Sunday, April 27, 2014

Praying for Rain

Sydney sent a little note to us saying next weeks letter won't come until Weds, Tuesday night for us.  It's a Korean holiday coming up the first week in May.  So her mission president moved her p-day.    We used to experience something similar in Japan.  It's called golden week there.  So don't think we forgot you next week, it will just be delayed.  

Happy Birthday, Grandpa Gray! You're getting so old, but I still love you!! I hope you had a happy day!

And...the lists are back.

1. We met Gongju's only German man this week! We were just sitting on the bus going to Sejong and I saw this man sitting across the aisle who had Andy Serkis's face and the 11th Doctor's fashion sense and immediately thought, "Where in the world did you come from?" Turns out he's a German professor at Gongju University and has had dinner with the elders a few times over the years, but doesn't really have any interest in the gospel. We had a nice, but awkward chat over the course of our bus ride, but after I got off the bus I was so grateful that the majority of my random conversations with strangers do not happen in English. At least in Korean, I can be the cute, ditsy American trying to speak a hard language. In English, I just sound like an idiot. I think over the course of our ten minute conversation, I said the word "awesome" at least fifteen times. Ugh. Fail. My companion and I had a good laugh later though trying to imitate his fancy accent.

2. Oh, how was The Amazing Spiderman 2? Amazing?

3. All the colorful lanterns are out in prepartion for Buddha's birthday! It's the same day as your birthday, Daddy! Korea is looking very festive.(Steve's birthday is May 6th)

4. Yesterday, I added another language to my "List of Languages in Which I've Watched The Restoration." I've seen it in Korean, Tagalog, Hindi, and yesterday, Mandarin! In fact, I don't think I've actually ever watched The Restoration in English. Which is fine, because I've had a chance to admire all the other, forgotten parts of it, rather than just the words. For a 20 minute film, it's so well done! The soundtrack, the cinematography, the metaphor of the seed of fatih...It's such a good movie! If you haven't watched in a while, I invite you to watch it today! And then watch it another language just for fun. ^^  (This is a movie made by our church.  You can watch it at if you want to know what she is talking about)

5. In other awkward 전도ing experiences, we were out in the countryside, looking for people to talk to and we spotted this tiny, old grandpa, sitting on a patch of grass by the side of the road. We went up to talk to him, but he didn't answer and didn't seem to understand anything we were saying. So we awkwardly gave him our English flyer with our phone number on it and told him that if he had any interest in the gospel, he should call us. But as my companion was giving him the flyer, he turned to me and soundlessly mouthed, "What is this?" And that's when I realized that he was a mute. And probably also deaf. Poor little old man! I felt so bad, he was probably so confused! Since we didn't know what else to do, we bowed extra respectfully and then walked away.

6. And now for a really long and frankly wonderful mission story! One of my favorite thus far. 
Last week, we taught our Modern-Day Mulan about fasting. She really wants to be baptized and has been progressing and reading the Book of Mormon like no other investigator I've ever seen. She's AMAZING. Like, truly, truly amazing. Anyway, she works in construction here in Korea until she can go back to China and be reunited with her husband and son, so this past Sunday (Easter) we fasted together with her that she would be able to find a new job, or at least have Sundays off, so that she could come to church and soon be baptized. And then one day go back to China and be with her family again.

Well, she had an wonderful fasting experience and so did I. I could really feel the Lord's love for her throughout the day and I knew He understood her troubles and her needs. And then, yesterday, miracle of miracles, she came to church!!!! Because she works in construction, she doesn't work when it's raining since it's so dangerous, so my companion and I prayed really hard Saturday night for rain and do you know what? It rained yesterday! In fact it's still raining!

And Mulan (홍춘영) had such a spiritual experience at church! In her 47 years of life she had always believed in God, but had never been to church. Not even once. And so yesterday, for the first time in her life she came to church and she loved it. She loved the members and the music and the discussion in Relief Society. She especially loved the bishop's talk in sacrament meeting and she very enthusiastically told him so after church, shaking him warmly by the hand. She even told some of the other members later that she wants her husband to become a man just like our bishop! She said she can't wait to share the Book of Mormon with him and introduce him to the gospel.

