"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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

And all though my house, not an Elder was stirring til the sound of a mouse...or a whole chorus of them sqeaking our "miceappella" wake up tone at 6:30am. As accompanied by our bike rider ringtone and Elder Vomocil's clock, which go off simultaneously to form the Cacaphony from Hell. My life.

Anyways.

Last week started off in a buffet. A meat buffet. You grab a lot of raw meat then cook it as you go and dip it in this awesome sauce then hork it down. Heaven turned Hell as it turns out. Theres a rule where you have to pay an extra five bucks if you don't eat all the meat that you grab, and a couple of the Elders who had never been before got a little gung-ho. We all left sick and went to a bath house to sweat it out. Bath houses are the best, and we should absolutely have them in America. Maybe I'll start one when I get back. Who knows?

My companion, Elder L, moved out and Elder A moved in from his room down the hall. Honestly, he's not great at Korean, but who is their third transfer? Or even their fourth (self conscious cough)?

We had a ward christmas party this week. The missionaries sang White Christmas and Elder V performed a solo of Let it Snow that we had to edit to remove romantic overtones. "But after we pray tonight, all the way home I'll be warm!"

Our most progressing investigator is still on track to get baptized, which process included him accepting a commitment to live the Word of Wisdom. Thanks to my companion, who brought tears with his experience, and my awesome ward members who taught him. We will be pushing back that date though. He's going to visit family over the weekend so he won't make it to church.

The exciting part of this coming week is the Christmas Conference. I can't say that Christmas is a super big deal to me this year for the most part, whether it be because I'm away from you guys or a missionary or because I'm in a country where it isn't a big deal I can't say. But the Conference is exciting, if for no other reason than that I'll eat something besides boiled chicken and carrots. Me and Elder V have started a diet. We don't actually know what else to eat, so every dinner this week has been boiled chicken, carrots, and half a potato. Not actually a half bad meal, but some variety would be cool. After the Christmas conference, it is a regular missionary day, so I'll probably go and jundo at the Holy Ghost Women's College. Our favorite spot.

That sounded predatorial. We still just talk to men. There are a lot of them there, and a lot of them are college students that speak English.

Love you all, bye!

And a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Grandpa Woes and Wins



Well, the palace was a no go. We went, it rained, it was closed. Same story for plans B and C. So we took plan D...which was go back to the house with an hour left and just eat dinner. Epic P-day, right? So, no pictures, but once my missionary friends send me some recent pics I'll forward them on.
 
This week I had two different exchanges and transfers. For exchange number one I went with Elder V and put down a record of 8 lessons. 2 scheduled, two street lessons from me, and four street lessons from him/us (like I was there for two and said maybe 10% of what we said. Those were his.). Miracle. We also ate at a little cafe called the Windy Chicago, which plays a steady stream of Christian rock music, serves melted chocolate as a drink, and includes real bacon in their panini sandwhiches. Paradise. Until Paradise, Piano Guys and Alex Boye edition, started playing and I started getting trunked out and so we got out. I can't help but wonder if the African tribal stuff that Alex sings has any actual meaning or if he is just making it up as he goes.
 
I also took another exchange with Elder R in his area. We tried visiting a grandpa. I found out that I really don't speak Grandpa. I helped a blind guy find his way home in the snow. Did I mention that it snowed? The sky did work. The frozen equivalent of a downpour, really. People weren't super in the mood to talk to us, so it was less than miraculous, but it was fine.
 
I had my first clash with a Jehovah's Witness this week. He's another grandpa. I didn't understand much of what he said, but since a lot of it was about religious stuff I could catch some of it. He liked to kind of just sit there and yell at us. My companion was constrained by Confucian etiquette to be polite and just take it, but I'm an uncultured and inconsiderate foreigner, so I was able to jump in there sometimes and do my thing. It turned into this sort of back and forth thing where we both taught each other lessons that were completely unconnected to each other and neither person was affected or even understood the other. I got through HTBT and the first lesson and he said something about God lying to Eve, then he gave me some pamphlets in Korean and I gave him a Book of Mormon and we called it a night, and, I think, a draw. Yikes. Turns out I have no idea what JWs believe, does anyone want to hook me up with some sort of overview?
 
On Sunday, we taught our most progressing investigator.... He's a 57 year old guy that just moved to Seoul from the countryside about two months ago. We found him together and met him a couple times and he came to church a couple of times. He has been twice, and that would be three, but he got lost the first time and ended up at another church. I think I told that story, yeah? Anyways, we commited him to baptism on January the 5th. I say we, but really it was my companion. He's a stud with the Grandpas. I don't know what they say.
 
The bad news with that story is that my companion is leaving to be a district leader and train somewhere. I'm going to be working with fresh out of training Elder A who has been living with me for the past two transfers. Neither of us speaks Grandpa, so I need to learn quick. Maybe figuring out regular Korean along the way would be a good idea too. I'm pretty excited about Elder A actually. He's a ball of energy from Arizona with amazing legs. Very smiley and active and sporty. I wonder why I keep working with jocks?  Does God want me to stop being such an introvert? He's a very hard worker, so I'm sure we are going to be able to get some work done, but I will miss 이종채 장로님.
 
This week I've been revising my definition of charity. Here is my problem. I love people. I love everyone in the whole world, regardless of their background, regardless of their past, right up until the moment I meet them. Then I usually don't like them. Seems like I'm sort of missing the point right? In my head I measured charity in terms of what you are willing to give when someone else needs your all. There, I usually measure up pretty well. If someone is in a dire situation and I can possibly help them, I'll do whatever I can to help them. I don't do a very good job of being there for people when I'm not needed. Until hell itself is knocking on the door, I think of myself first. Things have got to change.
 
