Thursday, July 31, 2014

Less Than 2 Weeks Left!

Last Thursday was Pioneer Day as many of you know (a very big deal in Utah - and much overlooked in Texas).  It's basically like the 2nd biggest holiday in July (next to the 4th), so the MTC's store and mail center were closed, and so was the temple.  So we had time to get naps in.  I had enough to get a few hours of sleep, which was absolutely heavenly. That day we also went out to the MTC field and Elder Tucker and I played sand volleyball with the Japanese-bound missionaries.  We got pretty close to them because the Korea and Japan going missionaries have about the exact same schedule here in the MTC.  Then a lot of those Japanese missionaries took off for Tokyo early on Monday; which makes the week and half that I have left before I take off for Korea feel really short and makes me super excited!  We have a countdown on our classroom's white-board that says : "_11_ 일 한국" (11 days Korea).  It probably doesn't make much sense grammatically, but it hypes us all up a whole lot!  Cause that number keeps dropping fast!

On Friday we had TRC (teaching resource center) like we do each week (where we teach church members); and this time it was over Skype!  Unfortunately, the sister Elder Murdoch and I skyped had an old version of Skype, so our video feeds weren't compatible.  We couldn't see each other at all.  So it was more like having a religious discussion/lesson over the phone, which was a pretty new experience for us as missionaries!
I got some pictures with some of those Japanese missionaries that left during our Sunday temple walk time, so that was good!  They are all such incredibly fun and great people. They're going to do great in Japan (even though Korea is a little bit cooler....hahaha)

Our Sunday night devotional speaker was Stephen B. Allen again.  He talked a lot over how we can fulfill our missionary purpose.  he basically broke it down like this:
1) Love God & love the people
2) Obey (don't second-guess the rules!)
3) Follow the Spirit (He literally knows everything)
4) Use the Book of Mormon
5) Get to know and use the members (get to know all of them well [ie. By name])
It was a great talk and he's a pretty funny guy. We were all laughing a lot during it, but the Spirit was definitely still there.
On Tuesday night we heard from John H. Groberg and that was an incredible talk.  He's the guy that the movie The Other Side of Heaven is about. Like, that's his story.  So it was really cool to hear from him.  He focused a lot on testimonies and why they are so important.  He said this (roughly...), "The vibrations of your testimony cause the testimonies of others to respond and vibrate complimentary to it." He demonstrated this with tuning forks and how when one starts to vibrate near another that has a similar frequency, it will cause it to vibrate too. 

This is what our testimonies can do for people.  He gave us 6 examples of you we bear our testimonies.  There are countless, but he used specifically these.  That we bear testimony by:

If we bear our testimonies often and with conviction, the Spirit will stand by us and our testimonies WILL GROW.

On Wednesday I got to see my cousin Ryan Gardner come into the MTC, going to the Vladivostok Russia Mission.  That was awesome to see him.  His host was an Elder Smith in my branch, and I ran into him (Elder Smith) while he was waiting for Elder Gardner to come back out of the building (where they get led through a maze of hallways and what-not to collect their new missionary stuff that they need).  So I waited with him and when Elder Gardner came out we said hey, hugged, got a picture.  Basically had the most precious moment ever ;)  I'll probably get to see him around some more around the MTC.  So that's exciting! In fact, I just saw him this morning! Haha

Overall a pretty good week that - yet again - just flew by! Love you all!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yet another week come and gone!

This week wasn't crazy eventful or anything (but come to think of it, my schedule at the MTC is pretty much the same thing each week...) but it was still good!  The district of missionaries older than us (we always called them older just because they had been at the MTC longer, even though they were really about our ages for my batch of missionaries) departed for 한국 (Korea) Monday morning very early.  They had to get up at 2:30ish I think...That's early!  But we had a lot of good last moments together with the branch.  They all had 'memory books' that we signed and wrote notes in.  And they signed ours too! (How precious right??)  The night before they left, we inherited a lot of stuff from them.  Things like: a box full of popcorn packages, a Christmas tree, a bunch of Book of Mormon pictures, etc, etc...Basically a gold mine of stuff they inherited/couldn't fit in their suitcases.

On Sunday night, our devotional speaker was T.C. Christensen.  He is a big cinematographer guy behind a lot of the church films that we all have seen (17 Miracles, Testaments, Ephraim's Rescue, Life of a Stonecutter, etc...).  So for his talk, he would show us a clip from one of the movies and talk about the history behind it and why they added it and just neat stuff about all of that.  Something that he really emphasized on was how important journals are.  There are so many facts about things in history (like the pioneer treks) that we just don't know much about at all because hardly anyone recorded those things.  So remember, journals are more important than you realize!

