Monday, December 16, 2013

Week of December 15 2013: Huge Power Lines Above the Tracks

Dear Everyone,
I hope you're all very happy and doing well. That's really all I want. This week was pretty good---not too many different things, but a few nice and normal ones. But I also know that everything we do in our lives everyday is an immense blessing and miracle that we can't fully understand. This week we did a lot of things that seem like normal everyday things but that I know have big meaning for other people. We went to try to visit a lot of less-active members, which is not quite as daunting because our ward is a little smaller. One of the people we tried to visit is a student around our same age, but when we went to find his house his parents told us he started his military service a year ago, and so won't be back for a while. But his family was very nice. They raise big dogs for some reason, and so have a big gate around their house---but they came out and talked to us, instead of the other way, which was nice. We also kept trying to visit some semi-less-active members of our ward. They're a family with three kids who own a restaurant near the church. Now that the weather is a little colder, they apparently are a lot more busy, and haven't been able to come to church, even though they don't work on every other Sunday. We went by, and talked to the mom for just a little bit---she was very nice, and said that she wanted to talk like they sometimes have done with other missionaries, but because they have so many customers, it just didn't work out. But it's nice to know how hard everyone works for their families and to make other people happier, even when they're so busy in their individual lives. It seems like almost all the people we're visiting are pretty much the same---even though they're busy in their jobs or other things, they still make time to meet with us, or if not, they're busy working hard for their families so they can be happy together with them, which is ultimately what we're trying to help them to do.
On Wednesday we went to the city nearby to have a meeting with the other missionaries in our district. It was a pretty chilly morning---it started snowing as we walked outside and to the train station. As it turned out the train we had planned on taking got delayed a bit---so we got to wait at the platform a little while longer and watch the snow fall onto the huge power lines above the tracks. We got to talk about each other's families a little more, and about other things we've done. He talked about what it was like when he went to B.Y.U. last year, and it made me think of some of you who are there. We took the train, went to the meeting, and Elder Pickard, gave a great talk about asking questions while teaching. It's something that can seem the hardest at times---but is always rewarding and effective. Ultimately the things we're talking about people have to decide on for themselves, so helping them to really sincerely think about it and listening to their thoughts and concerns is much more effective than just talking at them and hoping they understand. Afterward we went to eat lunch together, but because there wasn't too much time we ended up going to a restaurant that's everywhere---김밥천국 (Kim-bop Heaven), which is kind of like McDonald's in that it's everywhere, cheap, and a lot of Korean people don't like eating there---but it's pretty cheap, and has a big variety of things to eat, so it's always nice.
We also got to go visit a new place that we recently found out is included in the boundaries of our area, which was pretty exciting. It's a city called 상주 (Sangju (Song-joo)), about a 40-minute bus ride south of here. I'ts a little smaller even than where we are, but also seems somehow more modern---maybe because it hasn't started developing until recently. We visited the city hall to find a map so we could look for some of the less-active members who live here. I think I mentioned before, but this new year the entire address system will change. It's good in a lot of ways, because there's no official signs of the old one anymore on people's houses. The signs and everything have already been replaced for a while, but just about all of our records and maps are based on the old one. Usually we have to hope that people have written their old address out on their gate somewhere, but otherwise there's no way to know if it's the right place or not. They didn't have a map that was different from the one we do, but they did show us to a room with a large touch-screen computer with a program which, if you type in the old address, tells you what the new one is. It was pretty useful and fancy---it took a while to enter in all the people in that city, but we were able to find most of their new addresses, or look at a satellite picture and try to figure out what it was nearby. After that we went to try to visit a few of the less-actives who live in big apartments, which we were able to find with our old map. Neither of them were home, but we got to see a lot of the city, including the symbol (two little farmer cartoon characters with leaves on their heads), and the slogan ("Just Sangju"), and talk to some people who were busy but friendly. It was very nice.