Not really a mind blowing spiritual thought, but something that has been burrowing its way into my mind for a while now.
 
Whitlock out.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Life

This week involved some teaching (we even have, for the moment a progressing investigator!), a lot of study (I've kicked things up a notch), and other assorted triviality.

I'm also going to be in a movie I guess. Some film student showed up during English class. I talked to him and he wants two foreigner missionaries to play the part of missionaries in his final graduate movie. It's a movie about a Korean girl from America who comes back to Korea and has some sort of identity crisis. We are supposed to jundo to her about English class or some such as missionaries. Since distribution is just his school and a couple of film festivals, President gave me permission to make the call. I'm not all convinced, but when we meet him tomorrow, I'll make my choice.

We had a Kimchi making service project this last week. We showed up at this Buddhist temple and sat on the ground wiping dirt off of onions with our fingers for about 6 hours. I think they gave us that job because it was easy and we were foreigners, so they didn't have to interact with us that much. It was fun. Beautiful temple and decent conversation, plus they fed us like champions. We also got a free book that I can't read, but I'm sure had some great wisdom inside of it.

Today I'm cutting my email time a little short because we are making a run to the Palace for P-day. I remembered my camera, so I'll try to take lots of pictures for next time. 

"Look not on his height, nor on his stature," no matter how tall and devilishly good looking he may be,"because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Jesus Christ


I don't know where to begin to express...well, anything about the Savior. What more is there to say that hasn't been said a million times about the defining charactor of humanity? Heck, the message has been repeated so many times that it's starting to get stale in this part of the world. The lips of angels and demons have extolled the virtues of Jesus of Nazareth, what more can I say?

He was born a perfect gift to save a dying world. He grew and lived and died shoulder to shoulder with his human brothers. He loved them as they betrayed him. He captained the cause of peace in a world torn by war. He taught love instead of hate, healing instead of destruction, light that was rejected in favor of darkness. He was tortured, humiliated, and murdered a... sacrifice in behalf of a flock that prefered the wolves. He gave us everything that he has, willingly suffering the most horrific ordeal in the world so that we wouldn't have to, even though he knew that we would rather drive nails through his palms than accept the promise of his hands.

He was persecuted on everyside, abandoned by every ally, and cast into the depths of the dark so that he could pull people like me out of it.

The world hates him, but he has overcome the world. Sorrow to Joy. Loneliness to Love. Darkness to Light.

I will follow you, my Brother. My Captain. My King.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dropping The Ball



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It scares me to death that some mistake that I make could stop people that God wants me to find from hearing about the gospel....  But thats ok.... It doesn't mean the church isn't true. It doesn't mean that God doesn't speak to man. And it doesn't mean we can stop trying.

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I've come to the conclusion that lately my weekly reports have been somewhat on the boring side. This week I'll give you a run down and then move on to other things.

Last Tuesday was temple day/p-day, so we did that. Then we hit up our favorite American buffet, Ashleys, ate an ungodly amount of food, then went and sweat it out in a bathhouse for a couple hours. Talked a lot about the zombie apocalypse, especially what my roomates may remember as the Cruiseship dilemna. Led to some nice philosophical discussions about the nature of man and practicality vs ideology. In a bathhouse. Aren't we so Greek?

I found my favorite Korean food. It is some sort of honey tea thing. Changed my life.

We met H and...I don't want to talk about it. Things went decisively less than well. Makes me upset.

English class continues to grow, especially our beginners class. We even got some crazy guy from our class to come to church. Also met and picked up an older guy with no religious background who tried to come to church at 10am, but, bless his heart, got lost and went to some Presbyterian church somewhere instead.

Taught my ward mission leader's family and saw their family home evening. He's the best of the best.

Also found out that what we learned last week in the combined mission conference is less classified than I thought. Really interesting stuff.  Every missionary in Seoul is going to have a "mini ipad" within the year. In addition to mapping, and dictionaries, there will be an integrated area book that the missionaries and the ward leaders share access to. There will be a continuous language learning program that will continue to push missionaries throughout their missions instead of just for the first couple months like they have now. Part of that includes an online pre-mtc language program where they will form digital districts, complete with district leaders and MTC teachers, to start language learning for a few months before anyone gets to the MTC. The ipads will be kept after missions for poorer missionaries as part of the church education program to help them improve the quality of their lives. All records will be kept on the device. It is going to make things go a lot smoother and the language program will really help us, I think. Granted, this won't really affect me until I can already speak Korean pretty well, but it is exciting for Tyler. There's more, but that's what I think I can say. 


Life generally goes on much as it always does. I still hate shaving. I've lost my motivation to work out in the mornings, so I go at night instead. I figured out how to hard boil eggs (judge not) so I have those for almost every breakfast.

Life in my house is really good. I'm living in one of the nicest houses in the mission with a total of 7 elders inside, so every meal time is a party.

