Sunday, September 14, 2014

성신의 은사, 속죄, 삶을 변화함

This week we had a great week. We met a few new people, one is a baker at the market we shop at every week, and we see him all of the time (we call him Baker Park ㅋㅋ). He's very friendly, and out of the blue he saw us on the street, then called us asking to meet. He quits his job in a week, and he really wants to come out to church. It's so special to see his desire. He's a kind person, but he admits that there's a 'dark side' (in our language we say the natural man), and he wants to relieve some of the guilt from his past. We met briefly at the church and took him up to the Sacrament Meeting room. He really liked it and said he feels good there. Most churches in Korea are built for looks and have a lot of expensive things, but he commented on how we don't have much to decorate it. It's humble, and it helps him know we're sincere about our worship. We do it for God, not man. He's 24 and we have high hopes for him. I loved our lesson because even though it wasn't a regular, 45 minute lesson, as we sat in the empty sacrament hall, the familiar peace the spirit brings spoke to us. I testified of Jesus Christ and the special, very real power that comes from him. I've been changes by Jesus Christ, and I know it's so I can help other people experience the same change. There's a real, tangible presence and strength that comes from the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful that he knows me, and that he loves us enough to have suffered so we don't have to. He knows all of us and the trials we go through; He is the only one we can trust 100%. If we come unto Him, he will never let us down.

Another guy we met this week is 31, but he looks like he's 18. Everyone at church asked him what year in high school he's in ㅋㅋ  He is smart and seems to have a desire to learn about God. We met on Saturday, then he stayed for English Class, and we invited him to church. He came! We think he'll progress fast. He doesn't believe in God much, but we taught him about prayer and committed him to pray daily.

We met a guy a week or two ago, an old investigator, and he is doing well. He came to church and when we taught, he said he's willing to be baptized. He's heard all of the lessons before, so technically he can be baptized next week if he wants to, but it's been a few months and we want to go through the lessons another time to make sure he knows the doctrine and believes it. He's great, but doesn't seem to comprehend all of what we say sometimes.

We visited a less active sister that lives by the church. She's really nice, has a son my age, and has met with the missionaries outside of her front door almost every week for a long time. Sometimes it can be a bit awkward, she might not want to talk, but it seems like the more we prepare a message just for her, and put our heart and soul into it, she's open and ready to listen to the spirit. It's usually when we ask her for help. She used to teach Sunday School at church for a few years, so we asked for some advice on teaching, asking questions, and helping people understand our message. She usually responds in short replies, but she just burst out giving parables about God and oxygen, how to ask inspired questions, and how she prays daily, expressing gratitude for the small things in her life to help her remember who she relies on. There was a spirit that I've never felt with her before, she had shown us the side of her that wants to come back to church, that longs, aches, hungers for the gospel.

I felt a rush inside as we testified and prompted her with soul searching questions. I know we make a difference in her life. I know that something is preventing her from coming back, maybe a family member, because she has such a strong love for the gospel that I've never seen before. She is cut off from connections with the church, except for us, and that day I felt her gratitude that we visit weekly. We are her only connection, besides prayer, to discussing the gospel and feeling the spirit.

Being a missionary is fantastic. I love meeting people like this, that have such strong desires and love for the gospel. It gives me hope for the future and builds my testimony.

Church was truly a miracle, we had ATR's confirmation, and two other investigators to church. Again this week I felt the truthfulness of the scripture 'Seek and ye shall find.' If we approach the door of revelation with faith and patience, God will not hold back. If we seek help, we will find it. The answer just might not be in the way we expect it. I read 2 Kings 5 and thought about how we sometimes imagine if we saw some big sign, we'd believe, or THEN we'd follow the Lord's counsel. Why wait for big spiritual earthquakes when we're not willing to pay attention to the soft whispers of the spirit?

