Sunday, June 29, 2014

What does Confucius say?

Korean Fun Fact #10: Education
Okay, so this is one that my companion and I have been discussing for a while. You'll have to tell me what you think about our theories.
As you may already know, the basis for most aspects of Korean society and education is Confucianism. Now I don't know a whole lot about Confucianism, but I do know little snippets here and there--seniority has all power, respect the elders, listen and accept. Someone will have to send me some lines from the Wikipedia page. But anyway, my point is that because so much of Korean society stems from Confucianism, so does Korea's education system. From what all my Korean companion's have said, learning goes something like this: Listen. Record. Memorize. Repeat back. And on and on and on. But as we know, much of Western education is quite different. Since our education system comes mostly from the Greek philosophers, we base much of our learning on discussion. Thought-provoking questions. Answers that lead to more questions. Allegories about caves. And so on and so forth. When we teach the gospel, we follow this pattern--we ask our investigators to think and to pray about the questions we ask them, the questions they have themselves, and the reading they do in the scriptures. Then we ask them to act on the conclusions they come to. But more often than not, the response we get to the question, "What do you think?" is "I don't know." And then on the inside I'm kind of like, "ALKSDFJOASIDASDFH. Yes, I know you don't know, but what do you think?" 아무튼.
So here's our theory. Maybe when learning about a gospel that requires so much careful thinking rather than rote memorization, the slowness of the work in Korea isn't the language or people or the Buddhism. It's the Confucianism.
Or maybe I'm just looking for someone to blame.
Let's just go with a list this week. No time and all.
1. Yesterday we went to J... and M......'s house to celebrate the 14th birthday of their son . It was so fun! J... is an American born and raised in Chicago. M...... is a Filipino who grew up on an island near Manila. And 제... is their son (from M......'s first marriage to a Korean) who has lived in Korea his whole life. 제.... speaks mostly Korean and a little bit of English. M...... speaks Tagalog, English, and quite a bit of Korean. And J..., as Americans normally do, speaks only English. And yet they are a family that has been sealed in the temple for time and all eternity! Isn't the gospel wonderful? 
2. We got stuck in the 시골 (country)this week. We were going to visit a less-active who turned out to not be home (her crazy dogs were though) and so we had a whole hour to kill, wandering around amidst the heat and the rice fields. I thought this would be a great time to 가가호호, but none of the cranky grandmas would talk to us, since they were all busy watching TV or working in their gardens. We ended up just asking everyone we came across for water, which worked nicely. "Anxiously engaged" in not getting dehydrated.^^
3. After church yesterday we watched these two little boys in our ward play the most ridiculous game ever. I took a video, but since I can't send it, I'll try to explain. You start by playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors" (fun fact: almost every game in Korea involves "Rock, Paper, Scissors"), but instead of saying, "가위, 바위, 보" you say, "삼겹살!" which is a kind of meat. If you win then you grab the cheek of your opponent. With their cheek still pinched you play again. "삼겹살!" If you lose, they grab your cheek and the game continues. But if you win, you take their pinched cheek and saw it from your grip with your other hand. It's so hard to explain, but it's kind of like an Indian Burn, but on your face. It's absolutely horrible, but my companion and I were dying. Ha. Little boys are weird.
4. Okay, so I have no time to talk about investigators because I had to answer some other emails this week, but I'm giving you all a commitment! I've been listening to Conference Talks lately (it's pretty much my new favorite thing to do) and I found an amazing one by Elder Holland (I know, you're surprised). It's called "An High Priest of Good Things To Come" and it's incredible. Seriously, everyone should listen to it. Even if you have no clue who Jeffrey R. Holland is, I commit you right now to go and listen to that talk. (Jess and Jordan, I'm looking at you.) You'll  never regret it. There'll be a quiz next week.
I love you all!
Sister Abba.

I played this fancy drum and then I used the stick as a wand.

The Indian Burn face game

Bugs for a side dish and no, I did not eat them.  

Rice fields.  I think this man suspected me sneakily taking his picture.  

Stuck in the country.  Not happy.  

