Monday, October 27, 2014

"Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, andendure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

Well…I never thought this day would actually come, and to be honest it still doesn't feel like it has. I still have yet to even begin packing (I'm sure to my parents dismay) and though everyone keeps telling me I only have a week left it has not actually registered. Intellectually I understand that I will be leaving Korea next week (maybe to never see it again), but emotionally I feel like this is my home, and I feel like leaving it is unimaginable. The funny thing is that while I recognize that I “look” out of place here, I “feel” at home here. I think these feelings have allowed me to continue doing missionary work without having one foot out the door. That said, something happened recently that has made me reflect back on my time here as a missionary. 

As I was studying this week in the Book of Mormon, I read this verse in 2 Nephi again (as I have read it so very many times on my mission). It was as I was reading the passage about about “pressing forward feasting on the word of Christ” that initiated my reflective attitude.  When I started my mission I made a personal goal to read the Book of Mormon as many times as I could during my mission. Well now that I have almost reached the end I am able to see now how much that decision and that goal has blessed my life. 

I read the Book of Mormon before my mission, but admittedly not like I should have. Elder Robert D. Hales explained that to feast upon the words of Christ, one must absorb and incorporate His teachings, just as one absorbs and incorporates a meal. He went on to say, “As with voices from the dust, the prophets of the Lord cry out to us on earth today: take hold of the scriptures! Cling to them, walk by them, live by them, rejoice in them, feast on them. Don’t nibble." Too often before my mission I tended to only nibble on the Book of Mormon, never truly letting myself feast. However, now I cannot even begin to imagine how empty my testimony would feel if I had not been gorging myself on the word’s of the Book of Mormon.  It is hard to imagine what my life, and my testimony, would be like without the knowledge that I have gained through the Book of Mormon. 

I have far from ingested all that there is to learn from the Book of Mormon and that is the blessing and the miracle; there is always more to learn. The source of nourishment will never dry up. It will never stop producing. Each time we read we will find something new, something that we need at that particular time, something that we never saw before. Each time I restarted the Book of Mormon I marked meaningful passages in a different color. Each time I began again I would find delicious, soul satisfying morsels and think, "how in the world did I not see that before? How did I pass over this feast? It’s so amazing." The miracle is that each time I re-read it I found the exact nutrients for what my soul was lacking at that moment. The Lord has set a bountiful table just for me and I will forever be grateful to Him for the things that the Book of Mormon has taught me. 

I hope you don’t just sample the Book of Mormon, but really indulge yourself in the fruits of the gospel. It is a sweet and savory table that satisfies a troubled heart and soul. It supplies the energy than enables our testimonies to grow, while filling our hearts with love beyond measure.

I love you all and I am excited to see you soon! 

Sister Annie

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious" D&C 78:19

"And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious" D&C 78:19

To be honest, this post is very difficult to write, not technically though. It is just that as my time here in Korea is coming to a close I feel it to be harder and harder to spend any time on things that add no, or little, value to what I am doing here and now. I find that my time left is becoming more precious and I am very conscientious of using it wisely. However, I am determined to finish what I started, so here it goes.

Everyone keeps reminding me I'm going home, whether it's other missionaries or friend and family, it just keeps coming up. And yet, as often as it becomes the topic of conversation, I still don't feel like it's actually happening. It seems as though transfer day will come, and I will simply go to another area with a new companion and keep going as I have been for the past 18 months. 

As I have thought about this feeling of “mission continuity” (that’s what I’m calling it for the lack of a better name). I realized that this is exactly what will happen. I will go home, (my new area), see all my friends and family again, (my new companions), and seek out new opportunities to share the gospel. And though the process won’t function exactly as it does in the mission field, it will be my new responsibility to figure out how to do missionary work as best I can in my new area with my new companions. 

I had an experience this past week that helped me realize that it is my attitude that will enable me to continue to find opportunities to share the gospel. On Saturday nights we teach an English class at the church building, only one or two people usually come to this English class and sometimes no one comes and we have to cancel. Well this week there was also a church youth activity scheduled for the same time. We had agreed to help with the activity before heading to English class. As we were spending time with the youth I found myself hoping that no one would show up to our English class so we could just continue having a good time at the activity.  About 5 minutes before the class was to start one person showed up. It was a woman, so we as sisters went to teach her and the elders stayed with the youth. 

Looking back I admit that I was a little disappointed. I was even feeling a little unhappy that we had to go teach English. The woman who came that night had never been before. As our lesson progressed and we got to know this sister I forgot about the youth activity. This woman was so sweet, and we were having such a fun time teaching her that I realized I was actually enjoying myself more at what I was doing than if I had stayed with the youth. When we came to the end of the class my companion shared the spiritual message and talked about prayer and how and why we pray, her testimony touched me deeply, and I recognized how the Holy Ghost could be present in such a simple place and time. Before my companion could finish her thoughts the woman asked my companion how our church is different from other churches. It turned out to be a wonderful moment where I could share my feelings with her and we were able to teach her a little bit about the Restoration of the gospel and the Book of Mormon. We were also able to give her a copy of the Book of Mormon. It really was a great opportunity that I might have missed had I been committed to being disappointed. If my attitude had been bad and had we both just felt like giving a quick emotionless spiritual message and a quick answer to her question so we could get back to do what we had wanted to do in the first place, this precious opportunity would have been lost, partly because our attitude would have driven the Holy Ghost away. 

