Tuesday, 5 October 2010
First Blog - Ever!
Can you believe it, we're blogging!! ...and they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks!
This site will become the update page for everyone to have access to. You gotta love the world of technology today... We'll be able to keep all of our friends and family informed and be able to share some of our life here in the "Land of the Morning Calm''
We've been here a month already and that means one month less to do our work for the Lord. Many of you have had some news from us to date so some of this may be redundent... however, all have not so I'm going to briefly go back and come forward.
We arrived to a big welcome from the President and his wife of the Busan, South Korea Mission; President and Sister Jennings. Also there to greet us was Elder and Sister Bagley who are also serving a couple's mission. They are working in the President's office along with 4 missionaries. All together they keep all the missionaries in this area working and supplied with whatever they require. That would include just under 100 elders and sisters that are assigned to this area of Korea alone.
Daegu, Korea is where we actually live and work. It's about an hour and a half, by car, north from Busan. It's a BIG city but smaller than Busan, which is a port city right at the southern tip of Korea. We're about 2-2.5 million people here and we're the 3rd largest city in South Korea. It's a beautiful very 'western' city with skyscrapers everywhere. As the country is basically land-locked, everything here is vertical. They have the greatest underground subway that you could imagine.
We were inpressed with the trains when we lived in Germany. Germany doesn't have anything on Korea, time-table wise. If it's due to be there, it is. If it's due to leave you'd best be on board! The subway is air conditioned and has both seats and standing rails. One of the very different things we've discovered is that Koreans are soooo polite. They give up their seats immediately to anyone older and they have such respect and honor for their elders.
Now, having said this...Jim gets offered a seat before I do! I guess they revere the men more than the women. But they will literally jump up for a older man and they insist that you sit!
There are 2 types in trains in Korea. The fast train, called the KTX that gets up to over 250 mph. It's incredible but you really don't feel or recognize that speed. Beautiful train cars, some 4 seats have the capibility of turning so you have the 4 facing each other.... cards, anyone!! Curtains on the already darkened windows for those wanting to sleep while they're traveling. Small tv's overhead in the aisle every few feet for watching whatever they're airing. It's not tv, tv, it's ads or actually maps showing the train ride and where the train is now, type-of -thing. But hardly any voice with it so it's quite quiet.
The other is called the slow train. Not a lot of difference on the interior but it just makes more stops and therefore takes longer and is cheaper. We took the fast train already back to Busan and we've been to the Temple in Seoul already. It costs about $30 or so for a ticket on the fast train and probably half of that for the slow train. However, the neat thing is you can buy 'in groups' and get the fast train for the price of the slow train! When we go to Busan it's always for a meeting, etc, and the elders and sisters go too so there is always a group. We took the fast train to Seoul for the Temple and that was a Branch Temple Trip. They go the first Saturday of each month (it's in English at that time) and again, we have a group!
The Seoul Temple is beautiful, as they all are. The interior is done in Asian decor, as one would imagine. Very pretty. Walls, etc, are mostly in a very soft and gentle green. On the grounds of the Temple there is a connecting building that we stayed in. They have brother and sister rooms. Like big dorms they have bunk beds. I think I counted that 20 or 22 sisters could stay in that room at once. Also is a shower and bathroom area. If I recall it was $12 a night per guest. There is a kitchen there with vending machines. You have to have a temple recommend to enter, of course. From the dorm areas you simply take a little walk and go up some steps and you're inside the front entry of the Temple.
Anyway, the mode of transportation here is incredible. There are many ways to get around; city buses, taxi's that are literally everywhere... subways that are the best, and then they have the trains. Why America can't -or won't- get this figured out is beyond me!
Our job, if you will, is to reach out to the active members of the church and assist them however we can. We also have the responsibility to search out those here that are less active or totally inactive and see if we can assist them as well. Some of this has been quite hard to do. First of all the regular members are busy with their own lives, of course. Second there has not been a complete 'list'of who's here.
There is such a list.... it's handled through the Chaplain's office on any base or post. Prior to coming here we'd been advised to be careful in our approach. Chaplain's come in all denominations and beliefs themselves. We don't want to offend, certainly, nor do we want them to feel uncertain as to our time here.
Through a military member we were able last week to meet with the 'head' chaplain and his assistant. What a meeting it turned out to be! If we scripted it, it would not have gone any better. That meeting was an answer to a lot of earnest prayers. Bottom line, if the chaplain doesn't like you and/or your religion, they can make your life very difficult.
Major Johnson is the Garrison Chaplain. Seventh-Day Adventist himself, his assistant is a Southern Baptist. They simply could not have been more gracious. We have complete availibility of the chapel, itself, if we want. We already have our own building we meet in but we share it with the local Korean Ward and there can be some conflicts of scheduling, etc. I don't believe we'll change our meeting site, but there are other times and ways we could utilize the chapel. They have a HUGE what we would call, cultural halls. A few, in fact! The kitchen was unreal to us. Real stoves and 4-5 refigerators. A couple of stand-alone freezers. He also showed us a back area where they can block off cars to have a sort-of block party with outside grills, etc. Large meeting rooms to use complete with TV and DVD for showings.
Jim mentioned the meeting rooms and we might like to do a class; type of bible study... he mentioned the Bible, Old and New Testament, and the Major spoke right up and said, 'that's fine - but please do your own as well; The Book of Mormon...people come to that class should expect to hear Mormon doctrine!"
