and when Elder Jo asked him about his religion, he said that he believes that there's one God, and that he's looking for Him so he can worship Him. What!?

So we ended up teaching him a little bit, talked about Joseph Smith, how God answered his prayers, and how God can and will answer Amin's prayers. It seemed like Amin wanted to learn more about Christianity in general, rather than our church specifically, but hey. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon (an English copy that Elder Jo just "happened" to bring along!), and he promised to read every line of it.

We haven't been able to contact him, and we know he has to go back to Iran sometime, so we're a little bit worried, since there's obviously no missionaries there. If nothing else, he's got a copy of the Book of Mormon, but we really want to help him in his search for God.

I guess then to conclude...

I'd like to challenge you all to study your scriptures more! Before I came on my mission, I never really studied them - I'd read sometimes, and if I had to prepare to teach or something, I would study, but other than that, pretty much never studied scriptures. But now as a missionary, I've realized how much I don't know about the Gospel. Sure, I tend to know the facts, but the hard questions - the whys, the hows - those I sometimes can't answer.

I feel like there's never enough time to study scriptures out here in Korea. There's always a more that I could understand better, or more that I'm not really sure about. I kind of regret not being more diligent back home, but I guess I didn't really need to study as much and/or I just didn't know any better.

Praying before and during study for understanding helps, as does really wanting to find an answer to your question. It takes a lot of effort and time to study, but really knowing and understanding doctrines plays an important role in being able to testify, I think.

Thank you all for all your love and prayers! I'll keep trying at always working hard.

- Elder Luke


This week we got a letter from Andrew's mission president.  He included several photos of Andrew.  I assume these were taken at the mission office two days after Andrew got to Korea, just after he met Elder Jo.

Elder Jo, Andrew, President and Sister Gilbert.

I think this is the group of missionaries who travelled to Korea together, with their companions, probably in the parking lot / courtyard of the mission office.  Andrew and Elder Jo at the back in the center.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Korea - Week 7! (September 16, 2013)


I just read your letter from Sept 18, and I was suprised to think that Lisa and Daniel have to go to school already. Where did summer go? I guess you've already started school already? What classes are you taking? What's your favorite class? Tell me!

For Mom:

Oh, and in that letter, Mom, you asked me what things I need. A cookbook would be cool, although I haven't done any real cooking so far. Just not a ton of time to do anything fancy. It would be nice to have a cookbook anyway though, if for no other reason, so that I can look at the pictures and imagine what real food is like.

Anyways, dairy products are a little hard to come by and/or are expensive, and I'm not really sure about spices. I assume I can buy the basic stuff here.

As far as other things go, toothpaste would be nice. I bring this up because of a companion exchange I did. I went to another area, but I forgot my toothpaste, so I had to borrow some of my temporary companion's. He said something about this being his last American toothpaste, so I asked him what was wrong with Korean toothpaste. He just said "have you seen their teeth!?" Please send me some toothpaste.

(Other people have said that Korean toothpaste isn't that good too, so that's not the only reason, but, uh... too many old people here with 1/4 of their teeth left).

Oh, and for Dad:

I wouldn't mind getting some of the McMurray's letters every once in awhile. That would be fun!

And I believe "you did well" would be "잘 했어요," in the off-chance you're still interested (you wrote down "에" instead of "어").

For Lisa:

Yes, I know what a hashtag is. You use it for the tweets and stuff. Haven't seen a hashtag in Korea though. I might have heard one; I wouldn't know though. #Koreanishard

For Daniel:

I learned that "누나" ("noona") means "older sister" in Korean. You're welcome!
Anyways, about this week...

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," when it was originally translated into Korean, wasn't translated very well. We met a less-active old woman (baptized maybe 20~30 years ago?), who remembered the old name, which is kind of interesting. The old name was the rather cultish "The Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days," which is probably why it was changed...

We met with one 김태양 this past Sunday. Not sure who he really is, since Elder Jo hasn't really told me when I've asked (we taught him, but I didn't understand him, and Elder Jo didn't really answer when I've asked him...), but we met him on the bus.

