Sunday, February 15, 2015

Feb. 15, 2015 Big Holiday in Korea

Nope, it's not Valentine's Day. Interestingly, though, Koreans celbrate Valentines Day differently than Americans do. On Feb 14th, girls give guys chocolate. A month later, on March 14th, is White Day, where guys give girls candy. Then, if you remained single for both of these 2 couple-centered holidays, a month later on April 14th, you celebrate your misery by eating black-colored JaJjang noodles on what is known as Black day. Missionaries are pretty much supposed to celebrate Black day, so this last week valentines was nothing special.
But this coming week is a different story. On Thursday is the Lunar New Year, 설날 Seollar. In Korea, there are 2 really hugely celebrated holidays, that usually warrant 3 or 4 days off work, and this is one of them. Everyone goes to their hometowns, gathers with their families, eats some rice-cake soup, and spends time together. So, starting this coming Wednesday and ending around Saturday or Sunday, there will be really really few people to find on the streets of Korea. Also because they are with their families in the other regions of Korea, this week will be a little tough for traditional missionary work.
So, we're gonna have a party! Last year we had a mission conference (a talent show), which was a blast, but this year President decided to have each zone do their own activity. He delegated all planning, time, decisions, prep, and follow-through to the Zone Leaders. Oh, joy. ^^ So that party will be this Thursday, and transfers are the day before. I will be getting a new companion (Elder Lee's condition is such that he needs extended treatment and therefore it is better for him to finish his mission here) named Elder Thorup on that day, but that leaves us with less than 20 hours to prep. So, with the help of my district, we kind of already planned our Anyang Zone's activity all out. Should be fun. I'll let you all know how it goes. ^^
Anyway, this last week was great. I was a little stressed out the week before because of Elder Lee having to leave, and then being thrown into a threesome and suddenly having to manage the zone all by my lonesome, but after about a week, the good old adjustors kicked in and things went a lot smoother. We were able to get to all of the appointments in both areas (mine and the other Elders I am with), do lots of language evaluation meetings (practice teaching the lessons in Korean) with many of our Zone's missionaries, and plan for the upcoming activity this week! It's been fun, but I am still really really excited to go back to a normal companionship with only one proselyting area to worry about. ^^
Well, we've passed the worst of the winter, have been having unseasonally warm weather pretty consistently, and we are feeling the Joy of Spring and the Work of Salvation. I have been reading The Power of Everyday Missionaries, and I found a really cool insight. Our Church is based on the fact that it is still OK to ask God questions. 3 centuries after the Savior died, religious leaders gathered and basically decided that God had given them all the knowledge and answers to questions He ever would, and so shut the world into the dark night of apostasy. Joseph Smith asked a simple question, got a simple answer, and with constant asking and receiving for the next 20 years, he got more and more answers and established a Church that to this day asks, seeks, knock, and in return is given, finds, and is opened unto by our Loving Father who waits patiently to teach us until we think to ask Him. It's beautiful and simple, and true. I can testify of that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Love you guys (sorry I forgot to send valentines... hehe^^), and thank a bunch for the prayers.
The work is sweet!
Elder Derek James Wilcox

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 1, 2015 Big Trials, Bigger Changes, and Biggest Progression

Hello Everyone. This is Elder Derek Wilcox. I am so sorry for the long gap between the Big Emails. Time is short today, too, but I want to send this out to you all. ^^
Things have been quite... intersting here in Anyang. I have been here for about 2 and a half months now. I have been struggling since the time I came with my companion relationship. He and I are very different. We have different personalities, backgrounds (temporal as well as gospel-related), attitudes, abilities, energy levels, opinions, and ways of thinking. Due in part to this stress, I haven't felt like writing a Big Email because I felt like most of the things I could say were personal and didn't need to be spread abroad. I feel like struggling for love and peace here in my companionship has consumed most of my time and effort lately, so there really is not much news as far as missionary work goes. We've got some investigators with potential, but just potential so far.
I have learned more here in Anyang from Elder L. than I have learned in all my other areas, with all my other companions put together. Elder L. has good eyes for people's inner character. Through his (sometimes quite painful) correction, I have come to see myself a little clearer, the good points, as well as a lot of the weaknesses I haven't noticed before. I have struggled and struggled to learn to love without holding back, to think of others before myself, to truly seek for others' benefit. I've been pretty selfish and prideful up to now, and I want to apologize to any and all of you whom I have offended in any way. I have been going through a refining fire for the last few months, and my heart feels burned. But it feels great to start to clean off the soot and become better and better through the Atonement of Christ. 
My companion has been struggling himself with quite a large demon, his ankle (which caused him to return home once before to receive surgery and treatment for 6 months) has been aching non-stop for 3 months, leaving him unable to focus on things or have patience for a companion with lots of short-comings. He hasn't even been able to sleep for more than 4 hours a night, on and off, since the cold weather started. And so, this week, my companion talked with our Mission President and decided to be released and go back home to Busan for up to a few weeks to get scanned, and possibly another surgery. I will be a threesome with the other elders in my house until the end of this transfer, by which time Elder L. plans to come back. This was all rather sudden, for me and for President, but I think Elder L. has been thinking about it for a while. He'll leave tomorrow at MLC (mission leadership council), and then 2 days later, we'll have a Zone meeting. Training will be fun. Prayers, please, for him and for me.
The worst part of this is the fact that I feel excited for this change. If I'm honest with myself, I feel like things that can need to be done can finally be done, and things can go the right way now. That could still just be my sefishness and pride talking. I don't know. What I do know is that all things will be done in the wisdom and grace of He who is mighty to Save. He's saved me many times in the past few months, and He will continue, as long as I reach out my arm and grab His, always reaching out to rescue me and you.
I love this gospel, even when it's so hard you just want to cry. Just like I learned in Cross Country, so recently and yet so long ago, If you push, give literally EVERYTHING you have and more to the race- life, to the hill you're on- the trail you're facing, even though all you want to do is stop or at least slow down, then afterwards comes the glorious high, knowing that you did your very best, being pleased with your efforts and knowing that God is too. Having No Regrets.
This life is to short to waste. Don't stay down when you get knocked down. "Success in this life is not measured in the number of times we fall, but the number of times we rise up again." (rough quote from President Uchtdorf)
I testify that there is a God, He loves me and you and all of us. He wants us to be truly happy, and so He provided a Savior to rescue us from ourselves, our own mistakes, and the hard trials of life. I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as restored through Joseph Smith and lead today by Thomas S. Monson, has the priesthood authority of God to lead us to and help us to become like that Savior, even Jesus Christ, through the ordinances of salvation like baptism. The path is set before us.
As is says in 2 Nephi, "all things are given [us] which are expedient unto man, and [we] are free to choose liberty and eternal life through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death..." It's just up to us. Do I reach out and take the Hand outstretched to save me? Do I choose to make use of the wonderful atonement provided for me? Yes. I pray that is our answer. I am learning how to make it mine.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow, and even though it hurts like CRAZY sometimes, I am happy. Truly Happy. I love you all, and I say these things in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

~Elder Wilcox