Our Tuesday night devotional we got to hear from Elder Ellis and his family.  And I happened to know them from past experience (of living in the same ward as the oldest child my entire biggy) so I made sure to sit up close.  It was pretty weird to see Darrell and Joy Park at the MTC just a few rows up from me!  They all gave good and different thoughts and messages about missionary work.  I feel like each person I talked to had a different Ellis child's remarks stand out to them the most.  It was definitely a unique format for a devotional; having each kid give remarks, and then hearing from the general authority and his wife.  But it was great!  The Spirit was strong and there seemed to me like there was a major focus on obedience and working our hardest.  Sister Ellis told us: "Don't cheat yourself by just giving part." And Elder Ellis added onto that later by saying: "When you're completely exhausted at the end of your mission, your mission president can help you on the plane and then you can rest up; but while you're out, give your mission everything you've got."

My district got to help with hosting the new missionaries again this week. We were assigned to help with the traffic, but they only needed 8 of us so I helped with the actual hosting again.  This week we had a new crew of Korean missionaries going to the Daejeon and Busan missions which was pretty exciting!  And so I was hoping to get some of them as my hosted missionaries and guess who I got?!?  I had 2 missionaries who I asked where they were going to serve and told me, "I'm going to South......K........Carolina.  And...UH!  Not that there is anything wrong with that mission at all, it's a great mission!  Just after looking forward to meeting someone that might be going to my mission and being my companion later it was a tiny let-down. But I had to make sure to not let that show like that!

Overall we've had a fantastic week and are just all doing our best to be great missionaries and to get a lot of work done!  Love all of you!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 5!

Functional washing machines are far too unappreciated.  Why do I bring this up you may ask? Well, let me enlighten you!  On our P-Day last week the washing machine I used for my dark clothes did not work right, mainly along the lines of getting most of the water out of my clothes.  I literally wrung at least a couple gallons-worth of water out of those sopping-wet clothes before transferring them to the dryer.  Needless to say they didn't dry all of the way in that dryer.  But I didn't have time for another cycle, so I had to air-dry them.  Our residence was full of my clothes hanging on whatever things they could possibly hang on!  over the next 3 days, little by little, they all dried and got put away.  So the next time you count your blessings, remember to be thankful for your working washing machine!

I was asked to play the piano for priesthood mtg and sacrament meeting for Sunday, so that was pretty cool to get to play some piano again!  Also for sacrament meeting, 3 other elders and I (E Tucker, E Wright, E Murdoch) did a musical number of 'Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy.'  It took a little bit of practice beforehand, but it was pretty good :)

Also on P-Day last week, the end of the day was pretty wet and rainyish, so I had a bit of fun with the flash on my camera.  As we were walking back to our residence, our district would pass by other groups of missionaries standing under the covered walkways, just talking or whatever.  So discretely, I would have my camera by my side and snap a picture and the flash would go off.  And instantly the group would gasp and look around super quickly, searching for lightning.  Let's just say that we all felt pretty clever!

We got a new elder this week: Elder Harvey.  He's Taiwanese, but raised in Maryland. He was originally called to serve in the Canada Montreal Mission, French-speaking.  But because of a combination of visa/lang complication things, he got reassigned to Anaheim, CA, Korean-speaking.  Pretty big change for him!  But he's a great addition to the district!  He took a year of Korean at BYU last year, so it's not like he's a complete fish out of water, but he didn't exactly learn the missionary terms in school!

The gym that we normally have devotionals in (and gym...) is currently having the floor 'refinished' or something like that.  So for our devotionals we have to walk over to the Marriott Center to have them.  Our Sunday night speaker was Brother Heaton (an MTC executive in some aspect), and he talked a lot about charity.  He said something along these lines: "We cannot manufacture charity, it is a fight, and it only comes to us as we diligently plead for and work to obtain it."  I think it's important that we always keep Moroni 7:46 in mind (and the following verses as well of course!).  ' 46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—'  Charity is basically, like, number one.  So we should definitely strive with all our might to have it.  We can't feel the Spirit when we're angry, we can't be good disciples of Christ if we shoulder grudges or resentment, etc, etc...  So just something to think about.

