Monday, January 26, 2015

The End

Here it is!  Sydney's final letter!  Thank you to all of you who have been her support and have continued to read about Sydney's adventures in Korea.  If you would like to hear her homecoming talk, she will be speaking on Feb 15th at 10 am in our church.  Let me know if you want an address.  Thanks to all of you who sent kind and encouraging words to Sydney throughout her journey as a missionary!  We are so happy to be having her come home!  5 more days!

Am I sad it's over? 
Am I also happy it's over?

I'm sad because ending my mission means leaving these people and this country that I've come to love so much. 

I'm happy because ending my mission means I can take naps again. And I really need a nap.

To further illustrate my whirlpool of emotions, I gave a talk in church yesterday and I cried/laughed through the whole thing. Can you imagine it? Please don't. It was ridiculous. was ridiculous. So many feelings! And in Korean, no less!

There's just so many things that I'm going to miss here! I'll miss heated floors and eating on the floor and taking off my shoes in restaurants. I'll miss the "French" bakeries and the hipster cafes. 
I'll miss Daiso.(this is a store)
 I'll miss the grandmas that you meet on the street, the ones that hold your hand and call you pretty and walk with you a while. I'll miss the rolling mountains and the wide rivers and the peace of Buddhist temples. 
I'll miss talking to Korean children. I'll miss Jellanamdo accents. 
I'll even miss kimchi.
I'll miss being 아바 자매.

But I've learned what I was supposed to learn. Now I think it's time for me to come home.

I came on a mission because I wanted to help others--I wanted to bring them the gospel I loved so much and show them the way to eternal happiness and eternal life. In essence I came with the intent to save, if not the entire world, then at least the Korean part of it. I constantly said to myself: "This is not about me. This will never be about me."

But I was wrong.

When I got here (remember?^^) I couldn't speak! I couldn't understand! I was like a mute doll being dragged about by my trainer and I certainly didn't feel very helpful to anyone. But eventually I learned; unbelievably, I started to figure this mission thing out. And now it's over

Even now, a year and a half later, I'm still not sure I really helped any of the people I tried to. Whether it was language or unpreparedness or fear I feel like I was never quite as helpful as I wanted to be. And maybe I wasn't. Maybe my mission didn't make much of a difference to anyone here, but it doesn't matter--my mission has made all the difference to me. In the end, my mission was about me. It was always about me. Heavenly Father didn't need me here for the Koreans, He needed me here for me. I know now that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.

So maybe this is what I learned on my mission--I learned that Heavenly Father loves us so much that He will give each one of us personal and specific opportunities to find and strengthen our testimonies. He truly has a plan by which each of us can be saved.

"To be strong in living the gospel, there is nothing more important than receiving and strengthening our own testimony. We must be able to declare, as Alma did, 'I know these things of myself. I know of myself that they are true.'"

I have come to know on my mission that these things are true:

I know that Heavenly Father loves us. 
I know that He sent His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die for us.
I know that they restored their Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that this is the only true and living Church.
I know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's living prophet today.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It's so true!
I know that Heavenly Father gives us commandments because He loves us and that if we keep His commandments joyfully and endure to the end, we will have eternal life. We will be glorious.

And I know one last thing too. I know that "God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in." I know He loves His children in Korea. He loves this country so much. And I love it so much too.

"And now it came to pass that [I came to know all this in the land of Korea, near the beautiful rivers of Korea, and in the rolling mountains of Korea, and among the people of Korea. And oh how beautiful is this country to the eyes of me, Abba Jameh, who here came to the knowledge of my Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are the people who dwell here for I shall praise their names forever.]"

