On Friday, all the missionaries (all 156 of them!) from our mission gathered in Daejeon for the Mission Christmas Party! Just like last year, we started off with a white elephant exchange. And just like last year, I picked a great present, and just like last year it was stolen away from me.
Actually, to be honest, I stole the box of Lucky Charms cereal from someone, and I wasn’t surprised when someone else stole it from me, but it was a glorious few minutes. Cereal here is really expensive, so even though I don’t really like Lucky Charms all that much, to eat cereal was an exciting prospect. Instead, I got a present full of chocolate and mints which I shared and ate all of while we watched… wait for it… Home Alone. That’s right. Last year we watched Madagascar 3, which was terrible, but oh so good. This year it was a big secret, so there were all sorts of rumors flying around from a spiritual movie to Monsters Inc. 2. I think it was the first time I’ve ever watched Home Alone from beginning to end; I always just caught it on television when nothing else was on. I watched it sitting next to Sister Shin, our mission President’s wife. She cracked up the whole time, which made it that much more enjoyable.
After our FEAST, we had a spiritual meeting filled with stories of Christ, Christmas miracles, and beautiful music. During the party I’d looked around and realized I didn’t really know anyone in the mission anymore. At the beginning of my mission, I transferred a lot, so I felt like I knew every missionary. Then people started going home, TONS of new missionaries came, and I stayed in Gwangju where missionaries usually move around inside of the city instead of come and go from other areas in the mission. I felt like I only knew 10 people at the party. Fortunately for me, it seems that all my favorite missionaries are musical, so most of the beautiful music was performed by the people I’ve come to love best and who will forever remain my best friends. The party was a great way to kick start a week of Christmas celebrations!
I think it’s interesting how God answers not only my prayers, but also my passing thoughts. A little while ago, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to reread the Book of Mormon one last time before I go home?” But then I thought about how much time that would require and how little time I have left and I put the thought away. As I’ve grown up it’s gotten easier and easier to read scriptures. When I was young it just seemed so daunting. For some of our new members and investigators it’s the same. The Book of Mormon is 500 pages in English and over 600 in Korean! Not to mention the scary thickness of the Old and New Testaments. One time I heard my seminary teacher say that she reads the entire Book of Mormon every year. At the time I thought what a worthy goal that is, but it seemed huge and unattainable. Then one year my dad read all the standard works from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Pearl of Great Price starting on January 1. He even finished early, before December 31. I thought the same then, too: “Worthy goal, but too much time.” Go figure that together with the Zone leaders, we decided to make a goal for our zone to read the whole Book of Mormon in ONE TRANSFER. Count ’em – 6 weeks. 15 pages a day in English and…a lot more in Korean.
The goal is that everyone will finish the day before transfer day on January 15th. I’m only a little behind right now because Sundays, the Sabbath day and a day of rest, are ironically the busiest days for missionaries. It takes a lot of time: reading at night before bed, reading during mealtimes, in restaurants, on the bus if there’s no one else around… but WOW, it’s GREAT! On the train ride to and from Daejeon for the Christmas Party, all the missionaries from Gwangju were furiously reading their Book of Mormons, pencils in hand. What’s been amazing is that the reading I do one morning almost always comes in handy during the day when we are teaching or visiting with members. Something my companion reads answers a question I have and vice versa. Truly the Book of Mormon is a tool from God to help us in our lives. It’s our textbook for this open book test of life.
This past week, we met with an investigator who believes in God, but doesn’t really see why religion or even Jesus Christ are important. So we watched “Finding Faith in Christ” with her in honor of her questions and Christmas! Afterwards she was completely honest and open with why believing in or honoring a loving Heavenly Father is hard for her. She had one of the basic questions of life: Why do bad things happen? Just that morning, my companion and I had been reviewing our Book of Mormon reading together and had discussed her exact concern from our reading in 2 Nephi 2 which talks about the need for opposition in all things for our progression and growth. How perfect that we could without hesitation show her answers to her questions from the Book of Mormon, using not our own words, but the words of her Heavenly Father and His prophets. How great is this gospel!
I’m so thankful for this Christmas season when we can settle down and focus on all the things that make this life wonderful. I’m thankful for my fabulous family and friends and all they do to support me. I’m thankful for this opportunity to serve these amazing Korean people. I’m thankful for our merciful Heavenly Father who sent His precious Son to us not as a man but as a baby to show us the way back to our heavenly home. I know as we follow Christ’s example throughout our lives no matter our age, we will find the greatest happiness imaginable.
Merry Christmas to all!