Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What happened to February?!

Hello to anyone that is still speaking to me!!

My last blog was in January! We are now at the end of March - WOW. I knew that I hadn't updated in awhile but it really didn't seem like it had been that long. What is it they say? "...time flies when you're having fun". That must be it.

Yes, a lot has happened. Let me attempt to pass some of the note worthy items/events on to you. Thanks again for checking this blog and I hope you will enjoy reading and seeing what we're doing on the other side of the world.

The last of January we had a baptism. A wonderful female soldier; Sharon Wimmer, joined the church! She has a beautiful son, Caleb, that was also blessed shortly after her baptism. She has since moved on to her new assignment and is now stationed in upstate New York. It was a blessing to get to know her and Caleb and to be a part of her investigation. Her husband is reported to be interested in the church as well. We continue to keep them in our prayers.

Left to right in back: Sister Cramer, Elder Howerton, Sister Chon, Sister Wimmer, Bro. Peterson, and me.
Frong Row: Elder Harris and Elder Jo

Here's the beautiful Peterson family who introduced Sharon to the gospel. They are unbelievable in their family missionary work!
Left to right is Morgan, Sister Wimmer, Sister Allison Peterson holding Caleb for Sharon, Brother Peterson and Cameron. In front is Abby and Rigby. Truly one of the strongest families in the gospel we have here. Brother Peterson is a medic in the US Army. He's of total service to both God and country!

I love the military. Of course, I enjoyed our life while Elder Howerton was on active duty, but I've always had a special place in my heart for those that serve and for the families that sacrifice so they can serve. With the latest happenings in Japan you can probably only imagine the impact that has on the military personnel to say nothing of their families standing in the wings. So many families here were operating as best they could while husbands/fathers worked literally around the clock to ensure things were working as planned. Then the 'what if' scenerios that came to the surface; moving Americans to Korea from Japan if necessary, supplies coming in and the distributsions of such. A thousand concerns, plans, and actions that we weren't privy to.... all for our safety and the safety of the South Koreans.

Here we are on a trip to Busan. There were meetings where we were blessed to hear from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland! The talks were wonderful, as you can imagine. The Stake Center where it was held was overflowing. He had his words to the Koreans translated for their understanding of course, but for once WE were able to understand all that was said! The biggest thrill was to be there on the following Monday when he spoke to the missionaries only. We all received such great instruction and insight. For Elder Howerton and myself the richest blessing was to be in the presence of a living apostle, with all 80+ of us in one room, and for all of us to have received an Apostolic blessing from Elder Holland. Truly a highlight and a sweet memory.

OK, I need to come to earth again.... Korea.... Here are some interesting pictures of fresh fish which the Busan area is quite known for. They have a HUGE waterfront that literally runs for blocks and blocks in length. One after another all serving up their fresh catches. Some of these you may know, some you can guess. I know we certainly had to!

VERY INTERESTING.... When I say different fishes, I'm not kidding! These are but a few, but I think you get the idea. Koreans love their seafood. Elder Howerton was in Korea (solo tour) back in the late 70's. He was assigned as a chopper pilot to be in an area called Camp Casey, very north - just below the DMZ line actually. His idea of Korean food at that time was fish heads and rice..... is that what they really ate? I don't know but in moving through this l-o-n-g line of seafood, guess what we found???? Pictured below (without the rice)

Yep! Fish heads! He just had to add this picture for you........

Do you know what this might be??????? 

We were able to snap a picture of a new parking lot just being built! We estimate that 4 cars can be on a row (2 to a row with a split in the middle where they literally 'raise' the cars.....) we counted something like 20 rows.... perhaps not perfect in our count but it's close. Once built you drive your vehicle into either center area of this tall building. They use hydrolics to lift the car to the proper row and then more hydrolics to slide it sideways, left or right, into a parked position. Welcome to 'vertical' Korea!

While there we went with some other senior missionaries assigned in Busan (Elder and Sister Bagley from Wyoming) to see one of the cities larger stores. This is not a mall, this is just ONE huge store. Absolutely beautiful with anything and everything one might want. Pretty pricey though...... This center waterfall in the middle of the store was fantastic to watch. As you can see from the top, the circles are where the water falls from. They control it as we've seen in Las Vegas at the famous Bellagio! Complete with colors, music, various designs, but all vertical. It was breathtaking!! You can see the spectators watching from the various floor levels.... Thanks to the Bagleys and their great hospitality we had a wonderful trip to Busan.