This one's for Ana.  The tropical flowers are growing, but in Korea, wearing flowers in your hair means you're crazy so, I wore this one only for the picture.  ^^

The mascot of Jeungup.  Maple leaf people.

This baby did NOT want to give up his basketball.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Love and Sneaky Investigators

HAPPY BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK NICKY!  I hope being nineteen is even more magical than being eighteen. I can't understand how you are so old. To me you'll always be my four-year old little brother who can't pronounce his "r"s. I love you!
Korean Fun Fact #9 : Love
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially since my ward is primarily Young Men and Young Women, all of whom are around the same age, and all of who are, yep you guessed it, completely in love with each other. So many love triangles, it's a mess. But luckily, everyone is still friends. And even better, Korean love is very pure and sweet and innocent, at least from what I've heard. A kiss on the cheek and you're practically engaged to be married. I'm always so very grateful for the relative innocence when it comes to dating in Korean society. It makes the law of chastity our easiest lesson to teach.
English Investigators
We found four more investigators this week, which brings us to a grand total of eight! We're growing our little investigator pool as fast as we can. But the unfortunate news is that all of our investigators have primarily English interest. Which isn't the worst, but also isn't exactly ideal. In fact, teaching English investigators is kind of like fighting with a two-year old about taking a nap. You encourage and you plead with him to take a nap. You explain that one day, when he's older, he will want that nap more than anything in the world, he'll rank sleep among his top five favorite things to do, and he'll feel as though he can never quite do it enough. But right then, as a clueless two-year old, he's not interested in naps. He just wants to stack his stupid blocks. Our job as missionaries is ultimately to help our investigators choose the nap, but we still humor them by stacking blocks together for a couple of hours. Just to make them happy.
Our little investigators are so sneaky though. They do everything to distract us from ending English time and starting gospel time. They give us food, they make us take pictures with them, they start talking about Exo. This week, one of our investigators even started showing us Piano Guys videos. Thank heavens, The Piano Guys are members of the church, so we could match her sneakiness by cleverly turning the conversation back to Christ with this: Thank heavens I watched this so many times in the MTC.
Remember Modern-Day Mulan?
I hope so because she's getting BAPTIZED THIS TUESDAY. YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY. 이희원 called me last night to tell me and we squealed with delight over our beautiful Chinese miracle. I don't think I'll have time to go, but pray that everything goes well for her and hopefully I can send you pictures next week.
The Importance of a Calling!
Yesterday we had an amazing experience with our recent convert, Grace. She's from the Phillippines and has only a few friends in the ward and doesn't really speak Korean, but yesterday she gave a talk in sacrament meeting (with 이예진 translating) and received a calling as the second counselor in the Primary presidency! She was happy to accept the call and it was so amazing to see the change in her as she stepped out of the bishop's office, with a stronger determination to find her place in the ward and to faithfully fulfill her calling. She started asking me the names of the Primary kids and began trying to talk to them in what little Korean she knew. It really strengthened my testimony about President Hinckley's counsel that every recent convert needs a friend, a knowledge of God's word, and a calling. Nothing can substitute the responsibilty, friendship, and joy that comes from serving others through a calling in the Church. I know that God knows us perfectly and He calls to the calling we're meant to fulfill and even with her limited knowledge of Korean, Grace will do wonders in the Primary. So do your callings! At least you don't have to do it in a foreign language.
아바 자매

