Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Week

What am I thankful for?  Food.  I'm thankful for food.

Never, ever, in my entire mission, have I had so many consecutive days of amazing food to eat.   I mean, we are often taken out, and fed at houses, and sometimes we even get creative and put together a makeshift feast of our own.  BUT, never have all of those happened day after day, meal after meal, all within one week before.  And it was just perfect that it all happened around Thanksgiving.

Monday, all of us Elders in Daejeon decided to get together for P-day and eat at a meat buffet.  "This week is Thanksgiving" we figured.  "We have to eat celebrate somehow".  And so we did.  It was delicious, wonderful, and filled us up with the Thanksgiving spirit.  Or so we thought.

Tuesday, we were all-of-the-sudden invited to a dinner appointment with our investigator and the APs.  And where did he take us?  To an amazing restaurant called All-that Barbecue - full American buffet.  We were in heaven.  And we were filled with the American Thanksgiving spirit - or at least our stomachs were.

Then, on Wednesday, I went on an exchange with an Elder in my Zone.  He's been going through a real rough time recently, so I figured I would cheer him up and pay for him at that one really nice burger restaurant I ate at on the Fourth of July.  $30 later, we were both geared up for the holiday to come.

On Thursday morning, the alarm went off.  "Happy Thanksgiving"  the four of us sleepily mumbled to each other, and we all went about getting ready for what was going to be just a normal day until right around 10 o'clock, we heard a knock on the door.  Sure enough, it was my Thanksgiving package from my wonderful mother, full of mashed potatoes mix, stuffing mix, jello, and all of the essentials you need for a Thanksgiving feast.  The only things missing were rolls and a turkey.  But alas!  I still had the rolls mix from last year my mom sent me, and this time around, my house had an oven!  And for the Turkey, right then and there, Elder Oliverson and I hit the streets and bought a chicken (no turkeys in Korea) but it looked the same as a turkey does, just a little smaller, and so we called it good.   Starting right then, we all worked together to make our meal, and the four of us ate a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch together.   Really, all I could feel the whole time during that was the overwhelming amount of appreciation I have for my family and everything they have always done for me - especially all the help they have sent me from the other side of the world during my mission.  The four of us all felt the spirit of Thanksgiving for sure!

Friday, our member spoiled us to another American buffet restaurant for Thanksgiving and on Saturday, we had a massive Thanksgiving party at the Colver's house for the English/American Branch here in Daejeon (with food made BY Americans, FOR Americans!).  Then, following that, we taught our weekly English class and, of course, the topic was Thanksgiving.

All in all, it was an amazing Thanksgiving week.  And my goodness, were we given so much to be thankful for.   But beyond the food, it was the time and care and love that we received that really mattered.  And At the same time, we also did our best all week as missionaries to continue to give to others as well.  Really, it was a great week of both.  A week of giving and getting, and a week of showing thanks, and being thankful.  There's so much I could say that I'm thankful for, and I really don't know where I would be able to stop if I were to start a list.  So I'll just be a cheater, but completely mean it when I say it:

What am I thankful for?  Everything.  Absolutely everything.  And I'm grateful to my mission for helping me see that.

Elder Graf

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Field Trip

Remember in Elementary School when you woke up one day, excited as ever, packed your sack lunch, went to school, and rode a bus with your teachers to the museum?  Or the forest?  Or wherever it was the buses took you?  

I do.

And boy, weren't those always among the greatest days of the school year?  Or at least, the most refreshing?  Well, we're not in elementary school anymore, but we're on a mission, so it's not too different, right?  So of course, a field trip was due to occur.

The day?  Today.  P-day.  
The bus?  Daejeon area tour buses - 2 of them.  
The teachers?  President and Sister Shin.
And the destination?  A museum, an ancient king's tomb, and a 1500 year old fortress.

Last week, I literally announced it to my zone as such.  "Next week," I beamed at our zone meeting, "We will be going on a field trip!!"  And wow, was it great or what!    I coordinated the venture with Elder Butterfield, one of the district leaders in the zone who had the connections with the bus people, and President Shin, of course. Before the day came, everybody was so excited to be going on a big activity.  And luckily, the company doing to tour was giving it all to us for free in order to promote tourism and advertise through us.  So, they were using us, but we were definitely using them - and I feel we got the better end of the stick.

