BACK IN GANGNEUNG

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Hey! believe it or not but I am back in 강릉 (Gangreung)!! After 4 months of serving in the middle of the capital city of Korea, Seoul, I got transferred back to the countryside! I loved serving in Shindang(신당) and being part of such a historical ward. I especially miss the members! If one thing, I’ve learnt how to be a good member and how to help the missionaries after my mission while serving in 신당. Before my mission, I had no idea what missionaries really did or how important members are in the Lord’s work. However, being around such faithful and willing members in 신당 has helped me to realise that missionary work doesn’t just end when I go home, but that this is just the start.

I served in Gangreung from July to November last year, so it feels surreal to be back in a familiar area. I got to see all of the members and investigators again which was such a special experience. It’s amazing to see the progress they’ve made in the last few months while I’ve been away. A few of them have baptismal dates and are attending church regularly!! What a miracle.

My new companion is Sister Preisler and guess what?! She’s my very first companion from Utah. I actually went to her birthday gathering on my very first Pday in Korea- when I was super jet lagged and had absolutely no idea what was going on…! It probably wasn’t the best first impression hehe. We are serving as STLs together so I’m learning so much from her everyday. Sister Preisler is a great example and she’s helping me to find so much joy in the work.

In Zone Conference, President Sonksen focused on the enabling and strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. From King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, we learn about the two aspects of the Atonement:
1. cleansing and redeeming power
2. strengthening and enabling power

A lot of times, we forget about the strengthening and enabling power of the Atonement. No matter how much we try and do good, we cannot become good to better without the atonement of Christ. The strengthening and enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do good and to serve beyond our own individuals’ capacity. So he gave us the challenge to daily and hourly, call upon the strengthening and enabling power of the Atonement to change our circumstances in our ministry. I’ve been trying to rely on the Savior and his enabling power more and more recently. There are times when I am so exhausted and don’t know if I can get through another day, but I’m learning to call upon his power to get me through – to do what I’ve been called to do. I know that he’s there to pull me up and lead me in his path — which I am eternally grateful for.

Do you accept the challenge to call upon the enabling power of the atonement?

Sister Lee

Elder Holland

February is almost over and I’ve given up trying to keep track of time. I am excited for winter to be over and for spring to come though!! I’m SOO sick of wearing this thick winter coat every single day, but most importantly, spring flowers in Korea are incredibly beautiful.

Last week was a very special week. Elder Holland, of the 12 Apostles, came to Korea and spoke to us for 3 consecutive days. On Friday morning, he came to Shindang chapel(where I am currently serving!!) and spoke to all of the missionaries serving in Seoul and Seoul South Missions. It was a combined mission conference so there were over 300 missionaries in total, yet he still wanted to shake each one of our hands. Oh man, we were all so nervous and excited!! When it was my turn, I nervously got up and put my hand out. He firmly shook my hand and looked straight into my eyes, as if he was interviewing my soul. Even though it was only for a brief moment and there were hundreds of other missionaries around me, his whole attention was on me. For that brief moment, I felt a glimpse of what it would be like to meet the Savior and to be wrapped around his arms of mercy and love. All weekend, I felt our Saviour’s love for each one of us and and as Sister Holland said “he only desires our happiness and joy”.

On Sunday morning, there was a combined stake conference for all of the stakes in Seoul. Elder Holland expressed his pure love for the children of Korea and shared about the importance of giving our youth and young single adults every opportunity to grow in the gospel – because ultimately, we are the future of Korea and the church. He then shared his favourite scene in the Book of Mormon where Jesus Christ visits the Nephites after His resurrection. He gathers all of the children and blesses & prays for each one of them, one by one.

“… He said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children one bye one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this, he wept again.” 3 Nephi 17:20-22

Seeing, hearing and feeling an apostle of the Lord express his love for us and bear testimony of our Saviour, Jesus Christ in person was probably one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in my life. Isn’t it wonderful that we have the restored gospel and that the Lord still guides His church today through prophets?!

NZ vs Australia

Introducing my new companion… Sister Lee!! Yes, we are very sisterly 😉 Sorry about my dry humour haha. Not only are our names the same but we are pretty much twins! We are both Korean but we both moved overseas when we were young! – she moved to Australia in December 2015 and I moved to New Zealand a month later in January 2016! Apparently we both have strange accents when we speak English.. according to our fellow American missionaries. It’s quite interesting trying to teach English to Koreans because neither of us have American accent and Korean people want to learn American pronunciation hah! We are similar in so many ways that even our mission president wanted to give us a ‘twin award’ at our conference!! I have to admit, she’s way better at Korean than me though.. She started her mission at the same time as Sister Call in August 2016, but in the beginning of her second transfer, she hurt her foot so had to go back home for a while. We are all so glad that she’s back now! I’m especially glad and grateful that she’s back because I get to serve with someone who I can relate so well with.

