"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. " --- John 8:10

Monday, May 4, 2015

Circles Down

Exciting week last week. There were a lot of highlights, but the week as a whole was just awesome. I've been happier than I've been in a while. Something in the water, maybe, but more likely I'm just glad I'm not cold anymore.

Our stats last week were also great. Felt like a really productive week of missionary work. 

Last P-day we thought we were going to go hiking up North Korea Mountain (Bukhan San) but Elder L__ had other plans. 

Miscommunication ended up taking us to this mountain that was a bit less intense, but was equally interesting. For those of you who are cool (translation: have seen Lord of the Rings before), the phrase "The Beacons of Minas Tirith!" may bring to mind a scene that describes where I was. Apparently that system of signal fires on the peaks of mountains is something that was actually done in Korea. We hiked to the top in an hour or so and had a great view of the majority of Seoul. I climbed up the signal and though I sat on the top...well still a heights coward. Couldn't bring myself to stand.


Finished of the day by going to a Donkatsu (cutlet) buffet. Epic.

Also went on exchange with Elder P___. I like him. We were able to get a lot of stuff done, but it was still very chill, which I appreciated. He told me about a book called the King Killer Chronicles, which made my list. Sounds hilarious.

Final district meeting this week was about Enduring to the End. Saving those details, but very glad to be done.

Elder M___ and I have been teaching a lot on the street. We met one older guy who we are going to meet again today who claimed all kinds of visions and things. Another couple of guys took the first lesson at a table in front of their hospital. We also found a couple of less active guys. One of them joined and quit the church 30 years ago after having his faith challenged by the whole Lamanites-dark skin-curse-racism thing. I explained it to him and totally resolved the whole thing. The guy still loves D&C and the restoration and everything so there is a pretty solid chance he'll come back now. He said, "I wish someone like you had been there to explain that for me 30 years ago." Also, though we didn't have an appointment, we ran into J___. I still want to help him, but I'm getting disheartened at his lack of desire to be helped. Save your prayers for now.

It was also Elder B___'s birthday yesterday. To entertain the lot of us, I've been making up a pirate themed story starring us during meals and what not and the others have been getting into it. So for his birthday me and Elder H___ had a "district leader coordination meeting" while our companions were out jundoing. We made brownies, then dumped a tub of ice cream on top, sculpted that into a volcano (Isla Inferno of the story) featuring a chocolate sauce lava flow made by melting down two chocolate bars and inserted a couple of model ships (the Aria and the Justicar) supplied by the sisters. We wrote a note and had Elder M___ fold it into a pirate hat and placed it on a mold-able stress head thing Elder B___ likes to play with. Throw a couple of pirate faces on some balloons and voila! Done with seconds to spare. Hopefully it was a memorable birthday for him.

A good week for the work with lots of memories made. Stay tuned for next week!


Elder Whitlock

Monday, April 27, 2015

Passing Stones

...I testified to the contrary, that God lives, he loves us, and that through faith and repentance we really can access real power, not just some psychological facade, but real transformative power that leads us not just to courage, peace, and confidence, but also to freedom. 

However when given a plain choice between the two, he still chose to follow the devil...

Still rolling with the Creed cover bands.

Today is my third to last P-day in the sovereign nation of Korea and we're going to make the most of it. Got President's permission to duck out of studies a little early and go on a hike at Bukhan Mountain  I've been looking at that mountain for the last couple of months waiting for today. I've mentioned a couple of times how much I love Korean mountains and this may be my last chance to experience one, but it's one of the best ones in the mission. Should be great.

We've been working with a Satan worshiper for the last couple of weeks. We met him again without much fruit last Saturday. He's addicted to most things you can be, acknowledges serious rage issues, and even sometimes cuts himself and drinks his own blood to help himself feel strong, and in his mind it is working. He believes in God, but doesn't believe that he's aware of or cares about all of us and that all of the prayers he's offered in his life have been fruitless. [My companion] is rapidly progressing in understanding, but I still had to take a pretty weighted point for the lesson. I testified to the contrary, that God lives, he loves us, and that through faith and repentance we really can access real power, not just some psychological facade, but real transformative power that leads us not just to courage, peace, and confidence, but also to freedom. 

