November 2015

Tuesday, July 5

We have had very busy weeks lately, leading up to the mission presidents seminar which was held in Seoul, Korea November 10-13. Dad and I traveled by KTX (bullet train) to Seoul, arriving when the Shin’s (mission president of the Korea Daejeon Mission) arrived, where a man drove us to the JW Marriott Hotel in a van. We checked into our hotel room and then shortly boarded a bus with all the other mission presidents and wives along with the area presidency members and their wives to go to a special session at the Korea Temple. The feelings were great, tender, wonderful! But one of my favorite parts was when the Celestial Room door was open allowing us to see people walk past on their way to the Endowment Room. We saw Elder Lee Insung (one of our former AP’s), Elder Choi Wonsul, Elder Kim Donghee (went home early for medical reasons and hopes to come back soon), Sister Gim Gyuri, and Sister Kim Yeonseob!!! We were so happy to see them and give them hugs, until a little old lady temple worker shushed us (and we were NOT being loud!).

After attending the session in the Seoul Temple  we gathered at the chapel  on the temple grounds for a catered Mexican dinner (with a Korean  influence).   This group of young men sang a number of songs for us. This number they  sang at a All Korea choir competition where they came in third place  (behind the Busan stake choir which won the competition). What was fun  about these young men was that two were asked to share their testimonies.  One young man said his cousin os serving in the Korea Busan Mission (I  was  able to hustle after him to talk and ask his cousins name and take a  picture with Dad). The other young man said he had just opened his  mission  call three days earlier and he’s going to be going to the Korea Busan  Mission!   While Dad and I were attending the mission president seminar the office  elders were changing the back door combination, without telling Ben so  there was some stress on him to come home and being locked out of his  home  knowing we were out of town for a few days. They got it figured out and  got Ben inside after a short wait outside.

The sessions were wonderful and I learned many different insights. One that I recall was from Sister Choi telling us of one of their sons who is a pianist. When Sister Choi and her husband were serving as mission president and wife this one son was invited to play at Carnegie Hall. Sister Choi was sad because she would not be able to leave their mission in order to attend her sons performance which I can relate to as I always wanted to attend my children’s sports events, games, races, etc. It’s been difficult missing Niki’s cross country races. I’ve wondered if anybody has been there to cheer her on (certainly nobody can yell as loudly as I do, for her). Sister Choi said that as she prayed it was a delicate balance of telling Heavenly Father how sad she was of mission her son perform, not really wanting to leave her mission but wanting to leave her mission to watch this once-in-a-lifetime-event. She received the impression that her son got that privilege because she could not go (meaning because of her missionary service). Then she felt the impression/question would you like to trade (meaning give up her missionary service-because then he would not have been so blessed)? Our families receive so many blessings because of our service; that we/they don’t even realize it. That lesson hit close to home as Dad and I were traveling home from the train station after the mission president seminar ended.  We are so blessed. I had to conduct the closing song in the sister’s session; without a hymnbook telling me what the beat was (just lyrics up on the screen). I couldn’t catch the beat going back and forth between 3/4 and 4/4 time. I bluffed my way through and just remembered what Wendy Nielsen said to me one time about not everyone watches the chorister anyway. It’s mostly up to the piano player.

Dad and I went shopping earlier in the day with the arranged shopping group. There were a number of local people lined up to take small groups shopping in the huge shopping district. We were fortunate to go just Dad and me with two locals. I was looking for stuff that wasn’t the ordinary scarves, children’s clothing, etc, so we went in the other direction. It worked out great as we bought what we were looking for and finished a bit earlier than planned. After dinner we had the option of going down along the river to see the Korean Lantern Festival. There were many different designs and colors, and sights to see. I didn’t realize how fragile the lanterns could be until it was explained to us that they were made out of rice paper, hand painted, and that because of the rain many of them had to have been touched up again each day/night. It was fun, especially as Dad got a phone call from a couple of our returned missionaries, who happen to be from the same stake as our guide (he is one of the stake presidents in the area).

I thought this was the funniest thing to see. I had never seen this before; the way they say goodnight or goodbye is by waving their hands in the air like this.

