Sunday, December 29, 2013

Things lost, things gained

As I'm typing this, I seriously can't believe how fast the time has gone.  2013 has been the fastest year I can remember, is it really already over?  The weird thing is yes, yes it is.  So, in order to end this year well, I figured I would make a classic list of pros and cons, or more specifically, things lost and things gained since I came on my mission.
Things Lost:
- A bed.  Since the very first night coming here, I have been sleeping on the floor and will continue to do so until I return home.

- My iPhone.  Oh my precious, wonderful iPhone.  The hardest thing for me to give up has been my constant access to information.  No, not information from the social world of Facebook and Twitter, but from the real world of news, history, science, and fact.  Too many times have we been lost, had a question, needed additional help, and had no solutions when I've made this comment to my companion: "Well.... you know.... if we had my iPhone...."

- Dairy.  Did you ever think there might be a world where you can go to the store and not be able to find butter, a block of cheese, or vanilla yogurt?  Well, that world exists.

- A car.  When I go back home, I'm not sure if I'll remember how to rive.  And if I do, I sure hope I won't have acquired any driving habits from the Koreans..... that would be a bad thing.

- Weather knowledge.  Gone are the days of forecasts.  As missionaries, we have no TV, internet, or radio.  Our knowledge about the weather is just as good as the pioneer's who lived 150 years ago.  And yes, we often times go out umbrella-less in the morning because it is perfectly clear and sunny and then come back home at night completely drenched because the weather decided to turn into a torrential downpour.

- Holidays.  I'm a sentimental person, I like sentimental things.  Holidays, however, are just simply not that big in Korea.  Christmas here felt just like Labor Day does in America.  Their independence day (the day the bomb was dropped on Japan) came and went without much fanfare.  Their two big holidays are huge for them, but as missionaries we can't really take part in the festivities.  I'm excited for when I'll be able to participate in holiday traditions again.

- Friends and Family.  Of course, this is the biggest and most important thing lost.  While it might be hard some days, and I might sometimes wonder what life at home with people I love is like, It's all worth it because.....

Things Gained:

- KOREA.  Every morning when I wake up, I'm still in awe that I'm on the other side of the world in such an incredible country.  The history is ancient, the culture is rich, the food is delicious, the people are wonderful, the land is beautiful, etc.  I love the fact that I've had the opportunity to come to such an amazing country and have this experience.  Normal 20 year olds in the world are just in school, at work, or doing other boring or possibly wasteful things.  Meanwhile, I'm here.  I'm so grateful that at my young age, I'm able to be spending my time towards something so productive.  I'm in a foreign country serving other people and learning along the way - it's simply the best thing I possibly could be doing right now.  How awesome is that!?

- New friends.  While I may have left friends and family behind, I've met so many wonderful people during my time here.  These people include (but are not limited to) other missionaries, members, investigators, English class attendees, regulars we see at the store/ post office/ bus station, and people we meet everywhere we go.  Through meeting and forming relationships with these people, I have come to understand so many different lifestyles, viewpoints, cultures, and beliefs.  I'm so excited to continue these friendships for the rest of my time as a missionary and afterwards.

- Myself.  I've always been a confident person, anyone who knows me understands that, haha.  However, since coming out on the mission, I have experienced highs and lows I never thought I was capable of experiencing.  However, through these experiences, I have come to understand who I truly am, what I truly believe, and what I need to do in order to find happiness and success in this life.  The mission is hard - harder than I EVER could have imagined (and for completely different reasons than I ever thought it would be), but I am SO GRATEFUL that I came here.  If it weren't for the mission, I never would've, well, grown up.  And I never would've come to understand who I truly am deep down.  So the mission has been a really good thing for me!

I'm out of time, so I have to go.  Of course, I can go on and on and on about all the wonderful things, but I think you can see that the pros (even though the list is shorter) are definitely greater than the cons.  Yay for 2013! Yay for the mission!  And onto another year!

Elder Graf

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Letters to Santa and a Butchered Head

