Monday, 24 January 2011

A Busy New Year!

Today is Monday, January 24th where we are.... the month is almost over and it's been a pretty busy month for us. Starting tomorrow we will also have Institute Classes that we (Elder Howerton, really) will be teaching two times a week; Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00 -8:00 pm. Hopefully, we'll get some members willing to commit to that schedule!

The beginning of the month started off with the way you'd want.... An Investigator!

A lovely Korean woman that speaks Korean, Japanese, and very good English! She has never believed in anything. Does not know there is a God.... where were we before? where are we going when we die? She didn't have a clue but was very interested in the concept. The elders brought her for dinner and some discussions. We had a wonderful evening with her. She has been selected to start working for an airline company and will actually be leaving Korea before the end of the month. Most likely others will meet her again some day. We pray she will want to learn more. She was very excited though to receive a Book of Mormom. Elder Howerton and I wrote our testimony in the front of it, with our picture and contact information for her. She's aware of the bible - never heard of the Book of Mormon and promised she'd begin to read the book.

Here are the two elders that met her and brought her over; Elder Wade and Elder Harken. They are keeping in touch with her and we'll see what happens. We all plant a lot of seeds. What blessings for us though just to be able to meet and talk with wonderful people like this sweet lady. Korean people by and large are truly very nice, extremely polite, and honorable people. They (as the Japanese) care so much for their elders and their ancestors that have gone on before. Talking about the Plan of Salvation, Families being together forever, etc, resonates with them.

 Little blury on this one.... P-Day out with the 'boys' bowling. As I write this it is a P-Day. But this P-Day finds me writing in my blog! Washing, ironing, everything but grocery shopping for us on this day. Wouldn't you know it; Monday the commissary is closed! At least a couple of the P-Days a month we all get together for a relaxing day with the group. Elder Routson came back with his new companion for the day to be with everyone. We sure miss him!! We're blessed that they include us....Momma and Papa Howie.....

Interesting place! Ocean Shab, as you can see, is the name of this really nice restaurant. Yes, it's mostly seafood. That, takes some description, however.... I'll get to that in a minute. I joined a female association called Daegu International Womens Association. They have them in other cities in Korea as well, i.e., Seoul International Womens Association, etc. It's a mix of locals and international women. On this particular day we had an outing, met here first to buddy up in cars. When we were finished, met back here for lunch. OK, long tables of various types seafood; shrimp, mussels, squid.... and the list goes on. Also, long tables of wonderful Korean vegetables. They had fried rice, steamed rice, sweet and sour pork (that was excellent). You walk aroung and fill a plate. I watched and they helped me.... vegetables? Yes! Seafood? I begged off of that.... they also have beef. Cut thin and in long strips. I took that. Back to your table and a waitress brings a HUGE bowl of water and places it on a burner at your table. On goes the heat; very hot fire, and before long you have serioulsy boiling water. They put all the vegetables in first and let it cook a couple of minutes. They scoop into our individual bowls. Honestly, it was delicious! A couple of times of this, they moved to the beef. Then they added home-made pasta noodles the restaurant makes. The beef and noodle mix is soooo good. All this time you have the fried/steamed rice, sweet/sour pork, etc. you want. By this time I was full. I noticed that they hadn't added the seafood and questioned it. I was told that they saved that to the last as it changes the taste of the water. She said I wouldn't want to eat what we were eating after having the seafood in. That was so sweet of them as I was the only one at the table that didn't want the seafood. I assured them I was full and to please fix that for them. They did. What all they ate is up for consideration but they loved it. How they could keep eating was what I wanted to know. I am not kidding when I say there wasn't any one there larger than a size 8!!!! Korean women are so thin! They eat all the time but it's WHAT they eat..... What's that old saying; 'you are what you eat...'

