Monday, June 30, 2014

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

And our neighborhood/city is beautiful - as we ride the train for usually an hour each way everyday.  The cities are surrounded by little hills covered with forests - we went on a mini hike today and found a pond and trees and a cool playground with tires and workout equipment that all of the Harmonies and Harabogees (grandmas and grandpas - they're a special kind of people that the names "grandmas and grandpas" don't quite fit <3) go and work out on in the mornings :)
I covered a lot of this in my letter to President (efficiency!) and that was the meat of this week - we spend a LOT of time traveling, and just talking to people on the subway. Fun fact - people tend to be meaner when you're about to see miracles, so keep your hopes up :) We met people who were interested in English, or knew missionaries before, have found a lot of leads for referrals, that man who had a Book of Mormon - cool things! Ask, and ye shall find!
Oh, oh and another story - we had an extra hour, so were walking through the little town looking for the house of a potential investigator, and saw a skinny little sister who was probably about 90 years old in a bright flowery top sitting on a brick by the wall. And so, of course, we said hello! We talked with her a bit, and introduced the Book of Mormon, and she invited us into her house! (which is a miracle in and of itself right there! We don't get invited into a lot of houses~) it was this run down little room, with some old ramen sitting in the the corner, over some old looking rice - and we sat down with her, and explained to her what the Book of Mormon is. It was magical, and a "full of the Spirit" experience - and just so "typical", but it's NOT for here, which is why I wanted to share it :)
Also, we had a spur-of-the-moment Zone conference, P. J. Rogers, who used to be a missionary, and is in broadcasting in Korea and a motivational speaker (or something like that) is entirely fluent in Korean (one Korean said "he's better at Korean than I am at Korean!") and told us things he learned about the culture and learning the language as it applied to missionary work. It was fun!
and also very insightful~ You'd think that if you've been in a foreign country for a year, speaking the language, you'd know what's going on - I promise you, you don't. You have a better idea, but there is a LOT to learn about people and language! Anyway, a thought- Everything starts with thoughts. Actions originate with thoughts, And actions lead to character and habits. And destiny! Hehe. Anyway. So when you refuse to consider failure, when faith is unshaken, when vision is large and without doubt, anything truly is possible! There's a quote on our door, which is something I've had in mind for a long time, but just put into words, so maybe I'll borrow it and show you next week - But if you need miracles, call down miracles! You've got to go to the edge, where you CAN'T do it alone. This is the Lord's work! He is the same God yesterday, today and forever, and that's a promise.
It's our privlege to have that Spirit with us, as brothers and sisters of God, endowed with the power and gift of the Holy Ghost!
Love you all :)
Sister Thomas the elder~  

Exerpts from my letter to the President
We met with R___ again, who is wonderful and seems to want to be baptized, but is waiting for her husband. She is still working on quitting smoking, but when she commits, she seems to commit strongly, and we've been working on praying for strength and we've sent her scriptures everyday to help her!

We haven't met with A___ for a while, she keeps dropping appointments. She's hard to get a hold of. I'm hoping that we're just out of communication and that there isn't a problem. We will try to meet her again with Sister H___ this week and reschedule her baptismal date.

We met with the O___ family, minus the father, and they are awesome and full of questions! We talked about prophets - it was a hard concept for A___, but they're doing well and ready to learn!
And we met with H___ for the first time this week! She is one of S___'s friends, and is wondering about the Book of Mormon. She said she'd be willing to be baptized, and we're excited to talk with her about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon next time. Hopefully we'll meet with her husband as well next time.

This week, we talked to a girl, who walked away really awkwardly, but then a Korean man approached us with a covered white book - a Book of Mormon! He covered it because people don't understand, and he's really frustrated about it, but he's read it, and says its just like the Bible, but wants to study it and understand it more. So! Miracle number one that was sent to us. And apparently a member brought a friend to church at the English branch who wants to be baptized. Hopefully we'll meet her tonight! And H___ and her family are just waiting for us! There are lots of miracles when you just ask for them!

Study- I've been thinking about family lately - the ward family, God's family, and we're just all one big family! And it's a deep bond, when we call each other 'brother' and 'sister'. We love each other and mess up with each other, but it has the potential to become perfect. We have a responsibility for each other! And when we remember we're family, it's easier to feel that unconditional love~

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hallo! From the great land of Korea/America/NorthKorea/Army/Africa!

