Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year





Dear Family,
It was really nice to talk to all of you on Christmas. Sorry I'm not as exciting as you probably think I am and apparantely I have gained a British accent. (Although I'm still not sure where that came from). I also got some goodies that mom sent through a kid in our ward so I made my companion an almost authentic American chicken-stuffing casserole. She was amazed. We then got 6 inches of snow so after our snow fight with some members I showed her how to make snow angels. All in all a pretty fun Christmas.
This week I have been thinking a lot about New Years Resolutions! Since 2010 is almost over and 2011 is about to start I spent some time with my companion and went over some things we want to accomplish next year (and in our lives in general).
Here are a few things I was thinking of:
  • Always help pay for a missionary (there's a lady in our ward who talked about how she helped pay for her husband's younger brother to go on a mission and during that time how it was one of the most spiritual times in her family's life.. I want that. Even though I can't always be a missionary I'm still too selfish to let everyone else have all the fun).
  • Join a book club
  • Create a Korean drama watching club where people can come to my house and I will make rice/ a main dish, they can bring side dishes and we will spend time watching Korean dramas
  • Listen to the Book of Mormon in Korean
  • Do family history for a couple hours 3 times a month
  • learn how to quilt
  • take voice lessons
  • baptize Natasha (you can't avoid it Natasha, it will happen eventually)
  • Go to the temple every month
It was really fun, so I thought I would encourage you to write down some of your goals and send them this way. Or you can examine some of the goals you set for this year and see what you were able to accomplish, that is also fun.
Anyway, I hope you all have a great holiday season, love you lots.
Rebecca O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Policemen and news crews




Dear Family

Remember last week how I said that we reported a sex offender on the bus? Well it turns out that Korea is a lot smaller than I had once imagined. About a week earlier there was an incident on a bus, except it was a lot worse with the bus driver being the sex offender and it created a buzz in the news scene. So after we met with some undercover policemen and gave our story some news crews started to call us. There are three main News companies in South Korea: MBC, KBS, and SBS, we were on two of the three and then on some local one. But since we didnt really want to be recognized we had our faces blurred and voices changed. All of our members still knew it was us thoughI guess it kind of gives it away with how tall my companion is as well as the fact that it was two girls, wearing dresses, one Korean and one American you dont see that very often. Things that I learned from that experience: even the News is business. They have to make money so even an incident that wasnt very big, like us being on a bus and reporting a creepy man, can become news.

Last Saturday our branch had its branch Christmas party which was a lot of fun. We brought an investigator with us and I think she really enjoyed it. Mostly she loved all the kids. She just graduated from High School and is the youngest of two daughters so probably doesnt see kids very often. But in our branch there are LOTS of little kids running around adorable chaos She was so cute, she looked at all the kids then looked over at me and asked can I touch them? I gave her free leave. In our branch it really is just like a family, everyones kids are everyone elses kids and they run around like bandits and anyone might run up to you at any moment and plop themselves down on your lap or try to take whatever neat trinket is in your hands.

Not a lot else has been happening, except that yesterday we had some more baptisms. A couple of little boys who are the kids of members, but their parents wanted us to teach them the lessons anyway, so we did. They are not convert baptisms but they are still way cute and I love them, Juhyuck (강주혁)and Hyundo (김현도).

I love you lots, Ill hear from you in a couple of days. I have no idea about what is happening though, who is calling, what time you are calling so feel free to call and let me know. Otherwise I will probably just be sitting in my apartment waiting.


--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

It's a very Merry Christmas




Dear family,

With the arrival of our first snowalbeit small, the $3 purchase of classic Christmas carols, and the 2 ft Christmas tree we salvaged from the closet of missionaries now long past”—it looks like this Christmas is shaping up to be one of the best yet. My companion never celebrated Christmas before; its not really a Korean holiday, so she had a hay day decorating our small tree with random ornaments including disco Santa, one eyed reindeer, those furry Christmas tree wreath things and the like. We even scrounged up some blinking Christmas lights that seem surprisingly well coordinated with our Frank Sinatra/Louis Armstrong. I never really considered myself a Christmas junky, but being the only one to experience real Christmases with trees, caroling, fat men in red suits, having endured hours of TV specials, mindlessly propagated cartoons, turkey, fruit cake, chocolate oranges and all the other things you cant find in Korea I feel somewhat obligated to bring in Christmas cheer.

Reason number 205 of why I love my companion, Sister Jung Ji Yun: she is brave. We were riding the bus to one of our appointments the other day when we saw a Pilipino girl in front of us get up yelling at the man next to her I told you! Dont touch me! We were a little perturbed, but there are a lot of older Korean men who buy wives from the Philippines or Mongolia so we thought maybe she was just having a spat with her husband. But then this creepy man starts coming back towards us on the bus. So my companion and I look at each other and head to the front of the bus to sit next the Pilipino lady. Turns out the man was some completely random fellow who sat down next to her, pulled down his pants and tried to touch her. Oh for creepy. He soon came back up to the front of the bus and just acted like he was crazy. The Pilipino was scared so she quickly got off the bus, but my companion laid the smack down. Actually she was surprisingly more polite than I think I would have been. She said Why did you do that? Thats really horrible to try and take advantage of people who are weaker than you and cant defend themselves because they cant speak Korean. Why would you do that? He started speaking badly and then my companion called the police on him. She gave them our bus number, informed them of the situation and thankfully there was a camera on the bus. The other man I think felt really afraid so then he called the police to say that he had done nothing, but then got off of the bus. When we arrived at our destination we talked with the police, but without the witness of the Pilipino lady they could do nothing, just get all the other evidence. They told us if we happened to see her again to give them a call.

