Sunday, September 28, 2014

Characters of Jeongup

Another week, another transfer, come and gone. I start transfer number TEN today. TEN. This week was great but I can't remember any specific events except that Sister M..... and I started listening to Christmas music. It's finally that time of year where you're just close enough in the ballpark of Christmas to not feel weird about listening to Christmas music. Also, who are we kidding, we live in Korea. We're not going to get to hear Christmas music at Christmastime anyway.

Moving on.
Today's topic is People in Sydney's Mission! I want to talk about them (gossip) because I do so far too seldom and sometimes I feel like I'm living in a particularly complex Dicken's novel with all of these wonderful characters but I never have the time to tell you about them all!

So here we go.
The Characters of Jeongup: A List of People I See Always

The District

Sister M....., my companion. You know her already, she's great, we have far too much fun together and we're working really hard to not lose sister missionaries in Jeongup. When things look really bleak we sing, "I will go down with this ship. I won't put my hands up and surrender..." It's a good time.

Elder Mac, the greenie. His name is Elder Mac as much as my name is Sister Abba. Meaning kind-of, sort-of, not-really-at-all. He has such magnificent greenie spirit. I love it. He baptized their investigator last week and he got all choked up while saying the baptismal prayer. It was beautiful.

Elder KimYoungChan, the Korean. I literally cannot describe KimYoungChan in any way other than the lyrics from that song in Beauty and the Beast, the one that goes, "There's something sweet and almost kind. But he was mean and he was cruel and unrefined. But now he's dear and so unsure. I wonder why I didn't see it there before." So yeah, that's KimYoungChan for you. I don't know how it happened, but he's become one of my favorite missionaries in the mission.

The Investigators
Warning: Almost all of them are English investigators. Yay.

Chloe. Not her real name, but let's pretend. She's the girl who's dad we met walking home and she's kind of progressing!!!! We had this really cool moment with her the other day while we were introducing the Book of Mormon. After we explained how the Book of Mormon was written by prophets down through the ages and was preserved perfectly and completely she said, "So if some of the truths from the Bible were lost, then this book, perfectly preserved through history, would be able to explain and expound the correct truths found in the Bible!" YESYESYESYES. I could have hugged her!

PooRun and TehOong (oh goodness, Korean names written in romanization). They're brother and sister and we've been teaching them since I got here. They met with missionaries last year too and they still remember so much! They love the missionaries but they're not really progressing towards baptism...

EeSeungHi and EeJeongOak. We've also taught them since I got here. There sisters in their 40s and 50s. We have to drop them this week because it has become abundantly clear that they love us and they love hearing nice messages, but they still don't believe in God and probably won't progress any time soon. It's sad because we love them, but they're just not willing to change right now and love English waaaaaay too much. But maybe one day they'll be ready.

ChangHyunChung. Another eternal investigator. Oh no, I just realized how many of those we have. That's not good. She loves the missionaries and can really feel the missionary spirit, but she just won't come to church. Soooo frustrating. She probably won't progress anytime soon, but her kids definitely might!

ShinSungEun. Our recent convert's friend that she referred to us forever ago. She was set to be baptized....until she had to ask permission from her mom. Not good. Now she's not even allowed to come to church, but she made it out to English class this week. Things look bad now, but we'll never give up!

The Random People We Met This Week

The Vietnamese Ladies. So we were walking home and while we were waiting at the stoplight we noticed these three tiny women taking a picture. Sister Matsen offered to take the picture for them so all three could be in it, but they didn't understand a word she said. She tried again. Still nothing. We both started to panic because oh no, what if we somehow have been speaking unintelligible Korean this whole time?! (Likely) But no, they were just Vietnamese! So cute! They didn't speak any English or any Korean, but they somehow got us to take a picture, not of them, but with them. It was quite the heart-warming experience. We were sad because we figured they were just traveling and that we would never see them again, but we saw one of them yesterday and we're pretty sure she lives in our apartment complex! Now we just need to learn Vietnamese!