However when given a plain choice between the two, he still chose to follow the devil.

It's interesting that [this investigator], in his choice to follow the father of lies, is more honest than almost all of the people who "believe in Jesus" that we meet day to day. That's the silver lining that I'm clinging to: that there may still be some sort of hope for him. This week we can't meet, but he's been charged to think seriously about whose side he's on and report next time we meet. He also knows that we can't help him at all unless he's trying to move in the direction of Jesus Christ.

One of the interesting things that we can see from the case study of [this investigator] is that the reason he hates church so much is that he feels completely powerless for more than a week at a time after going. He can't even summon the physical strength to go outside.

Though Satan's power is real, and scarily so, even that small brush with the power of Christ is sufficient to clear out all of the power the devil is exerting in him.

Sort of a weird email, but I think about this a lot lately. 

In less dark news, President Ringwood came for a mission tour this week. Great stuff. Emphasized that companionships who teach a lot seem to have no real problems. They're going to be trying to get the ward mission leaders in our area responsible for helping the missionaries hit a certain number of sit down lessons every week moving forward....

I did get called in for an interview again. Really good stuff. This wasn't the focus, but he did spend a lot of time persuading me to take up running. You guys know how I feel about cardio. I am loving the weight set in my house though. Benching this morning was really fun. 

As far as the airport is concerned, I just want to have our nuclear family there. And the same thing goes for that night. The next day if people want to come over, that's fine, but I want a night with just you guys.

Other than that, the only request that I have is that in the car on the way back we listen to Into the West. I'll probably cry.

Spiritual thought for this week. I may elaborate on this more in my talk, but when we say "endure to the end" what do we mean by the end? What are we enduring towards? I think that the end of the book of scripture about the end contains the best answer. The only answer that has any worth. Revelation 21: 6. Helps to keep things in perspective.

Love you guys. 

Elder Whitlock

The "Sistrict"

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cast and Crew

You may have noticed that I'm getting a little lazy with the topic lines. From now on, I'm probably just going to insert the names of Creed cover bands that I used to play bass for. We've produced so many recently, that we decided to have a tournament based on such qualifications as most true to Creed, who would president prefer you to listen to, if the two threw down who would win, and other similarly arbitrary categories last P-day. Salem came out on top, but my personal favorite was Cast and Crew.

If you were wondering how we measure President's approval, we do actually have a fairly good idea about it. Between months of missionaries trying to figure out what was and was not cool (if you remember, I actually outlawed everything that wasn't MoTab in Chuncheon to avoid this discussion) and the fact that we know his favorites are the Piano Guys...who actually came and played last week…

Abandoning the previous boring thought and casting off to the realm of vaguely interesting, we did in fact go to a Piano Guys fireside yesterday. Turns out that two of them (producer guy and cello guy) served their missions in Korea. There was even a woman in the crowd who had served in producer guys district in the crowd. The focus was definitely spiritual/churchy talks over music, though we got a bit of that as well. Producer Guy and Cello Guy were my favorite speakers, and not just because I was impressed at how much Korean they remembered.

Just before we went over there, I also went to a baptismal service. I went back up to D___ and baptized M__'s friend L__.   I got the call to do so on Friday, otherwise I may have given you some notice. If you don't remember L__, he first came to church when he was invited by M__ the first Sunday of this year. He was impressed with the testimonies and thought to himself "If this church isn't true, then how come there are so many people here saying it is?" and decided after his first visit that he believed in it. We helped him know how to confirm his belief through prayer and the Book of Mormon, which he feels like he has done. The biggest obstacle between him and baptism was his girlfriend. [She] had just sort of invited herself into living with him and he couldn't get her to leave. I'll explain more about [her] in person. It's kind of a sad story. But L__ eventually decided that if she wouldn't go, then he would, so he made a run for it to avoid her following him and she called the police to report him as an illegal. Now things have smoothed over a bit. She has a new boyfriend and L___ has some room to breathe again. He's planning on moving back to Nigeria next month and is looking forward to getting in contact with the branch down there.

