It's so great to be able to be here and to write to all of you together like this. It's also sometimes hard to know exactly what I should say---what would be helpful, without making it too much for all of your busy lives. To put it all in one thesis statement, I guess, I'm so grateful, more than anything, for all the people around me all the time, and don't ever want to make the mistake of taking them for granted. This includes all of you, but lately and more specifically the other missionaries, leaders, and members here who are all helping me, and especially Elder Judd.
This was a great week for all of us. One of the missionaries who was serving here was went to the other area in our district, about a forty minute ride by bus from here. The missionary who came to replace him is someone I met a long time ago, but I really liked, named 정장로님 (Elder Jung). He studied comic-drawing at school, is really funny and positive, and in his own companion's words, seems kind of like a character from The Muppets. We metwith him and all the other missionaries in our area to talk about the things we need to do together, and it felt really good---everyone here is just really great and hard-working, especially one of the members named 이자매님 (Sister Lee (Ee)), who I think I mentioned a bit before. She's from here originally, and this is where she found out about the church---but she moved when she got older to Switzerland, where her husband is from. Her kids all grew up there, all speak lots of European languages as well as Korean, and she basically visits here a few months of the year and helps out missionaries as much as she possibly can. She comes to all of our meetings, helps out with all the activities and things we have, and brings food and little cartons of 두유 (soy milk) for everyone. She also has been helping out when we do lessons and visit people, including the member who was baptized last month, 한형제님 (Brother Hahn).
We met him this week just to talk about how he's doing and feeling---he's been looking for a job for a long time, and taking tests in order to find one. As a result, he hasn't really had time to study the scriptures very much, which he said at first he had trouble understanding, anyway. We met with Sister Lee (Ee) to talk about that and what we might be able to do specifically to help him with that, and then because there were no other men in the church we had to go outside to talk---and while we were walking, she talked about the scripture Jesus quotes when Satan tempts him to miraculously create his own bread, saying that we need to be using and reading the scriptures everyday in order for them to beome a part of our lives and our selves. It made me realize that this is something I guess I've kind of been taking for granted, that as missionaries we have time to do that. So when he got to the church and we met him, we talked about it, and she shared her own experience of joining the church in high school, and then becoming less active becuase of her not setting aside time to study scriptures. Then she gave him a bag of stuff she bought for him at a stationery/stuff store: a giant notebook, a four-color pen, and crayons for him to study, mark, and then in English write the scriptures with. She said it's a personal practice she started when she had to learn her new language in Europe, and helped her a lot. Brother Hahn is both trying to learn English and needs to read the scriptures, so it seems like a good, if unexpected, way to do it. He seemed a little surprised, but also grateful, for what she gave and said---I was, too.
Some of the other people are people who have been around for a long time, but recently have changed a bit, or have started helping in a new way recently. One is named 장형제님 (Brother Jong (John)), who worked in the military in the U.S. for a long time, knows English really well, and is a pretty funny, interesting person. He tutors kids at the school near his house, which has kind of a road going through lots of plants next to a little brook, which is nice. In his house he has lots of old board and video games, and army clothes. He's very curious about religion and beliefs, but is pretty set in his own, and also in his skepticism about others beccause of hypocrisy, etc. Basically he's been meeting the missionaries for a long time, and a bit ago told us he wanted to invite one of his friends to meet us when we visited him on a holiday. We didn't get a chance to meet them then, so we thought we should try to ask him again if we could meet them, kind of as a last-minute measure. When we did, he suddenly thought of several people he wanted us to meet, and we left and went around his neighborhood and met people at the barbershop he goes to, a small clothing store, and the store he gets his glasses. It was kind of funny and sudden, but also a really great experience---we got to meet these people who he knows well, and to see how he cares for and is kind to them, and that they were a little curious to learn about the gospel.
The day before that, we were going to visit one of the familes in our branch that I think I mentioned about to you before, who work together at a restaurant and work really hard and sacrifice a lot in general---정형제님 and 오자매님 (Sister Oh and Brother Jung), but because of my mistake and being a little rushed because we were late, ended up taking the wrong bus and going to a neighborhood I've never been to before. While we were trying to find the right stop to take the bus to get back home in time, we met two college students on the street---actually, they came up and talked with us first, who were interested in learning about English, and then started asking about which church we were from. We ended up planning to meet again at our English class, and they told us where we needed to go to take the bus and everything---it was great.
Another one of the members of our branch came to our English class, sat and watched, and thentalked about some ways he thought we could be doing it more effectively, specifically in helping the people who come to learn more about the gospel. I think that's something I could apply more in everything---there are so many people we talk to everyday, and all of them are children of God, and I thought about how much better it would be to not worry about how they will think, or how we will seem if we invited them to learn about the gospel, but about how Heavenly Father would feel if we did and then they decided to. It's sad, but good how sometimes obvious things can be overlooked, but then when we remember them they can help us to realign our thoughts and priorities.
One other thing happened that was interesting this week---we took the bus to go to help the missionaries in the other area with a Halloween party they planned for their ward. In general, most people don't really seem very interested in it, but there is a kind of costume-party store in front of the church, and it seems like the past few days have been their happiest week of the year. But we took the bus, at about, not anticipating rush hour, and it ended up taking almost an hour and a half. Some of the people we invited were sitting on the steps because there were no seats, running around and yelling (they're younger students), and doing crazy stuff. But when we got there, it was really fun---lots of people wearing Halloween-themed costumes and playing games with little rice snacks. At the end, we all ate a combined meal of 김밥 (kim-bop) and Costco muffins, which was pretty good, actually. It was fun, and reminded me of all the trunk-or-treats and other things from before. Hopefully everyone has good, safe plans for this year.
Elder Judd is doing great---I'm again so grateful for him and to be serving with him, and just hope I can be better to help him learn all the things he needs to. I've been reading Isaiah and the Mormon's book during study recently, and am so grateful for scriptures, and have really noticed what a big difference it makes to read them and learn from other peoples' experiences. I know you guys already know that, but especially Alma 12-15 is pretty good recently. I love you and miss you all, but I know you're doing great things. Have a great Halloween, good family time, and be happy. I love you---keep it up.