Happy Chuseok! (추석)
As I write this message to you from the clerks office of the 중리 ward church building the streets and shops are quite and the streets are empty. Today is one day of the three day long Korean thanksgiving holiday. In Korea there are 2 main holidays that people celebrate: one being 설날 (Korean New Years Day) and the other being 추석 (Korean thanksgiving). On these days businesses close, students get time off from school and everyone gets together with all of their extended family to eat traditional Korean food and honor all of their deceased ancestors. While these last few days of Chuseok have made for a bit of a change of pace and some changes it is actually kind of hard as a missionary. There is no one on the streets for us the proselyte to, none of our investigators can meet, and it is considered rude to intrude and try to knock on doors or call people. So we have been spending our days finding who we can to talk on the street and visiting members who have invited us over to their home for the holiday.
Yesterday was the first day of the holiday and it involved all of the members and people meeting with their families in the morning and doing the various ceremonies and then a delayed church meeting that we held from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. In the morning, our bishop and ward mission leader’s family (they are brothers) invited us and the sister missionaries over to their home to meet and have lunch with all of their extended family. It was quite an interesting experience. We went to the member’s house and found that their large apartment (small by american standards) was completely full of all of their extended family including our ward mission leaders family, our bishops family, and a few other families who aren’t members. Although I felt a little out of place as a group of 4 LDS missionaries, three of whom are white Americans, at a traditional Korean ceremony with someone else’s family we had a great time. We mingled with a lot of the family members, ate traditional Korean food, and were even invited to take part in the ceremony to honor their ancestors. It sounds a little strange and I honestly did not understand all of it but the ceremony involved a sort of shrine type stand covered with all sorts of food and drinks in an offering to their ancestors. Several of the older men in the family dressed in traditional Korean clothing together in varying groups with their families took turns pouring an alcoholic drink onto a small table which they then moved in a circular motion 3 times and offered it on the stand of food to the ancestors. Then, did the traditional Korean bow which involves starting standing and then kneeling down and touching your head to the floor, standing again, and repeating three times. After everyone was done our bishop invited us 4 missionaries to take a turn doing it as well and even took some pictures. I must admit that as I write this it sounds super strange but for some reason as I was taking part in it it all felt rather natural and unsurprising. Although it was very different than an American thanksgiving it was a really cool cultural experience and I learned a lot. I just hope we didnt mess anything up or offend anyone.
Along with all of the excitement building up to 추석 this week, Elder Mitchell and I had a very productive week of visiting with investigators, less actives, and members. We sadly werent able to meet with our investigator 박호 형제님 for a lesson because he was busy with 추석 but made a visit with him once at his coffee shop with our Ward Mission Leader. We talked with him briefly and introduced the two to each other and they talked for a while and seemed to get along pretty well.
Another great part of the week as far as investigators go was that we were able to find two great new people to meet with! We have been focusing a lot on our english class here and have been seeing some really good results. We invited one high school student who attends our english class to meet with us separately at the church on Friday night and after playing a little ping pong and eating some grapes the members gave to us had a really good discussion about the restoration. He really likes studying history, attended another christian church for a long time, and seems very interested in our message. We are looking forward to seeing where it takes us. We also met another man this week that we found through contacting former investigators in our area book. We were calling former investigators a few weeks ago and didnt find anyone to meet, but got a call back later from one man this week who said he wanted to meet! It turns out that he had been meeting with missionaries in 대명 ward before it was combined with 수성 ward and also has attended 수성 ward several times and has friends there. We had a great spirit filled lesson about how he can actually know the gospel is true for himself and get answers to his prayers from God. We read parts of Alma 32 together and he really showed a lot of interest. It is really nice to see some progress and come to meet some new investigators after working and searching to find them for so long.
This week we also had a great companion ship exchange which I planned and carried out with the 수성 Elder B team. I served here in 중리 with Elder Miller and Elder Mitchell went over to 수성 to serve with Elder Stoker. Elder Miller and I had a super busy exchange, met a ton of people, and learned a lot. It was probably one of the busiest exchanges I have had. On thursday night we met one of our investigators for a member lesson, had a meal appointment with a member, and then went to go visit a part member family with our ward mission leader to teach the father and invite them to church. The next day we had another member meal appointment and went to visit a less active in the area for a good lesson. Elder Miller and I met with lots of people, did some great proselyting, and had a fun time as well.
Well today is a short P-day where we only do shopping and email because tomorrow we are headed to Busan for a mission wide Fitness Day! The mission is putting on a mission 5k/10k during the 추석 holiday and it should be a fun day of running and other sports. We are catching a train early tomorrow morning for that. In other news this thursday is transfer call day and transfers are a week from today! It really feels like this transfer has flown by and Elder Mitchell and I are looking forward to seeing what happens to us and my district here in 중리!
I hope you all have a great week and a happy Chuseok!
Lots of love from Korea,