Last weekend, we had stake conference! One of the speakers shared an equation for righteousness.

righteous action + righteous intent/purpose = righteousness

Then he shared some examples:
1. wanting to help the poor so stealing food off someone else and giving it to the poor does not equal righteousness, because even though the intent was righteous, the action was not.
2. going to church every Sunday but only to hang out with your friends does not equal righteousness because even though the action was righteous, the intent was not.

You may read this and think, duhh.. it’s so obvious. but this simple and obvious equation was a good reminder for me to review my actions and intent so that I can always be sure that everything I do leads to righteousness and thus I can be sure that I am following God’s will. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up and want a spiritual prompting from God for every single decision we make, but as we keep this equation, we can be sure that God will be happy with our decisions.

Becoming Perfect in Christ

Happy Lunar New Year 😀 In Korea, it’s a tradition to eat a bowl of ddeokguk on New Years Day. In English, i think it’s called sticky rice soup? Wow that makes it sound kind of disgusting… sorry! It’s really good though!! anyway, eating a bowl of that soup symbolizes becoming a year older. Well, every member and investigator wanted to feed us ddeokguk this month! So Sister Engebretsen and I can officially say that we are 7 years older… haha. We got offered this dish many more times but we opted for other dishes haha.

Lunar New Year or commonly known as Chinese New Year is a very big holiday in Korea and everyone goes out of town to meet up with their relatives. So for missionaries, it’s the perfect time to deep clean our house! We spent the whole day cleaning our house on Saturday!! oh man, staying in all day and cleaning is so much more exhausting than being out all day and talking to people… haha. And on Friday, we had a mission conference and watched the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast. They announced some HUGE changes in our missionary daily schedule and key indicators! Because I was an Sister Training Leader last transfer, we actually got to try out the new schedule and give feedback to President, but today is the first day we get to apply the new PDAY schedule! Before, we had to study till 11am and then try and fit email, grocery shopping, cleaning and etc. in till PDAY ends at 6pm. But now we get to leave home at 8am!! so crazy… It’s exciting to be part of the big change and observe the differences.

On Saturday, we also received our transfer call…. wahh, my companion, Sister Engebretsen, will be going to Imun!! I’m excited for her to go to my first area, but I am really sad that she will be leaving. She’s seriously the cutest person alive. Last transfer was probably the ‘low’ of my mission so far and it was just really hard for me emotionally, but Sister Engebretsen showed me endless & selfless love everyday, and made me laugh every single day with her overload of cute and awkwardness 😉 I will miss her, but I am just really grateful for the opportunity I had to serve with someone who’s so real, down-to-earth and full of love. I keep reminding myself that new experiences and changes only make us grow 🙂 My new companion is pretty much a Australian version of me! She moved to Australia when she was ten years old (like me) and has a “unique” Korean pronunciation(like me) haha. We will be the Oceania Duo!

I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to deal with, well.. still learning to deal with is accepting the infinite love our Savior and Heavenly Father has for me. It’s easy for me to see the good in others but to have that same kind of positive outlook in myself is a completely different story. Last week, I read Elder Gong’s talk ‘Becoming Perfect in Christ.’ I just want to share a few of my favourite parts from this amazing talk.

Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is. Such understanding allows us to let go of fears that we are imperfect—fears that we make mistakes, fears that we are not good enough, fears that we are a failure compared to others, fears that we are not doing enough to merit His love.

The word perfection, however, is sometimes misunderstood to mean never making a mistake. Perhaps you or someone you know is trying hard to be perfect in this way. Because such perfection always seems out of reach, even our best efforts can leave us anxious, discouraged, or exhausted. We unsuccessfully try to control our circumstances and the people around us. We fret over weaknesses and mistakes. In fact, the harder we try, the further we may feel from the perfection we seek.

Fully accepting our Savior’s Atonement can increase our faith and give us courage to let go of constraining expectations that we are somehow required to be or to make things perfect. Black-and-white thinking says everything is either absolutely perfect or hopelessly flawed. But we can gratefully accept, as God’s sons and daughters, that we are His greatest handiwork (see Psalm 8:3–6; Hebrews 2:7), even though we are still a work in progress.

As we understand our Savior’s freely given atoning love, we cease fearing that He may be a harsh,faultfinding judge. Instead, we feel assurance, “for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). And we understand that time and process are needed for growth (see Moses 7:21).

For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfectionand success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measuresuccess or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”
For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and maketime to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthydoes not require perfection.5
For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things youdo well, however large or small.