Afterward, while studying the scriptures, I found the verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that I used to title this post. It made me think again about how many opportunities Heavenly Father gives us to share the message of the gospel, and how many opportunities we can miss if our sour attitudes keep us from seeing them. When we are thankful in all our circumstances, we become thankful for every opportunity that comes our way. These are the times when we will find success in sharing the message of hope. Like the verse says, through our thankfulness we can be made glorious. That’s exactly how I felt as I walked away from the church that night, like I was trailing a little cloud of glory.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and I love you all! 

Sister Annie 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"For it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." Mosiah 4:27

Hello to everyone on this beautiful September morning. I can’t believe it's September already. The weather is cooling down and some of the trees are already starting to change color in the mountains. Korea in the autumn is beautiful. I'm so glad that I can see it one more time. 

Last Monday was 추석, which is the Korean Thanksgiving, it's one of the biggest holidays that they have in Korea. To celebrate, our mission president organized an activity filled P-Day at the mission office for any missionaries that wanted to come and participate. Beforehand, he announced that they would be holding a 5K race for all those who wanted to run. I was excited, and also somewhat apprehensive about this. I used to be able to run 5 kilometers without a problem, but unfortunately that was quite some time ago (pre-mission). Now I consider it an accomplishment if I can propel myself to run 15 minutes without stopping in the morning.  However, there was no way that I was not going to run this race, so I signed myself up.

Monday came and it was hot and humid, (weather that I've never never liked), but I was mentally psyched to run. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy but it was actually harder than I thought it would be. I really think the only thing that kept me pushing to the end was my pride. I just kept telling myself, "gosh dangit you were a soccer player. You wanted to run a marathon, don't you dare start walking." I was actually having a conversation with myself as I hit the 2-mile mark. It went something like this: "I want to walk... You are not walking. I want to walk... Stop being a baby. I want to walk.... You made it this far there is no way."  So I made it without walking. My only goals for running the race were to not walk at all, and run it under 30 min. Even though, during some stretches, I ran so slow that the technical definition of running was negotiable. However, I made it in 28:56. That’s about 6 mph, definitely not competing time, but not terrible for being ridiculously out of shape. I came in 2nd out of the sisters so I wasn't too disappointed in myself. But I definitely felt it the next day, proof that my body has done nothing like that in a long time.

Thinking back to the race, I remembered seeing others running and realizing that they did not know how to prepare for a race. Some took off as fast as they could in at the start, but then later when I passed them they were walking. I thought about the old cliché, “Life is not a sprint, it's a marathon”. The same is true about missionary work. The test doesn’t come just by going on a mission, it comes in enduring to the end, in keeping strong even if you feel like you can't take another step forward. I know at the end of the 5K I thought I was going to just fall down. All I wanted to do was to sit down and have a nice cold drink of water. But deep down I knew that I could do it, I knew that I was strong enough. I also knew that I had committed to do it and I wasn’t going to let myself down. So even though it was a slow and tired finish, it was a finish, and It felt good.

God does not expect us to be able to sprint through life. He knows that sometimes we're tired, sometimes we feel like we can't go on. What He expects of us is that we keep going, that we give all we can, and do our best to continue to move forward. When we push through the times when we think we can’t go on, He accepts our pace, however slow and plodding. As long as we don’t give up and give our heart and soul, whatever we give is good enough. 

I love you all so much and hope you are well.

Sister Annie

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Trust in the Lord, and do good" Psalms 37:3

Its time to say hello to a new transfer! I can't believe another transfer has ended. However, I did not get transferred, but I did get a new companion. She is a native Korean sister and she is wonderful. This is the first companion to whom I speak Korean to full time. It's pretty amazing, partly because it's made me realize that I can spend an entire day speaking Korean and get along just fine. It has certainly made me feel better about how much of the language I have actually learned, because it's still easy to feel completely Korean challenged. Sometimes a stranger will say something to me and I have absolutely no idea what they say, but then magically I remember, "hey you talk to your companion in Korean every day and you understand her, so you can do it." I just give myself a little pep talk and almost magically I can figure out what I am hearing. 

