A few weeks ago the sisters in our mission were hit with devastating news. Sisters’ Conference was cancelled! According to the Mission President’s Handbook, huge groups of sisters aren’t supposed to get together for safety and financial reasons. And because it takes time away from our missionary work, of course. So, we all understood, but we were SO SAD! It was especially sad for me because it was going to be the last time I would get to see a lot of the sisters that I was with in the MTC and with whom I came to Korea. Any time they transferred far away to where I wouldn’t see them, it wasn’t a big deal because just before they all would go home, we’d have Sisters’ Conference! Alas, my hopes and dreams were dashed!
When we got our most recent transfer call, I found out that I was being called as our zone’s Sister Training Leader, basically responsible for the welfare and success and growth of the sisters in 5 of the proselyting areas in Gwangju. I really wanted to do a good job, but I wasn’t sure how to make my new position something of real value since there isn’t a lot of precedent. A few of the most senior sisters have always been in charge of doing splits with other sisters in surrounding areas, but besides that there was no instruction. Then recently, these sisters were called not by seniority, but by the mission president and just like the elders who act as zone leaders, these sisters have several extra meetings and were in charge of trainings, too. Whoa. How could I make this role as critical and helpful to the sisters as zone leaders are to all the missionaries? The day we moved into our new apartment, it came to me! Sister King, one of the other new Chungjeong sisters, came into the kitchen and said with the saddest face ever, “Were you sad when you heard about sisters’ conference?” And then we had a few moments of lamenting. I was actually trying not to lament too much, but when I saw her disappointment, I got inspiration! A West Gwangju Zone Sisters’ Conference!
I told no one of my plans, but immediately went to my calendar to pick a good p-day to host a mini sisters’ conference, of course! In just a few weeks, a Korean holiday dedicated to food would fall on p-day. Perfect date, check. Perfect theme, check. Korea is totally susceptible to marketing, and therefore there is an entire day dedicated to a Korean snack called 빼빼로 (sounds like Bay Bay Row). This snack is simply a long, thin pretzel dipped in chocolate, but because of the shape it’s always on November 11. 11/11. I made invitations and at zone conference a few days later I gave them to each of the sister companionships. The invitation said there would be games and crafts and a spiritual snack. All they needed to bring was two boxes of their favorite kinds of 빼빼로. There are lots of different flavors, almond, peanut, strawberry, and my new favorite, cookies and cream.
It was super easy to plan and put together all because of my mother! Last year for Christmas I sent my parents a few boxes of 빼빼로, and for Valentine’s Day, my mom had cleverly put a card together using the back of a 빼빼로 box. Hypothetically, you can mail a 빼빼로 box, so there’s space for two addresses and a note on the back of the boxes. My mom cut out the back, glued pretty paper to cover the ugly cardboard from the inside of the box, then wrote a note in the space provided to write to the person you’re mailing the box to. GENIUS! Craft, check. Games, check. Spiritual snack… hmm. Last year, for the October Sisters’ Conference, we watched the General Relief Society Broadcast together, but since we couldn’t do that this year, I knew that our spiritually uplifting material needed to come from that meeting. I borrowed the DVD and decided to share the talk given by the prophet President Monson. I wanted to come up with some thought provoking questions that the sisters could think about while listening, but nothing really came. Nothing came, but I knew that this was the right talk to watch.
The big day came and… everyone was late. Seriously, even I was late setting up and getting to our agreed upon lunch spot. But, one thing I’ve learned on my mission is that if we plan well and plan with the Spirit, the Lord will ensure that what needs to happen will happen. No stress. So we ate lunch, and walked to the church. We started with a game of course! My favorite game of late is the game where you have a famous person’s name on your forehead and by asking yes or no questions you figure out who it is. Super fun. I made the name cards the week before so I wouldn’t remember and could play, too. It worked; I totally didn’t remember writing “Mitt Romney.” After that, I explained our 빼빼로 box craft, and we all got to work cutting and sticking pretty paper and stickers to our cut up boxes. When we were wrapping that up, my plan was that we would take a bunch of fun self-timer photos. I had even prepared a spot with a colored paper background and signs that said “Sister Missionaries” “West Gwangju” “빼빼로 Day” and so forth. But, because we’d all been late, we really needed to move on to our “spiritual snack.” No stress, remember? So I passed out “We Never Walk Alone” in Korean and English, depending on their native language, of course. I told them to think about the power of prayer and scripture study in our lives as missionaries. This was my uninspired but seemingly important discussion prompt. Then we watched it together.
Near the end, President Monson shares a story about a woman named Tiffany whose life is blessed by a near stranger who follows the spirit and goes out of her way to follow inspiration, blessing Tiffany’s life in a way that only the Lord could conceive and coordinate. That’s when I realized why this was the talk that we needed to watch together. After it was over. I stood up and I told the sisters that I had never knowingly been a part of such a miracle as Tiffany’s, going completely out of my way to bless or be blessed by someone else. But, I realized that we were all brought from all over the world to be together in West Gwangju to bless not only our members and friends’ lives, but each other’s as well. Then, Sister Brooksby and Sister Boone, two sisters I was with in the MTC, shared their testimonies. They both go home the first week of December. It was so powerful to hear these already amazing women and see what the past 18 months had done for them to become even more amazing. I wrapped up with my testimony and final words about how special they all are as sisters serving for the Lord, especially in West Gwangju (because it’s the best), and we closed with prayer.
After the prayer, someone said, “Wait, we need to take a picture.” Self-timer picture, check. I thought we weren’t going to have time, but just before we all skipped out the door to get back to our missionary work, we all gathered for my previously planned self-timer pictures.
Perfect day spent with beautiful, wonderful friends, check. Final Sisters’ Conference, check.