Hello from week two in Dangjin!
This is tiny city, but it is more happening than any one my areas my whole mission.  My companion, Elder Otterson, has been doing everything he could to make this area grow over these past few transfers.  When I came in to join him last week, he had investigators all over the area, dates for people to be baptized, and an extremely popular English class.
So that brings us to English class, the definition of my missionary work here in Korea.
This week, I decided it would be fun to talk about an American Christmas.  Christmas is celebrated here in Korea, the town is slightly decorated (there's even a big christmas tree in the town's main roundabout), and Christmas music is playing everywhere, but it still isn't done the same way it's done in America.  So we talked about everything together from making snowmen to decorating gingerbread houses to going caroling to watching Christmas movies.  Then, we talked about something they don't really understand - Santa Claus.
After talking about who and what he is (they were very amused), I explained the whole concept of "naughty" and "nice" and how the children want Santa to know what they want for Christmas.  And so, I thought it would be fun for all of them to actually write letters to Santa.  They all wrote their letters, put them in envelopes I provided, and addressed them to the North Pole.  I then had them leave the letters behind so the "elves" would come and pick them up after class, deliver them to Santa, and then Santa would write them back in time for class next week....
Santa has had quite the fun time reading their letters and responding.
So that was fun!  And then, that night, I realized my hair was just simply getting too long.  It was time for a haircut.  However, instead of going to a hair shop (I hate the way they cut hair here), I decided to try out the new clipper my mom sent me and just cut my hair by myself.  Good idea, right?  Well, that's what I thought.
After I had buzzer half of the right side of my head, and the front space (and back about 3 inches) above my forehead, the clipper all of the sudden decided to stop working.  NOT GOOD.  I did all I could to fix the clipper, but nothing worked.  I had just chopped off half my head and had no solutions to fix it.
Obviously, I would just immediately go to a hairshop the next morning and get it fixed, right?  Yeah, well, remember that one time I told you we had tons of investigators all over town and that Dangjin has lots of missionary activity right now?  Yeah, well, because of all of those appointments, we had simply no time to go to a hairshop, and I had to go around town looking like a half sheared sheep for THREE straight days until we finally had a spare 30 minutes.
Haha, it was pretty funny.  I, of course, got laughing comments from everybody.  But it's okay, it was a funny experience.  And we set another baptismal date during that time.  So it's all good.
Well that's it for this week!  My hair is cut now, Christmas is coming, and things are going good!
Elder Graf

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Everything!

Area? Changed!  Companion? Changed! Entire experience?  Completely changed! 
Hello from Dangjin!  -the smallest little city in our mission.  It's so small, there's not even a church in our city - or even whole area.  No church, no ward, no branch, no nothing.  We have to travel to the neighboring city, Seosan, to go to church on Sundays.  Right now, there's no organized branch in our city, but the goal is to start a branch here in the next coming year.  Now, the city is small, but the area (landwise) is HUGE.  And it's amazingly beautiful.  In the 4 days that I have been here, I've already been all over the area, seen the ocean, walked through the rice fields, gone on bumpy bus rides on narrow roads through the hills, and been surrounded by countryside Korea.  I loved it when I was in Gunsan, missed it when I was in Cheongju, and have now decided that I definitely love the countryside here in Korea so much more than the city.  Each and everyday is an adventure, you just can't find any of these experiences in America.
Last night, after an hour long bus ride to an investigator who lives out in the middle of nowhere (thus, the bus ride was accompanied with beautiful scenery), we knocked on his door.  When he opened it, his face was covered with a sign that he was holding up for me.  It said "Welcome to Korea! Welcome to Dangin!" in English.  Haha, he was really excited to meet me.  We had an asesome lesson with him and are again going to make the trek out to his house tonight, but this time with a member. 
Which reminds me.
The members here are INCREDIBLE.  There are only a few members that live in Dangjin, but they also make the weekly trek to Seosan to go to church.  They are extremely faithful and 100% involved in the missionary work to help their branch grow.  Right now, because there is no church in Dangjin, we meet investigators and teach English class in a backroom of a member's store instead of going to Seosan.  That member also gives us food constantly and always teaches investigators with us.  The sacrafices the Korean members make just blow me away every week.
So Dangjin is awesome.  My new comp, Elder Otterson, is awesome.  I'm overall just super excited to be here and have yet another incredible experience during my time in Korea.
Wish me luck! Oh, and Happy Holidays!  It doesn't feel like Christmas at all here, but I'm sure you're all having a grand time welcoming the season.  Have a jolly one!
Elder Graf 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Two months ago, one of the Elders in my apartment received a Thanksgiving package. Yes, it came very early, but what it contained was glorious. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy mix, jello, etc - everything you would need for a makeshift mission Thanksgiving meal for four in Korea. We stored it away in hopes of saving it for the holiday.


He was transferred. And when he left, the Thanksgiving box went with him. It was heartbreaking, we didn't know what we would do without with it- ....I mean, we missed him too. Anyway, then, a month ago, I heard that I had a similar package for me in the mail coming my way. Oh how exciting! American food! For the holiday!


November 28th came and the package did not... Was it lost? Was it ever sent? Did the office elders and APs just confiscate it before sending it to my apartment? I didn't know what to do. Thanksgiving is the third greatest holiday of the year (Behind Christmas and My Creation Day of course), so it was a big deal. What would we do without a Thanksgiving meal? "Oh well", we thought, and we started going about our normal day. Dinner time came, so we went back home and started thinking of alternative options to our hopeful Thanksgiving feast. Then, the buzzer rang. Somebody was at the door.

