Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy New Year

We have one day left of 2013. Is anyone else freaking out? I'm freaking out.

Anyway...thank you to everyone for all the lovely Christmas messages. I appreciate them more than you'll ever know. And a very special thanks this week to the Morgans and the Michaels. Your Christmas cards made it all the way to Korea! I was a very excited Sister Abba to receive them! Thank you!

This week Christmas miracles abounded! It all began Monday night when our two little nine year-old investigators suddenly called us and said that they had begged and cried enough to their parents and they had finally conceded in allowing them to come to our ward Christmas party! That's right, our investigators are begging and crying to see us. So after one very long and stressful car-ride offered by one of our angelic members, we successfully picked up our two little friends from Sejong and brought them safely to the Christmas party. They had a great time and my companion and I were overjoyed that they were able to come, but now the real test is getting them to come to church. Nine year-olds do not like the idea of 9 o'clock church. All the prayers for them would be much appreciated.

Christmas Eve felt like just another day and I was beginning to fear that I would pass the entire Christmas season without it ever really feeling like it was Christmastime, but then my dear roommate Sister Kinikini surprised us all with a Christmas-themed ice cream cake which we gleefully devoured at 9:30 at night while dancing around in our pajamas to Christmas music (and yes, Johnson family, we even danced to Michael Buble's "Feliz Navidad." :)) The night ended with the four of us gathered around the enormous paper Christmas tree my mom had sent me, a little sick from eating all that ice cream, but still well enough to sing a verse of "Silent Night" in Korean and talk about how grateful we all were to be missionaries at Christmastime. Christmas morning arrived just as any another Christmas morning: I was wide awake and excited, not because of any presents that I expected to receive, but because at 6:40 a.m. my family called! Best Christmas present ever.

The rest of the day the four of us visited and caroled to all our members and put into literal action the message that, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." My companion, my roommates, and I spread as much Christmas cheer as we possibly could and we had a grand old time walking in the cold and singing our little hearts out. All in all, it was a very merry Christmas.

Since the brand new year is set to begin soon, I've been thinking a lot lately about the resolutions I want to make this year, especially since I'll be spending all of 2014 as a missionary! In the January 2014 issue of the Liahona there's a great message by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf about setting and achieving one's goals in the new year. My favorite part of the article comes when he says this: 

"[One] thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail--at least in the short term. But rather than be discourage, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now...Remember, even if we fail to reach our ultimate, desired destination right away, we will have made progress along the road that will lead to it.
And that matters."

Every day I wake up with so many goals in mind: to not be afraid to talk to people, to understand the scriptures more deeply, to not eat so much ice cream even though it only costs 500 won...
And every day, in one way or another, I miserably fail. 
But what I, and every one of us, needs to realize is that's okay. Because even though I fail in some ways, in so many other ways, I'm growing and progressing. Little by little, I get a tiny bit closer to my ultimate goals--to be a good missionary, to be a good person, and to be a true disciple of Christ. 

So, set goals.
Write them down. 
Try to keep them.
But also realize that you will almost definitely fail.
And that's okay. 

"Even though we might fall short of our finish line, just continuing the journey will make us greater than we were before."

I personally witness the truth of this

I love you all.
And in two days...

Sister Abba
Sydney and her new companion

Pappa and Sydney reunited at the Christmas party

Sydney reunited with her trainer for their little investigators baptism

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yesterday was Beautiful

In just two days, we get to talk to Sydney.  I can't wait.  I know that she is where she needs to be even though we miss her and Nick terribly.   Merry Christmas to everyone and God Bless you and your family!

I didn't tell anyone this because I thought it was too good to be
true, but a couple weeks ago I asked President Shin if I could travel
back to 충주 and attend my little twelve-year old investigator's (오다은)

He said yes.

And so yesterday, my new companion and I went on a little road trip and
spent the day with my dear 예성 Ward. It felt a little like what I
imagine coming home will feel like at the end of my mission. Everyone
there welcomed me back with hugs and smiles and exclamations of
"Sister Abba! We missed you!"

