Monday, April 28, 2014

Transfer 7, week 4 (April 28, 2014)

안녕하세요 (Annyeonghaseyo)!

This week was pretty busy. We were able to meet with a lot of people, which is always wonderful! We also had exchanges this week, so I was in charge of 포항 (Pohang) for that day but things worked out well (because we basically just stayed at the church the whole day, so I didn’t have a chance to get us lost…).

Mother’s day is coming up, so we get to talk to each other again! I haven’t heard much from our leaders about it, but I assume it’ll be similar to how we did it at Christmas. We can Skype again, but I’m not sure if we can find a computer that can Skype… I’ll ask around some this Sunday. In any case, I’ll send you and email next week once I hear more. Just plan on calling me on Mother’s day, around 6:00 or 7:00 or honestly, just whenever’s convenient for you. We’ll be talking on our P-day, so time doesn’t matter too much for us.

This week, we were able to meet 2 new investigators, which is a great blessing. That plus one guy we found last week, and a few other people on the side has kept us pretty busy.

First of all, we met 이창준 (Changjoon Lee). We found him through our English class, and our class time didn’t work for him, so we’ve been meeting him outside of our class to study English and the gospel together. We’ve met him maybe 3 times now, so we’re still in the middle of figuring him out, but he’s bit quiet, and around 30ish years old. He doesn’t have a religion, but he seems to understand well when we talk about religion.

There’s a lot of people like him that I’ve meet – they want to learn English, and are open to the gospel, but don’t really have any particular interest. We just hope that as we keep meeting with him (and others like him), he feels the Spirit and wants to learn more. We’ve only just started meeting with him though, so we can’t really tell how things are going to go yet.

Oh, I’ve probably mentioned this, but I’ll write a bit about our 30/30 program. We teach English class, and that’s a fairly structured, weekly thing. We have an English class book that’s regulated by our mission (I think the book originally was stolen from a Japanese mission…), and that’s what we use to teach. Usually, we have a short, maybe 5 minute, spiritual message at the end.

We also have the 30/30 program, where we teach English a little bit more freely. If someone can’t come to English class, but they really want to learn, we use the 30/30 to meet with them. It’s usually one on one, we meet at wherever and whenever they want, and we also teach English how they want to learn it. If they have a book they want to study from, we use that (for Brother 전충식 (Jeon Chungsik) back in 서귀포 (Seogwipo), we studied mostly from newspapers written in English). Since this isn’t our English class, we also go ahead and start teaching people the missionary lessons, so there’s a lot more focus on religion than just our normal English class. Maybe because of the way the 30/30 is, we meet a lot of people who are willing to meet and listen, but not really too interested. But it’s definitely better to meet these kind of people than to meet nobody at all…

We also met one 유영술 (Yungsool Yoo), who’s a former investigator. My companion says he’s never met him before, but he knew Brother 유’s phone number, so we kept calling him. He kept saying, “let’s meet!” but then would cancel like an hour before the appointment. We kept in touch, and he finally was able to show up. He’s pretty old, like maybe 70, and is really, really hard to understand. We talked to the senior missionaries about him (more on the senior missionaries next paragraph…), and they say that he’s friendly with the missionaries, but might not have religious interest. With him too, we’ll have to meet with him some more to see what happens…

Okay, so 포항 (Pohang) has a set of senior missionaries. They’re Korean, but lived in America for like 25 years. Unfortunately, we don’t really work together too much; they kind of do their own thing, and we kind of do ours. My companion said they they’re supposed to act as kind of leaders in the branch, rather then as missionaries, so that might be one reason why. They’re old, nice, but can be a little frustrating at times, haha.

Our other new investigator that we met this week is 공인후 (Inhoo Gong). One day we got a text that said “hi bro.” We had no idea who it was, but we kept texting him, and it turns out that he was a former investigator! I don’t know why he texted us that day, but we set up an appointment and met with him. He’s like 40, runs a grocery shop, and met with the missionaries around 2 years ago. Of course, he’s interested in English (especially “real” English, he says, the kind of English that people actually use, which explains why he likes the work “bro” so much), so we’ll be meeting with him for English and for gospel discussions. He’s a nice guy, likes talking, and sports.