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

This is where I leave you. I love you. I'll see you soon. 
아바 자매, over and out.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Penultimate 편지

편지 is Korean for "letter." I did it for the alliteration.
Guys, I'm almost there! Just a week and a half more to go! Welcome home, Em!! That means I'm next, right? It's finally my turn?? I've seen so many friends go home lately and I'm just like, "Focus and finish. But they can take naps now.Endure to the end! But they're probably wearing their pajamas all day. ENDURE TO THE END."
But it's okay because I'm trying to enjoy every second I have left in this beautiful country. I love it here so much and I'm going to miss it terribly when I have to leave. I've learned and changed so much here and as as such, a piece of Korea has now become a piece of me.
And so, in proper dying missionary tradition, here is a list of how I've changed.
1. I actually like corn on my pizza now! Remember when I complained about it a million years ago? Well, it's delicious and I take back all the mean things I said.
2. Once I get home, I'll probably go through a weird post-mission phase and do everything sitting on the floor. I'm so good at it now. Sitting on the floor, eating on the floor, sleeping on the floor...It still blows my mind that missionaries in other missions actually sleep in beds. Like I've just assumed this whole time that it was a budget thing and the Church gave all the missionaries yos(Korean bed mat) in order to save money.
3. I love K-pop so be prepared to listen to a lot of it.
4. I've gotten so good at doing the dishes. I can do a whole sink full of dishes in ten minutes flat. But I'm so excited to see our dishwasher again. And our oven! I forgot about ovens! And our clothes dryer. It will be a happy reunion.
5. I learned to cook!!!! Bahaha. No, I didn't. But I am pretty skilled at making rice and ramyun. So be excited for that.
6. Pencil cases! Do you guys know about pencil cases?! They're the most genius invention--you put all your pencils in them and then they never get lost. It's like a house for your writing utensils and I'm a little obsessed with them.
7. I like eating fruit after every meal and I like to eat it according to season. I'm so sad that I'm leaving Korea right as we get to strawberry and orange season! I made it through the gross winter of persimmons and now I'm going as the good stuff comes. ㅠㅠ But we can eat lots of strawberries when I get back right?
8. I'm a convert to the metric system. I don't even want to the think about how many kilos I've gained since I got here.
9. I'm a believer in recycling. I can organize and properly dispose of garbage like no other. Don't be alarmed if I start collecting a bag of food trash in the freezer.
10. As a result of prolonged exposure to Korea's excellent selection of adorable stationery, I love writing letters!! It's so fun and it brings people so much happiness. So find a missionary and write them a letter! And thank you to everyone who has sent me a card, a letter, a package, or an email these past 18 months. They have meant the world to me and without them I could never have made it this far.
And of course I've changed in lots of spiritual ways too, but we'll save that for my homecoming talk.
I love you all, I'll see you soon!!
Sister Abba.


We climbed a mountain, again!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

And That's What I Learned From the Muslims on the Bus

The end is near and I'm starting to panic. This week I hit my 18 MONTH MARK. What. My district assured me that since technically that's all I signed up for, I was now free to go. I'm so glad that I stayed this last transfer though. I know now that I was always supposed to stay until now.
A Sign that I Need to Be Coming Home Soon
So my companion and I were eating dinner at a member's house. It was just the member and her two little kids and the kids were, as most kids are when the missionaries come over, so hyper. They were running and jumping and refusing to eat and kept bringing out toys to show us and I was trying so hard to pay attention to their mom while encouraging them to be less insane, but it was just not working.
Then her little boy got out his tae-kwon-do belts and started tying them around first my companion, and then me. You know when you're a guest in someone's home and their children start tying you up, but you just pretend like nothing's happening in order to be polite? Yeah, that was me. And it was going pretty well, but then the little boy took out a thirdtae-kwon-do belt (he had so many of them!) and tied it to the belts that were already tied around me and 이예진, so that now we were tied together. And, oh goodness, as I looked over at my companion, wrapped up in tae-kwon-do belts and looking absolutely ridiculous, just talking to the member like nothing was happening, I just burst out laughing. Like I could not stop laughing. It wasn't even that funny, but at the same time it was so funny. Especially because we're companions and we always have to be together and this just seemed like the perfect solution--if companions can't stay within sight and sound, just tie 'em together. Someone should tell the Shins.
Anyway, then everyone else looked at me like I was the crazy one, but then they started laughing too and it all turned out all right in the end really. Except that I completely lost any trace I had left of my "quiet dignity."
I'm just kidding, I never had quiet dignity.^^
A Cultural Moment On the Bus
I met Eygyptians! I just got on the bus and there they were. The husband looked at me and stated the obvious, "You're not Korean." I stated the obvious back. "Neither are you."
They were so cute. They had just gotten married seven months before and even though their marriage was arranged (the wife said to me, "He proposed over Skype and then I met him the day of the wedding!") they were clearly so in love. They showed me wedding pictures and I told them I was a missionary and then we bonded over the fact that neither of our religions drink alcohol.
They were having a hard time living away from their family and their friends and being in a country where almost everyone drank alcohol and ate pig meat. My heart went out to them for their struggles but I was so proud of them for being so faithful in living their religion and staying true to their beliefs even though they were completely alone in doing so. And the best part was that they drew their strength from each other.
And it should be the same with us! As Latter-Day Saints we definitely live in a world that does not share our same beliefs. But that doesn't make our beliefs any less true or any less worthy of living. I know that as we take comfort in the strength we find in each other's devotion and faith we can continue on in our gospel living and enduring to the very end.
I love you, my loaf-leavening friends!
아바 자매

