Monday, July 28, 2014

Typhoon Matmo

Not much time to write my email today, the lines for the computers are insane so everyone only gets 20 minutes.  Ever since the Typhoon hit a few days ago, the power has been out in most areas of the city.  Nobody has running water either and there is still debris all over the city.  Walking around on the street is still quite a horrifying sight, many people are now homeless because of their houses being completely leveled....  luckily our house has extra space and we've been able to take 2 families in.  The only bad thing is doctors and hospitals are so overwhelmed, we still haven't been able to go to get Elder Skinner's head treated.  When our windows broke, a piece of glass flew in and slit open his forhead.  We've washed it out but he definitely needs stitches....  Luckily, that's the only injury out of all of us.  Definitely the craziest week so far of my entire mission.....
NAH!  Haha, I kid, I kid.  None of that is true EXCEPT for the fact that a Typhoon did in fact come blowing through the other night.  We had heard about a typhoon to come from our investigators we were meeting with.  Apparently it was called Typhoon Matmo and was, at the time, hitting Taiwan pretty hard.  Then, it was expected to come burrowing through Korea, but not as strong as it hit Taiwan and also not over Daejeon.  We, on the other hand, would just get the tail end of the storm.  But still cool, huh?
As the night came, so did the rain.  First it was just drizzling, but it started to pick up heavily after we had gotten home.  We went to bed with it raining, but there was still no wind.  THEN, all of the sudden, we were awakened by a loud crash at 2 a.m. as the wind blew into our house (all of our windows are always open because of the heat, and they are massive floor to ceiling windows because we live in a really nice high rise apartment building) and knocked over the guitars.  The gust of wind then continued, slammed all of the doors in our house, blew around all of our papers and books on our desks, and also blew the wet pouring rain inside as well.  We frantically got up and shut all the windows (except for a small one in the back -- if we were to close ALL of them, our house would become an oven) and just laid down back on our beds, errr, floor mats.  The storm then kept us all awake for the next hour or so as it blew through the city.   I can't even image what it would've been like if we were in the center of it... I hope everyone in Taiwan is okay.
Anyway, going outside the next day was incredible.  I have never seen the sky so clear in Korea before.  Usually, it's really smoggy because of all of the pollution, but the storm just cleared it all up.  But, we literally had no time to take the beauty in because of how busy we were.  EVERY DAY this week was full with 3 appointments with 3 different people all in 3 different cities that require traveling for an hour to get to each one.  We have used over $100 this week on travel alone (usually, missionaries only have enough money to use $30, but we are somehow managing/replacing meals with travel expenses).  Anyway, all of our hard work paid off when our 30-year old investigator ended up coming to church on Sunday.  We had told practically everyone in the Ward that he would be coming and that when he did, to kill him with kindness.  Luckily, they did exactly that and he ended up staying after church for over an hour just chatting with everyone, or, being chatted to by everyone, haha.  As we were walking him out, he told us that he was debating whether or not to actually come to church that morning, but he now felt as though he made the right decision.  "I'm going to come to this church every single week now, I promise" he said, and he rode off on his motorbike with a smile. 
....Can anyone say, "baptism"?
SO, we're going to meet with him again tomorrow, and then he'll come to church again, and then in 2 or 3 weeks, we'll be filling up the font.  Until then, we still have a lot of work to do in all other areas of the work.  Wish us a good week!  Hopefully another typhoon will come and spice things up again.
Elder Graf