One of the reasons for the day.... as a club they presented a check to this gentleman. He holds an office in an orphanage in Daegu. This check for $4,000,000 is not what it looks like.... it is a nice amount, but not that nice. It is for $4,000 in our money. Still, a nice amount to help the orphanage. the association has a lot of fund raising activities that gather that money to donate. After this we broke into cars, putting one of us Americans with a car of Koreans. Luckily one of the Koreans I was with spoke very good English. Otherwise, I just listened and looked at the local scenery as we drove around.

What we did next I choose not to take pictures, for what will become obvious reasons. I will tell you about it though as it was a very special day. Each car was assigned 4-5 people to visit. In the visit we took a pre-written check to the oil company here in Daegu for this person we visited to use for oil for this winter. Also, we took in about a 25lb bag of rice. All were women that are older, alone, and in dire straits. It was humbling to say the least. Allow me to describe for you....
 No homes, they all live in small apartments. In a couple of them you had to bend down to get in. Just a small opening. One of the women literally crawled out and welcomed us and invited us in. We bent over and crawled in. Actually, all the women invited us in but hers was the hardest. You usually find 2 small rooms. One that holds a small sink. A small refrigerator. A little counter with a double burner on it. Most had a small cupboard attached to the wall that held their 2-3 cups and dishes. That's about it. The other room is where they all invited us to come into and talk - as it's the only room that's really warm. This is the living room, dining room, and bedroom all in one. Most were about 8'x 9-10'. A wooden wardrobe held what clothes they have. A couple of them had a stool they could sit on, the others didn't. All of them have a bed that is where they sit, watch TV, sew; whatever. Each of them did have a TV, but they were all very small screens.

I thought to mysef, what else do they have to do?! Their 'beds' are on the floor. A mat, that has a cover over it. On top of the mat they had what looked to me like a thick blanket. It was electric and was warm. You have to realize there were 4-5 of us in a car. These sweet women always insisted that we sit on her bed, where it was warm, and not on the floor. Of course, that pretty much took up the bed.... they talked, I watched. All were small, bent-over, hard working and tough living women. Very sweet, every one of them. One of them just took my hand and kissed it! She looked at me and grinned with her few teeth in her mouth and said, 'American, American.... over and over. It brought tears to my eyes. I found myself wishing I had something to give her. When we left almost everyone insisted on giving us something for coming. I have 7 pieces of hard candy I left with that morning, some gave us a couple of pieces....

I asked the Korean that drove our car and could speak English about them. She said most are widowed or perhaps never married. They are all too old or too weak to work anymore and they are on welfare. Welfare in Korea.... a small, and to us 'Americans', a totally unexceptable living arrangement. Bathroom? I didn't mention that. One had a chamber pot, the others had outside facilities. No heat. Cars? I don't think so....

They get monthly checks to barely feed themselves, let alone pay bills. But then the only light in the room was an overhead bulb in each of the two rooms. A TV that I would imagine runs most of the time. Windows? Oh yes, they have A window.... As it's winter now each place had magazines, newspapers, etc taped to cover their windows completely. Entombment came to mind....

I recalled the homes Elder Howerton and I have had.... my parents, even my grandparents. Now these are not the normal Koreans, but neither are our poor what we would call our normal Americans... These women are alone without family or children. Or if they have them they aren't helping. It was an eye-opening day.

I do recall other times in my life that I've been blessed to have such a witness; when we were in Germany and took the duty train to Berlin. In those days the wall was up. One side was 'normal' and the other side was gray; dark and forboding. The walls of the buildings were grey, the ground was gray with little grass and not green nor healthy looking. The sky couldn't even seem to produce sunshine. Heck, the people were grey. That was the eastern side of Berlin. The side you had to take a military bus to get in, hold your passport up to the window for the eastern guards to look at (as they could not come on board), and watch as big mirrors slid under your bus to make sure no one sneaks out...

