"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, August 4, 2013

On the Far Side of the World

We got off the plane in Inchon and started swimming our way though the sauna that I had mistaken as our airport...


Elder Whitlock with President and Sister Christensen, shortly after arriving in Korea.

 Alright, so Korea Week the First happened.

We got no sleep, but when we woke up at three to catch the plane it didn't matter. Unlike week one, I didn't need the spirit to keep me going (heresy?) because I was just too excited. The past couple of days had been spent saying goodbyes and writing cute little notes to each other. It sort of felt like graduation, which I guess it was. So I have more pictures, but I forgot to bring my camera today. Anyway, we went to the airport, and hopped on a plane to Dallas. Despite what out leader taught us in the MTC, a nine hour flight to Korea was flat out hilarious. Granted, everything is hilarious at four in the morning. My Dallas flight was characterized by two minute spurts of sleep interupted by me flipping out as the first thing I saw on waking up was the ground really far away. Imagine walking into a spiders web that no one else sees accompanied by an internal Gus scream. I would have loved to sit by me, but everyone else was actually asleep, so my honor/anonymity has been retained. When we landed in Dallas, I hurried over to McDonalds for the last bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddle. It was delicious, so thank you Murdocks. My district loves you all now for the breakfast you provided us.

Then we boarded the Beast. A massive international American Airlines jet bound for Inchon. Maybe now is a good time to disclaimer that I don't know how to spell Korean city names in the English alphabet very well. Inchon is Korea's international airport that is right next to Seoul. But first the Beast.

I sat on the aisle in the middle section, which isn't a bad seat, but I couldn't see out any windows. Not that I could have anyway. For the entire flight all the windows were closed, plunging the plane into a sleep-able, but gloomy darkness punctuated by tiny TV displays projecting various movies.  I got through a lot of Book of Mormon, then an hour of sleep, then studying law of chastity dahno, then repeat. 

We got off the plane in Inchon and started swimming our way though the sauna that I had mistaken as our airport. Holy humidity, I'm never dry here and it's hot enough that I'm usually sweating. We met up with our APs because President Christensen, who is super cool, was attending the Korean version of EFY. Apparently, its a pretty big deal. The APs took us to the temple where we stayed the night. Usually we would go to the Mission home, but there were too many of us to fit, so they had us sleeping in the temple and being oriented in the church next door to the temple. The next day we went to Gwanghwamun, which is like Seoul's Time Square and where I am currently typing from, and jundo (street contact) people. What that involves is making some sort of an approach, talking to someone that introducing yourself and trying to get their number/set and appointment/give them a business card of your own. We actually found a guy who "wanted to learn his English through the Book of Mormon." We referred him to the area where he lives.

That is fairly typical actually. Missionary work here is different from most of the rest of the world. 70% of Korea is in love with American culture and America in general. The other 30% are about Korean traditional culture, but are usually pretty moderate with a few radical anti-Americans. So this place is different, actually a lot different, hence the title, but the culture is very Americanized. There are tons of people who speak English, and almost everyone knows at least some and wants to know more. Additionally, while there are obviously exceptions, a lot of church in Korea is really just for show or out of habit.  The average Korean might belong to a religion, but not really care too much about it. So the most effective way we can do missionary work, at least as I'm being taught now, is to act like fun Americans, get some stylish hair style, and go make friends with people, many of whom will just want to learn English, then try to create interest.

For example, I've been to two lessons so far and they were both with guys of about my age who spoke pretty good English and wanted to practice. At least initially. One of them wanted to be baptized and the only thing that stopped him was his mom signing the consent form. The other guy is brand new, so this was the first time we met with him. Me and my companion, Elder Coats, played pingpong in the church and talked with him for a while then I kind of transfered from the Walking Dead to Mel Gibson movies to The Passion of the Christ to Christ/feelings about religion. This was with a guy named (everyone has an English name that they've chosen) Gerard. He feels like God exists, but only as a mental thing. Like, if you believe in God, he exists, but if not than no. Really subjective and psychological. So we talked about that for a bit then convinced him to let us talk to him about the Plan of Salvation with him in a week and went to go get a snack.

That might have been the highlight of the week so far since it was the only "lesson" I've really been involved with.

Part of that is because of Elder Coats. He's a zone leader. There weren't enough missionaries to train all of us (my group makes up a third of the mission) so anyone who wasn't training already and was competant was assigned a greenie. Elder Coats is still the zone leader, which doesn't usually happen, and he still has all of his zone leader duties, so between training me and that, we get less proselyting time and more time where I'm stuck in the box where we live. Elder Coats and his old companion lived in a little apartment designed for one that fit two ok but doesn't at all work for four. I'll send pictures next week, it was fun. We're actually moving today, so that will be my Pday, but it should be with it.

Elder Coats (Josh's zone leader and first companion in Korea) and Elder Whitlock

Elder Coats is from Idaho. He is big into sports of all varieties and he has been in the mission for the longest time, so he's got the most missionary experience, if not Korean experience (which he's great at, but he's competing with actual Koreans). He's a patient teacher, which is good because the MTC taught me to speak only high form to people always, but when I do that people look at me like I'm crazy. Middle form is kosher in most circumstances here in the Seoul Mission, and I am still trying to learn it.

Church was fun. I don't know what was talked about really, but I introduced myself and apparently did a passable job. The people here are super nice, and especially in my ward. The kids...I didn't know I missed seeing kids so much, but I did. They are super energetic and mildly spazzy, but really cute. The bishop is nice and the ward mission leader speaks some good English, so that's good. I think I like it here.

Spiritual thought for the week: Watch The Character of Christ from Elder Bednar. It's an MTC Christmas devotional from a couple of years ago, and I don't know if you can find it anywhere, but if you can, watch it. I don't want to spoil it, so I'll cut there, with an invitation to turn outwards when you naturally would want to turn in. 

Know that I love you all.

Whitlock out.

PS: My mission president lets us take two hours for email, so I will probably have time to respond to whatever ya'll want to send me. So DO IT!