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Down the Drain

DADDY! Happy Fathers' Day! If I were there at home today I hope we'd eat barbecue ribs in the backyard, play badminton, and listen to that Regina Spektor CD over and over and over again. I love you and I hope you had a happy day and that you didn't miss Nicky and me too much. Don't worry, we'll be home soon.
Good Stuff
Great news! We found some investigators this week! YAYAYAYAYAY. I knew they couldn't hide from us forever. It all started when we found this really old investigator in our Area Book (see! looking through the area book worked!) and then one thing led to another and we started teaching her and her sister English and her sister's two daughters English as well! And the gospel of course, but this week we didn't get much farther than, "Do you have a religion?" No. "Do you believe in God?" Also no. But it's not like I haven't heard that one before so I'll tell you how it goes! I'm so excited to teach them! The first lady we met (the one who was sort of an investigator in the past) used to attend English class at our church and meet with the elders back in the 90s. When we met with her this week she pulled out all these pictures of her, her kids, and the elders from, like, 1997. Ha. Fun fact. 1997 elders look exactly the same as 2014 elders. But the great part was that she remembered all their names and when they transferred and where they were from. It made me hopeful that since we were the first sister missionaries she'd ever met, she would one day feel the same way about us. And that one day when she talked about the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she would be a member! ^^
Fun Stuff
I learned some New Zealand slang! Since one of the elders in my ward is from New Zealand, he's been teaching me so slang and how to talk like a real New Zealander. And now I'll teach you!
New Zealand Slang: A List
skux - cool. And if you add another "x" and make it "skuxx" it's even cooler. or so i'm told.
hucks - dollars. Just like "bucks" but with an "h."
hardcase - funny
hard - I agree
honest - for sure
hoof - It stands for "honest over our friendship," but it means "Really for sure" or "Really?" Like one person could say to his friend, "I just found a million dollars!" And the friend would say, "Hoof?" "Hoof." I don't understand it either.
"She'll be all right." - "Everything will turn out okay."
Wow. They almost all start with "h." That's kind of weird. Must be a New Zealand thing.
Gross Stuff
I unclogged the drain! Momma, you would be so proud of me. I noticed that the drain in our bathroom wasn't working very well and as a result our entire bathroom kept flooding with water (remember, in Korea, the whole bathroom is the shower), so I set out to investigate! I began by removing the layer of soap and hair that covered the lid of drain. I thought that might be the problem, but I was still kneeling in an inch of water, so I delved a bit further. Within the drain, there was...another drain! Drain-ception! This drain had a lid too, so I again scraped off the layer of soap and hair in the hopes that at last the flood in our bathroom would decrease. But it didn't. Intrigued, I removed the lid from the second drain and found...another drain!  And do you know was was clogging the final drain? The biggest wad of soap and hair that I've ever had the misfortune to find. It was honestly the size of a large mouse (maybe it once was a large mouse), but I scooped it out like it was nothing. The bathroom flood receded, the drain gurgled happily, and I knelt on the tile floor clutching my soapy hairball, beaming and victorious.
As I was trying to get to sleep last night I began thinking, "How can I compare my drain experience with missionary work? After all, I need to end my email with something spiritual." And I figured it out! Are you ready? Here's my analogy.
Before I left home, I had only one desire for my mission--to help other people and to bring them the good news of the gospel. A good desire right? Kind of like my initial desire to unclog our drain. But as I got further and further into my mission, I realized that there is so much more to missionary work than I orginally thought. At least for me, it's not just teaching the gospel, but teaching English. It's not just learning Korean, but learning compassion. I wanted to help people, but sometimes I can't--I have to let them help me. Like my discovery of the second level of our drain, missionary work is far more complex than I ever imagined. Which is hard sometimes, but also good. And I know that my mission has even more in store for me--more challenges and more blessings than I haven't even considered yet. So I look forward to the day when I can look back on my mission and all the good it's brought me and clutch the metaphorical soap-scum hairball that is my mission, at last understanding how much I've learned and how much I've accomplished.
Did you like my analogy? I'm pretty happy with it. Someone should give me a Pulitzer.
Kay, I love you all!
Till next week,
아바 자매