It was a little bit frustrating. How were we going to see that lady again? We prayed that night that we could find her and the next morning as we were rushing to catch another bus we saw her. It was completely random as she doesnt live in our city and was just transferring so we only had about 3 minutes to exchange phone numbers, but it was still pretty miraculous. Yeah for the law!

Other exciting news:

I gave a talk in church. Youd be surprised how nerve racking it is to give a 15 minute talk in another language, but I think I did okay. I also had to randomly give a special musical number at a fireside with about 20 minutes of practice and for the last month I have become the temporary ward director since the lady who actually has the calling has a huge test so she wasnt able to come to church. I think when I get back I will be content with a nice calling like Relief Society greeter or ward librarian. How pleasant.

I also decided what I want for Christmas/next year. If you could send letters to my companion, she doesn't get any because no one in her family is a member and all her friends before her mission basically dropped her once she became a missionary. Sad day, huh? Anyway, just like a letter, she can read English (or what she can't read I will help her out with, so no worries).
I love you lots.
Also... My phone number: 010-9697-2426. I don't know how you want to do the Christmas phone call, but whoever is in charge probably knows how to call Korea by now so I'll just leave the rest up to you and let me know. I can call to set up the call a couple days before Christmas, you just need to tell me what time works for all of you (and then translate it into Korean time so I know). Thanks ^^
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

It's coming--not the war--CHRISTMAS

Dear Family,
Jon said something that I guess I didn't mention in my last email. So North Korea attacked South Korea a week or so ago, some islands up north. It was kind of big news, but since we are missionaries we didn't really get to see too much of it. But then when I asked people about it they basically said it was kind of big a deal because there were civilians who died as well, but at the same time Korea has never really not been in war, the war with North Korea never technically ended-- that's why every boy has to go to military service. Also it doesn't really effect me, I'm not that close, maybe like three or four hours away from the place where it happened, in America that is close, but in Korea it's not. It had something to do with the big G20 summit in Seoul where the top 20 biggest nation's leaders came and talked, I think there was something about rice and then after the attack America said they would help us out. How does it effect me? Not at all. It does probably mean though that Dad's original plans of coming to pick me up and then trying to drive through North Korea to China are probably a lot less likely though...
I realized today that it is December, which means that soon it will be Christmas. I taught our English class last week about Advent calendars and with my companion we have also been doing one that our mission president's wife gave us with scriptures and then suggestions of songs we sing for companionship study. In Korea Christmas is not really a big event, so I haven't seen any real decorations or anything. No worries, I still have every intention of Christmas carolling and bringing Christmas spirit!
It also means that in a couple of weeks you can call me! I know usually you have nothing to say, I'm a weird missionary who's life has nothing relate able or interesting, however, I thought maybe if I gave you fore notice then you could prepare something cool to tell me or you can think of a question you want to ask (although you can also do that every week when you email me).
Don't worry about sending me anything, I've been here for a year and if I've lived without it this long I can survive the last three months (shipping is so expensive, why did I ever ask you to send me anything...) If you still feel an innate desire to show your appreciation for me through some sort of monetary donation-- feel free to send to Mama and she can put it in my bank account ^^.
Something I would really love, I think I mentioned this before, but your conversion stories. How did you come to know the church was true?
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

It's so cold my bones are frozen



Family,
Another week and things are going pretty well, it's too cold for us to go do anything exciting or fun, so instead we just went to the public bath houses and had old grandmas scrub us clean. I always feel so clean afterwards, probably one of the few things that I won't be able to get when I go back to America (which is WAY in the future so no need to keep telling me about it....)
This past week we met with some of my favorite dental technician investigators and played a really fun game. You take a bunch of post it notes, write famous people's names on them and then put them on everyone's forehead without them seeing. This way everyone can see who everyone else is, but not themselves, then they have to ask questions to figure out who they are. It's great for learning English, or just if you need a fun game. I also made them draw turkeys with their hands as an outline on a piece of paper and write things they were thankful for-- I told them it was an American tradition. I mostly said that because I couldn't really think of anything else that we do besides eating massive amounts of food and watching football-- two things they couldn't do. Plus they don't really know the difference so instead of just thinking I was weird they just thought I was American. It works out great.
On Sunday something cool happened. We got to church and there were two people just standing outside. We unlocked the building where we have church and they came in and we started to talk to them. I guess the girl had come once before with another friend and so decided to come again with her.. boyfriend? They stayed for all three meetings and were nice... except I thought there was something a little funny with them, we asked them where they went to school and other things and thought it was odd that they were in High School but neither of them could really spell. I just chalked it up to them being from really far out in the country, but I guess it turns out the school they go to is for people with mental disablities. Oh well, if they want to come to church, I'm not going to stop them....
I hope that you all have a great week! I love you all.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea


Under the weather, but not out of the race



Dear Family,
I've been feeling a little sick this past week, first off with my eye then I just got a plain old cold. Ugh, but not bad enough to keep me from doing missionary work, just enough to make it a little uncomfortable. And then I remembered that one saying. It was an apostle. Or a prophet? It was someone important who said that most of the work done in the church is by people who feel sick or tired and just get out there and do it anyway. People who feel like there's something stuck in their eye so it's hard to concentrate during Zone Conference. People who think they are going to have a mental breakdown. People who have fevers and sore throats and aching backs, arthritis, chronic pain, fake teeth and running noses.
It's the people who have broken hearts and who have lost children and wondered how they could continue. The ones who struggled and fought to go to church, but whose children hardly ever say thank you or even appreciate the sacrifice. The people who are a little too forward or outspoken.
Jesus said: "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick"
And what was Jesus' advice to all of us sick people? Follow me. Love one another. Feed my sheep. Serve one another.
So they keep going. They find the medicine they desperately need- not jut to help with their physical and emotional pain, but to cure their spiritual diseases and bring a happiness and peace that relieves the aching soul.
They are the ones I have seen here in Seosan, the ones I saw even back in America who at the end of the day Jesus can look at and say "Be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole."
Last week at our Halloween party we had a blast, but it was exhausting so I am glad I don't have to do it next year. We also got transfer calls so my beloved companion is leaving. Sad day. However, I am getting back another beloved companion-- Sister Jeong Ji Yeon! We served together in a threesome in Jeonju a while back, she's the one who used to be a model, does yoga and is a vegetarian. I'm pretty excited.
Not a lot else in the way of news. I hope you all have a great week, love you lots.