He also showed us a big rack in the entry way of the chapel that holds various pamplets, etc. He pointed that out to us and told us he would move some things around so we could display whatever we wanted from our faith along side the others. We could not have been blessed more than we were. He even wants to do some co-training with Jim at some kind of a work-shop when he found out that Jim has been Covey certified to teach the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.... the Major has also been certified and he loves the program! We offered to volunteer to help them in any way we can and that was discussed in detail.
Bottom line...we not only will receive the original list of who's who and their religion, which will help us immensly in our calling but he offered to get us the list for Area 4 in all of Korea! That includes the southern tip of Korea, north all the way to Daejon and includes east to west; literally the southern third of Korea. We will know any and all members in this area that are LDS. Many we can contact and those in outlying areas we can pass on to other senior missionary couples!
One of our major concerns was permission to wear our badges while on the military complex. There has been some concern in the past with various areas so the HQ Military Relations Mission in Salt Lake is rightly concerned. As our conversation was going so well I think both Jim and I felt impressed to bring the badge situation up. We mentioned the badge and he said he was surprised we weren't wearing something to identify ourselves... we discussed that, showed him our name badges we had with us - but not on. Bottom line; he has no problem with us wearing it at all. In fact he went on to say that he will check with the reg book to see if there is anything - he doesn't want to get in trouble either... :-) but he's pretty sure there is not and said he feels the truth is we need to wear them; otherwise how will our members (active or inactive) know us when they see us? We will hear from him this next week.
We've had 2 successes without our badges. One happened because we had the missionaries with us at the PX. We were to have dinner with a member family on-post and at the last minute they had to postpone. We took the missionaries on-post anyway and ate at Taco Bell. They were in 7th heaven! After eating they were throwing our papers away when a young man was standing there and asked the missionaries if they were in-deed missionaries from the LDS church? Long story he'd been here less than a month and didn't know we had an English church available to him. He's coming to church!
2nd story; again in the PX, a sister we didn't know asked us if we were in the church. She had been in the PX before and had noticed us talking to some people that she knew to be members so she decided to take a chance and ask us... They were at church yesterday as well.
The next 2 days here in Korea is THE biggest holiday of the year. It has to do with their ancestors but everything is closed. Even the military has restrictions about leaving post! The roads, they say, are a literal mess. So we received a call from President Jennings. He is bringing all the missionaries to Busan (we'll go the fast train) tonight and spend all day tomorrow doing something he has planned for all of us. As it will be a P-day for us it should be something fun to do. The missionaries can NOT prostlize on this holiday so that gives them all an extra P-day. This way the President can make sure they're all doing something as they can't be knocking on doors. We're meeting our group of elder and sister missionaries at the Yok (train station) at 5:00 pm.
Do we love it here? You bet we do! The Korean people are the nicest. They smile at you when they see you. Oh, you always have some that just ignore you but they do that in the states too! Those that are members are great members! They love the church and many literally walk away from their family to join. But they have such strong testimonies of the gospel and the plan of salvation! When we were at the big conference President Jennings had just a couple of days after our arrival, we were so blessed to hear from many of the Korean missionaries. Of course, we had headphones on for translation.... but they bore the sweetest and most heartfelt testimonies that I've heard. As many give up so much just to hold membership in the church they are so strong in their understanding of the gospel, the need for the restoration, the priesthood that is again on the earth as it was in Jesus's time and the blessings of eternal marriage and families in the sacred temples. I found myself sitting there wishing everyone I knew could have had the blessing of hearing them as we did. As members there are too many of us that get complacent and take what we have for granted.
We are 'trying' the Korean food. I'm slower to try things than Jim but we both really want to know what we're eating before we do. The missionaries have taken us to some restaurants and we've had good to excellent. Nothing so far we couldn't handle. Of course they're on such tight budgets they go to the cheaper places. We went to one restaurant for soup. It comes in a BIG bowl full of broth (good) and great vegetables. Then they put a big piece of pork in the middle of the soup. Now, the pork in still on it's bones so they give you a side dish to put the pork on and pick the meat off, put back in your soup and eat. It was delicious. This whole huge bowl, served with side dishes and always a bowl of rice was under 3 American dollars!
We've been to 2 baptisms so far in our month here, the 3rd coming up this weekend. The one this weekend is an 8 year old boy of a military family. One of the other 2 was an 8 year old Korean girl from the Korean Ward. But the other is a woman of about 27. She was born in the states but is half Korean and teaches here in Daegu; English speaking classes. She speaks perfect English but her friends, etc, are Korean. We actually were able to go through the last of her appointments with the elders prior to her baptism. She is a joy and her baptism was very spiritual. She is thrilled to be the 'newest' member of the Korean Ward! The Korean Bishop in her ward is the same that shares the building with us. He is so nice and he loves the missionaries! He is so ticked at Jim and me being here and will shake our hands and talk and talk to us all the time. Of course, we can't understand a word he says, and he knows that, but he just smiles at us, bows and jabbers on! He is so cute. A couple of times we've been blessed and a missionary will be close by and translate what he's saying to us....
So, after this espistle, I will wind down. Please know we are so happy in what we are doing. We're thrilled about the visit with the Chaplain and thank Heavenly Father for that gift. We know we will REALLY be getting to work in the very near future and that excites us.
We love each of you and ask you to keep the people of Korea in your prayers. As with America so many of them are searching for answers, most don't know where to look. Heavenly Father has truly softened the hearts of many here and the work goes forth.