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

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about your missionary experiences, you write so well. It sounds like there is never a dull moment for you.