길음1 is made up of Elders L, V, and A. Elders L and V are our zone leaders. Elder L looks like he belongs on a cover of the New Era, loves Batman, is one of the nicest happiest people I've ever met and has a sugar addiction that could cross borders. Which is saying something around here. Don't tell him I said it was an addiction though, in his self control efforts I was not the friend that helped him quit eating, but the friend who helped him quit trying. The way the best bros do. Elder V was the other guy that quit sweets with him. He has been out for a little more than a year and only had a testimony for about a year before that. He's got an interesting story. He is a philosophy major at BYU, so he has filled the role of counterpoint that I so love and need. He, like me, is up front about how he thinks, and doesn't back down easily, so we have a right merry old time. Elder A is from Arizona and he's a running machine. His dreams include things like learning the martial arts forms from each bending style in Avatar and competing in the Olympics. He lovingly refers to me as "Uncle Baydo" which means Uncle Apostasy. Don't ask why, I swear I'm obedient and stuff. Good thing, too, cause if I wasn't the other greenie (besides Elder A) might kill me.

His name is Elder R. He and Elder J make up 길음2. Elder R is from Washington DC, used to work at some sort of dysfunctional scout camp, and has excellent calves. He is more of the sunshiny happy kind of Mormon that would give out passalong cards at school and he can't talk about either politics or dating (not really girls, just the idea of dating) because they get him too excited. Elder J was a soldier before he came. He is our district leader and he is very serious about missionary work, but I can pull his quirky side out of him. We joke a lot about how I'm going to go to hell.

Me and my companion are 길음3. I already talked about him, and I'm basically the same as you knew me. Or maybe I'm not. I can't really measure the change in myself very well, besides Korean speaking ability so...maybe ya'll will be disappointed when I get back, I don't know.

Lately I've been reading from the Bible. Last week I studied Acts, and this week I hit up the surprisingly good book of Daniel. Interesting how nicely he predicted Alexander the Great. Anyway, I learned other more useful things, but a common thing of the two is that prophets can... drop the ball. They are human.  They make mistakes. So, too, can missionaries. If you don't believe me, come watch me jundo for a day. When they (missionaries) teach, they don't always feel the spirit, and when they do they don't always understand. Honestly, it is sort of a terrifying realization. It scares me to death that some mistake that I make could stop people that God wants me to find from hearing about the gospel. Honestly, I haven't actually made much of a difference, at least not yet. In these first six months, no one that I've taught has been Baptized, or even met more than twice. But thats ok. It doesn't mean the church isn't true. It doesn't mean that God doesn't speak to man. And it doesn't mean we can stop trying.

Back into the storm,
Whitlock out.






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Back in Nam


May we, in a world that feels like it is sufficient, that feels that it needs no king, be willing to stand for the King of Kings with as much courage and boldness as Peter and Paul. Let us make our allegiance known and show the world that we, like Paul, are "not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (Romans 1:16)

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The defining feature of this week was the combined conference with our Seoul Mission and the Seoul South Mission (Or in Korean 서울 남 Seoul Nam, hence the poor attempt at a witty title).

I got to see a lot of people that I wanted to see. Honestly, I don't know most of the south mission, but I was able to see ConCon (Elder Brienholt) from my high school again, if only briefly, and I got to meet my big brother, Elder B. He's a super nice guy. I like him. Elder Coats, if you are reading this, then you should have already gotten that picture of your posterity, including Elder M, who I guess considers himself Elder B's little boy, contrary to everything Elder V has told me. You've got some posterity man. It was also really fun to see my Seoul mission friends again. (Posterity is a reference to those trained by another missionary.)

By the way, my information last week was faulty. It looks like the majority of my generation got kicked into the pool prematurely, not just the people that I talked about. There are a lot of companionships like mine with young missionaries, and there are a couple other trainers, including Elder G who picked up one of the new mission wonder boys.

Anyway, the conference main speaker was Elder Evans, who heads the missionary arm of the church. It was super good. I felt the spirit a lot, learned a lot about myself and the spirit, and learned a ton of church secrets. Like really though. Don't trust a general authority. He told us about...well he did tell us not to tell, but holy moses. Missionary work is getting revolutionized. I'm part of "the surge" but most of the big changes are yet to come. Tyler, buckle up, they are going to do things a lot smarter with you and your generation.


Revolutionizing missionary work and ninjitsu at the same time. Call me Elder Kakashi.
And yes, it is that cold over here.
The main message of the conference was about how revelations come in series, with the example being the late missionary changes in age, new missions, new mtcs, 30% reduced training (which, by the way, has apparently actually boosted the amount that people pick up in the MTC by a tiny bit) and the like. Really good stuff.

This last week we found one person who may be of some potential. He's a Chinese divinity school student. He speaks English, but not Korean, and thank the Lord I took all those Mr. Atwood classes, 'cause thus far our conversation has revolved around things like irresistable grace, and election. I can match him, but I don't know if I can create interest beyond the surface level curiostity that he has. I met him while I was street contacting. Sort of. I met his friend and he asked about the Book of Mormon and then took me to J's house and introduced me. My companion was fairly confident that we were going to be assaulted when we followed him into the building, but the good news is that even though I'm not a strong American, I'm bigger than everyone here. We met him, talked, got his number, left, called to set up another time and found out that he was summoned back to China to help his Dad deal with some sort of family crisis, but will return sometime in the future. I'll keep you posted.

My spiritual thought for the week centers on boldness. We were counselled by Elder Evans to focus on our missionary work rather than tell members how to do theirs, but I feel like this is more of a discipleship thing than anything else.

Lately I've been studying a lot from Acts trying to learn about how to work with the spirit. I've pulled a lot out of it, but one of the most obvious features is boldness. The primary protagonists are Simon "the Rock" Peter and Paul, two of the most gutsy men that ever lived. Both of them faced massive opposition but confronted it in a very confident and unflagging way. 

