Monday, May 26, 2014

When all of our appointments cancel...

So we've been doing pretty great these past few weeks.  We've found tons of investigators, taught lots of lessons, committed people to baptism, and our stats are better than ever - we're actually achieving the goals we set at the start of the transfer (P.S, that never happens).  Of course, because things are going so great, President Shin had Elder Skinner and I stay together again through the transfer and we have at least another six weeks to look forward to.
Well awesome! Another 6 weeks of non-stop appointments, miracles, and laughs!  Why not?  Excited and confident, Elder Skinner and I went into this last week ready to keep the flame going.  And then, on Monday, our evening appointment cancelled.  "Oh that's fine," we thought. "We'll just use the time to find people on the streets.  We've been so busy, we haven't had time to do that in a while..." and so we did.  But then on Tuesday, the same thing happened.  "Oh I guess that's fine.  How about we do some less active visits?  We've been so busy, we haven't had time to do that in a while..." and so we did.  Then, on Wednesday, it happened again.  "Okay God, we get it.  We were getting too confident" we prayed/laughed.  "We'll take the humility blow and be as productive as possible...." and so we were.  By the end of the week, we only had 3 investigator lessons (compared to our usual 10), but we had 8 awesome street lessons and 6 less active visits (that's 8 and 6 more than we get, haha) and we had wonderful experiences through them all.  Here's a funny snippet from my journal about 2 different people we met on the street back to back.
We were walking by this guy on the street who looked a little crazy, but for some reason I blurted out "Annyeonghaseyo!" and started to talk to him.  Turns out he was from Vietnam, was lost, and was looking for an internet cafe.  He couldn't speak English, but was fluent in Korean.  Instead of accepting my attempt to help him find it, he right off the bat started to argue with us.  He asked us what right we had to be in Korea teaching the things we are.  I said that we are just missionaries with a message that makes people happy, so we want to share it.  He said "Oh I'm sure!  So what's the message!?  That Jesus lives??"
ummmmmm, yes!
With a smile, I told him that our message is exactly that.  That Christ lives and that through him we can find joy and peace in life.  That's when he erupted.  He went all on this big rant about there being horrible people in the world and how there's killing and murdering and slashing and smashing and bombing and raping and everything.  He said that we religious people believe in miracles, but if God really was, then he would stop the bad people from doing those things.  We tried to bring up the whole agency and choice thing, but he just continued.
"What would I happen if I just snatched this boy up (pointing to a kid walking right next to us), took him to the top of the mountain, and killed him?!" he screamed.  "Would God save the boy!?!"
"Maybe, maybe not" we said.
"NO!" he jumped in.  "Because it happens all the time!"
Elder Skinner jumped in and tried again to explain that God gives everyone the choice.  Sometimes He may intervene, but most of the time he doesn't.  Even though it's sad at first, the child would be with God and the evil people will eventually receive their reward" (Alma 14 anyone?).
Then he just began screaming again.  "SO what if I just grabbed you right now" as he grabbed my shoulder and brought me in "and MURDERED YOU RIGHT HERE!?!?!" making the arm motion of stabbing me in the gut.
"Please don't have a knife" I thought.  Haha, the guy was crazy.
"Then I would die and the world would still go on.  God gave you and all mankind the ability to make choices.  But you will one day receive your judgment"  I said.  Basically, the conversation was going nowhere.  We changed it back to that we know God exists, if you pray to Him you can know too, and said goodbye.  Let's hope that is the first and last death threat I'll get on the street, haha.
The next story happened a little later in the evening.  As we were walking home from a night filled with visiting less active members, Elder Skinner said, "Let's talk to that guy" pointing to a man about 50 feet ahead.  We got there and I gave him the standard:
"Hi, where are you headed?  Oh that's great, we're going this way.  Actually, we're missionaries, have you ever seen missionaries like us before?  Oh I know, there's a lot indeed.  Well you know, the reason why there's so many is because we're sharing a special message with everybody.  Through this message, we can find joy, happiness, and peace in life.  Would you happen to have time for us to speak with you for a bit about this special message?"
When the guy said, "Sure, why not?  But let’s go over there where it's not as loud," I was stunned.  Already, he was starkly different from the first guy.  We went over to a quieter street with him and taught him about God, Jesus, and that because they love us, they have once again given us further knowledge to follow them more perfectly: the Book of Mormon.  He had lots of questions, but they were all faith-driven.  After 20 minutes of talking to him, we ended up giving him a Book of Mormon and said it was a free gift from us to him.
He took it gladly from my hands, but then proceeded to do the most interesting thing.  He closed his eyes, took the book in his hands, and slowly scanned it up and down a few inches from his face, nodding his head and inhaling and exhaling with the slow up and down motions of the book.  Basically, he was yoga bowing with the Book of Mormon.
Three times.
A fourth.
Then he opened his eyes.  "This is how I can tell if it is God's words or not."
"Through that method?" I engagingly asked.
"Yes, through this method." and he proceeded to do it a fifth time.
"So......" I said, trying not to laugh "......what do you think?"
After the sixth time, he opened his eyes with a smile. "It's God's word" he proclaimed.
"Wonderful!" I said. "Your method worked!  But, you know, prayer is also a good one too..." and flipped to Moroni 10.  The man left with our book, number, and church address.  Maybe we'll see him again.
 So that's a snippet from this week.  Appointments cancelled, but experiences out the ying yang.  Bring it on for another 6!
 Elder Graf