What else has happened this last week?

Elder H__ and I went on exchange last Tuesday. Took the whole bloody day, but we put together a new system to better facilitate LA work throughout the area. Went through a bunch of records, divided each person in them by the area they live in, split them up into twelve areas, and made a folder for each one that has the names, contact info, and a map of the areas involved, as well as a sheet that allows for the missionaries to keep track of the work they do. I about lost my mind staring at the computer all day, but, theoretically, this will help us do a much better job at reaching all the lost sheep we can.

The next day was also a very organizational day. I convinced the N___ districts to do another street boarding activity with me. We did one the week before last and it was a smashing success for my team. Inside an hour I got 5 street lessons. Later when calling collected numbers we set one more and there's another guy who wanted us to call today because he was on a trip in Japan. And heck, one of them met! So. We picked up a Satan worshiper.

Not going to go into much detail on that one. He's basically a troubled kid that never got over it and is 29 now. Has some psychological problems, but I really want to help him. I don't think he's so far over the line that he can't come back, though I doubt that it is going to be a quick turn around. I've always joked about how I wanted to perform and exorcism on my mission, and this may count. But it will be slow.

But back to street boarding. The exciting thing is that I convinced the district to try flavoring the activity with a nice healthy dose of controversy. The idea is that if you go out there showing pictures of recent tragedies (crashed planes and what not) and ask people why God didn't stop it, they are more likely to have some form of care than they are if you simply philosophically hypothesize with them. I didn't think they'd go for it, but...should be fun.

[By the way,]I only contend with people who really deserve it. Like the guy yesterday who started pointing us out to all of the other people on the train and talking loudly about how we were a bunch of frauds who knew no truth and were intent on deceiving true believers of God. Said that we didn't believe in God or Christ and that our religion had nothing to do with the Bible.  I tried being civil for five minutes before I put the man in his place and left the car. Ignorance is a titanic irritant.

Anyway...hoping to hear from ya'll soon. Let me know if you name the boat. See you in a few!

Elder Whitlock

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cherry Blossoms and Zombie Apoclaypse

Seoul [is] a fun place to live as a missionary. 

This [is a] riverside road I walk almost every day. It is a 10 minute walk from the apartment.

The cherry blossoms at night were too visually impressive to not snap a picture.

Random Grandma's line dancing under the the bridge along the same road as the cherry blossoms. Does anyone need to know more?

This week I visited a part of town on the extreme fringe of my area. Got off the train and was all, "Good Night!" There was nothing there. Like nothing. It looked like the Zombie Apocalypse had broken out while I was on the train. In one hour of walking we talked to two human beings.  It was more dead than a Walker.

Also, got a bunch of weights from my last companion from Dongducheon in the mail. Tried out the benchpress on a couple boxes of Book of Mormons and on the third rep hurt my tricep, so hopefully I heal up soon. Stretching. Still do it.

Tried dog soup last week for the first time. The service at the restaurant was a joke, but the dog wasn't that bad. We didn't get enough to get us full, so we got some Korean style fried chicken, which I passionately believe to be the most delicious chicken in the world with the potential exception of Outback's Alice Springs Chicken.

General Conference was totally sweet. Favorite talk far and away was Elder Ringwood's (Truly Good and without Guile) but I was getting my mind blown from the get-go through the finale. Decided to never go climbing while listening to Elder Holland's talkDid you have a favorite one? If I listened right to all of those, I need to get married or something.

If you want to feel my love you might need to save your tastebuds for the next time Conference rolls around, because I'm totally making crepes.

Love you! 

Elder Whitlock

Monday, March 16, 2015

Planting and Reaping

He prayed...and eventually came to a realization about agency that led him to a desire to get baptized and commit himself to conquer the natural man if it took him his whole life...

