The Path of Christian Discipleship

The Path of Christian Discipleship

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Transfer Updates


I trust all of you are doing well. I suppose I should first report on transfer news! My companion became the new assistant and I am staying in 답동 with Elder Lee as my new companion. Elder Lee was in my district in the MTC, so I already know him quite well! He studied Korean at Stanford for a year before he came out, so his Korean is quite impressive. He is a thoughtful, reserved and mature missionary and I am very excited to learn from him as his companion. A major focus of self improvement recently has been discipline; discipline has always been a trait I have admired of his, so I am excited to learn from him! He is leaving 금천, where he has been for almost a year! 

We are also getting two more Elders in our ward, an Elder Hale, who is coming from my first area, 개봉, and who will be training. Thus, ends my time in a two man house, likely for the rest of my mission! I have been in a two man house for 5 transfers now, which has been beneficial in helping me to learn how to focus more entirely on missionary work. Four man houses are lots of fun, but they can be distracting at times, as I experienced a few transfers ago in 개봉 and 만수. But, Elder Hale has a very respected reputation in the mission for being a focused and hard working missionary. He accomplished veritable miracles in 개봉, where he trained two missionaries previously. I feel as though he should be zone leader instead of me! I suppose President wants to spread his goodness to as many new missionaries as he can. Wise man! I am very excited to learn from him. 

Since Elder Nemelka was becoming the new assistant, he was picked up yesterday by the office elders. Consequently, I had to find someone to be my companion, and therefore, I am now serving with Elders Green and Newbold until Wednesday. Planning has been interesting so far, as we have had to coordinate our previously arranged schedules in two different areas! It is fun. I am living in their house right now, with elders 문호빈 and 권대원, which has been a blast so far! I love living with Korean elders... they are so much fun! I did have to do stats last night by myself, as my companion went to the office, which took a little longer than usual, but being in this house is fun! Though my time to serve with Elder Nemelka was short, I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot from him. I am confident he will assume well his new responsibilities in the office.

I am running out of things to talk about in email. Is there anything you would like to hear! I realize I perhaps talk about my thoughts on missionary work a lot as opposed to mentioning specific experiences. I have become so accustomed to missionary work that it is hard to remember what life was like back home. So, if there is anything specific that you want to hear, let me know!

I had an idea the other day to film myself doing various missionary activities, so that David and Jacob can understand a little more what missionary work is like. I filmed a segment of our last weekly planning and one of our daily planning sessions. I realized, however, that I cannot practically film anything outside of the house... but, I still think it would be good to see what mornings and evenings and records are like. Unfortunately, the new camera that I bought only reads micro sd cards, and seeing as I do not have a micro sd card reader at the moment, you will have to wait until next week for videos or pictures. Sorry! My new camera is much more impressive than I initially observed, however! I am SO glad I picked the cheaper camera. I will put back into my bank account the 200$ that I have left as a result sometime this week. 

Looking at one of our days this past week, I have come to realize how much I have progressed thus far on my mission in terms of using time wisely. During the first half of my mission, my days looked something like this: 8-11- study, 11-12 lunch 12-5 street contact, unless we have an appointment with an investigator 5-6 dinner 6-9 street contact, unless we have an appointment, or on days we are tired, return to the apartment at 8 to make calls to potential investigators and former investigators. 

I will recite the events of this past week, which, you will notice, are slightly different: 8-11 study 11-12 lunch 12-1 run to deliver lunch boxes to several senior citizens, so that we can complete our service project, which normally takes two hours to complete in one hour, then we quickly ran home to shower and change. After that we had to run to a school event that a recent convert in our ward invited us to, as his parents would not be able to attend. He invited us instead to see his art project and dissect a cow eye (my companion actually got sick and fainted with his head on the table during this particular activity!!).

While there, our recent convert introduced us to his friends and teachers (Our recent convert is a genius when it comes to missionary work!) We attended the aforementioned event from 1:15-2, then from 2:30-3 grab a taxi to drive to another area, where we met with one of our missionaries who wanted to do an evaluation for the Preach My Gospel Teacher Improvement program in our mission; from 3-4 we do the evaluation and walk to the bus stop, where we happened to meet some missionaries in the zone who were having a bit of a rough time. Talk to them for a brief minute to encourage them, thankful for the opportunity to be there at that moment of distress!