On Tuesday we heard from Elder Brown, a former 70, who served in Korea as a missionary right after the Korean War when the area opened up.  And who served there as a mission president way back in the day as well.  He talked to us about always using the names of God and Christ with sincerity.  One thing I wrote down in my notes based on what he said was this:  ' We covenanted at baptism that we were will to take Christ's name upon us. So we need to ACT LIKE IT."  Remember that as members of the church (and especially as a missionary!), you are representing Christ and what he would do through all of your actions.  So be good! :)

Just a fun fact for everyone- on our way to the Marriott Center on Tuesday, we walked right past the BYU broadcasting building.  And a familiar person passed by me and went up into the building.  Just before he went into the building I realized that it was James from Studio C.  That was kind of weird and cool at the same time; just one of those crazy MTC happening to be kind of the same place as BYU campus kind of things.

President Yost told our district this week that we need to figure out how much vocabulary we know and then triple that before we leave the MTC.  Doing the math....that's a lot of vocab...  So I'm trying to learn 25 words a day, which is difficult, but not impossible!  We have to come up with the weirdest ways to memorize words.
Love you all! 사랑합니다!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy 4th of July!!! (even if it's a little late...)

This week was another of those that somehow just flew by!  Each day certainly doesn't fly by on it's own; but as an overall picture, it's like this week was several days shorter than it should have been!
On Friday night last week since it was the fourth of July, we had a special devotional.  There were a lot of musical numbers and then we got to hear from Brother Ron Gubler who is the MTC's executive secretary.  He talked a lot on how God loves freedom.  And how when the church was restored to the earth, it was like spiritual independence day.  Because now man: could begin to be freed from sin, could be free from the natural man, was free to live with God again, and so on.  One quote in particular (as you know, really probably a little bit incorrect in wording) was this: "Turning our agency over to God is the only way to be truly free."  After we heard from him we watched '17 Miracles' as part of the devotional.  And then we had a closing song and prayer after that!  It was really weird to remember in the end that we were still in a devotional even though we had just sat through an entire movie.  Then President Roach (2nd Counselor in the MTC presidency) announced to us that Sister Carrie Underwood had just finished singing at Stadium of Fire about a minute before, and now all of us missionaries could go outside and watch the fireworks (it was 10:25 at this point).  So we went out and saw the fireworks from Stadium of Fire.  One group of missionaries started singing the Star-Spangled Banner and everyone joined in and we finished right as the finale ended. Impeccable timing!  And then we headed back to our residences and got in bed around 11:30.

On Sunday it was fast Sunday and so we had a special missionary conference in the afternoon.  And it was announced to us that the First Presidency has announced that missionaries are now to teach all of the missionary discussions (lessons 1-5) BEFORE baptism and that they are to reteach all of those same lessons after baptism.  Before missionaries' main focus was on Finding Teaching and Baptizing, And now added onto that are Retaining and Activating! So that was a pretty exciting change to hear about!  We're going to be teaching a lot of lessons.
That night our speaker/performer was Josh Wright.  He's a member of the church who is a very accomplished pianist.  He has performed at Carnegie Hall, and all over across the US and Europe.  So he would tell us stories from his mission and in his piano experiences and would relate it to our missions, and then play a song for us.  And he was incredible.  I didn't know people's fingers could move that fast, and on top of that, that they could incorporate style and dynamics while moving that fast.  I liked the things he said during his "talk" (I guess it was slightly different than a talk...).  He pointed out to us that "Diamonds can only be created under great amounts of stress and pressure" and that as we work through the pressure and trials that the Lord gives us and those that he allows to happen to us, that we can become much more than the block of coal that we started as.  And I really like this too: he said that "You either DO or you WILL know Christ if you give your heart to him."
On Tuesday we got to hear from Neil L. Anderson and he talked a lot about the Holy Ghost.  He said, "In the quiet, peaceful moments of our life is when God speaks to us.  We need to learn to be quiet and still."  And after the devotional when the closing prayer was said, Elder Anderson stayed in his seat for a minute or two and we sat there in silence and the Spirit was really strong.
On Wednesday we got to host new missionaries coming into the MTC.  We got to take them from their families and get them their stuff, show them to their rooms, and then take them to their classrooms.  It was really hot though! We were apparently a little short on hosts so I had to book it around (walking of course) from dropping the missionary off at his classroom and going to get a new one immediately from the drop-off.  I ended up showing 5 elders around.  3 of them were from Utah, and 2 were from Washington.  They were going to: Madagascar, North Carolina, Mexico, South Dakota, and France.  So I got a variety there!  Some of the goodbyes were rough and the families and the missionaries kind of struggled, but they were all good.  The two missionaries who got pretty choked up and cried in saying goodbye to their families were over it within 5-10 seconds as we started to head up to get their badge and everything; which was actually pretty inspiring to me how ready they were to get right to it and not keep dwelling on other things.  Whenever we passed someone in our district or zone that was hosting someone, we would tell their new missionary "Ooh! You got so lucky! He/she is awesome!"  And basically established ourselves as really awesome people - in the most humble way of course!
We get updates from people on the World Cup and it's pretty crazy that Argentina and Germany are playing each other in the finals! Shame about Brazil though.  Biggest deficit in World Cup history in the semi-finals is pretty rough.  I'm not completely shut out from the world here!  Well, pretty much, but it's totally worth it so that you can focus on your work.
The language is coming along better.  I've been working a lot on "to be" verbs and in just memorizing different forms and tenses and slowly but surely they're just all solidifying in my mind!  (but remember, emphasis on slowly...)
Everything here is going great! It's crazy that today is technically my 30th day to be in the MTC!! I love all of you! Stay strong in doing the good things that you're doing!  Keep on having a good summer!
~Elder Woods