For those of you who have seen Lord of the Rings, you may remember the scene where everyone is planning what to do with the ring. If you haven't seen it yet, hit up youtube and watch the Council of Elrond. At one point Boromir makes a derisive comment about Aragorn, the one heir to the throne of Gondor, praising the valor and accomplishments of his people and declaring that, "Gondor needs no King." To this, responds Legolas, who, in what may be his greatest moment in the movies, defends Aragorn whose identity he knows.

"This is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and you owe him your allegiance."

No apology, no softener, no hesitation.

We, likewise, know who our king is. May we, in a world that feels like it is sufficient, that feels that it needs no king, be willing to stand for the King of Kings with as much courage and boldness as Peter and Paul. Let us make our allegiance known and show the world that we, like Paul, are "not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (Romans 1:16)

Whitlock out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Gireum Legion Grows


For a lot of Christians, the debate about salvation is whether grace saves us or we are saved through our efforts. Clearly, the answer is grace, but it is grace that we have to use. Christ has provided his gospel for us for a reason. It isn't so that we can ignore it and be saved anyway, it is so that we can follow it. We are drowning. We are little kids washed out to sea, stuck in a current of our own inadequacies. We are sucked down into our despair, our fear, our weakness, unable to swim out despite our best efforts. We are drowning. And yet, even though we are the ones who drove the nails through his hands, he reaches them out to us. The only choice that we have to make is whether we will grasp what he has offered us.

Take hold. No matter what is happening in your life, grasp them. The hands of our Savior can pull you from whatever pit you are in, save you from whatever fate, no matter how inevitable it may seem, and in doing so shape you and mold you into more than you can imagine. So take hold, and hold on tight.


**************


Hello all. Another great week in the Land of the Hangook has come and past, with some changes.

Transfers came and was eventful in that nothing really happened. Our zone split, but the districts remained exactly the same, plus an additional pair of Korean sister missionaries in our district. I did, however hear that the Arch district represented again. Last transfer, me and Elder S were two of the four missionaries to go co-senior in their second transfer with an equally inexperienced greenie. This transfer, Elder Sc and Sister B became the only members of our group to train. My MTC district was the best. Things in the Legion are going well too. I'm still working with Elder LJC and life goes on.

Me and my Comp at some Members' home.


And boy does it go. This week was marked by the chain dropping of about 8 of our potential investigators, an exchange with Elder R (from my younger group) in which we jundoed for literally the whole day and I misrecorded phone numbers in such a way that we got almost no new potentials out of it, and meeting with H___.

H___ is a Korean who only likes to speak English when he can help it. For example, I don't know his Korean name, he is just H___ to me. I met him on the street near our apartment and he gave me his number and things went well. When I called him (as I may have talked about a little last time) I talked to him for like ten minutes in a conversation that included me teaching the Word of Wisdom, him inviting me on a trip to Jeju (Korea's Hawaii), and successfully setting up the appointment for last Thursday. We met him in a cafe and I taught him about the  Restoration and learned about his needs (which I finally was able to understand). The moral of the story, is that since I could communicate, I learned about what real missionary work should be like. The lesson went great and he's got genuine church interest and I'm going to invite him to get baptized just as soon as I can.

Really, really happy about the whole situation. Throw him into your prayers if you have room. I think I found a real investigator.

I also had a freak run in with someone from back in the Jungnang days. I don't know if ya'll remember J___, but he was an English class member that me and Elder C had a really good conversation with after class. I assumed that we had picked him up, but he sort of disappeared. The miracle is that he showed up at my Gireum English class out of nowhere. He said he had just been too busy to attend, but that he remembered our conversation, and still wanted to learn more when he had the chance. Elder C went home today, but before he left I checked up with him about J___, and he hasn't been back to Jungnang since I left. What are the odds that he picked my class of all classes to show up to? Now if I can just get him to show up again...

That is about it. I'm doing well. Happy, hardworking, and focused. My Korean ability to speak keeps improving, but I understand next to nothing still.

My spiritual thought for the day echoes something that I thought about a lot during college. For a lot of Christians, the debate about salvation is whether grace saves us or we are saved through our efforts. Clearly, the answer is grace, but it is grace that we have to use. Christ has provided his gospel for us for a reason. It isn't so that we can ignore it and be saved anyway, it is so that we can follow it. We are drowning. We are little kids washed out to sea, stuck in a current of our own inadequacies. We are sucked down into our despair, our fear, our weakness, unable to swim out despite our best efforts. We are drowning. And yet, even though we are the ones who drove the nails through his hands, he reaches them out to us. The only choice that we have to make is whether we will grasp what he has offered us.

Take hold. No matter what is happening in your life, grasp them. The hands of our Savior can pull you from whatever pit you are in, save you from whatever fate, no matter how inevitable it may seem, and in doing so shape you and mold you into more than you can imagine. So take hold, and hold on tight.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Whitlock out.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Scaricles


...I still have no idea what would have happened, but I'm glad that we were able to listen carefully enough to respond. I'm glad God is looking out for us.

****************

Hello everybody.

This week is transfer week, so I'm slightly upset. I really hate transfers week, especially if someone is getting transfered. I haven't gotten called yet, but I should find out what is going on on Wednesday night.

But that's ok, because the Gireum Legion (for we are many) spent this week quite well, starting with a bomb Outback trip right after my last email. I dropped about 40$ but still ended up saving money on the pay period, so thank the Lord for cheap ramen. The only downside to what was an otherwise unbelieveable tastebud fiesta was that they stole roughly $4.50 of my Chocolate Thunder from Downunder, but of me it is required to forgive all men so...