We were able to travel to the DMZ riding a bus about an hour or more one way. We were told that about half of our group would be able to ride the little train/tram to one entrance of tunnel 3 but that there wasn’t enough room for all of us. Dad and I walked with the one group (mostly men so that the women could ride the train but it felt good to walk after riding on the bus). We wore these hard hats which was good because down in the tunnel in some areas you could not stand up straight all the way. We were told we were not allowed to take pictures in the tunnel, so this is the closest I got with my camera.  The pathway sloped down fast and far with benches placed along the way for people to rest when coming back the steep path. I don’t know how many times Dad hit his head on the ceiling; good thing he was wearing that hard hat. It was wet/damp down there with close walls. I think there are four tunnels that have been discovered.

We asked another tourist (who was with a group of Chinese tourists) to take our picture. The lady in front was with his group. She was so excited to jump into our picture and make hand signs and say comments and wouldn’t get out of the picture. You can see that Dad, President Shin and I are all laughing at this crazy woman (who will never see us again and will never see herself in our picture). But Sister Shin was having a difficult time, muttering under her breath, “Oh dear. What can we do? I don’t know what can be done about her, etc.” You can see it in her expression.

Dad, Ben, and I spoke in the Jungri ward on November 15 and stayed afterward to attend two baptisms, of two separate men in that ward. One man, from the Philippines, was very quiet and humble during Gospel Principles class during Sunday School. The other man is married to a less active woman who seems to need much teaching. During Sunday School a good discussion evolved where they asked some basic questions. This man was baptized by his teenage son. After his baptism he shared his thoughts, asked to take a break from speaking for a couple of minutes, and then got back up and continued. It was not what I had normally seen before but that didn’t matter. He was emotional and grateful for the chance to have his son baptize him and to look around the room and see normal men who like to play soccer/befriended him be good men who go to church. It was an unexpected surprise.  Because of the late start to the baptismal service and how far away the ward building was we got back to our Oncheon ward building late enough in the afternoon that our ward members were leaving the building after they had shared a meal together. We hustled over to the chapel to meet President Seo Hee Chul, the man in the picture who is second from the left. President Seo was the mission president of the Korea Busan Mission 2002-2005. Dad met him but did not have an opportunity to sit and talk or anything like that, as they were on their way. That’s ok because Dad was super busy with 11 exit missionary interviews over the weekend. Along with his other meetings and speaking assignments Dad was drained.  The Bowcutt’s (our office secretary and financial secretary) went home along with the young missionaries. One fun “small world” connection is that they told us that their son who lives in Houston is the home teacher to Uncle Mike and Aunt Rachel!  A few comments from the departing missionaries when they were sharing their testimonies made an impression on me. Sister Hill said that she got her first baptism yesterday (the day before finishing her mission). She cannot express how much joy filled her heart. Elder Tira said he has changed a lot on his mission. Now I shave every day! Before my mission I was selfish, lazy, trusting others was hard. I’m glad I changed. I find myself at night often saying, “Sorry I’m so weak.” (sweet young man) Elder MacCarthy said “It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters where you finish."

Last week was the start of another transfer with the outgoing missionaries dropped off at the train station early on Tuesday morning, the office couple going home dropped off at the airport Tuesday afternoon, and the new missionaries arriving Tuesday night late.  The sister missionaries sleep at our home while the elders sleep in the apartment of the AP’s and the office elders. As we were waiting for the elders to come over for breakfast one of our new sister missionaries started looking at Steven and Katie’s wedding picture book. The first page she opened it up to she looked at and said, “That’s my cousin!” pointing to one of Katie’s bridesmaids. Again, small world!  Another interesting piece of information about Sister Anderson is that she ran track at Utah State University. It reminded me of the Deseret News article Niki sent to me about the 55 female Utah college athletes who have served or are serving LDS missions so I checked the bottom of the article to discover another one of our sister missionaries listed: Sister Courtney Allred who ran track at Southern Utah University (she just did not have a picture posted or telling where she is serving her mission). Amazing to have that similar connection!

