Surprise! I’ve transferred! I am now in the heart and namesake of my mission, Daejeon. It’s not the biggest city in my mission, but it’s the biggest city I’ve served in thus far. The neighborhood where I’m serving is called 유성 YooSeong, and my mind is blown by all the science and genius in this area. Basically all the members I serve here are atomic scientists, engineers, literal rocket scientists because Korea’s NASA is here too, world renowned neurologists, and so forth. Oh, they are also all fluent in English. Sometimes I wonder why I’m learning Korean because it seems like every Korean knows more English than I know Korean! Oh well.
So my new companion is … drum roll … American! Not only that but she is from Naperville, Illinois! I feel like I’m back at Butler hanging out and working alongside Mid-Westerners again. I think some Koreans are disappointed because she doesn’t have a Chicago accent and I don’t have a Southern accent, but that’s ok. As soon as the Koreans find out that I lived in Gwangju, they ask me about Gwangju’s special accent. My new comedy shtick is speaking in Korean and impersonating the Gwangju lingo and accent. People think it’s a riot! It’s amazing to me how different it is serving with a foreigner and not a Korean. I think people are more forgiving of us interrupting their days on the bus or on the sidewalk because we’re not Korean and maybe we just don’t know any better. I don’t know, it’s been working well so far! I’ve talked to tons of people! I also live in an apartment with 2 Sister missionary companionships, not just one. It’s a total party! Actually, it is a lot of fun, but we still do our own thing most of the time and are too busy to just sit around and enjoy each other’s company.
Within the first hour of being here, my companion Sister Painter and I taught our first lesson together. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but the next morning we taught another lesson and it was absolutely amazing! It’s a 30/30, so the first 30 minutes we teach a girl named Julie (I don’t remember her Korean name), whose English is amazing, then for 30 minutes we teach the gospel to her mom. Yes, her name is, in fact, Sister Kim. My companion had met her on Wednesday at her house and between that meeting and our meeting on Friday, she had lots of questions. She had read the introduction to the Book of Mormon and Googled Joseph Smith. We give people LDS.org and Mormon.org to look at if they have questions, but it’s always Google they go to. So we went really in depth to teach her about Joseph’s experience reading James 1:5 and deciding to “ask God, who giveth to all men liberally,” and the vision he had as a result of that sincere prayer to know truth. It wasn’t our lesson plan at all, so within the first 24 hours together, Sister Painter and I were going off the cuff. It was awesome! I recited the account of his first vision to her and we both bore our testimonies about how we personally know and how she could know if our message is true and whether or not Joseph Smith “made it up.” Then after we answered all her questions, we taught more about the Book of Mormon and how it acts as a witness and evidence of our message. I bore my testimony of the Book of Mormon, but I was struggling to really iterate how I felt about it. When I finished stammering out a few sentences she asked what that was, that feeling I had when I prayed to know the Book of Mormon is true. She used the word “enthusiasm” to describe how I felt, and said she wanted to feel that, too. When she offered the closing prayer, she prayed that she could know like I know if the Book of Mormon is true.
It wasn’t just a great experience for me because we were teaching someone with a sincere desire to learn, but because it was the first time on my mission where I’ve seen my personal influence help someone, where I felt that it was really me who needed to be able to teach this woman and help her find joy and answers in her life. I know that I’m here for a reason and that there are people that I can help, that I’m prepared to help, and maybe something I’ve said or done before has affected people’s lives here in Korea, but I haven’t yet recognized those experiences. But on Friday morning, my outrageous passion helped spark someone else’s hope and desire. I was in Gwangju for such a short time, and I miss the wonderful people and missionaries there, but I know that I have now been called to Daejeon for a special purpose. I’m so excited to see what happens!