Wow, we just really had an incredible day yesterday. One of the best of my whole mission. I know right now missionaries are not allowed to openly preach the gospel in China, but I testify that the Lord knows His people and He is moving this work along in so many ways that we don't even realize it yet. I love our Modern-Day Mulan (홍춘영) and I feel so priviledged to be one of the missionaries that began teaching her. I never imagined that I would ever teach a investigator like her on my mission, so diligent and prepared and just ready for this gospel and the light it brings. And I know that one day, some day soon, she will take that light and at last bring it home to the saints waiting in China.

I hope you all have splendid days!
Sister Arvanitas

Monday, April 21, 2014


Korean Fun Fact #5: Baking
Baking in Korea is absurdly difficult. I learned this the hard way last Monday when my companion and I went over to a member's house to help her figure out her brand-new bread-maker. For some reason, both our member and my companion assumed that because I was American, I would know how to make home-made bread.
Yeah... no.
And even if the majority of Americans did know how to make bread, anyone who's met me knows that I would not be one of them. Also having grown up in western Pennsylvania, my first thought when it comes to homemade bread is just to go to Amish Country and buy some. Luckily, the bread-maker wasn't as complex as the three of us supposed (all you have to do if dump in the ingredients and turn it on), but while we were waiting for the bread to cook our sweet member suggested that I use the extra ingredients to just "whip up some cookies or something." To make a very long and stressful story short, I went with a seemingly simple orange cookie recipe I found online. A grave mistake on my part.
"Do you have an electric mixer?"
"No, but I have this fruit juicer."
"That'll work."
"Do you have any butter?"
"A little..." (Actually butter is really expensive in Korea, but of course, the recipe I chose called for two cups of butter. I used about a fourth of a cup and called it good.)
"It's fine. This'll work."
"Do you have two cups of white sugar?"
"Um, no, but I have a 240 milliliters of brown sugar."
"That'll work."
"Do you have an orange zester?" (If only you all could have seen me try to explain what an orange zester in Korean.)
"Kind of...I have this cheese grater!"
"That'll work."
"자매님, do you even have an oven?"
"Kind of...*presents a sort of glorified Easy Bake Oven*
"That'll work."
Moral of the story? Never. Again.
In other, less stressful news, let me tell you about my birthday! The first birthday I've ever spent without my mom! (It was great though, Momma, I promise. I missed you though.)
I woke up at 6:30 as always and went to take a shower only to find that our water was freezing cold. Like, aggressively cold. Our apartment complex was working on the pipes, so all the warm water in our building had been shut off. Since I couldn't stand to wet anything more than my hair, I washed it as fast as possible and came out of the bathroom to find...
my roommates with balloons and a box of chicken wings for breakfast! It was quite the shock! I had told my companion like a week before that I wanted to eat chicken on my birthday, so she sneakily ordered some the night before and surprised me with it for breakfast. My roommates even stuck some hurriedly-lit wooden chopsticks into the chicken to stand as birthday candles. It was pretty adorable.
Later on in the morning, while waiting for the bus to our other area, Sejong, I got a lovely phone call from my trainer, 이지우 자매님, and Sister J......, the sister I went on about a million splits with back in my first area. They're companions now! It was great to talk to them and hear them sing me "Happy Birthday."
In Sejong, we met with our investigator, taught her some English and ate some more chicken and pizza and then taught her about the Plan of Salvation. It was great. The rest of the day, we spent in the Sejong library doing weekly planning. Not my favorite missionary activity to do on my birthday, but at least I got to sit in a library for a while.
And to end the day we went back to Gongju with our little investigator KaYun in tow to go to the ward primary activity. We made pizza toast (Wow. I ate really unhealthily this birthday. Whoops.) and had a feast. I liked it! And more importantly, KaYun liked it! Now we just need to get her to church! On the way back from taking KaYun home, our member bought me a surprise birthday cake which I merrily shared with my roommates once we got home. They sang me "Happy Birthday" again and I got to blow out real candles this time (not ghetto chopstick ones). All in all, it was a very happy day.
Thank you all again for the many birthday wishes! I love reading them. And thank you to those who wrote to me about the ferry that sank on the way to Jejudo Island. It's been broadcasting non-stop on the news and on the radio and it's awful. Aside from my birthday, it's been a pretty rough week. Thank you for remembering Korea in your prayers. I'm thankful for all of you and the peace that this gospel brings.
I love love love you.
Sister Abba.
Chicken for breakfast