Score! The package arrived just after 5:00PM - random, huh? But PERFECT timing. I opened my Thanksgiving in a Box and saw the wonderful contents it contained that my lovely mother put together. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy mix, corn bread, pumpkin pie mix, crystal light drink mix - everything you would ever need for a Thanksgiving feast. I called the other Elders immediately and gave them the assignment to buy a turkey. Sadly, that's not possible in Korea, but they found a cooked chicken at the street market, so we called it good enough. I made all the other food, and we had a wonderful feast together.

You're the best, mom! Thanks a ton!

Also, it's transfer week - ALREADY. I haven't gotten my call yet, but I'll get it sometime today. By this time next week, I could be in a totally different city! I'll let you know!

Elder Graf

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Oh the weather outside is frightful
And I wish we had a fire that was delightful
Plus, we have many places to go
Yet it snowed, yet it snowed, yet it snowed

It doesn't show sign of stopping
We have no corn for popping
The lights are turned on every morning at 6:30.... and they're not low
Yet it snowed, yet it snowed, yet it snowed

Yes, we woke up this morning, looked outside, and the whole world was blanketed in white freezing powder. Fall officially came about three weeks ago when the leaves started changing. I guess it decided to be over pretty quickly and winter came instead.

Usually, I love the snow. Why? Because snow means snowboarding. Whelp, not as a missionary. So I'm very anti-snow right now haha.

But it's okay, it sure provided for wonderful pictures this morning on our way to the bathhouse (we go every P-day). The leaves are still on the trees, they haven't fallen yet, but now that the weather is freezing, they'll fall pretty fast now. Initially, we had a plan to go hiking today to see all the changing leaves, but I don't think we're going to do that anymore because of the weather. I got a text from the sister missionaries saying "Snow is here, hike is off, I'm freezing. Any other activities you can think of?"

I thought for a minute. Then responded:

"What we need is a nice cup of hot chocolate in a room full of warm, fluffy kitties to cuddle with."

Haha, and so we're doing it. After I'm done emailing, we're all going to the cat cafe. Yes, a cat cafe. They exist. All it is is a cafe with 30-50 cats walking around that you can pet and hold and play with as you hang out with your friends and drink your drinks. Epic, huh? It'll be my first time going to one here in Korea, so I'll let you know how it is when I write next week.

As far as missionary work goes, we found a new investigator this week! He is a 60 year old man and his is daughter and seperated wife are members living in Seoul. He has a lot of interest in learning about the gospel and attending church, so we're super excited to be meeting with him. Missionary work has been pretty dead (we've be working hard, but haven't had lots of success) recently, so it's really nice to have found a new person to help. Wish us luck!

Elder Graf

Sunday, November 10, 2013

And then I went to the hospital.

This week was quite exciting.  Monday was P-Day, Tuesday was Zone Conference, but the fun really started on Wednesday....  You see, at the end of the week, our apartment was going to be clean checked by our stake relief society president.  In order to prepare for her arrival, we had lots of cleaning and rearranging to do.  Among the things that was in the way was the big old rusty bench and weight set a previous elder had purchased and left.  Wednesday morning, we decided, was the morning we would move it.

Well, long story short, there were no clamps on the end of the bar to hold the weights in place and while I was moving it, 50 pounds ended up falling off the bar and right on my bare foot.


The 3 other elders instantly came to my assistance after they heard the crash and my pain-filled (yet missionary clean) exclamations.  We quickly got my foot elevated so I wouldn't swell and put a bag of frozen pork meat on it because we had no ice.

It hurt a lot, but I didn't think it was broken, so I didn't call Sister Shin (Mission President's wife) at first.  After about two hours with the pain increasing, I decided a hospital visit might not be such a bad idea, so I called her up.  A few phone calls that she made later, she called me back and told me about a hospital that a member from another ward owned so it would be free to go to.  My companion and I then began our trek there.

We took a taxi, but getting out of the house and down to the street was hard enough.  Heck, putting on my shoes was probably the worst experience of my mission.  I didn't want to go outside barefoot as a missionary though, so I sucked up the pain and put them on.  We got in the taxi and told the driver where to go.  8 bucks later, we were at the "hospital"

Oh. It was not a hospital.  It was more like a doctor's office, but still not to American standards.  The room where the doctor was in was in plain sight with the door wide open so everybody in the waiting room could see into it.  As I waited my turn, I watched old lady after old lady take her pants off to get shots.  It was not a desireable sight.

"Krapuh", the nurse called.

It was my turn.  I went into the room and my companion informed the doctor that I had a hurt foot.  The doctor commanded that I take off my shoe and sock.  Oh the pain.  I finally got them off.  As he poked and prodded around my foot, I looked around the room. "This is not a doctor's office", I thought.  I was sitting in a chair, just a plain chair.  Where was the bed with butcher paper?  Also, the doctor's desk was covered in a million needles and bloody used cotton balls.  There were no gloves, there was no soap, and no care for organization.  Plus, there was a mysterious door at the back of the room that I thought was just a closet but I wasnt sure......

