Sunday, August 2, 2015

Elder Derek's Final Email August 2nd, 2015 "Small"


That's how I feel.

That's how this mission felt. So incredibly small.

I am down to my last few days as an authorized representative of Jesus Christ and His Restored Gospel. My last few days in Korea. The last few days before life gets a whole lot more complicated.

As I have thought about returning home this week, the lesson that the Spirit taught me is that I can't just go back to what I used to be. The skills, good habits, and testimonies I have obtained on my mission are a gift to me from Heavenly Father, and I cannot just set them aside and not make use of them. When God gives a gift, He also gives a command to go and use it. 

It will be hard. Harder than it was to leave my family for 2 years, dedicate all my time and attention to serving a people whose language I can barely speak and whose culture I am only beginning to understand. "Real Life" is going to be harder than that, but I have the help of an Almighty Loving God behind me. We read in 3 Nephi 13:33 that if we seek first the Kingdom of God, all the rest, the necessary stuff will be added unto us. In other words, When we are involved (deeply, with undivided attention and focus) in the Work of the Lord, the obstacles in front of us are never as great as the strength behind us.

I learned that lesson again this week through an unexpected miracle. If you've been following my mission emails, you may have noticed that I never talk about any baptisms. That's because I haven't been able to give any to my investigators yet. That was always a sore point for me, because I always thought I was coming out here to change people lives and baptism is a natural part of that. Plus, I knew that people at home would ask, "How many people did you baptize?"

I knew in my mind that serving God was all that mattered, not the numbers or stats. I came into Gangnam for my last 3 months, determined to be an instrument in the Lord's hand, and just to do whatever He needed done, no matter how mundane or small. I've been blessed with more miracles here than any other area, including companion and house member relationships, organizing life after the mission, my family being protected physically from harm, and greater humility and faith in Christ.

But I still wanted to Baptize.

I went through the first few weeks of this transfer with high hopes and high expectations, but when plans fell through, I resigned myself to the fact that I would go home without having helped anyone come unto Christ through Baptism. That all changed this last week.

Brother Shim, the husband of Sister Park, a member of our ward. She referred him to us and said to baptize him before I left. That was a month ago, and he didn't seem interested. He came to church a few times, at his wife's request, and the last time (last week sunday), we met him afterwards and had a Gospel lesson. He had changed! He was humble, ready and willing to be baptized. Also, thanks to 30 years spent married to an active member, he already knew and was keeping all of the commandments and the doctrines. We taught him 3 times that week, had the interview with our Zone Leaders, and had a baptism on Saturday, August 1st. Getting in the font with this man was an amazingly sweet experience, especially when he told me that he was getting "upgraded" through baptism. ^^

I was also able to confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost upon him the next day in Sacrament meeting. That was fun in Korean. First time doing that one, to! He is solidly set in the path, and he's started his Gospel journey with a wonderful wife to support and teach him, a loving ward, and now the constant help of the Holy Ghost.

We had no idea we would be baptizing this man. We didn't even have it down in our weekly goals. So, for the first time in my mission, I was able to write two 1's next to Baptisms and Confirmations in our weekly totals report.

What I learned from this is, again, that the most important thing is to be God's instrument and do what He wants done, no matter how small it may seem. The other thing I learned is that God truly does "add those things upon us" when our desires are righteous and we are dedicated to serve Him, regardless of the results.

This work, the Work of Salvation, is truly God's work. He is in control, and there is nothing you or I or anyone can do to hinder, stop, slow down, or speed up this work any different than how he wants it. The only thing we can do is take His invitation to participate, Be His Instrument, and let Him pour out the blessings on us and change us into a better, happier, more Christ-like person than we ever thought possible.

I bear you my testimony as a servant of the Lord that Christ Lives. He has restored His true gospel to the earth and shown us again the way to live to follow Him and be saved in His Kingdom. The past 2 years of sharing this message has changed my life, and I will take the things I have learned and NEVER STOP SERVING in the Work of Salvation. May we all do the same.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Derek James Wilcox, 선교사

Monday, July 20, 2015

3rd to last email & Pictures: July 19, 2015

This week was fantastic! We found 2 new investigators, had lots of member participation in lessons, and had 2 investigators come to church yesterday! One was a former investigator who just wanted to come and see me one last time before I go, and he liked the service. Still not prepared, but we helped him in some small way. That's the gloriousness of this work: God lets us help out in small, simple ways, which bring about huge changes in us and in the world.

Our District! Me, Elder Arredondo, Elder Pettit, and Elder Yoon. Doing a stickerboarding activity!

