So this week, like all weeks really, has been a week of MIRACLES! I want to tell you about a few, just so you can imagine how crazy this missionary work is.
Thursday morning, an appointment scheduled for that afternoon cancelled. Kind of a rough way to start the day, but it gave us some flexibility to visit some out-of-the-way member names marked on our giant map of Gwangju and former investigators who live nearby. After knocking on a few doors in one apartment complex of the addresses we had, we were talking to some people out in the street when I realized we had missed a phone call. The name said “Justine English,” but there was no other information listed. We decided it was probably someone with English interest that had met the missionaries a long time ago, so we would call back at night.
After lunch that day, we went “Beonji Shopping.” Beonji (번지) is the word for “house” in Korean. There aren’t many houses in Korea, most of them are out in the countryside, or smashed all together in the middle of cities. Either way, their addresses are super hard to figure out and find, so when we know that we’re going to be hunting out addresses, I call it Beonji shopping. Korea is actually adopting a new address system to avoid such complications, but for now it’s great fun! Sister Sheffield took a picture of our big map so if we got confused we could refer to it. We were confused from the get go because on the map there is a road that follows a river leading right to the house we needed… but in real life there was nothing but a dirt path. So, of course, we hopped the guardrail and followed the river. I felt like we were thrown back to the 70s, pre-Korea’s technological development boom. My companion is so great, there was a gravel path that turned off of our dirt road that she thought we should explore. Low and behold, it was the exact block of houses we needed. We shopped around only for a few minutes before finding the house we were searching for.
When we knocked on the house door, an older lady opened up and we asked for the name of the member who was on the map. At first she said she was non-existent, so we figured that meant we had the wrong address, BUT she told us that she was at work and that she was the person’s mother! YES! So, we didn’t really know what to do from there. We had no reason to worry though because she invited us in and we visited for about half an hour. When Koreans feed you, it’s a good sign, and when they won’t stop feeding you, it’s also a good sign. We had water, yogurt, oranges, sweet potatoes, and cookies. We asked about her family and about the daughter we were looking for. The mom was so curious as to how we found their house because she couldn’t remember ever meeting missionaries… and because as you can tell they totally live in the boonies. We showed her the picture of the map on our camera and told her, “We followed the river.” She was pretty entertained by our efforts. And even though she is Buddhist, she let us say a prayer with her before we left.
That night, we called “Justine English” and were surprised when someone on the other end answered with perfect English. She said that she found our pink, heart-shaped note on her door and she wanted to meet us the next day! I was super lost because we had left pink post-its on a few doors that day, but I couldn’t figure out what this “Justine’s” real Korean name was, or where she lived. So I told her I wanted to introduce my companion and passed the phone over. Sister Sheffield tried by asking her where she lived and Justine answered with, “You visited my house today! And left a note!” Oh dear. So we set up an appointment for the next morning… not having any idea where or with whom this appointment was going to be. We frantically searched all the records and numbers of the apartments we’d visited, but none matched “Justine English.” We narrowed it down by racking our brains for which doors we left notes on, and so the search was down to two.
Then, we called the Elders. We asked if they knew a “Justine,” and they said, “Yes!” We were SO relieved that we then told them the whole story… after which we found out that they thought we said “Justin” which is the name of one of the member’s kids and they had no idea what we were talking about. Ugh. We gave them the phone number and they said they would get back to us. Luckily, they had the number in their phone and so we knew exactly who we had just talked to.
The next morning when we got to Justine’s house, aka Sister Jeong, we were welcomed in with open arms and great generosity. We learned that she hasn’t been to church in a long time, but recently she had been thinking of calling the missionaries. YES! Proof to me, that sometimes Heavenly Father answers the prayers we don’t even know we’ve said. We had lunch together and got to know a little about her background and family. We even set up another appointment for a Korean picnic if the weather’s nice. I think she’s going to show us some of the ropes of Korean culture and living. It was a great day, and a great week for finding people and showing everyone that no matter how lost and forgotten they may think they are, Heavenly Father is always aware of them and concerned about the details of their lives. Even after years and years of seemingly no contact, He can send help and blessings your way. Maybe it’s even in the form of missionaries like me! I absolutely know that I am doing His work and weeks like this one reaffirm to me that His hand is everywhere that I am as I try to serve and live the way He would.