My eyes drifted back to the needles again.  "Luckily I won't be needing one of those", I thought to myself.  That's when I saw that in his hand was a needle.  What the!?  I dropped a weight on my foot, I don't need a shot!  Where'd you even get that needle anyway!?

Well he gave my foot a shot anyway and the needle and cotton ball he used joined the 30+ that were already on his desk. 

"Great. Now I have AIDS."

He then proceeded to wrap my foot.  No x-ray?  No questions for me about how it happened, what hurts, etc?  After he finished wrapping my foot, he told me to put my shoe back on.

Sigh.  I began, but now that my foot was covered in wrap, it was too big and too painful to fit back in my shoe.  I explained to him that I couldn't do it, hoping that he would say "oh no problem, you don't need a shoe. Here, have these crutches".  But instead he just took off the bandages and said to put my shoe on without them.  You've got to be kidding me.

As I was struggling to put on my shoe anyway, he left the room and came back with crutches.  Now that's more like it! I stood up to claim my prize, but they were too small.  He noticed that too, paused for a bit, told me to take a few steps, and after I limped to do so, he said I was okay and didn't need crutches.

Right as I was about to cut in and say that my foot hurt a lot more than he was giving it credit for, a timer went off on his table.  He said to wait a minute and he grabbed an I.V. bag of fluid.  He then walked to the mysterious door at the back of the room and opened it...

It turned out to be just a small, dark closet but inside was a half-naked man laying on a makeshift bed with an I.V. tower strapped to him.


The doctor changed the man's empty bag with the full one, left him in the dark, shut the door like nothing happened, and returned to me.  He told me to put the bandage back on once I get home and thanked me for coming.  That's it? What about diagnosing my foot?  You know, the one that is currently throbbing in pain infront of your face?  But nope, he sent me back to the waiting room where the nurses took me back.  Then, without any delay, I was lead behind a curtain.

"You have to get shot in the butt" said my Korean companion.

"I WHAT!?" I proclaimed outloud.  No time to prepare, or delay, the second the curtain closed, the nurse pulled down my pants and started smacking my butt.  While doing so, she stuck the needle in, gave it a few more pats, pulled up my pants, and shoved me back into the waiting room.

Confused, invaded, and incubating whatever chemicals they shot into me, I said thanks, goodbye, and left the hospital.  I was speechless, haha, what had just happened?  On our long elevator ride back down to the street, my dead serious companion broke the silence. "So is your foot better?"

Yup.  And that was my Wednesday.

Since then, we've still gone to all of our appointments, I won't let a mangled foot bring me down.  Plus, it's getting better anyway.  But it sure provided my most memorable hospital trip to date haha.  Hopefully I'll be more careful when we have our next cleaning check.

By the way, we passed it ;)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Party, My Birthday, and the 40 Day Fast

There were three main events that this last week all consisted of. They are, as the title states, a Halloween Party that we threw for our English class attendees and ward members, my 20th birthday, and a fast that our entire mission is doing over a period of 40 days. The reason I am writing all of them is because they all have one thing in common.... I'll let you guess what that is as you read on....


First off, the Halloween party! NEWS FLASH: Koreans don't celebrate Halloween. They know what it is, but they have no idea how to celebrate it. It's just not in their culture and never has been. So of course, the six missionaries in our area all decided it would be awesome to show the Koreans how to celebrate halloween by having a party after our English Class on Saturday, November 2nd.

My awesome family (thanks mom!) sent me a package with various Halloween decorations and even included a small pumpkin for me to carve. On Halloween day (Thursday) I actually carved the pumpkin very first thing in the morning and my Korean companion had no idea what I was doing - he had never seen a jack-o-lantern before. He was fascinated with it once night came and I put candles inside. So once Saturday came, in order to make the party special, I brought the carved pumpkin and all the other decorations my mom sent me, while also buying just a few more to spice things up.

The party was a success! Everyone had such a good time. We played games like "spider spider, who's got the spider", "pin the nose on the pumpkin" and we even had a scavenger hunt around the church (it was a church tour in disguise, my idea) to find the desserts that we made for the end of the party. The Koreans had also never heard of a scavenger hunt before, so that was a fun first for them. The games were fun, we made delicious food, and it felt just a little bit like a real Halloween party back in America.


Can you believe it? I can't. I honestly think it is so weird, still, to say that I'm a missionary - let alone a 20 year old missionary. Haha I'm growing up too fast. But nonetheless, I couldn't prevent it, so I welcomed my birthday with loud celebration. Literally.

Back when I was in Gunsan, Elder Ward's mom sent him giant poppers for July 4th. He didn't use them and actually left them behind when he left. I gladly took them into posession. On my birthday, Saturday November 2nd, I woke up 5 minutes early to get the popper, set my camera on "record" on the other side of the room, and wait for our alarm to go off. 6:30 came and everyone else woke up to the alarm. The second the alarm was turned off by one of the Elders, I flipped on the lights, shouted "It's my birthday!" and shot off the popper. It was LOUD and, well, none of the Elders were happy with me hahaha.

