Monday, January 26, 2015

The End

Here it is!  Sydney's final letter!  Thank you to all of you who have been her support and have continued to read about Sydney's adventures in Korea.  If you would like to hear her homecoming talk, she will be speaking on Feb 15th at 10 am in our church.  Let me know if you want an address.  Thanks to all of you who sent kind and encouraging words to Sydney throughout her journey as a missionary!  We are so happy to be having her come home!  5 more days!

Am I sad it's over? 
Am I also happy it's over?

I'm sad because ending my mission means leaving these people and this country that I've come to love so much. 

I'm happy because ending my mission means I can take naps again. And I really need a nap.

To further illustrate my whirlpool of emotions, I gave a talk in church yesterday and I cried/laughed through the whole thing. Can you imagine it? Please don't. It was ridiculous. was ridiculous. So many feelings! And in Korean, no less!

There's just so many things that I'm going to miss here! I'll miss heated floors and eating on the floor and taking off my shoes in restaurants. I'll miss the "French" bakeries and the hipster cafes. 
I'll miss Daiso.(this is a store)
 I'll miss the grandmas that you meet on the street, the ones that hold your hand and call you pretty and walk with you a while. I'll miss the rolling mountains and the wide rivers and the peace of Buddhist temples. 
I'll miss talking to Korean children. I'll miss Jellanamdo accents. 
I'll even miss kimchi.
I'll miss being 아바 자매.

But I've learned what I was supposed to learn. Now I think it's time for me to come home.

I came on a mission because I wanted to help others--I wanted to bring them the gospel I loved so much and show them the way to eternal happiness and eternal life. In essence I came with the intent to save, if not the entire world, then at least the Korean part of it. I constantly said to myself: "This is not about me. This will never be about me."

But I was wrong.

When I got here (remember?^^) I couldn't speak! I couldn't understand! I was like a mute doll being dragged about by my trainer and I certainly didn't feel very helpful to anyone. But eventually I learned; unbelievably, I started to figure this mission thing out. And now it's over

Even now, a year and a half later, I'm still not sure I really helped any of the people I tried to. Whether it was language or unpreparedness or fear I feel like I was never quite as helpful as I wanted to be. And maybe I wasn't. Maybe my mission didn't make much of a difference to anyone here, but it doesn't matter--my mission has made all the difference to me. In the end, my mission was about me. It was always about me. Heavenly Father didn't need me here for the Koreans, He needed me here for me. I know now that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.

So maybe this is what I learned on my mission--I learned that Heavenly Father loves us so much that He will give each one of us personal and specific opportunities to find and strengthen our testimonies. He truly has a plan by which each of us can be saved.

"To be strong in living the gospel, there is nothing more important than receiving and strengthening our own testimony. We must be able to declare, as Alma did, 'I know these things of myself. I know of myself that they are true.'"

I have come to know on my mission that these things are true:

I know that Heavenly Father loves us. 
I know that He sent His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die for us.
I know that they restored their Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that this is the only true and living Church.
I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's living prophet today.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It's so true!
I know that Heavenly Father gives us commandments because He loves us and that if we keep His commandments joyfully and endure to the end, we will have eternal life. We will be glorious.

And I know one last thing too. I know that "God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in." I know He loves His children in Korea. He loves this country so much. And I love it so much too.

"And now it came to pass that [I came to know all this in the land of Korea, near the beautiful rivers of Korea, and in the rolling mountains of Korea, and among the people of Korea. And oh how beautiful is this country to the eyes of me, Abba Jameh, who here came to the knowledge of my Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are the people who dwell here for I shall praise their names forever.]"

