Monday, October 27, 2014

Short letter and lots of Pictures

Before her letter I'll share a few messages she sent separately.  She didn't write a long letter but, prepare for picture overload at the end.  She's down to her last 3 months.  Holy Cow!  That means only 12 more letters left.  Crazy!

Maddie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK. When I saw that you're turning fourteen, I fainted. But now I'm back and I'm typing this email. I love you and I can't wait to see you! I bought you lots of fun Korean things today and I'll give them to you when I get home on Christmas 2.0!

Grandma Bonnie and Grandpa Gray, I got your packages!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH. I love you and I love the scarf you picked out, it's beautiful! I'll wear it this week and take a picture. I love you both and hope you're well.

I can't remember a whole lot from this week other than going on a split, making decorations for the Halloween party, and a few appointment here and there. It was a great week though and a couple of our investigators are even progressing! Fatima watched the Joseph Smith movie twice she liked it so much and when we taught her the Plan of Salvation this week we taught a little bit about the temple too. The first thing she said was, "Wow! I want to go to the temple!" And we were like, "You can! But first please come to church." But she didn't. We'll keep trying though.

Lately I've been reading through D&C because I'm trying to like it as much as I like the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, but I'm still not quite there yet. But I did find a nice little scripture in Section 90, verse 24, "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good."

I love that. "Be believing." Belief is so much more than what we have, it's who we are. The Lord expects us to believe, because when we do, we can trust in His blessings and find the hope we need to carry on. So let's be believing! Because we are promised that if we are, all things will work together for our good.

I love you!
Sister Abba.

BABIES! I went on a split this week in 전주 and we went to visit the bishop's wife. She's in her mid-thirties, but she has seven children all under the age of eight and four of them are twins. We played with her youngest set of twins and helped her move furniture around. It felt good to be useful. ^^

 My companion for the day. She was actually the MTC companion of my old companion's (이희원) older sister. Weird, right?


Korea has these fun suction cups things that are supposed to relieve the strain off your back and neck. Our less-active had them and you bet we took pictures.

 I made all these ghosts for the Halloween party! They look like ghosts, right? Kimyoungchan keeps saying they look like squids...

We came to 중앙 for P-day today! The fall leaves are looking beautiful! We plan to go to Nejangsan next week (as is the rest of Korea, I'm sure) so hopefully I'll have lots of pictures to send of the maple leaves. They haven't quite changed yet, but they're getting there.

A cute little neighborhood in joongang. All the walls are painted!

I want to live here!

This girl likes bibimbab!

 Terrifyingly festive E.T.

 A Kung Fu panda noodle restaurant!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Journal entries for the win!

Sydney could use an extra prayer or two.  She is having a rough time with a certain area of missionary work.  She is happy, just struggling with something.  Please keep her in your prayers so she can get the answers she needs.  

Today's just going to be a "type-up my journal entries from the week" kind of day. Nicky, you can copy me on this one too.

October 13th
Went to Sangdong (a place), gave a message card to M.... (a person), and got food in return. I love her little sister M....... so much though. She reminds me of Maddie. We visited G.... too. She's not dead, she just changed her phone number and "forgot" to tell us. Good good.

October 14th
I didn't write in my journal this day, but here's a picture of Elder H....

Enough said.
Oh, also Daddy I ate 비빔밥 (bibimbap) for you! I love 비빔밥. And I love you too!

October 15th
Wake up, studies, lunch. We had no food because we didn't get a chance to go grocery shopping, but somehow we made ourselves a meal out of what we found leftover in our cupboards. [Insert Series of Unfortunate Events reference here.] Miracle. 
Went to the 문구 (stationery store) to buy construction paper so we could start making decorations and invitations for the Halloween party. We went to F.....'s too and set up a different time to meet since Sundays clearly aren't working. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she was so happy because since she moved here she doesn't even have a Bible. We promised to get her one of those too. I just hope she reads the Book of Mormon we gave her. I feel like she's really prepared, but I've felt that about other investigators too and things never really ended as well as I wished. But maybe this time...

October 16th
We went to see F..... again today and finally taught her the first lesson. She read some of 3 Nephi 11 and she liked it! Before we could really start the lesson, her friend J.... came in. He's also from the Philippines (obviously) and went to Catholic school his whole life, so we were a liiiitttle apprehensive that our lesson might turn into a Bible-bash, but he was totally cool and backed us up on everything we said. In Tagalog! He even said he'd be happy to accept a Book of Mormon too and that he was thankful to us for teaching the word of God. We were pretty thankful too.

At night we met with HeaHyun (she's preparing to serve a mission too) and showed her what it's like to have companion study--aka, completely hectic and off-topic and by the end you still have no idea how you're going to teach your investigator. We ended up talking about her  boyfriend who lives in America. Good times. She came with us to teach our investigator, M.... though and she was such a big help. She has such a testimony! And she's not afraid to share it. She'll make an incredible missionary.

