Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sokcho Week 13 - Our First New Member!

Dear Family and Friends,

So this Sunday, first and foremost, Brother Jeon got the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  Elder Elwood spoke while Elder Lanford, Elder Shin, Brother Jo, and I stood in the circle.  It was super cool to be able to give someone such a precious and valuable gift.  I know he will use the gift well and not take it for granted.  This week he even restarted reading the Book of Mormon because he wanted to get more out of it.  He read 18 chapters in one day.  It's been so cool to see such a miracle happen in a small city in Korea.  On the Monday after his baptism, he invited us over to his house and we ate tons over super good meat together.  Basically, in Korea it's rude to deny food, so if they offer it, you should eat it.  He made tons, and consequently, we ate tons.

Plus, even more amazing things are starting to happen.  A member family is moving to an area in our branch boundaries.  The father came to church on Sunday, and I think he really enjoyed it. He has two children and one is serving in our mission with us. The father and Brother Jeon hit it off, which is awesome, and he even gave Brother Jeon a pin of the Salt Lake City Temple that he was wearing on his suit coat.  If his family comes to our branch, they will be a huge addition.  Further, one of the member's daughter moved back to Sokcho.  In total, 19 people attended church last week.  Sokcho is the bestest!

After Church that Sunday, this guy we met on the street, called us and then quickly met us at our church.  He really wanted to take us to get something to eat, but because it was Sabbath, we turned him down.  He was okay with it though and instead we talked about the Book of Mormon, and he told us that he has read the Bible four times.  He seems pretty interested in the Book of Mormon, and we set up another appointment for later this week.  

This week was also crazy because it was the Chinese New Year.  Basically in Korea, all stores and shops close down for a week while everyone parties and hangs out with their families.  Because proselyting can be less effective during these times, the mission President assigned one day where we just cleaned our apartments for the day.  That was fun, and now our house looks a lot cleaner!  We also had a fun Branch Activity because of the New Year where we played a traditional and super competitive Korean game called (윷놀이) Yute-Norri.  For that super fun activity, 18 people showed up and we (the missionaries) made some great frosted cookies with supplies from home (thanks Mom!).

This week was again really exciting.  A lot of things happen here that don't usually happen in normal missionary work.  It makes it really tough, but also extremely rewarding.  Although I've had a lot of tough times here, I've felt that I've learned the most, grown the most, and loved missionary work the most during those times. 

Your Favorite Missionary,

Elder Wheeler
Brother Jeon and Elder Elwood at Brother Jeon's home

Brother Jeon cooking Chase's favorite Korean meat (according to Chase, it's sort of like bacon but thicker)

Elder Shin

Elder Wheeler sporting his new Superbowl T-shirt, lifting Elder Lanford

Practice for the upcoming talent show

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sokcho Week 12 - Brother Jeon's Baptism!

Dear Family and Friends,

Brother Jeon's baptism was a super awesome experience this week.  I really enjoyed all of the wonderful things that happened and all the work that led up to it.  He was an absolutely amazing investigator who has already found so much peace through our wonderful message.  The baptism took place after Sacrament meeting on Sunday and it was a really cool experience.  Sister Park and Brother Jo spoke on Baptism and the Holy Ghost.  After that we sang the a song out of the children's songbook called "When I was Baptized."  All of the missionaries had the opportunity to sing it together and I felt the Spirit really strongly during it.  After that, I had the wonderful privilege to perform the baptism in the small font in Sokcho.  It was a really cool and after we got out of the font, his eyes were red with tears.  He got up and gave a super sweet testimony after the service about how he originally had doubts, but they were put at ease through meeting with us.  He has an extremely strong testimony.  He also talked about how his Mom really opposes his decision to get baptized, but he prayed about it and felt alright.  Later that day, he got a call from his mom saying that she had changed her mind and was okay with it.  Elder Elwood will give him the Gift of the Holy Ghost next week.  After the service, we had a really good meal with the branch! A less-active member even showed up and she had a really good time.  We have also been practicing a dance for the upcoming music night in Gangneung.  Each of the branches are required to do some sort of dance, and our Relief Society President roped us into a pretty embarrassing dance.
This past week we spent a lot of time just preparing for the baptismal service itself.  We had to create programs, clean the font, and we also got Brother Jeon a new set of scriptures with our testimony in them.  He really loved the scriptures that we gave him, and he went around showing them off to all of the members.  Outside of that, we did have the chance to meet a couple new people on the street.  We met with one person, a 24yr old, who is Buddhist and leaves next week to live on a boat and work for ten weeks.  Since we don't have really any time to meet with him again, we ended up just giving him a Book of Mormon for the trip.  It was definitely a good lesson; I just hope he reads!
As for Transfers, I will be staying with Elder Elwood for another 6 weeks, while Elder Kim leaves and Elder Shin Junho comes into Sokcho.  It is just such a fun place out here! I love Sokcho and this wonderful opportunity to serve.  Although things are never easy, I greatly appreciate that the Lord is always there for me.  Thanks for all your support too!
Your Favorite Missionary,
Elder Wheeler
Elder Wheeler and Brother Jeon

Elder Wheeler, Brother Jeon and Elder Elwood

Elder Wheeler and Brother Jeon

Sokcho Branch and missionaries

Chase's idea of a balanced meal!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sokcho Week 11 - Snowball Fight!