Elder Jo was just standing on the bus, and this 김태양 walked up to him, and asked "You're Mormon, right?" (I was sitting down elsewhere at the time, since I was holding stuff, so I missed out on this...). Anyways, he explained that he was really interested in religion - he had been investigating different churches for awhile, and wanted to hear about ours. Elder Jo gave him a "I'm a Mormon" card, a pamphlet, and a Book of Mormon, and he came early to chuch this past Sunday to attend Sacrament meeting, so hopefully, he'll stay interested and keep investigating. And hopefully, I'll be able to understand what he's saying...

이상남 (9 year old investigator) failed the baptismal interview, so no baptism this week. We kind of assumed he know a lot more than he did, which is too bad.We had planned to review the interview questions with him beforehand, but Elder Jo kind of switched what we were doing at the last second. In hindsight, perhaps I should have been a little more insistant on looking over the questions with him, but hey, we know what we need to focus on as far as teaching goes...

But the interviewer, my district leader, said that he really believes in God and Christ, and that he wants to be baptized, so we just need to cover what he doesn't really know, maybe meet him 3-4 more times, and he should be good. Which, now that I think about it, is twice the number of times we met him. I think we both learned something about not assuming what others have learned...

Taught our first lesson out on the street this week. This man was walking, said hi, said that we're missionaryies, and started talking religion. As always, didn't understand, but his main concern was apparently "God is here while I'm on the earth, but when I die, he's gone." It kind of makes sense, but at the same time it doesn't make any sense.

In any case, we gave him a pamphlet, and a Book of Mormon. What makes a lesson a lesson (statistically) is teaching an a prayer. Teaching is doable, but praying with people is a bit hard. Elder Jo asked if we could say a prayer together, and he said no. We talked a bit more, and when Elder Jo asked again about prayer, the man said it would be okay. Couldn't get his number (or name for that number... I asked but he said no thanks), so we have to find him if we want to meet him again. Oh well.

I don't know why I'm saying this, but just because - Elder Jo seems to have a lot of faith in acupuncture. I wasn't feeling that well one day, and he offered to bleed my thumb out, promising that my stomach would feel better. I didn't let him. He wasn't feeling well yesterday, and so he performed some self-acupuncture in our apartment, which is as shady as medical procedures get. He stabbed his thumb, claimed to have let the "bad blood" out, and feels fine today. I'm still not convinced...

I had a lot of time to write today, so just one more quick story - we were running a little late, and we didn't have a lot of time to eat, and so Elder Jo asked me what we could eat. I told him, in all seriousness, "spamwiches," and that's what we ate (fried spam and fried eggs with ketchup on toast. Mm.). That's a sentance that, before, I couldn't have imagined me saying. Missionary work changes people in ways we don't understand.

Aaaanyways, here's a scripture reference that I used to give a spiritual message about patience - Hebrews 11:24-26. Keep an eternal perspective, and things aren't as bad as they seem. Focus on the things you can do, don't worry about things you can't control. Pray a lot, and things just tend to work out.

Oof, long email today.

Thank you for everything you do! <3

-Elder Luke


He says he was reading our letter from September 18; clearly he means August 18.  It looks like the mail is still taking about a month to get to him.

김태양: The man's name.  It's pronounced "gimtaeyang" or "Kim Taeyang" written in more name-ish fashion.

이상남:  I Sangnam, the name of the boy they have been teaching.

사랑햬요: "Love".  (He actually misspelled it; it's really 사랑해요. サルも木から落ちる。)

Monday, September 9, 2013

1st transfer! (September 8, 2013)


It's now been six weeks since I've been in Korea! That's kind of a long time. Tranfers came, but as expected, I'll continue training here in 영도.

I can't remember if I've already mentioned this, but 조 장로님 is very, very old. He's been in 영도 three months before I came, which means he'll have been here six when this next transfer is over. Now that means that I'll likely stay as he leaves, and so I'll have to be responsible for showing my new companion around as the area senior. That's scary! I need to learn a lot more. I can take the bus to and from church, and can walk to the local supermarket, but that's about it. :D

As far as letters go, I got 2 today. Haven't had any time to read them. I'm not sure if the people at the '부 (one elder in my district likes to call it "the 'Boo." I don't know how to actually say "mission headquarters" in Korean...) actually mail letters to apartments, or if I've just happened to visit the mission home frequently enough that it wouldn't make sense to mail.