October 17th 
Not a bad day. We tried to visit B...., the Unknown Inactive and give him a picture of Jesus, but he wouldn't come and talk to us, so we just sat in his cafe, ate our over-priced sandwiches, and listened to Jack Johnson. Then we went and did what we've been doing all week--visited F.....! It's so easy because she just sits in her shop and waits for customers to come in, so we sometimes sit with her and talk about spiritual things. We've already met so many fun people from all over the world. Thrift shops for the win.

October 18th 
Studies, cancelled appointment, English class. I forgot to count this week, but I'm pretty sure M... used at least twenty different idioms today. I can't understand how he memorizes them so fast. I know at least five of the ones he used. I love M... though. He's by far my favorite part of English class. After class we went to visit, you guessed it, F.....! She's asked us to stop by every day, so we do. Hopefully she's not sick of us yet. We ordered chicken for dinner, helped her with Korean, and showed her lots of Mormon Messages since she likes watching movies so much. We read some of 3 Nephi 11 together and asked her to keep reading. We also committed her to watch the Joseph Smith movie. I know I've complained about that movie before, but now I take it all back! It's so good! By the time we left and were on the bus going to G....'s, she had already started watching it. She texted that it was "a really nice movie, all about the ups and downs of being a prophet." I love her!

Which brings us to G..... Oh, how my heart is broken over G..... Her life is so hard and she is just so sad. She doesn't really want to come to church in Korea anymore because she can't understand and, honestly, I don't blame her. She's planning on going home soon and I really hope she can. I'm just so sick of unhappy endings.

October 19th
I hate this day.

[But lots of good things happened yesterday too, so I'll tell you about them. I'm going to edit out all the rest though. Yesterday wasn't the best of days...]

Good Things
1. Showing up to church early and finding three new investigators just waiting for us. This lady from Salt Lake brought her nieces and nephew to come learn English (but really the gospel) from the missionaries. They had to leave before the meeting started, but we did get to teach them the first lesson and set up an appointment for next week. When they left, the member from Salt Lake patted me on the shoulder and said, "Thank you. I knew the missionaries could help."
2. No one we invited came to church, but JunHo sat next to me during all of sacrament meeting. We sang hymns together and I whispered to him about remembering Jesus when we take the bread and water. I imagined all the people, who spoke during General Conference about the sanctity of the sacrament,would have been proud of me. Since the rest of the meeting was incredibly boring, especially for a seven year-old, I had him draw me pictures with my scripture markers. He's probably my favorite member ever.
3. Crying in the bathroom and a hug from PakYooJin.
4. Reading "Missionary Work and the Atonement" during companion study.
5. Fasting

And there you have, the (much) edited version of my journal this week. All the ups and downs of being a missionary. I still love it though.
Love, Sister Arvanitas

Monday, October 13, 2014

General Conference was great!

Wow, what a conference! I, for one, loved every second of it. My last conference as a missionary. Booo. I like to categorize my three mission General Conferences like this: October 2013 Comfort: I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee, April 2014 Courage: Defend Your Faith, and October 2014 Constancy (sorry I couldn't think of another good "C" word): Find Your Personal Testimony. Or else.

I loved it so much! I think this conference was really centered on our personal faith as individual members. I couldn't name a favorite talk, or even a favorite session, but I do have lots of favorite moments--when Elder Oaks laughed twice during the story he toldwhen normally soft-spoken Elder Scott strongly said, "Do it!" while talking about studying the scriptures, and of course when those little Korean girls sang, "I Love to See the Temple" and Sister Burton thanked them and said she loved them in Korean! I love Linda K. Burton. And so does Korea! But I'll have to tell you about the specifics of what I liked next time because I forgot to bring all my notes with me. Sister M..... and I have already printed out a few of the talks and have started studying them again. Remember Conference doesn't help you if you just listen to it once. Our leaders words are what God would have us know today so study their words like the scriptures long after Conference is over!

This week in bullet points:
  • We had a great FHE this past Monday. The family we visited is already incredibly strong in the gospel so for our message we shared with them what we saw as their spiritual gifts! They were so happy! So I have a challenge for you: look for spiritual gifts in the people you love and then tell them about them! It makes everyone happy and more aware of the strengths Heavenly Father has given them.
  • We had our first tiny, four-person district meeting and it was actually kind of wonderful. So much Spirit! Tiny districts for the win.
  • We had a Book of Mormon 전도 challenge with the elders. Whoever gives away the most Book of Mormons by the end of the day wins! We lost 4-5, but we had so many spiritual, faith-building experiences and saw lots of little miracles throughout the day. Though now we have to buy the elders ice cream.
  • We went to English class in Kimje (the area right next to ours) in order to help the elders teach English, but ended up teaching their investigators the gospel! It was incredible. We sat down across from these two women, expecting to help them practice their English conversation skills but instead the first thing they said to us was, "Why did you choose to serve a mission? Will you share your testimony?" We were completely floored. At first I thought they were members, then I thought maybe they were sent by President Shin so I started looking for the hidden cameras. But they were neither, just the elders investigators who both truly want to know. We both bore our testimony and the four of us became instant friends. Hopefully we can teach them again next week!
  • We went to the 구절초 축제 (famous flower show) with a member and it was absolutely beautiful. Every day I become more grateful that I was called to serve here.
  • As I said above, Conference was wonderful!
Sorry this is short, but I love you lots!
See you next week!
Sister Sydney