--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea


Turtles



Dear Family,
This week we went to a baptism of our elders. It is a mother and father who have taken 10 years to get baptized. How did they first meet the missionaries? About 10 years ago the wife was really depressed, so much that she wanted to kill herself. So she went to the balcony of her apartment intending to throw herself over, but when she looked down she saw two missionaries in white shirts. She recognized that they were servants of God and suddenly all of her desire to kill herself vanished.
Then throughout the years she met Mormons and realized there was something different about them, they had a light about them that she thought was so amazing. However about a year ago when she started to start meeting with the missionaries she was really confused. She was attending two churches, ours and another, and every time she would go to the other church they would say bad things about us that made her really confused as to which church she should go to. Suddenly one night she had a dream and in it there was a bright beam of light above her head. She woke up and mostly forgot about it, but that day someone called and invited her to our Branch District Conference where a member of the seventy was speaking. She said it was suddenly like there were all these pieces of a puzzle that the missionaries had been giving her over the years and they suddenly came together. Afterwards she went up and said "I want to be baptized".
Miraculous, huh? So sometimes it takes a while, but our good example is always worth it.
I also read a traditional Korean folk story about a boy named Turtle and his friend-- Stone. Stone was very rich and Turtle was very poor. Then one day Turtle's parents died and he was inconsolable. Feeling sorry for his friend, Stone asked his father if he could come stay with them, but he refussed saying they already had enough mouths to feed. Stone thought about it for a long time and then came up with a plan. He took his father's chopsticks and rice bowl and hid them in his back yard. Then he went to Turtle:
"Turtle, you have to do what I tell you do. I hid my dad's chopsticks and rice bowl in the backyard and you have to go find them."
"Why?"
"Because I will tell my father that you found them by sniffing them out and he will be so impressed that I have a friend with such a good sense of smell that he will let you come live with us."
So they did like Stone suggested and it worked out just like how he thought. But of course everyone in the town heard about Turtle and his amazing sense of smell, so the word got out and the king heard about it. The king had lost his royal seal and so he called for Turtle. He told him if he could not find it he would kill him-- Turtle was way scared and not certain what he could do.
Anyway, the day came that he was supposed to go find the royal seal in the royal treasury and as soon as turtle went inside he heard a knock on the door. When he opened the door there was a theif who said that he had stolen the royal seal without realizing how important it was and that if he was caught he would be killed, but instead he wanted to give it to Turtle as long as Turtle didn't turn him in.
So Turtle took the royal seal and gave it to the king who was really happy and gave him lots of rewards. As it always does, the word spread even farther until the king of China heard about it. He called for Turtle to come and told him that his daughter had lost her ring and he needed Turtle to find it. He would give Turtle a month to figure out the smell and then let him go find the ring (or something like that) So Turtle said the he was going to fast, only drinking water, until then. Except secretly in Turtle's belongings there was a huge stash of meat, so everyone else when they saw him was so surprised that he could live off of nothing but water for a month. The day for the ring to be found came and Turtle went into the princesses room. As soon as he went in there was a knock on the door.
Surprisingly enough, the ring had been stolen as well, but the theif thought Turtle had super powers, because he hadn't eaten for a month and was still alive, that he confessed his crime and gave him the ring.
Wow, lucky Turtle had been saved again! He received lots of riches and glory and headed back to Korea. When he came back to Korea though he was attacked by a theif who came up to him and said "Give me all of your money! Also, I am going to kill you unless you can solve my riddle. I have a stone, can you tell me what is underneath of it?"
Turtle was really surprised and more than a little terrified, but he had no idea what the answer to the question was. So he told the theif he had no idea the answer. This is where I got really confussed, for some reason he didn't kill him... And the answer was that there was a turtle under the stone and then they all laughed about how the stone was going to kill the turtle-- haha..?
Anyway, whatever happened, Turtle learned a good lesson from it so when he went home he told everyone that because of nose bleeds he no longer could smell things out and so to stop asking him and he lived happily ever after with his friend Stone.
Oh how I love Korea.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Happy (late) Halloween!