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Time Keeps on Slippin'....

This week has really just screwed up my whole perception of time and how it works!  It felt like just yesterday that we had our P-Day and now it's back again!  It most certainly hasn't felt like a whole week!  When I first got to the MTC and would try to speak in Korean, the words I didn't know would be filled in by French words because of my 3 years of French in school.  Lately I feel like I've forgotten just about all the french I knew!  I was talking to some elders going to France and I just could not remember how to say anything to them!  Maybe that's just cause in Korean the things I know how to say are all about the Gospel and about teaching discussions, but my mind just couldn't draw up anything that I knew how to say!  It's amazing how far my Korean has come already!  Not to say I understand most things or that I can say what I want to (Far from it!), but I definitly can get a handle on all of it!  Even if all of the grammar is backwards for English oriented brains!  (i.e. "We Christ follow through blessings receive" is the literal word for word in order translation, but it actually means "We receive blessing through following Christ."  Yeah...pretty intense!

We just got 32 new Korean missionaries in our branch yesterday.  They're all going to Korea (the Seoul South and Seoul missions I believe) except for 1 of them who is going to Australia!  They basically double our branch size!  And in 3 weeks we get another group coming in of a comparable size going to Daejon and Busan which will make our branch really big!

Each week we get to go to the temple on our P-Days (except for today and next week because of cleaning.  The group of missionaries 3 weeks earlier than us get to actually help with the cleaning!)
Each morning we get up at 6:30 (and sometimes a little earlier) as most everyone knows, and lately I haven't ever heard the alarm.  I sleep in the bed closest to the door and the light switch and the first few weeks I would be the tough guy and get up to turn the light on.  But the past week or so my body has physically not even noticed it until the lights have gotten turned on by Elder Tucker (one of my roomates).  At gym each morning I usually play a lot of volleyball with people, because it's so sweet and I never have had the chance to really play in the past.  So that's always a good time.  A lot of the elders will play four-square and those games can get really intense, surprisingly enough!

My hair has gotten just too long to deal with normally these past few days so I started gelling it to keep it together and everyone keeps asking me if I got a haircut.  Nobody thinks that I would have just done something different with it for once, oddly enough!

On Sunday our devotional speaker was Stephen B. Allen, the current member of the 70 that's most involved with missionary work (managing missionary something or other).  Back in the day he was a top-dog in the church media stuff and he was behind the church Homefront ad campaign.  So we got to see some of those during the devotional and all of the missionaries loved it! TV, right? One of the ending lines for one of the commercials said something like "The people in your heart don't know what's in your heart.  Let them know it each and every day."  (a very roughly paraphrased quote)
Then on Tuesday we got to hear from Lowell M. Snow who was a former 70.  He's been on like 5 missions in his life, not counting the 2 different times that he was a mission president!  That's a lot of missionary work!  He talked to us about being a disciple of Christ and it was one of the best and most straightforward talks about that that I've ever heard.  He said that (yet another very roughly paraphrased quote), "God won't force us to learn.  We have to act according to what He needs us to, in order to authorize the Spirit to teach us."  I thought that was pretty true, because Heavenly Father really won't force us to do anything.  We have our agency.  And although he strongly desires for us to do certain things - like study our scriptures, pray for guidance, and study Korean in my case! - he won't make us.  But when we do allow that to happen and authorize the Spirit to work in our lives, then we are able to do so much more than we ever could on our own.

I hope everyone is doing well!  I love you all! Thanks for all of your support!