I didn't even think they'd noticed I'd gone. :)

But the best part of all was being there for 다은's baptism. She was so
nervous and poor Elder Kim had to baptize her five times because her
dress wouldn't go all the way under and the font didn't have enough
water in it, but finally, finally, everything went right and the whole
ward cheered and really it was just perfect. Honestly, it wouldn't be
a baptism unless something goes a little awry.

After the baptism we ate curry and kimchi together and the ward
members gave 다은 gifts and the Ward Mission Leader brought out a cake
and candles and we all sang, "Happy baptism to you! Happy baptism to
you! Happy baptism, dear 다은! Happy baptism to you!" It was hilarious
and wonderful and I'm sure all the other investigators who were in
attendance thought we were a bunch of crazy people, but I didn't even
care. Gah. I love that ward so much.

And really, it was the perfect ending to my time in 충주. My least
favorite thing about transfers is that it all happens so suddenly and
one never really has the chance to say goodbye or to get closure. But
going back for 다은's baptism was exactly what I needed and now I feel
like I can love the people more and work harder than before in my new
공주 Ward because I have personally witnessed the change that the
missionaries brought to 충주 and I want that for 공주 too.

In all honesty, lately, things here have been really hard. I've missed
my family. I've missed my friends. I've missed feeling like it was
Christmas because, fun fact, Christmastime in Asia is NOT the same as
Christmastime in America. To tell you the truth, I've been a
little...bitter. But these past few weeks especially, I've been
studying the life and ministry of the Saviour. In America, the
reminder of the true meaning of of Christmas comes in the pithy
phrase, "He's the reason for the season." But as I've studied Him--His
birth, His death, and His purpose--I've come to realized that he isn't
just the reason for the season. He's the reason for everything.

He's the reason I wake up at 6:30 every.single.morning and walk around
in the cold He's the reason why I put up with typing
these emails on a browser that's so old it doesn't even fully support
my email account. He's the reason I talk to strangers on the street in
a language I don't really know. He's the reason I try to be patient
and kind and understanding and generous and good. He's the reason I'm
here in this foreign land, away from my home and away from my family
during this, my very favorite time of the year.

But more than that He's the reason I can be forgiven of my sins and
upheld in my trials and His gospel brings me the knowledge that it's
okay that I'm apart from my family right now because I know that after
this life is over I can be together with them forever.

He's the reason for everything.
And, really, there is no better time to be a missionary that at
Christmastime because it is only in my sadness that I've come to
realize more perfectly this beautiful truth.

I love you all so much.
Merry Christmas.

Sister Abba

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Bit More

A Bit More About My Companion.

She's been on her mission for almost seven months, she's originally from Seoul (honestly I have yet to find a Korean missionary who isn't originally from Seoul), and I think she's just the bee's knees. Despite the minor problem that is our language barrier, we get along so well. I don't know if it's because we can only half understand each other or because we're actually kindred spirits, but we're always laughing and singing and sharing the gospel and having a grand old time. This week, during a particularly cold and disheartening walk through the wind and snow, she asked me to teach her the lyrics to "Call Me Maybe." She keeps me smiling and happy through my depressed missionary days.

A Bit More About My Ward.

Everyone is related! It's crazy. The entire ward is just one tangled mess of siblings and parents and cousins and I'm not really sure I'll ever be able to work out who is related to whom. But regardless of this ward's confusing family tree, they all are lovely. They're so excited to have another set of sister missionaries added to their family and they've already done so much for us. Heated blankets, bread, milk, cereal...this ward has provided it all. We may never have to go grocery shopping again.

A Bit More About Our Investigators.

We have three of them! All live in the other city we're assigned to, Sejong, and...well, it's been kind of a struggle for me them. I know, I know, missionaries are supposed to love everyone and be generally kind-hearted, wonderful people and maybe I just fail as a missionary but, I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I struggle with loving my investigators. All three of them were found through the 30/30 English program and, as with most English investigators, their primary objective is, well, to learn English.

