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.  :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Match-Making Sister Missionary

Thanks to everyone who reads these.  We're are down to the last 8 letters from Sydney.  I know everyone has busy lives right now but I know missionaries love mail and she would love a Christmas card from you.  Here is her address if you'd like to send a Christmas card.  Don't feel like you need to write a letter with it.  Thanks so much!
         Sister Sydney Arvanitas
          Korea Daejeon Mission
          Daejeon PO Box 38
          Chungcheong-bukdo 300-600
         South Korea

Thank you for the Christmas package Activity Day Girls (Evaaaaaa, I love you too)!!! I got it at church yesterday(long story, the Boo(this is what they call the mission office) has my address mixed up with up with another sister's, so we're always switching mail) and I had such a hard time to not opening it during sacrament meeting. Because opening packages during sacrament meeting is probably bad. But I opened it right after church was over and all the elders were there and they were so jealous. They should be. Cranberry Ward is the best!

This week we met with our only not-less-active recent convert (less-active recent converts are literally the saddest thing ever. I have met far too many of them and it makes me sick to my stomach). But we have one that's still going strong! The only problem is she needs church friends, like, sooo badly. She's 30 and single and there are no young adults even close to her age in our ward. Missionaries have been thinking forever about who she can be friends with and the answer always comes back to the same person--the Young Men's President in 정읍. They're perfect for each other. At least me and two other missionaries have thought so and if that's not revelation, then I don't know what is. Our recent convert has heard about him over and over again, but no one has really done anything yet. But gosh darn it, I wanted her to find true love so this week we texted him about her and gave him her phone number. And then last night, she messaged us and said that...he texted her! YAYAYAYAYAY. He wants to find true love too!!! Playing missionary match-maker is fun.

This week we didn't get to meet with our baptismal date, MJ because she got into a fight with her parents or something and might not be living at home anymore? I don't know. Dealing with progressing investigators is such a roller coaster because something bad always happens. I learned a long time ago to just go with it and not get my hopes too high. I'm sure it'll be fine though.

As for good news another investigator that I have talked about yet came to church yesterday!! She's 21 and adorable and has had a really, really hard life, but it stills so cute and positive! Yet sassy. I like her a lot so I hope nothing bad happens with her too because she's just so great! We asked her to read 1 Corinthians 15 and she misheard us and instead read the entire book of 1 Corinthians. And took notes!  And then when we gave her a Book of Mormon and asked her to read Moroni 10, she not only read it, but marked her favorite verses! I love people who mark their scriptures!

But one of the highlights of the week was definitely Mission Tour. Elder Aoyagi and his wife came and it was so fun. Though, confession, my favorite part was whispering back and forth with Sister Matsen before the meeting started while we were supposed to be reading our scriptures. Elder Aoyagi talk was good. I think. He gave it in Japanese and then his translator friend translated it into Korean. But seriously, I still struggle with understanding Korean, especially for long periods of time so I was kind of just like, "Korean Korean Korean Korean, hey I know that word! Korean Korean Korean..." But I thought his wife's talk was awesome! One, because she read it in English; 2. because there were lots of quotes and skits and she involved the missionaries a lot and 3. because at the end we all stood up and sang "Put Your Shoulder to Wheel" while dancing and literally pushing the work of God along. It was great.

And a spiritual thought! I finished D&C again this week! Hooray!
I liked this one: D&C 136:28 
"If thou are merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving."

So sing and dance!! And be thankful.

I love you!
Sister Abba.

 So happy because, SNOW!

Mission Tour

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Getting to Know You

Momma! Thank you for the package!!! I got it last Monday and I was so, so
happy. I'm excited to open the presents on Christmas and I already put them
under our tiny, little Christmas tree that sticks out of a Domino's pizza
box. And I was very excited about all the treats too. I ate all the Kitkats
in less than an hour. I love Kitkats. Also, confession, I read every one of
the Christmas stories this week. I mean, I know it was supposed to be a 25
Days of Christmas thing or whatever, but patience is overrated. Plus I
haven't read anything outside of the scriptures, PMG, and Jesus the Christ
in nearly 17 months, so I'm a little starved for varied literature.