 There was this inactive member that the elders found. He works in a cafe and is the nicest guy ever. When we went for a cup of hot chocolate, he made this for us.

Danger in all directions.

This week we were planning the ward's Halloween party. Kimyoungchan suggested that we dress me up like a pinata, tape candy to my clothes, and let the ward children chase me around with sticks. Um, no.

Waiting at a bus stop will define my mission.

Like a postcard

 Me and Sista Matty. It's a miracle that we managed to keep our eyes open in this picture. That sun was so bright. "해보다도 더 밝은."

Our member took us to the flower show! Jeongup is so beautiful.

 I like it when the Chinese characters look like smiley faces.

"I saw a pillar of light..." okay, I'll stop now.

Me and this chicken! There was a garden full of wooden zodiac animals. So I found mine and took a picture. 

This little boy, Junho. I love him so much. At church we always follow him around outside and he teaches us about bugs and nature. I have many adorable videos of him we can watch when I get home.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week of Miracles

I hope you all had a splendid conference. No I did not watch it, but I hopefully I will soon. Send me all your thoughts from your favorite talks!
This week was the week of miracles! So many good things happened. We saw big miracles, little miracles, less-active miracles, pizza miracles. It was a veritable smorgasbord of miraculous missionary wonder.

The Miracle of Pizza Boy 

We were on the train home from Zone Conference, which was in Daejeon (Nick and Daddy, I bought you ties!), and Sister M...... was telling me the plot to She's the Man (we tell each other movie plots a lot. We've already made it through all the movies that one of us or the other of us haven't seen (wow grammar), so now we just tell each other about the movies we've both already seen). Anyway there was this boy on the train and we noticed him move from his seat to the one behind him so that he was sitting across the aisle from us. Then, out of nowhere, he offered us a slice of Costco pizza and a bottle of soda. He spoke to us in English and said, "This is Korean pizza and this (holding up the soda) tastes kind of like Sprite? Would you like to eat it?" Um, heck yes we would.

And then we talked for a while and found out that was going home to Mokpo and that he was really interested in learning English from the missionaries. So we got his number and referred him to the elders there. And it turned out that the Mokpo elders had been fasting for referrals that day. Miracles abounding!

The Miracle of 이승희

This week we had to drop our investigator 이승희. We've been teaching her since I got here, but it's been clear for a while that although she loves us and will listen to the missionary lessons, her interest is almost entirely English. Story of my life. So we set an end date for our lessons with her and this past week we finally reached the end of the road. I'm not gonna lie, it was really sad. I felt like we had failed her, but I also felt like she had failed us too. We bore our final testimonies to her and then asked her to say the closing prayer. I was crying by now, as I usually do (I don't know if it's the mission or just me but I am an incredibly emotional person. What's happening to me?!?!) and as 이승희 bowed her head to say her last prayer with us, she started crying too. But when she prayed, for the first time she really prayed. I felt it and I know she did too. She was having a conversation with God and it was so, so beautiful. After it was over, we hugged each other tight and she said something very touching to me. "한국 엄마, 미국 딸." (Korean mother, American daughter). I don't know if anything will ever happen with her, but I hope she always remembers how much we loved her. I know I will.

The Miracle of 김제니 

Our less-active of over twenty years!!!! I know I've talked about her before. She came to church again this week and she bore her testimony. It was the greatest ever. I don't know what it was, but this week all of sudden she started asking us questions about to bear her testimony and what she needed to do and if it were okay that she didn't know that much about the Book of Mormon yet. We assured that she could bear her testimony on whatever gospel-related thing she wished. And she did! She got up there and told the ward how much she loved them and that she was sorry she had been coming out for so long. She said she loves the Church for it's purity and it's focus on families. She truly knows that we are all brothers and sisters, children of God, and she has felt the love of a family she's never really had when she is among members of the Church. Ah! I just love her so much and am so proud of her!

Missionary work is the greatest! 
I love you all!

Sister Arvanitas 

Sydney's zone.  Sorry it's blurry. 

So many people she likes, stuffed in one picture.  

I found a cactus garden in Korea!

A sister in their ward

Amongst the flowers

And in the sunshine