We went for a great hike this last week for a ChuSeok activity
Also, I'd like to mention how awesome our zone is. Who would have thought Kangwondo would get cooler than last year when I was a wee lad? There's a special unity with the missionaries here. When one companionship has a success or trial, we all celebrate or come together to help. Two years ago people would ask to leave this zone. At the beginning of this year, attitudes changed. Despite the rumors that it's the hardest zone in the mission (not true), people ASK to come now. People want to experience the love, sacrifice, and teamwork out here in the boonies. I love it here, and being out here has changed my mission, which has changed my life. It's changed me.

Kangwondo Zone at the Seoul Tower
Have you tried missionary work? If not, you should. Have you heard of that book? Yeah, that one we always talk about. It's a great read. You should try it sometime (Thanks Elder Duffy).

Love you all,
Elder Franchina

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Power or Prayer

This week we were really busy. We went to Seoul and back twice. Took a total of over 14 hours of travel. I'm tired. But it was good. We had Mission Leadership Council, where they trained us on the new focus for the month, which is revelation through prayer. On Saturday, we had a mission conference for the Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok. Guess who I saw? (see attached picture - look familiar?)

Jordan and Rhett Day (neighbor from home ward)
Our zone went to the Seoul Tower, it was a lot of fun.

Jordan's Zone at the Seoul Tower

We then had Zone Training meeting where we then conveyed the focus for the month to our zone. It was a good meeting. I love the focus of prayer. Our zone is really special. It's the biggest zone in the mission, geographically, and one of the smallest, missionary-wise. There are only 18 of us, and we're over an hour and a half to two hours apart from each other, but our zone is really close. There's a special spirit of unity in this zone that you can't find anywhere else. I felt that as we taught our zone about prayer. We asked our zone if they would pray daily for the other missionaries' investigators.

We showed the Mormon Message about Annie, who had liver failure. There's power in prayer, especially in groups. I know that God hears prayers, and He answers them. Last week I learned the truthfulness of the phrase, 'seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' If we search for spiritual experiences, answers to questions, charity, forgiveness, whatever it is we search for, we will find it if we petition our Father in Heaven. How comforting it is to know that a perfect, loving Father in Heaven watches over us, and has a plan for us, for our happiness?

The gospel brings so much peace into my life, and I've received this knowledge through prayer. If you ever have any doubts, questions, or concerns, turn to your Father in Heaven. He knows, and he won't leave you alone.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Stone Skippers

This week was full of miracles for me. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we taught  Mr. CHO.  He passed the interview without problem, and was set for baptism. He's really different around people, because at home, he's smiling and laughing with us, but at church, he's a little shy. I know he'll warm up quickly though, he's already really good friends with another older guy in the ward. Seeing him willingly enter the waters of baptism was so good for me.

President and Sister Christensen, Elder Gardner, Mr. CHO and Jordan
I feel like Elder Gardner and I worked really hard, and we were able to see some of the effects of our hard work. As I read in the bible about the rejoicings in heaven over the lost sheep that is found, I couldn't help but think of him. I saw Christ walking along with Mr. CHO and us, rejoicing that he has found the light, and has chosen to follow that light.

Sometimes, as missionaries, I feel like stone skippers that will skip stones far, but we throw our stones and turn around before we can see the ripples of the stone across the water. We keep throwing stones our whole lives, but it can be discouraging sometimes to only throw, and not watch. Every once in a while we are blessed with the opportunity of watching the stone skip and skip, creating beautiful rings across the surface. Fluid dynamics is truly beautiful, right? :)

We met a new investigator, SKL, who admitted, because of his Buddhist family, he won't come to church, but he said he'd love to sit down and talk about our beliefs and hear the lessons. His cousin is Mormon, and after serving a mission, he had dinner with him and the missionaries, so he already knows some of what we do. He's really nice and down to earth, and I know his willingness to meet and just listen will bring him far. When the 반대 (opposition) is over, I'm sure he'll be happy to come to church. It's crazy to think of how long it takes people to be prepared to receive the gospel. We may throw a lot of our own stones and not see many ripples, but we walk into the scene to often see the big ripples of other's work, which is also a blessing.

We surprised 속초 (Sokcho) this week with a visit during their studies (it required us getting up at 5:30..), and it went really well. It was well worth it, I enjoy studying with other missionaries, training with them, and attending their district meetings. I also love visiting my old area, Sokcho is truly a beautiful area.