[Sidenote: I HATE TEACHING ENGLISH. Once, in days gone by, I toiled with the idea of living in a foreign country and being an English teacher. Yeah, not anymore. I have never felt moreused than when I have tried my hardest to be a good missionary and share the gospel, but instead am reciprocated with investigators whose only interest is English. So frustrating.]

Anyway, angry rant aside, I knew I needed to find a way to love these people and so I prayed really hard this week to try and love my investigators and to have the opportunity to sharesomething with them that would spark in them an interest about the gospel. 

Since all our investigators are pretty young (ages nine and thirteen) my companion and I came prepared to simply teach them the Christmas story. As we spoke to these little children about the birth of Christ, I could see that their interest was sparked. They hung on our every word and even asked questions as we explained the miraculous birth of the baby Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. And as I spoke of Christ, I finally felt love for them. Real, overwhelminglove and I was so grateful for my Savior who had helped me see that we need only to teach of Him and He will take care of the rest. His love and His message will change the hearts of our investigators. And it will change our hearts too. 

For even Jesus taught, "Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)

I don't feel used anymore. I feel privileged. Privileged to be welcomed into the homes of the people here, to serve them through teaching English, and to love them by sharing the glorious message of the birth, life, and ministry of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I love you all.
Sister Abba

Monday, December 9, 2013

Square One: Take Two

Sydney was transferred to Gongju last week and has a new companion.  We used to get her letter Sunday night but this didn't come through until 2 am.  She sounds like she is doing well.  We didn't get any pictures or a separate letter.  We usually get a short family letter.  I'm sure she is busy and they probably didn't have as much time to write.  