The Woman 목사님 (Minister). We were sitting on a bench waiting for a bus, but it was becoming more and more obvious that we'd already missed the bus and that we ought to just start walking and move on with our lives. But for some reason I wanted to wait a little bit longer (from my last area I learned to have an unfailing hope thateventually all buses will come). While we waiting, a woman came and sat down next to us. We started talking and turned out she was a 목사님! We were a little apprehensive because this is usually when the yelling begins, but she was so nice to us. We even got her number! Before her bus came, I wanted to give her something, but not the usual pamphlet or pass-a-long card because everyone I give those to just throws them away. I was holding this Liahona because I had planned on reading a story from it to a member we were going to go visit (the reason why we were waiting for the bus in the first place).(The Liahona is a magazine we have for church but here in the states, it's called The Ensign) It had the beautiful picture on the cover of Peter, James, and John giving Joseph Smith the Melchizedek Priesthood. The 목사님 lady kept glancing at it and I was like, "Why not! Everybody loves the Liahona!" So I gave it to her. She was so happy.

But it was as we were walking away that it dawned on us. "We just gave a Liahona about the priesthood to a woman 목사님." Bahaha. Whoops. Talk about giving the meat before the milk.

Oh missions. How I love mine.
And I love you too!

Happy General Conference! Watch all the sessions, it's worth it I promise.
And many prayers for Brother Wejner and all of Cranberry Ward. 
I love you all lots and lots.

Sister Arvanitas

Adorable baby at church

Monday, September 22, 2014

News and a miracle


1. Transfer calls came today. I'm not leaving! Hooray! Sister M..... and I won't be one transfer companions! The unfortunate news is that our district got split and now we're a district of four. Just us and the elders. Either we'll become really close and love it or we'll kill each other. I'll let you know how it goes.

2. I've decided when to come home! Actually I decided a long time ago, I just never said anything about it. Sorry. Anyway, I prayed and I prayed and I wondered and I waited. Logically, December 18th is the better choice. I could be home for Christmas, I could go to winter semester, I could finally eat a hamburger again, but the answer kept coming back January 29th. So I'm going to go with that and hope all will be well. But I am officially declaring February 7th as Christmas 2.0. So family, don't take down the Christmas decorations. And be ready to watch movies and celebrate Christmas all over again. Just in February.


We were 전도ing this week and we saw this lady walking just behind us, so we slowed down our pace a little so she could catch up to us and we could talk to her without being awkward. Well, as awkward. (Sidenote: 전도ing takes so much skill. It's all about timing mixed with a little bit of stalking). Anyway we started talking and it turns out she was a devout member of the Hallelujah! Church (spelled just like that, with the exclamation point and everything), so of course we were a little apprehensive because usually these people turn out to be the Bible-bashers who quote Revelations 22:18 at us and flail their arms about in anger. But she didn't do that! She was actually way nice and we had a great conversation about God and doctrine and religion and then she asked us if we had eaten dinner (in Korea, that's the same as asking "How are you?" It's just the question you always ask). We had, so we said so, but she told us that we had eaten way too early and that we needed to eat dinner again. So she invited us to come with her because she was going to meet friends for dinner anyway and what the heck why don't the Mormon missionaries come along too?

So we did.
(Plus there's no refusing Korean 아주마s. You do what they tell you and you like it.)

So we walked with her to this beautiful, little Japanese restaurant and met all her friends (also devout members of various churches; we were slightly concerned). Since there was no room and we were the unexpected extras, they made us sit at a different table, but we were still close enough to hear them talking about us. Awkward. They weren't mean though. One lady even said, "Oh, I've seen those Mormon missionaries before! The elders are always very handsome." Sister M..... and I giggled quietly into our miso soup. After our random second dinner was over (which was delicious by the way, the best Japanese food I've ever eaten including that one time I lived in Japan) we tried to get our new friend's phone number/give her ours so we could see her again. But she wouldn't! She said she just wanted to buy us a nice second dinner and then send us on our merry way. Unfortunately, in this country, that's pretty common. Really, really kind, but really uninterested in the gospel. We left a little defeated and incredibly full.