Looking at his old record, it seems like he was really accepting about the gospel, but had one problem (which is a really common problem in Korea) – he works on Sunday. When he met with the previous set of missionaries, he said that while he’s willing to come to church, he’s not willing to put church before earning money for his family. With him as well, we’ll just have to meet with him a little bit more before we figure out how to proceed.

Thinking about it, nearly every single investigator I’ve met has had English interest. I don’t know why… I guess meeting people through English interest is easier than through straight-up religious interest, but still. I think that means I’ll be teaching a lot of English in the next 13 months I have left. It’s a little frustrating since we’re not allowed to teach grammar, and the English book we use isn’t that good. But we kept meeting with people anyways, so it usually works out fine.

We had exchanges on Thursday, and it was really good. Normally, I don’t write about exchanges because they’re not really worth mentioning, but this was one of the busiest exchanges I’ve had (exchanges are hard if they’re nothing planned, since it’s entirely up to the one person who knows the area to try and figure out what to do). I was with Elder Masamini (spelling?), who, incidentally, was in the MTC at the same time as Elder Brower. We met a new investigator, taught another investigator English and then out of the Book of Mormon, had dinner, taught English class, and then had a MCM (missionary counsel meeting?). Anyways, it was busy, and Elder Masamini is really fun to serve with, so we had a good day in 포항 (Pohang)!

This Sunday was pretty crazy as well. We had planned for kind of a chill day – we were going to go to church, then have our weekly planning session, and then go out and do some finding, but we definitely didn’t do any of that. After church, we had a surprise choir practice (we have branch conference in 2 weeks, so in preparation for that), and then a member came up to us and asked us to help with visiting some people.

So we ended up visiting an older lady who was sick, an active couple’s house (who spontaneously invited us as we were at the sick lady’s house), a less active’s house (who randomly texted us to come over when we have time, as we were on the way to his house), and then we had a surprise dinner with another member.

We didn’t get to do what we had planned, but we felt really blessed to be able to do all that visiting yesterday. Normally, we take a bus everywhere, which takes forever! But a member was able to give us a ride, which make everything much easier; we probably visited everyone in half as much time as it would have taken with a bus. I guess that’s kind of the crux of member missionary work: if members and missionaries are really working well together, the missionaries can do their work much more smoothly and efficiently (especially if they get rides).

As you can see, we kind of had a crazy week. We saw a lot of miracles, and we hope to be able to keep seeing miracles. We hope to keep meeting more people, and help them discover what the gospel is about.

Thank you all for everything! Have a great week~!

- Elder Luke

Monday, April 21, 2014

Transfer 7, week 3 (April 21, 2014)

Dear Family,

I can’t believe I’ve been in 포항 (Pohang) for two weeks. It feels like we’ve haven’t been able to do anything at all yet… Memorizing people’s names, bus numbers, knowing where what is (especially getting to places by walking!), finding member’s houses, just learning about the area in general; these all take so much time! It’s easy to keep forgetting about taking the time to sit down and learn these things. Four more weeks until I have to be in charge in 포항 (Pohang)! Ahh!

I went to our branch for the first time yesterday. Everyone seems nice, though I’ve only exchanged “hello”s with most people. My companion says that most of them speak really good English, so that’s a relief. I was flipping through our “member book” (which is basically a bunch of records that missionaries have made that has names, address, family members, personalities, and any other important information about the people in our branch), and a lot of them have served missions in the US. Elder 이영호 (I Yeongho) says we have a very talented branch!

We couldn’t meet with a lot of people this week; people were just busy for some reason. Luckily, we had a couple of special meetings (interviews with President Gilbert, and a Zone Meeting) this week, so we were still pretty busy anyways. I think things start picking up again this week.