This week started off with a temple day followed by my second trip to the Korean War Memorial. Epic, as ever. I need to get a documentary about the war asap once I get back. Wednesday was district meeting. I trained about planting Books of Mormon. Basic premise is that even though we are focusing on the Book of Mormon this month, that doesn't mean pass them out willy nilly to everyone you meet. Effective use of the BoM isn't tossing seeds like wheat, it's a lot like planting potatoes (thank you Papa). You need to find a hole (need) and fill it with the BoM. Focus was answering questions of the soul and how to effectively use the BoM during contacting. This week will be more oriented towards continually strengthening our investigators faith/testimonies though correct use of the Book of Mormon. Kind of continuing the theme of planting and growing things. It will probably be ok, but not mind blowing.

After that I had a companionship reunion with ... my comp from transfers 2 and 3. Jundo was a blast because now that I can understand what's happening, it turns out that we are great at playing off each other. Set a few appointments then did a bit of teaching as well.

We picked up a couple of investigators this week and neither of them seems like they have a ton of potential, but at least we have something to work with now. If either of them starts to go anywhere, I'll let you know more about them.

Restarted the diet after a couple weeks of  not doing it. Stomach is doing a lot better lately. I think it was definitely the protein, which bums me out a little bit, but what can you do? However I made way to much of cheat day last Saturday. It was pi day after all, and not just pi day but the day that we get out to extra digits. 3.1415927 (2015, 9:27am). We made a bunch of butter scotch pies to celebrate, but were also treated to two different cakes because a couple Sisters in my district had birthdays, then came back and ordered fried honey chicken to be delivered to the house. Mistakes. I had a tummy ache, but Elder B upchucked everywhere.

Cried laughing the other night after substituting the word jib saram for nay sarang in Love at Home. You won't get the joke, and if you did it still wouldn't be that funny, but the four of us were just in the right mood, I guess. Lost our minds.

Highlight of the week was definitely the baptismal service yesterday though. I was able to baptize one of my investigators, G. It was awesome. He was raised Southern Baptist, I contacted him on the street. He was very accepting of our answers to the hard questions, but still willing to ask them. Very humble, and very funny. Wife is a wicken. His big concern was a "chink in the armor" that was eventually revealed to Me and Elder V after Elder C left. Was willing to get baptized if God confirmed to him that the church was true, but was listening for the still small voice, not the thunder or the wind. Last meeting I had with him before I transferred (which we were not planning on when we taught the lesson) he was getting ready to go into the field for a training excercise and I challenged him to make the field his sacred grove. He did it. Prayed his butt off, and eventually came to a realization about agency that led him to desire to get baptized and commit himself to conquer the natural man if it took him his whole life. Great guy. 

We got President’s permission to go up after church, but the service got moved up an hour without me hearing about it, so I barely got there in time to be ready to baptize him. Took the whole day, but I say worth it.  We got it done.  M did a killer job on the baptism talk and G’s testimony was phenomenal. So great to see him make it full circle.  It's always nice to have someone thank you for talking to them on the street, and nicer to hear them describe baptism as one of the greatest moments of their lives, which both M and G did. Great ending to my service there, though I suppose if things go the right way with R, I may be able to make it out one more time. 

Got to see what's left of the Dongducheon crew .... Getting to see old friends as well as seeing some of the fruit of my labors in Dongducheon area was a rewarding and rejuvenating experience.

Love you all and wish you the best!

Elder Whitlock

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Confidence vs. Counterfeits

One request! Don't send the package please! I'm so close to being able to see you and I would feel really bad if you spent all of that money on sending the package. I haven't ceased feeling like you loved me since the last one, and I still love you and can't wait to get whatever you wanted to give me in person.

I really like N___ area. I'm glad to be here too.  The jundo here is harder than Ch___, but at least there are (a lot) more people than D___. Lots of people and definitely a culture shock. Sometimes it feels like my Korean is back and at other times...well, less so. The Sistrict is fun, and the ward here is great—it’s huge. We had dinner with some members last night and have another dinner invitation for this Thursday. Lots of good restaurants in this area too.

My companion is great. His name is Elder M___.... We've been getting along really well so far. I'll try to get you a picture soon. We actually had trainers’ training and a mission conference (basically) this week, and somewhere in all of that I left my camera case at the office. I'll get it back soon, but...anyway. He's 19, played soccer in high school, loves Brandon Sanderson books, and looks a lot like Ricky Stevenson. 