I guess I've said in my past emails that we don't have any investigators, but that's not really true. We've been teaching one 이상남 ("Ee-Sang-Nam," not sure how to translate Korean names into English). He's around 8-9, and is a nephew of one of the sisters in our ward.

It's been a little weird teaching him - he's a bit antsy, and we have to keep lessons super short to keep his attention. It's not like we can go into a lot of depth anyways, but that's fine, since teaching really basically is all I can do for now. We're planning for his baptism next week.

I don't know if he's messing with me or not, but it seems like he can't understand my Korean. When I taught him last, he kept repeating my sentances with a question mark at the end. His aunt would then translate my Korean into good Korean, and then he could understand. His aunt knew what I was trying to say though... maybe she has more experience with foreigners trying to speak Korean...

But then again, I told him that the Word of Wisdom teach us not to drink nose-blood, so there's probably a very good reason why he doesn't understand me (apparently, "kko-ppii" is "coffee", while "ko-ppii" is "nose-blood". 이상남 thought it was pretty funny though, once he figured out what I was trying to say). Understanding is hard for him in other ways as well - we taught all the commandments in one go, since we figured he wouldn't have any serious problem with any of them. We asked him some questions afterwards to double-check to see what he learned. We asked what "commandments" were, and he said "alchohol, coffee, tobacco." Closeish, but not right. :D Oh, we also asked him what the Sabbath was, and he said it's where we don't eat food for two meals. We probably should review commandments some more.

We met this man on the bus who spoke a litlte English to me (I remember the man very distinctly because he was a smoker and had terrible breath. I could smell it when he so much as looked at me. Ugh. And boy, when he talked... anyways...), so I asked him in Korean how much English he spoke. "영어 얼마나 하실 수 있어요?" (well something like that. Not sure if it acutally makes sense in Korean, but in my head, it should be right). He looked at me blankly for like 5 seconds, and answered. "O, I amu fiftee years oldu!" Maybe he just didn't hear me... my companion seems to understand my Korean at least mostly okay.

Speaking of Elder Jo, for some reason, a lot of people keep asking him if he's Korean. I don't know if it's because he's with me, or if it's because he's from Seoul so his dialect is a little different, or Elder Jo's theory - that he's spent too much time speaking English with foreigners, and it's corrupted his Korean. We had one day where like 5 people in a row asked him that, usually one or two sentances into the conversation. I think it frustrated him a bit. :D

Anyways, need to wrap up soon...

Missionary work is hard. There's a lot that I'm struggling with, but the Lord promises to give His help with everyone who tries. All he asks is that we're faithful and that we do our best to not doubt Him. We're not perfect, and the things we do aren't perfect, but the Lord can take our imperfect works and make them good enough. Through obedience and dilligence, He turns our work into His work.

Keep praying, keep doing what He asks, and we'll all be blessed.

Thanks for everything! Keep it up!
- Elder Luke


"Transfers" happen every six weeks (typically); each six weeks there is a possibility of a missionary being re-assigned to a new area. It's when the new missionaries come into the country, and those who have completed their service go home, and others may or may not get shuffled around as needed to fill in for those who leave and find places for those who come, or maybe to just shake things up a bit.  When Andrew says Elder Jo is "very, very old," I assume that's slang for "he's been in this area for a long time." I infer that his mission president likes to move missionaries around frequently, and that six months is an atypically long time to be in one location for his mission.  Anyway, so when he says "1st transfer," what he means is "the first time I might have been reassigned (but wasn't)."

부: "bu" = a (non-native, missionary-specific, certainly) abbreviation for (probably) 선교본부 = seongyobonbu = "mission office."

영도: Yeongdo, his area.

조 장로님: Elder Jo, his companion.

According to Google Translate, Andrew's sentence to the guy on the bus would be "English how can you?"  Hopefully Uncle Jim will weigh in on how close to real Korean it really was.