I guess the last things were all from yesterday. After church, which was pretty good, we got to visit our branch presiden'ts house. His name is 김창호 (Kim Chong-ho), he works for the school system here, and also runs marathons. He's very nice, cool, and friendly. We had a really good lunch with him and his wife, and talked about them and their family and their work. Lastly, that night we went to visit a less-active member who's been away from the church for a while, and the missionaries have been trying to help. I'd heard a bit about him from my companion and from other people who had served here. He believes in some interesting philosophies and groups that aren't really related to the church, and that no one has ever really heard of before. He's very nice, quiet, and polite---there were a lot of things that I wasn't really sure about, but he talked about how he's been worrying about these philosophies and philosophical problems a lot since he was young, and that's how he started meeting the missionaries. After we ate dinner together, a popular kind-of fast food called 짜장 (Jah-jong), we talked about Joseph Smith and the First Vision, which he said he'd learned about but not for a while. We talked about how it shows us that we can search for answers to our questions, but in the end the most sure way we can know answers is by asking Heavenly Father and believing in the answer he will give us. He seemed to remember the things he learned before, and I just hope our visit was helpful for him. But I know that all the things we're doing are for ours and others' benefit, and that we learn and grow from everything we experience. I'm so grateful for all the help and things you have all given and taught me. I know that Heavenly Father is there, wants to give help and answers to our prayers, and has already given many of them through Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful to be here and to have wonderful people to learn from and to help me. I love and miss all of you---keep it up.
-Elder Campbell

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Week of December 1 2013: Transfer to Kim-chun!

Dear People,
This has been a pretty great week---including the weather and everything. But I'll try to tell you about it in a way that's understandable and not too long. First of all is my companion, Elder Judd, who is pretty amazing. He is a very kind, patient, great person and missionary. One thing that he's very good at is just being nice and kind. If someone gives him something, even if it's something small and simple, he's always really grateful, and you can tell he means it. He also treats others politely always, and thinks of their feelings first without any regard for other things. He's a great example, and because of him this last week we were able to do some pretty great things. We visited the same person I wrote about before who's in the hospital---his name is 림형제님 (Brother Lim), and he's a very cool, interesting person. After talking about his strong belief in an gratitude towards God the last time we met, we visited him again and just talked about how the Book of Mormon is a strong expression of God's love for us, and how He gave it for us to come to know about Him and Jesus Christ more fully and with greater conviction. He likes reading a lot, and so he's already started to read the Book of Mormon after we invited him to last time, although says he thinks it will take a while to understand, like the Bible did for him. As we talked abou that, I thought about my own personal experience. It's not that the Book of Mormon didn't make sense as much, just that a lot of the time when I tried reading it in the past, like some other books, it could be easy to move along without really thinking about or comprehending exactly what it was saying. 

When I thought about it again, it seems like those times were when I was trying to read because I thought I had to, rather than thinking about how the Lord wanted me to in order to come to understand Him better. When I tried to do that, even if I didn't read that much, I found how much easier it was to understand the actual message it had for me rather than just the substance of the text. We told him how if he tried to read with a sincere desire to understand what God wanted for him and if it were true, he would be able to understand, and that God would give him an answer to that question for himself. He said he would specifically ask God when he prays about it, and seemed very determined and happy. He's in his fifties, and most of his children live outside of the country, and he said he prays every day for their welfare and in gratitude to the Lord for them. After that, we weren't able to meet him (he left and went back to his house)---but hopefully he will be able to remember.
This week we also had a district meeting. Most of you probaby already know what that means---it sounds pretty weird without any context, but I realized I haven't really explained specifically how it kind of works for us. We usually do it on Wednesday, and meet in the main chapel of the building we end up doing it at. We set up tables in a roughly u-shaped pattern, and usually just sing hymns until it starts, which is pretty nice. After starting, we talk about the people we've met, if there's anyone who we need specific advice with how to help them, and things like that. Then someone usually explains a part of language learning, after which there's a talk and a teaching-practice activity of some kind. At this last meeting, one of the missionaries who lives in our house, Elder Himmer, had a practice about sharing our testimonies with those we meet. It was pretty different from the way people usually run the activity, in a good way---his style is also pretty different. He's actually from Washington (Gig Harbor), is very enthusiastic and touchy (in a literal way). After he did that, and talked about Abinadi, our district leader kind of talked for a long time about doing missonary work happily. He talked about how he's been a missionary for a while and still hasn't really had anyone be baptized that he's taught. He said sometimes that's been very stressful for him, but it helped him to realize how to do missionary work happily---without only focusing on the results of our efforts that we can see. It was really nice and good.
