Monday, July 22, 2013

"…your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things" Luke 12:30

I have almost made it through my first transfer in Korea! Sunday was my companion's last day in our area and then she is going home, so I will be getting a new trainer. I am interested, excited and a little nervous to find out who it will be. Although, I am sure whoever it is we will have an adventure together. And regardless of our compatibility, I am sure that I will learn so much.

It is getting so hot here. The sun is making me break out in freckles. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I have always thought they were cute on other people, but it is different when they're on your own face. I don't really miss the rain very much, but I do miss how nice and cool the clouds made it feel. Walking outside seems like a workout when it's so hot and humid. Somehow I keep going just putting one foot in front of the other and gaining a new appreciation for air conditioning. In other unrelated news, We were taken out to eat by a less-active sister this week. Beforehand she asked us if octopus was okay, and we said sure. I have had octopus before and I can do that, and I love calamari so I was not all that worried. However, it was a new culinary experience for me, and not a good one. In many Korean restaurants the patron cooks their own food at their table. This day the server brought us our raw food in a bowl and sat it on the table. As I looked in there were just a bunch of little octopi, heads and tentacles still attached floating in some water. It wasn't good. Our sister host cooked it up and served and portioned it out. All I could think about was their little octopi brains and everything else that is compacted up there in their heads. This was the image floating through my mind as I carefully picked my plate trying to avoid their heads, and all the while making yummy sounds so my hostess would know how much I appreciated her generosity. I am afraid this is just the beginning of my culinary adventures here. As girls studying for French minors finding their way in Korea say "Bon appetit". 

This week I've been thinking about where my life focus is. As a missionary it is not quite so difficult to keep my focus on the gospel and doing the Lord's work, because that is what I am here to do. I have been called and set apart to teach the gospel and build up the Lord's Kingdom. However, looking back over my short twenty-one years before I started my service, I can see now more than ever that my focus was not always in the right place or on the right things. There were times that I cared much more about material things and about personal problems than I did about progressing in the gospel. I can also see many times when I failed to look for opportunities to help others, especially with their testimonies.

After this self-reflection, I came across a scripture in Luke, in which Christ is sending his apostles out to teach. In His instructions He tells them that they do not need to worry about their clothes or what they will eat ,or any other worldly care. He tells them that "your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things", implying that these things are necessary, but of little significance. In addition, in the following verse He tells them, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Luke 12:31).

Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and He know what we can't go without. But if we seek first to follow God's plan for us, and in doing so to build up His Kingdom, then He will take care of those worldly things. He will make sure that we have everything that we truly need.

To finish, in verse 32  it says, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32). On the island of Geoge these words speak to me, as I truly feel like we here are His “little kingdom”. Heavenly Father wants to bless His children on this island, but He can only do it through His servants. That means that He wants to bless me. And that means that He wants to bless you on whatever “tiny island” you live in.  He wants to give us all that we need and if we are living with our focus in the right place we need not fear, because He will take care of us.

I love you all and hope you will take some time to think about where we let our focus go.

Love you and miss you,
Sister Atwood

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Couldest not thou watch one hour?" Mark 14:37

Today is my birthday. I thought you would probably want to know this. Letters and packages, though late, will not be turned away. Don't be shy; I'm an excellent pen pal.

The rain has officially ended and now we are into the real summer heat. It's great. I'm not exactly sure why I still insist on getting ready every morning because by the time we leave our apartment I am already a hot mess, and if you know my hair, I mean mess. However, I will persevere!

This week we put on a musical fireside for our branch and investigators, which was fun. Since our branch is small, and there are just the two of us missionaries in this area, it was basically a two-man show from my companion and I. Though we had help from the children. They sang “Follow the Prophet”, which was so cute. I have sung before in church with the choir, but I have never had to perform to such an extent in my entire life. But, someone had to do it... It actually turned out okay. Besides our few members we also had two investigators plus a less active member there, so we were pretty pleased with the end result. 

During my personal scripture study I was reading the Bible in Mark and his account of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ had just come from administering the Last Supper where Peter had passionately proclaimed his allegiance and love for Christ by insisting that he would follow Christ to prison and even death if necessary. All of the twelve apostles had accompanied Christ to the Garden of Gethsemane, but He left eight at the entry gate and asked only Peter, James, and John to follow Him further in. Soon Christ was enveloped by deep sorrow. At this point, He told the three to wait there while He went further; “Saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me”. Soon all of the three apostles tired and fell asleep. Seeking a break from His agony, Christ returned and said to Peter; “Couldest not thou watch one hour?” He also added; “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As I pondered over this profound incident, I kept rereading the words that Christ spoke to Peter after He finds him asleep, and the tenderness with which he acknowledged His apostle’s weakness. Reading on, we find that after reproving the three He left again to pray, and returned to find them sleeping again. When He woke them for the second time they were ashamed and didn’t know what to say. This time the apostles stayed awake a little longer while Christ prayed alone again. Peter overheard Him suffering in agony and probably realized how unprepared he was to do what he had promised, which was to follow Christ wherever He might go.

