Monday, August 19, 2013

"For we are saved by hope" Romans 8:24-25

Greetings from Korea! I hope you all are doing spectacularly well; I have come to the decision that I will only be contributing this blog every other week in order to try and save my time for writing my family. But please check back every other week for tales of my adventures. 

This weeks adventure is fairly fantastic if I do say so myself. Two weeks ago we decided to plan a district P-Day (preparation day), so that we could all have some fun together. Monday last we met together at our designated point without anything really defined on the agenda. Well while enjoying ourselves and basking in our merriment we found ourselves walking through the live fish market that they had in the city we were in. Let me just say, walking through a live fish market in Korea is an adventure all on its own, and one that should not be missed if you ever find yourself in the position to do so. There are so many strange and wonderful things there that I have never before seen in my life (I know what your thinking, I have only 21 years under my belt.) However, I have been exposed to some pretty offbeat adventures. Anyway, as we were walking through the colorful and pungent market one of the elders mentioned that he had heard, if you ask, the fish merchants will let you hold a live octopus. Well, we couldn't just let the possibility go un-pursued, so one of the elders went straightway to find an octopus vendor.  After politely asking the woman, she smiled and said “yes!” (The exclamation is necessary). The elders, feeling the bravest, proceeded to reach into the tank. They tried to catch a couple of the octopi, however those crazy creatures proved surprisingly difficult to get a grasp on. Finally, after a very wet fight, they were able to grab on to a couple and began passing them between themselves, squealing a little bit as they went. Once they had all had a chance to experience cradling an octopus in their hands they asked if anyone else wanted to give it a try. Of course what was going through my mind was that an octopus looked way too much like a legitimate alien monster in a first rate sci-fi movie for me to want to hold it with anything, let alone my bare hands.  But then I thought, "how many times will I get the opportunity to hold a live octopus?" I knew that once back in Utah my chances were slim to nil.  So I timidly reached my hands out.  It was the craziest feeling I've ever felt. The octopus’ body was so slimy and creepily weird, and it was using its little suckers to hold onto my hands like its life depended on it (which, if I were a regular customer I guess it did). 

My expression reveals the level of freakiness that I felt  (hence the triple chin that came into action, don't judge, ditto on the frizzy hair that only works in a ponytail). However, at the same time in a very strange and grotesque way I loved it. Now that I think about it, it does seem kind of odd that I am accumulating incidences that involve octopi, but I guess that's how it rolls in Korea.

The past couple of weeks have been a little bit slow for my companion and me. We are working through what I have heard described as a “bit of a dry spell”.  Lately, we have had a few days where we were just not sure how we could possibly fill all the hours in our day constructively. There have been a few more days that we spent walking the streets for hours at a time, looking for opportunities to share a message or help someone in need. It was during those times that we became a little bit discouraged. However, one night after a particularly discouraging day as I was studying my scriptures, I came across a passage in Romans that really illuminated my heart and mind. It reads like this,

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." 

We felt downtrodden and we were becoming discouraged because we couldn't see any results from the effort we were making. We wanted to find an investigator or make someone happy, but like this scripture says, if you can see the thing that you are hoping for then you don't actually have hope. Once we attain what we are hoping for it becomes fact and although it may require action to sustain it, it no longer requires hope. I think this scripture is telling us that there are things that we cannot, and even will not see in this lifetime, specifically the eternal nature of things; family, marriage, blessings, happiness, restitution etc., but just because we cannot see or even comprehend them does not mean they are not there. Rather, hope is a necessary part of God’s plan. It requires diligence, obedience, and perseverance. By having hope we prove ourselves to our Heavenly Father. By having hope we show that we believe in the Saviors atonement and trust in its saving power. I think God allows us to experience these trying days, weeks, and maybe even years to teach us about hope in small ways so that we can understand hope as it applies to eternal life. Our hope lies in those things that we can't see, those elusive maybes and what ifs that make us question our faith and search for understanding, comfort, and reassurance. This scripture also points out that we must wait with patience for those things we cannot see. As I pondered these words I realized that I can't expect to see the results of my efforts right away, and perhaps I will not see them for months or years or even at all in this life, and this is actually part of God’s plan. To prove my faith He demands hope. First comes faith, and then hope must follow. It is my faith in His promise that if I keep having hope while waiting with patience then one day my hopes will become fact; and I will be able to recognize the good that my efforts produced. 