안녕하세요! (Hello there)
This email is brought to you by Gongju University, where one only has to walk thirty minutes through the pouring rain in order to use a computer whose only installed browser is Internet Explorer. Are you kidding me. If any of you are reading this on Internet Explorer, than I invite you to calmly shut down your computer and rethink your life.
Someone once told me that living in Korea would be like living in the future. Lies. All lies...
Anyway, remember when I only wrote in lists? Well, I'm pleased to inform you that, this week, the lists are back! Let's begin.
1. Saying Goodbye
I thought saying goodbye to my family was hard, I thought saying goodbye to my MTC district was hard, but then I got to 충주 and had to say goodbye to 오다은, our wonderful little investigator who's planning to be bapitized in a couple of weeks. Worst.goodbye.ever.
My last lesson with her went as usual. She showed us where she was in the Book of Mormon and asked the questions she had about the verses she didn't understand. Did I mention she already marks her Book of Mormon? Did I also mention she's eleven? Gah. I love her.
Anyway, my companion and I had planned to just tell her that I was transferring at the end of the lesson, right before we left. An nice, easy goodbye. No fuss, no tears. But then, the lesson began (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) and we started talking about faith and her baptism and all the wonderful blessing that would come after it and I just started crying. Like, I could not.stop.crying. I think it was one part exhaustion, one part heartbreak, and one part brain-addlement from this gross dust from China that I had been breathing in all day, but I was just so sad that my sweet, little investigator was getting baptized and I wasn't going to even get to be there for it.
Then, of course, 오다은 was like, "Abba, why are you crying?" and I had to vaguely convey through my tears and broken Korean that I was moving to 공주 and was really sad that I was going to miss her baptism, but don't worry, it's okay, I'm just a crazy person, don't look at me. And, of course, this wonderful little girl gave me a hug and assured me that yes, it would be okay, and in her prayer at the end of our lesson she prayed for me.
"Please bless Abba that she can be happy and work hard in 공주. And, Heavenly Father, I promise I will follow your gospel--faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost--and I will continue to go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also, I love you. Amen."
Then there was more crying. This time, from me and my companion. And after many pictures, hugs, and goodbyes, I left the comfort of 오다은's house for the last time and set off towards home. As 이지우 and I waited for the bus, one last text message came for me. It was from 오다은.
I hope you will be happy. I will think of you and pray for you and miss you very much.
아바! 화이팅!"
And then, I'm not gonna lie, there was a little bit more crying.
2. My New Companion!
But let's move to the future! My new companion! Her name is 이희원/이예랑. She has two names and I'm still a little confused as to why... Anyway, in all honesty...I love her! She's cute, she's hilarious, and she doesn't speak very much English, but I can already tell that our personalities work together well and that in the Grand Scheme of Things, we were meant to be companions. Our communication is a little confusing at time as it basically consists of Konglish, English phrased into Korean grammar, and lots of crazy hand gestures, but in my few days with her, I swear, I've already spoken (or at least attempted to speak) more Korean than I have my entire mission thus far. If nothing else, I think this transfer will be a big help in the improvement of my language skills. Which is good because, let's face it, I'm not really that good at Korean.
3. My New Area!
공주 is beautiful. It's smaller and more rural that 충주, but from what I've seen already, there's a lots of history here and many fun things to do and see. Hopefully, exciting p-days lay ahead!
Also! Surprise! I actually have two areas--공주 and a brand new city--세정! Like, seriously, this city is I went there on Friday with 김수현 (one of the other sisters I live with and the only one who's been in the area for more than three days) in order to meet the few investigators she and her old companion had there and I was completely amazed by the strangeness of it all. Tall gleaming apartment buildings, pristine roads and walkways, and the most glorious bridge I have ever seen...but no people. My companion tells me that lots of people have already bought apartments in 세정, but just haven't moved into them yet because they're waiting until the city first has some shops or some schools orsomething other than apartment buildings and stoplights.
No missionaries actually live there, but my companion and I as well as a companionship of elders who serve in a different area have been given the assignment to visit세정 as often as we can and try to get a branch started. Wish us luck.
4. Opening an Area. Again.
Remember approximately three months ago when I arrived in 충주 with no food, no phone, and no investigators. Well, here's a fun blast from the past because it happened again! Thankfully, this time around we at least have food and beds but the list pretty much ends there. Square one. Oh, how I haven't missed square one.
No phone. No desks. No investigators. No map.
No map?! I don't know how the others sisters accomplished anything the past two transfers without a map, but 이예랑 and I have proved ourselves to be entirely worthless as both of us have almost no sense of direction and cannot seem to function without some sort of visual guide. An issue which became especially problematic yesterday when we attempted to walk home from a members house (we were driven there by another member, so we couldn't just retrace the way we came) and instead found ourselves hiking through the surrounding mountains for the better part of an hour. Luckily it was a beautiful day and we were able to bond as companions as we forged our way up and down leaf-strewn paths. We only found our way out again after a short little prayer and the friendly guidance of the many fellow hikers we met along the way.
Which brings me to my spiritual thought of the week!
(Some missionaries have such skill in flawlessly segueing from their main email to their ending, missionary thought...Ahem...Ana Johnson...Ahem...
I, however, do not.)
D&C 68:6!
"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come."
This is our message. Even without a map, even without a phone, even when I'm assigned to start a branch in a city without people...this is our message and it is still true.
"Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ."
And so that's what I'll do.
I did it in 충주. I'll do it in 공주. And I'll continue to do it wherever I go, forever and ever.
Come unto Christ.
Sister Abba

Sunday, December 1, 2013


We are still at DisneyWorld and I am struggling to get this posted.  Please understand any grammatical errors Syd might have typed in her haste.  I usually read over and add a letter if she missed one while she was typing, but my iPad and Steve's computer are not letting me.  Argh!   There are a lot of pictures this week.  Sydney got our 25 days of Christmas, in which I mailed her a paper tree and ornaments with pictures on them.  Some also had, for example, Day 5 and then a scripture.  She then has to read the scripture and guess what is inside day 5's package, etc.   Then she can flip over the ornament and display her picture.  There were extra ornaments with pictures of home, family, friends, etc.  The packages are filled with fun things and things that are needed.  They were very excited, because there are two of everything.  

This week, I am thankful.

