The town where I am serving has 2 major universities and a few smaller ones as well, so I see young people all the time gallivanting around and being cute. Couples in Korea usually have “couple items” which means matching clothes, jewelry, bags, or whatever else. Because there are so many college students, a ton of the advertising in town is geared toward them. In Korea, the most popular way to attract people into a place of business is to be playing music louder than the store next door. And what is the most popular song to play? That’s right: Gangnam Style. I must say, I feel pretty cool because I am in Korea when KPop has suddenly taken the world by storm. Because I’m a missionary, I don’t spend time listening to popular music, reading magazines, surfing the internet, or anything else that helps me stay connected to the world, but within my first week in Korea, I could recognize Gangnam Style within the first few seconds and pick out pictures of people doing the dance on posters and buses. It’s everywhere! Fun fact: 강남 (Gangnam) is actually a neighborhood in Seoul, Korea that is super posh, kind of like Beverly Hills or Bel Aire. Now you know!
This week was a really, REALLY great week. We experienced tons of miracles! One of them was on Sunday. We were running towards the bus stop, only to find that the bus that pulled up would be turning before it got to our church bus stop. As we walked back to the bus map, the driver honked at us and said he would drop us off before he turned so we should get on. This NEVER happens! So we got on and he dropped us off at the intersection that we cross to get to church even though there wasn’t a bus stop in sight. Another miracle was on Saturday. We decided to visit a girl we had been teaching who had suddenly stopped talking to us a few weeks ago. She didn’t respond to any calls or texts. We were so, so sad because she was making so much progress and great change! She lives really far away, but we made the trek anyway, bringing with us a picture of Christ with a note telling her how much we love her and with the words to the Primary Song, “I am a Child of God.” When we got to her apartment, we realized it was the type of building that doesn’t have a call pad and is always locked, so there is no way to get in without previously planning a visit. But…The door was broken and propped open! We walked up to her floor and knocked. She and her mom welcomed us in and fed us lots of fruit and rice – a very good sign! We learned that her phone had broken and that’s why she had been out of contact! She has a huge test this week, so afterwards we can start meeting again! SO exciting!!
I am happy to say that I am making progress in the language! I mean, how could I not with Heavenly Father helping me along the way? This week I made a small mistake when visiting some new investigators for the first time. The Mom asked me if we would like some coffee or tea. For those of you familiar with Mormons, you know that we don’t drink coffee or tea, so I said (in Korean), “Oh, that’s ok.” In English, “That’s ok,” can go either way, positive or negative. But in Korean the phrase only acts as a confirmation! Luckily, my companion was there to explain that we don’t drink coffee, but that water would be great. Sometimes I’m astonished at how similar phrases and meanings of words are between English and Korean, but I always have to be careful when I’m speaking Korean that I am thinking like a Korean and not an English speaker.
Speaking of being foreign, I don’t know what it was about last week, but it seemed like EVERYONE said hello to me! And I literally mean, “Hello.” I’m fairly used to people staring at and whispering about me, but when people speak to me, I love responding in Korean and seeing their eyes light up or hear their laughter. My companion’s favorite thing to do is say, “Hello,” and then I also say hello in Korean. People are so confused! One night we were visiting members in an apartment complex when my companion whispered. “Oh, a foreigner.” I started looking around for another non-Korean but was baffled to not find any. Then I realized that she meant me! That’s when I noticed that a whole group of kids had stopped playing and were following us. Sometimes I forget that I don’t look like everyone else here, and I wonder what I’ll do when I’m back in America and I’ll be struggling to find the Koreans in the hoard of foreigners – or I guess not foreigners – and not the other way around.
Even though I may not look like anyone else here, I deeply feel that they are all my family and friends. Yesterday, all the Mormons in the area were gathered at the church building for Stake Conference. The building was packed! As I sat there listening to members take turns speaking about the gospel during the meeting, I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that I knew all of them perfectly. Because we are all children of God, we really are all members of the same family, His family, and we knew Him and each other before this life. As I sat there with the arm of a member wrapped around mine, listening to words that I sort of understood, I had a tiny glimpse of the great love and compassion He has for each of us. I love Korea and I absolutely love the people here, they are all so different from me, but the longer I’m here, the more I know that we are all the same. I know that regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we have done, Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ love us beyond anything we can comprehend and they only want us to be happy. As a missionary that is my message to these people and to you.
I love you and I hope that you have a wonderful week filled with great joy!