This week we visited so many members! Which is good because there are a ton of members to visit in this ward. This ward has more members than we have in Cranberry and it's quite alarming since my whole mission I've been used to wards with only like 50 to 60 people in them. My favorite thing about visiting members is showing them pictures of my family! Remember, Koreans are extremely blunt, especially when it comes to appearance, so their comments on my family pictures are always a good time. They always sound a little something like:

"Your siblings are more attractive than you."
"You've gained weight."
"You look much better now than you do in these pictures."
"White people!"
"Wow, your sister is really pretty."

And my personal favorite:

"Your brother looks like Tom Cruise."

Bahahaha. Seriously. Every time.

As for our investigators, MJ came to church this week!! Yessss!!!! And she has a baptismal date for December 14thh. Funny story, her brother's return missionary friend (the one that suggested they visit Temple Square) just came back from America and is in Nongsung Ward, the ward that meets in the same building as us! I know this probably means nothing to you, but it meant a lot to us! We kept hearing about this guy in the other ward who came back from BYU Provo to do his military service (all Korean boys have to serve in the military for two years) and was referring all his old friends to the missionaries and it turns out he's the one who referred our investigator in the first place! All the way back in America! What a small, Korean, Mormon world.

Pongo is still a situation I don't know how to talk about, but he's definitely golden, even if his situation isn't. Hopefully we can toss him right on over to the elders and he can be baptized soon.

Oh yeah, and Thanksgiving was a thing this week, wasn't it? It's been so long since I really celebrated a holiday that I totally forgot. Korean companion + missionary life + living in Korea = no holidays. But I'll celebrate holidays better than anyone once I get home so just you wait. Next year's Valentine's Day is gonna be huge.

Now let's have a spiritual thought! This week Elder Aoyagi (the Japanese Seventy who's name I can't pronounce) is coming to our mission and we're having a Mission Tour. Whatever that means. I know, it sounds like something exciting where we tour around the famous historical sites in our mission and grow to love the people and the culture more, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Not in this mission at least. A mission tour is just a fancy way of saying a meeting. Missionaries come up with lots of names to call things that are really just meetings. But this meeting is special because it's going to be in Japanese! With Korean and English translation, of course. I'm excited. I love meetings!

Anyway, in preparation for the meeting, Elder Aoyagi has asked all the missionaries to study a few of their favorite Book of Mormon missionaries. Who did I choose, you may ask? Alma? Amulek? Aaron? No! I chose Abish--the Book of Mormon sister missionary! Girl power! Let's turn to the scriptures.

Alma 19:16
So everyone has already fainted, right? The king, the queen, Aaron, all the servants. Everyone, except Abish, that is. Luckily she's already a convert and she's knows a missionary opportunity when she sees one, so "supposing that this opportunity, that beholding this scene, would cause [the people] to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people."

Eventually all her running leads to the gathering of a whole multitude of people, but they don't quite become converted as quickly as Abish had hoped they would be. In fact, upon looking at their king and queen lying on the ground "as though they were dead" they're a little confused. And really angry. Abish gathered the people so that they could behold the power of God, but instead all that ensues is greater chaos.

Alma 19:28
"And thus the contention began to be exceedingly sharp among them. And while they were thus contending, the woman servant (Abish) who had caused the multitude to be gathered together came, and when she saw the contention which was among the multitude she was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto tears."

Been there. Done that.

But! Abish is better than me. She doesn't just break down and give up. She tries again. Despite her fears, her nerves, her silly name, and the apparent irreversible mess that she's landed herself in, she steps forwards and takes the queen by the hand (and this is my favorite part), "that perhaps she might raise her from the ground." I love that word. Perhaps.

Abish doesn't knows if any of her efforts will ever work our right, but she tries anyways and she believes in Perhaps.

And it does work. The queen wakes up. And then the queen raises the king from the ground and then Aaron wakes up and all the servants do too. And before you know it, it comes to pass "that there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them."

And maybe in our lives and our missions, we don't ever live to see the queen or the king or the servants wake up. We don't live to see the people converted and baptized and the church established. But we can still believe in Perhaps. We can take the opportunities to share the gospel when they come and we can hope and pray that perhaps one day, miracles will come from us taking that first step forward and believing.