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

This is where I leave you. I love you. I'll see you soon. 
아바 자매, over and out.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Penultimate 편지

편지 is Korean for "letter." I did it for the alliteration.
Guys, I'm almost there! Just a week and a half more to go! Welcome home, Em!! That means I'm next, right? It's finally my turn?? I've seen so many friends go home lately and I'm just like, "Focus and finish. But they can take naps now.Endure to the end! But they're probably wearing their pajamas all day. ENDURE TO THE END."
But it's okay because I'm trying to enjoy every second I have left in this beautiful country. I love it here so much and I'm going to miss it terribly when I have to leave. I've learned and changed so much here and as as such, a piece of Korea has now become a piece of me.
And so, in proper dying missionary tradition, here is a list of how I've changed.
1. I actually like corn on my pizza now! Remember when I complained about it a million years ago? Well, it's delicious and I take back all the mean things I said.
2. Once I get home, I'll probably go through a weird post-mission phase and do everything sitting on the floor. I'm so good at it now. Sitting on the floor, eating on the floor, sleeping on the floor...It still blows my mind that missionaries in other missions actually sleep in beds. Like I've just assumed this whole time that it was a budget thing and the Church gave all the missionaries yos(Korean bed mat) in order to save money.
3. I love K-pop so be prepared to listen to a lot of it.
4. I've gotten so good at doing the dishes. I can do a whole sink full of dishes in ten minutes flat. But I'm so excited to see our dishwasher again. And our oven! I forgot about ovens! And our clothes dryer. It will be a happy reunion.
5. I learned to cook!!!! Bahaha. No, I didn't. But I am pretty skilled at making rice and ramyun. So be excited for that.
6. Pencil cases! Do you guys know about pencil cases?! They're the most genius invention--you put all your pencils in them and then they never get lost. It's like a house for your writing utensils and I'm a little obsessed with them.
7. I like eating fruit after every meal and I like to eat it according to season. I'm so sad that I'm leaving Korea right as we get to strawberry and orange season! I made it through the gross winter of persimmons and now I'm going as the good stuff comes. ㅠㅠ But we can eat lots of strawberries when I get back right?
8. I'm a convert to the metric system. I don't even want to the think about how many kilos I've gained since I got here.
9. I'm a believer in recycling. I can organize and properly dispose of garbage like no other. Don't be alarmed if I start collecting a bag of food trash in the freezer.
10. As a result of prolonged exposure to Korea's excellent selection of adorable stationery, I love writing letters!! It's so fun and it brings people so much happiness. So find a missionary and write them a letter! And thank you to everyone who has sent me a card, a letter, a package, or an email these past 18 months. They have meant the world to me and without them I could never have made it this far.
And of course I've changed in lots of spiritual ways too, but we'll save that for my homecoming talk.
I love you all, I'll see you soon!!
Sister Abba.


We climbed a mountain, again!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

And That's What I Learned From the Muslims on the Bus

The end is near and I'm starting to panic. This week I hit my 18 MONTH MARK. What. My district assured me that since technically that's all I signed up for, I was now free to go. I'm so glad that I stayed this last transfer though. I know now that I was always supposed to stay until now.
A Sign that I Need to Be Coming Home Soon
So my companion and I were eating dinner at a member's house. It was just the member and her two little kids and the kids were, as most kids are when the missionaries come over, so hyper. They were running and jumping and refusing to eat and kept bringing out toys to show us and I was trying so hard to pay attention to their mom while encouraging them to be less insane, but it was just not working.
Then her little boy got out his tae-kwon-do belts and started tying them around first my companion, and then me. You know when you're a guest in someone's home and their children start tying you up, but you just pretend like nothing's happening in order to be polite? Yeah, that was me. And it was going pretty well, but then the little boy took out a thirdtae-kwon-do belt (he had so many of them!) and tied it to the belts that were already tied around me and 이예진, so that now we were tied together. And, oh goodness, as I looked over at my companion, wrapped up in tae-kwon-do belts and looking absolutely ridiculous, just talking to the member like nothing was happening, I just burst out laughing. Like I could not stop laughing. It wasn't even that funny, but at the same time it was so funny. Especially because we're companions and we always have to be together and this just seemed like the perfect solution--if companions can't stay within sight and sound, just tie 'em together. Someone should tell the Shins.
Anyway, then everyone else looked at me like I was the crazy one, but then they started laughing too and it all turned out all right in the end really. Except that I completely lost any trace I had left of my "quiet dignity."
I'm just kidding, I never had quiet dignity.^^
A Cultural Moment On the Bus
I met Eygyptians! I just got on the bus and there they were. The husband looked at me and stated the obvious, "You're not Korean." I stated the obvious back. "Neither are you."
They were so cute. They had just gotten married seven months before and even though their marriage was arranged (the wife said to me, "He proposed over Skype and then I met him the day of the wedding!") they were clearly so in love. They showed me wedding pictures and I told them I was a missionary and then we bonded over the fact that neither of our religions drink alcohol.
They were having a hard time living away from their family and their friends and being in a country where almost everyone drank alcohol and ate pig meat. My heart went out to them for their struggles but I was so proud of them for being so faithful in living their religion and staying true to their beliefs even though they were completely alone in doing so. And the best part was that they drew their strength from each other.
And it should be the same with us! As Latter-Day Saints we definitely live in a world that does not share our same beliefs. But that doesn't make our beliefs any less true or any less worthy of living. I know that as we take comfort in the strength we find in each other's devotion and faith we can continue on in our gospel living and enduring to the very end.
I love you, my loaf-leavening friends!
아바 자매