The next big thing that happened is an absolute tragedy. As of this week, Gireum area has lost the goldmine that is Korea University. The second most prestigeous academic institution in the nation was home to people of all nations who spoke a lot of English and were a bit more open to reconsidering their religious views. Unfortunately, as we visited the campus on a quest for a music club to play at our stake musical fiesta (to be held this week), we ran into the Dongdaemoon sisters (including Sister Bevard, from my MTC district) who informed us, as later confirmed by the APs, that the college was Dongdaemoon territory. Mourn.

It's ok though, because the trip did yield a street lesson (I'm a vastly more effective missionary in English) with a guy from India that we are going to meet with tonight.

Actually, this week was a really fruitful one. Me and my companion opened the area with no potentials, and four investigators, three of whom I never met. We spent most of the transfer finding, building our potential list, and this week we managed to get a lot of lessons, and it looks like we are up for a repeat performance this week. Heck, one of them invited me to go on a trip to Jeju island (Korea's Hawaii) with him after a street contact and a phone call. So I guess all the birthday prayers were effective. Thanks everyone!

Well we hit up another college after Dongdaemoon on our quest for musical reinforcement and had an interesting experience.

Emptiness.

Me and the zone leader that was with me both experienced a complete loss of the spirit in such a way that clearly told us to get the heck out of dodge. We did. I still have no idea what would have happened, but I'm glad that we were able to listen carefully enough to respond. I'm glad God is looking out for us.

The real highlight of the week was the ward Halloween party though. One of the most fun things that's happened on my mission, and a huge missionary success.

We had over a hundred people in attendance, over 30 of whom were non members. Booyah!

We opened up with a pinata so hard that it shattered Thor's hammer and a set of battle axes before the kids swarmed the candy mess. Then we split off for games like crab soccer, bobbing for apples, some kind of cakewalk thing, and, my game and a favorite, that wierd game with food in bags that you tell lies to kids in. In the process of having kids touch monkey brains, eyeballs, and a spider (my gloved hand) we literally reduced people to hysterical tears and almost caused a middle school student to fall to her death. So that is the kind of missionary I am I guess. I also met a little Korean version of Ricky Stephenson, who emphatically informed me that the whole thing was a con. The night closed off with my referral friends (remember them?) singing and dancing for everybody. I love them.

And that's about it. Thanks again for all the letters and packages everyone. I may never get time to respond to them all, but thanks so much anyway. I love all of you. Probably.

Whitlock out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Flesh Wounds and Birthday Gifts

Hello Everybody!


It's so good to hear how things have been going back in the Land of the Migook (America). Sounds like most of you are doing ok, even if my grandpa keeps making excuses to not leave the hospital. Poppa, don't make me come over there and plant a potato in your IV fluid or so help me I'll do that thing I just said that I would do.

I think my threats are kind of weird. Not so scary as confusing. I either need to work on them or work out more I think.

Not that working out is always a good idea. Wednesday this week I was trying to get some push ups in at lunch time on our house pull up bar. You know, the ones that are advertised as being push-up-able? Lies. As I was going down, the bar slipped forward on my floor causing me to fall forward and smack my face on it in such a way that my two front teeth almost punched through my bottom lip area. Sort of a big gash, but no real pain. Miracle. I didn't go to a hospital or anything (Mom, don't freak out, President said it was ok for me to go to one, that was my choice) but never the less it has healed up really nicely. Now, it is almost completely healed and during the first night it closed up in such a way that I could eat again. Miracle. I've heard that mouths heal especially fast, but it was still pretty cool to watch.

Scott may have chosen a good career path. The human body is pretty cool.

The next day (Thursday) was New Companionship Training Forum, which was made up of companionships of under 6 monthers who need additional training. We talked a lot about how to effectively hold council together and me, my companion, and the sisters in our ward sang a musical number (sans practice that day, courtesy of my choice to eat with Elder Singer before the meeting instead). Then there was a question and answer thing. I learned a lot it was really good. Scary thing was that I had forgotten my backpack at Gwanghwamun (Seoul's equivalent of Times Square) including my scriptures and patriarchal blessing and what not. But, when we went to look for it, it was in the same spot untouched. Miracle. Can you imagine that happening in America? Props to Korean integrity.

Later that night, I was super thankful for my companion. We were coming back from an appointment and some drunk guy grabbed me in the street by my collar. I tried to get past him but he wouldn't let me so I shoved him off and tried to walk past and he grabbed me again. Repeat twice. Then he pulls back, puts his fist in my face and starts yelling some sort of unintelligible gibberish, then starts doing Taekwondoe (sp?) while screaming "Taekwondoe!" I was so ticked.... So my companion grabs him and tells me to leave.  I do, and once I was out of sight, the guy cooled down and left. Turns out it was all just a misunderstanding. He apparently was comparing, favorably, the smallness of my head with the size of his fist. So I'm thankful that my companion understood well enough to avert a potentially damaging situation. Or he lied enough to defuse me from making things worse. Thanks, buddy.

The next day was my birthday (yea...). So mazeltov to me. It was actually really good. I got a nice big birthday package from my family while I was at the new comp forum including new music, Ovaltine, letters, pictures, and brownies, all of which is the equivalent of gold over here. Thanks again family! Love you!