In personal study I've been really searching for scriptures on hope and grace, as I mentioned before, and I've been reviewing them every morning and night as my 'daily bread'. This is truly helpful, because it helps me understand that, like eating three times a day, I can't go very long without returning to the Lord for help if I want to overcome sin. I have to be reminded every day that I need him, and it's because of the 'natural man' that I'm reminded. I'm so grateful for the natural man, because even though at times I may fall, sometimes hard, and sometimes often, I can now see a little more why God created us this way. I understand now that the 'hunger pains' of the natural man is just a reminder of why we are 'fasting'.

That's sort of what the theme was this week in District Conference. It comes from Alma 37:6. We, out here, may feel small. Some branches are run by missionaries and only have one priesthood holder. But as we humble ourselves and take it one step at a time, we will accomplish miracles.

The whole time I couldn't help thinking of the Mormon message 'patterns of light' by Elder Bednar, where he says 'Why would God send an angel to remind you, when he can bring up a memory of your angel mother (here's to you mom!<3) reminding you to say your morning prayers?' Why expect these big miracles to grow our faith and help us believe when we can't even do the three simple steps of daily prayer, reading the scriptures, and attending church? As I read in Luke today, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Laman and Lemuel (our favorite examples, right?ㅋㅋ) saw angels, but they couldn't do those small and simple things like have faith that their brother was called of God.

This is precisely why God gives us hunger (referring to my personal study above). If we did not hunger, we would often forget to feed ourselves. The Israelites relied on God day by day to receive bread. If they could have gotten a month supply of bread, think of how easy it would be to forget who gives them life! These spiritual 'hungers' can be ignored, like physical hunger, and soon our spirit dwindles in atrophy. We must remember who gives us life daily, and offer up our gratitude to him. Sometimes these 'hungers' whether it may be physical or spiritual, sin, or cravings, are strong, but they are a blessing, because they are meant to turn us to God for support, like our hunger turns us to food.

As we spend each day turning to the Lord, acknowledging that we 'need [him] every hour', we will progress to accomplish and see miracles. Progress is an interesting thing, though. It's the change in us, wrought by the Atonement of Christ. It is small, incremental changes that can only be recognized by retrospective thinking. Sometimes it takes looking back at elementary or junior high school pictures to see how much you changed, not last month's pictures. But the special thing about the Atonement is that you can look at yourself yesterday and see yourself a different person. The effects the Atonement has on people can come instantaneously, if the individual permits. It requires only one sacrifice - your will. As soon as we let the will of the Father become more important than our own, we will see daily changes in ourselves that are easy to recognize. You can look at yourself and say, 'I was a different person yesterday.' Christ is our savior and the Atonement of Christ is real. It has the power to change lives.

We must not look for nuggets of gold. As the miners and river sifters found, you won't find any. Instead, we will accumulate a vast amount of wealth through the patience-testing process of picking up one flake of gold at a time. As we take these flakes of gold, these small portions of daily bread (or sacramental bread), through reading and praying daily, and attending church, we will set our sights on eternity and find in ourselves a power beyond our own that only comes through Christ our savior.

Elder Franchina

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Solid, Unmovable Foundation in a Time of Shifting Values and Trials

This week was an adventure. With all of the rain, it makes street contacting very hard. But we were still able to meet quite a few new people that seem interested in meeting. Our struggle right now is actually getting them to meet. We set up a lot of street appointments, but they often don't show up.  
Mr CHO came to church, and we have taught him most of the 4th lesson (the commandments). This week when we went to his house, we noticed something different about him. Usually he just rambles on about this or that, but now whenever he talks, he has this smile on his face, and he only talks about the gospel. He talks about who he was before, and how he understands things now, and it's obvious that there's a change that happened in him. He also mentioned that he and his mom really like it when we come over, it makes the house have a good atmosphere. We're really happy to see his conversion take place, and he is still progressing to be baptized this next Sunday.

