"Thank you for the rice. Can I offer you the bread of life in return?"
Last Friday, the day ended with TRC, which is where we teach volunteers, usually members, a lesson in Koran. I see that typo, and chooose to keep it. This time, we skyped to a Korean sister that was actually in the Land of the Hangook. We could understand like, zero of what she was saying, but she was super nice and I came out of the experience just really pumped to go to Korea.
Which happens in like two more days. ASSSAAAAAAHH!!!
So yeah, the last week has been entirely geared towards our departure. We got through the 8 hour departure devotional (which was actually really good), and a set of instructions on how to not have our lives ruined by the airport.
We also practiced street contacting for the first real time. It turns out that I'm going to have some wierd investigators, as the first lines that came to mind were things like "So, do you like your family? Want to live with them forever? Yeah, I know you just started college. Ok, well have you heard of Hell? Satan, fire...other terrible things? Right, want to know how you and your family can avoid that?" "Thank you for the rice. Can I offer you the bread of life in return?" "Given the approximate airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, would you like to know how long it would take you to hie on over to the church?" "I see you are enjoying your water. Want to come for a swim with me? Saturday at noonish?" "Do you want to know how to find greater happiness? Ah, you are a masochist. Well, if you want to practice holding your breath, come to this address in white clothing."
My second thoughts are usually pretty good. But I may be a terrible missionary.
I shouldn't say that. We actually had a couple of great lessons this week, thanks to the Lord. Really touching experiences. I continue to realize the importance of teaching with the spirit even in lessons about keeping the Sabbath day holy.
Spiritual thought for the week: We had a devotional with another emeritus general authority this week. One of the lines that stuck out to me was that we need to be clothed in Charity. Now, those who have been to church with me, and especially those of you who were in my sunday school class at college, know that I'm big into metaphors, symbolism, and what things mean. Why questions. And one of my favorite metaphors is the Armor of God/ Armor of Light. I could teach an entire class on that symbol alone. For now, just think about this. Armor is bulky, hard, and generally uncomfortable. Counter to what we may have learned by watching 300, most people throughout history wore clothes under their armor. The reason is simple. Without a layer between the armor and the skin, the armor chaffes. It doesn't feel right, and sometimes it can be enough of a distraction as to reduce a soldiers effectiveness. When you have clothes underneath, the whole set works better together. It makes sense. It doesn't chaffe.
The same thing goes for the Armor of God. When we try to throw on the other pieces (faith, hope, truth) without first clothing ourselves with charity, we might not be comfortable. This is why people may sometimes find the gospel restrictive. If you don't love your neighbor, if you haven't developed that charity, then treating him with respect, being honest with him, and and generally being Christian with him will seem like a chore. Something that you may follow anyway, but not something that you enjoy. Not something that feels right. When you have that charity, all the other pieces make sense. They fit. You treat your friend like a brother because he is in your eyes. Because you want to. You serve a mission or fulfill your calling because you love the people around you and want to help them. You sacrifice yourself to carry others through a freezing river because you know that Christ gave everything for them and he expects you to do the same. After all, "greater love hath no man than this, that he will lay down his life for his friends." Brothers and Sisters, you might not be called to die for someone else right now, but if you clothe yourselves with charity, put on the armor of light, and live for them, then you have fought the good fight already, and you can be confident that Christ will look down on your efforts with a smile and welcome you into his kingdom where you belong.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Han (headed to Australia from Josh's zone) and Elder Whitlock
Elder Whitlock with Elder Maag
Elder Whitlock with his teacher, Sister Lee, and his companion.
Romans 13:12 tells us, "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." There is a sense of urgency in the scripture to be more than you are. Where we, and especially me, naturally give off darkness, Christ (via Paul) commands us to arise from the darkness, put on his armor, and join the fight. This may seem to just apply to me. I only have about a week before I get into the field. But it doesn't. Each of us has the ability to grow right now. We can choose to be better than we were yesterday. We can choose to be more than who we are. All we have to do is make that choice, turn to our Savior, and then fight like the warriors he needs us to be. The world is covered in darkness, but today, choose to channel light....
Elder Whitlock (right) and his MTC companion, Elder Pratt (left), at the Provo Temple
It's Christmas. Last night, we found out that even though it was too late to pick them up, our travel plans were waiting for us in the mail. We let out an appropriate Korean cheer of "AssssaaaaAAAAA!" then had to go to bed and wait until this morning to find out what was happening (please, who's been touching these monkeys?).