I just want to show you this picture..... are these the most beautiful strawberries ever, or what?! They sell them on the streets, vendors selling their home-grown fruits and vegetables. You're going to have to trust me on this one but they taste as good as they look. I mean to say they really taste like strawberries; sweet to the max. Ones that we remember from our youth, not as we find mass produced and sold in our stores today. This is something that has blown me away! The home-grown fruits and vegetables here literally make your mouth water. It's no wonder Koreans are so healthy -  and thin!!

Here's another interesting story from the life of the Howerton's.... We are not 'sponsered' by the US military or therefore by SOFA, even though Elder Howerton is retired military. We are here for and through the LDS Church. As such we are not allowed to go on post and receive, through the military, a drivers license that allows us to drive in Korea. We have to do what all good citizens of Korea, and those living in their country do; we have to take the FULL test. Now, it isn't just a 'test' for tests sake.... We did that. Eye test, computer test (in English, thank you). After passing that phase, the next phase of this full test is a real driving test - on a controlled course built for such a test. No one in the car with you but sensor monitors and people watching you all over the place! A couple of them in a high tower with spy glasses watching your every move, turn, backing, stopping, parking, etc.

Here's the poster that was on the wall of the classroom depicting the course outline for the controlled test. Such a help it was not, unfortunately!

On the right are the grandstands (!) where those who wait for the test, or for others to take it, can sit and watch while you drive the course.... You can see the small incline you drive up and have to stop....well behind the white line on the top of the crest.  Now prior to this road test we also sat in a class for over 30 minutes while an instuctor informed us of everything we needed to know about the test we'd be expected to complete....in Korean.  Hey! We're no fools. We took Elder Jo, a Korean missionary, who speaks English fairly well, with us. I wish you could have been there.... It was a memory all right. Most of what the instructor said Elder Jo would simply move his head from side to side as if to say, 'no...' Not wanting to interupt the class we sat silently. At the end we both asked Elder Jo what that was all about. He simply stated that we didn't need to go over it, he knew we knew all about it already! Such confidence!! Wish we'd have felt the same. Well, we did both pass. And the strange thing is that literally the Koreans were failing it left and right!

We celebrated by taking the elders out to lunch with us. This was a rather up-scale Korean restaurant. The food was good and the service excellent. They played all 50-60's music. Elder Howerton and I loved it!

Elder Jo, who looks like he doesn't like having his picture taken... Elder Harris before our meal arrived. I guess Elder Howerton just wanted to be 'part of the elders.....'

Here is a picture of our car! We are so blessed to have one!!! As I mentioned in other blogs, we walked everywhere. Last summer after arriving there were days I didn't know if I was going to make it. Coming from Utah and low humidity (after leaving Las Vegas and living there for 6 years) we'd not had humidity to deal with in some time. UGH!!! It's very alive and well in Daegu..... we were averaging 6-+ miles a day whenever we'd go to post. And most of that was just to GET to post. So we were very grateful a wonderful Mission President heard our appeal.

Having shown this picture I do have to share the bad with the good..... Elder Howerton is standing next to our car looking somewhat smug.... You see, he passed the REAL ROAD TEST the first time and I didn't!! You have to move from the 'controlled course' test to a real road test with a person sitting beside you. Yes, a Korean that for the most part speaks no English. I think I'm a pretty good driver. We had a Korean sister from our branch take us over the course so we'd know what was to be expected of us.... I took the test first with Elder Howerton and that sister in the back seat. My grader/tester didn't like the way I made right turns.... I failed and Elder Howerton moved up. Of course I tell him he made it 'cause he saw what NOT to do.... but, nonetheless, he passed. I had to come back in another week and try again. I did make it the second time but there's a story there also.... Anyway, we both have our Korean licenses; good until 2020!!

Back to more of the real reason we're here! Above is another baptism we were blessed to be a part of. To the left of Elder Howerton is a new member; Brother Em. Elder Harris in the white baptized him and next to him is his companion, Elder Jo. Acutally Bro. Em had asked for Elder Howerton to baptize him. That was such an honor and yet at the same time Elder Howerton felt it should fall to one of the young missionaries. While the debate was ensuing what was correct, they discovered that the only clothes they had fit Elder Harris. End of discussion. It was a wonderful day with the Korean Ward. Brother Em is Korean and attends the Korean ward. He is a security guard at the military post and was introduced to the gospel through a military family; the Gordon's. As he speaks English very well we were able to be a part of the discussions he received. It matters not who performs the baptism only that it's done by proper Priesthood authority.

