"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, October 26, 2014

Into North Korea

So the orphanage thing was just a one time deal for me so far, but the idea is that one of the three teams in my district goes every week and we rotate, so I'll go again next week.

(video of Elder Whitlock and his companion playing Bang! 
with orphans at the orphanage, complements of Sister Pihl)

(Photo credit: Sister Pihl, who said, "Wonderful job!  
So glad to have Elder Whitlock as part of our team.  The kids love him!")

The branch is English speaking. It's predominantly made up of military member families and single soldiers, although the area opened up for the first time a year ago and there are a small collection of converts coming as well. 

(Sister Pihl sent this video, saying, "What a great night.  
Thought you might enjoy watching a great teacher.")

(Elder Whitlock teaching Family Home Evening
Photo credit: Sister Pihl)

I actually gave a talk this week. Prepped it with 15 minutes in mind, but [the speaker before me] went long, so I just took two minutes at the end and nailed it. Public speaking is dramatically easier both in English and with Short and Sweet as the objective.

The Pihls are the Senior Missionary couple assigned to the branch. They are the ones that make it all tick. Great people and are like grandma and grandpa to everyone here. The best ever!

Investigators...honestly not a ton to report this week. They're all basically the same. 

Birthday was good. We taught some people, ate some jajangmyun, which is a "Chinese" noodle dish with black sauce. The funnest thing was the DMZ trip the day before. ... I lucked out getting to serve in the same zone as [Elder S] for his last one. We talked a lot on the bus, and I talked a lot with Elder K as well. 

We kind of got the full DMZ experience. We ran through this tunnel that the North dug under the DMZ for a while. It was pretty low so I had to crouch down and run forward. Kind of felt like either some sort of spec ops guy or an ant. Maybe the highlight of the trip. Then we actually went to the DMZ. First to a viewing platform where we got a good look at everything. It doesn't look like you might picture it. I was expecting basically the no man’s land from WW1: a whole lot of dirt with barbed wire and land mines everywhere. Actually, it is super green. Trees everywhere, with a functional little highway that connects the two sides. And for being the Demilitarized Zone, there were a whole lot of soldiers around. 

This is the meeting place in the middle.  I am facing North Korea.

There are a couple of towns in the DMZ, one on the south side where people actually live and farm a good chunk of land (they actually make more money than the average South Korean by a fair bit) and everything is protected by US troops out in the fields constantly. There is also a North Korean town facade where no one actually lives, but there is a massive flagpole (one for both sides, actually) and a tower that used to loudly broadcast propaganda. 

There is also a US base and, right on the line that divides the compound, a meeting room which is also split but is controlled by the ROK. They've got soldiers from the ROK constantly standing in intimidating poses towards the South and US, and ROK guys patroling around.

So we actually went to those places. I went into North Korea, technically. They also told us about a tree trimming incident that almost started a war and a firefight that broke out where I was standing over a defector from the North running cross the border.

It was basically the sweetest P-day ever. I'll send pictures later.

Still no camera, though I'm planning on buying one next week.

Great to hear from you, and love you all!

Elder Whitlock