Hello family,
So this week all the sisters in the mission met together and had a Sister's Conference, which was pretty fun, we got to watch the General Relief Society broadcast ate American food (it was weird to eat home made rolls and pasta salad) and other nice things.
Then on Sunday since we had no appointments, it was Halloween and my companion had never celebrated it before we dressed up and went reverse trick-or-treating to all the families in our branch. We gave them candy, sang a song and took a picture, I'll send some next week when I get them from my companion. I think she enjoyed it and we got to visit a lot of less actives that always say they are too busy for us to come and teach a message but were suprisingly nice when we showed up looking like fools and bearing candy. It's surprising what a black wig and a guitar can do.
Today we went to visit a huge Buddha so I don't have a lot of time, but I thought I would share a few thoughts that have been running through my head lately.
We have an investigator who doesn't really have a lot of interest in religion because he thinks that mostly ministers and preachers try to take away people's freedom of choice by forcing them to come to church and telling them they will be damned if they don't. So he really loved the Plan of Salvation learning about free agency as being one of the main reasons we came to earth. However, when we gave him the pamphlet for the Restoration and it talked about apostacy he again put up a wall. Basically it says that an apostacy is when people refuse the prophets and that it results in unhappiness.
His question: why does it result in unhappiness. I know lots of people who don't go to church who are happy. So I thought about and was thinking about how the reason that we have prophets is to provide us protection. Really when refuse their words or consider them as only "wise men" then we are missing out on that protection, it is like when you turn off the lights before bed and try and get back to your bed, you almost always stumble on something or have to shuffle your way back. They provide that guidance that we need. I then came upon an article in the June 2006 Liahona by Elder Eyring talking about prophets and loved it.
This past week at Sisters Conference we watched President Monson and I talked about how much I love him. Because my companion was less active for a lot of her life she didn't really know much about President Hinckley so on the bus ride back I spent a good hour just talking about his stories and how much I love him. It's always such a testimony strenghtener to see the prophet speak and to see him with his family. I wish I could take part of that feeling and share it with everyone. Maybe if I had a small portable TV with General Conference on it....
Anyway, I love you all, have a great week.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea


It's all about the small victories




Dear Family,
Another week in Korea.
After finishing the Old Testament I started the New this week and I realized that although the Old Testament is a beast, because I read it I am able to understand Jesus a lot more. Jesus is not only perfect, he's really witty. I would recommend the New Testament to anyone.
Last week we invited one of our investigators over to our ward mission leader's house for Family Home Evening. When I became a senior I decided that one of the things I missed most about being a missionary is not having FHE more often. So since then almost every week I've tried to set up FHE with a member and either an investigator or a less active family. I think technically we are supposed to wait until we are invited, but most of the people in Seosan are converts and so they don't really know how to do FHE or don't do it consistently so they don't mind us inviting ourselves over.
Last week we played a fun game which involves dice, socks, a hat, chopsticks, and lots of pieces of candy. I took a video of it, but unfortunately gmail wont let me attach it, so you'll just have to wait until I get back to see the full thing, but I attached some pictures. Basically you start with a pair of dice and the beginning person rolls, every one after them has to try to get that number. Until someone does roll that number the person puts on the hat, the socks, and tries to eat pieces of candy from a dish with chopsticks. It wasn't as challenging as you might think because they are Korean so amazing with chopsticks, but it still made me laugh until my sides hurt. We then compared eating with socks on your hands to having sin and how it's so much easier to get rid of the socks/guilt and repent. (Yes, I made that up on the spot). One of the resolutions I have made as a missionary is to always have fun FHEs for the rest of my life.
The other picture is of my companion. We were walking to an appointment when we happened to come across a festival and since our appointment canceled we stopped there to have dinner. I love Korea, check out the hanging toilet paper in the background-- it's brilliant!
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Blessings of Obedience



Dear Family,
This week was a mixture of frustrations and miracles, we got to hear from one of the seventy, Elder Choi. He spoke in General Conference a year or so ago and gave the talk about "Loud Boys". During the mission tour he talked a lot about obedience, using those loud boys as an example. He said before he gave that talk he had to meet with them to ask if it was okay to use their story. While meeting he mentioned that it would be nice if they could come to Utah to see him give the talk. The next day one of them called him:
"We've talked about it and decided we will be there, we just need you to say it is okay, please say we can come"
Elder Choi thought about it. He loved them very much, but also knew that they didn't really have the money, they all are in their early 30s and have families and jobs and would have to drop everything to come to Utah for a week, not to mention the expense of the plane ticket. So he talked to his wife and told them no. They were disappointed, but because he said not they were obedient and didn't go.
He also told a funny story about his son, Sunbeam (I love Korean names). In Korea there are three things every boy has to do: mission, school, military service. Usually by the time you are done with all these you are about 28 and that's when most people decide to think about getting married because it's hard to do the other things if you have a family. Sunbeam had been home from his mission for a year or two and was going to school, but had no plans for marriage in the near future. His father, however, had different ideas. It just so happens that among the loud boys one of them is the bishop in their home ward. So Elder Choi gave him a call and told him to talk to his son. The bishop called Sunbeam up and in an interview told him he needed to think about getting married and that in two weeks he was to come back to his office with a name of a girl. That weekend Sunbeam spent one entire Saturday going to the temple, from the earliest session to the last one. He said that he started with a lot of names, but each session it would get fewer and fewer. A few weeks later he met with his bishop again and the bishop said "Have you thought about so and so*?" Sunbeam was a little surprised because it turns out the girl he mentioned had actually purposed to him a year earlier, but at that time he was not interested in marriage. So 6 weeks later they were married.
He also talked about obedience in his own life. Or rather his wife did. She told us a story about when he was 16, he was a recent convert at the time and was asked by the Stake President to give a talk at Stake Conference about preparing to serve a mission. He declined saying that he didn't think he would be able to, frankly he wasn't planning on serving a mission. His dream was to be a general in the army and the training that it required would make it impossible to serve a mission. However, after refusing he felt so bad that he prayed and thought about it a lot. He then forsook his dream and decided to serve a mission.
After his mission he got married and picked up a new dream, to be a successful business man. He went about getting more and more fame and climbing the social ladder and as his wife said "we were about to be REALLY rich". But then he got a call from the President of the North Asian presidency asking him to be in charge of the church offices in Korea (I can't remember the real name of the job). He came to talk to his wife. Taking the office would mean that he would make a LOT less money and his ambition in life to be a big business man he would have to give up. At first his wife asked him
"What language did you talk in?"
"English"
"He's Japanese, your Korean and you were speaking in English? There must have been a misunderstanding, call him back"
Anyway, after talking they decided that better than his ambition to be a great business man was his ambition to follow the Lord so they accepted the calling and never looked back. What a great example.
Hope you are all doing well, I love you lots.

