On my mission I’ve had three regrets so far. My first was in Jeonju when visiting a part member family, meaning the mom was a member and the daughter and dad were thinking about getting baptized. The mom never went to church, and I felt like I should promise her that if she would start going to church, her family would get along better, her husband could successfully kick smoking, and they could all get baptized. But, in the moment, I was unconfident about what was going on, and I let my poor Korean skills get in the way of being bold and promising the blessings that could have been theirs. Fortunately, the work of the Lord doesn’t stop just because we are weak, and the last week I was in Jeonju, the mom came to church! And two weeks later, both the daughter and dad got baptized! I learned a lot from this experience because even though the miracle still happened, I was given an opportunity to be a part of it, but I let fear get in the way. Now, when I feel that fear creeping in, I think back to this experience and I do what I know needs to be done or say what needs to be said.
Another regret happened in Yuseong. Do you remember Coco, the Chinese hip-hop dancer? Well, what I never told you was that a week before her baptismal date, she blocked our phone number, and I never got to talk to her again before I left Daejeon. I decided I would fast for a miracle that would help us find Coco. The day that I fasted, we were riding a bus to an appointment and a few stops after our apartment, I saw someone get on that looked familiar. It looked like one of the foreign students from Africa that I had met at Coco’s dorm when she cooked Chinese food for us. But, I’d only met him once, the bus was impassibly crowded, and I didn’t want to force my way from the back to the very front of the bus to stare at someone and be wrong. I sat there arguing with myself: go, not go? It wasn’t until after he got off at that foreigner dorm that I clearly saw him out the window and recognized him as the exact person I thought it was. Wow, I felt SO dumb. Here I was fasting for a miracle and I’d WASTED it! But, the next week we rode the same bus at the same time going to the same appointment, and at the same bus stop, this kid got on and walked to the back of the bus and sat in the seat behind mine. Heavenly Father is so merciful to give me another chance, so I definitely didn’t waste it. I talked to him the whole 20 minutes he was on the bus. Coco had moved from his apartment so he only saw her once or twice a week on their university campus. That was once or twice a week more than I saw her, so I made sure he knew I was transferring from Daejeon and he left with the assignment to say hi to Coco when he saw her next. Maybe he never saw her again, maybe he forgot to tell her when he did see her, but I did all that I could, and that’s what I’m here to do, all that I can and hope and pray for when Heavenly Father fills in the gaps.
My last regret is one that has been weighing on my mind ever since it happened, and it wasn’t until last night that I was given the opportunity to make up for it. When I went on “miracle splits” with Sister Ensign in the my third transfer, and she only in her first, we were knocking on doors when an old grandpa and his wife, after hearing us talk about the Book of Mormon and accepting one, invited us in. It was the FIRST time that had ever happened, so I freaked out and said we’d come back later. My companion and I went back at least once if not twice a week to their apartment and they were NEVER home. So many times I’ve thought back to that winter night and how welcoming they were, and how I totally failed. Yesterday, we had no appointments after church, so we just wandered around talking to people all day. Around dinner time we went to a new neighborhood to knock on doors and talked to some nice people, but nothing much. Then, the night was getting dark, and the hour late, so we were going to finish up the last few floors of this apartment and go back to the streets. We always start at the top and work our way down, so when we got to the 5th floor we were anticipating being done! We knocked on a door and a lady on the other side started talking to us, but I couldn’t really hear anything she was saying and she had no idea what I was saying. But yet, she kept standing there trying to make conversation through the door. Finally, she opened the door. She said she wasn’t really interested in our message, but I’d said we were looking for opportunities to serve people, so what could we do? I hate it when people ask that because they’re testing us: two foreigners living in Korea thinking they can help the Koreans? Ha. So I said we can clean and make kimchi and whatever else they need done. She told me it wasn’t kimchi-making season, but then proceeded to tell me all about her family. She told me her 38 year old son isn’t married yet, and I was majorly concerned it was about to take a turn for the awkward, but I changed the subject to English because she said he likes English. Then, her husband came to the door. In my mind I thought, “Oh, no,” because it’s usually my experience that when the spouse comes to the door, they shoo us away.
Instead, he asked us if we were Mormons and said he knew us very well. I’m weary when people say that because they probably have only heard terrible, weird, and untrue things. I asked him if he’d read the Book of Mormon before, and he said he hadn’t because he had the bible, but if I gave him one, he’d look at it. Then, THEY INVITED US INSIDE! I said yes, and we went in and took our shoes off, sat on the couch, drank tomato juice, discussed the Book of Mormon and our message about Christ’s true church being restored, and even prayed together. After we prayed, we figured we’d go, but he started asking us questions about Gwangju. It turns out that the neighborhood we’d decided on that evening to proselyte in was one of the first places in Gwangju to develop because at the beginning of the 20th century, American and British missionaries settled there and established a school and hospital and later many more things. He brought out a map, some old pictures, and a book that he had collected, compiled, and published. I thought it was so funny how his wife would ask us questions about our missionary work, and he would answer all her questions “Oh, they study for a few months before coming to Korea and they serve for about two years,” etc. I think that he just LOVES missionaries because of the history of his town that he loves so much. It was super cool! He told us that people hate it when we knock on their doors, including him and his wife. I told him I know, but that we just really want to be able to tell everyone we can about our happy message. He said that was excellent. Once we left, with a map and new book in hand, the wife walked us out to our bus stop and told us how thankful she was to have met us.
We probably all have regrets, and I think that mission regrets are extra bad because we are supposed to being doing the Lord’s work the way he would, but we are all lacking and imperfect. He, however, loves us and the people we are serving, so he gives us new chances and opportunities to grow and bless others. I’m SO thankful that He does.