When we arrived at the church building on Jeju Saturday night we met Sister Yang and President Song who were the speakers for this fireside on self-reliance.   President Song served as the mission president for the Korea Busan Mission 2005-2008 (just after President Seo, who we met in Oncheon two Sundays before). After serving as the mission president and wife they served as the Seoul Korea Temple president and matron. The Song’s had a lot to say as the fireside already lasted two hours when he finally sat down and they wanted Dad to have an opportunity to speak. Wisely, he mentioned that we had already heard many good truths and quickly sat down.  Sunday morning as I was doing my personal study I picked up where I left off in my reading of Alma 1. My mind must have still been on the topic of self-reliance from the night before because I thought it went along perfectly. We read the following: :25 “they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God”. :26 “their labor” which equals their work=profession=career=employment. :27 “they did impart of their substance” this sounds like Fast Offerings to me. :28 “have continual peace” this sounds like they were not stressed or worried about having enough food to eat, shelter, or needs. :29 “began to be exceedingly richabundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need” :30 “in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished” this sounded like LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; whose purpose is to relieve suffering, foster self-reliance, and provide opportunities for service for people of all nationalities and religions. We are encouraged to find ways to serve in our own communities and we can find information at :31…they did prosper and become far more wealthy” overall they sounded self-reliant to me.

Ben and I left the fireside to go find something to eat for dinner while Dad stayed at the church a lot longer conducting interviews.  As Ben and I walked back to the hotel Ben saw this graffiti down a little side street/alley: Enjoy Your Youth.

During zone conferences Dad shares the scripture in Alma 32:28 talking about a seed planted in your heart yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”  When we got off the plane from Jeju to Busan this big mural was on the wall in the airport. Poor Dad, I made him stand there holding his scriptures while I stood on a chair to take his picture.

Sister Dustin (military relations senior couple serving in our mission) prepared a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving meal for about 40 missionaries for one of our zone conferences lunch. All the missionaries were so excited (even the Koreans)!  These elders were so funny as they were feeling stuffed!  We had a different zone conference on Thursday (Thanksgiving is not recognized in Korea). But one of the sister missionaries in that zone put up a banner on the wall, in festive colors.
In our zone conferences we have been talking about increasing our faith. One of our AP’s will speak about having a “can do” attitude rather than being defeated before we even try. He shared quotes from his high school wrestling coach: “Give 100%”, “Play to Win”, “Don’t Stop Till You Drop”, “Give It All You’ve Got”. Then we separate for a practice session where we go outside contacting on the street for 20 minutes trying to give a baptismal commitment. But if we don’t give the baptismal commitment, then we try to give a Book of Mormon, or some other pamphlet or pass along cards; trying to have a substantive conversation. It is amazing to see the results after 20 minutes not just in what information was passed out but in the boost to the missionaries faith when they realize there are people out there waiting to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I appreciated one elders comment about how keeping our covenants gives us the power to open our mouths, to speak to strangers about the joy the Gospel brings into our lives. It’s hard work, and scary, but great to see these missionaries accomplish something they didn’t think they could do before.  So Dad and I stopped by where the car attendant to this dentist office was standing and as he chatted with us he took our picture. Another man told Da he recognized the missionaries but that Dad was “older” than the rest (and the others companion was not a wife).

Early Friday morning my sister, Cynde, tried to call me but I didn’t hear the phone; returning it around 6:30AM. I thought she was going to tell me about her son, Richard’s, wedding that took place in Centerville, Utah on Monday, November 23, 2015. She told me that my mom passed away Thanksgiving morning (November 26, 2015 American time). I guess I was a bit shocked/surprised. I wasn’t expecting to hear that, though I am grateful Mom was able to spend Thanksgiving with Dad, and no longer have to be apart from him. I feel bad that Cynde had to experience that all by herself, as Duane was still in Utah. I feel bad that I wasn’t there to help with Mom all these months but I’m here in Korea on this mission.  We already had plans to host a Thanksgiving dinner at our home Friday night so I got up and got busy preparing the meal. It was actually great to have something to keep my mind and hands busy all day.  The first picture is of a woman who the office elders have met through English class, whose name is Jennifer. Jennifer came to dinner with her son, Albert, and her daughter, Olivia. Her husband did not come. Come to find out Jennifer is an inactive member of the Church, from long ago. Sister Lee and her family have lived in this ward for about 20 years, and she did not even recognize her.  The other two pictures shows our office secretary, Sister George, with Vickie, from the other English class. When Vickie arrived (late, after work) she recognized Jennifer as their daughters are friends at school! Amazing! Vickie cautiously did not bring her daughter to dinner but I think she wished she had brought her. It was a good night. By the end of the night Jennifer was telling Vickie she should be baptized as it has brought peace into her life!!



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