And the day I sat on the floor in front of the TV, holding my young daughter on my lap watching the POW's coming off the plane as they'd finally been released from years of Viet Nam incarceration...for HOW many years?!! To watch them get off the plane, and many, that were physically able, bent down and kissed the ground. I cried then, I can cry now just recalling it. I had a smidgen of that feeling our POW's must have felt the first time we came back through 'Check Point Charlie' and out of Berlin and into FREEDOM! I literally wanted to get down and kiss the ground. I remember saying to Michelle I wish every child in American could make that trip. To KNOW the feelings and to realize the blessings they have, we ALL have as Americans.

I felt that to some extent this day of visiting these sweet Korean sisters of ours. We all are brothers and sisters, I believe that. That's why the young missionaries who serve here learn to love the people. To care for and about them. What a blessing for Elder Howerton and I this mission is. I wouldn't change it nor go back and not do a mission again for all the money this world could offer. THESE are the things we take with us. These are people I will see again on the other side and be able to speak to!!

Aren't they great? These are the 3 that helped me at the restaurant with the food! Lovely ladies trying to make a difference in their world. 

The table next to us so you get an idea of the bowl and the food. The windows look like big port holes of the ship which was really neat. All this food, all you can eat, for under $10 American dollars!

Now this was a nice military happening! We have 2 sisters; Jennifer Blankenship on the left who's expecting her 2nd child, and Natasha Grusendorf on the right, expecting her 3rd child. As you can tell they are both expecting girls! Actually, Jennifer's husband is military but Natasha's is not. He is working here with a company and he's an engineer. We held this on post at the Friendship Hall connected to the Chapel on post. Sisters Lambert and Allen outdid themselves on the beautiful decorations.

I just had to show this. What a beautiful table!!

Here's some of the group that was there. A very nice day and something different for me!

Elders Harken and Wade outside a local restaurant.... one we don't frequent. They had to stand next to the suit of armor as Elder Howerton's always reminding them to 'put on your armor....'

Our 'tradition'. Amazing how fast it comes! We lost a couple and will gain new ones. This is a great group of missionaries. We love them all.

Elder Harken on left,standing. Elder Morrow on floor, Elder Harris in white shirt, Elder Goodman, new to us on the last transfer we had. Elder Doh on the right.

Elder Harken with Sister Chuuluunkuhuu and the 'Papa' in the background.... Oh, I mean Elder Howerton....

Sister Stevens taking a picture of Elder Howerton, taking a picture of Sister Stevens....

They get so excited about life in general. Making sundaes to suit there anything better?!

Here's two we hate to see move on; Elder Gee on the left and Elder Olsen, who's been one of our two missionaries that work with the military.

Sister Chuuluunkuhuu is also moving on! She's been in the Suseoung B district mission here in Daegu since she arrived in-country. She is one of our 2 missionary pairs that we have assigned here. We have the two pairs; sisters in Suseoug B Mission and their male counterparts in Suseoung A Mission, as we have the Korean Ward and the Daegu Military Branch as well that they cover and share.  We will miss her. She came here not able to speak Korean or English. She has learned Korean amazingly well. Elders Harken and Wade gave us a 'memory book' that most missionaries have. Sister Chu (as we call her) wrote in it. I wish we could read it.... anyone read mongolian?!!

Sister Chon and Sister Chuuluunkuhuu prior to their leaving. Sister Chon is staying with us!

With all leaving, this is a great picture of two great and special missionaries (special to us...). They are the best and the proof as they say is that they were both just called to be District Leaders in their areas. Elder Morrow on the left is senior. I don't want to give thought to him leaving....spring time... On the right is Elder Wade. He hasn't been here all that long and he's a District Leader already. I see great things ahead for him. How can you NOT love these guys?!!

Elder Gee may be leaving us but not without about 4-5 pulled pork barbeque sandwiches!! We did have other things to eat, which I believe he managed to try but it seems one of this favorites is pulled pork! What a good thing to make that night. He is a super fellow and will do great wherever he goes. He will be missed here, that's for sure. Hey! He plays Euchre!!