She got her birthday package on Easter

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Music and Dreams

Thanks to everyone who sent a birthday wish.  If you sent it past 11 tonight ET, she won't get it until next week but, I think I got everyone's message.  I didn't receive any past 11 o'clock.  You're going to have to do some translating this week.  

First of all, thank you for all the birthday wishes! I haven't had the chance to read any of them yet, but I'm very excited to read and re-read them throughout the week. It's gonna be a good birthday, I can feel it.

Also, I'm really sorry about my lack of email last week. With transfer calls and stressful picture swapping with my roommates, there was just no time for actual words. I'll do better this time, I promise.

Korean Fun Fact #4? 

Let's talk music. Here in Korea, we like to stick to the four main music genres: traditional, Disney, K-Pop, and 트로트.

I don't have much experience with traditional Korean (or even Asian) music, but there was this time back in my first area that my companion and I traveled way out into the country to eat dinner with some members and after dinner, the member's youngest daughter played a song for us on the 가야금. The 가야금 is like the Korean version of a dulcimer, only it's enormous. You could honestly use it as a canoe. Anyway, here we were in sweet member's home watching her 11 year-old play this ancient instrument and it was only like my second week in Korea and the autumn sunlight was streaming through the window and the music was so beautiful. And as our member watched her daughter play, her expression contained so much love and joy that it made my eyes well up with tears. Definitely one of my favorite memories in Korea.

Korea knows what's up. I can pretty much hear the entire Frozen soundtrack just by walking around the grocery store. Thank you, Korea. ^^

I really like K-Pop! I promise there are music possibilities beyond and far better than "Gangnam Style!" Just you wait. I'll be listening to a lot of K-Pop when I can back.

Good heavens. 트로트. Where to begin?
It's the kind of music that all the old people listen to and it's awful, but in a this-will-one-day-make-me-nostalgic-about-Korea kind of way. If I had to describe it, I would say it's like the instrumentation of "The Chicken Dance" paired with the vocals of Fiddler on the Roof only sung in the warbling tones of a 75 year-old. It's the strangest music ever, but the 할머니s and 할아버지s love it. I hear it on the bus and in the market and, most wonderfully, blaring from little radios attached to the front of bicycles as cute, old men ride them around town.

Now, onto the week! First of all, can I just say that I hit my nine month mark this week and I didn't even notice. It wasn't until my companion and I were planning for the next day that I looked at the date and then looked at my calendar and exclaimed, "I'm halfway done!" Wow, that went fast. And I haven't even done anything yet! How can I be halfway done?! Anyway, thoroughly disappointed that I had forgotten my halfway mark, I ate some blueberry cake and went to bed.

This week we met a new investigator, 한순자. She's this cute, little old 할머니 we met at the bus terminal a couple weeks ago. Our conversation kind of went like:

한순자: (to me) American?
Me: Yes, how did you know?
한순자: I could tell just by looking at your face.
Me: Oh, well it's nice to meet you! We're the sister missionaries serving in this area!
Companion: (Korean, Korean, Korean)
한순자: (Korean, Korean, Korean)
Me: ......
Companion: (to 한순자) Well, here's our phone number. If you give us yours, maybe we can visit you sometime.
Me: Oh, uh...yes!