Anyway, it was fantastic.  And many of the missionaries brought their investigators with them as well, so it was a great opportunity to still do missionary work even while having fun.  I wish I could send you all pictures of the trip, but I don't have a card reader right now.... so I guess it'll have to wait.  But just so you a get a picture in your mind, imagine 30 smiling missionaries in front of a massive Asian castle and you'll get the idea.

So other than that, the week went great!  I love my new comp and area.  While it's still Daejeon, it still is very different.  And being a zone leader thus far has been a great experience.  Hopefully this next week will just be a continuation of the good time I've already had.

Until then!
Elder Graf

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Last Area

Goodbye SeJong, hello Dunsan, oh....... hey Daejeon.....nice to see you again.

Now, to you people, you probably have no idea what that means really, so I'll explain.  For the last seven months, I have been living in the city Daejeon in the neighborhood of Yuseong.  That's like living in New York City, but on Staten Island.  I've been serving in Yuseong all that time, but also in the city of SeJong - which is about 30 minutes north.  It's been a very long time, but a very wonderful time as well.  In Yuseong/SeJong, I've made many friends, experienced many things, seen two of my investigators get baptized, and have truly come to love the area.

Transfer calls came and I knew I would be leaving.  "What new and foreign land will President be sending me to next!?" I wondered.  "Will it be the south?  The sprawling traditional country towns?  An ocean city again?  I sure hope I get an ocean city again.....".   Clearly, I was excited to see just how I was going to be spending the final stretch of my mission.  I mean, I love Daejeon - and it's been a great time - but I've already seen and done nearly everything there is to see and do here, and a new area is always nice

During my time leading up to when our calls would come in, I was busy saying goodbye to everyone and announced to them that I would be leaving soon.  "Where?"  they asked, and I would respond by telling them that it would most likely be somewhere far, far away.  I met with the military general one more time and he took us out to eat a delicious meal.  My English class in SeJong celebrated our last day together and each one of them gave me a going away gift.  I taught farewell lessons to each of my investigators and visited all of the member families that I had come to love so much.  It was actually really hard to say goodbye to everyone - Yuseong had literally become my home and all of the people here, my family.

But alas, the day came and I waited in patience for the call to come.  The phone ringed and I looked at caller ID - it wasn't the APs, but was my old companion Elder Skinner.  I answered.  "Dude did you get your call yet!?

Clearly he had gotten his.  "No, I didn't.... what's happening to you?"

"My comp and I are staying the same - but you need to get your call - you're gonna flip!"

My phone began ringing again - this time caller ID said the APs.  "They're calling right now - I gotta go!"

And oh boy, did I flip.  My new area is Dunsan.  It's still Daejeon - just the next neighborhood over from Yuseong.  Literally a step, not a stone throw, but a step away.  My new companion?  Elder Oliverson - he's from Castle Dale, Utah.  And our position together?  Daejeon Zone Leaders.

Stress.  Lots of stress.  Still staying in Daejeon - not getting that nice fresh start I was vying for.  Zone Leader too sounds great and all - but whenever you ask a Zone Leader whether or not they like it, they'll always hesitate for a while - definitely doing a little "should I tell him, should I not, should I tell him, should I not"  mental battle until they finally blurt out with a smile "it's always great to serve the Lord"

such saints.

Haha, anyway, I was definitely stressed all week long trying to build my mental strategy for how I will going about adjusting to the minute yet also drastic changes.  Thursday came and I said by to first SeJong, then Godfrey - my one and only greenie - and headed to the mission home.  And ever since then, I had no idea why I was stressing out so much.

Dunsan rocks! It's like the Manhattan of Daejeon - the big city center. All of the members are so nice too.  And, it is also designated as the ward in the Daejeon area that all of the English speaking foreigners who are living in Korea attend and so on my very first Sunday, the Bishop had me translate 2 of their talks into Korean during sacrament meeting so the rest of the ward could understand.  Talk about pressure for a good first impression.  "Hi ward members I don't know at all and I just met today - you all now get to see my Korean ability".  Luckily, it turned out great and all I got afterwards was compliments about how good my Korean was.  Success.  And being a Zone Leader....... I have always liked leadership positions.... ;)

So a great last 3 months it will be.

Elder Graf

Sunday, November 2, 2014

So. Many. Things.