I love you dearly.
Till next week.

Abba Jameh.

Sorry, I literally took only this one picture this week. But it's cute, right? I like old people.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Making it Happy

This week.

Let this email be a lesson as to why I never write home about investigators because, I swear, as soon as you write home about them, they drop you. Uggggghh. Why!?

But really it's okay. We still have one investigator left! Plus I think I reached a point on my mission, sometime in 정읍, where I decided that no matter what happened I was going to press forward with joy because gosh-darn it missionary work should be happy. Even if I have to forcibly make it so.

But update on the investigators I talked about last week.

MiO dropped off the face of the planet. We've called her, we've texted her, we've called her on the elders' phone. Nothing. I mean, if you're going to break up with someone, at least send them a text message or a smoke signal or something. Whatever.

MJ still has a baptismal date, but every Sunday when we text to remind her of church, she just ignores us and doesn't reply. I promise that when I have my own phone again I will respond to everyone always. Always.

Pongo and Perdita also dropped us. Bahahahaha. It was just one of those weeks. I won't go into all the details because they're complex and personal, but all hope is not lost with them! Basically Perdita and the puppies dropped us (or did they?!), but Pongo still loves us and came to both the Saturday night and the Sunday sessions of Stake Conference this weekend and ordered a triple combination, a book on parenting, and a picture of the Savior from Deseret Book. But we're still technically dropped. Mixed signals. But I have faith that it will all work out in the end and I will be sure to give you my usual vaguely-worded update about him next week.^^

Good things from this week. There were still so many of them.

The members of our district are the best ever. I mean, they always are, but I especially appreciated how wonderful they were this week. After Pongo and Perdita dropped us, each of the other companionships in our district called to tell us that they loved us, that we were working hard, and that it was all according to the Lord's will. Other missionaries are the best.

Our mission has been focusing this transfer on Becoming One and I've really started to see a change, at least in myself. I don't know if you can tell, but I love everyone so much now! I sent my mission president and his wife a Christmas present this morning I felt so much love for them! I truly do know now that as we can ask to feel the Christ's love in behalf of the other people with whom we serve. His love is real, it is powerful, and if we ask in honesty and humility, it has the ability to soften even the most stubborn of hearts. I know it's softened mine.

I've got to go now, but I'll leave you with one of my favorite stories told in general conference ever. You'll read it, won't you?

I love you all and I'll talk to you next week!


A Story for You <3
Corrie ten Boom, devout DutcChristian woman, found such healing despite having been interned in concentration camps during World War II. She suffered greatly, but unlike her beloved sister Betsie, who perished in one of the camps, Corrisurvived.
After the war she often spoke publicly of her experiences anof healing and forgivenessOn one occasion former Nazi guard who had been part of Corrie’s own grievous confinement in Ravensbrück, Germany, approached her, rejoicing at her message of Christ’s forgiveness and love.
“‘How grateful am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’
“His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, saw the sin of them. … Lord Jesus, prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
“I tried to smile, [and] struggled to raise my hand. could not. felt nothing, not thslightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again breathed silent prayer. "Jesus, cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness."

 As took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand current seemed tpass from me to him, while into my heart sprang love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

“And so discovered that it inot on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, buon His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. 

 My cute companion last p-day, making Christmas decorations. she got so into the Christmas spirit that when I asked her what message we should share for FHE that night she was like, "Christmas!" and then I reminded her that it was mid-November and we lived in Asia.

Our Christmas tree. <3

We had a particularly hard day in which our progressing investigator most definitely dropped us, so our zone leader sent us this picture of his face and texted us to "be happy." My favorite part about missionary work is other missionaries.

Abba and Yeajin: take two.

Bored at a bus stop.

 We were trying to take a picture of ourselves to leave on the members doors so they'll remember our faces and I suggested we use my selfie stick. This is what we got. Eeyeajin hates it so much, but I still printed some to give to our very favorite members. The Korean says, "preach the gospel joyful."

 I made friends with this dog wearing tiny dog shoes. My companion thought I was using a clever proselyting approach, but no. I just wanted a picture with the dog.

Reunited with an old friend. Yay Stake Conference.