We went to the palace at Gwanghwamun today, which was pretty fun. They had a museum exhibit for jeans and another for sheep, so that was fun. We also got to see Meet The Mormons and another movie called a New Day for the Book of Mormon. I liked both quite a bit.

I'm feeling good about my first training this week as well. Focus will be Christlike Confidence again, but with a rather different twist than the time I taught about it in Ch___. Premise is that Satan works in oppositional counterfeits. So pride would be the opposite of humility and the counterfeit of confidence. Similarly, self hatred or low self esteem is an opposite of confidence and a counterfeit of humility. With pride being "the great vice", we need to overcome the pride in ourselves, but humility alone isn't enough to do the job. The reason these oppositional counterfeits that Satan feeds us stick, is that we have legitimate needs or holes that need to be filled, and these substitutes do a great job at compensating, but not necessarily correctly. So. As we increase our humility, we can dig the pride out of our hole. Humility is the cure, but in some ways it leaves the hole open. So we need something to fill said whole and that filler is Christlike Confidence.  Then apply to missionary work. That was fast. Does that make any sense?

Honestly...not much happening with investigators. We haven't met anybody so far. It was a holiday week, but frankly the other missionaries didn't leave us much. We'll be able to work on all parts of missionary work from the ground up now.

Love you so much!
Elder Whitlock

Monday, February 16, 2015

Anxious to be Engaged

Elder Whitlock teaching an investigator at FHE 2/2/2015
Of this picture Sister Pihl said, "I brought in the Korean Sisters to help with new investigator.....
but she took a liking to your son instead.  He must be doing well with the language.  
He was so patient with her.  You got yourself a winner here!!"

Writing you all from a PC room in Seoul. Transfer calls came in on Friday with a surprise. I'm in N___, one of the nicest areas in the mission. It's in north-western Seoul, which will be a fun change of pace. I've been out of Seoul for about a year now, and now I get to be re-culture shocked back into a Korean ward before I leave. Count your blessings, I may still come home awkward. 

There are a lot of changes happening in [my new] district. There are twelve missionaries attached to the ward and seven of us are transferring in this week. We are also getting split into two districts, so I'm the district leader of me, my new trainee (who I will meet on Wednesday), and four sisters. The other district is all Elders. President tried to explain why it was divided that way to me last night, but I didn't quite get all of it. For now I'm working with Elder H, the other district leader and a friend from Gireum, and his companion, Elder B. 

Our house is really nice. Apparently the most expensive house in the mission, but not quite as nice as D___. Real estate is real expensive in Seoul. For example, they just sold the mission office a month ago for over 15,000,000$.

Kind of bummed to be leaving D___. Loved the people there, but I'm excited to make new friends, if a little confused about how I'm supposed to help the sisters in my district (no exchanges and no counseling...).

This last week in D___ was sort of slow for us. We weren't able to see a couple of our top investigators because of military training exercises and a wedding in Peru, but we did pick up a new guy..., who has a baptismal date for April. Brings the score up to three for the area with one guy sitting on the brink of getting his answer. Lots of drama for people we were working with this week. Lots of marriage problems, financial crisis, and other headaches that make me want to move to Neverland. Although, now that I think about it, I would have to either found a new group of "Lost Men" or resort to historically unsuccessful piracy...

Love you all so much! Have a great one.
Elder Whitlock

last FHE in D___ 1/9/2015
Of the transfer, Sister Pihl said, "Don't make me cry again!! We will miss him so!!!"

Bonus thought: The best measure of how "anxiously engaged" we are may often come in the situations where we aren't performing at 100%. We can't always be running around doing the work of the Lord. All things have a balance. Jesus slept, after all. But when we can't put our hearts into it, we should be engaged. And when we can't be engaged, we ought to be anxious. When you do push ups you ought to have sets of intense effort and periods of rest in between, but there is a key difference in both results and satisfaction that comes from resting for the push ups and working for the rest. If you are focused on breaks, your results are broken. So also the work of salvation.