This week I had the overly exciting blessing of seeing a close family friend who now teaches Russian here at the MTC. At the end of our short conversation he reached out his hand to shake mine (in typical Mormon missionary fashion) and it was weird to me. I made the comment that both his and my family had told me that he wouldn’t hug me because I am a sister missionary now. We laughed about it and he said he had thought about it but resisted. Later I was thinking over this experience and realized that it wasn’t weird that he did “not” hug me, it was weird that he “did” shake my hand. For the past nine weeks, all I’ve done is bow to everyone (in true Korean fashion). Sometimes I’ll meet new elders around campus in the dry cleaning line or waiting for gym to start and they’ll extend their hand in a “Nice to have met you” gesture and I’ll just stare at their hand like it is something new to behold…and just bow instead. My companion one day made the comment that I had just given an expert bow to someone as I said thank you for holding the door open for us. I was completely and utterly unaware that I had even bowed! That is when I realized that I am ready to embrace anything that the Korean culture has to throw at me; from slippers in a stranger’s house to live octopus and dog for dinner. If I can bow like a boss and I’m not even in Korea yet, they better watch out!
This week we started teaching one of our investigators named 영순절 (Young Soon Chol) about the commandments. It made me evaluate what I have always told people about some of the first things they notice about me: my standards or the “rules” I keep because of my faith. For example: no drinking alcohol or coffee, no sex before marriage, no cussing, you get the idea. I would only tell them the obvious things: it’s healthier, I’m saving myself, I don’t need profanity to express myself, but yet it is so much more than that. Heavenly Father has given us commandments for our own good, to protect us and free us from the bonds that keep us down when we are enslaved to the habits we’ve developed or the guilt we feel. So many times people would say to me, “Wow, you’re so un-cool because this,” or, “You don’t get to do anything because this,” but really, I have the freedom to do what I want when I want because I don’t need those things to dictate my life or bring me happiness. The other reason I gave Young is so true, but how many of you have I shared it with? It is because when I follow the commandments that Heavenly Father has blessed us with, I can be closer to Him and feel good about myself. I don’t understand all the commandments myself or why Heavenly Father gave them to us, but I know that commandments don’t trap us, they protect and guide us. And as we follow them to the best of our ability (no one is perfect), we will receive more blessings than we can count in this life and the next (Alma 7:16).
Last week we had two Korean substitutes because our teacher was on his honeymoon (finally). One of them was 초형재님 (Brother Cho), and he also served in Daejeon where I am going. He told us that Daejeon is the very best mission. Now don’t get me wrong, whatever mission anyone is serving in is the best mission because that is where he or she is serving. However, Brother Cho had a reason for his declaration. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the book of compiled revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith during his life, one of the revelations Christ gives is about the restoration of His church in 1829. The revelation was given over a year before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. He talks about “a marvelous work” that “is about to come forth among the children of men” meaning the spreading of Christ’s Gospel (D&C 4:1). Today, missionaries all over the world use this revelation as inspiration about spreading the good message with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). Frequently we compare the world to a field; we talk about the “mission field” and “going out into the field” and so forth because Christ said to Joseph Smith, “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul” (D&C 4:4). Why is this significant? Because Brother Cho taught us that the word “Daejeon” comes from two Chinese characters that mean “Big Field.” So literally, I am going to the field, just like this scripture says. How cool is that?!
Joyfully Shouting Sister
(my name has slightly changed since last week.)