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Oh the Places We'll Go

Korean Fun Fact #8: Places to Go!
Momma, you would love these places. It's like every craft-related thing you could possibly imagine all crammed into one store. Stickers, stationery, hair accessories, photo albums, inexplicably adorable smart phone cases. I remember the first time I stepped foot inside a 문구 I was like, "Oh. I get it now. This is why I was called to Korea."
Korean to the rest of the world as a karaoke room. Fun fact: Koreans love to sing! (This is made especially apparent at baptisms during that awkward period between the baptism and the closing remarks while the recent convert is drying her hair. While other people may plan a special musical number or video presentation, Koreans like to get up at random and sing a solo or a duet of their favorite hymns. It's just karaoke, but more spiritual.
Anyway back to 노래방s. Missionaries aren't allowed to go into them, but I imagine them as sound-proof rooms filled with brightly colored couches, disco lights, and a karaoke machine. You just go with your friends and sing and dance to your heart's content. I realize that this is exactly what my friends and I used to do in high school (okay, and maybe college too), but we would just sing and dance down in the basement. But since Koreans don't have basements, I suppose this is the next best alternative.
Where I am right now! Technically missionaries aren't allowed to go here either, but President gave us special permission because there's literally nowhere else to email in this town. They're exactly what you'd think--rooms filled with computers (and enormous monitors) where students and creepy middle-aged men come to play hours upon hours of World of Warcraft. They smell like stale sweatshirts and broken dreams.
As for the week, still no investigators. We have been trying though and we're not gonna stop! In an effort to find new people to teach we...
  1. Did a street survey activity with our district. Basically just questions about people's views on family and religion. Ha. But only sweet 할머니s and 할아버지s would talk to us because they're kind and old and slightly confused.
  2. Held a game night activity for the youth in the ward in the hopes that they would invite their non-member friends. But they didn't. ㅠㅠ
  3. Spent many a lunch and dinner hour reading through the area book in search of old investigators we could start teaching again.
The Area Book - (n) A huge binder filled with the names and records of people the missionaries in an area are teaching or have taught in the past.
In every record there are three major parts: how they met the missionaries, how they progressed during the lessons, and, if they stopped meeting with the missionaries, why.
Also keep in mind that these are handwritten records, most of them kept by 19 year old boys.
Can you here the exasperated tone in my typing?
Just to give you an idea of what reading through the area book is like, I've recorded a few of the gems I've come across this week.
How Did the Investigator Meet the Missionaries?
Most of it's here, yo. We 가가호호'd. he was gonna close the door. I said English. he said come in.
How Did the Investigator Accept the Message of the Gospel?
They asked good questions about ghosts.
Why Did the Investigator Stop Meeting with the Missionaries?
They wanted to drop the lessons. They said that they
I'm assuming this elder got a little distracted. Or maybe all the investigator said really was just, "                                                               ."
Anyway, reading the area book makes me feel a little like, "ASDFJKL;ALSDKFJOAIWEF" But then I read entries like this and I laugh:
He said the hard part about coming to church is his son. He said he'd feel bad if his son started to cry in the middle of sacrament meeting. I wish I could explain to him that no sacrament meeting is complete without a baby crying in the middle of it.
Area book nonsense aside, I know everything will work out soon. I promise, parents, I have learned a great deal about faith and patience on this mission of mine. And I think I'm also starting to trust more in the promises of the Lord. I found this scripture in my personal study this week:
D&C 75:2-5
"Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard. Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might--lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you. And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life."
I feel as though I have given my name in order to be a missionary. For these 18 months, I'm no longer Sydney or Syd or even Sister Arvanitas, but 아바 자매. But I also know that in exchange for my name, I have gained one much better--the name of Jesus Christ that I wear on my name tag every day--and surely that's a name worth wearing. I know that as long as I am diligent, as long as I am obedient, and as long as I am faithful, the Lord will keep His promises and all difficult things will work out in the end.
I love you dearly.
아바 자매

Sunday, June 1, 2014

He Lives!

Sydney asked me to wish her cousin, Collin, a Happy Birthday, so   HAPPY BIRTHDAY COLLIN!