So when things get hard, when you feel discouraged, when all your work seems to be without reward, never give in. Never give up. Never let doubt cover your hope. Cling to hope as tenaciously as that octopus’ tentacles stuck to my hands, like your eternal life depends on it. Let your hope leave suction marks wherever it lands. Push forward and strive to always give all you can. Hope for those things you can't quite see yet. As we work for our salvation, as we try to be a disciple of Christ in our daily lives, as we struggle to attain happiness in our earthly relationships and endeavors, I know that just by having hope the Lord will bless us. It is one of His tender mercies.

I love you all so much and I miss you.

Sister Annie

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?" Mormon 5:23

I am so sorry for not blogging last week. It was transfer day and we had a whole fiasco trying to find a computer so we could email, so I was a little rushed for time. You see we don’t have computers at our disposal; rather we have to find public ones to use. So when we leave an area and move to a new one we have to search out public computers. My trainer’s mission was finished and of course she had to leave me. I was sad she was going home to America, not because I wanted to go, but because She has become a friend and I will miss her a lot. However, I knew immediately that I am going to love my new companion as well. She is Korean and the sweetest person ever. I will admit that sometimes it gets a little difficult to communicate with each other, but we always figure it out. You can figure it out when you are both trying your best. The Korean dictionary app on our phone has become my new best friend.

This week has been hot and long. We have been working hard to keep busy and find constructive ways to spend the Lord’s time. Our travels have meant that most of our time has been spent walking in the noonday sun. Towards the middle of the week I became a little discouraged and it was affecting my inner happiness. You see I recognize that I have a natural disposition toward happiness. When someone asks me if I see things half empty or half full I think, wait isn’t it full? This is becoming clearer to me as I am getting older. I now see that everyone does not share my optimism. Well this week I had opened a crack in my reality. It seemed like no one wanted to talk to us as we searched for opportunities on the streets. Additionally, the few appointments we were able to make were canceled. This made me feel a little like a lost puppy; a little unloved, and a little forlorn. I couldn’t figure out how to pull myself out of it. Even though I'm not the senior companion, I am familiar with the area so my companion often looks to me for what to do. Unfortunately what I wanted was someone to pick me up off the hot pavement and tell me how to fix it.

I felt like there was no one to look to for advice. When I was at home I would turn to my family and friends, but they are so far away, and even then I can only communicate through weekly emails or letters, and that takes time. I have to admit that I was feeling a little abandoned. In the midst of my self-doubt I was studying one day and I came across a quote I had written down while I was in the MTC. Written across the top of a page in my journal was "More than you know He is with you, more than you know He is helping you." As I sat there tears came to my eyes and I realized how silly I had been. I wasn't alone at all. The “He” is Christ, and the “help” is the Holy Ghost. No matter where I am or what I am doing, no matter what trials I am experiencing, whether they are small or large, I have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. He is my constant companion. He will guide me, sustain me, and comfort me if I live worthy of his companionship. Even then we can get discouraged. Sometimes we get so lost in our unhappiness that we forget the simple message that was written across the top of our page when we were baptized. I know I am here trying to do the Lord's work. He has called me here and He will not let me do it alone.

But we need to remember that we are all called to represent the Savior and testify of Him through our baptismal covenants. If we live worthily of our covenants we are promised that we will never be alone. We have been given an assurance of help and guidance, not just in missionary work, but in our day to day lives. We are all called, and we are all set apart as representatives of Jesus Christ, and that implies that we share a message of happiness. How can we share such a message of joy and contentment unless we are happy?  As I think about it I know that if we try to live the commandments and follow the plan God has provided for us, we give ourselves over to Him and we are in His hands. His promise is that He will be there beside us. He will not leave us alone and He will always be there to pick us up when we are walking along what seems to be a stretch of hot and endless pavement.

I love you all and miss you terribly,
Sister Annie

 P.S. Remember, the easiest way to make a missionary smile is to send a letter.