As we act and are not acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14), we can navigate between complementary virtues and achieve much of life’s growth. These can appear in “an opposition,” being “a compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11).
For example, we can cease to be idle (see D&C 88:124) without running faster than we have strength (see Mosiah 4:27).
We can be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27) while also periodically pausing to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10; see also D&C 101:16).
We can find our lives by losing our lives for the Savior’s sake (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25).
We can be “not weary in well-doing” (D&C 64:33; see also Galatians 6:9) while taking appropriate time to refresh spiritually and physically.
We can be lighthearted without being light-minded.
We can laugh heartily with but not haughtily at.
Our Savior and His Atonement invite us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” As we do so, He promises that His grace is “sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).
For those burdened by cares to find perfection or to be perfect now, our Savior’s freely given atoning love assures us:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).7

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Merry(late) Christmas and Happy(late) New Year!! I hope everyone

The past few weeks were packed with exciting celebrations including Christmas, New Years, Sister Engebretsen’s birthday! 5th January was Sister Engebretsen’s birthday and my 1 year mark, so we celebrated hard!!…………. with some pancaked and banana in the morning! haha. We both started a “no sugar diet” on New Years, so we couldn’t even eat any cake 😦 we still made it a special day though! 🙂

Christmas isn’t celebrated as much here in Korea but it’s still such a special season because everyone’s spirit is a little brighter and it’s a great opportunity to introduce the ‘Christ’ in Christmas. The whole month of December, we focused on the #LightTheWorld initiative with our investigators, less actives and members. There’s no doubt that the as we testify of Christ, His light shines on us. We have a really old flip phone(in Korea, we call it a ‘grandma phone’), but somehow we managed to download the Light The World video on it and got to show it to people that way! It was amazing to feel the spirit of Christ as we showed the video, especially to our investigators.

Then on Christmas eve, our ward had a big Christmas Party. The ward members worked so hard to organise the party and getting everything set up! We had such a great turnout that the Relief Society sisters were freaking out because they thought we would run out of food!- we had just the perfect amount though 😀 that’s already a Christmas miracle itself right? 😉 This year, Christmas was extra special because it was on Sabbath day. We had a 1 hour special sacrament meeting, where our district did a musical number… well, as most of you will know, I was not born with a special singing gift, BUT thankfully my companion was and we were able to bring the spirit of Christmas into the meeting. Then after the sacrament meeting, we witnessed a true Christmas miracle – after 4 years of waiting, Brother Nam was baptised!! Brother Nam is Korean-Chinese and he met the elders 4 years ago! He was so prepared to accept the gospel and wanted to get baptised back then, but because of visa issues, he couldn’t get baptised. Despite all these things holding him back, he continued to meet with the missionaries till he finally got his Korean citizenship and could get baptised! He is such an inspiration. I remember before my mission, I just thought baptism was over-rated but as my sister explained it “baptism is a necessary step all of us need to take to obtain eternal happiness.”

As I reflect on the past year, it’s been a roller coaster ride full of different emotions and new learning experiences. I could explain everything I’ve learnt in words but I don’t have the time or talent for that… I guess every new experience is actually a new challenge. One of our English Class members asked me why I look so happy all the time and then accused me of faking it….! Well, yes.. I have a big smile and I am happy most of the time! but I’d be lying if I said I’m happy ALL the time. Sometimes, I miss home and sometimes I’m so exhausted that all I want to do is fall asleep… BUT when I am focused on others, I forget about my problems and my weakness. I am able to feel God’s love for them and ultimately I am able to feel His love for me. I know that God lives and He love each one of us, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to share this gospel of Jesus Christ – gospel of change and happiness – with those who are seeking it.

First Snow Day!

We had our very first snow of this winter last week!! It suddenly got super cold on Tuesday and then it snowed on Saturday. As missionaries, we don’t have access to weather forecast, so it was a big surprise to us! Well… actually, Sister Calda’s been praying for snow lately before because she’s from the Philippines and she really wanted to experience snow! haha

In Korea, everyone makes kimchi in November or December, and stores the kimchi for the whole year in their ‘kimchi fridge’. Two weeks ago, all of the missionaries in our zone went to a community centre and we made SOOOO MUCH kimichi. I’ve never ever seen that much kimchi in my life! I probably still smell like kimchi. I’ve helped my mum make kimchi before but I never realised how difficult and exhausting it is till now… well, that wasn’t the end… haha! I’ve made kimchi 3 times this month so far and we are having another big kimchi making event next week…

