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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sokcho Week 5 Christmas Week

Dear Family and Friends,

Well this week was quite crazy.  Starting on Monday, it was almost constant preparation for the party on Tuesday.  We made some really cool decorations in my opinion.  Then, before we started cooking, we had a super awesome lesson with Brother Jeon.  We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ some more, especially 2 Nephi 31, and showed him the small but cool baptismal font in the church.  He really liked it, and asked when he could get baptized.  We also talked a little bit about proxy baptisms for those who have died.  Elder Elwood shared 1 Corinthians 29:15 and explained it well.  Brother Jeon said he had been trying to figure out the meaning of that verse for 15 years,  He was super grateful for the explanation and was already excited to get baptized for his father.  He is also really interested in Family History, but both of his parents escaped from North Korea so most of his lineage is sealed up in North Korea or lost.  He doesn't even know the names of his grand-parents.  Oh, and one more thing, we haven't taught him the Word of Wisdom yet, but he told us that he has already stopped smoking and threw out all his alcohol.  He is making some really cool changes in his life already. It's super cool to be apart of it!

After the super cool lesson, we started to cook for the party.  We made waffles (along with homemade syrup), some awesome cream soup that you pour over rice, and of course rice.  The members also bought some tasty chicken.  It doesn't sound like the best combination, but it worked out well.  We made a lot of food in hopes that the members would bring their friends, but only about 15 people were there (including us).  Not the best turnout but it was still really fun.  We first went out caroling and then came back in to eat.  After everyone had sufficiently finished eating, I dressed up as Santa and handed out the White Elephant presents.  It was so much fun to hand out the presents and be a Korean Santa.  Lastly, we played the White Elephant game, and I ended up with a cool piggy bank at the end of it.  

On Christmas Day, we happily opened the presents we had been sent and then headed right into to studies.  There's really not such thing as a holiday as a missionary, but it was still an awesome Christmas.  We got to head down to the Nursing home and sing some fun Christmas songs to all the women who live there.  Lets just say, it was a blast.  Then to end our Christmas, we made cookies and wrapped Book of Mormons for everyone in our building.  Surprisingly, it turned out really well and a lot of people opened their doors to us.  It definitely gave them a better view point on foreigner missionaries.

The days following Christmas were quite interesting.  For starters, a couple days ago, an old drunk man kissed my hand....I tried to pull away but he just went for it.  Probably one of the weirdest proselyting experiences so far.  Then on Friday, for youth night, we played the card game "Scum" and Spot it."  It was enjoyable and satisfying to see that my card playing skills hadn't left me yet.  On Sunday, we had a less active member of the branch come to church.  It was really cool to see him there.  Following the meal after church, Brother Jeon told me that his ex-wife was coming from Seoul the next day so he would be busy for the next couple of weeks.  However, he did promise to still come to church on Sunday.

Thanks for all the support this wonderful Christmas Season.  Hope everyone has an awesome New Year!

Your Favorite Missionary,

Elder Wheeler

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sokcho Week 4 - Getting Ready for Christmas!

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas preparations are in full swing here in Sokcho.  Since it's our job to prep for the branch Christmas party, we have already spent quite a bit of time putting up decorations.  Its a good change of pace with our normal routine of missionary work, but I'm still anxious to get out and talk to more people during this wonderful Christmas Season.  Since the new "He is the Gift" or "그분은 선물임니다" video came out, we have been trying to show it to a lot more people.  It is a really well made short video that certainly helps me remember the importance of Jesus Christ.  
Here is the link if you want to watch it:
Well this past Tuesday, we headed to Seoul for an awesome Christmas Conference with President Christensen and other missionaries.  President Christensen talked to us about how to better tune ourselves with the Spirit.  It is truly God through the Holy Ghost who directs this entire work.  I am just grateful for the opportunity I have each day to participate in this work.  During the Conference, we also went caroling in Seoul with copies of the Book of Mormon.  It was super cold and the wind was blowing super hard, but still fun.  We also had a fun P-day in Seoul that included ice-skating, a Korean Buffet, and a late-night visit to the Temple.  I'm not very good at ice-skating, but I was able to go slightly fast while still surviving.  And, of course, the Temple is always a huge blessing.  Since we are so far away from Seoul,  we don't have the opportunity to go very often, so I was really grateful that I could spend some time there.
Also during this week, we continued to meet with Brother Jeon.  An awesome older man in our branch told Brother Jeon to read out of the lesson book we read for Sunday School, and he did.  He read the first six chapters of the book and really liked it.  He really loves all the things that we teach him.  He is making great progress and is continuing to read the Book of Mormon.  Plus, since he loves hiking so much, he wants to take us hiking through the awesome mountains up here on one of our preparation days.  The catch is that he will probably be busy for the next couple of weeks with his wife in town so we won't be able to meet with him very much.  
Lastly, on Thursday, I went on an exchange with the Branch President (who is one of the missionaries who Chase shares an apartment with).  I had the opportunity to visit one of the members in our ward with him.  Her name is Sister Park, and she is an awesome mother of 3.  She is particularly great because of her great care for her mentally handicapped child.  It was cool getting to visit her with Elder Lanford who is so awesome with the members.  Even though it is a super tough and high stress calling for a missionary to hold, he handles it really well.
Well I wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Sokcho!  On this great holiday, I hope we can take the time to remember our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ. Thanks for all the Christmas love!
Your Favorite Missionary,
Elder Wheeler 
Ice Skating in Seoul with the missionaries