Here’s one story from this week. Sorry it turned out a bit long!

We got a referral from the mission office this week. His name is 권대현 (Dehyun Gwon), and we’re not really sure what his story is. From what the office elders told us, he went to Hawaii on vacation, and the Church somehow got his address along with the fact that he’s interested in knowing more about temples and Jesus Christ (he probably visited a temple in Hawaii, and gave out his address and information there). The office elders also told us to try and act like we’re not actually looking for him, but to pretend like we just “happened” to find his house. I’m not sure where this instruction came from, but it felt like a special mission (not like a missionary mission, but like a spy mission; “Make it seem like it was an accident.”).

In any case, we set out to meet him.

Well, before that, let me explain this… In Korea, very much unlike Idaho, there are huge apartment complexes. The larger ones made by kind of big-name companies tend to be nice, with parks, and gardens, and security guards and whatnot. The apartment complexes also sometimes have passwords for each building. To get into the building, you need to either know the password, or someone has to let you in (there’s kind of like a telephone thing outside, and so you can call a specific apartment number, and they can open the door for you) (OR you can just follow someone that knows the password into the building, but the security guards don’t like that. They also don’t like it if you look lost. Did I write about that time when I was with Elder Platero, and the guards kind of got angry at us and kicked us out of the apartment in a niceish way? Probably?).

Uh… so anyways, 권대현 (Gwon Dehyun) lives in an apartment complex, so we were wondering how best to make it seem like we ran into him on accident. It would be really weird to call him up from the outside, but that was pretty much the only choice (choice #2: hang out outside his building, and hope he recognizes missionaries).

But we decided to not worry too much about it, so we went. We get to his apartment building still not knowing how to approach him, but strangely enough, the door was open. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the passworded door was closed, and there was a door right next to it that was open. So we were able to just walk in and go directly to his apartment!

It turns out he wasn’t home, and his wife or someone was, and they were busy, but still! We felt really blessed that we were able to get past the passworded door. We were able to leave a card with our phone number on it, and we’re hoping to be able to get in touch with him. I think there are a lot of little miracles in our lives; in this case, it hasn’t amounted to much yet, but I feel grateful that we were able to be a part of a little miracle!

One more story…

I’ve had another experience that’s made me think a lot lately. For some reason, I’ve been praying a lot the past few weeks that my Korean would improve. I prayed for that a lot when I first got to Korea, but it kind of fell off somewhere, and something motivated me to start praying for that again. As I was doing so, an experience from the MTC came to my mind…
(I might have already emailed this before…) At the MTC, I prayed a lot for my Korean ability, since Korean scared all of us do death. I remember feeling jealous if other people understood things I didn’t, or knew words I didn’t know. (It’s bad to feel that way, I know…)

One night, I was praying for help, asking Heavenly Father what I need to do to improve. Right after I finished my prayer, maybe 5 seconds after, an elder from my MTC district came and started talking to me. I didn’t bring it up, but we ended up talking about studying Korean. He said to me, “Learning Korean’s important, but as a missionary, what I need most is the Spirit,” and then he continued on to talk about how studying the gospel is just as or more important than our language ability. I took that to be my answer, and so when I had free time at night, I started reading the Book of Mormon instead of studying Korean.

So recently, as I’ve been praying about Korean, I thought about this MTC story and I’ve decided again to (rerere)reread the Book of Mormon. It’s a little bit difficult, because I was really excited about studying Korean more, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

This experience has helped to know better that God does answer our prayers, and that sometimes it’s in unexpected ways. It also made me realize that we need to put spiritual things first; whether that be prayer, scripture study, or going to church. To paraphrase President Henry B. Erying, “we need to find out what’s most important to God, and therefore to us,” and then we need to do those things.

Hm… I think that’s about it for this week. Hopefully, I’ll have a few more stories to write next week as well!