Sydney liked the crisscrossed wires next to the wiggly trees

Happy Year of the Sheep.  I made a sheep.

Sydney and DW

18 months as a missionary and this is what I have to show for it, learning to draw apostles.  

Check out this rice face. Happy 18 months to me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

They Offered Willingly

Wow, so much fun news this week! At least two homecomings, three engagements, and one baby! Congratulations everybody and welcome to the planet, Emma!

As for New Year's, nothing happened, except now I'm 23, so that's terrifying. (Remember, in Korea, age is counted differently)  But it's finally the time of year again when I can use my favorite Korean phrase all day, every day.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!!

I'm trying so hard to remember what else happened last week, but I literally cannot. Plus my companion and I accidentally sat in the smoking section of the PC 방 we're emailing in so my lungs are suffocating from inhaling all the smoke. Bleeeeh.

DW got confirmed yesterday! It was so great! For various reasons, it was the first investigator confirmation that I've ever gotten to see, so I was one happy sister missionary! The gift of the Holy Ghost is so important and now our sweet recent convert is that much closer to enduring to the end.

Our other investigator (okay so we might have only two investigators now, but it's cool. At least they're progressing), let's call her Susie, is doing really well. She's already come to church twice and really likes it, especially Young Women's. We're hoping to give her a baptismal date when we meet her this week. I don't know what it is, but the investigators in this city are just so different, so prepared. It's pretty exciting and it's such a blessing to get to serve her, even for a short while.

This transfer, our mission has been focusing on becoming consecrated missionaries, so I've been studying consecration a lot lately during my personal study. And good news(!) I found a great few scriptures about it in 1 Chronicles. So everybody, get out your scriptures and let's turn there for a sec.

Okay, so we have David, right? He's the king. Okay, well actually Solomon's the king now because David's really old and is, like, dying or whatever, but for the purpose of my spiritual thought David's still the king. And King David says to the people, "We're building a temple and I'm giving everything I have left in order to build it." He says in the scriptures, "I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God. (29:2)" So, David is there. He's consecrated and ready and wanting to give all he can. But the people aren't quite there yet, so he invites them like any missionary would, to consecrate their lives and their service with him in order to build something magnificent to the Lord. In fact, in verse 5 he says, "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?" He gives his people a challenge.

But what do the people do? Do they ignore him or shy away or shrug their shoulders and say, "Being consecrated would be nice, but not today." No! They "offer willingly" it says. And then my favorite part comes in verse 9, "Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy."

Now if we make this the same as the situation in my mission, then President Shin is King David. And we, the missionaries, are the people. And we're not building a temple, but we are building the kingdom of God and that's pretty much the same thing. So if we do as we are asked, if we try to consecrate ourselves as we should, then I know we, like David and his people, will "rejoice with great joy because we offered willingly."

So remember how much joy a willing heart can bring! Everything is better when it is done with a willing heart.

I love you with a willing heart!
Happy New Year!



This must be her Harry Potter impersonation.  

Pictures of their apartment

There was no explanation for this one.  Must be a member.