Dear Family and Friends,
This week was filled with new snow and baptismal preparations.  Brother Jeon is scheduled to get baptized next Sunday which is super exciting! We are going to have the service after church and Brother Jo and Sister Park will give talks on Baptism and the Holy Ghost.  So basically, this week we spent quite a bit of time meeting with Brother Jeon and helping him prepare for baptism.  He seems really ready and quite eager for the date.  We met with him on Tuesday and Thursday and talked a lot about Preisthood and the temple.  He is super excited to get the Aronic Preisthood and go to the Seoul temple where he can be baptized on behalf of his father!  This past Saturday, Sister Kim (a member) joined us for a lesson with Brother Jeon too.  It was super nice to have her there because Brother Jeon just talked openly about the things in his life to her.  The power of members during lessons is amazing.
On Wednesday, we headed to Zone training in Gangneung where Elder Demordaunt and Elder Johnson talked about "Teach People, not Lessons" and "Recieveing Revelation at Church."  I learned a lot from the things they taught us and the commitments they gave us.  They gave us commitments to go to church with a question each Sunday, take notes during church, and to do a "Purification Challenge"  The Challenge involves us making a list of things that distract us and things that we need to improve (like over sleeping).  Then, for forty days, think about the list every day and strive not to do those things that are on the list.  They committed us to do this so that we can each have the Spirit more in our lives and constantly teach with it.  So far it's been difficult but cool.
For our weekly service project at the Nursing Home, we went and sang mostly hymns from the Korean hymn book.  The residents really enjoyed it.  After the project, we watched as some of the women who live there particpated in a hilarious snowball fight.  (A picture is included in the e-mail.) It had snowed quite a lot that morning, and we got to see the beauty of Sokcho covered in a layer of fresh snow. This week we also started preparing for a dance that our branch is doing in front of four other branches next month at the music night in Gangneung.  The Relief Society President, Sister Park, chose a really funny dance that the other Elders and I have to do.  It will probably be really embarrassing, but at the same time really fun.
I had a really awesome week and hopefully I will be able to send some baptismal photos next week! Thanks for all your support.  I'm just grateful for the opportunity to do this wonderful work!
Your favorite missionary,

Elder Wheeler

Fresh snowfall in Sokcho

"Harmonies" (Grandma's) from the care center having a snowball fight!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sokcho Week 10 - Seoraksan National Park

Dear Family and Friends,
Wow so first I'll start off with the awesome thing we did this morning.  We hiked a famous mountain in Sokcho called Seoraksan.  It was absolutely beautiful, and on the way, we stopped by a few Buddhist temples and experienced the culture.  We saw a lot of cool things on a challenging but really fun hike.  At the top, there is a shop set up where a couple of guys sell tea, coffee and hot chocolate.  Since there is no road to the top, they hike all their supplies up there every morning.  It seems like quite the job.
This week was again really awesome.  We had English Class again on Saturday, and the number of students was quite a few more.  We had to split off into 3 groups this time instead of the regular 2 groups.  Later that night, the less-active family we have been working with came again to the youth activity.  Seems like the kids want to come every week to the youth activities, so it looks like the number of attendees has officially doubled.  For the activity, we played ping-pong and "Sorry!"  It was super fun, and Yoonsung (the awesome deacon in our ward), Toto (one of the less-active family), and I pulled out a last-second win in the end.  Although "Sorry!" only requires the ability to turn the card over, I was pretty happy about winning.  
As for our investigators this week, Brother Jeon has set a pretty firm baptismal date for the 15th of February.  He is taking all the right steps, as he fully committed to keeping the Word of Wisdom, along with other commandments.  All the members are really excited because there has been about one convert baptism in the last 5 years or so.  I love getting to teach him because of the things I learn from him.  He always tell us the things he feels strongly about when he reads the Book of Mormon, such as how he feels he needs to pay tithing.  Even at such a older and wiser age, he is still super humble and teachable.  On a slightly sadder note, an investigator that we met with randomly texted us and told us that the church "didn't match him" and not to call him again.  We have no idea why it happened because he was super interested and cool, but I guess there's not much more we can do.
This past Sunday, we were able to call the people we have been talking to this past week, who we previously got phone numbers from.  We ended up setting up about 5 appointments for this upcoming week, which is a huge miracle.  Sokcho is really such an amazing and cool place to serve in as a missionary.  Thanks for all the support and prayers!
Love your favorite missionary,
Elder Wheeler
Editorial note:
"Seoraksan is the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range in the Gangwon Province in eastern South Korea. The national park attracts many national and international tourists all year round, but the main season for Seoraksan national park is autumn. The autumn colours in the area are considered amongst the most beautiful in Korea. The red and yellow forest is interrupted by rocks and small mountain streams flow amidst this. The park contains several famous temples, including Baekdam-sa.

One of the tourist attractions overseas visitors consider the most memorable is Seoraksan - the mountains that Koreans love most. Outer Seoraksan has fantastic cliffs and big fountains, while the beautiful inner Seoraksan exhibits the highest level of splendor and sensation by displaying various forms and colors that nature can offer during the four seasons. The Seoraksan Mountains have multiple hiking courses, valleys, and cultural artifacts hidden in each valley, and are internationally renowned as a habitat for rare plants and animals. UNESCO designated the region in 1982 as a Biosphere Reserve."
Chase in front of the chapel in Sokcho

Elder Wheeler at Seoraksan National Park on P-Day 2-2-15

Elder Wheeler and Elder Lanford



Chase in front of Buddha


The Sokcho District in front of Buddha


Elder Lanford and Elder Wheeler

Sister Missionaries and Elder Elwood and Elder Lanford starting the hike.

Elder Kim, Elder Wheeler, Elder Lanford and Elder Elwood

Elder Kim

The Sokcho District at the summit


View from the top of Seoraksan