I saw Elder Rosenberg at the Temple! That's his current area (it's in the seoul mission, but we got permission to go once a transfer). He leaves tomorrow!!

Our District plays screen golf! Dad, I wanna go play with you sometime. I stink, but it's kinda fun! ^^

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 28, 2015 Email "The Big Moment"

This is it.

It's here.

The final sprint. The last leg. The last 100 Meters. The Kick.

The last Transfer.

As an Elder serving in Korea, after the 2 months in the MTC you have about 16 tranfers, or 6-week increments of time where you could either change the area you serve or the companion you serve with.  My event in Track was the mile, or the 1600 meter run, 16 times 100 meters. 16 transfers, 16 100's. Pretty neat comparison, don't you think? Each transfer is a milestone in and of itself, but I find it interesting that there are 16.

And now I'm in the final one.

The first of 6 weeks is already gone. It flew by faster than any other. We saw lots of miracles, including new investigators coming up to us and asking to meet and study the Book of Mormon, the start of the best missionary- ward mission leader relationship I've been a part of yet, and our first Member-present Lesson in Gangnam. Things are happening. Getting moving. Hastening.

Not the least of the miracles Elder Arredondo and I have seen are the personal ones. I feel personally like this transfer and the one before, the time I've been here in Gangnam, has been the culmination of my whole mission experience. All of the things I have learned, been taught, sort-of learned, or heard that I should be doing have been poured into action here. I am doing and feeling and being more than I ever have before. Changing. 

I realized yesterday that I have been blessed with the ability to start, to get things moving. This gift has been manifest in my whole life in several ways, but especially here in Korea. However, this gift also came with a weakness that I myself wasn't able to put in to words until the Spirit helped me out yesterday. I have been fearing the finish. I was never a strong finisher in running races, nor have I gone above and beyond the mark of exact obedience to true diligence. I get content, satisfied with doing something, anything. With looking good, looking like I am working hard. Lots of pride, a lack of faith.

But our Father in Heaven knows what he has been doing with me for the past 20 years. And He knows what he's going to do with me for eternity. I haven't seen it until now, but looking back on my mission experience, God has placed me in exactly the situations I needed to be in, not to change the world and give myself a big head, but to be humbled, to become soft, malleable to the will of the Father, so that I can do what He wants me to do, say what He wants me to say, become what He wants me to become.

And I glory in it. I, like Ammon, know that I am nothing. As to my strength, I am weak. Therefore, I, too, will forever cease boasting of myself, stop trying to gratify pride, cover sin or mediocrity, or exercise unrighteous dominion over my brothers and sisters. For good. God want more than that for me, and for each and every one of you. 

He truly does have a plan for each of us. He knows what will make us the most happy, and He will lead us there as long as we give him our obedience. That's the deciding factor in the quest of returning to God, becoming like Christ:

"Do I give this God-given agency back to Him, trusting Him unreservedly, by obeying instantly and fully every word of command He gives?"

He has blessed us with the Book of Mormon, the Bible, living prophets, spiritual revelation, given us all abundant direction. Now it's all up to us, do we follow, or not?

In the 1600 meter race, as with any other race, the finish is the deciding factor. Not only can you shave off final seconds for a better resulting time, but without the finish, there is no point to competing. If you don't finish the race, you surely will never improve your time, earn a medal, or even know how you can do better.

We've been counselled to "Begin with the End in Mind" ( by our leaders. From the start of our races, whether it be a mission, a career, a marriage, a life, we must know where we are headed for. We must be fixed on the end goal of reaching the finish line, where the Savior has crossed the tape and is cheering us on.

Keeping the End in Mind will help when trials come, when things get hard or boring. Those are our chances to show God just how determined we are to reach that goal.

When all is said and done, the Finish defines the entire race.

We are all in our last 100 meters. This life is just a little blip on the scale of eternity, and our eternal rewards depend on how well we finish this time, obeying and following Christ. 

For me, this "mini-finish" of the mission has awakened me to a vision of my life, the more important race. I know now what to do, how to make decisions and receive God's instruction. I am incredibly grateful for the past 2 years, and the 18 years before that. It's like the stars all aligned perfectly and put me in all the right places for the right things to happen to me. Or maybe it's just God, my Heavenly Father, who loves and watches over me and every one of you and has wonderful things in store for all who show that they're ready to receive them.

Take the next step. There is no time to lose! We're in the moment. It's here, never to come again. Kick. Do. Endure. Become. Feel the Joy that comes.