DW made them fancey towels

New Years Bag
It's been snowing 

DW's baptism

Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hey y'all.

Merry Christmas!
Sorry I couldn't really email last week. It wasn't really P-day and there were computer issues and Christmas play issues and I won't bore you with the details, but hey it's almost 2015! Crazy, right?

But you know what's even crazier? No, not that I'm going home in 5 weeks, but that my investigator got baptized yesterday.


That's right, DW got baptized! She chose her own baptismal date and she actually kept it! I was so proud of her. It was a beautiful baptism and we were all so happy. She said the feeling of being baptized was incredible and that she'll remember it all her life. I think I will too. 

Working backwards in my week, on Saturday we went with DW to a young adult dance for the entire Daejeon Korea Mission area. It was held in our giant ward building, so it wasn't like we had to go very far. It was weird because everyone was like, "Why are the missionaries here...?" And we were like, "We have an investigator! She needs to make friends with the members! We got permission to be here, we promise!" But I got to see so many people from my old areas there! Gongju friends, Jeongup was like my own little members-from-my-mission reunion. Ha, in fact, the members from my old area befriended our investigator better than the Gwangju members did. Which just goes to show that 시골 members are the best. I miss them all so much.

On Friday, I Skyped my family! I love you family! It was so good to see your smiling faces and to hear Nicky's smiling voice. I'll see you all soon.

Thursday was Christmas. Hopefully my last Christmas in Asia. No offense, but Christmases in primarily Buddhist nations are kind of hard. Like all of the commercialism of Christmas, but none of the magic and wonder. Booooo. Our ward had a Christmas party. It was stressful, but the best parts are that 1. Our district's stupid Christmas play is over. YES. I don't know why, but putting on this Christmas play was one of the most dramatic issues of my mission. There were fights, there were tears, there were threatenings to call it quits and go home early, but we made it through! Just barely, but we did it! And we're all still friends somehow. And 2. One of the elders investigator's came to the Christmas party and he is the spitting image of an Asian Ringo Starr. I'll send you pictures because he pretty much made mine and Sister M........'s Christmas.(This is not her old companion, different Sister M)

Wednesday. Christmas Eve! We had a meeting with our ward mission leader at his fancy house. It was fun, we exchanged gifts and ate yummy food. Christmas away from home is hard, but I'll miss this country and these people so much.

And then I don't remember the rest of the week, except we had our mission Christmas party two weeks ago. It wasn't very Christmasy. We watched 17 Miracles. Nothing says, "Have a holly jolly Christmas" like pioneers freezing to death across a snowy, barren prairie. But it was still a grand Christmas party. I got to see and say goodbye to so many people that I love! I swear this mission has some of the best missionaries in the world. I'll miss them all so much.

Anyway I hope y'all had beautiful Christmases. Don't forget that we're still having Christmas 2.0: February 2015. I'm so excited. We're going to listen to Christmas music until mid-April.

Love your faces.
Sister Abba.

Elder S...... as Santa

The secret picture I took of the only Asian member of the Beatles.

My family
(Of course Maddie and Steve look normal, I look drunk.  In my defense, I was sick.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I don't have time to email because of computer problems and other things, but here's the email I sent to my mission president. . I love you guys! Talk to you soon! (Sydney didn't want the whole thing on the blog so I'm posting part of it.  I hope she's okay with it)

 Merry Christmas! 

This week was good. It was fun to go to the Christmas party and see all the missionaries, especially Sister M..... (I can't believe she's already going home!). I missed her a lot and it was happy to see her again. 

Regarding investigators, we finally met with (MJ) again, our investigator from Temple Square. We totally thought she had dropped us because she didn't come to church and had stopped answering our calls and texts. We were so sad. But then she texted us on Tuesday and said that we could meet again on Wednesday and Friday. It was like nothing had changed (except she doesn't have a baptismal date anymore) and we were able to pick up right where we left off. She promised to come to church (but something came up with her parents so she couldn't) and said that she wasn't ready to set another baptismal date. We agreed with her. Maybe in January or February. The great thing is she really understands what a commitment getting baptized and joining the church will be and she knows that she's not quite ready to make that commitment just yet. But she will be soon. I have faith in her.