Here's a bittersweet picture! We are losing Elder Harken. He's served an honorable mission and his two years are up! We will miss him so much. He's an adopted grandson. He purchased these beautiful Korean Wedding Ducks for Elder Howerton and I for Christmas. What a wonderful gift and something we will treasure always. I can not describe the blessings we feel from knowing and loving these special young men and future leaders of the church. Their dedication, commitment, sense of duty, and energy overwhelmes us. If I could make a wish it would be that all of you could feel first hand the blessings that are yours just for being in their presence and watch them work for the Lord.

This blog is as current as it gets... Elder Harken and Elder Overmyer, who we know and will miss as well, are in Busan, Korea today getting ready to head to Seoul tomorrow. They are able to attend the Temple and on Wednesday (here, Tuesday at home) they fly. Harken to Utah and Overmyer to Indiana. There are others leaving as well, unfortunately we didn't know them. Come this mid-week the Busan area is scheduled to receive 9 new missionaries, straight from the MTC.... Greenies!! ....and life goes on.

Thanks for reading my blog and sharing our experiences with us. The church is true and it is growing. The latter-days are upon us. I'm so grateful for my membership and for my Heavenly Father. We are blessed to have the attonement through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Share the gospel, love the people you're blessed to be around. Please know we love you and are so grateful for your support. Keep the emails coming!!

Elder and Sister Howerton

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Here's to A Great New Year!

Welcome 2011!!!!!!!

It is January 3, 2011 in the Land of the Morning Calm.... that would be South Korea. For the rest of you, you are finishing the 2nd day of this New Year. I still smile at our granddaughter Allison's statement to us that we live in the future! Today, January 3rd is my aunt's birthday who lives in Decatur, Indiana; Happy Birthday Ginger - I love you!

In addition, this is a special date to me for another reason; had my father lived, this would be his 100th birthday! He is a man I am hoping to get to know much better beyond the veil.

We have passed Christmas, New Year's, and a Youth Conference!

I had one of my best birthdays ever! My date of birth happens to be Christmas Eve. It is not the best time of the year to have a birthday... Growing up my mother tried so hard to give me a party, but to little avail. Too many people travel or just have their own things to do. Nevertheless, to her credit she never gave up. This year CJ Burnett said she wanted to take me to breakfast for my birthday... now in Korea you do not do breakfast, at least not as we think of it. While I felt honored, I had my own thoughts, 'Taco Bell? ... for breakfast'? I didn't even know they served breakfast...

She was to be at the Lambert's where we're staying at 10 am or so. She was late. Once there I'm ready to walk out the door but she just walked past me into the house. Jim was there and she started talking - and talking - and talking. Well obviously, some time had gone by and then she says, 'OK, let's go!'

We walked out the front door only to hear her say she'd forgotten her wallet (!) and gloves. I said, "OK... but thought to myself; 'she's really not into this!...' So she headed for her house and I began walking to her car. CJ speaks up and says, 'Hey! Come with me, the kids want to wish you a happy birthday. By this time I'm thinking, 'You have GOT to be kidding!'...

So off to her house we head. She opens the door, I walk through and about 14 friends and sisters in the gospel jump out at me and yell 'Surprise!!!!' What a surprise. And what a lovely breakfast they all provided! It was totally a shock and one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me. Sister Gordon set it all up and she and CJ got together and I would imagine and made the plans. I appreciate the Burnett's change of their house arrangements to allow for this. On Christmas Eve morning... with 1,000 last minute things everyone has to do and here, were these wonderful sisters taking the time to be there, to wish me a happy birthday, and to share in the true meaning of the season; giving to others of themselves..... It's a birthday I won't soon forget and I thank each and every one of you for your show of kindness and love.

Now here's something different to read!!!!!!!