This past transfer was a little bit rough. Beginning the very first week in the area everyone started to cancel their appointments with us. It seemed as though our investigators, who had been so reliable in the past, dropped off the face of the earth. It got us a little down, but we tried our best to do everything we could to find new searching souls and keep the area progressing. Unfortunately, all of our best efforts seemed to come to naught. At times that made it a little bit harder to keep going every day. We were trying as hard as we could, and I kept trusting the Lord that if we would work and strive to do our best the Holy Ghost will reward us. It may not be immediate, but I have faith that it will come.

 I was able to see this magnified this past week. The Saturday or Sunday before the transfer ended the elders in Sujeong gave us a number of a woman who wanted to learn English. Honestly, my thoughts might not have been as positive as they should have been. They may (or may not) have gone something like this, "great, another investigator who wants to learn English but has probably zero interest in the gospel." However,  we were still thankful for the referral and called her to set up an appointment for this past week. When we met her and came to get to know her we learned more about her. She has had some struggles in her life and wants to make a new start for herself. As we talked about her religious background we learned that she had been to a few different churches in the past but none of them really felt right. A few days later we met with her again and she told us some of the things that she struggles with. She wonders about why we are here and worries about where we will go after this life is over. She said that people tell her that it is senseless that she worries about these things, but they constantly trouble her. I couldn't believe it. Every question and concern this sister had expressed was one that could be answered through this gospel. I marveled that I had answers for her, ones that quieted her fears and calmed her worries. I feel so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach her about the Plan of Salvation. I felt this was a miracle. 

There wasn't any big show or sign but I still recognized the miracle, and it reminded me again that Heavenly Father is aware of me and sees my efforts. I also know that it was just not my miracle, but hers too. She was the one who was searching for answers, wondering if she would ever find them. We were only the hands that delivered the message. I hope you all can come to realize and recognize the small miracles of hope that you receive in your own lives. I know that each of us can see the hand of the Lord in quieting our soul and lifting our spirit toward a brightness of hope. This is true for everyone, but we must “trust in the Lord, and do good” to see it for the miracle that it is. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week. 

Sister Annie

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Offer your whole souls as an offering unto him." Omni 1:26

Again, it's been a while since I have written. (I had such noble intentions when I entered the mission home.) Again, I am going to excuse myself by saying time has simply flown by. I suppose I might be starting to sound like a broken record but every week it amazes me that the dates have once again moved forward. P-Day (preparation day), comes along and yet it feels like I wrote just a couple of days ago. Anyway, I have been doing well (besides being a sweaty wilted mess all the time). My new area is in the heart of the city. Busan is so large that there are a couple of different areas assigned just within the city limits. My hometown, Pleasant Grove, is not completely out in the boondocks, but it is definitely not a big city. If I use Busan as a guide, Salt Lake even pales in comparison in both geographical and population size. I have traveled to metropolitan cities before, but my parents were always navigating, I just had to trust and follow them around. Living and working in a large city has been quite an adjustment for me and I will admit that sometimes it still stresses me out a little bit. However, I am glad for the experience. If nothing else, I am owning my own responsibility for where I find myself at sometimes (does that make sense?).

If I am being honest (and I think that is best), I will admit that this transfer has had a few disappointments. From the first day I arrived most of our days have been filled with cancelled appointments; and justifiably so, that can get a sister down. It makes me feel like the girl who gets stood up on a blind date, it's not a good feeling. I feel rejected, without the ability to let them see what I have to offer (if they only knew how wonderful my message is). But, we have kept plucking along (that is a farm reference, and I reserve the right to use it even though I am not a farmer, because I come from farmers just two generations back.) I am fairly confident in saying that every missionary has experienced times like these. Having previously experienced some level of both rejection and acceptance in the past I know that hard times always come to an end. That doesn’t make it any easier to bear at the moment, however. So I am just trying to enjoy the journey, because that is where the wonderful moments are found.  On the bright side, as we walk from place to place at least we are enjoying the outdoors.

As the inevitable end of my time as a missionary is drawing closer, it has caused me to consider more and more exactly what it is that I have learned through this experience. Something I have been thinking about lately is sacrifice. Everyone says that a mission is a sacrifice, and I understand why they say that. Missionaries obviously give up many things to be able to serve a mission. However, recently I have been wondering if we treat that word too casually?  To be considered a true sacrifice, it is necessary that nothing be gained in return. So again, if I am being honest, a mission is not a sacrifice, because I have been given so much in return. In fact, I think that when all is said and done I will realize that I actually received more than I gave. I know that the “things” that we give up to serve a mission are not the things that matter in the end. So what makes a true sacrifice? I found a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell that I believe offers a good answer to this question. He says, "Real personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar, instead it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed." In essence, sacrifice for the Lord isn't giving up "things", but it is giving up those parts of ourselves that are acting contrary to what the Lord would have us do. This is what I am hoping to give to the Lord for the remainder of my mission. I definitely have a long way to go, but I have three more months to practice "true" sacrifice. I know that as we align our will with God's will our lives (and our testimonies) will be guided to places far better than we could ever dream of. 

I love you all and hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Sister Annie