But it was funny.

Then, I opened my presents my parents sent in the mail. Awesome presents, but my favorite was defintiely the Doritios. There are no nacho Doritos here in Korea and I have been DESPERATELY missing them. Following my presents, I proceeded to make and bake the banana muffins for our dessert party that night (yes mom, I have my own recipe for them and make them occasionally for members). The Elders in my apartment didn't do anything for my birthday, despite saying happy birthday, but it was okay. I made a pyramid out of a few of the muffins once they came out of the oven and stuck a candle in the top. I then hummed happy birthday to myself and blew out the candle - and that was the celebration. Hahaha quite different than in America.

However, my birthday was on the same day as the Halloween party - so I still had a party that night. Then, out of nowhere at the end of the party, the sister missionaries came out of the kitchen and surprised me with a chocolate cake that they had bought with two candles in the top and announced to everyone that it was my birthday. How nice of them, huh? They're the best! So in the end, it was a really good day.


In order to help the missionaries become more united and focused on their purpose, our mission is doing a mission-wide fast over a period of 40 days. No, we don't all fast for that long, but instead we are all taking turns fasting for one day in groups of 4 missionaries each day. At the start of the fast, we all received a calendar with everyones assigned days and my day fell on, you guessed it, my birthday.

So like I said, these three things all have one thing in common - they all fall on the same day. So while the Halloween party was awesome, and on my birthday I got tons of food, a cake, and had wonderful dinner options, I had to fast because I was assigned to.

Hahaha but it was okay, I didn't care. That just means I'll get tons of blessings from it! Plus, the next day I was able to eat all the food anyway. But it sure would've been nice to eat some of the banana muffins I made... everybody ate them all at the party... haha oh well.

Anyway, so there's your story from Korea for the week. Things are going great here! Can't wait to tell you all about it again next week!

Elder Graf

Sunday, October 27, 2013

And then the cold came

Prior to my mission, I heard all sorts of things about Korea's weather.  "You're going to die from the humidity!"  "The summer is just non-stop floods and typhoons!"  "You've never experienced a heat such like Korea's..."

Eh.  That's what they all said.  Then I arrived here and it really wasn't that bad.  There wasn't a single "typhoon", it never really rained more than it rains in Utah, the humidity was just so-so, and the temperature stayed in the wonderful range of 80-90 the entire summer in good old Gunsan.  So it was really not that bad.

Well, I also heard these comments "You've never experience a humid winter before.  Get ready to freeze"  and "Korea's winters are colder than you can even imagine".

And I believe it.  It's not even November yet, the temperatures are still in the 60's during the day, but I am freezing! I don't know what's wrong with me, haha, maybe I'm just too used to the heat and now that it's starting to go away, my body doesn't know what to do.  Each night I put on my heavy winter pea coat on top of my suit because I'm just that cold.  It's only October!!  What I am I going to do come winter!?

Okay so it's probably not that bad....  Maybe I'm just over-exaggerating.  But over-exaggerating or not, I set our apartment temperature at 84 degrees Fahrenheit and it's going to stay that way.

Anyway, that's the weather update.  As far as missionary work goes, this week, as I told you last week, was transfers.  While Elder Kim Daewon and I aren't changing, Elder Bowman (the other elder with live with) got a new greenie.  How exciting!  His name is Elder Jo and he is Korean.  However, two years ago he started going to school at Salt Lake Community College where he found out about the church and decided to be baptized.  One year later, he came on a mission - awesome faith, huh?  The kid's a stud, he's super cool, and his testimony is really strong.  I'm really exciting to be serving in the same area as him, I'm definitely going to learn a ton.

Testing week ended last week, so all of our investigators should be able to start meeting with us again.  We still meet with our chinese guy, the family, and a few other college students.  Wish us luck as we teach them this week!

Okay, that's all for this week.  Also, thanks for all the birthday letters/wishes/presents/etc.  You're all the best!

Elder Graf

Sunday, October 20, 2013



Can you believe it??  They already came again!  And the verdict is:

I'm staying in the same area with the same companion.  Cool huh?  So I now have until the first week in December to see this area grow.  I'm super happy that I'm staying here, I just barely am starting to feel like I'm getting a good understanding of this area and how I can best help the people here.  So now I have at least 6 more weeks to do it!

So this last week has been BUSY BUSY BUSY.  We, for the first time in our zone, had an English Village.  A lot of other churches and businesses do them, so our mission decided to try it out in each of our zones.  An English Village is a mock American town.  "Customers" come into our church, which has been completely decorated, and "travel" to America in which they make stops at the airport, a restaurant, the hospital, a clothing store, a movie theater, and finally church.  Each stop is really just a different room in the church that has been decorated to fit it's theme.  So in the end, it's a big event in which Koreans can practice English in many different situations without going to America to do it.