Monday, May 12, 2014

His name is Joo

First, I was telling people  "2 weeks, Since I've come to Korea, it's been two weeks".  Then, that went up to "4 weeks, I've been in Korea for 4 weeks".  Then, somehow, that changed to "6 months, I've been in Korea for 6 months".  As the time continued to go on, I realized that the people were less excited with my Korean level coordinated with the time I had been in Korea.

"Wow, your Korean is great!"  they would say, "How long have you been here?"

"2 weeks!"  I exclaimed.


compared with this:

"Wow, your Korean is great! How long have you been here?"

"6 months"

"Ahhhh, I see"

What!?  No!  You're supposed to load me with compliments!  Anyway, so starting around my 7 month mark, I started telling people that I had been in Korea for 3 months less than I actually had.  That way, I received both compliments and understanding when I made language mistakes.  And I worded it perfectly so I wouldn't be lying.  "Yes, I have been in Korea for 5 months"  does not necessarily mean that I CAME here 5 months ago, it just means that, yeah, I have in fact been in Korea for, but not limited to, 5 months.  Yay for honesty!

Anyway, the reason I say this all is because I hit the big 1 year in Korea milestone this last week on May 7th.  And what a celebration it was.  Skinner and I woke up and started our day as normal, but all day long I was keeping my eyes out for exciting opportunities.  Would I buy fireworks and light them off at night?  Would I order the most delicious Korean food there is and have it delivered after midnight?  I had no idea what to do, and I'm a fan of spontaneous things, so I let the day go on and figured I would find something amazing.

That night, we had a family home evening scheduled with a less active family.  The lesson was planned, but we were missing one thing: Jenga.  Our plan was to play the game and then at the end, explain that we needed to have a strong foundation in Christ.  So, Skinner and I really quickly went to the Wal-Mart equivelant over here to snatch the game.

And that's when I saw him.

Right there by the toy section was a cage, and inside the cage was a little baby bunny.  "THAT'S IT!"  I thought, "I'M BUYING A BUNNY!" and instantly was drawn to the cage.  My comp and I were of course on the same page and began justifying our breaking the no-pet rule because this situation obviously was an acceptable exception.  Then, we saw the whole $30 price tag, realized that we were poor, and so fine, bought a fish instead.