I am thankful for Monday. We're still meeting our investigator 이....(the one we found in the burger cafe) almost every day. Even in such a short time, I have personally witnessed her change so much. She really likes us and admires what we're doing and, this week, she even said that she thinks it would be good if her kids could serve missions too! Meeting with her has really showed me that finding and teaching investigators not only comes from teaching lessons and bearing testimony, but by being an example of selfless service and love.

I am thankful for Tuesday. I am thankful that through our own efforts, and with a whole lot of help from Heavenly Father, we now meet eleven investigators on a regular basis. Eleven. Do you know how many investigators we met regularly at the beginning of this transfer? Or even two weeks ago? Zero. That's what we call a missionary miracle.

I am thankful for Wednesday. Wednesday we met  이....(our investigator who is getting baptized) and taught her the Restoration. She is, in a word, wonderful. At the end of our lesson she very excitedly offered to say the prayer and then humbly thanked her Father in Heaven for sending her the Book of Mormon, through which she could now learn more about Him. It never ceases to amaze me how completely this sweet girl understands about our Heavenly Father--not an unreachable and apathetic Being, but a Father who truly, truly loves her.

I am thankful for Thursday. Thanksgiving. For the most part,Thursday was just another day, but for dinner, we went to the home of a less active in our ward. Her name is S......, she's from the Philippines, and she's lived in 충주 for thirteen years, teaching English and sending what little money she makes home to her family. In her tiny apartment, in a forgotten corner of 충주, I celebrated Thanksgiving by singing Christmas hymns with my companion and enjoying the humblest of the meals with S......,perhaps the sweetest and strongest soul I have ever known. All week I had been thinking about S...... and what we could do for her, and all week I kept coming back to the thought that she needed a priesthood blessing. As our meal came to a close, I shared my spiritual thought and asked S...... if she would like a blessing. She was quiet for a long time and then, with tears in her eyes, she responded with, "Yes, Sister. I really need a blessing." And in that moment, perhaps the first on my mission, I really was Sister Arvanitas. Not just a girl with a nametag, but an actual servant of the Lord. I didn't know how badly Shirley needed a blessing, but God did and I felt privileged to be the means by which her need was realized. I don't think I've ever spent a Thanksgiving on which I felt more thankful.

I am thankful for Friday. We had another lesson with 이..... This time the Plan of Salvation. When we asked her where she thought she was before this life, she responded with, "My mom's stomach." Okay, yes. But before that? She thought for a while and then she said,"God's stomach!" Bahaha. I love her.

I am thankful for Saturday, perhaps our best English class yet. We looked at the lyrics to "I'm Yours" and talked about the phrase "bending over backwards" and explained all the different meanings of the word "chill." May I always remember sitting between  이.... and the tiny (seriously the smallest twelve year old I've ever seen), adorable little friend she brought to English class, and quietly helping them with the big words and singing them the melody. Also, notice how 이......isn't even a member yet and she's already inviting her friends to church? I love her.

I am thankful for Sunday. Since we had an appointment right after church and another one later in the evening, we had no time to go home and eat dinner after breaking our fast. So we desperately called our elders and asked if they would take pity on us and donate some of their food to fill our sad and grumbly tummies. After much persuasion, they agreed. As we waited outside in the cold in front of their apartment, we expected them to bring down some apples and maybe, if we were really lucky, a couple slices of bread. Boy, were we wrong. The brought down a veritable feast.Grilled ham and egg sandwiches, candied sweet potatoes, bananas, orange juice, and some Oreos for dessert. It was by far the best meal I've had yet on my mission.

And finally, I am thankful for today. I am thankful for my sweet companion, 이지우, and all the things she has taught me and all the love she has shown me this past twelve weeks. I'm thankful for every day that we've had the chance to spend together. I am thankful for 충주. 
But my time here is up. 
On Thursday, I'm transferring to 공주. My new companion will be 이희원 자매님 and we'll have roommates! 김수현 and Kinikini 자매님, both of whom I knew in the MTC!

My heart breaks a little to leave this beautiful area, this wonderful ward, and all our newfound investigators, but I know that Heavenly Father knows what's best for these people. And, right now, that isn't me.
And that's okay.