All week long, we were preparing for the Village - advertising about it on the street, hanging up fliers all over the city, and making decorations all day and night.  Finally, Saturday came and the Village was open from 1-5.  It was a success - lots of people came and they all really enjoyed the activity.  We even found new investigators out of it!  So we'll be meeting with them later this next week.

Anyway, that was the main event from last week.  Sometimes I feel like I'm on a mission in Korean to teach English, not the gospel.  It's kind of interesting.  But it helps us find investigators so it's worth it!

Anyway, I'm out of time - I've got to go.  Thanks for all of your support!  Talk to you next week!

Elder Graf

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Conference and a baptism

All week long, all I could think was "Conference, conference, conference.  Why can't it just be conference already."  It was a.... hmmmm... harder than normal week.  And all I wanted was to sit in a room and watch 10 hours of conference!  Haha, well luckily, Saturday finally came and wow, wasn't it worth it?

I don't want to get all sappy, so I'll withhold all the good details, but I will say that I love this church.  I love this Gospel.  And conference was just what I needed to remind myself of the gospel's truthfulness and recommit myself to following the Lord.  We have a Prophet on the earth leading us in the same exact church that has been on the earth from day 1 - how cool is that!?  It's so happy to know this truth, and it's so sad to think that there are people in the world that simply don't know about it.  

That's why I'm a missionary.

Elder Uchtdorf's talk was my favorite for this point.  Our church, it's missionaries, it's temples, leaders, organizations, ins, outs, ups, downs, etc - they all exist because the church is TRUE.  We are part of the ETERNAL plan of our Heavenly Father - it's FULL of happiness, joy, and peace.  There is nothing negative about it.  So I'm a missionary for this church not to get stats, numbers, or just fulfill my 2 years because that's what Mormons do - but to bring people to the Gospel so they can be part of God's plan for them.  It's that simple.  And it's AWESOME.

So as you can tell, I loved conference.  The only thing that could top conference would be actually witnessing somebody join God's plan through being baptized.  Well, luckily, there was one.  Sunday night, just 3 hours after conference ended, the sister missionaries in our area had a baptism for one of their investigators and it was incredible.

Their investigator is 22 years old and has really struggled with the idea of baptism for a long time.  Yet, overtime she came to understand why it's so important and finally was baptized yesterday.  As part of the baptismal service, all of the missionaries sang the primary song "When I am baptized" for a special number.  It was so sweet because during the last verse, the girl being baptized opened up a songbook while she was sitting down and starting singing along with us, with tears streaming down her face.  Then, after she was baptized, we all sang primary songs together for about 20 minutes.  It was beautiful, there's just no other way to put it.  

I know this church is true and I can't wait until I have the opportunity to see one of my own investigators make the eternally significant decision to be baptized and join God's one true church.

Wish me luck for the last week of the transfer!  

Elder Graf

More Pictures!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunsets and new pets

Well it's October!  Does it feel like October? No, not at all.  The weather here is still burning hot, the leaves are as green as ever, and fall time won't start to set in until end of October/beginning of November.  Luckily, I live in a city with a ton of trees - the streets here are lined with huge, old trees.  So it's going to be beautiful once the leaves start to change.

Anyway, although it's still hot, starting this weekend we have to wear suits.  Conference weekend is a week later here in Korea to allow for the translated DVDs to get here.  And it's the mission rule to wear suits from conference in October to conference in April.  It's going to be death.  But it's okay because it's made me have to buy new suits finally and I found AWESOME suits for only $50! Score!  So I might but a couple...  But I'm super excited for conference.  I've already heard all the news - 15 million members, 80,000 missionaries, but I'm dying to hear the talks.  I'm jealous all of you have already heard them all.

So missionary this last week has been great.  A couple weeks ago, we got a phone call from a guy telling us he saw our flier and wanted us to teach his son English.  No gospel interest, just English.  Well, we don't do that, so we told him we would teach his son English but also share gospel messages.  He said that would be okay, so we've been meeting with this kid (he's 11) every Wednesday for the last three weeks.  They live in 조치원 (Jo Chi Won), a countryside city about 45 minutes away from ours.  Two weeks ago, we gave him the Book of Mormon Stories book (the cartoon-ish one)  and asked him to read it along with the Book of Mormon so the stories would make more sense.  Then, last week when we met, he had read all the way up to Alma 50-something in the cartoon book.  He shared with us which parts he liked the best and says he really likes it.  We then asked the Mom to join in with us and we were able to share with them how the Gospel blesses families and how we would like to teach their son English, but we also want to teach family the gospel together.  She said they would think about it.  The family has tons of potential!  We hope that we will be able to start teaching them all and they will be interested in learning more.

Anyway, missionary work is great, but I decided it would be fun to spice some things up a bit.  There's a mission rule that says no pets of any kind... but if we're planning on eating it, I deemed it okay to buy something living.