Monday, July 21, 2014

Skidding Tires

Hello from Summer Korea.  After there being 100% humidity for nearly two months now, our fans for our house finally arrived.  Now, we at least have something to battle the constant stickiness and sweat flow that accompanies us every day.
Anyway, things are going great!  And to tell you the truth, it's actually not that hot - plus I like it.  Hot weather is always better than cold weather.  However, every day, I do sure wish I had a swimming pool or beach to go to.... maybe it's a good thing President transfered me to an inland city during the summer months... haha ;)
So the week began as normal, and we met with and taught our investigators as usual, but sadly, our investigator Tom (who was supposed to get baptized yesterday) expressed to us that he just simply isn't ready for a commitment like baptism yet and he's going to need more time.  A little bummed from the news, Skinner and I were just sort of in a let down mood following our lunch time appointment with him.  It seemed as our day would be all gloomy, but then, our phone started to ring.  Not knowing the number, we answered anyway.  "Hello missionaries, this is Brother Park"
"Brother Park??",  we thought.  "Who is brother Park?"
"I am here in Sejong, where are you?"
"We're by the library right now"
"Perfect, I'll see you in 5 minutes"
Compeltely clueless as to who would be coming, we curiously waited on the street next to the library.  Then, from around the corner, came a brand new Infiniti sports car that drove right up next to us.  The window was rolled down and we saw Brother Park, a less active we have never met, called, and had only seen in the record books, smiling up at us.  "Do you want a ride?"
Turns out Brother Park loves all the missionaries that come into this area, and especially loves driving them around in his 420 or so horsepower car.  Both Skinner and I looked at each other... then back at the car... then at each other... and then got in the car.  Brother Park took us to a mountain where we got out and talked about life, his life, faith, God, everything.  We shared a few scriptures with him about the purpose of life and what God wants for us.  While the lesson was great for him, it was also wonderful for Elder Skinner and I - totally helped us refocus on what is important and get over our Tom woes.  After looking out at the beautiful Korean landscape next to the mountain and talking for quite some time, Brother Park thanked us for our time and said he would take us home.  "Oh you really don't have to, we can take the bus from here (Sejong is over 30 minutes from our house).  We don't want to burden you or anything"
Brother Park just looked at us like we were stupid.  "Have you seen my car?"
Of course, that's what Skinner and I really wanted him to say, and we jumped back in.  From where we were to where we had to go, it was just all freeway.  However, it was also later in the day and closer to rush hour, so there were a lot of cars.  BUT, there is also something called a bus lane (that only busses are supposed to use, of course).  Now, I won't go into to much detail, I don't want to scare my mother too much, but let me just say that I have NEVER been that fast in a car before, and I have NEVER smelled the tires burn that much before,  I have NEVER skidded around cars like that before, and I will probably NEVER ever again.  I dunno, something to do with 260kmh weaving in and out of the bus lane and cars that were going less than half our speed.  The entire ride, Skinner and I were just smiling and holding on for our lives while brother Park was just chill and confident, telling us "Don't be scared, this is fun".
Hahaha, he's crazy.  And we love him.
Anyway, the rest of the week was really good, but nothing of course beat our Fast and Furious experience.  Maybe he'll give us another ride again...
Elder Graf

Monday, July 14, 2014

The random events that make up a week

The other one had a critical typo that erros the story.  Here, this is better:
This week was just the standard, nothing special, normal missionary week.  In other words, it is full of adventures, surprises, and laughs.  Let me walk you through a few of them.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went by rather smoothly.  We met with our investigators and tried our best to help them all with their faith - especially Tom.  He is scheduled to be baptized this upcoming Sunday but is also having a hard time with some of the commandments....  luckily, his girlfriend is out of town for a few weeks and won't be back until after his baptism ;)....  anyway.... We were sitting in our room Wednesday night planning for the next day when all of the sudden, we heard somebody from outside shout up "Hey Elders!"

I knew right when I heard it that it was Elder Ward's voice - my trainer from over a year ago.  Since him and I split up as companions, he went on to become Zone Leader and then AP.  His mission turned out to be a success and it was nearing the end.  He was scheduled to go home last Saturday, so I was just figuring that he would give me a call or something before he got on the plane to say goodbye.  I guess he had other ideas in mind, haha, because when we looked out the window, we just saw him there all alone with his backpack, waiting for us to let him in.

His AP days were over and he was just spending the last week of his mission bouncing from house to house all over the mission for a day at a time per President's request.  He got the command to crash our house for a day and surprised us with no warning in advance.  But there were of course no complains, it was great to see him one last time before he headed out to America.  He's now gone and with his family (lucky kid!) and the mission will always remain in a better state thanks to all the hard work he did over here.

The very next day, I had something special planned.  It was Elder Skinners hump-day, and I had sneakily bought very expensive American breakfast items (bacon, sausage, etc) to wake up early while everyone else was still sleeping and make him breakfast in bed.  I was thinking 6:00 would be a good time, it would give me 30 minutes until everyone else arrived, but then, Elder Skinner (who didn't know about my idea) announced that to celebrate his hump-day, he wanted to go to the bathhouse early in the morning.  Dang it.  So, I instead had to wake up at 4:30 to make him a delicious breakfast, which I did, and after he woke up, smiled and hugged me for my kind act of service, and ate deliciously, Elder Ward, Skinner, and I all went to the bathhouse together until we had to head back home for personal study at 8:00.

The week went on and we said goodbye to Elder Ward, Skinner's hump-day, and the sunny weather.  Rain came, as did far away appointments that required hour long bus rides.  One night, as we were riding the bus home, a drunk man decided to step on.  Instead of taking a bus seat, he just plopped himself right in the middle of the floor.  Of course, that didn't sit well with the bus driver, and after a few minutes of the drunk man not listening, the bus driver pulled over on the side of the road, apologized to all the other people riding the bus, and proceeded to call the cops.  Naturally, the first thing I did was get my camera out.  While we were just all sitting there in silence, waiting for the cops to come, one grandma on the bus decided to try to interveine with the situation.  "Hurry Mister!"  she kindly insisted/yelled "The police are coming! Sit in your seat!"  Haha, half the bus was giggling at how funny that sounded, but the drunk man was too out of it to even pay attention.  Finally, the cops came and took him off - our bus then continued onward.

