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  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Last week in 군산

May 9th, 2013 - I arrived here in Gunsan.
September 12th, 2013 - I leave Gunsan.

Yup! Today was transfer call day and I found out that I am leaving Gunsan and going to a new area.  Before I talk about my new area, first I'll go through this last week...

This last week was great, we had awesome opportunities to meet with all of our investigators.  Each one of them has different difficulties and concerns, but they all are also growing so much.  Right now, it seems like a common concern between all of them is the fact that life is hard.  They all have different trials and hardships in their life that makes them confused or lost.  As missionaries, we've been able to share with them how the Gospel can specifically bless their life and help them through their trials.  In the end, the thing is, this life and it's trials are so tiny when you look at things with an eternal perspective.  Life is hard, it's true.  But when you focus on where you can go, who you can be with, and what you can become with an eternal perspective, this life becomes so much easier! 

So each day we met with a different person until finally English class came around.  Now, usually we have 5-10 people attend, but for some reason, nobody came to class.  So there we were, at the church, ready to give them all our English knowledge, but no one came.  Then, about 15 minutes late, Lee Hyung Suk, one of our class attendees, came in.  I gave him two options.  One, we could wait for more people to arrive so we could teach the lesson we came prepared with (it required group participation), or two, we could just talk and have conversation practice with each other.  Of course, he chose the second, and so we started talking.  At first, we were talking about Korea and America and simple things like that, but then he brought up a different topic.  He first pointed out the fact that I was 21 years old (that's my Korean age) and that usually people my age don't go on missions.  We all laughed at that.  Then he said, "but you seem so much happier.  Why is that?"

He couldn't have asked a better question.  So then I began to explain how my lifestyle and beliefs make me happy compared to if I lived my life a little differently.  I wasn't all like "BOOK OF MORMON! GOSPEL! Will you get baptized tommorrow?"  In fact, I didn't bring up any of those topics (at first).  But we had a wonderful conversation about life, it's purpose, and eventually how God can help us.  It was awesome, especially because he was the one asking the questions, we weren't the conversation starters.  I then, at the end, shared a section of a scripture with him about how God hasn't forgotten his people and how he still loves us and wants us to find happiness in this life.  We said goodbye and we then went home for dinner.

THEN, about an hour later, we got a phone call from him while we were making dinner at our house.  He said that he really liked meeting with us today and wanted to take us out for dinner.  I told him that he didn't have to do that (trying to be polite and kind) but he then said "Well, I cleaned my car and everything for you".  Hahaha, okay okay, we'll go to dinner.  So we had a fantastic meal, but more importantly, we had the opportunity to share our fantastic message with yet another person.  Hopefully, the missionaries here in 군산 that replace me will continue to meet with him.

So that's the week.  Sunday came around as usual. I blessed the sacrament for the 15th or so time (I've nailed that by now), and then after sacrament meeting, the youth teacher came up to me and told me that he had to leave.  He then asked me to teach the youth class again.  Sure, why not.  Haha, so we then had an awesome lesson with the youth about the Articles of Faith and how understanding them can help us grow our testimonies.  I can't believe that just a few months ago, I could not say a word in Korean.  Now, I'm teaching lessons in church like it's no big deal.  So cool! 

And finally, today came.  I was nervous all morning, I had no idea what would be happening.  Then, just about an hour ago, the phone rang and heart dropped.  Literally.  I answered it, and that's when the AP's told me I would be leaving Gunsan and going to 흥덕!  Sorry, I don't know how to romanize it... hmmm.... It's pronounced Hngduk.  No joke.  Like the word hung, but take out the big "uh" sound (say it ever so slightly), just say hng, and then say duk.  Perfect.  흥덕.  It's a part of a bigger city called 청주.  Chungju.  That's pronounced like it looks.  So if anyone asks you where I am, just say "A city called Chungju!" and you'll get it.  It's inland and in the mountains, so I'm leaving the coast (sadly) but it's a MUCH bigger city than Gunsan, so I'll have many different experiences than here.  AND, drum roll please..... I'm getting a Korean companion!!  His name is Kim Dae Won and he's only been on his mission the same ammount of time that I have!  So we're babies practically, it'll be crazy, fun, and awesome.  And I'll become much better at Korean as well. 