Pre-Christmas when Pres. Jennings invited all the missionaries in the Busan Mission area to gather, Elder Howerton and I had requested some separate time with him, which he granted us. One of the requests we had was for special permission to have the male missionaries in our district to our house on post (again the Lambert's home) for Christmas Eve.... my birthday. As we had plans in process already to feed ALL the missionaries in our district (which would include the sister missionaries as well) Christmas dinner the next day...and as some of the male missionary companionships live quite a ways out of Daegu... would it be possible for permission to have the missionaries stay with us overnight on Christmas Eve and then they'd be there for Christmas day?

To our delight, he said yes! He said he could not normally grant that for just a group overnight in a home but as we were missionaries ourselves he trusted we would stay within all guidelines and rules. Therefore, he gave his consent. We were thrilled. We were even allowed to show a couple of approved Christmas movies if we wanted.

Well, the guys were so excited!

Christmas Eve found them arriving, 2x2... some could come a little earlier, others had early to mid afternoon appointments (good for them!) and came when they could. The Burnett's have been unbelievable friends and neighbors while we've been here. She heard about our being able to have the missionaries and infomed me I absolutely could NOT cook on my birthday. So, she made Christmas Eve dinner for us, and for all 10 missionaries that were staying with us. I wouldn't accept her 'dropping' something off for us, so all 5 of them came and we all ate together. What a blessing. I usually spend my birthday with my daughter and her family, providing me the blessing of having my family and my grandchildren with me on my birthday. I thought this year might be really hard for me. Of course they were all on my mind the entire time but this was just what the doctor ordered!!!!!!!

We watched a wonderful movie with cocoa and food to munch. Blessed to be in a warm home with a beautiful flaming fire in the fireplace, I know we all felt peace, friendship, and the true warmth of being encircled in the love of our Heavenly Father. It was such a special night. I know each one of us thanks President Jennings for this special blessing. It will be a Christmas Eve I think we will all recall as the years go forth.

Sleeping! On sofa's, on the living room carpet, in bedrooms; whoever called the bed first!! The other got the floor and not one of them seemed to mind.

Of course, EARLY Christmas morning brought 10 excited, anxious missionaries who could not wait to call home!!! No one truly cared about opening any packages that they had. They just wanted to talk to mom and dad and brothers and sisters and whoever else might be at the family home. They spent the entire morning doing just that. Very patient with each other even though the ones waiting to talk were about to explode!

The sisters and others began arriving and Christmas dinner was slightly after 1pm. All the missionaries had to leave by mid-afternoon to attend a missionary Christmas party at their Stake. All in all, with them, and friends who dropped in, we fed 34 people Christmas dinner and absolutely loved every second of it!

However, by about 7:00 pm I did the worst thing I could have done. I sat down.

Now here's something you don't see everyday! A group of missionaries attempting to file through a gate! Elder Choi was the one who finally cut through... I asked him what he did in his 'previous' life?!! We all were at the church for a combined district meeting. This particular church is in Elder Harken and Elder Wade's district. We found the gate locked and the code they had wouldn't work. There we all were. Elder Harken called the Bishop who said they'd been having trouble and just to 'break' it.... he'd buy a new lock.

Just the daily unexpected things that come up in the life of missionaries!!

The afternoon of Christmas Eve..... some came early to partake of Taco Bell... This was Elder Doh's (who is Korean) first time EVER! He loved it.... Check out Elder Wade's tray (in front). Elder Howerton and I felt a sign of relief as he said he only wanted things from the $1.00 menu... we just didn't know he meant EVERY item on the $1.00 menu!!!!! You gotta love these guys!

I can't decide if Elder Gee looks like that mouse that FINALLY got the cheese or someone who hasn't eaten in a week - and I wouldn't want to be the one to stop him!

Here we have a Thinker and a Doer!!!
The military still giving their all..... SFC RJ Gordon volunteering his time with his unit, wrapping Christmas packages for those last minute shoppers!