I'd like to say that this morning we woke up all excited, but it was like 5:30, so in real life we sort of hated everything that moved for a little bit there. Then we did service and got done early. Huzzah. Then my companion dumped dirty mop water all over the carpet. Huzzah. Then I ate a single bowl of cereal (because I decided I don't want to be fat) and we checked our plans. It was just like opening up presents under a tree, except for there is a lot less opening and a lot more packing ahead.
A sister from my district just walked in and did the greatest happy dance when we handed her her travel plan.
So July 29th at 3:00 AM I report to the travel office where they may or may not return my visa/passport to me. I don't actually know if I'll ever see those again. That means I get to stay up all night packing and whatnot so yeah. After that we run over to the airport in SLC. My first flight is to Dallas/Ft Worth and that leaves at 6 AM, so if ya'll want me to call you it will probably have to be somewhere in there. Time should be limited, but available. Not like in Texas. If all goes well (which never happens in an airport and is less likely to do so when one of your travel/district buddies is from Dubai), we should get into Texas by 9:40 their time, which gives us a solid hour before our flight to Seoul takes off. Dad, if you remember the fiasco in Boston on the way back from the Roma/Jerusalem trip, I can't imagine this going much better than that. So, I may start doing more cardio before we go. From Texas, we actually go straight to Seoul, where we should arive at 2:50 PM their time. I think that's a 15 hour difference, but I'm not sure. If I'm right, that means we will be traveling or sitting in an airport for about a day straight. Good thing the church is true.
Eh, who am I kidding? I'm so pumped! Here's hoping for first commitment to baptism before I get there.
Sorry that the call would be at some ungodly time for you. Finding service at 3 in the morning from a houseboat at Lake Powell wouldn't sound fun if you weren't going to be at LAKE FREAKING POWELL!!! So pumped for you. If it would be easier to not deal with it, I will save my Joker reference for later. Most of the guys in my district aren't calling home and that seems easier, but if ya'll really want to hear from me that bad after just two months, then let me know by next week.
Fun things from this week: I started putting Korean lyrics to songs like Snow, Billy Jean, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight for the sake of why not. I discovered that my goal to make a new friend everyday is hampered by a separate goal to not speak English. Half my district rewatched the Testaments on Sunday. Following that, I remembered to command my teacher, whose name is Jacob, to not deny us his gifts. I got behind on letter responses (because my family is the best). One of my roomates got ambitious and tried two drops of the worlds hottest hot sauce which literally left him crying in the fetal position on the floor. May sound like melodrama, but I've tried I drop of the stuff and let me tell you, it's just like what would happen if a baby Balrog was born in your mouth and incinerated its way to your small intestines, where some kind of Gandalf cell informs it that it shall not pass. To one up him, another roomate took a drop on a warhead, which created this awkward paradox where he wanted to simultaneously squish his face like he just bit a lemon while simultaneously breathing fire. Saving both of them? Grandma's scones.
Speaking of which, we physically could not eat all of our food if we had to at this point. We literally just eat once we get back at night, and we never make a dent. So thank you. Great job. But if you send us more, send it with an XL body bag.
One more thing. This week I've been focusing on developing Charity. Related to that is patience and humility (which my mother subtly pointed out by sending me a talk entitled "
Beware of Pride "). As I was reading through the Humility section of PMG we got to a paragraph that lists prideful behaviors. I don't have a copy with me, but here's basically how that went:
Elder Pratt: Takes credit when things go well...
Pratt: Denies guilt when things go poorly...
Me: "The woman thou gavest me..." Check.
Pratt: Often compares himself to others...
Pratt: But you do so well in the comparison.
Me (half listening): Yep.
I might have cried a little.
The spiritual thought for this week might be familiar for a lot of you, but it has been on my mind lately. Romans 13:12 tells us, "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." There is a sense of urgency in the scripture to be more than you are. Where we, and especially me, naturally give off darkness, Christ (via Paul) commands us to arise from the darkness, put on his armor, and join the fight. This may seem to just apply to me. I only have about a week before I get into the field. But it doesn't. Each of us has the ability to grow right now. We can choose to be better than we were yesterday. We can choose to be more than who we are. All we have to do is make that choice, turn to our Savior, and then fight like the warriors he needs us to be. The world is covered in darkness, but today, choose to channel light.
