Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jibberish and more

Another week has already gone, and it was a really busy one too.  On Tuesday, we went to Gwangju (a really big city) for mission tour to say goodbye to President Furniss.  It was really sad to see them go - even though I've only had them for one transfer.  They really are incredible people and their farewell talks to us were so good.  Mission tour took all day on Tuesday and then Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were full of contacting people on the street and hunting down missing church members by visiting old addresses and seeing if they still live there or not.  There's over 400 addresses that match this criteria here in Gunsan and 99% of the people don't live here anymore.  So we have to go to each address to figure out who and where that 1% is. 
Saturday was awesome because we had a stake activity in Jeonju where all the wards in the stake came together to perform songs for each other.  Elder Ward and I, however, weren't able to come to any of the practices for our ward's performance earlier in the month so we had no idea what the songs were.  On the 45 minute car ride over, we were given the sheet music and quickly tried to memorize the Korean and the tune to a song we had never heard before (that was a really hard task, haha).  Then, when we performed, apparently we were supposed to dance side to side taking three steps each way.  We didn't know about this until during the performance.  So just imagine Elder Ward and I akwardly swaying back and forth, bumping into each other and other members in the ward, singing a song we didn't know and you'll get the picture.  It was really funny though. 
Sunday, oh Sunday.  When we arrived at first, the Bishop came up to me and told me I was going to be saying the opening prayer.  I've said the sacrament prayer every week basically, but that's easy - all you do is read it.  The opening prayer, however, is all just from me.  Great.  I say prayers every day in Korean with my companion, but that's about missionary work stuff.  I'm not going to get up to the pulpit before church and bless all of our investigators and ask that we find a new investigator as we street contact.  So I was clueless what to say haha.  Anyway, I got up to the microphone and began.
I swear, the second I said "Our heavenly father"  my mind blanked.  My mind wanted to say "thank you for the opportunity that we have to come to church today"  but all that came out was basically "We come to church.  Thank you".  But that's okay, right?  The point still came accross okay.  So I continued.  I wanted to say "Please bless that when we partake of the sacrament, we will remember thee".  That's when I lost it.  For some ridiculous reason, I couldn't remember how to say sacrament.  In sacrament meeting.  When I'm going to partake of the sacrament.  I couldn't remember the word for sacrament.  Haha, oh boy.  So what came out was just pure jibberesh.  In English, it would sound like this:  "Please bless that when we partake of the flembershergah..., we will remember thee".  Great.  Inside me, I felt like my mind was saying RED ALERT RED ALERT.  ABORT. ABORT.  But I had to continue.  I wanted to end quickly though, so I figured I would just say "Please bless us to feel thy spirit" and then say amen.  Easy right? But in my panicking state, all I said was  "Please bless us to feel thee.....   In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." Feel, in Korean, literally means to physically feel. To touch, like rub and feel.  So I literally blessed us to be able to rub and feel Him.
And that was the opening prayer for Sacrament meeting.  Thank you, thank you, I'll be here for two years.
Then, right after church, all the missionaries in the Zone had the opportunity to go to Jeonju again to watch the Leadership Training Broadcast, so that took all day when you incorporate bus travel each way. But the broadcast was really good, we're all excited to get iPads haha.  The aspostles said we'll get to use facebook, right?  Right. So we were all joking "what about instagram? twitter? pinterest? myspace- no wait, no one uses myspace."  But yes, those changes I guess are happening in missions all over the world, but they probably won't hit the Daejeon mission for a while.  It'll start in America and slowly, if ever, make its way over here.
Anyway, that brings us back to today.  I'm out of time, so I've got to go, but things are going great!
OH, and PS, they messed up on my new name tag and my name in Korean is now Elder Grape.  I'm not sure if it's better than Elder Crap yet.....  My name is just hopeless in this language haha
-Elder Grape

Monday, June 24, 2013

One transfer down

Last week we got our transfer calls and the verdict is in: I'm staying in Gunsan and so is my companion.  We were both not wanting to leave, so it's perfect.  That also means that we're permanently in the Daejeon mission and won't be in the new Seoul South mission when the split happens next week.  1 transfer done, only 15 left to go.  Time flies by so fast - it's crazy to think that I've almost been in Korea longer than the time I spent at the MTC.  April feels like yesterday, May was a blur, and it's already going to be July next week.  These last two months (okay fine, month and a half) have been really good though.  No baptisms, and I'm still not fluent yet (that'll take a long time, haha), but every day is a new adventure so it's all good.

This last week was pretty good, we were really busy basically every day.  We even had an appointment during our P-day hours, but like another missionary told me, that's the best time to teach someone.  There's funny stories all day every day, but I can't really recall them right now - sorry!  There is one though.  Our apartment is on 8th floor and the apartment hallways are outside balconies (like a motel basically). So we were taking our bikes up to the hallway/balcony where we leave them at night.  Before we went inside, I had to turn the bike around to face the other direction so it wouldn't be in the way for people walking by.  However, because the bike is bigger than the little walkway, I had to lift it up above the balcony and swing it around.