--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

I let my companion cut my hair, she did a pretty good job, huh? She was excited for a new experience--- it reminded me a lot of when I let Josh cut my hair, except maybe because she's a missionary it actually turned out good from the first time.

The people you meet






Dear Family,
Have I ever told you how great it is to be a missionary? You can really feel how much God loves his children, you get to have new experiences everyday, and you meet ALL kinds of people. For example, we received a referral from our Elders the other day of a lady they met while street contacting. She seemed somewhat interested (or interesting), but because her husband was rarely home they could not go to meet her and instead just referred her to us. We called her up and she immediately agreed to meet and asked how soon she could see us. We were, of course, excited, and went to go find her. Flash forward three and a half hours later... so she was a little crazy, and may be writing her own bible based on supernatural out of body experiences she has and a few other things not really fit to tell you about/I didn't really understand... but she's still a daughter of God.....
Then you have really pure hearted 14 year old who you teach every Saturday who you absolutely love. If you were as sweet and as obedient and pure as she was you know that your mother would have been eternally grateful. Except she doesn't have parents and attends another church. Every week she talks about how much she wants to come to your church, but she can't because every week she has to prepare the rice as her pastor is sick and she is the only one who can do it. She also talks about how much she wants to get baptized and become a missionary one day. Let's just say I've never prayed so hard for another church's pastor in all of my life.
This past week in General Conference I really loved how much you could really feel the apostles and the prophet's love. I love the words that they speak, but there's something more, there's the spirit in which they say it. When they speak it's as if they are standing next to me and I can feel it more than I can hear it. One of my favorite's was President Monson's story about the family who celebrated Thanksgiving with nothing more than an old jack rabbit and a lot of thanks. It's good to be reminded of the blessings we have received. Whenever I feel down and out I just pull out a piece of paper and start listing my blessings, it's one of the best medicines I have found.
With one of our investigators after teaching about the plan of Salvation we gave her the assignment of drawing what she imagined the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial kingdoms to be like. (Sorry I have those in the wrong order, in Korean it is simply the Sun Kingdom, Moon Kingdom, and Star kingdom, so much easier). So I attached the drawings my companion and I made (mine is the shabby one-- I'm not really good at drawing so I tried to make up for it with all the colors). It was really fun.
This week's challenge: Draw what you think the degrees of heaven will look like and send me your pictures.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

p.s. the other picture says "Kentucky Hot Dogs" I almost peed my skirt from laughter, who knew Kentucky was so famous for their hot dogs?

Scripture Power


Dear family,
I hope that you all enjoyed General Conference. Hopefully I will too. In Korea we watch it a week later so next week I will go to watch it, usually they have it in English as well, but since I am in a branch I wasn't sure. When I asked our wonderful ward missionary leader his reply was, "where would you watch it in English? I don't think they have it. That's okay, you don't really need it in English, right?" Heheheh. . . if only he were joking.
Anyway, on to happier things, this past week in church we focused a lot about the blessing of the scriptures and then during testimony meeting after everyone shared their testimonies and things that they did to help them with their scripture study they announced that there will be a new translation of the Bible in Korean. Yeah! Although it's not published by the church (due to copyright laws we can't make a translation for another 20 years or so) it will be nice. In Korean there are two different words for baptism by immersion and sprinkling and in the current edition it all says sprinkling (so it is John the Sprinkler instead of John the Baptist). In the new edition that will be changed. yeah! Closer and closer to the truth.
It made me think about how much the scriptures mean to me. I remember before my mission that I had a hard time staying awake at night to read for 15 minutes and I wondered how people could study for hours. Then for the first couple weeks or so at the MTC when suddenly I had an hour of study time it became the most precious time of the day. It was the time when I didn't have to think about anything else, when I could just read and read and feel the great spirit of the scriptures.
In my patriarchal blessing it tells me to make sure to read the scriptures and especially on the words of modern prophets (or something like that). For a long time I just took it to be something that every one's blessing says and didn't pay a lot of attention to it, but as I have spent more time studying the scriptures I have realized how much they mean to me. On my mission I have also gained a huge appreciation of the Engisn. A quirk I have developed is that every time I get it I can't put it down. It's like a spiritual addiction, and then suddenly when I finish I realize I am crying. It kind of made my companion worried and she thought I was having a really hard time, but I just look at her through my tears and said "it's just so GOOD".
I'm not suggesting that you should be as weird and obsessive as I am, but I do hope that each of you can look to the scriptures to find peace and direction and that spiritual boost that you need to get you through the day. I love you all, I love the scriptures and I know the Lord speaks to us through them.
As promised, the story of how Korea began (I can't remember names, sorry)
LONG LONG ago there was a bear and a tiger. They both really really wanted to be humans, so they went to the god of the earth and asked him how they could change. The god of the heavens and earth told them if they stayed in a cave for some exorbitant amount of time (30 years?) that they could have their hearts desires. So they both when in a cave and ate only garlic and leaves for a really long time. Except the tiger didn't make it, he left. The bear was the only one that could make it and then after the time was up the bear miraculous changed into a beautiful woman. She was so gorgeous that the son of the god of heavens and earth decided to take her for his wife. They had a baby and that baby is the first king/man of Korea (Dankun).
Funny huh? I love Korea. picture: I got new glasses!
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea


And the answer is...