...I have a myriad of different teachers, resources, and natives teaching me very different versions of Korean and decrying other teachers' advice as blasphemy. In the midst of this turmoil, I find myself on the verge of actually going to Korea, where I intend to find out which of all these languages is true, but am sure that they will all be wrong together.
In pure explanation of my title, I have to explain a bit about Korean. There are different forms of Korean that you use for different situations. Generally speaking, we are supposed to use the highest form besides King form almost all the time just cause we are missionaries, but we are finally starting to pick up/learn middle form as well. Middle Form is nice cause the ending for about everything is an "aiyo." So yolaiyo is like the Korean equivalent of yolo just like yolom is in Israel. That is, just in my head.
It turns out that a lot of stuff that I thought I knew about Korean needed to be corrected this week. Things like "sheen" which I taught to you as some version of spirit actually means "gods". Ergo, every joke I've made about the kudojah sheen that keeps knocking on the classroom door was a joke about the Investigator Gods. If they exist, may they be merciful.
Furthermore, I'm feeling more and more like Joseph Smith in here. Not as much in the vision-y or treasure huntish ways, but I relate alot with the chaotic religios confusion that he experienced. Where he had a church on every corner and ministers decrying all other faiths, I have a myriad of different teachers, resources, and natives teaching me very different versions of Korean and decrying other teachers' advice as blasphemy. In the midst of this turmoil, I find myself on the verge of actually going to Korea, where I intend to find out which of all these languages is true, but am sure that they will all be wrong together.
To better internalize whatever I have actually learned, I've had two English fasts this week and I'm going for another tomorrow. I find that when I'm in that mode, it is a lot harder to learn new concepts, but it makes what I do have go a lot faster in my head. Like different grammer forms flow more easily, so that's good. Next week is four fasts, then the week after, if I'm in a situation where people should theoretically understand what I'm saying, I'm saying it in Korean. Because it is super wierd to be English fasting and have someone from your BYU ward recognize you.
New people I recognized this week that ya'll might know: Dallin Childs (an AF/Helaman's camp buddy), Travis "the Brick Floor" Clemons (sp? Wardy), and my ex-"wife" and the mother of ten trek babies, Sister Keijsa Angerhoffer (once again, sp?). It was fun to catch up with all of them, and even more fun to bring up "our children" in front of Sister Angerhoffer's companion.
Elder Whitlock with Elder Travis Clemons
Interesting random things that have happened in my life: We discovered that my teacher is, in her words, "racist against all people equally." After an ear drum spliting rendition of "We Are All Enlisted," I, in grammatically correct Korean, declared that we were a chorus from Hell, which reduced my teacher to tears laughing. For some reason, getting the teacher to laugh at one of my jokes feels like twice as much of an accomplishment as getting laughter from everyone else. I won a game of revenge, probably for the first time in my life. We realized that one of my roomates could be the unholy offspring of Harry Potter and Ron Weasly. I realized that the theme from Mass Effect 3 is one of my favorite songs of all time. We learned that there are only two kinds of tea that you can't drink via word of wisdom, ergo I'm going to be having a lot of tea in Korea. Not because I love tea, but because that's what they drink. The good news is that I found that out after 'Murica day. We figured out that one of my roomates looks just like Superman when one day his hair had the front swooshy thing, then proceeded to declare me Iron Man and the rest of my roomates Thor, Captain America, Spiderman/Professor X, and Aquaman. I also recieved... a female letter so huzzah for Israel.
Elder Whitlock's teacher and can you see Superman?
This week I'm still working on the charity thing. From what I'm reading, it's mildly important. And from what I'm teaching, there is nothing more important.
One more thing, in the gym, they always have Mormon messages playing, and I totally saw Gretel Tam from high school in one of them, so yeah. Also I encourage everyone to watch the "Origin " mormon message. I just used it in a lesson with one of my progressing investigators and it is a powerful video. So watch it. And give Brother...shoot. That man that I love that is the Stake Young Men's president or something to that effect whose name I can't remember, but who was my second witness in recommending Korra to Dad. And send me his name, I feel super guilty now. No, wait, Madsen! Brother Madsen. Give Brother Madsen my regards. And a hug.
I'll jump back on to send a picture or two in a few hours. The quest to capture a good picture of me continues.
Our God is a God of freedom. He is a God of mercy. He is a God who cares about all his children. And He is a God of miracles.