And some say there is no Santa! Elder Olsen in his Christmas pj's! Complete with white beard.

Let the festivities begin!!!

Christmas Eve dinner.... birthday dinner for me and I didn't have to cook!! 

Brittney Burnett brought over one of their 3 family dogs, Pepper. He's all decorated, ready to see if  Santa will bring him a bone!

A rather quiet moment for all. President Jennings ordered new phones for all the missionaries as the old contracts had ended. Elder Choi, zone leader, brought them with him. It sure kept everyone busy for quite some time!
Quiet evening watching a good Christmas movie with good company

Early Christmas morning.... is it too early to call yet?!

Elder Harris' mother sent me the recipe for some goodies her son loves to nibble on. So I made him some from her... I think he was surprised. I doubt they tasted quite as good as Mom's though....

Military families and missionaries; what a great combination!

This is great! Elder Gee and Elder Howerton showing off their brand new matching ties. 

Sisters Chun, Stevens, and Swenson with one of our single female soldiers, Tabitha. What beautiful and special daughters of our Heavenly Father. We are so blessed to be able to be around the sisters and see the lives they touch. For Tabitha and those like her, having the missionaries helps them get through some hard and lonely times. The church is true......


Sweet Sisters! Sister Swenson, Stevens and Chun

December 28, 29, 30. Elder Howerton and I had the pleasure, along with another sister from our branch; Sister Olson of escorting 8 of our young men and women to Seoul, South Korea for a 3 day Youth Conference. This was a real Quonset hut like the one Elder Howerton lived in for a year in Korea back in the mid 70's. It looks like something you'd see in M.A.S.H. The facility we stayed at was pretty nice. Named The Religious Retreat Center at Seoul it's run by the military chaplains. We took the KTX or the fast train from Daegu to Seoul. It takes about an hour and a half. Normally it takes about 4 hours via a car. Our train was going at speeds of up to 306 km (roughly 190 mph), it's a fun trip!

One of the classes getting started. Standing is President Knudsen, District President, welcoming everyone. We had youth from Daegu, Seoul, Youngsan, and Osan

One of the youth, Levi Hardy from Camp Humphrey designed the T-shirt that we each received. I think he did a great job... 13 Articles of Faith.... you can't quite see the left side at the bottom. There are 13 values we seek after.

You just gotta love being a military brat! Here's 2 young women from different areas of Korea in the same jackets! Good old PX; same clothes wherever you shop. They both look great in them!!
You've got to hold it just right, no laughing!!

Patience! These doughnets have powered sugar on them.  Proved quite messy and the kids loved it!

Just sitting and taking it all in!

The Powers That Be.... A couple of great sisters that made wonderful things happen for our youth. Sister Hardy on the left and Sister Oldroyd on the right. So much pre-work and planning goes into these things. We were so blessed to have sisters like these two that make these events so special. They can be literally life-changing days in a youth's life..

The Gathering.... This was the last time together prior to leaving. We'd had some wonderful and spiritual classes, play time, ice skating time, and a dance for the older youth. On this day all the youth went to the Seoul Temple and performed baptisms. As there usually is, some special feelings and experiences happened. Everyone came away edified.
 We came home tired but happy. For us New Year's Eve was quite and peaceful. Beginning another year seems to give me the motivation to set goals... how long they last is something else. I have resolved to do something each day that would help someone else; a phone call, a letter, an email, a smile, or just to be there for someone. I have been blessed since being here with so many that are there for me.

While the new year gives us a chance to reflect and set goals about things we'd like to do or be, to me it brings a sense of stability. Reminding me that while things constantly change we always are blessed to have Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior with us. Times may change, people may change and the world moves on, but throughout the chaos of it all is the simple truth held within the scriptures. I thank my Heavenly Father every day of my life for that constant. May this be a blessed year for each of you. Thank you for your support and your love. Keep in touch!

Sister Howerton