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.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Miracle of Miracles

Because of daylight savings time, we are now 14 hours behind Sydney.  This is a good thing because we get her letters earlier.  Korea does not observe daylight savings.   I sent Sydney many of the nice comments people send to me on email and the comments on the blog.   Sydney loves to hear anything from her friends and family.  Any mail is a welcome sight to a missionary.  Thanks to all who have been so supportive and loving.  

An Exclamatory Statement. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADDS!!! I hope your birthday was filled with magic and gladness and birthday wonder. I'm glad you liked my package. Love you, sweetie.

An Exciting Announcement. So, every Monday morning at 7:30 our whole mission has a conference call in which we share miracles and listen to any announcements from our mission president. This morning, President Shin made the very exciting announcement that, in December, reporters and photographers and what-have-you from the New York Times are coming to our mission to do an article about the work of sister missionaries here in the Daejeon Mission!. Is that not strange, random, and exciting?! All my companion and I could do was look at each other blankly and say, "Why?"

Who knows. 

But still, it's exciting! Apparently they did a similar story about elder missionaries in Uganda a couple of years ago. All I know is that fancy newspaper people our coming to our under-dog, forgotten mission in the middle of Korea and I'm excited about it. :)

All the Things I Keep Forgetting. I realized this week that I haven't talked a lot about investigators or lessons or any of the other experiences that one normally associates with missionary work. The truth of the matter is, we haven't really had too many. In fact, thus far, I've pretty much told you all there is to tell. My area is just now getting into missionary work, so investigators have been a bit, how should i say this, scarce. Actually, scratch that--non-existent. Non-existent may be a better word. Luckily, I have a terribly clever mission president who has presented our mission with a program that is beginning to counter-act the problem of a lack of teaching appointments. Instead of filling all our extra time with only proselyting, President Shin has set up a program in which missionaries arrange to meet with the members of their ward and teach them one of the six lessons in PMG for twenty minutes. The members are to pretend to be investigators and to ask us lots of questions while we're teaching so that we can 1. practice answering difficult questions, 2. practice teaching the missionary lessons, 3. speak Korean, 4. strengthen the faith of the members, and 5. build stronger relationships with them. It's also a great way to get referrals because, as we teach the members, they really begin to understand what missionaries do and then are far more comfortable referring us to their friends. Brilliant, no? So, even though I haven't had much to report investigator-wise, our ward is really starting to get behind member-missionary work and I feel so blessed to have been able to teach in the homes of every single one of the members of my ward. My love for them has truly grown, as has my desire to work harder and become a better missionary, for I want all the best for this incredible ward.

This week especially, our ward really pulled together in an effort to increase member missionary work. On Saturday, we had a Dessert Party for the youth and almost all of our Young Men and Young Women brought their friends! Our bishop's daughter even brought four! It was wonderful and I truly began to see what an important strength the youth of the Church are. As the Dessert Party finished, my companion and I were able to talk to all of the Young Women and the friends they had brought. Many of them agreed to start coming to our English class and, miracle of miracles, one of them is now our new investigator! In fact, that very night, we met with her and the member who had brought her to the Dessert Party and we taught the Plan of Salvation!


But the good things don't end there! Over the course of these twenty minute visits with our members, Sister Lee and I have been focusing especially on some of our less-active members. We wanted to help one sister in particular, as she a four-year old daughter and six-month old twins, and the only thing that's really stopping her from coming to church is getting her and her children to up and ready by herself. Unfortunately, we didn't have time this week to stop by her house and formally arrange a way for her to get to church, but then, in the middle of sacrament meeting, miracles of miracles, in she hurriedly walked, with one baby strapped to her front, one baby strapped to her back, and her little four-year old trailing behind. As soon as she sat down, the members of my incredible ward each took one of her children to hold and she was able to get up during the meeting and to bear her testimony. And in addition to her, two of our other less actives came to church as well--I've never seen our sacrament meeting so full! 

In D&C 121:9, it says, "Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands." How that perfectly describes my ward here and my dear Cranberry ward back at home. This is truly a Church of families and I feel so blessed to be apart of two incredible ward families, both here in Korea and back in little Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.

I thank you all for every word of kindness, love, and encouragement you send my way.
I love you all so much.

Sister Abba.
This is Sydney's costume.  She was Snow White, kind of.  

It's fall in Korea too.  

Giant leaves are exciting, I guess.