I still love you all.
Sister Abba
Putting the Star on top

Happy about Christmas

Excited for presents!

The delicious meal provided by the Elders
Being silly at District Meeting

Sunday, November 24, 2013


*Translation: "Suddenly...Investigators!" It sounds cuter in Korean though because there's alliteration! :)

This week, by far, has been the craziest week of my mission. So. Many. Things. But let's begin with a story...

Right after I emailed last week, my companion and I decided to hang out in the place we email a little longer and eat some lunch. As we went to sit down in the corner of the cafe carrying our over-priced sandwiches and our Book of Mormons, I noticed a woman sitting alone, avidly reading the book laid before her. Since I myself enjoy a good book now and then, I leaned closer and narrowed my vision in a effort to get a peek at the title. (Yes, I realize I was being nosy, but I did it for the sake of good literature). To my surprise, even the title wasn't visible, I recognize the book she was reading--leather-bound cover, tabs on the side...Most definitely the Bible.

You know that feeling you get when you realize you probably should do something, but you really,really don't want to? Your heart starts pounding and your armpits start sweating? Yeah, that was me. I knew, as a missionary, I need to do something.--introduce myself, give her a Book of Mormon, just something. But I also knew that whatever I said would probably be awkward, would probably be grammatically incorrect, and that whatever she said back I would probably not be able to understand. But it didn't matter. I was a missionary. And I knew if I did nothing, then I would be a mouse. I did not want to be a mouse.

So I said a quick prayer and quietly began to eat my over-priced sandwich, promising myself that before my companion and I left, I would say something to the woman reading the Bible. As I ate, I read my emails from my camera. The first one I flipped to was from my old roommate Karen, who is currently serving her mission in Calgary, Canada. Can you guess what it was about? Being afraid about opening you mouth and sharing the gospel with strangers. Coincidence? I think not. Karen had the same hesitation, the same heart-pounding, nagging feeling--but she knew what she was, who she represented, and what she need to do. So she opened her mouth and let words come out. (Go, Karen!) 

But this point, I knew there was no getting out of this. I had said a prayer for courage and almost immediately, my prayer was answered. I knew what I needed to do. Now I just needed to do it. So I opened my mouth and silently prayed that intelligible Korean words would come out of it. I turned to the Bible-reading woman and asked the first thing that came to mind, "Perchance, are you reading the Bible?" (I promise it sounded way less awkward in Korean. I think.) 

The woman gave a start and looked up at me. I smiled and carried on.
"We're missionaries! We love the Bible!"
Her face broke into a returning smile and my companion helped me take it from there. We talked about our religions, we gave her a card and that was that. She returned to her Bible and we returned to our sandwiches and I was content.

Well, almost.
I knew there was one other thing I could do. Over the course of our conversation we had talked about how we read the Bible and the Book of Mormon together, for they support and complete each other. Here she was, reading the Bible and here I was...with a Book of Mormon. But, by now, it was time to go. I knew I needed to act fast. So I as I gathered my things to leave, I turned to the woman one more time and offered her the Book of Mormon.
She accepted it.

And then, because I was relieved that she had take the book and so proud that I had had the courage to give it to her (and also just because her sweater looked really, really soft) I awkwardly asked, in English this time, "Can I hug you?" 
She accepted.:)

And thus began the week of miracles. This week we found not one, not two, but six new investigators. And even though none of them were this woman we met a week ago, I know that Heavenly Father saw our efforts at the beginning of the week (and for the past two transfers) and so blessed us for the remainder of the week. Even if it wasn't quite in the way we imagined.

And, by far, our biggest miracle has been 오다은. She's 11 and she is wonderful.Her mom dropped her off at English class this Saturday, she came to church to watch the Primary Program with us this Sunday, she ended up being in  the Primary Program,  had a lesson with us and one of her new friends in the ward, after church, and now has a baptismal date for December 8th. 

I guess this week especially, I've seen how very much God is mindful of us. He sees our struggles and He sees our efforts and I know that,if we trust Him and are patient, He will lead us to where we need to go.
He knows us. He loves us.

