Yesterday was Fast Sunday. For Mormons, the first Sunday of every month is set aside for abstaining from two meals and a attending special meeting at church where anyone can bare his or her testimony. Money we don’t spend on the food and drink we would have eaten for breakfast and lunch goes to those in need. Fasting isn’t just starving though, we fast with a purpose in mind: a question or concern that we have for Heavenly Father. Our dedication to the fast and even our donation to help others shows Heavenly Father our humility and desire. I love fasting! I always receive answers and motivation when I fast. Usually I always fast for others, maybe someone is sick or needs help, but yesterday I decided that fasting for myself was totally acceptable because I really need help learning Korean. During church, I felt nothing but peace as everywhere around me I recognized hope in the scriptures shared and hymns sung. I know that one day soon I will be able to get around without always turning to my companion for translation or confirmation, but sometimes I’m impatient for that day.
Then something amazing happened.
After church we grouped up with all the elders in our city and did a jeundo activity, or proselyting activity. I’ve done this a few times, like the first time that someone gave me her phone number. We went to a busy part of town with lots of businesses and shopping and set up a table with surveys, street boards, and got to work. For over an hour, we split up and walked back and forth on that block talking to EVERYONE who passed. While the elders were setting up the street boards, I walked up to two girls that were about to pass. We had a conversation. A real, more than “Hi, I’m a missionary want to know more,” kind of conversation! And they gave me their number! The first people I talked to! That happened again and again! Not the number-giving part, but having conversations with people. I talked about doughnuts and meeting friends, ice cream and music. I was astonished. They were astonished. I knew that Heavenly Father was answering my fast, reassuring me that I can do it! I can speak Korean!
Besides just wanting to communicate with and teach the people I meet, there is another reason I’m concerned about learning Korean quickly and well. Some of you may know that at General Conference in October, President Monson, the prophet, announced that men can now serve missions at age 18 and sisters can serve at 19. This is different from before when men would serve at 19 and sisters at 21. People weren’t really shocked by the age change for men, but everyone was shocked by the change for women. Since then, missionary applications have been flooding in like never before. Our mission president was told to expect many, many more sister missionaries serving, but now we know that there will be more elders serving as well. The whole world is going to be flooded with missionaries! I’m so EXCITED! With the age change came a change in MTC training. Everyone’s time at the MTC is cut by a third. For me, this means that we are going to have younger missionaries with only 9 weeks of training instead of 12, like I had. Soon after the announcement, my companion made the connection that this means I’ll become a senior companion early and probably train earlier than normal, as well, to compensate for the huge influx of sister missionaries. I freaked out a little bit. But, after many prayers, I was okay with it. Mostly everything we heard up until then was a rumor anyway: “Greenies will train in two transfers,” “We are getting 40 additional sister missionaries by summer,” and so forth. But then last week at Zone Conference, our president looked at me and said, “Sister Roueche, this means you’ll be training early.” Ha, there you go. I told him that I already knew and that I’d had many conversations with the Lord and I was ready. He and the elders in the room all chuckled.
This is the other reason I really want to learn Korean NOW. Because soon we will have a flood of these new sister missionaries with less training than even I had, and they will be looking to us, to me. I know I have been prepared for this, and that gives me courage. Everything I’ve done points to this great responsibility: many Butler University Welcome Weeks, sorority recruitment, leadership and orientation guide training, even working in the many musical chamber groups all prepared me for what I must do to help these sisters and the people of Korea as this new era begins.
Ironically, my focus on this future challenge didn’t prepare me for what I learned is coming first. Today, everyone got a call from the missionaries in the mission office telling them where they will spend the next transfer. We assumed that since my companion has been in Jeonju for 4 transfers (about 6 months), she would definitely be leaving…No.
I got a call today not from missionaries but from our mission president. On Thursday I am moving to 송정 (Songjeong), a city that hasn’t had sister missionaries in years. This is called “opening an area” in missionary lingo and is a HUGE responsibility! Talk about flabbergasted. I didn’t see that coming at all! We knew because of all the new sisters they would have to open up new areas, but I always figured it would be other people, experienced people, better people. My new companion and I will be starting from scratch: new apartment, no investigators, no idea where to write emails, no idea where the buses go…does that city even have buses? an empty refrigerator, and so forth. Wow. We have a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that we can do it. I have been called to this place at this time for a reason, and I feel like I’m starting to recognize those reasons. I’ve only been in Korea for 12 weeks, but I have seen so much! Now it’s time for a new adventure. Here we go! Wish me luck!