We're still meeting with (21 year old investigator)and preparing her for her baptism on December 28th! It's going really well and she's accepting things wonderfully.  I love her SO much! She reads and marks her scriptures and really understands who God is and that He has a plan for her. She's great. We're planning on meeting her at her house this week so that we can hopefully meet her Step-mom .  

Finally, we got two (maybe soon four!) new investigators through a (referral) from the stake president! The stake president here is the best. The oldest daughter is 18 and wants to go to BYU-Hawaii. We met her and her mom  today and had a great appointment!  We explained what the Church is and what missionaries do and they both promised to come to church next week and maybe the ward Christmas party on Thursday. My companion and I both think that teaching them will go well. We're really excited for them and hope to meet the dad and the youngest daughter soon so that we can start teaching the whole family!

Okay I love you! 
Here's the Christmas scripture we've been sharing with the members.
2 Corinthians 9:15
"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
The gift of His Beloved Son, even Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas!
Sister Arvanitas

We get to Skype with Sydney on Christmas night.  Only five more letters from her and then she comes home.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Let Us Live to Make Men Free

Transfer calls! I'm staying with 이에진! If any of you folks at home are counting, that's four companions my whole mission (not including the MTC). Four. And two of them for six months. Surely that's a record.

A miracle for the week--I found sixty dollars! On the ground! 

But wait, let me rewind a bit.

So once upon a time, last P-day, my district leader Elder S...... lost his wallet right after taking $150 from the bank. He was so sad. I was so sad. His companion was so sad because transportation here is really expensive and now they had only $150 to split between the two of them which meant rice and soy sauce for two weeks straight. But they were faithful missionaries and carried on.

Then Sunday came, fast Sunday, and they had a decision to make--to pay their fast offering or to not pay their fast offering? 

They paid it!

And then, miracle of miracles, someone found Elder S......'s wallet and sent it to him. Of course, all the cash was gone, but at least he had all his cards back. And then the very next day I was just walking to the bus, looking down at the ground to make sure I don't trip, and I see a ten-thousand won bill lying on the ground and I'm like, "Yay! Money!" And then I pick it up and find that the ten-thousand won bill is wrapped around a fifty-thousand won bill and I'm like, "Oh no. A lot of money." So I called Elder S...... and asked him if he needed it and he said, "Yes. Yes, please." So pay your fast offering! Because blessings.

As for investigators, MJ has kind of, sort of, dropped us. Ugh, she was so close. We've called and texted and the only text we've gotten in reply is "I'm sorry." Except in Korean.

But DW (the investigator who came to church last week) came to church again yesterday. Also she has a baptismal date that she set herself. When we asked what date she'd decided on I was definitely expecting her to answer like February or March, but instead she said, "I think January 28th would be good. Is that okay?"
Um, yeah, of course it's okay. I'm so excited for her! I think this one might actually work out!! There are lots of young adults in our ward and Nongseong Ward (the ward that meets at the same time as us) so she's already started making lots of good friends. Fingers crossed!

And finally, something spiritual!

It's Christmas! And thus I'll give you a Christmasy spiritual thought, brought to you by one of my favorite Christmas hymns--"Battle Hymn of the Republic!" Because, yes, it is a Christmas hymn as well as a missionary hymn and a patriotic hymn and probably a sacrament hymn too if you slowed down the tempo enough.

Let's look at verse three:
"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea 
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. 
As He died to make men holy, 
Let us live to make men free, 
While God is marching on."

Isn't it true that at Christmastime we live happier, we act kinder, and we love better? This is because, as President Monson says, the spirit of Christmas is at its essence the spirit of Christ. How thankful I am again to be a missionary during this beautiful season of giving and love. 

As a missionary during Christmastime, I have found that "mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

And oh, what a blessing that is.

I love you all dearly.
Sister Sydney.

The theme for this week is putting stuff on my eyes.
I truly think Sydney has lost it this week.  Missionary work has obviously taken it's toll.  :)