Our friend, GYO, is doing really well, we have moved from reading scripture stories to watching conference talks and Mormon messages with general authorities. When he saw 'discerning light' by Elder Bednar, he said, 'When I heard his voice, I knew that whatever he said would be true. I can tell he is sent by God.' He has such great faith, and studies and understands very well. He has a great future ahead of him in the church. He wants to introduce his girlfriend to the gospel when he finishes his military service in October.
I'm so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, that it provides a solid, unmovable foundation in a time of shifting values and trials.
Take some time to reflect on how this gospel has helped you, and think about how it can help you in the future. It's an empowering feeling, knowing that everything will work out in the end, no matter what happens in the middle. 

Elder Franchina 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Umbrellas Are A Great 'Missionary Shield'

Dear Family,

This week's email will be a little short, sorry for the lack of time, but we had a great week. It's hard when it rains, umbrellas are a great 'missionary shield'. People don't usually talk when it rains, but this week we still saw miracles. Thank you for your prayers for Mr. CHO, he came to church, (along with 3 less actives), and we taught with a member. He's progressing towards baptism, and the scheduled date is for the 31 of this month.

We are still meeting with GYO to get him excited to go on a mission. He has a great relationship with God, and he feels like a mission would be good. We met with YWO, who is still on the lazy side, so he's not really prone to progression, but he still has those fears of death and the afterlife, so we hope that propels him into progression in the gospel.

Our zone is doing really well on the focus for the month, 속초 (Sokcho) had 2 investigators to church yesterday, and we are seeing a huge increase in member lessons. It's a blessing to see these faithful goals become miracles from the point of view of a zone leader. This zone is fantastic, and are truly disciples out here.

Elder Franchina

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pahoran Is A Great Role Model

This week we worked really hard, I think this will be one of the most productive transfers of my mission. We were not able to meet with Mr PRK, despite going to his shop twice this week. Our investigator pool, once again, has become a bit stagnant, so we decided to go through old investigator records and old progress records. We set up two new appointments, and they both went really well.

CHU is interesting, about 40 years old, and interested in talking. He's originally Buddhist, but interested in learning about our message.

We receive texts from a guy with random, sometimes crazy things, and he suddenly asked if we can meet, so we decided to try it once. Both of those lessons went very well. We went over HTBT(How to Begin Teaching) and role-played, and we also set a goal to make 10 baptismal invitations this month for our companionship, and if there are more opportunities, go for 100% for every first lesson with investigators. We invited both to be baptized, and they accepted! Both agreed to come to church, but other circumstances, including rain, kept them from coming this week, but we're already 3/10 for our goal, so we'll probably have to adjust it later next week.

On Sunday we had a big miracle (just as expected, it was fast Sunday).  A member around the age of 16, KIM, brought his friend LEE to church the week before, and we heard that they both went to the youth conference this past week. He came back and loved it. He talked about the activities and exercise, but the best part was to come. During sacrament all of the youth got up to bare their testimonies, and LEE asked if he could get up! It was great, he bore his testimony like a member did, and he's only been to church two or three times. It was amazing, but quite obvious to me, that the promise is still extended, that if we seek the Spirit, we shall find. If we knock on the door of the house of the Lord, we can prepare and enter. He's searching, and he's finding his answers already. Then we taught a lesson after church, it was so natural. He's so curious, and very desirous to have a religion. Everything we said was testified of by the Holy Ghost, and he agreed to prepare for baptism. We picked him up as a new investigator, and we're pretty confident he'll be baptized by the end of this month or the next.

KJY  is doing well, we studied Alma 17 and 18, and he decided he wants to go on a mission, so now he needs to discuss it with his girlfriend. We're so happy for him, that he is so in-tune with the Spirit and the scriptures. There's only one small speed bump.  He mentioned that he doesn't remember ever having people lay their hands on his head and getting the Holy Ghost. He was baptized and then went straight to military service, so it's possible. We're trying to find his record, but if he didn't receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, he may have to be re-baptized or have that given soon. Either way, I'm really excited that he's planning for a mission, and his back-up plan is going to BYU Provo. Maybe both! I love him, he's such a cool guy.