I literally cannot organize my thoughts today. Forgive me as I just throw information about my week at you at random.
Missionary Work
Recent Converts: lots! Before I came, two new young women were baptized into the ward and they are lovely.
Less Actives: Sooooo many. Which is how it usually is, but the difference between here and my others areas is that the missionaries are actually able to frequently meet with the less-actives--great! But they still don't want to come to church--boo.
Investigators: Um. Zero. Like not even crappy investigators that you only count sometimes. We literally have no one new to teach. Please pray for us, it's hot outside.
A Suprise!
Elder Christoffersen came to Daejeon!(For those who don't know, Elder Christofferson is one of the 12 apostles to our Prophet.  It's a pretty big deal)  It was just like Mulan. He came riding in on this black horse and when he got to the front gate of the mission home, he jumped off the horse, threw his hands up, and with straw sticking out of his hair,and cried, "I'm here!"
Okay, that's not how it happened (but you can see it, right?^^). We've actually known he was coming since November, I've just completely forgotten to mention it in these emails all the weeks since then. But it was amazing (obviously) and he's really nice (again obviously); he actually kind of reminded me of Bishop Wahlstrom, so that was weird. Elder and Sister Maynes spoke as well, as did Sister Christoffersen. I'll give you a quick summary of what they each talked about because I can't think of any other way to explain the meeting.
Sister Maynes  - The progression desired and the personal progression acheived on a mission are between only the missionary and the Lord. Always remember that those who win are those who persist.
Elder Maynes - How to teach people who don't have a Christian background aka most of Korea. Start with the basics--God is our loving Heavenly Father. Even in the earliest days of the church, this is what the apostles taught. He spoke a lot about Acts 17 and Paul preaching about the Unknown God. Also Romans 8:16-17 and Alma 18:24. In order for anyone to understand the gospel, they need to understand the fundamentals--God is our Father in Heaven. He loves us because we are His children. He mentioned that it was interesting the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared directly to Joseph Smith, instead of sending a messenger. Even Joseph needed to first understand the true nature of God and His Son, Jesus Christ--separate beings, with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. Once we know the true nature of God and Jesus Christ, we can begin to understand Their purposes.
Sister Christoffersen - 2 Kings 4:1-7 the Lord gives us what we're prepared to receive. We need to have the humility to acknowledge that we cannot do this with the divine help of the Lord. We need to have gratitude for every little thing in our missions and we need to pay attention to the miracles, because they are many. And then she bore her simple testimony in the best Korean she could muster and it was beautiful.
Elder Christoffersen - He basically just answered our questions. Three cheers for my mission for asking good questions.
  1. How can we overcome the challenges and trials in our lives? We must rely on the Savior and His Atonement because we will have nothing else to rely on. He will help us through one day at a time.
  2. What must we do to love all men, especially our enemies? We come to love what, and whom, we serve. We must ask for the spiritual gift of charity and at all times remember the perfect example of Jesus Christ.
  3. How can we comfort them? (This question was in regard to the ferry) Weep with them. As it says in D&C 42:45, "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die." It's okay to grieve, but always remember that death is never the end. In fact, without death we would be stranded forever in mortality, unable to return to God and our heavenly home. And sometimes, there is a need in the spirit world for a member of each family to aid in the redemption of those still living on the other side of the veil (I thought of you at this part, Daddy). As missionaries we bring the message of the Plan of Salvation--hope to replace anguish, peace to replace despair.
  4. Will you bear your testimony of the Book of Mormon? "For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul." The Book of Mormon is the sickle. If our investigators would only read and earnestly pray about the Book of Mormon, every one of them would know. They may not choose to act, but they would know.
  5. What is the most important thing you learned on your mission? There were many things, but what I got from it was, "If we are diligent, we will obtain the blessings."
  6. How can we use our personal study time the most effectively? Focus on the time, not on the amount.
And then, as apostles do, he pronounced a blessing upon us that we would be able to receive light and knowledge from the scriptures, teach with convincing power, and most of all, understand that we are good enough. And that we should know that the Lord had accepted the work we were doing. As our time together came to a close, Elder Christoffersen bore his powerful testimony of the Savior. He said that we would never be all togehter like this ever again in this life, but that we would always remember this day and that, "you will remember that you heard me say,  in person, that He lives."
And He does.
Sister Arvanitas

When Heewon and I started serving in Sejong back in December, we looked at that fountain and said to each other, "we will never be here long enough to see that fountain turned on." and you know what happened on my last day in Sejong, six months later--the fountain turned on.^^

Last day with her English class

Last day with "Modern Day Mulan"

Last day with Heewon

Last day with Gongu sisters

"Sunny's" baptism

Wanna know why I don't have a Book a Mormon? because I gave it away! 아싸!

Me and my new companion, EeYeJin.

Guess who's in my zone now?   It's Pappa!