Dear family,
Another transfer has come and gone, but it's okay, because it turns out that I will be staying another 6 weeks with my wonderful companion Sister Lee Kyung Ran. I know I shouldn't be biased, but she's probably my favorite yet-- one day I will convince her to come to the United States and you can all meet her. Or you can come to Korea (take me with you)!
I have been learning a lot of stories about Korea, thanks to my companion and her amazing ability at telling folk stories. One of my favorite of late is about a girl called Shim Cheong.
Long long ago in a little city in Korea there was a very beautiful girl who was also very loving to her blind father. When she was a baby her mother died and her father took her from woman to woman in order to get fed since he was very poor. As the girl grew she became even more and more beautiful and more and more loyal to her father. One day she met a travelling monk. He told her that if she gave 3000 pounds of rice to Buddha then her father could regain his sight. When she heard this she was both very happy and very sad. She wanted her father to have his sight, but also was very poor and had no one of getting such an exorbitant amount of rice. While she was pondering about this she heard about some sailors in a nearby town. In those days when sailors went out to ocean they always took a beautiful virgin, because when the waves came they would throw her overboard and appease the sea god.
As you can imagine, finding such a woman was a bit difficult, so for anyone who would give them a beautiful virgin they gave 3000 pounds of rice. Shim Chungi heard about this and for her father's sake volunteered. Without telling her father she went and obtained the rice, gave it to Buddha and went off to sea. When the storms came the sailors threw her over into the sea. However, the sea god heard about Shim Chung and felt very sorry for her. Out of pity (and maybe a little in awe over her extreme loyalty to her father) her he sent her back up to the sea surface in a big lotus.
At the same time that Shim Chungi came up to the surface there was a prince on the beach (why was he on the beach? I have no idea.. Riding his horse? taking a leisurely stroll, who knows, he's a prince, he can do what he wants). The prince looked out, saw the beautiful girl emerging from this huge lotus and-- of course, fell in love with her. He took her for his wife.
Shim Chungi was happy to be alive and happier to be a princess, but she still wondered about her father. So she devised a plan. She held a HUGE feast and invited every blind man in the kingdom. Her father, at the time, still did not have his sight back. (rotten, lying monk) and was wondering the country frantically searching for his lovely daughter. All this wondering however, also made him very hungry, so when he heard about this feast he decided to take a break from his search and stop by to grab something to eat.
The feast day came and as all the blind Koreans came shuffling in (what a sight that would have been-- too bad they couldn't see it... hehehe) she saw her father. She was so happy to see that he was still alive that she called out his name. Upon hearing his father's voice the man was SO surprised that *pop* his eyes popped open and he could see her.
They all lived happily ever after and the rest is history.
Next week if you remind me I will tell you about how the first Korean was born-- that one is also one of my favorites. Oh golly, how do Koreans think of such funny stories?
On the spiritual side of things, lately I have been reading through the Bible. I have to admit, while reading the Bible I often wonder how people could last so long without the Book of Mormon, but occasionally I'll find a verse that my heart really likes.
This past week while reading through Psalms I came across
Pslams 30:5 "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
It's funny how life works in cycles like that, sometimes you are sad, sometimes you are happy, but the happy times always make the sad times worth it. As a missionary sometimes people write me really weird things. Probably the worst is when people tell me about really hard times they are having, with school, with work, with love, whatever it may be, and then they don't mention it again (it's like watching a movie, getting to the climax and then leaving). Or not hearing from you at all and relying solely on second hand information where I can get it. Seriously it is frustrating, I may be a million miles away, but I still love and care about all of you so I worry about you sometimes. Anyway, so sometimes the only thing I can do is to pray for you. Maybe it's because I'm a missionary, but I pray for all of you every day (believe or not as you will). And it's oh so reassuring to hear good news from you.
Things that have happened on my mission thus far (re-cap):
  • Marriages: 1
  • Babies: 2.5
  • Random travel abroad/vacation: >2
  • Graduations: 1
Anyway, the reason for this long windedness is that even though I don't always hear from all of you, I still know that you will be okay, because I either I'm just naive or I have some sort of faith. So even if you don't know what the future holds, I know that you'll be okay (I'd just like to hear about it from time to time).
Love you lots!
Pictures:
  • This morning we decided to climb a nearby mountain, it was way pretty.
  • This is what I look like in the morning--- kind of scary
  • Just sitting on a bridge in Daecheon
  • Sister Lee-- this is why I love her
  • We were in the middle of nowhere, but hey it was pretty
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thanksgiving!

Dear family,
So this week is one of the biggest holidays in Korea, called 추석 it's like the Korean version of Thanksgiving, a celebration of the harvesting season. It means that everyone went to their hometown, so the big cities emptied out and everyone is on the road. Thankfully I don't have to travel on the road from Seoul to Busan, so I don't have to worry about the 6 hour long traffic jams, but it also means that for three days I have no appointments and can't really find anyone on the street and am forbidden to knock on people's doors. Yeah for three days of updating records!
I also am on a split and have no time for email, so sorry you all get shafted again on the email train. Have a great week though, even though you probably wont be celebrating it, have a great Chusook and eat lots of food.
Love you all

Birthdays and beaches

Dear family,
Yesterday a lot of us as missionaries got together and went to the beach. Although we couldn't swim we built sandcastles, played frisbee, ran to a lighthouse, ate raw fish and all the other things that correspond with it. But it also means I have no real time to write you an email, so I thought I would shoot you some pictures to let you know I am alive and tell you a quick story.
Last night after the beach we had to run to get to our appointment because we had set to have FHE with our ward mission leader and one of our recent converts. Except then everything seemed to go wrong, we couldn't pick him up, the WML was really angry, my legs were really hurting because they got a little sunburned, etc. I was more than a little concerned, but somehow it all worked out and we ended up having a pretty good time. Then as we were driving home our cute little recent convert looked at our WML and asked "Do you have FHE every week?" This boy is adorable, maybe 13 and the sweetest spirit ever. He has one older sister, but she already has 5 and 6 year old sons, so our convert acts more like he is a father than like a 13 year old boy. However, he has the sweetest spirit. Then when our WML said that yes they did, our convert looked at him again and asked timidly "Can I come next week too?"
Some people say that missionaries are like angels. I don't know about that, but I know that as a missionary I have definitely had the opportunity to see angels.
I love you all, have a great week.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea




Monday, September 13, 2010

The Second Coming...or just a typhoon.