Wow! It's been a whole week! It was one of those month-weeks, where I can hardly believe that I was serving in a different area a week ago.
It started out on a Monday. Sad story - Sister H___ has decided not to come to church; she only wants to be "foreigner friends," and anything we mention about church or trying to find out what happened is pressureful... So. We've made lots of mistakes, but we don't know how to show her love that she'll accept. She got pretty mad. So prayers are appreciated.
Tuesday was a day of good-byes; G___ doesn't want to meet with us anymore, and we met with Sister W___ and had a great lesson about the plan of salvation. We said goodbye to the Ulvestads, the senior couple we've worked with by the army base, and I packed up and transferred on Wednesday morning.
And now I'm in DongDuCheon! And Uijeongbu City! (fun fact - I guess if you watch the show MASH, it takes place on the army base I'm assigned to work with right now :) Not that I know my TV shows or anything...
Things are finally normal again. They've been more and more normal, and now they're normal, and fun, and chill, and getting work done- we're still on the learning curve, but it's good :) My companion is Sister F___ from Cottonwood Heights, and we figured out that we both took flute lessons from Karen Perkins! Look at that :)
We will work with both the Korean ward in the city and the Army base which is about 45 minutes north (lots of travel time!), but it sounds like most of the people who are willing to meet are associated with the Northern Military Branch (NMB). There is also a short service on the base for soldiers who can't leave the base on Sundays, which is where those pictures came from.
Success is a sister from Liberia who was baptized about a month ago. She has the most solid faith! I wish you could hear her bear her testimony and teach in her amazing accent - she is so powerful and strong. She's been through a lot -- she told us a little about her family, a very large family in Liberia, and she hasn't seen her father since she left with a soldier for Nigeria, and then ended up here with her daughter, M___, who was also baptized recently (she's a fun one!) One of my favorite things to testify of is that Christ understands perfectly all that we've been through, and because he has descended below all things, He can lift us. (it was one of those days that personal study in the morning went about word for word what we needed to say).
AND! C___, a sister from America, is here doing her family history, and met her family that gave her up for adoption yeeeears ago. We taught her family a little bit and have helped her with some translation in finding her ancestry, and the ward is all excited about helping with their family!
Hope you have a beautiful time on trek and in Tuscon!  (Also, Lauren! Where are you serving? Do you know the Lenords? Because they're related to the Linders, and we had dinner with them. Anyway :))

Sister Thomas the Elder(Sister? hehe)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Guess where I'm going...

That's right! It's transfer time!!
I'm off to....North Korea!
Just kidding.
I'm off to....America!
Just kidding.
It's somewhere in the middle of those two! I'll be near the border of North Korea (don't worry! There's a member on the army base who's job it is to keep track of every American, so that they can pull us out within a day if anything is wrong :)) near Camp Casey, an army base, where it sounds like a LOT of foreigners live, and that I'll mostly be working with the English branch up there! So I'm moving from one army base to the other :)
And a little miracle within that - We've been working with a Chinese recent convert solider, Sister W___.  Her friend, who introduced her to the church in South Carolina, is at the other army base! The night before we got our calls, we had a discussion about answers to prayers, and praying and counseling with the Lord, and she told us the story of how she prayed to be sent to the same place as her friend - and they both came to Korea! Almost the same base, but not quite.
My new companion will be Sister Fuller - who I've met once, and don't know much other than that. But!  It will be awesome. When we met before, we both thought we knew each other from somewhere...BYU?
I'll be sad to leave this ward, and Korea, to a point...(I'm not sure what percent of my area will be American, what percent will be Korean...) because it's a fantastic ward. BUT I'm so excited to go.  It's time for a change and to start off right again :)

This week, on Monday, we prayed to find some cheap, missionary-appropriate clothes while shopping, so we wouldn't have to go again. You may laugh, but it's legitimate - everything is see-though, and neither Sister Seegmiller nor I really enjoy/have the patience for shopping. But miracle! We DID find things! Lots of things! Hooray!  We met with S___, and it was odd - we thought a member was coming, so we waited for her, but she never did...miscommunication. Anyway. it was still okay, though.  We got to answer a lot of questions she had about the church that we wouldn't have otherwise. We had a ward picnic on Friday, which we got special permission to go to.  It was nice to spend some time with our ward; it's an awesome place with lots of fantastic people. Adventures of a foreign missionary: We got a call on Tuesday, "I want to meet to learn English; do you have time right now?" So we went, and I guess she wanted us to help her to revise a script for a large group of volunteer tour guides. Hm. We'll meet next week, do some English and teach the gospel. A lady I met on the subway called us and wants help finding a relative who lives in America? I don't know. She was willing to take a Book of Mormon though, and said she'd look at it, and call if she had questions. It sounded like she wants to be best friends forever though~
Um, yes! It was an interesting sort of week. Good things, though!
Love you all!
Sister Thomas the Elder
P.S.  The ward wanted us to help with a ward picnic on their memorial day - we went to the war memorial museum,  ate and then we posed as American nurses (America helped turn the tide of the war) that the kids tried to find hints from to "find their family" (the North Koreans abducted a lot of South Koreans as the front lines advanced and retreated)  - The history of this country, especially through the war, is amazing.  This city is a miracle, to see what is was 60 years ago, turned into this fantastic place I am blessed to serve in!
Also lots of parallels in war and missionary work (which i won't go into all of them right now) - I feel like the front lines for the Lord right now! The enemy is so real, and has refined his tactics and attacks from every angle. But we keep going, and can't ease up - victory means everything~

Monday, June 2, 2014


Yep. It's been one year!