So I was walking down the street and I saw massive crabs (giant aerobie for size comparison) for sale for only ONE DOLLAR!  Of course I bought it.  The thing was dangerous, snapping like crazy at me.  I got a cardboard box and put him inside - naming him Phil.  He was the best crab in the world.  On the bus ride home, with the cardboard box on my lap, I decided that I couldn't eat him - he was new my friend - how could I do that? I then realized I had no idea to cook a crab anyway...  Plus, he was worth a lot of money.  $1 goes a long way as a missionary...

Anyway. I took him home, made a place to put his box, and then texted the other elders saying I brought home a surprise.  Phil was snapping his claws like crazy.  I thought he was hungry, so I started looking for food.  What do crabs eat?  Algae?  Fish?  Seaweed?  Ah yes! Seaweed!  So I gave him some kim (dried seaweed).  Hmmm, he didn't do anything with it.  Then I realized he was a little dirty - he needed a bath.  I then took him to the sink.  Carefully put him inside, turned on the water, and started to give him a nice shower.

That's when it happened.

He started bubbling at the mouth and after thrashing around for a little bit, he slowed down little by little.  What happened!?  "No, don't die! I birthed you!"  Then I realized crabs are saltwater animals and I just soaked him in freshwater.  All of his little tiny cells couldn't handle the change in water and they decided to rupture.  Stupid saltwater cells.

So Phil died.  So much for that.  His funeral has been postposned... he is in our freezer right now ... I think I'm going to try the whole reviving thing once that technology is available.  Walt Disney, anyone?

So that was my week.  Onto another week of hot temperatures, exciting adventures, and General Conference to top it all off!

Oh, and I'm including pictures of the sunset from the other night here.  Pretty cool, isn't it?

Elder Graf

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tall and Super Handsome

Hello from 청주 Korea! This last week was great.  I'll walk you through what happened day by day:

Monday:  P-Day.  Sadly, we didn't do anything intetesting or exciting.  We (meaning the 4 elders in my area: me, my companion Kim Daewon, Elder Bowman, and Elder Oehler) just relaxed, wrote emails, and ate at Pizza School.  Pizza School is like the Little Caesar's of Korea.  5 bucks and all.  Once P-day hours were over, we met with an investigator named Jahn Ho Nahn.  He is a college student here in Korea, but he's from China.  He is fluent in both English and Korean, but we teach him in English so he will understand better (His English is better than his Korean.  And obviously so is mine).  Anyway, we taught him the restoration and gave him a Chinese Book of Mormon.  He was really interested and already was accepting what we were telling him to be truth.  Cool!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday were days full of finding.  Finding, finding, finding.  We had practically zero investigators (instead of Jahn Ho Nahn) and so we street contacted, hung up English Class advertisements all over the universities in our city, and rode the bus with the sole intention to strike up conversations with the people sitting next to us.  Luckily, all of our efforts worked and we found two new people to come to English Class on Saturday, a new investigator who is interested in learning more about the church. and a family that wants us to teach them English (And the gospel.  They just don't know that yet).  So it was an awesome week full of finding! 

Saturday was our English Class.  Now.  The English Class in my last area was great, but we only had about 5 students (sometimes more).  In Cheongju, there's about 25 English Class attendees.  So it's a lot bigger.  And a lot funnier.

Anyway, this week we talked about introductions and how to properly introduce yourself in English to each other.  Then, at the end of class, we all put a sentence together using the things that we learned.  We all decided that the sentence would be an description for a certain person, introducing them to someone else.  Then they chose that that person would be me.  

So Elder Oehler began "Okay, the sentence will start like this:

Elder Graf is ___________"

Someone shouted out "Tall!"

Elder Oehler then said "Awesome,  good job.  So:

Elder Graf is tall and ___________"

Then a 70 year old grandpa that attends our class said, "Super handsome!"

We all died laughing.  Elder Oehler then wrote that up on the board.  Then, as part as our sentence routine at the end of every class, we all read it together.

"Elder Graf is tall and super handsome"

"Okay good job everybody!  Thanks for coming to English Class!"  And that was English Class this week.

Church was great on Sunday.  Afterwards, we met with Jahn Ho Nahn again.  He read the Book of Mormon introduction and part of first Nephi, said he believes the church is true, but he also said the word of wisdom (my companion brought it up) is impossible so he can't join.  I then talked with him how he can strengthen his testimony and learn about the fullness of the gospel.  We basically said that joining the church won't necessarily be easy or solve all his problems, and that keeping commandments might seem difficult at first.  But, if he has a testimony that it's true, he will understand why he should keep the commandments and his desire will change.  Anyway, he understood and said he would pray to know if it's true again and to have his desire change.  It was an awesome lesson and he's an awesome guy, just super willing and open to follow and listen to our message.

So that's my week!  This next week we'll meet with a lot more people so it'll be exciting to tell you all about it next Monday.  Until then!