But then comes the miracle part of the story. While we were walking home, we suddenly crossed paths with one of the other ladies from dinner! What are the odds! We stopped and chatted for a little and then, out of nowhere, she looked right at us and said, "My mother-in-law just moved in with me and my husband and life has been really hard lately. At church, they always tell you that in times like these, you should pray and rely on God more, but I don't feel like praying at all. Why is that? Why don't I want to pray?" Well, I wish I could say that I just whipped out 2 Nephi 32:8-9, (And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.)but I didn't because I couldn't remember it. But we did promise her right then and there that God understood all of her trials and troubles and that His Son, Jesus Christ had suffered and died for them. And then we gave her a Book of Mormon and marked 2 Nephi 9:21( 21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.)and she promised to read it.

I just love missionary miracles like that! So many plot twists.


I hope you all have beautiful weeks! Enjoy your fall leaves and I'll enjoy mine.
Together and apart!

Sister Arvanitas


We were just wandering around, looking for less actives one day and we stumbled upon this. little america. We both felt like we'd stepped into an episode of the twilight zone.

Accidentally matching outfits. Not a whole lot of options in a sister missionary's wardrobe.

We were practicing our musical number for the elder's baptism yesterday (which was so good by the way!) and a member walked in with a puppy! It was so tiny and cute. We made it sing with us. ^^

                                   Another picture of how beautiful our area is

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Than a Mountain

Family! And others.
I don't even know what to say about this week. It was so good though, but Sister Matsen and I just got back from hiking Mount Nejang (내장산) and we are darn.tired. I forgot my planner, so I'm not too sure what happened this week so I think I'm just going to talk about my year-in-the-country mark and then leave you with a ton of pictures. 알았지?

I've lived in Korea for a year! WOWOWOW. I made a list about the effect it's had on me.

1. I am so good at making rice now. So good. I know how many times you need to wash it before you can cook it, what kind of nuts to cook with it to make it taste even better, and even what to do when the uncooked rice gets infested with bugs, which happens a lot more often than I am yet comfortable with.
2. I like sharing now! In case you didn't notice, I wasn't that big of a fan of it before. But a huge part of Korean culture is sharing things with others, especially food. At first I thought it was weird when my Korean companion would not only share her food with me, but literally feed it to me. But it's just the Korean way of showing extra love. So if I ever physically put delicious food into your mouth, don't be alarmed, it's just love!
3. I think I might have forgotten how to use a fork.
4. I've eaten so much ramen. SO MUCH RAMEN. I don't even like to think about what a dent all of it has made in my life expectancy. It's been delicious though.
5. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to get out of the habit of bowing. Once I come home, it's going to be such an awkward problem, I just know it. I'm sorry in advance.

I know there's more, but I forgot my actual list at home. Maybe next week though.

But to tell you a little more about today. It was incredibly, incredibly beautiful. I wish every one of you could have been up there with us (but also kind of glad that you weren't because there wasn't exactly a ton of room up there). Once we made it to the top we said a prayer, sang some hymns (because that's what missionaries do!), and just gazed at all those green mountains. But the best part wasn't even the peak, but before, at the base. There was this little Buddhist temple there and we stopped by to look around. The sweetest little old man (with the cutest little-old-man nose) popped his head out of the gazebo overlooking the view and invited us in. He was pleasantly surprised that we spoke Korean so he showed us the secret of the mountain. He had us lie down on our backs and look at the mountain upside-down--it made everything was different! Instead of a big, scary mountain with cloudy skies above, we saw a sky of rock and trees and the most perfect mountain of puffy white clouds. I can't really explain why yet, but I think it was one of my favorite moments on my mission. Then, as we continued to talk to this sweet Buddhist man I had the most wonderful realization. Heavenly Father loved this little old man more than the whole mountain. This one little, old man. He loved him more than all the mountains (cloud-filled or otherwise) because he was His child and he had the potential to become so much more.  Surely God's grandest creations are His children. 

Sister Arvanitas

The Stream

Waiting to renew our visas

Also it poured while we were walking home. But at least I saved my scriptures.
We did clay masks

One of our members gave us all these crabs. We tried (and failed) to cook them.

 There are these picture places here that you can go and take pictures with your friends. Sometimes they turn out like this.

Happy Year Mark to me!

I was trying to make my arms wiggly like the tree.

The lake. All of those trees are maple trees. Will we be coming back in October? YES.

The Entrance

 The most terrifying buddha of our missions. Also there were three more of them.

