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!