Birthday Brownies


Honestly, the rest of my day was pretty average. I ate well and enjoyed the music and letters, but other than that, just another day of representing God. Not a bad way to spend a birthday, I suppose.

The next day I got one more birthday present, or maybe I should say three more. We were on our way to jundo and the sisters text us over to the church. We show up and there are a bunch of high school sophomores prepping their musical singing/dance routine for their school performances. We listened. They were great. We gave feedback on how they could improve. There wasn't much. Then we sang our song from the forum to them and set up a time to meet up later and play ping pong, invited them to the Halloween Party, took a picture with all the girls (you remember that Americans are gorgeous thing I talked about?), and I got the numbers of all the boys, none of whom are members. In fact none of them are members besides one of the girls, who plays piano for the ward choir. The whole thing had been set up by said girl's mother, in one of the most brilliant feats of member missionary work that I've heard of to this day.

This ward has caught the fire. I'm amazed at the efforts of 길음 ward. They are great at fellowshipping, finding, and exemplifying. No ward is perfect, but this one is fantastical.

I couldn't stop smiling the whole way home.

Whitlock out.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Real Missionary


People always talk about having the faith to move mountains. They talk about it as if through pure belief, if you are faithful enough, mountains will magically pick up into the sky, travel, and reset themselves. I'm sure that, if it is needful and God tells you to do it, that is a thing. But I would suggest...that it takes just as much faith, and maybe more, to have faith to move the mountain yourself. True faith is moving the mountain one rock at a time.

...Why does God ask that we exercise our faith that way? Well, can you imagine how strong you will be after moving an entire mountain of rocks? Can you imagine how much you will grow? That's what it is all about people. And if the mountain seems too high, your task too daunting, then just remember that you can pull with the Savior. He's put worlds together... . A mountain is a cake walk.



**********************

Hello everybody! This is my first email sent on my first p-day on the first day of the first week of being a real missionary! My 12 week training program period wrapped up yesterday. The joy. I feel so...valid. Legit. Genuine.

(In real life, nothing has changed about my outlook but officially, this is a mediocre deal.)

That goes for both me and my companion. As far as I'm concerned, we have made the jump from co-junior to co-senior, even though technically neither of us are certified to be so yet. That's ok though. This week, if all goes well and God smiles in my general direction, I should be wrapping up pass off. ...I've had to do three different sessions as opposed to the usual one [pass off of the fourth lesson], teaching commandments with the first lesson, alone, and with my companion. ... No hiccups thus far, but I've still got "with companion" to do and that should be done tomorrow. After that, I have a ZL final on Wednesday and on Friday, happy birthday to me, I'll try to finish off AP final, becoming an even more real missionary.

Yippiekayay.

This week we jundoed in a cool little forest/park thing. Apparently it is some kind of "hopefully North Korea will like us again" thing. I don't know. But it was super pretty.

We also helped a member to move out of their house with all the other elders in our house. Pretty fun. Physical labor was a nice change of pace and was really relaxing for all of us. It went pretty smoothly for the most part, but there were a couple of times where I had to ninja balance (not my strong suit) on a wall and pass a refrigerator from a stairway above me to the moving truck below. Possibly the sketchiest moments of my life, but that's ok. At least there aren't attack dogs here. Isn't that right, Uncle Mike?

In reward for moving him, the member treated us to Pizza Hut, which is very different over here. In America, Pizza Hut was great, but it was like a normal pizza. Sort of. Here it is luxury pizza. Not like in a comparison sort of way, they just make the pizza very different. And it costs a lot more. What ended up happening is that every bite turned into a party and we all ate way too much and it was glorious.

But that was only the start of our magnificent food week. This week we focused on attracting people to our English Class, predominently college students from Korea University. We went down a couple of times to English flyer or jundo and both times we hit up a Mexican restaurant on campus. So bomb.

I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but college students are my favorite. Unlike high school students, they usually have time to meet, they are nice, are a little more persuadable, and are generally easier and better in every way to every other type of potential investigator. 항상 학생을 사랑해요!

I also got my Korean name this week. My companion has dubbed me 이광오 (Ee-Gwang-Oh) which means light hair. With a real name like Whitlock (White-locks), it seemed to fit.

Spiritual thought this week comes from last week's zone meeting.

People always talk about having the faith to move mountains. They talk about it as if through pure belief, if you are faithful enough, mountains will magically pick up into the sky, travel, and reset themselves. I'm sure that, if it is needful and God tells you to do it, that is a thing. But I would suggest, as my zone leaders did, that it takes just as much faith and maybe more to have faith to move the mountain yourself. True faith is moving the mountain one rock at a time.

My throw-in to their message is why. Why does God ask that we exercise our faith that way? Well, can you imagine how strong you will be after moving an entire mountain of rocks? Can you imagine how much you will grow? That's what it is all about people. And if the mountain seems too high, your task too daunting, then just remember that you can pull with the Savior. He's put worlds together, people. A mountain is a cake walk.

Whitlock out.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Transfers, Conference, and Transfers (I won't say it...)

Sometimes, doing the right thing, even the thing that God tells you to do isn't going to yield immediate results. Sometimes it is just to give you experience. Other times... we just have to show God that he can trust us. We have to show him that we are willing to do his will before he can make it more fully manifest to us. In the end, that is what life is all about, building that relationship with God. Showing him that not only are we worthy of his trust through acting on what he gives us, but by showing that we trust him enough to do so.


*********



All right. I'm back with a little more time this week, so hello to the world!