I'm so grateful to be serving with Elder Gardner again. He's a great Elder, and we just feed off of each other. He wants to work hard, and that makes me want to work harder. We talk to every one and are really working on improving our skills as missionaries. It's not only as fun as I imagined it would be, but we're still working on being humble and improving our weaknesses. I think we've had some really good companion inventories, making goals and following through, and I really hope to serve with him for the remainder of my mission. He's a great Elder and a blessing to my mission, to the 강릉 branch, and to the zone out here.

One thing I really liked from something I read this last week was in the later chapters of Alma, Moroni writes Pahoran and really rips him a new one with how he has been holding back. He calls him to repentance, and places the blood of all those who died on his head. What a condemnation. How would we respond? I know when I've been accused of things, I act defensively, and even offended. How did Pahoran respond?

"Behold,I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions,yea, it grieves my soul.
And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I
am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I,
Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat
that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul
standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.
And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle.."

If only we could respond with the same meekness and self control as Pahoran. He first let Moroni know that he was not mad. He then informed him of the current situation (of which he didn't know about at the time he condemned Pahoran), then rejoiced in his righteousness, and then went on to strengthen his brother in the Lord. "Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God." What a great example of humility and receiving and giving correction.
I'm so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the Bible, providing countless witnesses of the Son of God. I have experienced recently in my mission the truthfulness of these words,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in
heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Christ requires that we give all, but in the process of giving all, we qualify for his grace, bringing rest unto our souls. He is the perfect example, and he is our friend.

Elder Franchina

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Love, Meekness, and Spicy Chicken Feet

This week has been great. Elder Gardner and I have been working really hard. He got a little sick this weekend (we had some REALLY spicy chicken feet, and I think we were all a little queasy) but we're all doing good now. Elder Farr came to church with his parents, sister, and brother in law, and now they're heading back to Seoul to do some more travel, then they'll go home on Thursday.

I'm so happy to be serving out here, and I wouldn't trade this for serving in Italy, Mexico, or anywhere else.  I know I'm supposed to be here, serving with President Christensen. They've said that sometimes they assign missions based on where they feel like we should go, but it's usually based on which mission president they feel like you should be paired up with. I LOVE president Christensen. He has such a great love for Korea and the missionaries here.

We had a pretty hectic week, but our first few days together were great. We haven't met with many of our old investigators, but we were able to meet with 률건박, and the lesson went really well. We talked a lot about the Book of Mormon and prayer.  Elder Gardner bore a really great testimony, and we could tell it affected him. After Elder Gardner's prayer, he had tears in his eyes. We think he'll really start progressing from now on. 

When we contact people, it's changed from just introducing what we're doing (just a sales pitch) and giving a card to actually having a conversation, getting to know and love the person we talk to, and then the commitment to meet again or get their phone number is easy!

In my studies I studied more about the Sermon on the Mount, and today I thought a lot about Meekness. It's a quality I am really searching for, because the meek qualify for the grace of Christ and receive forgiveness for their sins, becoming the Sons of God. To me, meekness is a lot about humility, and not because it is forced, but because it's desired. It's a choice, because the individual understands the benefits of humility. Meekness also includes aspects of obedience, submission, and love, and so I am still seeking to obtain these qualities as I progress as a servant of the Lord. I can start to clean the inner vessel, so that my whole body can be full of light. I love the light. I enjoy dwelling in the light, and I love serving the light.

This week we saw a great miracle when we visited a less active sister.  She wasn't able to come out to church, but in front of her door we talked for about 15 minutes and shared a message about God being her father, and how she's always worthy to receive his help. We shared D&C 112:10, and talked about how Christ is beside her, holding her hand.  It's a more comforting notion, than a savior that exists above us, doing his own work or working with us from a distance. Christ is beside us, with his angels, lifting us up, and we helped her realize that. It was a very good message for her.

Some friends and scenery pictures! We had some crazy cool clouds, pure white, then blue sky, then a typhoon storm cloud just over the mountains.

Thank you for your prayers and for all that you do, I love you all!
Elder Franchina