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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The city is different but good

안녕 친구.

First off, Grandma Bonnie happy birthday!!! I will be sending you a letter today because today is a letter-sending kind of P-day. I love you!!!

Nicky, I'm sorry you're kind of, sort of staying in Celaya. And that you're zone leader. But I believe in you!! Hopefully your (sort-of) new area is nicer. Love you, kid.

Another week here the big city. So many buses. That's all I can think, every day. Bus after bus after bus. After spending the majority of my mission in areas that have only one main bus that we ride every day, this place is crazy. It is incredibly convenient though, so public transportation for the win.

This week we met with investigators. Guys, I have more than one investigator that has interest outside of English! YAYAYAYAY. I'll tell you about them with secret code names.

MJ. A referral from Temple Square. Yes, you read that right. Isn't that awesome? She was just visiting America with her brother this summer and her brother's friend (a return missionary no doubt) suggested that they visit the historic sights at Temple Square, and so they did! MJ loved it and wanted to learn more, so the Temple Square sisters referred her to us. And guess what? This week we set a baptismal date with her! Hopefully it works out, though she's still a little too shy (nervous? lazy?) to come to church. But let that be a lesson about the importance of Temple Square sisters. Their efforts can work miracles!

MiO. This lady in her 50s who met with the missionaries once a long time ago and decided to call us up and meet with us again. She's an English investigator, but has a ton of questions and religious interest. Part of the reason why she called us is that she started thinking about attending a church, but she didn't know which one to join (sound familiar?). She went to one with her friend and because she's, you know, worried about the state of her immortal soul and stuff, she asked the minister how she could gain salvation. He told her that by listening to his sermons every week, her salvation was secure. Just like that! Well, MiO wasn't satisfied with such a quick fix. Plus she didn't feel very saved so she called us and we've been teaching her about the Atonement of Christ and repentance and baptism. I'm not sure she completely understands yet, but we're working it on it. ^^

Pongo and Perdita (i think i'm hilarious). A married couple! We have family investigators. All my dreams from The District are coming true! They have three little boys who are crazy wild, but they want to raise them well and fix their marital problems, so what better cure than the gospel! They are perhaps some of the most humbling investigators of my mission. I don't want to mess up or lose them! I just want them to be sealed as a family and be happy in the gospel forever and ever.

I'll keep doing my best! Though any advice is always appreciated.
I love you all so much.

Sister Arvanitas

A lot of these pictures are right before she left her last area.  There are a few at the end of the new area she is in.  
The District (her old one)

Saying "goodbye" to some of my favorites.

 Our old investigator took us out to the "lunch of a thousand 반찬." (side dishes)

 One last picture of Sister M..... and a crab.

 Our Filipina investigator, Fatima. Her last words to me were, "You take care always." I LOVE HER.

A final 신권 모임. I miss them already.

My favorite family and the cake they gave me.

. The hairball we'd been growing. (Um, gross!)

A dramatic farewell to 정읍.

 Sad to be separated.

Our church. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

English class with small children. They could not get that last letter. We even told them the word in Korean and they started shouting, "M! it's M!" "no, H! H! it's definitely H!" Sooo funny.

We were just walking home last p-day and we found a giant Pororo made of flowers!

More flowers

That one time we had a mini explosion in our house. R.I.P. my curling iron. (Don't worry, Momma. No serious burns.)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New and Old come together

안녕 from 충장 (it's a rhyme, I promise)! Actually, to be more specific 안녕 from 풍향! This area is the most confusing thing of my life. I'll try to explain, but  you'll probably get bored so you can just go on ahead and skip to the next paragraph. So once upon a time there was Poonghyang, Choongjang, Nongseong, and Songjeung (I hate myself for romanizing them, but it's for the greater good). The were four separate wards with four separate church buildings. But then the Church decided to build a massive, wait no, MASSIVEstake center right in the middle for all four wards to meet in and got rid of all the old buildings. Then they combined Poonghyang (my area) and Choongjang into one ward and Nongseong and Songjeung into another ward. And if that weren't confusing enough, both wards meet in the giant stake at the same time Sunday morning, except my ward has sacrament meeting first and the other ward has sacrament meeting last. Does that make sense? Let's just say yes and move on.

But hey, I'm back with 이예진 again! It's nice because we didn't have to go through the whole "New Companion Awkward Stage." It was just like, "Hey can I borrow your clothes?" "Yep. You know which ones you like." It's so easy. Since our companionship ended so lamely before with me being really, really sick, I'm kind of glad we get another chance to end things happily. We already worked well together before so here's hoping we can do it again!

Leaving 정읍 was really sad though. I love 정읍 so much. I think it'll probably be my favorite area and it was hard to say goodbye to all the members and the missionaries there, but I only cried three times! A new record! My favorite memories from 정읍 will be four-person district meetings, games with the youth, maple leaves, 신권 모임 (priesthood meeting), Sister M....., and 준호 of course, the little seven-year old boy who I love more than anyone. We ate dinner with his family the night before I left and then he called me and Sister M..... later that night and told us he loved us. It was cutest thing that's ever happened to me. We hung up the phone and burst into tears.

But this area will be good too! It's different in pretty much every way. I've taken the bus more these last few days than I ever have before. I'm definitely not a city girl, but I like it here all the same. Our house is cute and the members are nice, even if there are like two hundred of them...

I just want to share one scripture before I go! It's one of my favorites and it's the one I shared in my "Introduce Yourself to the Ward" talk yesterday

Thessalonians 5:16
"Rejoice evermore."

This has been how I have tried to serve my mission these past fifteen (?) months. With joy! This is such a happy message and it deserves to be shared with joy! I'm so thankful to be a missionary and to have this gospel in my life because it has made me so happy and I have seen firsthand how it makes other people happy as well. I love this message and the opportunity I have to share it. Missionary work is hard but it is so happy. I know that if we serve the Lord with joy, then we receive in return His promised blessings and surely those blessings give us every reason to "rejoice evermore."

I love you evermore!
Sister Sydney

Sydney forgot her camera cord, so she couldn't send pictures of the last week, so she sent more pictures from her pday excursion to see the fall leaves with Sister M..... and the two elders in her district.  

 Just this random boy we found throwing leaves. Not really. He just never wears his nametag

Red leaves and blue sky

There were just so many of them!

Korean jokes

Fallen  leaf heart without photobombing elder


You bet we climbed the mountain. We were tired, but the air was clean and the view was beautiful.