This week was insane.  Actually, despite my very vague emails - every week is insane.  There is just always so much that goes on, it's almost too much to write about, so I simply just choose one story and focus on that.  But this week, I'll change it up a bit for you and just send pictures and little snippets about what we did.


For P-day, it was raining, but that didn't stop us from going to the National Cemetery to check out the changing leaves and beautiful landscape.  Monday night we met with our investigator and ate dinner with him at his house.  Afterwards, we reviewed the Plan of Salvation with him and invited him to our Halloween Party that was going to be on Saturday


We had a combined district meeting as a zone at the mission office.  The majority of the meeting was spent finalizing our Halloween Party that we had been planning for the last month.  President Shin sat in our district meeting and when it came to role-play, I was paired with him.  Year ago me would've been scared to death.  Today me was totally chill.  It was a fun time, President Shin is awesome.  Afterwards, we all went to a delicious and cheap restaurant together and it actually ended up being the same restaurant I ate with Elder Ward, my trainer, on my first day in Korea.  I hadn't been there since that day - it's really weird how fast the time has gone.


Wednesday was AMAZING!  Our English class in SeJong scheduled a private tour of the new government complex in SeJong a few weeks back and the day of the tour finally came.  We went through security, got our passes, met our tour guide, and entered the building.  For over 6 months, I've been walking around and under it, but I never thought I would actually get the opportunity to go inside, and my goodness, was it amazing or what.  Afterwards, we went up to the observation tower in the city and took pictures from the top - we have the coolest English class members ever!  We invited them to our Halloween Party as well.  Later in the day, Elder and Godfrey and I had other appointments as well including a member visit and a dinner with a famous Korean poet.


Not all, but nearly all day was spent making decorations for the Halloween Party on Saturday.  Many fun times were shared as we drew, cut, and colored as a district (family).  On our way home, we passed a street vendor selling live octopus.  Yes, we bought them, and yes, we ate them live.  Just whole octopus, squirming and slimy - beak, tentacles, head and all - straight into the mouth.  Delicious!  And dangerous too... the dang thing bit my hand as I was holding it.


A day with Brother Fastcar again.  He took us for an amazing stroll into the deep countryside and though the mountains in his car.  We ended up at a reservoir and just sat and talked about life and it's purposes with him as we stared off onto the beautiful lake.  Once evening came, Elder Godfrey and I hit up the city park to check out the flower festival that was going on there.  It was beautiful!  And the performances were amazing!  It was also perfect for street contacting as well - we talked to tons of people and got lots of numbers.


Finally, the big day came.  We woke up, did personal study as always, and then headed straight for the church to begin.  Hours of set up, hours of stress, and a break in the middle to teach our weekly English class later, we were finished and we opened the door to our American-style Halloween Party.  We had all sorts of activities.... fishing for candy, bobbing for apples, scary feeling game with eyeballs (skinned grapes) brains (spaghetti) and all, face painting, musical chairs, a costume contest, and last but DEFINITELY not least, a haunted house.  For the haunted house, we completely shut off and remodeled the basement to our church and turned it into a maze of black-lit funhouses, fuzzy analog-tv corridors, dark closets, and damp boiler rooms.  Of course, we had people dressed up and scare people throughout it as they walked through - it was a hit.

Before the party, our members were actually worried about the party.  They were hesitant to help us and didn't think the turnout would be that large....  Boy did we show them wrong!  TWENTY less actives and over FORTY investigators came, making that more than the sixty members that did!  It was huge!  And super successful!  And everybody had a wonderful time.


Two of our investigators came to church with us, as well as our recent convert.  However, despite their presence, I had the hardest time trying to stay awake during sacrament meeting!  Busy weeks and busy parties and busy lifestyles will do that to you.  It's okay, I'm sure they thought I was just praying or something..... I hope haha.

All in all, it was a great week full of great things.  However, it's actually really bitter sweet right now.  The leaves are changing, the rice is being harvested, and I'm watching the seasons change as my time here in Korea begins to near its end.  I'm actually devastated to see the rice go like that - it'll be the last time I will ever see it before I leave this country.  On top of all of that, this next week is actually my last week in this area before I transfer.... it's going to be so sad to say goodbye to all the people I have come to know so well.  But I can't do anything to change it, so I'm just trying to take it all in while I can.

Elder Graf