So his name is Joo.  Why?  JooNyun means anniversary, or one year, in Korean.  So "Joo" for short.  I put him in my backpack and he spent the rest of the day inside being jostled around inside as we ran from bus stop to appointment to bus stop in order to not be late.  Luckily, he lived, and when we got home, we put him in our garden (oh yeah, we have a garden by the way).  We got a big sink that isn't being used, buried it in the dirt, and put him inside.  Then the next day, we collected about 30 rocks throughout the day and put them in my backpack, bought 4 more flower plants, and when we got home, beautified our fish pond.  Basically, we have an awesome Korean garden with a Koi (goldfish) pond in the middle.  Go us, we're Asian.

So the week was great!  Fun times, big celebrations, and mircales out the ying yang.  Or our investigator accepted the baptismal commitement and will be dunked in the next coming weeks.  We also found another guy that is super solid - things are going awesome!  Who would've thought that all of these miracles are possible?  Wish us luck!

Elder Graf

Monday, May 5, 2014

Camera gone, Pictures missing, Investigators found‏

The other day, we were walking into the subway station from the street level.  In order to get down to the tracks, you first have to go underground one level, scan your pass, and then go down again another level to get to the loading dock.  As we walked into the station, we heard the train arrive and it's doors opened.  With only 15 seconds left before it would depart, we had no choice but to run.  Elder Skinner and I booked it down the first flight of stairs and whipped around the corner running towards the scanning gates.  I opened my backpack pocket, got out my wallet, scanned my pass, and continued to run through.  We then whipped around the corner again and began to take off down the last flight of stairs to the lower level.

And that's when I heard it.

After the loud smack of something falling out of my backpack, I turned around and saw my camera laying flat on the stone steps.  At first, my heart sank, but when I picked it up and it seemed fine, I had no time but to keep running down the steps.  The two of us got on the train, the doors closed, and it took off.  Made it.

We sat down and got settled.  "What was that loud noise?" asked Elder Skinner.  "Did you drop something?"

"Nah, it was my camera - I guess I didn't close my zipper after getting my wallet out and it was shaken out of my bag.  But it's fine, see?"  as I handed it over for him to observe it's indestructiveness.

"Ummm... you sure it's fine?  It won't turn on"

"What do you mean it won't turn on?" I asked, and instantly took it back from him.  After closer inspection, I noticed that the screen - not the glass part, but underneath the glass, was completely shattered.  The camera actually still turned on, but the screen was completely shot, so I couldn't see pictures that I was taking - or if I was even taking them for that matter.

At first I was distraught, but I got over it.  The whole taking mystery pictures thing became fun.  For the rest of the week, whenever I saw something cool, I would just pull out my camera, turn it on, and hope that the picture I snapped turned out how I wanted it to.  Did I get the picture?  Did it look funny?  I had no idea!  And it became a fun little guessing game.  My camera was gone, but I at least still had the SD card inside with the 5000 pictures from December to now on it - and that is all that matter.

Well, then one day, I decided that I wanted to see all of the mystery pictures I was taking and how they turned out.  We were at the church waiting for our investigator, so I popped my SD card into the computer to see and that's when the worst message I could possibly receive popped up:

"SD card damaged.  Needs to be reformatted"

NO. NO.  Something must be wrong, THIS CANT BE HAPPENING.  I tried it again, and again, and again.  Then I put the card in Skinner's camera - same message.  First my camera was gone, but now every single picture I have taken from last year to now (my investigators, the members, the blossoms, the snow, the Buddhist temples, the beaches - everything) is potentially gone.

I panicked for a bit, but then I got over myself, packed it up in an envelope, and sent it to my sister Ashley so she can do miracle data recovery work on it.  If you are wondering for people to pray for, pray for my SD card - it's in a coma right now and I'm just not ready to even think about taking it off of life support yet.


The missionary work side of my week was wonderful.  We found SIX new investigators this week.  We barely had enough time on our hands to meet with the current ones we had - now we're going to have to start doing splits with members to cover appointments with everyone.  We're working super hard, having a blast together, and we are setting a baptismal date with our investigator tonight for the 25th of May.  Let's make it happen!

So, pray for the work, pray for my parents to send me a new camera, and pray for my SD card that it will wake up without any memory loss.

Elder Crap