“Call Me Maybe” just played in the cafe where I am writing this week, and I am so out of the world that I mistook the singer for Taylor Swift and didn’t freak out over how great and ridiculous “Call Me Maybe” is until it was over. But, I’m making up for it now because Walk the Moon is now playing and I am thoroughly appreciating it…despite the fact that missionaries don’t listen to pop music. Oops.
A lot of my laughs these days are due to the language barrier I am always faced with. This week my companion and I were spending the hour before bed discussing important world matters, when Twilight came up. Since entering the MTC, all the Koreans I have met are Team Jacob, but my companion is Team Edward. I told her so and asked why she was different. Her response was, “Yeah, but I like white,” to which I burst out laughing! She did not understand my response to her matter-of-fact, simple answer. She tried again by saying that she is attracted to pale skin, so that is why she likes Edward. We had to look up the Korean word for “pale” she was using in the Korean/English dictionary so I could understand what she actually meant.
As Missionaries, we keep a record of everything we do, from the number of people we talk to on the street to how many members we visit to how many phone numbers we receive from new people we meet. We call them “stats.” There are a lot of stats to keep track of, and we do it so that we can account for and improve in everything we do. Even my language study can be measured and checked for progress. Stats are great, but they are kind of a pain because there are so many. Different areas of the mission might have a few different stats depending on what their missionary focus and specific goals are. This week we added two stats: “Edward vs Jacob” and “The Number of Black People We Meet.” These are clearly not real, but fun nonetheless. We were going to keep the Edward/Jacob stat to just our district, but we talked to some missionaries in Daejeon on the phone the other night, so now we are going to poll the whole mission little by little. Currently it’s split right down the middle. Go figure.
“The Number of Black People We Meet” might sound terribly inappropriate, but there is a story. Gwangju is a big city, so there are a lot more foreigners than there were in Jeonju, the city where I served before. The elders in my area are actually teaching a black man that moved here from America. I’m not sure why he chose Korea of all places, but he owns a business and doesn’t speak any Korean. Props to him! Thursday night we were riding a bus with the elders when two black men got on the bus and sat right in front of us. We started talking to them and learned that they are from Kenya and they are in Korea for five years as university students. They are studying nonprofit and philanthropic work, so they loved that we are missionaries. One of them told us that he has a friend in Gwangju who is a member of our church. He said he [the friend] had been in Thailand, but had arrived on Monday of that week. The elders got the friend’s number and when they asked for the name, we realized it was a member of our ward who we have been trying to find! The elders thought he’d just stopped coming to church, but here we found out that he’d actually moved! It was a total miracle to meet these two men on the bus! One of them had met with missionaries from our church before and the other said he would visit with their friend. YES! Super exciting. When the elders called the newly returned member, he was beyond excited and said that the fact that the elders called the very week he returned was evidence to him that Heavenly Father is aware of him and his life.
He came to church yesterday and it was a big reunion with all the ward members. He doesn’t really speak any Korean, but the unity and love that comes as a blessing from Christ’s restored gospel surpasses all language barriers and the love they all had for each other was clearly evident. That’s why, despite my great lack [of ability] with the Korean language, people are still able to learn about the Gospel and come closer to Christ as they learn more. It’s a miracle I love seeing every day!