Dear family,
Exciting things that happened last week:
  • On Monday my companion and I made skirts, it was pretty fun. One of our recent converts works at a "made by hand" store so you go and pay to have them show you how to use a sewing machine and then make a skirt. I actually already know how to use a sewing machine and couldn't really understand most of the instruction (I'm not too up on my fabric, stitching, and mechanic vocabulary yet). However, it was still worth it.
  • On Wednesday my companion had her birthday. We are born in the same year, which is a pretty big deal in Korea, it makes us automatic friends, also since our birthdays are only 11 days apart that makes us super great friends. Yeah! Also it means that the members get to throw lots of birthday parties. (We'll see about mine, since it's on Sunday and we're having a baptism there probably wont be anything else, but I'm okay with that. Yeah for baptisms!)
  • We had a typhoon! It was at night and I woke up to a lot of crashing and I could feel our apartment shaking. However, I was really tired so more than anything it was annoying. The exact thoughts that went through my head, "Wow, that's loud. I wonder if I should get up and do something.... too tired..."

    The next morning we had no water or electricity. I must admit it was more annoying than anything so we went out to go to the public bath house, but the one near our house didn't have any electricity or water either. As we were walking we noticed that things looked a little different. A lot of trees were blown over and a lot of apartment complexes had the glass blown out. One container box (like a railroad car box, but people use them as buildings...) had fallen over on a car, and school had let out early because they didn't have any water or electricity either. Then later that day we went to help one of our members put the roof back on her house.

    It wasn't as bad as they have in like the Philippines, but it was still the worst that anyone in Seosan had ever seen. I'm not sure if buildings are just built better than the Philippines or what, but basically everything in the city was back in working order a couple days later. The country folk had a lot of crops that were in trouble, but besides that it wasn't too bad. Also I think it was sent from God, it helped us talk to people, it's a great conversation starter "did you see the typhoon?!" and when we talk to people they say they have never prayed so hard in their life as the night that it came... hehe, perfect...
I was reading this morning in 1st Samuel and I came upon one of my favorite scriptural heroes: David. He is such a stud, not only is he great at the harp, but he's beautiful, and soooo manly. I mean, he killed a bear and a lion with his bare hands and slew Goliath with a sling. I really like when he first goes to bring food to his brothers and they are really scared, but then he says to him: "Why are you afraid? This guy is a Philistine, but we have the living God" what faith, what strength, sigh. If only we could all look at our problems that way, really they are nothing considering we have the living God on our side.
It looks like Heidi's wedding was beautiful, congratulations!
Love you lots.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rebecca's Observations on hat sizes: or what to wear



Dear Family,
Reason number 233 on why I love Korea: You can wake up to go to the public bathhouse at 5:30 AM and there are already grandmas awake sitting outside on their stools chitchatting.
Not to put any unnecessary pressure on you, but for those of you where were interested in sending me a birthday present (September 12th), but had no idea what to send, I compiled a short list of suggestions:
This birthday is the first time I get to skip a year. Because in Korean age I have been 23 since the Chinese Calendar New Year (February 14th) then I guess I never really get to be 22, except for a couple of months when I go home. To be quite honest, I'm always a little confused on my age and usually just settle with something around the beginning of the 20s...
A while ago one of my previous companions wrote home to her family expressing some of her concerns on the difficulty of mission life: the heat, the lack of investigators, learning a new area, and a concourse of various other difficulties. In reply she did not receive condolences but instead a chastisement from her father who told her if she was going to complain it would be better not to write at all.
"You knew it would be hard," he wrote, "so why are you complaining."
At first I thought it was a little harsh, but then she explained that he often expresses his love like that. While she was growing up he was always the sharpest with his family, stating that faith was something that could not be wavering and that although he had faith and if he was righteous he would make it to the celestial kingdom, it would mean nothing if he was there alone. For that reason he wanted to make sure that his children always made the right decisions.
It reminded me of an anecdote about Dr. Kim Ho Jik, the founder of the church in Korea. One of his young students wrote in his book that one day when he was a young student he went into Dr. Kim's office to accept a church calling from him. The student felt inadequate, but knew he could not outright say "no" so instead he said "this hat is too big for my head." Dr. Kim looked sternly at him and then said "you had better make your head grow to fit fast."
Sometimes I feel similar inadequacies, but as I give my weaknesses to the Lord and let Him stretch me I find that there is no need to complain, there may be pain and hardship, but I become fit to take it. I become more of what God would have me be and I become more qualified for the blessings He would give me.
So when we feel beat up and picked on by the Lord, like the butt of some cosmic joke, sometimes we just need to realize that He is molding us so that we can fit the hat.
Love you all.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Monday, August 23, 2010

