I am counting my blessings every day. How grateful I feel for hearing regularly from our missionary! May this season of gratitude fill your heart with happiness.
November 19, 2012
First, I'm super sad to hear about Uncle Roy and Sister Allen. Fortunately, we have the knowledge of the plan of salvation. It's nice to know that death isn't a goodbye, but like leaving people behind, it's a "see you later."
This last week has been interesting. Still trying to hit my stride with speaking the language, but I can honestly say that I've come a little bit of a ways since I've shown up on Korea's doorstep 4 weeks ago (hard to believe that 4 more days marks my one-month-iversary in South Korea). While I don't understand everything... or even most things (I still feel oddly illiterate right now), I'm understanding a little more each day. One thing I'm struggling with is how to keep a 전도 (Korean noun for proselyte) going on after somebody says, "I already attend a church." The thing about Korea is that there are a ton of churches and the common teaching of, "it doesn't matter what doctrine you believe in, it only matters that you believe in Jesus Christ... then you'll go to heaven." Frustrating to deal with... I'd even have trouble explaining this one in English. And even then, you don't want the person you're 전도-ing to feel like you're a 전도사 (missionaries are 선교사... I'm not sure what the deeper meaning between 선교 and 전도 is... I've heard that 선교 has the conatation of bride... which would mean that 선교사 has the meaning of "one who bridges," whereas a 전도사 is "one who proselytes." In any event, they can give a really bad image of what religion is... like a bad enough image so that people literally sprint away from people who look like they have anything to do with church...) There's also one more cultural thing that has been really hard to figure out how to work around... it's the notion of 부담. The closest thing we have in English to it is pressure... like the type of pressure you feel when somebody expects you to perform. In America, we have 부담, but it's easier to work around because we know the
culture. But in Korea, the rules change, things that wouldn't create 부담 in America create 부담 in South Korea. It's a learning curve, and you really have to follow the Spirit. It's challenging, but hey, whatevs.
Different note, I don't regret coming on a mission at all. I think I've learned more in a shorter amount of time than I ever have. It's been fun and exciting, albeit difficult and frustrating. And, I think I should mention (I really hope Taylor reads this, or somebody who talks to Taylor on a regular basis) that living with Taylor for two years has proved to be the most invaluable preparation for living in an apartment with somebody else - he really taught me how to appreciate a clean living space. It's been a work in progress, but I'm gradually cleaning up the apartment one day at a time (and the area book, but that's an entirely different story... I've also learned the value of keeping notes and records organized and user-friendly). So, in summary, thank-you, Taylor, for being an awesome roommate for
the past two years.
So, a few more questions fielded... I think I answered some of the culture stuff (there's more, but I'll save it for later emails... and as I learn more), but Annie asked me about the landscape. This is pretty nifty. It's not as green as I imagined (to be fair, it's Fall (leaves do change colors here too. And there are some of the prettiest reds I've ever seen), and I'm in the city/I've only seen bits of the country - it's really pretty what I've seen). The most
intersting thing is how mountainous Korea really is. There aren't any really tall mountains anywhere, but there are a lot of small, tree covered ones. The city of Gwangju (광주), and the part of Seoul (서울) that I've seen are built around the mountains. So there's a ton of city, and then this mountain in the background, so it makes the city looks smaller, but then you get to the other side, and there's more city. Oh yeah, and there are parks everywhere. With little gazebo-like things that the elderly ladies just hang out on. Affectionately known to some missionaries as 할머니 pads - in English, Grandma pads. And Whitney, there are some days where I love tracting (that's door knocking, right? or is it more broad and includes proselyting in general? Cause door knocking is called 가가호호. In order to really appreciate that, you should learn the Korean alphabet. Sinister plot on my part, no?). There's other days when I really think our time would be better spent (how, I'm not sure, we're struggling to find people, but some miracles coming up). I've been rejected more times in the past three weeks than I have throughout my life, but I don't mind rejection. It just feels like sometimes that the way we proselyte isn't effective, but then something miraculous happens.
I already told you about the person who called off of one of our cards (명함)... he didn't come to church yesterday like he said he would. But one of our other 구도자 came. His name is 유근우 (Yoo gun-oo). The day before, we set a baptismal date for him to be around Christmas (Dec 23... I think). He wants to, it's just that he doesn't want to make his dad mad (...recall what I said about 전도사? His concern is a matter of his dad's perception of Christianity, 기독교). We've been trying to help build his faith and encourage him to talk to his dad. But we haven't been able to be overly direct about it (see 부담). Anyways, he's a nice kid, came to church yesterday (which shocked us because he said he wouldn't be abe to), and he enjoyed it. And, after I came back after my first split (down in 목포... Mok-Po...
make long o sounds), we ran into a woman who was a 구도자 like 10 years ago... we only found her because I was super incompotent at Korean and she was good enough at English to translate what another Korean was telling me (who, Elder Anderson talked to the night before... this Korean is a fifth degree blackbelt in TKD and he is a TKD instructor). After we got off the bus, we talked with this woman for a little bit, and while we were talking with her, a different person (number 3), just stood off to the side waiting to talk with us. We talked with him (his English name is "Hobby"), he's a bit of an odd duck. But he's nice. And he has a lot of potential. Like I feel like he's prepared to hear the gospel. He always grabs the Book of Mormon and just starts reading randomly from it. And he loves basketball. And music. Any other information I give would be me just guessing what he meant (he knows a little English and speaks super quick Korean... consequently, he's hard to understand...) Anyways, I know I'm not doing the story justice, but it's one of those "I really wish you were there to feel what I did" type things.
I'm learning a ton. I finished "Our Search for Happiness" yesterday. It made me realize just how important this missionary call is and how important the gospel is. It really made each rejection on the street last night heartbreaking. Not like love-sick heartbreak, but the "I'm out here because I love you and you're not even listening to what I have to say" type heartbreak.
Last thing, Mosiah 4:11-12 is super good. I really do know that if we felt the goodness of God in our lives, we can't help but sing "How Great Thou Art." The miracle of the Atonement is wonderful. It truly is the remedy to all of life's ills. It's not just for the sinner seeking forgiveness, but also for the faithful saint who stands in need of comfort. Like it says in Isaiah 53 and Mosiah 14, Christ suffered so He could know how to best succor his people. PS, Alisa, I give you full credit for introducing me to this scripture with the "Got Faith" pillowcase you gave me.
I love you all so much. I always love hearing from you. I'm sorry pictures have been 없어요. This current area isn't super condusive to sending pictures... I'll work on troubleshooting that.