Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"…and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

Hello Hello! I apologize for not writing last week. It was transfer day, which always turns out to be much more hectic than I either anticipate, or that I would like it to be. I was not transferred, but my companion was so once again I got a new compatriot (not literally, but spiritually-our country is the Church of Jesus Christ). For those of you who have either lost count, or haven’t felt the need to keep a tally, this will be my fourth companion in four transfers. So far I don’t seem to have staying power. Perhaps there is something someone isn’t telling me... regardless, we have lots of fun. 

In addition to my companion leaving me, both of the elders in my area were replaced too. Hence, I was left the lone soul who was to help all the new transfers find their way around our little part of Jeju. Frankly I wanted to cry a little bit. I could feel little tears start to well up but I took a deep breath and tried to remember that I wasn’t really alone. However, I felt like I was not prepared to be the only person with all the information about the area. I did not know nearly enough. In hindsight I should have paid attention more to some details that will not escape me again. Surprisingly, I found myself acting and speaking like I knew exactly what I was talking about. Now I am not saying that the past week ran the smoothest, but it wasn't a complete train wreck. I was able to traverse our way to most of the places that we needed to go (though sometimes we took the scenic route, but I made it seem like they were getting the extended tour), and we always made it home at days end. This is a new me. I use to believe that as far as navigating goes that I would always be the co-pilot, as I am directionally challenged, but no more.

About a week and a half ago we were lucky enough to have Elder Scott D. Whiting come and speak to all the missionaries in Busan. There was something he said that I remembered as I was reflecting on my new found ability. The general idea of what he spoke about was to be careful about thinking you can't change. Just like we can muster the ability to find our way through unfamiliar places, we can also summon the ability to climb out of life’s pits that we find we have fallen or jumped in. To say that we can’t change is like saying that the sacrifice Jesus made for us was not adequate.   

I had never thought about it that way before. So many times when I find myself facing a challenge that requires me to make changes in my thinking or my actions I use the excuse that “I can’t change-this is how I am-this is how I have always been-this is how I was born-I do not have the potential to change-and so it is hopeless to even try”.  As I thought about this idea I came across Isaiah chapter 53. It is a beautiful chapter that describes how each of us “like sheep have gone astray: we have everyone, turned to his own way”. It explains how Christ, being both the son of God and the son of man knows what we are capable of and in spite of our refusal to change our errant behavior, He “hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”.  Nonetheless, “…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…and with his stripes we are healed”. When I read this it moves me in a way that I feel guilty, but these feeling are not bad, rather, they encourage me to grow. I see that when I say that I cannot change because it is too hard, or insist that I am not capable of change, then I have shown disdain for His silent and willing sacrifice. The entire message of the atonement is that we can change. Otherwise, Christ’s sacrifice would not have a purpose, and since the atonement is infinite it must mean that we can always change. Although this doctrine is relevant to sin, we can also apply the principles to any aspect of our life that we recognize needs modifying or revising. No matter what it is about our character, habits or traits that we want to improve, we are divinely instilled with the capability to change. We have been so endowed in order to create more distance from our “natural” self, and reach closer to our “divine” self. Really, when you think about it the whole purpose of our being here is to change. We should constantly be trying to change. That doesn't mean that we will never have set backs. But it is comforting to know that it is our nature to change, and that we can do it. It is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can accomplish this. We should never tell ourselves that we are stuck the way we are. That goes against everything we have learned about our Heavenly Father's plan for us. He wants us to progress and improve and has provided the way for us to do so, and our Savior has given Himself to fulfill His Father’s plan. 

Since I began serving my mission I am often overwhelmed by the insuppressible desire to shout that I know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and they love us more than we could ever comprehend. There is nothing in this life that we cannot overcome if we turn to them and let them lift us up and guide us through the process. 

I love you all and hope you are happy and well.