View from Brother Jeon's apartment in Seoul

Christmas Decorations at the church

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sokcho Week 3

Dear Family and Friends,
 
This week was packed full of some awesome stuff.  On Tuesday, I went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders in Gangneung.  I was with Elder Johnson for the whole day and, while I was there, we went to a sweet burger place where we met with a less active member of the church.  We then spent most of the time talking to more people on the street.  Actually, we had the opportunity to show a man the inside of our church for five minutes and possibly spark some interest.  Gangneung is a bigger city than Sokcho, but while I was there, I realized how much I already missed Sokcho.  
 
In the meantime during exchanges, Elder Elwood and Elder Gardner committed Brother Jeon to a Baptismal date!  He really loves the Book of Mormon and our unique message.  When he came to church again this Sunday, he told me how much he has already learned from the Book of Mormon.  He said it is really clear and straightforward, which is odd, because most Koreans have trouble reading the old writing style.  This experience again helped me see the power of the Book of Mormon.  Sometimes, I tend to take for granted the things I have learned from the Book of Mormon, but the truths that it contains are so helpful and enlightening.  
 
Returning to how awesome Brother Jeon is, he also donated a big winter coat to give to someone in need and, later that Sunday, he called me his son, teacher, and friend.  Basically, we are already super good friends and he has made friends with the church members in the branch.  Plus, we are meeting with him again tomorrow!
 
I really love Sokcho and the missionaries who I am working with.  I have already learned a lot from my companion and the other missionaries I work with.  For example, Elder Lanford, the Branch President, is super committed and works really well with the members.  It's a big comfort to me, as a missionary, to work with someone whose first priority is the branch.  There are a lot of amazing missionaries in this mission, so its easy to draw from their examples and become a better missionary myself.
 
One awesome thing about Sokcho is the many street vendors.  Since it is getting colder here, we have bought quite a bit of 호덕. 호덕 which is basically a super good fried pancake with sugar, cinnamon, and sunflower seeds in the middle.  They are only 50 cents, so I get them a lot.  
 
Thanks for all the support this Christmas Season!
 
Your Favorite Missionary,
 
Elder Wheeler
 
Church Building in Gangneung

Elder Johnson and his big burger!
 
Buildings in Gangneung


Buildings in Gangneung

Lake in Sokcho

Korean Vehicle
 
 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sokcho, Week 2

Dear Family and Friends,
 
Sokcho so far has been really great.  I really love our group of missionaries and the tight knit branch that we have.  A lot of what we do here is centered around the branch because it is so small. Currently, we are preparing for the branch Christmas party on the 23rd by making invitations, decorations, and plans.  It is really fun to be able to serve members along with investigators.  The weekly youth night we hold helps us connect to and support the vital youth in the branch, and at the same time it's also super fun.  This past Friday, we played Yahtzee and shared a spiritual message.
 
Speaking of investigators, we met an awesome man this week.  Another missionary who was going home, found him on the street with his Dad and referred him to us.  His name is Brother Jeon and he is 63yrs old.  He currently lives here in Sokcho, but the rest of his family lives in Seoul.  He has visited tons of churches, but to him, they are all the same.  When we taught him the Restoration, he was super interested, and was eager to read the Book of Mormon.  He even showed up to church this Sunday!  I already feel really close to him because of the personal things that he told us, including that he wanted to be like us.  It really is such a great privilege to be able to brighten someone's day through the message that we share.
 
We also met a young high school kid at a cafe this past week.  After buying a four dollar lemonade (nothing is cheap at cafes), we were able to talk about God and his interest in him.  It went okay, but it was mostly awkward because he was sort of shy.  We tried to connect with him more, but we didn't do a great job.  Most of the time in missionary work, things do not go as planned.  One thing I have learned so far is that I am always lacking in some area, but that is why we have the Holy Ghost. 
 