This week has been defined by one thing and one thing only:
The Fourth of July
I don't know if I've said 'Murica more times in my life combined, than I have in the past week. In that regard, it's a bit like my chocolate milk consumption. Holy patriotism.
The story is that not only do we have a rogue Australian that thought that Mexico and Canada were states in our midst, but the 4th actually merited a celebratory break courtesy of the MTC.
Leading up to yesterday, I made it my side mission (still, Jesus is important) to make sure that the kangaroo hiding amongst the eagles was enlightened as to the awesomeness of this great nation of ours. I wrote down the words to patriotic songs and the pledge of allegiance. I went into history teacher mode and gave her the Revolutionary War in three meal times, then a brief explanation of how Australia isn't part of Japan thanks to us (which I'm pretty sure is true, but can't prove...potential false doctrine).
Yesterday was great. I haven't heard the MTC sing anything louder than we sang "God Bless America". Once we sang a few songs, we had a brief talk about our message being one of freedom, and the speaker shared a really cool experience that his son-in-law had as an pilot in the Air Force. One of his squad mates was killed when he was unable to bail out of his F-15. He was assigned to escort the remains home to the family of his comrade and best friend. Said family wasn't mormon or anything. When he recieved his friend's personal affects, his commanding officer gave him a ring that may or may not have belonged to him and advised him not to give it to his wife. You can imagine that it would be pretty hard to recover much of anything from a crashed fighter jet with any real certainty. Anyways, as he was flying back escorting his comrade, he was constantly praying to know what to do and what to say to the widow. When he got there, he said what he was prompted to say, then informed her that he wasn't sure if the ring was his or not, but that he was impressed to give it to her. In response, the widow informed him that she had been praying that if one thing from him could come back, it would be his wedding ring.
Our God is a God of freedom. He is a God of mercy. He is a God who cares about all his children. And he is a God of miracles.
Which actually isn't a half bad tie in for the next thing that happened. Go me.
After the speaker, we were informed that we were going to be watching "17 Miracles", which some of you may know is my favorite movie (he said as he mopped up the sarcasm that was dripping from his mouth). I at least contained my disappointment. I would rather have sung more songs or watched "The Patriot" or something, but I was able to distinguish myself from every 18 year-old boy in the MTC by not audibly groaning.
Maybe I should take a moment to address the fact that I am fully aware that I completely suck at having charity for my fellow missionaries. I know I'm in the wrong for this. It is my bad. I'm working on it. But here is my thing. I don't really care what other people do as long as it doesn't hurt other people. If you swear, cool beans. If you enjoy rated R movies, I still love you. Heck, if you are fully addicted to crack, I still love you, I just want to help you. Not so the missionaries. These are people who have signed up to, as I understand it, give everything that they have to bring people to Christ and to help them, including emulating his example. Now no one is perfect at this, and as long as I see growth, I genuinely don't judge at all. But when the missionaries are together en masse, I don't get the chance to see that growth. I just see kids that should still be dorking around in middle school that are prepping to go out and tell people to make changes in their lives, but are unwilling to do so in their own. All while wearing the name of my GOD on their chests.
Younger elders just coming out of high school. Come on a mission. But come ready. Commit yourself fully to the cause. Make those changes, or else you aren't a missionary. Over and over I hear my Korean trainers describe the difference between missionaries and guys with fancy name badges. There is a difference. And right now, my greatest fear is becoming one of them. Be a missionary, don't serve a mission.
Said the guy who clearly has issues of his own.
We watched 17 Miracles, which was actually fairly enjoyable for me. I laughed. I didn't cry, but I felt the spirit and I laughed. This was during the Kelly Clarkson portion of Stadium of Fire, so the movie may also have been some sort of shield for us. Fair enough. Afterwards we went out to watch the fireworks. I loved them. They weren't quite as spectacular from a distance, but they were still pretty awesome. Oh, and to watch them, the presidency decided to allow us to stay out past the usual lights out time of 10:30, so I ended up going to bed at 10:30. New record?
Word for the week: Kanchanaiyo, which means something to the effect of "It's all good" or "No worries."
Also, some of the Spanish speaking sisters tried to teach me some Spanish today and I ended my sentance in full Korean. I think that means that I've split my brain into English and Not English chunks. I guess thats a start.
Daumay pehpgaysumnida, yaribun! (See you next time, ya'll!)
Me and my district. I'm the good looking one (Back, far right).
My companion is third from the right and he also looks radiant, especially in this picture.