그라프 장로

Sunday, September 22, 2013


A Peanut

Oh the package!  Yes I got it, I had it go through a chain of people to find its way here and I finally got it this week.  I was SO HAPPY.  I ripped out the peanut and plugged it in immediately.  I needed a haircut desperately.

I began, it sounded a little funky, but I figured it'd be okay.  I started to buzz the front off but then after I got halfway accross, the peanut made a lot popping sounded, and smoke started coming from it.  The power difference exploded it.

I was crushed.

I've been waiting for that peanut for nearly 3 months.  And it explodes in the first 3 seconds.  And my haird was half chopped.

Anyway, I then proceded out of stubborness to cut my hair by myself with scissors.  It turned out alright.. haha


This week was completely different from all of my others.  Why? Because it was 추석!  In English, it's pronounced Choo Sohk... sort of.... that's close enough.   Anyway, 추석 is the Korean version of American Thanksgiving.  But it's a three day long holiday instead of just one.  It's a really big deal, no one would like it if we knocked on their door during the holiday and tried to preach the gospel to them.  So our mission president understood this issue and called off normal missionary work for the week.  Instead, we've just been training with our Zone every day in preperation for this next transfer.
Anyway, I don't have al the time in the world, I'm running short.  But just for a quick update:  the mission is going great!  The holiday was fun, but there's not really much new to report this week because we haven't been able to meet with anyone or find new people.  However, now that the holiday is over, work will begin again starting today.  The weather here is nice, the city is full of life, the ward members are great, everything's awesome in Korea!
Next week will be a lot more interesting, I promise.
Elder Graf

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Area!

First off, I told you the wrong area last week.  Well, I had the right area, I just spelled it wrong.  I said Chungju, and that's wrong.  If you googled Chungju, you saw a city that is really about an hour or so away from where I am.  I'm in CHEONGJU, but it's it's pronounced Chuhng Joo.  Yeahh, okay.  Just to clear that up.  I'm in Cheongju, not Chungju.

So - crazy week!  First, I found out that I'd be leaving Gunsan and going to Cheongju.  That was sad and exciting at the same time.  The rest of the week was spent saying goodbye to all of our investigators and members.  I loved all the people in Gunsan, it was really sad to say goodbye to all of them.  Also, I didn't tell a single one of them that I played the piano, but for some reason every single member had the natural instinct to ask me to play the piano for them when I visited their houses to say goodbye.  So I got to play the piano for the first time in 6 months, I'm pretty rusty.  But they all seemed to enjoy it.... I still don't know how they found out I could play... haha.

So I packed my stuff (Mom, I don't know what I would do without the spacebags)  and said one final goodbye to the city that had literally become my home.  Off to Cheongju!

First:  It's huge!  It's no New York City of course, but it still is a big city with a lot of activity.  

Second:  The ward is massive!  The building here is a stake center, so that's a big upgrade from my last building and the ward has over 100 members.  That's crazy!  I don't know how I'm going to learn all of the people...   

Third:  Our apartment in incredible!!  It's so big, nice, and new.  Four missionaries live in it, but there's 2 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms so it isn't crowded at all.

And last:  There's sadly not that much going on.  Nothing at all.  The missionary here before me wasn't much of a worker, or missionary, for that matter.  So right now we don't really have any investigators.  There's just a list of names of people that haven't been contacted in about 4-5 months.  So.  There's a lot of work to do.  Hopefully we can turn this place upside down and turn it into a baptizing machine.

So there's my first few impressions of the area.  Basically, this area is exploding with potential, we just have to find out how to tap into that potential.  We got together as an area (there's six missionaries in this area along, 4 elders and 2 sisters) and talked about how we can really change the system here and make it into an effective area in the mission.  We have a ton of new ideas (especially about how we can use English class effectively) and can't wait to get started.

Anyway, I'm super excited to be here!!  Especially because I know everyone in this district, it's such a small world.  First, Elder Ward (my trainer) is in my district as my Zone Leader now.  It's awesome working with him again.  Then, Sister Jacklin (one of the sisters in my area) is really Chloe Jacklin from Lone Peak.  How awesome is that?  Haha, a year ago in class together, we would've never thought that we would be in KOREA, of all places, serving in the same area.  So we see each other practically every day.  Pretty funny.  And finally, the other day we had a meal appointment at a members house and the second I walked in the door, Jeong Uiyong (a member in the family) just bust out in perfect English "Wait! Graf.  Do you know Justin!?"

Haha what!?

I came all the way to Korea to get placed in one of the many wards here just to find out that Jeong Uiyong served his mission in Toronto almost two years ago and was in the same Zone as Justin for a long time.  What are the chances!?  I thing he probably went by Elder Jeong on his mission (pronounced Juhng).

So I feel pretty much at home here in my new area, it's pretty nice.  Just pretty funny that there's my trainer, someone from Lone Peak. and a connection with a family member back at home.

Anyway, I've got to go.  Wish me luck!  There's a lot of work to do!
Elder Graf