And I know that, if we seek Him, we can know Him too.
I love you all.

Sister Abba.

Sydney and the big stone lion, last week we had Mushu, remember?
This is how you advertise for English class.
Enjoying a rice burger or as Sydney calls it, the greatest creation ever!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Adventures, Moments, and Miracles

This week consisted of adventures, disappointments, inadequacies, happy moments, and miracles.
So pretty much a regular week in the life of a missionary.

An Adventure

Since I arrived in Korea, I really haven't done anything too terribly exciting on p-day. In fact, when it comes to fun things to do, 충주 is a lot like Cranberry. One can go out to eat or one can...go out to eat. The end.
But, this past p-day was different because a few miles outside of 충주, just down the street from where some of our members live, stands the Big. Golden. Statue. And after many weeks of merely staring at it from a distance, we finally decided to go and get a closer look.
Allegedly, it was once the tallest Buddha statue in Asia, until China went and built a taller one. Chinnnna...*shakes fist*
But oh, what a wonderful day we had! The weather was perfect, the fall leaves were beautiful, and the statue was just as enormous and golden as we dreamed it would be.
Also, upon closer inspection, we discovered to our delight that our golden friend was sporting a twirly green goatee and a "Mona Lisa" smile.

(Also, is this stone dragon Mushu or is it Mushu. I love living in Asia.
The plaque in front of it says, "Whomever drinks this water will be pure in heart." But the water was full of drowned insects, so there was no way I was going to drink from it. More like, "Whomever drinks this water will get typhoid and die.")
Disappointments & Inadequacies

They happen. But I remember to keep calm and carry on. :)

Happy Moments

This week we went and had a special lunch with the sister I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, who came to church all on her own, with her twin babies strapped to her front and her back. It was such a sweet moment to sit and spend an hour eating lunch with her, as I've come to love and appreciate her and her little babies so much these past couple months. She thought it was hilarious when I sat down next to her infant son and began trying to teach her baby son Korean. "A foreigner! Teaching my baby Korean! Will wonders never cease!"


Another hilarious and happy moment? Trying to explain the concept of Veggie Tales to my companion.

Me: It's this children's television show in which they sing songs and tell Bible stories. Only with vegetables.
Companion: What the...
Me: No, no, no! I promise, it's awesome!

And's kimchi-making season! Which means our members have bestowed upon us pounds upon pounds of kimchi.
Honestly, this stuff weighs like fifty pounds each

A Miracle

We found a new investigator! Two actually, but the first one hasn't texted us back since the day we taught her, so we won't count her just yet.

But our other investigator, Sister Lee (not to be confused with my companion Sister Lee) is incredible and is so ready to hear the gospel. We found here one night when we stopped at her little burger restaurant for dinner. Just as we were about to leave, her and my companion started talking. We explained a bit about what we do and why and she was really impressed. She said that she would love it if we could stop by every week-night and help her with her English and share with her a little bit more about our message. An appointment. Every. Night. I don't know if you folks at home are keeping up with the number of appointments I've had since I've been here, but I can tell you now that we haven't had one every day. So exciting!

Anyway, when we met with her on Friday, she told us a lot about her previous religious history--she moved to 충주 about seventeen years ago and was earnestly searching for a church, but could never find one that didn't seem crazy, corrupt, or at war with all the other churches around it. In other words, there were too many churches and she was confused about which one she should join. Sound familiar? I just hope so much that now can be her time to finally hear the fullness of the gospel. She is so wonderful and happy and sweet. I love her already and I just want all good things for her. But I know that Heavenly Father will do things in His own timing. We just need to be humble, patient, understanding, and obedient. Which is far easier said than done, but I'm working on it.

And with all these miracles, I've been thinking a lot about how I can improve myself as a missionary in order to be worthy of the people the Lord keeps sending my way. I know I still have a lot of shortcoming--I don't talk to random people on the street nearly as much as I should, I get sassy with my companion sometimes, I often struggle to crawl out of bed at 6:30 every morning...But then I think about the people I'm here to teach and about how much I love them already and I decide I want to be better for them. I want to be more worthy of them. I pray every day that Heavenly Father will help me to become more worthy of these people because I know that He can and He will. If I try my hardest, He will take care of the rest. "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37).