On Thursday we also did an exchange---Elder Himmer went with Elder Judd, and I was with our district leader 정장로님 (Elder Jung). We mostly just stayed in the neighborhood of the church, and surprisingly, even though it was really cold, met and talked with a lot of people and shared our testimonies with them. After dinner, we went back to the church to get ready to go out and try to talk with people more, and suddenly the other missionaries came in and asked if we had a copy of the Book of Mormon. They had met someone on the street who wanted to read it, and we ended up talking with him for a long time about it. He kept expressing how surprised he was and how amazing he thought the things we were talking about were---and said he wanted to meet again the next day. It was a pretty amazing experience---one of the most obvious miracle-type things I've ever seen. Later Elder Himmer told how the first person to talk to him was Elder Judd, how one of his friends who had been walking with him laughed at him, but he kept talking to them, and after Elder Judd shared his testimony he wanted to come to chuch to read the Book of Mormon. I was so grateful for his bravery. It was pretty great.
This week was also transfer week, and I got a call that I have to leave Ulsan and go to a place called 김천 (Kim-chun), which is pretty far away and doesn't have too many people---but my companion is Elder Pickard, who is very responsible and cool---I'm really excited, but more than anything grateful to be able to serve people, like all of you are. I'm so grateful always for your examples and for everything you've given me. I hope you're all healthy and happy. I love and miss you. Keep it up.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Week of November 24 2013: Faith and Desire

Dear Family and Friends,
Things are pretty good. I thought about what I should call you guys ,and realized that those aren't mutually exclusive terms. We're really all family no matter what, but you're also true friends in the best sense of the word. So I thought it'd be good to try that. Lately it's been pretty chilly, windy, and leafy. But I'm glad there's any weather, at least. And that weather's not the only aspect of life.
Lately we've been trying to visit the less-active members in our ward a lot. A few of them we've been meeting for a long time, and they like missionaries and the Gospel, too. They're very interesting people, and I'm glad to get to meet them. Mostly it's because of their work and careers that they haven't been able to come to church. There's 김형제님 (Brother Kim), who lives in a kind of far away apartment in the middle of a lot of hills. It's about a forty-five minute to an hour bus ride from our usual neighborhood. We went to visit him this week, and talked about the latest Liahona, with the conference talks in it. It turns out the Liahona is one of his favorite things to read out of all the other things in the world. He hasn't been to church in a long time, and says he doesn't know anyone there so it's akward to go. But he really, really likes the Liahona and things like that. We took the bus, which was kind of jerky and didn't have too many people on it, but had a pretty good view, and got to his house. He lives in a big apartment complex next to a river, and invited us in to sit down and talk about the new Liahona. He talked about a few of the talks he really liked, especially one of President Eyring's where he quoted from Moroni 7 where it talks about charity and love, and what they really mean. He says it's probably the best description of love he's ever heard, that even though it's similar to the one in the Bible that it just puts it in a way that we can really think about our relationships with others and if they're truly loving or not. We talked about that for a while, and he was very friendly and smiley, every once in a while he saying one of the things he's talking about in English, kind of to test his own memory---words like "charity" or "procrastinate". Then we asked him if he thought the talks were not just, as he always says, really great words, but if he thought they were true. He thought about that for a minute, but then said he truly did. He mentioned how the speakers are all serving and trying to help other people, not just to make money or anything, and how much they've helped his life. As we talked about them, and how they're leaders with true authority from God, restored through Joseph Smith, he started talking about how he likes Joseph Smith, but some doubts he's had about him in the past. He mentioned how he was martyred and died when he was very young, and how if he were a prophet, he would have been able to forsee the outcome of the events that lead to his imprisonment and death. He was a little more serious as he talked about it, and that was the first time I had ever heard him express that concern. We weren't able to give him a specific, thorough answer, but testified of al the great things in our lives and world that have come through Joseph Smith's bravery and faith. It made me think that maybe we'll never be in a state where we won't have a question or wonder about something like that---but the key role of faith and desire to believe and to know play in being able to have a surety of that.
