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Monday, August 3, 2009

Transfer to Taegu

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

Food garbage lives in the freezer*. That way it doesn't get smelly while you wait to throw it out in the food garbage trash can downstairs, which is only open on certain days of the week. The city of Pusan is launching a big campaign to cut down on 'food garbage water,' which I guess is the nasty orange liquid that drips out of the food garbage bag when it melts, but why this stuff is such a big deal I'm sure I don't know.

Anyway, big news of the week: guess where I'm going today?


And of course you're like 'Where the heck is Taegu?' which is what I was like. Taegu is a city about two hours northwest of Pusan, well inland and in a basin, so apparently it's hot as all Hades in the summer. Hottest city in the mission in the hottest part of the summer--either I really ticked President off or he has a lot of confidence in me and my tough-it-out Minnesotaness.

And the next big question: is my companion a Korean or an American?


Because I'm going to be paired with a Sister Matthews, who is a Mauri New Zealander! I've never met her, but will offer you more info on her when I have it.

And the other question: Did Brother Cho Jung Gol actually get baptized this week?

Yes, he did.

Oh, my gosh, yes he did.

Sister Pak and I basically did nothing but bake for two full days in anticipation of this event, trying to use up all Sister Pak's pastry dough before she ends her mission. We made thunder cake, banana cake, croissants, and pineapple pastry bites. And I made some chocolate covered pretzels, but apparently I don't know how to melt chocolate very well, because they ended up kind of lumpy and with little sugar crystals in them. Oh, well. Chocolate's chocolate.

But unlike other baptisms I've been to in Korea, where the people involved are the missionaries, the baptizee, and maybe one or two members of the ward, this one involved about forty people: all the missionaries in the district, President and Sister Jennings, and a swarm of people from the ward. There was not room for everybody. Sister Pak had to stand.

Yes, Brother Cho got baptized. We only taught him for six weeks. But at English class the day of his baptism, someone (one of the non-members who turns up to practice English) started arguing that the whole no-alcohol thing was too strict and we should be allowed to at least drink champagne . . . but before I could say anything, Brother Cho popped up. "No. We don't drink alcohol at all. We just don't. It's a commandment."

We taught him about the Word of Wisdom a MONTH ago. And now he Does Not Drink. Which is hard, for a Korean man. It really is. I was so proud of him I just wanted to cry.

So the next morning, Sunday morning, Sis. Pak and I dashed into Sacrament meeting five minutes late (yeah, slam-bang missionaries, us), and Sister Pak glanced around the room and dashed back out.

"What?" I demanded.

"I need to call him!" she moaned, freaking out. "Brother Cho Jung Gol! Where is he?"

"He's in there. With his son. Didn't you see them?"

She put down the phone that she'd been frantically dialing. "He is?"

Yeah, he was. But every previous week he'd worn to church a black and white striped polo shirt, and that morning he'd shown up in a white shirt and a tie. A white shirt and a tie. He got confirmed, and received the Holy Ghost, looking every inch the priesthood holder that he shortly will be. I nearly cried. Okay, I did cry, a little. But that was because I had to give my 'Goodbye to Yeonsan Ward' talk right after that. I've been serving there for four months. When I got there, all I could say was a formulaic, shaky testimony. Sunday, I spoke impromptu for five minutes about how much I loved that ward and how glad I was to have seen all the miracles I saw there. Not the least of which is the simple fact of me being able to communicate--not well, not completely, but to communicate at all. Four months ago, it would have been impossible. I am leaving behind so many good friends in Yeonsan ward, who've patiently taught me and given me so much love and support. I feel like all I did there was sit in awkward silence and eat rice, but Sister Ii Kyeong Mi was crying as I left the stand.

Oh, here's the list I thought up of Things to Know:

Things you Absolutely Must Know Before Going On Your Mission:
How to Pray
That We Have a Living Prophet
How to Eat It and Like It--No Matter What It Is
That Missions are Really Hard (this one's courtesy of Elder Aquino. But it's so true. Missions are really, really hard, and if you know that going in, your life's that much easier)

Things You Should Know, But Will Learn in the MTC if You Don't
How to Work Hard
How to find answers in the scriptures
How to stay healthy
How you, personally, feel the Spirit and receive inspiration

Handy Things to Know
Basic sew-a-button, fix-a-popped-seam sewing
One decent cookie or cake recipe
How to play piano or violin
How to conduct music
How to sing harmony
How to read a map
How to procure clean drinking water
Scripture Mastery**
How to pack light
How to walk forever without complaining
A couple simple magic tricks

So that's the list. Hope it's helpful.

Dad: my English class says to try looking at, or something called VANK, for Pusan news. No promises, but that's what I've got.

Oh, speaking of English class, on Thursday everybody was hanging around afterwards chatting and Sister Cho Me Heh, who is sister Ii Kyeong Mi's non-member friend, asked me, "Will you tell us what you tell people on the street? Just tell us what the message is that you're here to share."
. . .

So, um, I did. In all but flawless Korean. I talked for ten minutes about priesthood authority, about apostles and prophets, about the Restoration** and Joseph Smith (and remembered the First Vision*** smoothly and perfectly, thank you very much), and bore my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I just did it. All by myself. And those five people listened reverently to everything I had to say.

PMG**** says that one indicator you're a successful missionary is when you feel the Spirit testify through you when you teach people. I always thought that was kind of abstract and annoying, as a marker, but this week I totally got it. I taught, and I knew the Spirit was there. Whether those other people felt it is up to them--I can't force them to be ready to hear. But the Spirit was in that room, there for them to feel. I was a good missionary that day.

Now, however, I am not, because I'm almost out of e-mail time and have to run do stuff. So . . . I love you! I love you so, so much. . .


*Food garbage: I asked why she had put egg shells in the freezer when making a cake.

**Restoration: of the Gospel: When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He established His Church among His followers. After His Crucifixion and the deaths of His Apostles, the fulness of the gospel was taken from the earth because of widespread apostasy. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ restored the fulness of the gospel. The true Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again. Because of the Restoration, the teachings and ordinances necessary for salvation are available to all people. (from

***First Vision: The personal visitation in 1820 of God the Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in answer to the prayer Joseph Smith offered, asking which of the churches he should join. (

**** PMG: Preach My Gospel: the current missionary handbook

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