Well that's it!  I'm including some pictures as well.  These pictures are just a small look at Gunsan and some of the surrounding areas.  I wish I could send more, but this should hold you over.  Next week I'll be in 흥덕!

Elder Graf

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week 5 Transfer 3

I feel really bad for all of these letters being so short! I get emails from other missionaries and they write novels.  How in the world??  Where do they get all that time??  After writing my mission president, I have literally only 20 minutes left to read my emails AND write back.  So I'm sorry in advance if my letters aren't as long or detailed filled as you would hope.  Also, I'm sorry for not including pictures.  I have over 1000 that I've taken already,  it just takes time to email pictures and - as I already went over - time is something that I don't have.  Hopefully one week I'll figure this time thing out and send some pictures.
So, this week was great.  We started it off by going to Sunyudo on P-day, a wonderful island of paradise off the coast of Gunsan.  Then, the rest of the week we met with our wonderful investigators.  There's not many, but they are all so great and all have so much potential.  Especially a 30 year old Filipino that we teach.  She tells us that she is just searching for truth and I had the wonderful opporunity to testify to her in our lesson that she has found it.  That even though life is hard, and we don't know all the answers to everything (she has A LOT of DEEP questions about life, the bible, God, etc.), she has found the source where she can find peace, truth, and the fullness of happiness in this life.  It's called the Gospel!  Anyway, she's not getting baptized yet, but she's progressing so much.
So teaching all week was great, English Class was again wonderful, and Sunday came around in no time.  We had planned to visit one of our members for home teaching (we do that too)  in the evening, but another member made him cancel our home teaching visit with us so she could invite us over to her house for dinner with the Bishop.  Haha, the Koreans don't mess around with their food.  Anyway, we arrived at her house and we noticed there was no food in the kitchen. The lights in the kitchen, in fact, were off and it didn't look like she was making any preperations.  What was going on??  The Bishop and 2nd counselor then arrived and they asked also had the same confusion.  Then, our member that invited us over grabbed her wallet and said "Alright lets go!"
Um what?? It's Sunday!
I didn't know exactly what to do, haha.  On one hand, we're told to not eat out on Sundays.  On the other, we're told to not reject food.  I was conflicted.  But then when the Bishop and 2nd counselor said "Okay, what restaraunt?"  I figured we didn't really have any choice but to go along.  Haha, so there we all were, Bishop and all, eating out at a fantasticly delicious restaraunt last night.  Oh well!
Anyway, I have always had a way getting things my way.  Even though I'm a missionary, there is no exception to that character trait of mine haha.  When I first arrived in Gunsan, I noticed a couple things that I wanted to do.  The two main attractions though were the islands off the coast and Geumsansa - a Buddhist temple up in the mountains.  After a few months of being here, I finally convinced my companion to go to the islands, all that was left on my list was Geumsansa.  
A couple weeks back, I presented that idea to my Zone Leader for a Zone activity.  He sad it probably wouldn't work, but he would think about it.  THEN, last week we got a text from him saying we would be going on an activity and we had two options: Geumsansa, or an old Korean shopping center.   I then began my campaign, texting all the sisters in my zone to NOT CHOOSE the shopping center and why they should choose Geumsansa.  Anyway, the votes were casted and the today, we went on a Zone Activity to, you guessed it, Geumsansa.
So now I have wonderful pictures of an amazing Buddhist temple with incredible scenery and buildings and golden Buddha statues.  Sadly, I'm out of time so I can't really send them.  Oh well!  Haha, another week.  But you can at least use your imagination.
Thanks for all you support, wish me luck!
Elder Graf