Sister Annie 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;" 2 Timothy 1:5-7

Good morning everyone, I hope this post is finding you all well and happy. These past couple of weeks have been pretty good for me. Partly because I have had a few adventures. First, When we went to District Conference we were given the go ahead to sight see for half a day. I need to preface what I say next by explaining that Jeju Island is a beautiful natural wonder, protected by the World Heritage Sites organization. It is the home of purportedly unsurpassed lava tunnels, which geologists come from all over the world to study. Well, I was outvoted and my district chose to visit the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum that for some reason is located on this island. Needless to say, It felt more like Las Vegas than an exotic foray into a primeval wonderland. Second, I had the absolutely serendipitous fortune of attending my first Korean wedding. It was for a sister who lives  in our branch. It was thoroughly enjoyable and quite interesting from a western point of view. There was a lot of bowing involved, and it was tremendously entertaining. I don’t mean this to sound like I am belittling the event in any way. Rather, I love that each culture has distinct customs within universal rites.

Unquestionably, the most uniquely Korean experience I have had to date is being instructed in the competitive art of Ping-Pong playing. Apparently, I have being doing it all wrong. My companion and I received a call last week from the elders who are from the other area on the island. They wanted to visit a women in their branch who was less-active, so they were in need of our assistance. We were happy to take the bus over and help them out. This woman L O V E S Ping-Pong. When the Elders made the appointment she said that she wanted to play Ping-Pong with us. Now, my experience with Ping-Pong has consisted of playing for fun in someone's basement. What happened next was completely unexpected. When we arrived together at her home, the sister took us to a Ping-Pong training facility, much like what you would find in any sports training gym. It was a serious establishment. There were practice machines that fed you balls and scoring tables set up next to the ping pong tables, I could tell immediately that I was in way over my head. Of course I let the elders try first. They both played her and they both lost terribly. I decided to not even attempt a competitive game, but I explained to her that I had never played before. This way she would be gentle on me.

She insisted on spending about 20 minutes teaching me the basic techniques of basic Ping-Pong 101.  For those of you who thought you knew what you were doing, you don’t, so I will share with you a brief overview of how we have been doing it all wrong. The first rule is, NEVER bend your wrist, but always bend your knees. Second, keep one foot planted and use the other to pivot. Third, the secret is in the torso. Always twist at the torso. Therein lies the secret to playing Ping-Pong like a pro and looking amazing while doing it. Because I will tell you that while trying to follow her instructions I looked absolutely ridiculous. I hope my pointers will help you all on your quest to become extraordinary ping pong players. I know I am now well on my way. 

Amid all of my adventures this past while I also learned something that has touched my soul and that I want to share with those of you who are so inclined to read further.

I was studying in 2 Timothy when I came across this scripture. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord."  I've thought a lot about this scripture since reading it. I am not always the most outgoing person. I like to keep to myself sometimes and up until my mission I rarely talked to strangers. However, now my whole day basically consists of starting conversations with people that I have never met before. Sometimes the most difficult part of this is just saying hello. I find myself a little nervous or afraid to approach someone. Then after I have managed a greeting I have to follow it with an introduction. This is the point where I bring up the fact that I am here as a missionary for Jesus Christ. It is this point that makes me the most nervous. I am afraid of their reaction as a dismissal. 

This scripture plainly teaches that those negative feelings do not come from God. The Holy Ghost would never cause me to be afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, His purpose is to inspire us to preach of Christ, our Heavenly Father, and the plan of salvation. But Satan would love nothing more. His drive and purpose is to make us feel frightened, scared, and inadequate in sharing God’s message. When we get those butterflies in our stomach, when we hesitate, or when we look away instead of straight ahead it is Satan who is leading us. When we feel intimidated to bear out testimonies we give him power over us. But when we push through those insecurities we allow the promptings of the Holy Ghost to fill us with reassurance. We have to invite divine companionship, and allow the spirit and light of Christ to fill us with assurance that what we are sharing is “good news”.

Likewise, it is the same with all aspect of our lives. We should never be ashamed to live our standards expressed through how we dress, the words we speak, the manner in which we treat others, the way we carry ourselves, and the way we conduct business. It is through our example and courage that we can give others the strength to do the same. And it is through pushing those thoughts of embarrassment, insecurity, and inadequacy out, and filling ourselves with the divine understanding of who we are as children of God. When we do this we invite the Holy Ghost to accompany us daily. Encouraging us as He whispers that we have “power, …love, and a sound mind”.

I pray that we all can have the courage to live what we believe and to never be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Sister Annie