This week we also had an awesome Zone Training Meeting.  We had to take an hour bus ride south to the city of 강릉 (Gangneung) to hear the training.  Our Zone Leaders taught us on using time effectively.  They discussed how even minor setbacks of two minutes late mean a lot when repeated over a two year time span.  It was another great reminder of how everything we do is using the Lord's time.
 
Overall, I am so grateful for the time I have spent in Sokcho already.  Almost nobody speaks English, so I am forced to rely on my Korean, but I can definitely feel myself improving each and everyday.  Last Monday, we even had the opportunity of heading out to the beach!  Sokcho seems to have the best of everything.  Thanks for the support!
 
Your Favorite Missionary,
 
Elder Wheeler


 

Church Building in Sokcho
 

Burying Kimchi






 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sokcho!

Dear Family and Friends,
 
So, before I left for Sokcho, we had our last lesson with Jack.  He bought me a picture frame, and it was amazing to get to teach him for the last time.  Seriously, I love to talk with him about the Gospel.  Secondly, 안경찬 took us out for dinner and ice cream.  He also bought me a scarf!  He is one of the sweetest people I have met.  Then transfers happened!
 
Wow so what a crazy first week in Sokcho.  Elder Elwood is my companion, and he is from Provo.  He is 20 and went to college for a year in Prescott (Embry Riddle).  He's really smart and studied physics there.  The other Elders in our house are Elder Lanford and Elder Herron, and we're all getting along well.  All of them have been out for over a year.  Elder Lanford recently got called as the new Branch President so he's still figuring things out.  Sokcho is seriously different than Seoul.  There are a lot less people and not much public transportation.  However, its actually about the same temperature, but it started to snow today. 
 
Since there is not much member leadership, we are really involved with the ward.  This past week, we held a youth night and a super fun game night.  We played "Sorry!" and a Korean Game called 윷노리(Yut).  Everyone really enjoyed it.  Even the Less- Active Member that we are working with came.  His name in 이효재(Lee Hyojae), he's my same age, and has recently started to come back to church!  There are actually 8 active members in our ward that are all really solid.  This past Sunday I spoke in church again, which didn't go super well, but a lot of people were surprised that I had only been in Korea for 3 months.  After church every Sunday, we have an awesome meal with all the members.  Because it's hard for them to feed us all individually, we just do one meal together each week.  It was really good.
 
This week we also met with a family we are teaching.  We teach their son English for 30 min and then we teach the rest of the family the gospel for the last 30 min.  It was good to meet them and I look forward to teaching them in the future.  Oh, and then on Thursday of every week, we have this awesome service project.  We travel down to a Catholic Care Center, talk to the residents there, and sing songs for them.  It really is so much fun.  The hard part is understanding their Korean. Practically Impossible. 
 
Anyways, the area surrounding is really beautiful and I have really enjoyed talking to the people here.  They are just really nice.  I'm really excited to get some work done here.
 
Thanks for all the love and support!
 
Your Favorite Missionary,

Elder Wheeler

 
 
Beach in Sokcho





Sokcho Harbor

Elder Elwood and Elder Wheeler
Elder Lanford, Elder Wheeler and Elder Herron
Thanksgiving with the missionaries in the Sokcho Branch

Playing 윷노리 (Yut)


Service at the Care Center in Sokcho



 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Transfers

Dear Family and Friends,

So I guess I will start off with the big news.  This past Saturday was transfer calls.  Most missionaries stay in each area for a while, so I was pretty surprised when they told me I was leaving 신촌.  Elder Julseth will stay, become district leader, and train a new missionary again.  I, on the other hand, am headed out to 속초 (sokcho)!  속초 is located on the east coast and borders North Korea.  I will be serving in the most north eastern part of Korea. I have heard that 속초 is a beautiful area that is centered around a bay.  It is also one of the few places in the world where you can see snow on the ocean; so basically, it's really cold. I will probably have my first white Christmas there which also means I will be shoveling snow pretty often.  The branch (small congregation) there has 6 members in it, so quite a big difference from 신촌. There are currently six missionaries serving there (4 Elders and 2 Sisters) and one is the branch president.  I'll be serving with Elder Elwood.  I'll tell you more about it next week when I get there.  I'm really excited to head out there on Wednesday morning, but I will definitely miss 신촌 a lot.