Then ride the bus back to our area 5:30-6, proselyte on the way to a meeting with a potential investigator for dinner. 6-7 eat dinner with Eddy, who comes to English class and wanted to talk to us about some difficulties he is having at work and in life generally. Though he does not believe in God, he asked us to pray for him and agreed to meet once a week to help us practice teaching the lessons in Korean. After supper we proselyte on the way to a member family with 6 children. From 7:30 on, we visit this lovely member family.

The mother seemed exhausted, with kids running all over the house. They struggle to come out to church sometimes because of the difficulty to get all of their children prepared and out the door. We taught them the importance of family prayer and scripture study, and then offered the kids ice cream if they would be ready for church half an hour early when we come to pick them up on Sunday morning. They agreed and the whole family made it to church on time this week! Hurrah! 8:50-9 run home, do some planning write in my journal, calls, calls, calls, jump into bed right as the clock sounds for bedtime. A jam-packed day, but it's a good life!!

Anyway, I am running out of time, love you all so much!

Elder Higham

Friday, 21 November 2014

Camera Stress!

Hello, hello!

It was good to see the pictures of Disney World! Looks like you had a ton of fun! It was kind of weird to see everyone else on a vacation like that. The good news is I still have a year left! I don't know my return date, nor do I want to know my return date!! So, I am a happy man right now! But when I get it, I will let you know. I have decided I am going to procrastinate thinking about university at least until I get my return date. Maybe longer... I don't think they let you extend for more than one transfer and we have been getting a lot of missionaries, particularly foreign missionaries, lately, but I will not go down without a fight! Maybe I should subtly mention that in my next interview with president... Don't send me home!

You will be pleased to know that I bought a camera today. I almost bought a nice one, but I felt so guilty carrying a camera so expensive, so I just bought a regular one. The one I almost bought was 350,000 won (about $355 Cdn). I know that mom wanted me to buy a nice camera, but then I imagined a conversation in my head that went something like this: mom and dad read my email together, where they learn that my camera ceased to work. Mom immediately suggests a very generous amount to put into my account, hopeful to get me a nice camera with all the latest gizmos and gadgets. Dad exhales slowly, proceeding with caution as he reduces the amount to a somewhat lower price, yet still higher than he would like. Stress! What should I do? 

The walk to the till with the more expensive camera was the longest of my life! Then, I realized that pictures are pictures and that I didn't even know what the descriptions detailing the quality of the cameras meant! So, I went with a 120,000 won ($125 Cdn) camera. It takes decent pictures, but it doesn't have any fancy colour functions or anything like that. I also realized on the train ride home that it only takes micro sd cards, so I have to buy a new sd card... technology! Stress! Koreans like to use the word "stress" a lot, in case you have not yet noticed. :)

I do not have a lot to write about, seeing as we have still not found any investigators. It has almost been a transfer now, so it is discouraging and frustrating at times. I have come to realize a more pressing concern, however; as elder Cook expressed in his visit to Korea not too long ago, our duty as missionaries is to build wards and branches. He mentioned several ways we do so, with convert baptisms only a part of his focus. As in my last area, we found, here in 답동, several areas and members which could be improved and strengthened. I'm sure there are different weak points in different areas, including Canada, in which the church has rooted; our major focus now for Elder Nemelka and I is to strengthen the weak points that we see in the ward as best we can, to enable our members to successfully accomplish their duty to share the gospel. 

We are still figuring out the best way to go about achieving our somewhat broad goal, but for now, we are visiting more members, active, less active and part members, to teach them what our mission has established as "20 minute practice lessons," during which we simply practice teaching the basic doctrines of the missionary lessons to members, according to their needs. Though the stated purpose for this program is to give missionaries an opportunity to maintain their Korean and teaching ability, I have found these particularly useful in addressing concerns of members and strengthening them effectively.

In a conversation with our ward mission leader, however, I heard something that has changed my perspective on member missionary work. He mentioned that, on his mission, he was terribly frustrated with the members' seeming lack of cooperation with the missionaries and apathy towards missionary work. His perspective changed, when he returned home and started a family, got a job and assumed many other responsibilities. He still understood that his duty to God was his top priority, but he found it a lot harder to focus on missionary work and on church callings, with so many other responsibilities. 