Thank you so much for everything! I’m really grateful for all your prayers and support! I love you!

- Elder Luke

Monday, April 14, 2014

Transfer 7, week 2 (April 14, 2014)

안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo!) -

Hello from 포항 (Pohang)! This week has gone by fast – I feel like I still don’t know anything about 포항 (Pohang) yet; and since my companion goes home by the end of this transfer, I need to learn fast! 포항 (Pohang) is an industrial city – I think a majority of people that live here work at this steel company, Posco (perhaps “Pohang Steel Company” shortened. Apparently it’s a really good company to work at), or else they work at Postco’s college, Postec. But the city seems fairly small – it definitely doesn’t have that “big city” type feel that I’ve seen in some areas. Anyhow, still trying to figure out how to get around and get to know who’s who.

Last week was pretty busy – we met with 김지원 (Jiwon Kim), a recent convert, several times, and 전성호 (Sungho Jun), an investigator, several times as well.

김지원 (Kim Jiwon) was kind of a golden investigator. He got baptized within a month of meeting the missionaries, which is really, really fast. He’s like 26, and going to college right now, but it seems like he’s got a lot of time since he’s met with us like 5 times already. That’s a good thing though!

Anyways, we’ve been reading the Book Mormon with him, studying some English, and teaching gospel lessons. He seems to understand things really well; he always asks good questions – “So what does the great and spacious building in the scriptures mean?” “How do I prepare for General Conference?”, stuff like that. He’s a good guy. :D

Brother 김지원’s got tests coming up in the next few weeks, so we won’t be seeing him much at all for the next while, which is too bad…

전성호 (Jun Sungho, or Jeon Seongho) is a little bit of an older man, but is also interested in English, so we do that alongside gospel lessons. He’s kind of an interesting case – he had a lot of interest in the Book of Mormon, and is reading it, but says that he doesn’t want to be taught gospel lessons. So we’ve been teaching out of the Book of Mormon, and he reads a little bit every day. He’s read from 1 Nephi up until Mosiah 10ish, so he’s read a lot.
We don’t really know how to move on with Brother 전성호 – he says that he believes our church is true, but when asked why, he said “Well, the missionaries wouldn’t lie to me, right?” We’re just hoping that as we meet with him, we can help him understand a bit better, and help him not just believe us, but the Book of Mormon as well.

Let’s see, other than that… I couldn’t meet with any of the members this week, since we went to General Conference in another branch (more on that in sec), so that’s too bad. Elder 이영호 (I Yeongho, his companion) says that they’re super busy, so it’s hard to meet with them. Argh, I’ll going to miss all the member dinner appointments we had back in 서귀포 (Seogwipo)… :(

Obviously, my companion and I need to see General Conference in different languages, so we went to 경주 (Kyeongju), which is the other area in our district. There, we split companions with the elders there, so that I could watch General Conference in English with an American companion, and Elder 이영호 (I Yeongho) could watch General Conference in Korean, with a Korean companion.

Speaking of General Conference, what did you think? Sister Gilbert, our mission president’s wife, said she was “amazed by the voice of warning,” and that seemed to be a big theme. Things like standing up for our beliefs, our church’s stance on certain issues, putting God’s laws before man’s laws, gaining a personal testimony, the dangers of addiction, sticking to the basics… there were a lot of talks kind of along those lines. It was very interesting; a lot of the speakers were really strong too.

So Mom asked some questions in one of her letters, and I happened to bring the letter with me to email this time, so I’ll answer them here…

What is your favorite Korean food?”

I like 비빈밥 (bibimbap), which is the food that Mom always made for us. I don’t know what is it; I think I like the taste of the hot sauce that goes in it.

Do you eat rice and kimchi often when nobody feeds you?”

Kimchi is more of a side dish, so we sometimes eat kimchi + rice + something else, but I’ve never had just rice and kimchi for a meal.