On Sunday, I said my goodbyes to the ward and bore my testimony to them before I left.  I did okay during my talk, but I must have pronounced where I was going wrong because a lot of people thought I was going to an area in the Seoul South mission, just the typical everyday struggle in Korean.  But I'm really going to miss the people in this awesome ward. And we've just started to continually meet with Jack!  He scared us this week by not responding, but he just hadn't paid his phone bill.  He randomly showed up to church though, and we were able to teach him. Over these past few weeks, I have become really good friends with Jack, and he was super disappointed to hear that I was leaving.  He honestly is one of the best guys I have taught so far, and it seems like he has a really good chance to get baptized.  He just has so many great questions, and he has already made friends with a bunch of people in the ward.

On Wednesday, we met with Thomas for the first time after we ran into him on the street.  He is about 40 years old and is in Seoul taking care of his mother.  I really learned about the vital importance of listening during that lesson.  He told us a lot about himself at the beginning which could have been easily brushed aside if we were trying to push our message upon him.  But because we intently listened and asked questions, he was really open to what we taught him.  It seemed that he was much more willing to listen because he saw that we were there for more than a stat or reward.  

Lately, Elder Julseth and I have been talking a lot about three things that motivate people: fear, a sense of duty, and love.  Our district leader gave us the analogy of two sky scrapers connected with a beam.  He said that a two year-old toddler crawled out onto the middle of a beam.  A pedestrian seeing the situation tried to help, but didn't get very far because he was motivated by fear.  A fireman, assessing the situation, headed out onto the beam because of his sense of duty as a firefighter. But how far will one go just based on duty?  On the other hand, the father sees that his child is in trouble.  He is motivated by the child he has raised and does not hesitate to try and save his child.  As a missionary, I think one of the ultimate goals is to have love be your motivation for all you do, like Jesus Christ.  I think in some ways, I really do love the people here, but its pretty hard to love the person that pushes you away and tells you you're wrong.

Anyways, it was a really exciting week.  Next week I hope to have some amazing photos for 속초.  Thanks for all the support!

Your Favorite Missionary,
Elder Wheeler


Shinchon Ward

Example of poor English


Elder Julseth, Jack, Elder Wheeler

Elder Wheeler and a ward member 



Deacon in Shinchon Ward




Elder Wheeler and Jack before leaving Shinchon
Elder Wheeler and Elder Christensen (District Leader in Shinchon)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kimchi Fer Days

Dear Friends and Family,
I will start off this week's letter by talking about what happened today!  We did our Mission's Annual Kimchi making service project.  It was super crazy and awesome.  I really cherished the experience because it's pretty hard to find service project activities here.  Anyways, it consisted of people at each table covering piles of cabbage in this super good spicy sauce.  I was in charge of refilling tables with the sauce and kimchi and filling boxes with the kimchi.  While doing this, random Korean ladies were shoving kimchi in my mouth.  I literally ate so much kimchi; it got all over my mouth and clothes.  I am currently pretty tired because of all the running around we did.  There were also lots of Korean television stations there filming, so who knows, maybe I'll become famous in Korea.  That's a good start right?
In other news, we have picked up this awesome investigator named Jack or his Korean name is 김재미.  He spent a while in Hawaii so he speaks English really well.  He has tons of questions about our church, and he really wants to keep meeting with us.  He came to all three hours of church on Sunday and really connected with a lot of the members there.  I really enjoy meeting with him and just talking with him about all the wonderful things about our church.  We also met with a man named Tolli.  He is Chinese and is super interested in the Book of Mormon.  He was like, "God gave us another book? Can I read it?" We had a great lesson, but we found out that he lives in a different area.  Pretty disappointing, but he was excited to keep meeting with the missionaries in his area.
I might as well also talk about the Bath Houses here in Korea.  They seem to be everywhere.  It is basically a giant sauna with different temperature pools, steam rooms, and showers. I went to one for the first time last Monday, and it was super relaxing.  They cost 6 dollars and you can stay for as long as you want.  I spent a while trying to release all the stress of missionary work.  The Bath Houses here are probably one of my favorite things about Korea.
Lastly, English Class continues to go well.  We have added a lot of new members recently who are fun to talk with.  Although one member did call me ugly at one point. I was slightly offended.  We were making "even though" sentences and he said, "Even though Mr. Wheeler is not handsome, I still like him" (in a Korean accent).  Everyone just burst out laughing.  Missionary work is definitely full of surprises.
Thanks for the continued support and prayers.  I definitely need it!
Your favorite missionary,
Elder Wheeler

1st was a big picture of the kimchi making service project before it began.
2nd Is elder Manwaring on the right from the MTC and Elder Choi on the left from another zone


Elder Choi, Elder Wheeler, Elder Manwaring




 
Pictured Left to Right:  Elder Renfroe (ZL), Elder Julseth, Elder Day, Elder Bishop, Elder Wheeler, Elder Thompson (ZL), Elder Ashby, and Elder Christensen (DL).