I am currently emailing from the post office across the street from my new apartment! [Gwangju map wiki] And new it is! Nothing but dishes and furniture when we moved in. Slowly, thanks to the generosity of the elders already serving here and the local church members, we have collected some supplies and food. I am now dreading the amount of money I’ll have to spend one day when I move to a new city…a transition some might call “the real world.” My new companion 허상아 자매 (Sister Heo) and I are the “test run” for our mission in how to open a new area. With missionaries flooding the world, many places that haven’t had missionaries before or recently will go through what we are going through right now: a lack of hangers. Actually not being able to unpack was really the least of our concerns. On my way here, I gave away my Book of Mormon at the train station, so I didn’t even have a Book of Mormon to show people when we went out to teach!
Leaving 전주 (Jeonju) was really hard, I didn’t even realize how hard until I started thinking about all the investigators and lovely church members I would be leaving. It’s funny, when you leave an area, everyone who loves you feeds you…then when you are new to an area everyone who loves missionaries feeds you, too! Basically it’s been a constant feast the past week. On Thursday morning before I shipped out, we stopped by so I could say goodbye to Sister Kim, the recently baptized member, at her home. We started with just sweet potato…but that turned into a feast of rice, fried pork, fish, kimchi, all sorts of Korean side dishes, and fruit. I could barely walk to the train station!
Tuesday night was also a hard night. There is a group of girls that are friends with a member that we teach every week. Before they all showed up, we told the member’s mom that it was my last time, so she told us that she HAD to feed us. My companion and I had already had dinner…but that’s ok. So after our 30 minutes of English and 30 minutes of Gospel, we got in her car to go to dinner. Before we drove off, however, she ran back into her craft store where we met every week. She came out and reached back to me and said, “A gift.” She was handing me one of her handmade headbands that I had actually been admiring since we started meeting there, but I never had any money with me. The exact headband I wished for! I immediately switched it for the headband I was wearing (go figure) and at the restaurant she told me that on my first Sunday I was wearing a matching headband and scarf and everyone in the ward loved it. That was their first impression of me, so she thought it would be perfect to send me off the same way.
Yesterday I got to meet all of our new church members, and I gave my introduction talk as well. I remember in Jeonju having to repeat and practice my talk over and over again, but this time, I just walked up and addressed them all like I do every day to strangers. Progress is being made! I shared with them part of the introduction to the Book of Mormon where Joseph Smith bares his testimony. And then I bore my own testimony of the Book of Mormon and the restored Gospel. It’s different going from two different congregations to one smaller one, but I’m super excited to be here and serve these people. I told our mission president, every time I meet new Koreans, I can feel my heart growing.
And yes, I did wear a headband and matching scarf to church. Why change a good thing?