I've decided to embrace it, and not dread that there are only six months left! Minus four days! Hehe. Anyway. There are a whole 6 months left, and a million more miracles to see :)
A lot happened this week, so I think this will be more of a bullet point form -
  • Interview with President Christensen. Wonderfully inspired. I told Dad a little about a metaphor that really helped me, so I'll copy and paste: I've been running in circles of idealism and inadequacy - both in me and in others...He is very wise and perceptive - he talked about sand, how the more you squeeze it, the faster it falls. And the best way to keep the sand in your hands is to just hold it calmly. I feel like I knew these principles, but I couldn't figure out how to loosen my grip (which was even more frustrating), but in that, he sort of gave me permission to calm down and just let it go and run normally. And it's been awesome!
  • We had an awesome first lesson with a young mother - call through your Potential Investigator sheets, even when you think "That was way too awkward, there is no way they'd want to meet again" - because sometimes, they do! (hypothetically, of course :))
  • And S___, an awesome investigator with a very honest, open heart; she told us about one of her spiritual experiences at church - she was too busy, wanted to rest, but knew she should come to church, she did but was a little distraught, but then she got a big feeling of "Calm down, S___, it's okay. God with take care of you because you're here." Wow! She really has Alma 19:10 kind of faith.  (. . . Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.)   And we could help another recent convert (Sister W___) by sharing that experience with her, expressing that it is worth her time to attend church, even when she's tired. (She didn't go last week, and was considering not going to Elder Cook's fireside for young adults (by the way, just a minor side note, Elder Quentin L. Cook came to speak to Korea :)), but we got to talk with her about it ;))
  • We got air conditioning! I can't express to you what a tangible blessing that is. Actually, I'll try - it's the difference between walking out of the shower and being sweaty again before you dry, and actually drying off. Or the difference between being able to fold your arms when you pray and not feeling the suction cup-effect when you pull them apart :)
  • Fun thing - near the army base, after we taught a Korean class, we walked, and saw a member, and another member, and another set of missionaries - and there just ended up being a little impromptu party of eight members who didn't exactly know all of the others, talking on the sidewalk. That's one thing I love about this church; it's like a huge, awesome family, and you have best friends instantly wherever you go :)
  • I went on an exchange on May 29th, the day with a big "ONE YEAR" stamp on it. And it was awesome! We were on the street talking to people all day, and went "streetboarding" - we have a board with questions that the Book of Mormon answers (Is there a God? Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.) and give people stickers to post. And if they're interested, we talk more, if not, they had a little fun, and know missionaries now :) We talked to one lady for a very long time, in probably the most in-depth explanation of the Book of Mormon, prophets, etc. that I've given on the street. So we still got experience to teach together! Then there was this HUGE swarm of about 7th grade age boys that came out and swarmed the sister with the board, all reaching for a sticker - it was awesome ;) and we ate Indian curry for dinner! :D Happy birthday, self!
  • On Saturday, Elder Cook spoke to us in the morning, and to members at night. Lots of amazing things: Among other things, he talked about Doctrine and Covenants 31:7 ("Yea, I will open the hearts of the people, and they will receive you. And I will establish a church by your hand;") and how that could be the motto of the church right now - hearts opening, "establishing" (strengthening, build up, love, graciousness, etc), "by your hand", and at night, he, and his wife spoke about the temple. How important the family is, and the central role of the temple in building strong families. He ended speaking of  "the atonement of Christ is the great healing agent." which is one of the truest things that I've learned as a missionary. All things that are unfair, that are burdensome, that are hard to overcome by yourself, can be made right through the atonement of Christ.
  • On Sunday, we met and taught three people, all fluent in English - entirely unheard of here! One sister brought a lot of co-workers to church; her niece and her boyfriend came, too, so we talked with them a little about the church, and it was awesome.
Study: There have been some amazing studies this week, but I'll share one: (I learned this in terms of forgiveness, but it applies to any burden:) commandments are not hollow statues of coersion from a cold God, nor (though better) guidelines for our good that Christ, as our perfect example, will show us how to do and, like a good coach, follow them himself and do it with us. More than those, He makes it possible to keep those commandments, by taking the burden from us. He helps me to keep them in ways that I cannot myself. He truly is that advocate, and through that selfless act, I am made free.