Moral of the story: Always throw away your fingernail clippings




Dear family,
Life is good, I've been going outside a lot to exercise in the mornings and after my knee scabbed over it's been a lot better. There's something really refreshing about running at 6:30 in the morning. One of my favorite things is the fact that in the park where we run there is a bench that is permanently occupied by about 5 old grandmas. They kind of stretch, but mostly they just sit and chatter and yell things at me as I run laps, things like:
"Oh, you exercise so well"
"Slow down, don't work so hard!"
"Wow, you're so pretty" (this one I know is a blatant lie, if you saw what I looked like when I first rolled off my mattress in the morning you would know)
The other day while we were out working hard we walked past a small park where some middle aged women and their children were having a picnic. We went up to talk to them and as we were sharing the gospel one of their boys (maybe 9 or 10) came up to me and just starred. He beckoned to his sister and then reach up and poked me. I tried to talk to him, but still unphased he just kept saying "foreigner, foreigner" and poking me to see what kind of material I was made out of. It was one of those moments when I wanted to say "I'm not an animal, I'm a human being!" But knowing that the reference would be cast on deaf ears I refrained and offered to let him touch my hair. Usually that's what they really want anyway, to see my non-brown eyes and see if my not-permed hair feels different from theirs. Oh how I love little kids.
This past week we went out to visit a girl in Danjin. It's a nearby city and while we were on the bus my companion told me some traditional Korean fairytales. One that I particularly liked I thought I would share:
The Punk Kid, the Monk, and his fingernails:
Once upon a time, there was a teenage royal kid who lived in his palace-like home somewhere in the midst of Korea. He was really bratty, never really listened to his parents, didn't study, and was just an all around punk of a kid. One day a monk came by his house. Usually monks will bang their little drums, pronounce blessings on your house and then ask for money. However, this punk of a kid just kicked him out and made fun of him, so intead of a blessing the monk put a curse on him. A few days later the punk kid cut his fingernails, but being a bit of a brat and a slob he just left them on the ground. The next morning he woke up and next to him was a copy of himself. He and this replica argued for a little while and then his parents came and found him. Not knowing which one was real they kicked out the real kid and sent him on his way. Crying and not knowing what to do he went on his way until he found the monk. The monk asked him if he was sorry for what he did. The boy apologized and said that in the future he would always throw away his fingernails instead of just leaving them on the ground. So the monk went back with him to the parents house, mumbled his magic words and the replica boy turned back into a fingernail which the punk kid quickly disposed of.
My companion said after hearing this story she always made sure to very carefully dispose of her fingernails. hehehe.
Anyway, the girl that we went to visit in Danjin is so great. She's been meeting wih missionaries for a while, but because of school this last week was our last time. It was interesting though, because she really has began opening her heart. She reads the Liahona and the Book of Mormon and then basically told us a story and bore her testimony of how something that she read and was told by one of the previous missionaries really helped her out last week. She was having a hard time with her job and everything else and wanted to know how she was going to make it, but then she remembered that Sister Cho had told her that God knows us perfectly and would never give us any trial that we can't overcome and that we can always pray to him for help. So she did. I love her, I hope next school vacation to continue to meet with her.
I hope all is well this week, I love you all, feel free to keep me up dated with your life.
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea

Nothing like coming back to the country





Dear family,
How does one begin to describe Seosan? My current area is larger than the Seoul West Mission, but population wise it is probably about 1 city block worth of people. Every week for service we spend a day farming (I haven't yet, but that is what I have been informed). We ride buses a lot-- not city buses like I am used to, but the kind that are more similar to greyhound buses. It gives me plenty of time to study Korean, which is good because:
  • My companion doesn't speak English
  • My ambitious ward missionary leader informed me that in order to reach our 3 month baptism goal of 100 I need to speak better Korean (Koreans can be very blunt)
I'd been warned about our Ward Mission leader and even heard stories about him months ago when I served in a neighboring city. He's not known for his good relationship with missionaries, but I figured if he has the desire to baptize 100 people I might as well go along. So I told him 100 people is about 25 families. Currently our branch has about 12 active families so if every family refers another family and the missionaries find 1 new family a week to match, we can do it. He stared me down to see if I was serious. But I believe in miracles so I didn't blink. If he can find a way to motivate the families in our ward to give us referrals I can work hard enough to find a family a week of new investigators.
I think he approves of me because he commented on how we just need to have faith like Parley P. Pratt. I informed him that I am related to Parley P. Pratt (I 'm not actually sure if I am, but I figure since we are both white then somewhere down the line we are connected). He looked surprised and then said that he had thought as much because I looked just like the picture in "Preach My Gospel"(It's actually a picture of Dan Jones preaching in Wales, but I didn't have the heart to correct him).
Needless to say- I'm excited to be serving in Seosan.
Other exciting things:
  • For Green Day (August 14h) I decided to kiss the earth-- or at least the pavement, with my knee and hand (see the pictures attached)
  • We made cookies with our recent convert the other day which was way fun (I messed up the recipe and left out about 1/2 cup of sugar, but I didn't tell them because:
    1. Koreans aren't big on sweet things so it was okay to taste like bread
    2. They had never made cookies before so they didn't really know the difference
  • We went to visit Yeosan which is known for apples (see picture attached)
Spiritual highlight of the week:
This is an activity that I like to do when we visit families sometimes. First, close your eyes and think about your role model. Someone who you really admire and who you would do anything for. Picture in your mind their face and what it is exactly about them that you love. Why do you like this person? The person that I always choose is someone who is really close and who can understand me, who always gives me the best advice and is always willing to give up anything for me. Now open your eyes.
At this point I usually go around and have everyone share what it is that they really like about the person. Then I explain that there is one person who has all of these attributes and more-- that person is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not only perfect, but he loves and understands us perfectly. He is not just our role model, but he is our brother who took on every care, every worry, every thing for us.
Maybe for FHE or something you can try this activity with some friends, it's really fun and always helps people to realize what Christ can really mean to them.
Love you all,
--
Sister O'Bryan
Daejeon PO Box 38
Daejeon-si
Chungcheong bukdo 300-600
South Korea