Things are going really well out here. I'm about a week and a half into my new transfer (which I don't remember if I talked about) and loving working in 길음 (Gireum)!

Gireum House Kitchen

My Study Area


My companion is a Korean.  We get along really well. He's a super nice guy with a big testimony and on top of it all, he speaks Korean like a fiend. Figures. Working with him has pushed me to work harder language-wise and my abilities have already improved a lot. The big challenge of working with a Korean, I've found, is that other Koreans talk to his level, so my understanding has done been defenestrated. We are also from the same MTC generation.

Even though we are both new and inexperienced, we've been having a lot of success. We came into an area with a couple of maybe investigators, and this week we had a good run finding people. We ended up getting nine lessons for the week (including street lessons) which is an all time high for my mission service, so fiesta!

This last week also included my first taste of training. One of the greenies in my apartment went on an exchange with us while his companions did their Zone Leader duties and I got to teach him to jundo. Loved it. Sooooo much fun. It's nice to see how much I've progressed, even though there is still a super long way to go.

We also got to watch Conference this week. It takes a week for them to translate it to Korean, so we ended up watching it just this last weekend. Loved it. Everyone has already heard about how bomb conference is as a missionary, so I won't go into that, but my favorite talk was President Uchtdorf's spiel (Come, Join with Us) about why everyone should join the church and how much stuff we do, followed shortly after by Elder Holland 's talk (Like a Broken Vessel) about depression. It was also nice to see President Monson a little bit more recovered from the loss of his wife. President Uchtdorf has grown in my eyes by his lifealert joke. Pretty sure me and the old friend circle all busted up on that one.

To mother, when Corrie Ten Boom (Concentration-Camp-Lady) was brought up, I could just sense your satisfaction from across the ocean.

Just one quick miracle for my spiritual thought for the week. I guess this is a story that has been told, but it is a little different when you experience it.

We were out jundoing at the end of a long day. I have been trying to be better about responding to potential spiritual promptings, regardless of whether or not they make sense to me. Normally, we jundo at cross walks. It is pretty easy, and less awkward, to start a conversation with somebody when you are waiting for the light to change. Plus, there are always people where we go. Usually after I jundo to someone, I go back to the corner and wait for someone else to show up. I was coming back to my corner, and was going to go strait, but one guy stuck out to me. He was going right, and the light had just changed, so it was out of the optimum aproach time, but I felt like I had to talk to him. So I followed him for a little bit until I caught up to him and I was like, "Alright, Lord. I got this. This is what you want me to do, so give it to me."

I say hello and get the most direct rejection I'd gotten all night. I'd say I was discouraged, but rejection is just a thing now so it doesn't really affect me. I was a little disappointed though.

It wasn't much later in the night that I talked to a guy named -----. Things went super well, he spoke fluent English, he's really smart, and even though I couldn't find a specific need to teach to him, he agreed to meet me again and I set up my first full street appointment. I've gotten other appointments before, but always from calling someone back later, and he just gave it to me.

The moral of the story is this: Sometimes, doing the right thing, even the thing that God tells you to do isn't going to yield immediate results. Sometimes it is just to give you experience. Other times, as I believe was the case for me, we just have to show God that he can trust us. We have to show him that we are willing to do his will before he can make it more fully manifest to us. In the end, that is what life is all about, building that relationship with God. Showing him that not only are we worthy of his trust through acting on what he gives us, but by showing that we trust him enough to do so.

Whitlock out.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Lot to Chew (and Suck) On

I feel like sucess will come when we give more of ourselves, because God isn't going to step in unless we're doing our part...

***********

Hey everyone.

A lot of stuff has happened in the last couple of weeks. I'll have to be brief, but I wanted you to be updated.

Last week was 추석 (Chuseok), a three day long fiesta of a holiday that Koreans equate to Thanksgiving. As such, the country largely shut down, hindering greatly the amount of missionary work we could get done. To adapt to this we had a wierd week. We had two different P-days, one on Monday, like usual, and the other an emailless p-day on FridayOn Monday everyone else played football and I wrote a letter and talked to people and watched some really unexpectedly large Koreans play rugby. On Friday, we had a combined Missionary fiesta with my current zone and my new zone. We ate muffins, played signs, and watched the Best Two Years, which is even funnier after you have lived the missionary life. I wore grandma (harmony) pants like a fool and said terrible things, so I'm still me I guess.




The highlight of the week was not that though. It was cleaning day.

Not. We had one of those, but it wasn't much more than a college cleaning check. Minus vindictive Hall Advisors with vendettas against me and my room mate.

But forgiveness is a thing, right?

Highlight was Mission Conference. To lead into it, we had a mission fast. The idea was that it would give us a chance to refocus ourselves and call down the powers of heaven so that we weren't fighting such a losing battle here. Really good idea, except that I don't know how the whole refocusing thing went over. I feel like sucess will come when we give more of ourselves, because God isn't going to step in unless we're doing our part, and for a lot of people that isn't the case. Including me. The refocusing thing helped push me into a new phase of self improvement. I want to make myself the best missionary I can be, so I've been pushing harder. And I've got an opportunity coming up that will help me to push even harder. But anyway, the mission conference was super good, especially when I got to see my MTC buddies. Really good times.

The Seoul Korea Mission - September 2013 - Mission Conference
(Elder Whitlock's tiny head is in the middle of the doorway on the left side.)


