This week I got to travel up to Daejeon where our mission’s headquarters is and have a giant Christmas party with all the other 94 missionaries serving with me. Because I live so far away from Daejeon, my companion and I, and another pair of sister missionaries got to take a bus up to Daejeon the night before! It was awesome because it was like the party started a night early! The four of us helped Sister Furniss, our mission president’s wife, with the final preparations after dinner and in the morning. Stepping into their home is like stepping into America. We had tacos for dinner. That’s right, good old American flour tortillas, cheese, refried beans, and salsa from the Costco’s in Daejeon. I had nothing to complain about! After dinner we helped her wrap extra White Elephant gifts for the party the next day and she asked if we needed something. In Korean, I said we didn’t need anything, but I quickly remembered that she doesn’t speak any Korean, so I said it again but in English. I couldn’t do it! It took me three tries before I could say, “No, we don’t need anything,” in English. The other sister missionaries thought it was hilarious, especially the Koreans.
At the bus station on the way to Daejeon I had a cool experience. We had to wait awhile before our bus left, so we were in a bookstore looking around. A man came up to me and said,” Oh, excuse me. What time…is it?” in English. I looked at my watch and responded in Korean. He looked at me wide eyed and let out a roar of laughter! Usually I talk to members who are around foreign missionaries all the time, or I talk to people out on the street first, so when I speak Korean, it isn’t a huge shock to anyone. But this man had spoken to me first, so he wasn’t expecting me to understand anything he said if he spoke in Korean, let alone respond to him in Korean. It was awesome! I don’t think he believed me when I told him I’d only been here for 3 months because the way I spoke wasn’t like a foreigner. Huzzah for having Korean companions! I shared our message with him and we had a lovely chat.
So the Christmas party! It didn’t start till 10, but basically everyone was there at 9. How often is the whole mission together? That’s right, only at Christmas. We started off with a White Elephant gift exchange. The president called out categories of missionaries and we got to go up and pick a present, but we had to show it to everyone. I went up with the “Missionaries who live east of the Mississippi River” category. I think there were only 3 of us. My present was pretty good: a bag of treats, including some probably coveted-after Hostess snacks. But, someone stole my present! I was thoroughly put out about it…I mean as much as you really can be at Christmas. So I went up and shook some more packages. There was a small box present that I shook and I immediately recognized it as a Korean game called Go Stop. So I unwrapped it and I was right! I WAS SUPER PUMPED! This is a game that I’ve played a few times, and I wanted to buy it, but I never think about it until I get the urge to play. Now I have it. So. Excited.
After that, we watched Madagascar 3. I’ve watched nothing but church movies since June 27th, so even something terrible and corny like Madagascar 3 was a great joy to all of us. The room was dead quiet and we were all mesmerized for the hour and 20 minutes. It was a great movie, I highly recommend it…but don’t hold it against me if it’s terrible, I don’t know any better. There was one scene in the movie where a character says something that alludes to a curse word and the whole room of innocent missionaries burst out laughing! We were like 3 year olds, it was hilarious. After the movie we sat down to a huge feast of fruit salad, roasted chicken, jello, cabbage salad, rolls, brownies, and pumpkin pie. Sister Furniss is a saint for putting it all together for us! I sat with the other sister missionaries with whom I roomed at the MTC. It was so fun to all be together again! I think when we left the MTC we all thought we’d never see each other again…we see each other all the time, but it’s always special to get to spend that time together.
To end the day, we went into the chapel and had a devotional complete with the story of Christ’s birth and loads of great Christmas music. Christmas music always lifts the spirit, doesn’t it? About half the program was in English and half in Korean, so we all got a printout with everyone’s part in our own language. But, the music is all the same, no matter the language. I sang. “Oh, Holy Night” in English with the sister missionaries and “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” in Korean with the missionaries I served with in Jeonju. I loved it!
This week as you make your final preparations for this splendid holiday I hope you remember why we celebrate Christmas. Our Savior Jesus Christ came to earth to lead the way for us and to suffer for all our sins, pains, and weaknesses. His mission of hope started at His miraculous birth. I am so thankful that we get a whole holiday season to remember His great love for us! Merry Christmas!