As I thought about Peter and his profession of allegiance, I began to see how we too are so quick to say that we will follow Christ and then find the road too long or too hard. When I pray I often promise my love and devotion to Christ and His gospel. I thank my Heavenly Father for my Savior’s Atonement, and I insist that I will prove my gratitude through obedience to the commandments and the covenants that I have made. The problem is that I am weak. Like Peter, I know that I fail my Savior often. As I liken myself to Peter, in the sense that I too have promised to follow the Lord during my time on earth, I realize that in the grand scheme of eternity, it is not all that long. It is in fact very short. And yet, how easy is it to stop working on our testimonies, to stop watching for ways to be the Saviors hands, and to believe that we are too tired to be so vigilant in keeping our covenants? In this life, enduring to the end is the real test. It seems like such a long time when viewed as a whole, and this makes our promises seem overwhelming at times. However, if we take one day at a time it seems manageable. We can recommit every single day to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can begin when we get up each morning, and then end when we go to bed. I think if we look at being diligent on a daily basis it seems possible.

One day, when I stand before Christ, after my trial is over, I do not want Him to say to me “couldest not thou watch one hour?" rather, I hope He says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

I love you all and hope you are well,

Sister Annie  

Monday, July 8, 2013

"Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope" 2 Nephi 31:20

It's rainy season in Korea ladies and gentlemen and you know what that means.... Well it means there's a lot of rain. We got soaked this week and I have never before seen anything like it. In Utah we don't really have much rain. It might rain for an hour or so and then quit, but in in Korea it will pour for 20 minutes and then taper off and then it will pour again. It will repeat this cycle for days on end. In reality it never actually stops raining, even if their aren't raindrops coming down it is so humid that it feels like it's constantly misting and you end up wet even during the breaks between showers. It is definitely a new, and soggy, experience for me. 

The days seem to be flying by a little bit, which is good I guess as that means I'm busy. But at the same time, the time that it takes for the days to become weeks seem like they take forever. I feel as though this may be the pattern of my entire mission. Each week feels like a month, but when the end of the week comes it seems like it's only been a day. I can't decide if this is a good thing or not, but it is what it is, and thats what I've got, so I'm going to try and enjoy it. 

Hope has been on my mind a lot this week. 

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, suddenly finding myself in a foreign country has not an easy adjustment. I feel as though I've had a harder time with it because I am expected to learn the language (and I want to learn the language), but it just hasn't quite come yet. I know that I have only been here for 3 weeks, but it is easy to get discouraged when I can't even understand what little children are saying (maybe that is a bad marker of my progress). 

Thankfully, I think I have found the answer to my frustration, and that solution is hope. Perhaps to you it doesn't sound like a real and tangible solution. You might even think that it's just an excuse to put off finding an actual solution to my problems, but I don't see it that way. 

I have though about hope this week through a different lens, one of need. Finding myself  really longing for something for the first time, I see that hope is having trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. Finding hope is looking at past experiences and past trials, evaluating them, and then realizing that your Father in Heaven carried you through those trials and He can, and will, get you through whatever trials you are dealing with right now. 

I know that my call to Korea was divinely inspired. I am not sure why I need to be here right now serving as a missionary and learning Korean; but I know that the Lord wants me here. I have felt the peace in my heart that only can come through the witness of the Holy Ghost. Because of this confirmation I know that my Heavenly Father knows me better than anyone else does. I know that He wants to help me through this. I know He wants and needs me to succeed. I have been promised that as I work my hardest and stay obedient I will receive blessings, and I will have the Lord's help in my work. 

I also know that it is the same for everyone. Whatever is going on in your life, God has a plan for you. It may not be through an exact set route, but it is easiest reached through His set path. The push forward will be easier is If you turn to Him. Believe that it is possible, hope than you can, and have faith that you will succeed. Have a perfect brightness of hope in His plan. This phrase promises warmth , joy, and enlightenment. To have this hope we must trust  His promise that He will get you through anything. The brightness of hope suggests that the blessings we will receive after being steadfast in the path of Christ will be greater than anything we could ever imagine. 