Sunday brought a fail of epic proportions. This should tell you something about my Korean ability. We're in sacrament meeting, and the hour comes to a close and an old man stands up to the pulpit for closing prayer. I close my eyes and bow my head, accept that I'll have no clue what I'm praying for, reflect on the emptiness of my impending "amen", then ponder the mysteries of life for about ten minutes. I was, understandably confused, but this is a very different place, so I continued to try to figure out how to fix Africa or some such until I just couldn't take it any more. I open my eyes to discover that he's still going strong with his eyes open. As were my companions. And the rest of the congregation. Turns out that he was delivering a talk the whole time and my companion thought I was trying to take a nap or something. Yikes.

Minute to Win It - Korean Style
This week we had a game night thing which was fun. I went over to a different house and did a little reconnaisance for my ZL comp. Just trying to get the feel for how things went over there. Interesting trip, but I probably shouldn't talk much about it here.

I also punched the heck out of a picture frame. It was broken and I was trying to do precision punches through holes when I missed and punched through the wood instead, so I just kind of punched through every other piece of wood too.

Wished I could have punched someone else. We saw a lady on the street faceplant onto the pavement and her drunk husband reacted by hitting her while she was down. A lot. But we couldn't get involved. Made my blood boil for hours and still makes me sick.

The big news for this week is transfers. We were pretty confident that I was going to be staying here and killing  my companion (staying with him until the end of his mission, when he goes home), but that isn't the case. Not by a long shot. Transfer calls dropped a bomb on the mission. We've got another group of thirty coming in like mine, so they had to move every thing around to make sure that people from my group weren't training people from their group. Only 10% of my mission has been out for longer than a year. They did a really good job, but I ended up getting transfered out of 중낭  and into 길음 (Girum). I'm going to be working with the one Korean guy from my generation, 이종채. President was laughing about it. Neither of us have passed off yet, I'm still on lesson three, and we've both only been out for a transfer. He wasn't sure whether to call us co-senior or co-junior. Since I live with the Zone leaders, I'm aware that this is very much an exception to the norm. To my knowlege, we're the only people who won't get a trainer their second transfer, instead we have to train each other. I'm going to miss Elder C, Elder Ch (Shmazmbomber, Dr. Chaucer...), and everyone else in my zone, but I think this is going to be a really good growth opportunity for me.

If you've been holding out on prayers lately, send a few my way, cause I'm going to need them.

Whitlock out.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Going Dark

Hey, things are going really well over here, but something has come up which requires the vast majority of my email time. I'm going to entirely forgoe the blog and try to blitz through the emails I recieved with the rest of my time. This might become something of a norm for a while, and for that I'm sorry.  I'll try to get back to the swing of things again soon. Until then, know that I'm happy and well! Love you all so much!


Elder Whitlock, happy and well in Korea.  Actually made this shot...


Elder Whitlock's companion, Elder Coats.

Yeah, I'm cool.  


Monday, September 16, 2013

And Another Week Bites the Dust


"Illuminated by the light of faith, adversity becomes a vehicle for growth and death becomes a doorway from one phase of our eternal existence to another" (Elder M. Russell Ballard).
Life can be hard sometimes. When you encounter a challenge, don't back down, and don't feel sorry. Let that challenge become a part of who you are. Let it help you to be a better person. Let it bring you closer to Christ.


*************

Sorry for the shortness of this letter, but I had something important that I had to take care of this week.
Big things that happened this week:

1. We went to Dongdaemun for P-day. Dongdaemun is a massive market/flea market sort of area with a ton of really cheap stuff. I got a bunch of surprisingly nice 3$ ties and some 10$ cuff links. Because why not. My companion bought a lot of grandma pants (or harmony baji) and a suit, which cost him a little over a hundred dollars. So it was a pretty sweet day. This day, I also made one of the worst decisions of my life by deciding to diet super hard. For the next couple of days, I existed just a bit over starvation. I could handle the discomfort, but not happily. So my missionary work went straight down the tubes, especially while trying to jundo to people.

2.Meting with President was on this last Wednesday. I think. The date is irrelevant, I suppose. It was super fun because I got to see my MTC district buddies again. I love those guys. Also, a lot of the talk was about not wasting a single minute and being happy, so I took that as permission to cast my diet down to the abyss from whence it came and regained my happiness. Later that day, I was able to set up my first appointment! (Said appointment has now fallen through, but that is to be expected out here...)

3. My diabetic investigator, 신선배, has dropped off the face of the map. He probably decided to drop us, but I'm not ruling out vengeance from a wrathful ajuma. This brings our investigator count down to zero.

4. We did get a meeting in yesterday with a guy named 헌 (Hun). We got down to business, to go meet...that hun, but things didn't go great. We were all fairly sure he had robbed me for the whole meeting, he shouted the f-word at God, and has an extraordinarily skewed view on what a good father is and on the the potential moral correctness of school shooters. I actually led out in the conversation (English), but it was a rough ride. I poured out my soul to that guy, tying everything back into something that he'd said, and he didn't give a crap. Though he did eventually give me back my thirty dollars.

5. I also learned how to do calls. This is the process of going through old records and trying to reconnect with people. No luck thus far, but it is kind of fun. I like calls.
Spiritual thought for the week comes from Elder Ballard. In his book, Our Search for Happiness, he says, "Illuminated by the light of faith, adversity becomes a vehicle for growth and death becomes a doorway from one phase of our eternal existence to another."
Life can be hard sometimes. When you encounter a challenge, don't back down, and don't feel sorry. Let that challenge become a part of who you are. Let it help you to be a better person. Let it bring you closer to Christ.
Whitlock out.