The next day was long and hard - not many appointments and when we tried to talk with people on the street, nobody listened.  Finally, it was time to go home, so we scanned our passes and found a spot on the subway, luckily, because there usually is only room to stand.  After 20 minutes of riding, and still one stop away from the station by our house, Elder Skinner tapped my arm and said he felt like we should get off right then.  Spiritual prompting?  Maybe it didn't seem like it at first, but we followed it anyway.  We got off the train, walked out of the station, and were accompianed outside with a light drizzle of rain.  No people were outside on the street - it was just dark and wet.  "Well", we figured. "Let's walk home then", and we proceeded to walk down the street, following the path that the underground and out of the rain train would've taken us on.  But no matter, we soon got talking with each other about random topics and the walk home became interesting.  Somehow, the topic was changed to what snack restaurant we would go to right now if we were in America.  "You know what I miss?" asked Skinner.

"No, what?"  I answered.

"I just miss being able to be like 'huh... I'm hungry'.... and then going to somewhere like Wendy's or something and not even care about money, and then eat a crispy chicken sandwich and fries.  Satisfaction"

"Ahhhh, I know what you mean.  But now we have no money, or time, or Wendy's for that life.  It's gone, sadly... err, for the time being"

"Yeah..... I just could really take a burger right now"

"Me too"

And then, like it was out of a movie, we looked across the street and beheld infront of our eyes a brand new built and in the middle of its grand opening Burger King.  And, even better, right as we saw it, the traffic stopped and we were able to just walk across the street with no problem, straight to heaven.  Three burgers, two french fries, and a drink later, Elder Skinner were able to confirm with ourselves that spiritual promptings to get off of subways early indeed do come for a reason.

So, there you have it.  A week of investigators, drunk men, divine restaurants, and old companion farewells.  Hopefully this next week will be just as eventful, and hopefully Tom will be able to be baptized as well.  Wish us luck!

Elder Crap

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Second Fourth of July

Last year, it was all about the American Air Force Base in Gunsan.  I had been in Korea for nearly 2 months and I was starting to forget exactly what it was like to live in America.  The Fourth of July came and went without much fanfare, but then, that Sunday we attended the small branch at the Gunsan Air Force Base and for all hymns (except the sacrament, of course) we sang American patriotic songs.
Now, before you all start going off on rampages about how inappropriate it is to sing The Star Spangled Banner as part of a church service - especially in Korea - , let me just say that it was nice ;)  I'm not a fan of singing those songs in church either, but being away from home during my favorite time of the year and then still getting to have SOME sort of a glimpse of the Fourth was a nice little treat.

So, this year, of course, I'm not anywhere near an Air Force Base.  I had two options.  1)  Leave my area and go to Gunsan, or 2) not.  Haha, I chose to stay and celebrate other ways.  The morning started off with an early bus ride to SeJong where we taught our English Class at the public library.  For the day's sake, I based the English Class around the Fourth and taught them all about American history going from Columbus to the Puritans to the Colonies to the taxes to the rebellion and, finally, the Declaration of Independence.  Then, we talked about how we honor that wonderful day that declaration was signed through our barbeques and parades and fireworks.  To practice our writing, we then all together made our own Declarations of _________ (healthy living, being kind, etc) and signed each others' papers.  Then, I spoiled them all with a surprise and gave them each a sparkler, telling them to celebrate the Fourth by lighting it once the night came.  It was a good English class.

Once it finished, one of our class attendee's/investigator's took us out to lunch to "celebrate the Fourth", they said.  How kind!  We ate deliciously and taught them a lesson afterwards.  Following that, we hung up some English flyers in SeJong and took off back to YuSeong.  To celebrate even further, we had planned to meet the other Elders at a restaurant called House Burger.  We had to eat American food, didn't we?  16 dollars and a MASSIVE and DELICIOUS burger later, we were full.

We had another appointment that night with an investigator (remember Steve?), read the Book of Mormon together with him, and talked with him about how we can get permission from his Dad for him to be baptized.  Still looking difficult.  But, he still is loving church and coming every week, so whether it's because he'll get permission or turn 18, he'll get baptized one day.

Finally, to end the day, I had us swing by a *certain store to buy *certain things.  My companion was a little apprehensive at first, but I was persistent enough and he could do nothing to stop me, heh heh heh.  We got home, I showed these *certain things to the other Elders, and of course, one of them said "YES!  Let's go to the mountain to light them off!" (he happened to be a Korean, go figure, it's not even his holiday) and the other Elder said "no" (he happened to be our District Leader).

So fine, I now still to this date have a pile of unused *certain things.

Anyway, it was still wonderful.  I felt slightly American, had a fun day, and now next time I spend it, it will be the real deal!  2 down, zero to go.

Until next week!
Elder Graf

*Fireworks (shhhh, they're not necessarily in line with the rules...)