 We took a break and ate some banana kick (like cheese puffs, only banana-flavored and a thousand times more delicious).

Made it to the top!

So tired.

"I can see America from here!"

But so cool!

Sister M.....

 I think I'll always remember this country looking just like this.
And then some meditation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Korean Thanksgiving

 It was a year ago, today, that Sydney called us from the airport.  She was off to Korea that day!  I can't believe a year has passed since she went to Korea.  Time has flown by and yet, some days, it seems to stand still.    I know she has loved her mission, even the hard days.  It's hard to believe that in a few short months, she'll be back on that plane and headed home.  

추석이다! Happy Korean Thanksgiving! Last year on 추석 I was watching my trainer Skype her family while simultaneously  trying to learn the Korean word for "house." And now my trainer is at home spending the holiday with her family and I know two Korean words for "house!" Isn't it strange that life just carries on? This year, Sister Matsen and I are celebrating Korean Thanksgiving by refusing to wear makeup and watching Mormon Messages at the church. We're excited.
This week was the week of miracles! 
1. I renewed my visa without my passport. This doesn't sound too amazing, but believe me it was a miracle. It was such a big deal that I didn't have it (I'll tell you the story once I return to the faraway place called "home") and I was silently praying the whole time that the man at the international office wouldn't notice and he didn't. While he was stamping my visa for another six months, I felt like I was flying.
2. My companion and I finished weekly planning within the allotted three hour time limit. Thank. Heavens.
3. Yesterday we were invited to two meal appointments because it was a holiday (Korean Thanksgiving lasts for three days. Isn't that the best?) and we had to eat so. much. food. Between an enormous lunch and an even bigger dinner I prayed that the four missionaries in our ward would be able to be hungry again and that none of us would throw up. And we didn't! Though there was a scary moment when it looked like the greenie was almost definitely going to. But he pulled through.
4. On Saturday we were finally able to meet with this less-active woman in our ward who we haven't been able to meet for the past two transfers. It went so well. We ate lunch, talked about her new boyfriend (the sort-of reason why we hadn't been able to see her for so long), and we shared my message about how the Book of Mormon testifies of the Bilble (see my email from a couple weeks ago). This less-active absolutely loved it and said that she felt like she finally understood the Book of Mormon. Considering that she's never actually read the Book of Mormon, I was very pleased! Baby steps. While we were leaving, she invited us back for next week and we considered it a very successful meeting. But we weren't sure just how successful a meeting until she called us the following morning (Sunday) and said that she and her boyfriend would be coming to church. WHAT. My brain was like, "Jubilation! They're coming to church! I'm down on the floor and I'm laughing!" But seriously, what a miracle! And an even bigger miracle is that they actually came! Just like they said. It was beautiful because I'm pretty sure this less-active hadn't to been to church in ten to twenty years. (Ha. I'm not sure on the numbers.) But the members welcomed her back with joy and warmth for they loved her still. They sat next to us during the meeting and her boyfriend was so nice and humble. He sang all the hymns (which is good), bowed really low to everyone he was introduced to (even better), and looked through the Book of Mormon (best!). There was this really cool moment when his less-active girlfriend even explained the Book of Mormon to him. I was so happy, I wanted to weep. Hopefully they come back next week.
Before I go, I want to share this scripture: D&C 67:13-14 "Continue in patience until ye are perfected. Let not your minds turn back; and when ye are worthy, in mine own due time, ye shall know." I know so much that God knows the end from the beginning! Our perspective on his plan is so short and so narrow, but He has it all worked out and if we trust Him and are patient, one day we too can know. 
Okay, this PC방 is too hot and I have Mormon Messages to watch!
I love you!
Sister Arvanitas