Another one of the less-activem members is named 이형제님 (Brother Lee (Ee)), who really likes meeting with missionaries. He's also working right now to design a stacking/building kind of toy, and while we were eating lunch together he showed us pictures of the things he's made so far. It's a small geometric shape he made out of folding paper, that can be stacked and formed into lots of interesting shapes and neon colors and things. It's pretty impressive. He also showed us drawings of flowers he made that are very close to real life, and told us about how his parents wanted him to be a lawyer when he was younger, so he studied for a while and knows a lot about Korean law. He's a very talented, interesting person. We met inside a big department store, and went to some seats near the children's playing place. We talked about the parable of the unforgiving servant, and the need and importance to ourselves and others of forgiving them, and how the Lord promises to forgive us the moment we recognize our mistakes and start repenting and trying to be better. He said he really liked it, and always really likes when we talk about the Gospel with him---he just lives far away, and has a lot of things he's working on, so it's hard for him to come to church. We invited him, and told him how the other members wanted to get to know him and the interesting things about him. He said he's still not sure, but that's okay.  
We also tried again something we did the week before this one to talk with new people. We went around the neighborhood close to the church, which has mostly restaurants, bars, 학원 (private places to study specific topics), and things like that, talked to the ipeople around and explained where the church is, what we believe and why we're here, and then invited them to watch a short video about it. We had a video of the First Vision in on of the rooms in our church, on a T.V.  that you have to use a pen to turn on. We tried it for a while, but weren't able to find anyone who wanted to come in and talk right away. But we were able to find some people who were interested and said would come later, including a student wearing neon clothes and a hat that said "A.S.A.P." on it. We also talked to a lot of kind of drunker people, which Elder Judd found funny and interesting. It sometimes seems like they have the most interest in religion, which maybe means something, but I'm not sure what. One of them asked if he could write something in my planner, which it later turned out wasn't really anything comprehendable, but just a lot of letters---it looks pretty impressive, though. We also ended up meeting someone new in a small convenience store across from the church building. We were inside looking around, when he came around the corner into the same aisle and stopped and looked at us like he was expecting to find us there. He started talking in English, asking what we were doing and where we were from. He told us he was staying in a hospital nearby the church, and gave us his phone number so we could visit him later. His name is 림형제님 (Brother Lim), he's getting treatment for a back problem, and he's very funny and friendly and talkative. We went to see him a few days later in his hopstial room, and he brought out a bunch of juices, fruits, including oranges and 배 (kind of appley-pears), and squid-flavored chips. After talking for a long time in single word English about his family and himself, we asked what he thought about missionaries and religion in general. He said he used to see them a lot, and also that he goes to church with his family. He talked about how he thinks God is like a doctor, a fisherman, other things, and how grateful he is to Him for all the things in his life, especially his family. Then we told him that we believe the same thing, and how the Book of Mormon helps us to know those things. He seemed interested in it, and said he would read the first part. He also remembered where each of us had said we were from the first time we met, and other things like that, and seemed to really enjoy talking with us. We talked about it afterward, and both agreed that it was impressive to feel the Spirit as he talked about how grateful he is to all of the thigns God has done in his life. We went to visit him really quick last night while walking by the hospital he's staying in, and he said he read the first part and up to part of 1 Nephi. He said it took a long time to understand the Bible and thought the Book of Mormon would, too, but also after reading Moroni 10: 3-5, that he agreed God could help him to understand it. It was pretty great, and I'm really glad we've been able to meet him.
I'm really glad to be able to be here with all the great people and members and missionaries. On Sunday (yesterday), Elder Judd and I went with the Sisters here to in front of a big department store, where there were Christmas lights and lots of people walking in front, and sang hymns and talked to people about the Gospel. It was pretty great---we didn't end up talking to too many people, and it started raining a bit, so we had to go early, but I was glad just to be able to be around a lot of the people we're here to serve, and that they could even hear a few words and expressions of the joy that knowing these truths gives us. I'm so grateful for everyone, especially my companion, and all the opportunities I've been given, especially through all of you. Keep it up, work hard, and remember that the Lord always wants to be with us and help us, especially when things are hard. I love all of you---keep it up.
-Elder Campbell