Yesterday I experienced another first in Korea! I went on my first “Member Splits.” That means that I went with one member and my companion went with another member for a few hours. We did this so that a sister missionary would be in each of the wards where we serve, instead of both being at one building and no one at the other for church. I went to church where we thought there would be no investigators, that way nothing would get lost in translation. Of course, there were 3(!), two people that just decided to randomly come to our church and one more. Of course, no investigators showed up at the other church building where my companion was. It was smooth sailing! It was one of those days when I decided that maybe I know some Korean…but just some.
The member who was my temporary companion had been a sister missionary herself, so she knew the drill. There was one old lady who had just had a successful cancer surgery that we spent some extra bows on. She ended up sitting next to us during Sunday School during the second hour of church. I couldn’t really say anything worthwhile to her, but she didn’t have any scriptures with her. I offered her the spare Book of Mormon I always carry. I could tell that she couldn’t do much more than hold and read the book, so every time we needed to find a new scripture, I helped her turn to the right page. She in turn helped me by saying the scripture reference slowly. It was such a small thing, but it was really a privilege to be able to help this older sister during that hour, so that she could follow along and learn with us. It was an experience I’ll never forget because even though I could barely even understand the chapter and verses the teacher called out, I was still able to be a huge help to this woman who only wanted to learn more about the gospel. No language skills were required. Despite our own circumstances, whatever they may be, we really can be a blessing and lift the burdens of others.
Serving in Korea is really unique because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has only been in this country for a little over 50 years. That means that almost everyone is first or second generation Mormon, unlike in America where many people can trace their heritage back to the pioneers who crossed the plains, or at least maybe a few generations. There is a fervor and special love for the restored gospel among the Koreans that is a great example to me. One Thursday evening we were teaching a lesson at the church and afterwards we were in the hallway. The elders were playing Ping-Pong with some fellow members, and I noticed that there was someone studying across the hall from the festivities. School in Korea is super intense, so I figured this was someone working on homework for school, but as I took a closer look, it was in fact one of the young men studying his scriptures with a notebook and colored pencils spread out on the table. Wow. Here was a teenager right across the hall from some fun, but instead he was studying his scriptures and feasting on the word of Christ (2 Nephi 31:20; 32:3)! What an example to me! I am here to teach and uplift the Korean people, but instead all they do is teach and uplift me.
Last night my companion and I did the door-to-door thing. Near the end of our allotted time (aka, before it got late enough that everyone would be mad at us), we rang the doorbell of an apartment and as soon as we said “Hi! We’re missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are sharing a happy message…” or something like that, the door opened and a very happy man stood facing us. After his initial shock that I was not Korean, he told us that he and his wife were very interested in our church, but that she wasn’t home right now. We shared a few tidbits about the restored gospel, bore our testimonies, and left him with a Restoration Pamphlet and our number. My companion made fun of me because I was SO happy! And because I kept calling him “my new friend.” How often do missionaries knock on a door and someone says, “Oh, perfect, I actually have questions for you and want to meet with you.” Enough times that I’ll keep knocking on doors, that’s how often.