As much as it frustrates me, I understand that this is perhaps the case for members around the world. How do we help? I have started to be more patient, consequently, and more sympathetic towards members' concerns. I still see basic responsibilities, however, that are being shirked, a problem I am sure extends far beyond the area I am in, I assume. I so desperately want to help, as I feel confident that more focus on a few simple practices would be so beneficial for the saints I am endeavoring to serve, but I don't know how I can effectively help. I suppose all I can do now is simply follow the inspiration I receive, which, as Elder Bednar puts it, so often lights the path just far enough for us to take a few steps at a time. 

Love you all so much!

Elder Higham

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Inspired Zone Conference


We are going to buy a camera for my companion today, but I will buy one next week; thank you for updating me on the bank account situation! When do you go to Disney World? 

To come up with an appropriate response to your question dad, I asked my companion. These are his words: "the sister training leader is the middle man between us and the sisters." In essence, I suppose that is true! :P The sister training leaders are responsible primarily for the overall welfare of the sisters in the zone. They go on exchanges with every sister in the zone (although we only have one STL in our zone now, so I don't know if she goes on exchanges with every sister or just every companionship), where they train them and report to us and to the district leaders on any struggles that they see, or any help they think would be beneficial. They also go to MLC with us every month, where they help us report on the zone. Our sister training leader in 인천 zone is sister Chao, who was in my district in the MTC!

We had zone conference this week, which was a completely different experience as a zone leader! I felt that our additional responsibilities and preparation, though exhausting, contributed to a more spiritual experience for me personally. Elder Nemelka and I invited our zone to fast before the conference to prepare to learn through the spirit, the results of which were miraculous and simply too numerous to mention! We made cookies and spend a little extra money to buy more pizzas for them during lunch, as they were fasting and would be hungry. :P We also got two dozen krispy kream doughnuts from one of our ward members, which we handed out during lunch to people who answered the some questions we prepared. The very first question I asked turned out to be the hardest; the only missionary that knew the answer was our German Elder Gehrig. The question was: "what is the capital of Canada?" No one knew except for Elder Gehrig! Yikes! :P 

Elder Nemelka and I had an interesting experience while we were preparing our training for zone conference. Our assigned topic was "Finding through the Spirit." Our first thought was simply to train on techniques for street contacting, since that has been the principle method of finding here for a significant period of time. As we were studying, however, we both felt that we should train on broadening our perspectives in our efforts to find. 

We mentioned some activities that we had tried in the past week, which consisted mostly of working with members, and trained on usage of materials that do not frequently get used by missionaries. Immediately following our training, at the conclusion of the conference, President Morrise made the very significant announcement that our mission is no longer counting proselyting conversations as a statistic, but instead will consider lessons taught to church members. In a discussion with him after the meeting, we were able to hear some of President's thoughts on this big change. 

He was quite honest and straightforward. He said that Korea needs a change in missionary work. The membership in Korea, though it is listed as 80,000, is not reflective of the active membership, which is substantially less. To give an example of the struggle that Korea faces, my previous ward's membership list consisted of about 35 active members and 500 less active members. 

He said quite simply that we need to stop spending our time on the streets and start helping the members to support themselves through basic programs such as family home evening and home and visiting teaching. He mentioned that our area president (President Ringwood) gave a talk a few months ago, in which he told us that missionary work in Korea is not the "work" of the missionaries, but rather the work of the members, whom the missionaries are called to support. Though I was shocked to hear of the change, I have come to really appreciate this timely progression in missionary work in Korea. It truly is an inspired change, and I am excited to see the results. If our stats from just this past week are any indication of the progression that will continue, then I am more than excited! In our zone, our baptismal dates went up from 2 last week to 7 this week, with an additional jump of 16 progressing investigators to 32! 

I also discovered in our discussion with president after the meeting that I was the vehicle through which president received the inspiration to initiate a greater emphasis of Korean learning, which has also changed the culture of our mission. As a result of President's push to learn Korean more effectively, many more missionaries are speaking much more Korean, setting goals to speak only Korean at certain times and consequently seeing miracles that President shares with all of us through his weekly email to the mission. 

I had set a goal to speak only Korean for a week a while back, during which I had to call president for some sort of permission, where I explained why I was speaking Korean and not English, as was normal a while ago. Apparently, he was impressed enough to make this a focus for the whole mission. He told me after zone conference of my role in that mission focus. It is a great feeling to contribute something to the mission, especially considering I went through a period of time not too long ago where I felt my efforts were anything but a contribution. 

Anyway, I am sorry there was not too much about our proselyting week in that email; I am simply so excited for these changes! :)

Love, Elder Higham