This last week was 설날 (The Chinese New Year), and it was SO FUN. So, 설날 is basically like three days of Christmas. The city basically shuts down, and everyone goes to Grandma's house for the holidays. As missionaries, there is not much we can do during this time. Everyone goes to Grandma's house, and Grandma's house is most often in Busan. A lot of the older Koreans live in Busan because during the Korean War, everyone moved south to stay away from the border. We don't like to bug people during the holidays, so we kind of got two days to have fun. :)
On Thursday, our entire zone met at the church in 안양. We played games and ate french toast. After lunch, we went on a hike.
I thought I had hiked mountains before...
But Korean mountains are not Utah mountains by any means. The mountains I hiked in Utah were big, but they had long trails with lots of switchbacks so that you didn't have to climb straight up. In Korea, you basically just go straight up the mountain. The trails are almost nonexistent. The hikes are so steep. We were seriously climbing straight up rock, using our hands and our feet to make it up. We weren't hiking, we were rock climbing. And the hike was like 2 hours of rock climbing mixed with flat trails here and there in between the walls of rock we climbed. It was a pretty intense hike, and an elder actually threw up at the top. But while all us foreign missionaries huffed and puffed our way to the top, elderly Korean men and women booked it past us without even breaking a sweat. Korean mountains are definitely mountains.
I truly had not hiked mountains before.
On our way down, we got to see some Buddhist temples that were kind of hidden in the mountains. And we got to see some Buddhists in the Buddhist temples. Buddhist temples are so beautiful and designed so full of detail. I will send some pictures. :)
Then on Friday we hiked another mountain, just as our district of 6 people. This hike wasn't as much rock climbing, but it was pretty steep. And again, elderly Koreans flew past us as we pushed our way to the top huffing and puffing. How they do it, I will never understand. It must be the kimchi or something. I was sore for quite some time after these two hikes. But I regret nothing, because the hikes were as beautiful as they were hard.
Later on Friday we went to a less actives house for lunch. She fed us a traditional Korean meal to celebrate 설날 . So I have to admit, my germaphobe side has been challenged here. You see, everyone shares food from the same plate. There are just many small plates on the table, and you use your chopsticks to grab food from all over the table. But besides your bowl of rice, you share everything with everyone, and you all eat off the same plates. This is how a traditional Korean meal works. We had kimchi, bulgogi, soup, and all sorts of other things that I don't know the names of. But it was all absolutely delicious. Korean food is SO GOOD. After that we played some traditional Korean games and... mafia. Yes, us 4 elders and 2 sisters played mafia with a 50 something year old korean woman to celebrate the Chinese New Year. And it was so fun. :)
After being around so many missionaries for about 4 months, I have realized that we are pretty much the least qualified people in the world to preach the gospel. But somehow, we do it. God qualifies the called, He doesn't call the qualified. In Korea, the members grow up with the missionaries being a huge part of their lives. In Utah, we had 2 or so missionaries to a stake. But in Korea, it is 6 missionaries to a ward. The children know each of us very well, and the members rely on us for a lot of things.Our responsibility here is HUGE. We definitely help the wards stay running, and they get to know each of us personally very, very well. They learn our faults, and they learn our strengths. There is no hiding anything here, because we are so very well known in our small wards. I remember when I was little, I thought that missionaries were these glorified beings chosen to work miracles. But really, we are just people that are set apart, relying on the Lord for guidance to help others. We are still young college-aged kids, confused in this world, but willing to give 2 years or 18 months of our lives to the Lord. We have moments of homesickness, we feel disappointment, we feel joy, we are just simply normal people. We are imperfect people called to preach a perfect gospel. But we could not do it alone. God knows each of us, and He knows who we are meant to help. I have learned to rely on Him more than ever these past 4 months. I don't know how He works miracles through us, I just know that He does. And I am so thankful that someone as simply human as me has this opportunity to preach the gospel. :)
I love you all so much and miss you as always! 사랑해요!
Love, Sister Maughan