The American base in Seoul is part of our area, which means we get to meet all of the American military families in 서울! And it also means, we are get absolutely spoiled on American holidays like Thanksgiving! I had my first Thanksgiving dinner with the Eyring’s this year. They have the cutest family! Then on Monday, we had dinner with the Paragoy family. They have this quote on their door that says “Home is where the military sends me.” They’ve pretty much lived EVERY continent in the world! Sister Paragoy has the most fun and bold personality ❤ she’s so easy to connect with! The most awkward and strange part is having to pray in English at the end.. I really need to start practicing praying in English now 😛

We saw a big miracle last week! Sister Engebretsen went on exchanges with Sister Kirton on Wednesday so we went to Shinchon to exchange back on Thursday night. But they had a Thanksgiving dinner with a member, so they were going to be late and we were stuck in a different area… As Sister Calda and I were waiting, we called some people and tried to use the time effectively. Once we had called everyone on our list, we did some ‘random call time’, where we would randomly go through the contacts on our phone and and call whoever we stopped on. We stopped on someone who the previous missionaries met on the street in January this year, but hasn’t been contacted before. To be honest, I was kind of nervous to call her because we had no information about her and didn’t know what to expect. But we called her anyway and to our surprise, she remembered the missionaries and was so grateful that we had called! Her life since January had gone completely southwards. She was fired from her dream job, forced to move back to Gwangju with her family, and is now back studying again. She sounded very depressed and admitted that she even had suicidal thoughts that day. We were able to share our testimonies about the Plan of Salvation and share our Heavenly Father’s love for her. When we ended the call, she was much happier and so thankful for the call. This experience made me so thankful to know about our loving Heavenly Father who cares about us and has a plan for each one of us! The Plan of Salvation helps me to see my life in a bigger picture and overcome trials with a more positive outlook and hope.

Shindang!

I’m now back in the big, crazy city of Seoul! I am serving in the biggest area in the mission, 신당(Shindang), with my two wonderful companions, Sister Calda and Sister Engebretsen. Sister Engebretsen’s name is very difficult for Koreans to say so they’ve started calling her Sister ‘Eng’ (잉) now.. Sister Calda is from the Philippines and Sister Engebretsen is from Alaska. Quite an international trio right? 😛 I just realised I haven’t served with a companion from Utah yet! haha.

This is actually the third time being in a trio on my mission so far. It’s always a fun adventure being in a trio! – we have to be more conscious of time, especially in the morning when we get ready and also we have to be strategic when we are out proselyting because we don’t want to overwhelm people with three of us! I’m so excited to be in a trio again and learn from both of them.

My new area, 신당 is completely different to my last two areas. This is my first time serving in a big ward! I’ve only served in small branches with around 30 members and small chapels, but Shindang has a huge chapel with three levels and around 150 members. I have to admit, it’s much harder to memorise all of the members’ names now but I’m always up for a challenge.

The Lord’s work is progressing well in 신당. There are so many prepared people here, but we just need to help them see the importance of applying the gospel in their own lives. We are working with a family who’s been attending English Class every week for several years now. We only just started Family English program with them a few weeks ago and in the beginning, the father was completely against anything to do with church but over the years, his heart has softened and we are now teaching the whole family! Last week, we invited them to come to church on Sunday and the mum and little girl actually came!! The little girl LOVED primary and wants to be part of primary presentation next week 🙂 I love how the Lord’s timing is so perfect! We’ve only taught them a few times, but the Lord is really softening their hearts and I’m so grateful to be a witness of His love.

Sister Engebretsen arrived in Korea just over a week ago, so she is still trying to adjust to the time difference. It’s so cute watching her trying to stay awake during lessons and planning sessions at night. It reminds me of me in my first week in Korea! I would try so hard to stay awake but I always fell asleep as soon as it hit 7pm and my trainer had to try and wake me up every night for like a week… oops!! Sister 잉 is doing great and I’m proud of her for working so hard despite the jetlag! Oh and even though we are from two completely different countries, we actually have a mutual friend!! Crazy right?!

Since Sister Engebretsen is a new missionary, EVERYTHING is completely new to her and it’s really exciting to see how enthusiastic she is to learn the language, culture and about missionary work. We were walking on the street one night and there was a lady who was walking in front of us. I encouraged Sister Engebretsen to start a conversation with her by complimenting on her bag. So we started walking a little faster to catch up to her, and I whispered in her ear what she could say… Well, the lady had ear phones in and so Sister Eng walks straight in front of her and blurts out the sentence! She got such a freight and was so annoyed at us!!! Oh man, we just apologised and walked away REALLY fast… Eeek embarrassing!! haha. We had a great laugh about that incident afterwards! Even though we will need to work on the approach a little bit more, I really admire how fearless and willing Sister Engebretsen is all the time. She is not afraid to make mistakes and she’s just so cool about everything!- something I definitely need to learn from her haha.