There’s two problems with kimchi. One, you can’t buy it. Store-bought kimchi tastes like store-bought kimchi, and so you therefore must get kimchi from members. But of course, you can’t directly ask them, so you just kind of wait until someone asks you if you have kimichi, and then you can get good kimchi. And two, kimchi goes bad pretty fast. Most Koreans have a “kimchi fridge,” which has the sole purpose of keeping kimichi from going bad (they’re huge – like the size of two schooldesks (the small ones where one person sits at)). In 서귀포  (Seogwipo), we had some nasty kimchi that was like 4 months old, gone sour, that nobody would dare eat. So it’ll probably just stay there until some responsible throws it away, haha.

Are you getting to like kimchi now?”

Kimchi’s fine. I tend to like cooked kimchi more though (like in stir fries or soups)

Is there any snack food from the US that you want?”

I would like the lifesaver mints – the “Wintogreen” is sooo good. Thank you!!!

Is Korean language easier to learn than Japanese?”

I don’t really know, since I haven’t actually studied Japanese (like I don’t know any grammar). So Korean makes a lot more sense to me, and I can definitely explain Korean grammar better than Japanese or even English grammar. You have to memorize Kanji in Japanese though, which seems really hard. The Korean writing system is incredibly easy to learn, so I love that. In English, if you don’t know a word, it’s hard to pronounce, but Korean’s (thankfully!) not like that. At the MTC, they said that Korean’s the 2nd hardest language to learn for Americans (with Finnish being 1st), so there’s that. Honestly, I don’t feel like Korean’s THAT hard, but I grew up knowing Japanese, so I don’t think I can fairly judge that.

Can you read the Book of Mormon in Korean pretty well by now?”

The Korean Book of Mormon is HARD. There's a few different forms in Korean, and apparently the Book of Mormon is written in “king form." That is a form that I will never, ever use, and don’t have any resources to study it. So it’s pretty hard to read, especially to catch the little nuances in the grammar. I understand maybe mmm 60% of the text? And that’s only because I’ve read the Book of Mormon in English. I was reading through 2 Nephi’s Isaiah chapter, and my understanding was like 10-15%, haha. Basically they use a bunch of different grammer forms that I’ve never seen in weird grammer styles in a writing style I don’t know. I know most of the vocabulary though, so I can kind of piece together what’s going on.
Oh, and lastly, my district's full of people that I know. Of the 5 other people there, I've been in the same district as 3 of them.

I think that's about it... I will write to you again next week!

- Elder Luke


경주: Kyeongju or Gyeongju, the place they went to watch General Conference. Gyoengju (that's the way it's spelled on Google Maps and in Wikipedia; I can't see any logical pattern as to when ㄱ is Romanized "g" and when it's "k"...). It's a city about 10 miles southwest of Pohang, with a population of about a quarter of a million (half the size of Pohang). Churchwise, Gyeongju has its own branch. From that I'm guessing that Andrew and his companion are the only set of missionaries in Pohang.

Here's a few older pictures; met with James Bond at the 서귀포 (Seogwipo) church, and me with Elder Baker, and Elder 허정헹 (Heo Jeongheng, his companion in Seogwipo) on a bus on my last night in 서귀포 (Seogwipo).


Nice looking church building, especially for a small branch! One of the branches I served in in Japan was about the size of the Seogwipo Branch, and we had one floor (just one large room, plus a tiny bathroom and tiny kitchen/office area) rented in a larger building. We later moving to a rented standalone building that used to be a store. Even today, years later and with three times the members as when I got there, they still haven't been able to build a dedicated church building, and are still in a rented and converted building (this time a former karaoke bar...). Maybe buildings are just a lot cheaper in Korea?

The church photo looks like it was taken in the morning, facing directly south, from in front of the house Andrew lived in.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Transfer 7, week 1 - 포항 (April 7, 2014)


So, it turns out that I've been transferred! I'm in 포항 now (not an island), which is a city that's kind of in the northern part of our mission. Obviously, I've only been here for like 3 hours, but it seems like it's a fairly small town - probably somewhere between 서귀포 and 영도.