One of the churches in our zone had a special day. The missionaries, with their Korean Ward Mission Leader, made plans for an Open House type of event. They made flyers and asked all our zone to come to 'get the word out'. We stood on streets stopping and talking to passerbys. Elder Wade is making contact with a mother and her daughter out for a ride. We spent the entire day and evening there. It was a huge success! Elders Goodman and Choi were in charge as this was held within their area. Many people came later that evening for the event.

Elder Wade is helping Elder Goodman's contact by showing her where the church is located. They had classes; movies about the church, question and answer time, and food. Out of those that came several showed up for church the following day and they have some that are seriously investigating!

Here is a lovely Korean girl that has spent time in Utah going to school. She is back in Korea again and is now interested in the church. She is talking to the missionaries. They brought her over to our house for an evening of discussions and dinner.

While she was in our house with Elder Wade and Elder Lee, we received 2 more elders with 2 investigators! The Korean girl, standing on the right, and her sister were to be baptized within a couple of days. Elder Choi, sitting on the floor and his companion, Elder Groodman (with his back to us) brought these 2 young ladies by for Elder Wade to interview. Elder Wade was in Elder Howerton's office with the other sister and we were all waiting for him to complete his interview with her. The young Korean that lived in America was quite impressed that there were 2 other young ladies joining the church.....

Here are 3 of my favorites! Elder Duerden on the left, me, Elder Morrow, and Elder Routson. Both Elder Duerden and Elder Morrow moved this last transfer :-(    The worst is Elder Routson REALLY moved... he's back in the good old USA..... our loss! Hello 'Brother' Routson. We miss you and you know we love you! We will lose Elder Morrow this next transfer....So that's Green, Harken, Murray, Stever, Routson....soon to be Morrow.... but, we will see all our grandchildren when we get home!!!!!!!

We held our traditional Transfer Sunday dinner for the zone. As we were losing Elder Morrow this time, I wrote his mother for her recipe for Navajo Tacos which is one of Elder Morrow's favorite meals. Sister Morrow gave me a wonderful recipe (thank you!) and I think her son was pleasantly surprised! He showed Elder Howerton how it's done correctly!

Here's a picture of our Institute class. All but a couple were there that night. We have a special time and Elder Howerton is doing a great job in teaching. We literally started the class with 3 and it's been growing and growing. We are blessed to be able to use the chapel and their training rooms on post for these classes. The chaplains office have been very nice to us!

LTC Burnett and Elder Howerton cooking outside. The Burnett's had us over for dinner for Elder Howerton's birthday with steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs! All American and All Wonderful! They invited us to be with their family and invited the missionaries in our district as well. These military families are incredible. They are so caring, giving, and supportive. WE'RE supposed to be the ones supporting them!

Some of the kids of the military families wishing Papa Howie a Happy Birthday!!

Thanks Burnett's, you did it again! I'm not sure we can ever repay them for all they do for us. We love them very much.

Now here's our favorite picture! We were talking with Michelle and family via Skype when Allison said she'd play a song for us. She began taking lessons just as we were leaving this past August. It is such a thrill to see her and to hear her play for us! We miss these kids!!!!!! We have wonderful 'adopted' grandchildren here that we love and will love forever too. It has been such a blessing to have them in our life. As we're unable to be with our own grandkids right now it is truly a blessing to be able to be around the missionaries as well as the military families. Even with the absence of our family, neither of us would trade what we're doing. We will see them again. We will have fun again - and we will carry memories of this time and the wonderful people we've met and come to love here as well.

I have a couple of other things that have happened of late. As I said; we've been busy! I will save them for the next time, although I am going to start it now..... this coming weekend we are taking a bus tour, through the military, down to Chinhae Naval Base which is the furthest south, by the ocean. The week or so coming up is Cherry Blossom time in Korea so we should have wonderful pictures to show you on our next blog.

Thanks for visiting with us again. I promise to do better in the future! We are literally on our knees every night thanking our Father in Heaven for this opportunity. We love each of you, and we keep you in our prayers as well. The gospel has changed our lives. We are blessed to be members of this church and we're grateful for the knowledge it provides - as well as for the peace of mind and soul it brings. There are so many waiting to know the truth and are searching as best they can. It's our prayer that we can all be in tune to be able to find and assist them with their needs and righteous desires. Stay tuned for pictures of new elders in our area; Elders Harman and Chandler!

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