This is my hope and testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I love you all and hope you have another nice week!


Elder Derek James Wilcox

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pictures- Gangnam Style: June 21, 2015

MERS Scare & cool Book of Mormon Cover :)

Staying in Gangnam for his last area

Cool Sunglasses Store

Shark Teeth Sunglasses

English Class

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015 Email & Picture

Hey everyone! Not much time today, but I wanted to tell you about the most feel-like-a-missionary week I've ever had!

We were swamped with miracles this week! Promising new investigators, miracle random people calling us to meet, getting to translate into korean for a temple elder visiting our ward, getting close with the ward, getting closer and having lots of fun doing the work with my Companion, getting more answers to prayers than ever before, and feeling more HAPPY than I ever have in my life were all included in this awesome week. 

We may not be getting big numbers here in this part of the vineyard. But we are disciples of Christ, called of Him to declare his word and find those prepared to receive Him.

This afternoon we ate at a buffet called VIP's, and it was the most delicious thing I have ever had. And cost a whopping $80 for a steak, but also a free buffet for 2 other people. Ate with 8. Big Belly. No dinner tonight. Also, think I may be lactose intolerant. I switched to soy milk recently, and had some icecream at the restaurant. Not sitting to well.

Anyway, that's about all the time I have today! I love you all! Peace! 안녕히 계셔유!!

Elder Derek Wilcox

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 24, 2015 "A BIG Hug"

Hello everyone! Time for another Big Email! The weather has been really mild and warm here in Korea for the past while, but it's beginning to get hot now! It's already totally bright outside when we go running in the mornings! I am so blessed to have a companion that is willing to run, and another house mate/ District leader who is willing to trade places with him when he doesn't want to. ^^

This week in Gangnam was really really tough! Elder Arredondo and I got cancelled on about 5 times! On the bright side, we got to walk around the area a lot and get to know the streets. We don't ride buses here, which I love cuz walking around is just my style. We do have about 20 or more subway stations in our little area (crazy huge number, cuz this is one of the metropolises of Seoul) for when we need to move fast or leave the area for meetings.

We met some really cool people. We also met some really weird people. One of them was a man who came to English class and we all just got a weird vibe about him. He seemed kind of autistic, a bit. He was kinda creeping on me, so I wasn't sure what to do. He gave us KFC he had bought, tried to take a picture of me, and then left right when English class started. Confusing. Anyway, that happened right after getting rejected and railed on by some guy on the street about how our church is false and the Book of Mormon is not true. Well, I told him that I've got a witness, an answer from God that it is true, so while there's not much I can do for him, there is nothing he can do to me either. Just a normal missionary day.

I was feeling really really depressed after those 2 experiences, though, and feeling like I could do nothing right. I felt like if I was a god missionary, I could have left that man with a better impression of our church. And I just felt weird and out-of-whack from the guy at english class. On the way home for dinner, I was flipping my mission coin, and I looked at the words on the back, "Full Purpose of Heart". It hit me that all God asked of me was to serve Him and His Children with full purpose of heart. He never required me to be perfect at street-contacting or know exactly how to handle every situation, He just asked for my best effort.

The next day, I was still in a down mood, and in companion study we read from the Book of Mormon together in Alma 26, about a missionary named Ammon talking to his brothers and fellow missionaries after their service among the Lamanite people. He talks in there about a lot of things, but what stuck out to me this time was that he and his brothers went through a lot worse rejection than I did, and a lot more privation (verse 27). When they were depressed, the Lord comforted them. 

When we read this verse together, I felt like I was getting a big hug from my Father in Heaven, like He was saying to me, "It's okay, I understand. Just get back up and give it one more go, be diligent and I will give you success." I felt like the Full Purpose of Heart thing and this chapter combined to help me out of the little depression I had worked myself into. I feel like Heavenly Father picked me up, dusted me off, gave me a big hug, and comforted me like the little child I am to Him. He also showed me lots of ways that I can do better. First he reminded me that my purpose is to serve His other children and Him with my best effort. Then he showed me that when it's hard and I'm depressed, its another opportunity to develop and show diligence. I learned a lot more, but it would take all day to write. The biggest thing I learned, or was reminded of, is that God is mindful of each of us, and that He really does want to help us in our problems. We just need to turn to Him and do our best to follow Him.

 When we ask for blessings, He usually answers with opportunities for us to gain them ourselves.

I love this work, and I love all of you! I love my Father in Heaven most of all, for letting me learn and grow and have the opportunity of serving Him in this way as a missionary.

Thanks again! Have a great week, everyone!