My new companion's name is Elder 이영호 (Yeoungho Lee), and this is his last transfer as a missionary, so we'll only be together for the next 6 weeks. But I've heard a lot about him; my last district leader says that he's the best missionary in the whole world. I don't know what that means, but it sounds like I'll be able to learn a lot from him! (Oh, and he served in 서귀포 I think like a year ago) (I've heard that he's a bit older; I think he went to college for like 3 years, and majored in Japanese, so that'll be interesting...)

Not too much to write about this week either... we couldn't get a hold of 영군수, so we didn't meet with him, but we were able to meet 전충식 this week. Honestly, I kind of think that he just met us because I'm leaving, and he wanted to say bye, but hey, if we got to meet with him, all's good! He bought us a cake, haha. He's a really nice guy - I hope he keeps meeting with the missionaries.

Oh, as far as 서귀포 news goes, an American missionary is coming. Elder 허 and I were worried what would happen if a Korean came, since our investigators are interested in English, and our English class desperately needs the 서귀포 elders to participate in it.

So, I've come to 포항, and I'm replacing Elder Harris, who was in my MTC district. He is (in his own words) "so pumped." I talked with him for a while, and it seems like they keep pretty busy here; Elder 이 says there's not a ton of people here, but they're working pretty closely with a few less actives, and a recent convert. That's good - I feel like most people come into an area, and have to start by looking for people to meet with, but we seem to have a good pool to start with.

Hm... that seems to be about it for this week. Next week will probably be a longer email - I'll have met a lot of new people, and will have a little more time then.

Thank you for all the prayers you do for me, and for all the missionaries all over the world!

Love you!
- Elder Luke


포항: Pohang. Pohang is a city of about 520,000 people (about 3x the population of either Yeongdo or Seogwipo), located on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. The area of the Ponang Branch of the church borders on the north boundary of the Busan Mission, so he went from the very south area of the mission the very north. That area of the country looks rather sparsely populated; Pohang seems to be the northernmost city of any size along the coast in the Busan mission, but it's about 60 miles from the mission boundary (and thus the Pohang branch is about 60 miles long by 10 miles wide). Pohang is headquarters for POSCO, one of the largest steel companies in the world.

서귀포: Seogwipo

영도: Yeongdo

영군수: Yeong Kunsu, one of the people they were teaching in Seogwipo.

전충식: Jeon Chungsik, the person they taught for several months in Seogwipo (see photo).

Elder 허: Elder Heo, his companion in Seogwipo.

Elder 이: Elder I, his new companion (usually Romanized as "Lee," though the pronunciation should be like "ee" [without the "L" sound]).

전충식: Jeon Chungsik again.

Here's a few pictures: the first is of the last district meeting of this last transfer. We had a couple of what we call "Sister Training Leaders" visit us on that day.

The next picture is of me and Brother 전충식. Sorry that I don't look that good in that picture, haha. But that's the best one we got.

Note: The writing on the upper right of the cake box says "In aquiet early afternoon, Take an agreeable tea Time Listening to Classical music, Our soft cakes With Plenty of Sweet cream will Delight such amazing Time." The lower writing is harder to make out -- it says something like "The glass slipper ... to fit just right as ... for today. prince charming is smiling in favor of me and I feel like dreaming."

You've got to love Asian English. :)

I've got more pictures, but I'll send them later. Byeee!

One last thing...

I don't know why I remebered this, but I wanted to share it.

When I met 전충식 for the last time, he asked for my home address, so I gave it to him. He says he wants to write to me after my mission, and come over to Idaho.

He says he wants to be a farmer and raise potatoes - he said this while miming picking up a potato and adding, "this is delicious potato!", in English.

So if you get a letter written in Korean (though I kind of feel that he might not actually write it...), I guess just hold onto it until I get home.

Haha, thanks!

- Elder Luke