Monday, September 1, 2014

Some of my favorite things

Thanks for all the emails! I love emails! There are so many things happening with your lives! I'm so happy!
I don't even know what this week was so I'm just going to start by sharing an excerpt from my journal.
Five people came to English class today and they were all adult men. We made them play musical chairs.
So yeah. The week was pretty much just like that.
A Question From My Mom. "What are some of your favorite things about being a missionary in Korea?"
1. People are nice here! Seriously, if you're afraid of cruel rejection and hostility as a missionary, then pray you get called to Korea. People won't listen, but they won't throw rocks at you either (like you, Daddy)! I can think of only a handful of instances in which people here have been downright rude to me and none where anyone has been hostile. I mean, they call us 이단 (cult) a lot, but it's more like a half-hearted, automatic thing than any expression of real hatred. So that's good.
2. As I mentioned before, I love how small the wards are because it gives missionaries a chance to really get to know all the members really well. We visit the members a lot here and it's such a blessing because it gives us the opportunity to get to know their families on a very personal level. Some of the most valuable things I've learned on my mission, I've learned from the members!
3. The apartments we live in are really nice and really peaceful. It's kind of silly, but it's so important for missionaries to live somewhere peaceful and clean! Especially when they're always trying to feel the Spirit, especially during personal study.
4. We don't have to drive a car! Walking and figuring out the bus system is hard, but driving a car would stress me out like nothing else.
Book of Mormon Testimonies
Recently, every time Sister Matsen and I do FHE with a family in our ward, we've been bringing Book of Mormons and asking their children to write their testimonies in them and then either give them to us to give away on the street or, even better, to give to their friends! Their testimonies are just so wonderful and so cute that I wanted to share some with you. ^^
HyunAh age 7 (American age)
"I love the Book of Mormon. I know it is true. My name is HyunAh and I am nine. When I want to say a bad word, I read the Book of Mormon. So that's good. I know I need to love my parents. It would be good if they never died. 아빠, 엄마 파이팅! (This part is just too cute to ruin with English)." Also she wrote this in rainbow colored pencil.
HyunJun age 9
"If you read this book, you can understand God and Jesus Christ. Even though this book is long, if you read it a little every day you will one day have read it all. It's like how a speck of dust eventually becomes a mountain. Even if at first you can't understand this book, if you read it all you will understand. The end."
HyunOo, age 11
"Hello. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our family reads this book every night. If you read this book you will have a good feeling and your heart will feel peace. Please definitely read this book."
Aren't they cute?
Our Bishop the greatest. Ever. I don't know if I'll ever be able to adequately explain just how wonderful he is so that all of you can understand. You'll just have to meet him in real life. But here's a list. Lists help.
1. His motto: "The more investigators missionaries have, the more happiness they have. You don't look happy enough. We'll find you more investigators."
2. Once in ward council he said our phones weren't suited well enough to missionary work and then he promised to get us iPhones.
3. He loves this ward and wants to see it do well.
4. He's so calm and gentle. Like a lamb. Which is probably why his last name is 양. Bahahaha. Korean joke. I just high-fived myself.
5. Yesterday, in the combined meeting with the ward third hour, he talked only about missionary work. What he said went something along the lines of: "Look at our beautiful sister missionaries, Abba and Matsen. They are more beautiful than all the other sister missionaries in all the other areas. We are so lucky to have them. But do you know how many investigators they have? Zero. The sisters have no investigators. This ward fought so hard to get sister missionaries, but now there aren't enough sisters in the Daejeon Mission and we may lose sisters from this ward. Our sisters may disappear because they have no one to teach. And why don't they have anyone to teach? Because we haven't been sharing the gospel with our friends and then referring them to the missionaries. So let's start referring. Also go to English class because we love Matsen and Abba and want them to stay forever."
Ha. The thing is we do have investigators. None of them are progressing right now, but I promise we are teaching someone. But what the bishop said is 100% true. The steady wave of new sisters coming into our mission abruptly stopped a while ago and we haven't had many greenie sisters since. Sister missionaries our being pulled out of a lot of the areas and 정읍(Jeongeup) is definitely on the chopping block. It's terrifying. I mean, I think we're like third or fourth in line, but if we don't prove that sisters here are necessary then I'm afraid we'll be one of the first to go. 
But we did see a miracle this week! A new investigator! We were just walking home from district meeting and then this old man starts walking with us and we get to talking and it turns out his daughter just came back from America a year ago and needs someone with whom she can practice English. Well guess what, we're good at English! Also the gospel! We met her last week and she so cute. Her English name is Chloe and she believes in God. YAYAYAYAYAY. We can work with that!
Okay, gotta go.
Love you, bye.
Sister Arvanitas.