I love you all and hope you are well.

Sister Annie

Monday, July 1, 2013

"And the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them" Jacob 5:72

Hello again from Korea!! I still can't believe I'm actually here, maybe I'll never be able to. Every day I still wake up and have to remind myself that I'm in Korea. Although, the fact that I wake up on a mat on the floor does help remind me. This week has had its ups and downs, as I'm sure every week will, but it has been mostly good. I wish I could report that I could suddenly speak Korean fluently but unfortunately that is not the case. One day though, one day I will get there. 

I have a story to tell about different vineyards, and in my opinion it is a pretty interesting one. Last Monday night my companion and I went to visit a less active young man to share a message with him. Before we left my companion told me a little bit about him and also informed me that he was currently residing in a mental hospital. I wasn't really sure how to respond to that but I said, "okay" and we left. We rode a bus out to the middle of nowhere, missed our stop, then had to literally run back along the highway to the correct bus stop, at which point we then called the young man for directions. After getting directions to the mental hospital, (that is what it is called), we then had to walk a ways all up hill until we finally spotted the hospital. He was waiting for us when we arrived. He had also brought a fellow patient with him. Now just to be clear these men have complete mental capacity. In Korea those who suffer from depression often check into such places so they can receive medical and psychiatric help. Together we sat at some tables outside. A few minutes later another one of his friends joined us. So there we were, two sister missionaries, (one very green), teaching three young adult men wearing hospital issued clothes. It was an experience I never expected to have. But my companion gave a good lesson and they all seemed to feel the Spirit. While there we took the number of one of the young men who was going to be released within a few days. After he got home he called us and he is now our new investigator...  Of all the ways to find someone searching for the gospel, I think I'm probably one of the few who has a story quite like this to tell. How many different vineyards might there be that we never even think about?  

As I was studying the Book of Mormon this week I came across the allegory of the olive tree, also found in Jacob chapter 5. Re-reading it as a missionary gave me a different understanding of the message, as well, my missionary frame of mind has also given it more meaning. One verse that really stuck out to me is verse 72. It is speaking about the last time that the Lord is going to labor in the vineyard. He commands his servants to go and to work, but there is more. It says; "the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them".  Instead of letting the servants do all the work while he supervises this verse explains that He works along side them. I think the word labored is important as it implies toiling, striving, and performing difficult and arduous tasks. It also has the implications of class distinctions. When dividing work there is usually one who manages the work of many. These jobs are usually divided by knowledge and physical action. The management understands the big picture and directs the workers what to do to best accomplish the task. However, this scripture passage specifically says that along with directing the work, Christ labors along side His harvesters. I love this phrase. I think you can read this two ways, one the Lord will descend to our level, or two, we can ascend to His. I do not think he lowers Himself to work with us, rather I believe He brings us up to a higher plain to work with Him. Similarly, the next sentence stood out to me also, it says, "and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things". 

As a missionary we are told that obedience brings miracles. This verse helps show me that it is when we are obedient and when we live all of the commandments the Lord has given us, He elevates us to help accomplish His work. He doesn’t give us instructions to go out in the field and expect that we can bring His children to Him alone. Rather, He is our companion in the form of the Holy Ghost. In the Godhead the purpose of one is the purpose of all. They always work in tandem. And when we work for Him, we are part of that circle, because without our physical labor, His harvest cannot be gathered. So in order to be part of this work we must be given an added measure of the divine. However, this scripture clarifies that we will only have His companionship through obeying the commandments. It is only then that we can receive the Lord's help. I have witnessed this to be true. As I have strived to be obedient I have felt the Lord's companionship through the presence of the Holy Ghost in my life, and in my work as a missionary. His presence both physically and mentally sustains me. It is what motivates me to stay obedient. When all I want to do is nap during my study time I remember that I can't do this without the Lord's help. I am not a missionary without Him, and I definitely cannot learn Korean in a few months time if He were not here helping me every step of the way. It is this knowledge that motivates me, and it is by faith that I follow His commandments, for one is predicated on the other. I want to earn His companionship and I want to do all that He asks me to so that I can qualify for His added labor. 

I hope that we all can remember how much we need the Lord's help in our lives, and that the way we qualify for His work is through obedience to His commandments. I know that as we strive to live the way the Lord has asked us to He will not leave us to labor in this life alone, He will come to us and He will help us toil. He will be our companion in all things, not just working toward His harvest, but those things that we need and desire, because we are His vineyard too.

I love you all and hope you are well,

Sister Annie

p.s. I posted some new pictures.