Sydney liked the crisscrossed wires next to the wiggly trees

Happy Year of the Sheep.  I made a sheep.

Sydney and DW

18 months as a missionary and this is what I have to show for it, learning to draw apostles.  

Check out this rice face. Happy 18 months to me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

They Offered Willingly

Wow, so much fun news this week! At least two homecomings, three engagements, and one baby! Congratulations everybody and welcome to the planet, Emma!

As for New Year's, nothing happened, except now I'm 23, so that's terrifying. (Remember, in Korea, age is counted differently)  But it's finally the time of year again when I can use my favorite Korean phrase all day, every day.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!!

I'm trying so hard to remember what else happened last week, but I literally cannot. Plus my companion and I accidentally sat in the smoking section of the PC 방 we're emailing in so my lungs are suffocating from inhaling all the smoke. Bleeeeh.

DW got confirmed yesterday! It was so great! For various reasons, it was the first investigator confirmation that I've ever gotten to see, so I was one happy sister missionary! The gift of the Holy Ghost is so important and now our sweet recent convert is that much closer to enduring to the end.

Our other investigator (okay so we might have only two investigators now, but it's cool. At least they're progressing), let's call her Susie, is doing really well. She's already come to church twice and really likes it, especially Young Women's. We're hoping to give her a baptismal date when we meet her this week. I don't know what it is, but the investigators in this city are just so different, so prepared. It's pretty exciting and it's such a blessing to get to serve her, even for a short while.

This transfer, our mission has been focusing on becoming consecrated missionaries, so I've been studying consecration a lot lately during my personal study. And good news(!) I found a great few scriptures about it in 1 Chronicles. So everybody, get out your scriptures and let's turn there for a sec.

Okay, so we have David, right? He's the king. Okay, well actually Solomon's the king now because David's really old and is, like, dying or whatever, but for the purpose of my spiritual thought David's still the king. And King David says to the people, "We're building a temple and I'm giving everything I have left in order to build it." He says in the scriptures, "I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God. (29:2)" So, David is there. He's consecrated and ready and wanting to give all he can. But the people aren't quite there yet, so he invites them like any missionary would, to consecrate their lives and their service with him in order to build something magnificent to the Lord. In fact, in verse 5 he says, "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?" He gives his people a challenge.

But what do the people do? Do they ignore him or shy away or shrug their shoulders and say, "Being consecrated would be nice, but not today." No! They "offer willingly" it says. And then my favorite part comes in verse 9, "Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy."

Now if we make this the same as the situation in my mission, then President Shin is King David. And we, the missionaries, are the people. And we're not building a temple, but we are building the kingdom of God and that's pretty much the same thing. So if we do as we are asked, if we try to consecrate ourselves as we should, then I know we, like David and his people, will "rejoice with great joy because we offered willingly."

So remember how much joy a willing heart can bring! Everything is better when it is done with a willing heart.

I love you with a willing heart!
Happy New Year!



This must be her Harry Potter impersonation.  

Pictures of their apartment

There was no explanation for this one.  Must be a member.

DW made them fancey towels

New Years Bag
It's been snowing 

DW's baptism