Before doing this, I set my Book of Mormon (we always carry one) on the balcony so I could use both hands.  Then I lifted the bike high and carefully started turning it.  As I was spinning it, I noticed I was close to hitting my Book of Mormon off the edge and with my grip, I couldn't lift the bike any higher.  So I set it down to get a better grip so I wouldn't knock off the book.  Elder Ward didn't know why I was setting the bike down so he came in to the "rescue".  He grabbed the bike, lifted it up, spun it around, and ever so gently knocked my Book of Mormon off the edge.  It was just like the scene in Toy Story when Buzz is knocked out the window by the head lamp.  Both of us just slowly looked over the edge and watched it plumet to the ground. A couple of seconds after it hit, Elder Ward just said:


Haha then we busted up laughing.  We have a joke in our misson that every time you drop a Book of Mormon, your future wife gains 10 pounds.  So this situation was pretty bad foreshadowing for Elder Ward's wife considering it fell 100 feet to the ground.  That's easily worth 400 pounds or more haha.  Anyway....

So, here's a little explanation of how the mission is set up so you'll understand my situation over here a little better.  Transfers are every 6 weeks.  There are 16 transfers in a mission.  No matter what, even if you're staying in your area with your companion, you still get a transfer call from the AP's telling you if you're staying or not.  The next transfer ends on August 1st, so I'm in Gunsan until at least then (but I could stay longer too, no one knows).  Missionaries don't refer to how long they've been out here by months, instead we go by transfers.  I'm in my 2nd, my companion is in his 7th, our district leader is in his 11th, etc.  When a missionary goes home, he doesn't "go home".  Instead we say that he "dies".  For example, one of our AP's died last transfer, a missionary in my district is in their dying transfer, etc.

Now: juniors, seniors, districts, zones, splits, and all the other mission terms. The senior companion (my comp), which is the missionary that has been out longer than his companion, is in charge of the junior companion (me).  A group of 4 or 5 companionships make up a district and the district leader is in charge of the senior companions in that district.  Every Tuesday, we have district meeting where we all come from our areas, meet together as a district, go over goals/stats, and receive training from our district leader.  A zone is made up of 2 or three districts and the zone leader is in charge of all the district leaders in that zone.  Once a transfer, we will meet together as a zone and go over goals/stats and receive training from our zone leader.  There are 5 zones in our mission.  The AP's are the assistants to the mission president and they are in charge of all the zone leaders.

Once a transfer, the leader will go on a split with the missionaries he is directly in charge of.  So the AP's with the zone leaders, zone leaders with the district leaders, and the district leaders with the senior companions.  A split is when missionary companionships swap companions for 24 hours.  So the district leader and the senior companion (my comp) become companions for a day and the district leader's companion and the junior companion (me) are paired up as well.  Usually, for a split, the district leader will go to the senior's area and the junior, being kicked out, will go to the district leader's area and take his place for a day.  Splits are cool because it gives me a chance to see other areas of Korea.  Just last week, we went on a split so I got to spend a day in Jeongeup (Gunsan is still better, haha).  But yeah, splits are fun.

Mission Tour is something that happens once every three transfers.  It's when half the mission comes together at a time and is visited by a general authority or someone else special for a devotional and other training.  I haven't been here for one yet, but we have one tomorrow(Tuesday the 25th) in Gwangju.  So that'll be great, I'll write about it next week.  

So hopefully the whole mission system makes a little bit more sense now.  I might've made it sound more confusing because of how little time I have to explain it, but hopefully you can follow it better.  Basically, it just keeps being broken down all the way to the companionships.  1 mission, 5 zones in a mission, 2-3 districts per zone, and 4-5 companionships per district.  And the mission just goes on, transfer to transfer, until it's over (but that's not for a long time, so I don't even need to think about that).  Now you know.

Whelp, I've got to go.  My companion is the coolest, our investigators are the best, our members are awesome, and Korea is incredible.  The church is true and the book is blue.

-그라프 장로

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17

Instead of writing to us, Elder Graf ended up kind of instant messaging us.  I had just pushed the send button to send him my email when he got on to send us ours.  We then "talked" back and forth for the next 40 minutes.  We really didn't get too much information though because of the delay time in waiting for responses.  He was doing great, and told us about an investigator.  He really loves being a part of two wonderful branches -- the Korean branch and the Air Force Base branch in Gunsan.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Week I-Don't-Even-Remember-What-Week-It-Is

