Chinese New Year, that is! Some families in Korea only use the “Lunar” calendar, which is how the beginning of the Chinese New Year is determined. My last companion’s family was like that, so when she moved to America to study, she was really confused about when her actual day of birth was because in Korea, her birthday would change as the moon changed, so it was always a little different, just like Easter is always a little different. In honor of the new year all the missionaries in our mission stayed inside on Saturday and…SPRING CLEANED! I have a new found respect for people who restore or flip houses and my mother who is always determined to “spring clean.” I felt like she was spring cleaning every month, but now I totally understand why. I cleaned out dust and dirt from places I’d never think about cleaning if it hadn’t been for the checklist the mission gave us…places that maybe haven’t been cleaned in more than a year…My companion and the other two sisters in our apartment played hymns and Mormon Tabernacle Choir on our speakers really loud and got to work! In Korea, their chemical laws are a little different, so I’m pretty sure we were using cleaning supplies that would be illegal for domestic use in the US.
We also wore 한복들 (hanboks), the traditional Korean dress, to church in honor of the holiday! I’m going to print out lots of pictures so if you write me, I’ll send you a personal copy of me in my hanbok. Last P-day, we stopped by city hall where they have used hanboks for only $15! The one that I really liked actually fit me and all the little old ladies in the shop were very pleased. I’m apparently built like a Korean. The top is two-toned orange and pink with embroidered flowers up the collar, and a dark green skirt. We can tell that I got a really nice one because the embroidery is real and not just painted on. I’m excited for Korean Thanksgiving when I can wear it again!
This week I got to experience a full day of tender mercies in a mountain town that we cover in our area. There is a verse I really love near the beginning of the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 1:20 about the tender mercies of the Lord, evidence of His love and appreciation for our efforts, kind of like miracles. It takes a long time to get to this town, so we only go maybe once a week, once every two weeks. When we went this week, we had plans to visit people but we had a few hours of “free” time before our appointments. We decided to explore a little, and so we stumbled upon a little suburban, practically American neighborhood. We of course decided to knock on all the doors. If there was someone home, they listened to us or invited us in. It was CRAZY! Usually if anyone is home they close the door or tell us to go away, but every one listened to us! Miracle or tender mercy, it felt amazing to be able to teach so many people that day about our message.
There was one home in particular: an experience I might cherish forever. On this block of fancy houses (some even with yards!), there was a dirt path that went off in a different direction. Of course we followed it. There was a humble home at the end, nothing special, not even made of materials that might survive a major storm. As we passed the vicious guard dog, or I should say as it ran away from us, we felt a special spirit come over us. We knocked on the door and the little old lady who opened it immediately invited us in and turned off the TV. We just stood in the door, but we started teaching her our message about Heavenly Father’s love for all of us and how knowledge about his plan can bless all of our lives. She gave us the typical response about how she already goes to church and believes in Jesus Christ, but she kept listening. I didn’t understand why, but my companion started to teach and testify about the resurrection and how because Christ conquered death our bodies will all be made perfect and beyond that, our message is about how we can all live together with our families, too. I love testifying to people that after this life our families can live together forever, but my companion did it in a really special, different way than normal. I didn’t understand until I took a step further into the house and saw the woman’s son sitting down. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know what his handicap was, but maybe Down’s Syndrome? Either way, I suddenly understood the special spirit in that home and the humble and noble character of this home and this woman who clearly sacrificed a lot to care for her son. I firmly believe that those people in this life with handicaps have a special role, a different purpose than the rest of us. They teach us to love and understand, how to serve and be selfless, and that it takes an extra special child of Heavenly Father to be granted that role. This is something I’ve learned better on my mission as I’ve been able to serve all sorts of people and families. The woman didn’t really want to hear more, but we kept trying, just because we knew how blessed she was to have such a precious member in her family. We did have to leave, we didn’t want to scare her or make her uncomfortable, but as we left that home, I was just overcome with gratitude to have been able to meet them. I think, as we started talking to the girl at the next house, my eyes still shined with my tears of thankfulness.
I know as we try our best to be our best, the Lord will make our pathways easier by granting us small tender mercies. Even our favorite ice cream being available on the day we want to eat it, or the hanbok I loved fitting me, or a street light turning green as soon as we get there is evidence to me that the Lord is in the small, careful details of our lives. “May our hearts always be filled with gratitude for His abundant and tender mercies.” (Elder Bednar, April 2005 General Conference)
Happy New Year!