And so we got her number and went to visit her! The part in the middle that I didn't understand was that she's really sad and lonely and her children never visit her because they resent her for the poor education she was able to provide for them. So we offered to visit her and be her friend! And now we are! She's such a sweet little lady and her house is so cool. Well, it's less of a house and more of a rundown shack out in the countryside, but still. I will never get over the sheer fortitude of these ancient Korean women. In their 80s and still using an outhouse like a pro. I hope to one day be so strong.

As we visited with 한순자 and ate lunch with her, it became clear that she was extremely lonely and thus was so happy to have us with her in her home. We sang her a hymn and gave her a message card and asked about her belief in life after death. She said flat-out she doesn't have one. We die and that's the end. We return to the ground from which we came. But then she paused and said something rather interesting. 한순자 told us that years ago her 28-year old daughter had died. Afterwards, she was obviously distraught, but she had a dream about her daughter a few nights later. She said that in the dream she was standing by a rock in a wide wilderness. Her daughter was there and she was so happy to see her. She asked her daughter to come back with her, but her daughter said she couldn't. She told her mom she was really, really busy and there was a lot she needed to learn. And then the dream ended and she woke up.

My companion testified to 한순자 that her dream was very real. That there was life after death. But not only life, but learning and progression and the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."
(1 Peter 4:6)

Oh, how I know for a surety that this gospel is true. There is so much more after death. I know that all who did not have the opportunity to hear or accept this gospel in this life, will be give another chance after this life. I know that there are forces seen and unseen working with me in missionary work and I am ever so grateful for the times that I am absolutely certain I am fulfilling the hopes and happiness's of people beyond the veil. These people are as real and present to me as you are.

Have a splendid week.

Sydney.  (Sister Abba)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Picture Time!

Picture day! As my mom said, I have been seriously lacking lately in the send-pictures-home portion of my emails, so I figured I would just dedicate today to sending pictures of all the things I've been doing these past two transfers.
But first, some announcements.
1. Transfer calls came today! I'm staying in Gongju and I'm staying with 이희원!  Four transfers with the same companion. Bring it on. But our roommate, 김수현 is leaving us for the big city of 첨단. We are going to miss her so much. But we'll get a new Korean roommate and the Gongju 자매 Foursome will more or less stay in tact.
2. Happy Birthday, Grandma Arvanitas! Your little face is even on my calendar, but I forgot to wish you a happy day last week! I'm sorry! I love you and I hope you had a great birthday! :)
3. And that's pretty much it. Let the pictures begin! I love you!

A lot of  these pictures are of us last p-day when we went to "the temple of a thousand buddhas." There were buddhas around every corner, but the title that the name references is the thousand gold ones. So cool!

 We ate at a 샤부샤부 place! so healthy and so delicious.

For Buddhists, rocks are wishes and when you stack them in a little pile like this, they can come true. we found three for our three favorite investigators--Mulan, the pretty one, and Sunny and the bottom one is for successful missionary work!
 um...not too much happened this week. but here are some pictures of HyunJi (Sunny, the girl who's getting baptized).
She came to church again yesterday, as she has for the past 10 Sundays. Even though she isn't set to get baptized until May, she's practically a member already. She sings in Primary, she patiently sits through sacrament meeting, she plays with the other children after church. During Sunday School, my companion and I have been reading the Book of Mormon with her. She has her own "Book of Mormon Stories Coloring Chart" hung up in the Primary room and every time we finish a chapter together she gets to color in a piece of the picture. We're on chapter 4! It kind of feels like my companion and I are her parents and she's our child. We love her so much.
Yesterday, when set off to take her back to Sejong, I had her wear my coat because it was pretty cold outside. She insisted that she keep my name tag on, so she could pretend to be "Abba Jameh." We told her she looked like she belonged at Hogwarts.
I can't explain it, but I just love this little girl so much. I want absolutely every happiness for her. I'm so glad that I made the decision to serve a mission and was sent all the way to Korea to teach her English, to laugh at her silliness, and, most importantly, to be her missionary.

 My companion's birthday gift to me!

 We found a fun little neighborhood with exciting walls!