Each and every day, I am re-convinced that Gunsan is the best area I'm going to be serving in my whole mission.  My companion keeps telling me that I'm starting off well, everything in the mission excitement wise will just be downhill from here haha.  In the first few weeks, we had dinner appointments out the ying-yang.  Everyone just wanted to eat with the two "formed well" Americans (it's how they say handsom), members and investigators alike.  The food we've been eating has been incredibly delicious, I'm practically addicted to some of it.  For instance, we eat rice every single meal, but I can't eat it without 김 (kim), which is actually just dried seaweed.  When we run out of kim, I don't know what to do - I need my kim. 
Anyway, so the food is divine, but so is the city.  I know I've talked about this in the past, but Gunsan is such a beautiful city.  So far, for district meetings and Zone activities, I've been to other cities like Jeonju, Iksan, Daejeon, Jeonup, and Kimjae, but none of them compare to Gunsan.  Gunsan's lakes and mountains and islands off of the coast (haven't been there yet, but we'll make it happen one of these P-days) make it far more beautiful than those other cities I've been too.  Oh and the rice fields that surround the city are awesome too, especially when the sun is reflecting off of them at sunset - I haven't gotten a picture of that yet though.  Koreans are huge into gardens.  Walking down the street, you will never see an empty lot, everything without a building is a garden.  If there is a small patch of dirt next to a random building that is only one foot wide and a yard or two long, there's going to be a garden in it.  Korean grandmas just find all the dirt patches they can wherever in the city and claim it as their own to plant their garden, it's pretty funny.  But it's awesome at the same time.
So the area is awesome, and the food is great, and while the sight-seeing is nice, I'm here for missionary work, right? Right.  So I'll talk about that now while I have time, haha, it's kind of the reason I'm here.  Gunsan, though it's a nice city, is often considered a "hard area" apparently.  The ward is small, only 13 people were in the congregation yesterday, but they are all fantastic members, so size doesn't matter.  However, there have been some difficulties in the past - for instance, they didn't have a bishopric for 7 months because of the bishop going inactive. They didn't get a new bishop until the first week I got here.  It's so impressive though, every week, to see how dedicated all of these members are to coming to church and being active and faithful members.  They are all converts, and so it's even more impressive.  When I'm going to be transfered out of Gunsan in the future, the ward is going to be the thing I'll miss the most.
We have awesome investigators, but we've also had some let-down investigators too.  No one has come to church with us this whole transfer and we don't have any baptisms in sight really, but it's okay - we have goals and ideas on how to change that.  One investigator, though, this last week really put us through quite the experience haha.  You see, we met him on the street 3 weeks ago when he came up to me from behind and just took my 몰몬경 (Book of Mormon) out of my hand.  As he was flipping through the pages, he just looked up at me, said thank you, and walked away.  We were all like "Wait!" haha "let us talk to you!", don't worry though, we didn't say those exact words.  Anyway, we talked with him about the Book of Mormon and we learned that he had met with missionaries before about 10 years ago but when he moved to Gunsan, he couldn't find our church so joined another one.  But when he saw us, he wanted the book so he could read it again and he wanted to come to our church every week now.  We were all like "SCORE!".
.......yeeeaaahhh, well.  Not quite.  When we met with him on the street, we could tell he was a little "off" but we didn't quite know how.  Since then, we've come to the realization that he's crazy.  Not to be mean, we love the guy, but his story changes every time.  The next time we met with him he said he is a member and he goes to church every week in Jeonju, then he said that he is a missionary right now and that he has a nametag at his house.  But then he said that he was baptized 12 years ago in 1985 (mmmmhm, 12 years ago in 1985) and that he is best friends with the prophet.  We're just as confused as you are.  Anyway, we don't know what to believe, but I guess the end point is that we've had a lot of situations like this where something appears to be solid and "golden", if you want to call it that, but it actually turns out to be kind of nothing.  But it's okay, we continue to wake up every day to find new people and teach the ones that we currently have - it's a party being a missionary.
I'm just going to include a few more pictures, these are just showing again how awesome Gunsan is.  The only thing is, I don't have any pictures of the city, just the surrounding areas.  I don't have my camera out as we're walking around talking to people, so I only have pictures of the mountains, lakes, bridges, and rice fields as we're driving by them on the bus (that's why the pictures of them are terrible).  But I'll try to get more of the actual city here in the future.    Anyway, I've got to go, I'm glad this email is a big one - I finally had time to include a lot of information haha, it's been nice to fill you all in with what's being going on.  Until next week!
Elder Krapuh

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 3

Sorry for skipping a week!  Last Monday I was just way too busy to write a big letter home like this, and this week I only have under 15 minutes to write this so it won't be long either.  But, here's an update!

Gunsan is such a cool city.  There's parts of the city that are modern and new and expensive where the streets are lined with office towers and clothing stores.  Then, there's other parts of the city that are super old and Asian where the streets are only 5 feet wide (so they're not really streets) and there's people selling fish and produce up and down the whole street.  Then there's lakes and mountains that surround the city that, when you're by them, make you feel like you're far away from civilization but you're really smack in the middle of a big Korean city.  It's crazy to see the all the very different types of cities combined into one.

Our members are incredible, only about 25 attend church, but it's great every time.  I can't understand practically anything, but I love seeing how faithful they all are.  Our investigators are awesome too, one of them could be baptized tomorrow because of how prepared he is.  The only problem is that his parents won't allow it, but we still continue to meet with all of our inviestigators and help them the best ways we can.

Anyway, I'm out of time to write, but I'll send these pictures.  Included are a couple highlights from leaving the MTC, and then arriving in Korea.  The meal at our house is provided by one of our members, she had chicken delivered to us - so nice!

Until next week,
Elder Graf

MTC pictures