Also thanks to Google Translate: "coffee" is 커피 = "kkappi", while "nosebleed" is 코피 = "kkoppi"; the difference is the vowel, "a" versus "o".

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello! (September 1, 2013)


I hope everyone is doing well! I might be finally getting used to the missionary schedule now! My first two weeks were a little rough - I was pretty badly jetlagged out, and then was just tired for like the first month (don't really know why, maybe my body was just adjusting to the new country?). The past couple weeks though, I feel like I've gotten at least most of the rest I need, and so hopefully I can work a little bit harder because of that.

I just recieved a letter this Thursday - it was the one with "Language Fun" from Dad, I believe. I guess you've already talked with the office missionaries/AP's - I talked with them a bit too. I don't know what you decided together, but hopefully, things will all get ironed out. If nothing else, I am getting letters, just really late, which isn't a huge deal.

Oh, and for Mom - my cough is gone. I think I was still coughing a little when I left the MTC, but it hasn't been a problem since I've been to Korea. I don't think I've coughed here unless I was choking on water (or was eating *real* Korean food). So I'm healthy and fine over here, though I think I've lost a little weight. My teachers at the MTC said that Korean-going elders normally lose a little weight (sister missionaries gain a little weight because there's a lot of sister members that are nice enough to feed the missionaries. Elders aren't allowed to eat unless there's another man there, and most men are working... lucky sisters!); in any case, one of my belts don't fit me anymore. I think it was a little big to begin with though. Korean people are seriously skinny though - it's all the kimchi, I'll bet.

A fun story: we were visiting church last Saturday, and when we walked up to the door, there was water pouring out from it. That wasn't a good sign, so we investigated to find that most of the church had been flooded. I'm not sure what the problem was, but some water line somewhere busted, and it was like it was raining in the church. Ironically, the reason we went to church in the first place is because we had just cleaned the carpets, and we were checking to see if they were dry yet. Luckily, the water was mostly in the hallway with tiling, not the carpeted classrooms (one room was absolutely soaked). The problem came from the kitchen, which of course, was on the second floor. The water was cascading down the staircase, and it was kind of pretty. We called the man in charge of maintanance, and he drove up in his van, and we spent the next 3-4 hours drying out the church.

Once we turned the water off, all we had to do was kind of herd the water out the front door, so it wasn't as hard as I'd though it would be. Since we were drying carpets already, we had a couple of big fans which helped us out a lot, and the rest of the water we just either swept out of the church with a broom, or mopped it up. It's a good thing we found the leak before Sunday! Oh, but we didn't get to do anything we planned for the day though, but I guess it all works out fine.

Still no investigators, and we're still trying to follow up on hopefuls. We invited one guy to church, and he seemed willing to come (he was asking what time, where, etc.), but didn't show up on Sunday. We might have to go out of our way and maybe pick him up at his house and bring him to church... we'll see.

Oh, I've been able to talk to a couple of Japanese people here. I don't know enough to talk about church stuff, and I keep saying the Korean word for "missionary" instead of the Japanese, but it's been fun. Usually, some other missionary starts talking, and they respond with "Oh, I'm Japanese, sorry I can't understand." Then I get called to talk to them. Mostly, it's just like "Oh, what are you doing in Korea?", but it's pretty brave of people to come to Korea without knowing much Korean (I guess I'm in the same boat though.......)

Well, we'll keep looking for people to teach. I know that there are people ready to hear the Gospel out here in 영도 and Busan, and that the Lord blesses and will bless us to be able to share His message with them. Just a little more patience, right? Thanks for all of your prayers, and all of your support - it makes working so much easier knowing that there's family and friends cheering me on. Keep working hard in the US, and I'll do my best in Korea!

- Elder Luke

Note: The Korean word in the text is Yeongdo.

Andrew and Elder Jo.  It looks like this is in a fancy department store.

Flooded kitchen at the church. Note that this looks much nicer than most of the churches I saw in Japan, especially in an area with just a small branch!

The kitchen flood.  Note the water running down from the ceiling above the refrigerator.