I love you.
Sister Abba

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Crazy Random Happenstance

*When I say "Deep Throat," I'm making an All the President's Men reference. Her voice wasn't deep. Now you know.

This week began with a referral from the 번부, or the mission office. We just call it The Boo. Anyway, referrals from The Boo almost never happen, so we were pretty darn excited about this and immediately called the number we were given. The lady answered, we'll call her Choi 자매님, and we tried to set up an appointment, but she said she was busy all week. So, we promised to call her again over the weekend and that was that.

[Side note: "I'm busy" is the excuse for everything. Busy with school. Busy with farming. Busy with spending hours in a PC 방. Every time someone tells us they can't meet because they're too busy, I want to slap them upside the head with a Book of Mormon and say, "This is eternal life! No one is too busy for eternal life!"]

Fast forward to Saturday. We had tried to contact Choi 자매님 again a couple of times, but she stubbornly persisted in her busy-ness. It wasn't until Saturday afternoon, when 이지우 자매님 and I had stayed in a bit later because she had a cold and we desperately needed to update our Area Books, that she finally called us. She wanted to meet as soon as possible.

I don't think my companion and I have ever moved faster. 
After forty minutes, a hurried taxi ride, and an awful lot of running, we made it to the opposite end of town and knocked on Choi 자매님's door. She answered the door holding a box of chicken wings and graciously invited us  in to eat them with her.  Random, right? It gets weirder.  In addition to the three of us, there sat two other ladies in Choi 자매님's living room. We'll call them Deep Throat and the Lady in Black. After a few minutes of awkwardly silent chewing, during which I was trying to figure out how we had come to be there and how I was supposed to eat chicken wings with chopsticks, the lady sitting closest to me and 이지우 자매님, Deep Throat, leans over to us and whispers conspiratorially, "I've come to give you a referral."

Um, what?

[Second Side note: Has anyone else noticed how much my mission is like Nancy Drew novel with all these strange situations and random plot twists? Just me? Okay.]

After a few seconds of confused blinking, it finally clicked. "Oh, you're a member!"
As it turns out, she was indeed a member from Suwon, and had come to 충주 with her non-member friend (the Lady in Black) in order to visit her niece, Choi 자매님 (also not a member). She told us that her son was also serving a mission and when we asked where, she replied with a sneaky smile, "Here in 충주. He's in your district. Elder Kim. I'm his mom."

How do these crazy things keep happening?!

Anyway, after my companion and I got over our initial shock, we buckled down and taught Choi 자매님 and the Lady in Black the first lesson. It went really well. The Lady in Black was even in tears (though, sadly, she lives in Suwon, so we can't continue to teach her). But, do you know what this means? We have another new investigator! Yes! Thanks Elder Kim's mom!

Little experiences like this, almost all of my experiences here actually, remind me of the scripture in Alma 31:35 that says, "Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee." As I've been on my mission, I've come to realize how truly precious each and every one of us is to God. Going out of our way to leave notes on member's doors, saying "hello" to everyone we pass on the street, walking twenty minutes in the dark and the freezing cold just to talk the non-member son of one of our members for thirty seconds...all of these are things I do almost every day as I desperately try to show these people that they matter. They are oh-so important to us, and each of them is infinitely more precious to their Heavenly Father. God truly does love us completely and individually and as I looked into the eyes of the Lady in Black and testified to her of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I knew that it didn't matter that I wouldn't have the opportunity to continue teaching her, that I would probably never see her again. For that brief moment, I could see that she had begun to realize God's love for her. She received her first taste of this gospel that is so beautiful and so true and I was so happy to be the one to share it with her. In that moment, I knew that her soul was precious. I felt God's love for her. And I felt God's love for me.

Every day I become more grateful to be a missionary in this country and to have the opportunity to share the beautiful message of God's love.

Sister Abba.