"Dear Mum and Dad,
I'll pray for the ward. That's a lot for everybody to handle just now. But I'm comforted and gladdened to know that it's not just that many families are dealing with hard times right now; it's that the ward is dealing with problems in many families right now. That's how it should be. Hard times come. But we're a ward and we're a team. And my prayers are with Gramma*, too, and all the family.
In news of drastic contrast, this week has been about the most fun, fulfilling time I've had since Sister Matthews left. It is due to a number of factors:
1. Sister Pak Min Jeong. Yes, my third Korean companion named Sister Pak. Will I ever have a companion of any other name? I know not. This Sis. Pak is a descendent of the Pak who was the first King of the Silla dynasty, who came down from heaven on a white horse, and his wife, who was born out of the side of a dragon. Sister Pak knows Korean history. Well. And loves it. A lot. And has already filled my head with stories of it--of a prince going out to seek his fortune with half a broken sword, while his father keeps the other half as proof of their relationship, but when he returned home the father had remarried and the stepmother tried to have him killed, so he fled and started a new Kingdom -- of the last King of Pakchae who had 300 wives, and when the dynasty was overthrown all 300 of them dressed up in their finest hanboks and jumped off a cliff, which is now called 'The Cliff of Falling Flowers'--of formal state dinners in the royal palace at Kyeongju, overlooking an artificial lake and islands covered in twisting pine trees. There's no way to tell where the story stops and the history begins in Korea. The stories are their history. So when Sis. Pak Min Jeong tells me that she is the descendant of dragons, I can't help but believe her.
So yes, Sis. Pak is teaching me history. Today we're actually in the national museum in Kyeongju, about an hour's bus ride up the coast from Ulsan. My most favorite thing ever.
2. Our apartment. It is large and clean. I have room to exercise, to dry my clothes, to cook, to sew, to study, to sleep. And room left over besides. It's astonishing how happy that can make you. We even have a sofa, to sit on if you don't feel like sitting on your study chair or your mattress. And there's a potted plant, that I'm taking care of.
3. Our branches--Shinjeong, Hogae, and Bangeojin. Ulsan is a district, not a stake, and the units are branches instead of wards, for all they're larger than some wards I've served in. They're about an hour's bus ride apart from one another (I'm getting lots of Korean study done) and everyone is just lovely. We went to church at Shinjeong branch on Sunday. There is a new American family that just moved in; I simultranslated Sacrament meeting and Relief Society. I did it very badly, but it was good practice. Sister Charlotte (that's her name now; last names being a vague concept in Korea) was immediately taken in by all the RS sisters, who love her and her toddler son Logan (red-cheeked blue-eyed smiley thing that he is--he was practically designed to be the cutest thing any Korean could imagine). The teacher even asked her a question during the lesson. I helped her answer it, amazed that this wonderful little unit would reach over the language barrier to help an American sister feel included in their gospel study.
The branch president of Shinjeong is legendary for feeding missionaries boshimtang--dog soup. No, not soup eaten by dogs. He asked me if I wanted some, and I told him honestly that no, I didn't, but if he commanded me to eat it (I used the word for 'command' that I'd picked up in the Book of Mormon, so it was suitably dramatic and deferential) I would. He laughed, and I think I might have escaped his traditional missionary hazing.
4. Our investigators. We have a lot of investigators, new members, potential investigators, and work to do in general. This pleases me. The most extraordinary person I've met has been a sister Son Yoo Jin. About a month ago, she knelt down and prayed for help to find meaning and purpose in her life. And when she stood up, she felt like she should try to find an English class. Random . . . but she looked, and found Shinjeong ward's 5-on-Saturday class, and showed up. Sis. Montgomery was teaching, using as her text Pres. Monson's talk on 'What Did You Do For Someone Else Today?'**. Sister Son Yoo Jin loved this talk, and started living according to the precepts taught in it, and became happier. Really. As simple as that. And the more the sisters teach her, the more excited she gets. When Sis. Ogelvie taught her the Plan of Salvation***, she kept saying over and over, "I know this. I already know this. I don't know how, but I do. I've seen this before." And yesterday, when we taught her about the Word of Wisdom#, we asked her to cut down on her coffee intake by two cups a week. This she agreed to do. Then twenty minutes later she told me, 'You know what? I'm just going to quit coffee. If you know something's right, you just do it. Life's very simple that way.' I've taken to following her from room to room like a puppy just to feel the Spirit radiating off her. She glows.
Thing . . . what, now? 5? that makes me happy . . . Being Chamei depyoja. Sis. Pak Song Hee and I are in charge of going on splits with the sisters, making sure that sister housing is in good repair, getting EVERYBODY ready to train very soon, and writing a Sister Rep Training Packet, of which right now there is none. I'm really excited about this. Also I got to go to the committee meeting with the Zone Leaders, which involved the most-coveted lunch in the mission. We had chili and cornbread and apple pie and ice cream. I could barely walk by the end.
So I'm typing this in a museum that I have not yet explored, and to my eternal frustration this computer has no USB jacks on it, so I can't send anything with it. RRRRRGH. I hope we can snag another computer before P-Day ends, because I have a lot of videos I want to send. Rather a backlog, really. My life is beautiful right now. I'm so happy to be in Korea. I'm so happy that (#6) the weather is warming up and spring is coming. I had my first strawberry of the year today. It tasted like warm sunny days and life and laughter. And it wasn't even a very good strawberry. There are better ones to come.
The sun is out; it's cool and windy, but bright. I just saw the Sacred Bell of King Seongdok. I'm wearing pants--now mended with a butterfly patch over the little tear that's been in them since last April. This has been a week of history and hope. I'm glad to be alive in it.
Now if I can just find a dratted computer with a USB . . . .
Oh. And Sis. Pak Sung Hee and I get to call regularly, and I also this week got to talke to Sis. Linford, long-lost MTC companion whom I have seen a total of 3 times since arriving in Korea. She's also going home in July. We're both glad to be able to finish this thing with the same person with whom we started it. And we're gonna watch Wall-E. She's really excited.
Sis. Matthews and Montgomery both went home last transfer. Sis Musser is now the oldest American sister, followed by Me and Linford, Ogelvie, and then the new greenies. We are much, much older than they."
* RoseE's great-grandmother is dying.
**"What Have I Done For Someone Today?"
***Plan of Salvation
# Word of Wisdom: