Monday, December 21, 2015

Just hear those Korean grandmas selling corn ring ting tinglin too

Another crazy Christmas-y week! I think a quote from one of the AP's sums it up pretty well. Our investigator 문서현 is progressing very well. She's accepted everything! The law of chastity, word of wisdom, tithing, fasting -- all the things that are roadblocks for a lot of people. She did relapse once and drink coffee though, so we texted Elder Miller about what protocol is for that -- if her baptism would be delayed or what. His reply was 'there's no rule really, if they have a broken heart, they're good'. It was such an interesting way to phrase it. A broken heart and a contrite spirit. Nothing more, nothing less, because in those two gifts is encompassed anything we could ever give of ourselves. If we have a broken heart, we're good. 

I've been thinking a lot about why the Lord requires a broken heart. In the words of a returned missionary, we are the only church that believes in a God that mourns with us. I don't think God likes seeing us sad. In my head it makes sense I guess -- He gives us hard things so that we can grow, and learn how to be happy. All the stuff I learned in Primary but hasn't sunk into my heart until my mission. The same as any other person, I have been sad and mourned. It was on my mission that I think I really saw and experienced broken hearts. Why would God require that of anyone? 

For one, it forced me to realize that I truly do need him every hour. Every breath, every step -- if He is not there I just fall. With this investigator I've realized of how little importance I am in the conversion process. If I do things right, my words are not my words, my thoughts are hopefully not my thoughts. It's so interesting to realize that God can do His own work and just chooses to involve us so we can learn. 

For another, it has helped me realize that God really does want me to be happy. It's kind of counterintuitive, and it's something we study almost every day as missionaries so that we can teach it -- but because of broken hearts we can feel a lot more easily. I have been so happy this past month. I didn't even know that I could feel that level of joy over that amount of time! God is so merciful. 

I must mention one more time -- the Christmas choir. I have seen so many miracles through it. I 
sat in the audience during rehearsal and was so grateful I did, because when I was in the choir I couldn't see it as clearly -- but missionary faces are SO BRIGHT ! They shine so brightly. It's amazing to watch these tired, hardworking, but nonetheless brave and testifying missionaries put their all into a simple song. 
One funny bit cause it was just so funny: We went over to President's house for a zone meeting for Christmas and it was really amazing, we sang carols and ate Christmas food and watched parts of the Christmas broadcast, and it was great. At the end my companion and I made a joke to Sister Sonksen about staying overnight....and she said yes. So we slept at the mission home and ate breakfast with the Sonksens. 

Miracles happen, people.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Peace of Christmas

Click here to view on YouTube:

Our beautiful investigator making...

...delicious seaweed soup!

Our cute little less-active girl wrote a talk...then locked herself in her room because she was so shy! It talks about the miracles she's seen in her life

Our powerhouse new district! This is our amazing zone leader who calls us all the time and is never NOT on the phone. He's always calling members or investigators or less-actives. Crazy hard worker. 
Sister Rowberry and I had this idea to make advent calendars for the members and put scriptures and ideas for sharing the gospel in it. The zone leaders loved it so much they had us come to church early so they could help :) Took some time but it was worth it!

Monday, December 7, 2015

"You're transferring"...drops phone.....

Beautiful autumn view from our apartment

That's how our stern and serious Korean AP decided to open up our transfer calls. "Sister Bell... you are transferring." Bear in mind I have gotten a new companion EVERY SINGLE TRANSFER. And that I love Sanggye almost more than my home ward. And that really, I had forgotten about transfer calls because the likelihood of me transferring seemed very, very low given the tiny number of sisters remaining in our mission.  So I dropped the phone and kind of just put my head in my hands. 

" the elders' house." And that was how I found out our stern and serious Korean AP has a sense of humor.

My companion and I are (together) leaving our huge gorgeous mansion house with a waterfall view for a two man elder house but it's still Sanggye so I'm happy! Sanggye is like a dream some days. I can't believe I'm lucky enough to serve here.

Merry Christmas with Sister Rowberry

This week was our first big Christmas concert! We're touring 6 wards in Korea (sounds fancy huh). Honestly when I first heard about the program I thought it might just be ward choir on steroids. But it's actually super well put together. We have some genius violinists that do this arrangement of Carol of the Bells. And a cellist that does O Come O Come Emmanuel. And three concert pianists. But my favorite one is this violin/piano duet. It's this gangly, goofy elder who looks like he's never touched a violin in his life. But he picks it up and it just turns into magic. It's gorgeous. So many people were crying.

These are the elders I do "O Holy Night With"-they're so funny!

I've fallen in love with Christmas all over again this year. It's so wonderful. Even in Korea where it's not really a big deal you can still feel a special Christmas spirit. People are just kinder. And there's a sense of anticipation -- not for presents, 'cause I know I'm not getting anything too special this year -- just a sense of something amazing coming. 

So I don't know how many times I've mentioned our gorgeous investigator. She's so miraculous that I'm afraid that if I talk about her too much I'll jinx it. She's a member referral who was so inspired by how she saw members live that she wanted to know more. She's come to church every week. And she now has a baptismal date for January the first! What a way to start off the year! She chose it herself. One of my favorite moments from that lesson was when we were explaining the sacrament and how it relates to baptism and she said 'oh that's what it means! I didn't know, but every time I've taken it I've just had the most special feeling.' She also wants to feel the Holy Ghost all the time because she can tell something is different about our members.  She's a great example to me!

We also had this referral we met for the first time who brought a friend and honestly I think they might be undercover missionaries from another church beacuse their questions are so intense. Like, 'so is Lehi talked about in the Bible at all?' and 'how has your religion helped you overcome hard times?' and stuff like that. It's really awesome. 

We also met with two adorable little girls! They are the daughters of a less active. Sometimes they never even see their mom for literally days because she is so busy, and their dad lives somewhere else. They are so alone. We had them do an activity where they write down miracles in their lives and they wrote 'the missionaries coming over is a miracle' and 'I saw my sister on the street and I had prayed to see her because I was alone.' God is so merciful because I know He's watching over them even if Sister Rowberry and I can't be there all the time. Consider the lilies of the field. 

If you haven't seen the new Christmas video go watch it! It's on It's really inspiring.

Love you all! Have a fantastic week.

Mailing address: 
서울시 종로구 자하문로 152 1동
서울 선교부

With President Sonksen

With Sister Sonksen

All the sisters from my MTC district minus Sister Coates

We made Advent calendars with referral suggestions

In front of the mission home

Video announcement of our Christmas concerts!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I think you are the most beautiful woman I ever see...but I don't like you.

Hey all,

Today we're going to talk about some of my favorite people in the world: English class members. Because I really think they embody everything you could say about humanity. They are so wonderful, and funny, and kind and sometimes a little rude. They are my favorite.

I've taken for a title today an actual sentence someone who calls himself Dandelion said to me. Dandelion is amazing. He found out I'm an English major and now he always reads me poetry. We've gone from Robert Frost to haikus.

Then there's Sister Kim. She is so long and thin. Clothes hang on her like they do on a hanger. She always looks hungry in class. Not because she's thin and needs food, but because she really wants to learn English. She's hungry for knowledge. And she is SO kind. Last week she brought us tangerines from Jeju! And then ran away before we could even thank her.

There's Sally, who stuffs us so full of food we can't even move, and makes the best kimchi chigye I've ever eaten, and puts on music for us and teaches us the names of the weird rare shellfish she spent a whole weekend looking for. 

And then there's Brother Lee. This is actually one of my favorite English class moments. We were studying vocab and one of the words was 'to bundle up'. He thought it sounded a lot like the word 'buttock'. He repeated that word a couple times and then sat silently. Then he said "I have two buttocks". And laughed like a hyena for two minutes straight. (He's like seventy.) Then the man next to him looked at him solemnly and said "No, you have THREE buttocks." I had to leave for a minute. Old Korean men saying the word buttock just is too much.

There are so many beautiful people in this world. I got to see that a lot this week. The first snow came (yay!!!!!!) and it was gorgeous and cold. Twelve people texted us to be careful and stay warm. A recent convert gave me her warmest winter clothes. People invite us in for meals all the time. I felt everyone's love so warmly this week! It was amazing.

I exchanged with one of my favorite STL's of all time, Sister Evans, and learned a lot from her. She is wonderful, and is always finding opportunities to serve. She has a way of talking to people that just opens them right up. I love seeing the world through her eyes.

Also, our district is full of some of the most hardworking people I've ever met! First off there's my gorgeous Virginian companion who has gotten really good lately about wresting heavy bags off of grandmas so she can carry them up the hill. Then there's our zone leaders. One of them, Elder Kim, is the most consecrated missionary I have ever met in my life. He had all the member names memorized in 3 days, and is the person who calls us the most (besides my beloved mtc companion) and talks about investigators, less actives, etc. Our district leader always tells us how hard we work. He and his companion have the best relationship I've ever seen. They just love each other and care about each other. This one time two drunk guys followed us into a convenience store (nothing happened and it was nice that they thought we were beautiful after a long hard day of proselyting in freezing cold) and so we called our district leader and they ran all the way there to help us! I think they also gave the guys a Word of Wisdom pamphlet. Good job elders.

People keep asking about Korean and honestly it's just hard and I can get my way around a supermarket and I finally am understanding the toothless grandmas, and that's really all I can measure it by anyways. 

CHRISTMAS IS HERE AND NO ONE REALLY CARES BUT IT'S GLORIOUS AND I CARE. But really this is the time it's hit me the hardest that Korea isn't a Christian nation. There are no lights, no Santas on the curb, no Christmas tree smell (although still lots of Christmas sales. No one escapes consumerism) and I miss it a bit. But it's helping me to focus on what Christmas really means. 

One of my favorite moments this week was -- well, number one, seeing our mission president's wife, who is the classiest lady I've ever met. Number two was bearing my testimony to someone who didn't care. Because it was the first time that I cared more about what I felt, and what I know they felt too, than the fact that they were not interested. I've proselyted a lot but that lesson was the first time I said the First Vision with no other reason than because I wanted to, and I knew God wanted me to, and I knew she needed to hear it, rather than because it felt like 'this is what missionaries do'. Maybe it's a bit late at seven months here in Korea but no matter when that genuine feeling comes, it feels so special. Missionary work is irreplaceable.

Love you all! 
Sister Bell

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A day in the life of a missionary...

Me and Sister Rowberry

We had temple day this week, which was really nice. I really missed that in Donghae. We hung out with Sister Phillips and Sister Murdock who are my two favorite people in the world :) They are SO funny. Sister Murdock chipped her tooth and she says all the old korean ladies like her now cause they're similar. She's in a branch with like ten people in it. I can't even imagine that! I really like my large, supportive Sanggye ward. It's the best. This is the first area I've been in where elders don't help pass the sacrament. 

Also got to meet Eunmi Bak, Kim. She is so beautiful and kind! A super member missionary.

Korea has a lot of less active members; it's a cultural thing. Many Koreans prefer going to Buddhist temple twice a year. Or if that's too hard they just believe in their hearts.  But here in Sanggye the members are so strong! They come out every week and they fellowship our investigators like crazy. 

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get someone to baptism, and then I tell myself I need more faith and that that doesn't matter anyways. But it's kind of heartbreaking to talk to people all day and finally find that one golden person and then it turns out they weren't golden after all. People told me a Korean mission would be hard but I never thought it would be hard in that way. I thought it wouldn't really matter if I baptized someone or not. But now I've been out almost eight months and it's starting to matter a little bit. 
The language is going decently. I can understand people okay and can get my points across. One elder explained the story of the Good Samaritan in detailed Korean last Sunday. I doubt I'll ever get to that point but that's okay. I've gotten good at texting. People think of Korea as a third world country for some reason - when the Korean sisters go to the MTC I think they get free clothes? But it's the most technological country in the world. It outdoes America in almost every category technology/production related. So everyone texts. Texting language is like a whole different language!  We are calling and texting people from about 7 in the morning to 10:29 at night! We are super crazy busy. Not sure what we're doing. But we're busy. 

Honestly planning has become one of my favorite things. Just seeing everything lined up and in order makes me so happy. 

We are LOVING Christmas choir. So fun. I'm singing a duet with the sweetest little elder....he sings higher than I do! And the pianist is hilarious. He learned English from watching Harry Potter. And we get to see President and Sister Sonksen a lot. We don't get to see the mission very often but choir is a fun opportunity to look outside our own little unit.

We have this one crazy miracle investigator who has come to church twice. I'm not kidding, she looks like a supermodel. Dresses so fashionably too. I think she might get baptized. Our bishop's wife is fellowshipping her. Fellowshippers are SO important! Teaching in Korean is so interesting. If you ask a Korean a question like "have you ever thought about God" they say no. or if you ask, what do you think about "_______" they say "never have". Thinking is not really encouraged here. The teaching style that really works is the dictatorial one, because that is the style Koreans have been taught in. So interesting. They don't ask questions, most of the time -- just listen and nod. The bishop's wife was really good at being polite while still being forceful. So funny.

Think of you every day -- I'm a really different person, not sure how but I am -- sometimes I think about how I'll be in 9 more months and then when I go home, if it will feel like meeting everyone for the first time. It's a weird feeling.

Hey dad! Thanks for the great email. So proud of Joe, every week!
Here are the answers to your questions:
We get up at 6:30am
Every morning we clean and eat breakfast, and call and text people and review our daily plans, and exercise. We also do studies - one hour of personal companion and language study each
We pray ALL THE TIME!!!!! Not even counting personal prayers. I've started going into another room so I can pray out loud. It's changed my prayers a LOT.
We are usually going to and from appointments and members' houses, or missionary meetings. 
Just us two in the house! I always wanted to be in a 4 man house but there are not enough sisters anymore, so all the houses are 2 man houses :( it sounds so fun!
We sleep on the floor. I've slept in a bed once in Korea and it was really uncomfortable. I love sitting on the floor. And sleeping on the floor. They have heated floors here and it's great!
PDay's are usually crazy busy. We just shop and clean. There is not a ton of sightseeing in Korea. But I love the mountains and leaves and nature.
Sister Rowberry cooks for us. She does a weird fusion kind of thing. I need to help her out more! But her food is so good I don't want to ruin it....we eat rice, kimchi, seaweed and tuna every single day.
I love the food honestly. And Sanggye ward. It's amazing. And the grandmas that wander the streets at all hours. They're amazing and when I'm sad I just talk to them because they tell me I'm pretty, my Korean's good, I'm doing good work, and I need to get married. It's the best.

Love you all!

At the beautiful Seoul Temple


Heart Attack!

With some really sweet less-actives

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Another beautiful week in Sanggye.

Hey all! 

Another beautiful week in Sanggye. This place is paradise. The mornings are so misty and the mountains are doing that thing where they're covered by clouds but you can see the tops, so they look like they're floating. I love this place!

This week we saw so many miracles. I will just share my favorite :) We had stake conference Saturday night. My companion and I have been really good about planning. We get to all our appointments at the exact right time! We go over every plan with a fine tooth comb. But somehow we ended up getting to stake conference a half hour early and we didn't know how! When we planned somehow we missed it -- and when we went over our plans the next 3 times, we missed it. It was so weird. But...because we got there early some important things happened: My companion had her first street lesson! She taught the Restoration and was so excited. It's been on her mind for weeks and it was a total miracle in itself.

We met a lady who asked us to get HER phone number! She was super awesome. We did call time and ended up making an appointment with someone very important...I'll get to that in a second.

We got to have conversations with an ordained servant of the Lord, President Whiting! He's a spiritual giant and it was a really cool blessing to meet him. (Elder Scott D. Whiting is Area President of the Asia North area.)

The next day (Sunday) was stake conference, and a wild card came to church! We waited and waited -- she's a referral and we had never met her before, so we weren't even sure what she looked like, and were so worried she wouldn't come! But she did and she actually looks like a supermodel. 

Right after church we went to our next appointment and tried to teach the lady the Restoration. She kept saying she had no interest, which was confusing because she had made the appointment! Turns out she wants us to teach her granddaughter. It was so funny. 

Next we ran to another appointment with a lady I met on the street -- the lady we called Saturday night. She is PERFECT! Loves the Bible and wants to study it with us but when we introduced the Book of Mormon she was so interested!

God is so kind.
Sister Bell

Birthday wishes to Lauren's mom...

Singing at a baptism:

Singing with the district and zone:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

God makes me laugh every day...

You know, it's funny how God works. He really does have a sense of humor. I learned that this week in a lot of different ways. More than a sense of humor, he has a sense of greater purpose. In the words of Sister Ami, "He makes me laugh every day."

Some excerpts: we got a referral for a woman who lives about 2 hours away who was going to move to our area. She actually came to church and it was really cool! We visited her and gave her a baptismal date....then found out she actually isn't moving to our area. Take it away, Nokbeon sisters! All in all we traveled about 5 hours! 

We made best friends with our local 호떡 (hotteok) guy. 호떡 is this cinnamon and nut-filled pancake thing. So good! Whenever we pass his stand he is so stoked to see us. He said his sales have gone way up since we started coming because we're blonde American girls. I'm never dyeing my hair.

Speaking of hair, it got cut again. Sunday at church our bishop's wife came up to me and asked if we could spend PDay together because she had a surprise for us. She's actually the coolest person ever. We went to a meat buffet...and then she told me she had made me an appointment at the hair salon. So now I've had 3 haircuts in about 2 weeks. And winter is here. My neck is so cold.

Sister Rowberry is super funny. She's really good at cooking. Her method is to take random things out of the fridge, taste them, make a face, shrug, and throw it in the skillet. It's always a masterpiece. 

We had some interesting mixups this week. We were trying to call elders from another district. This was the conversation. 
"Hi, is this Elder Moore?"
"No...this is Elder Potts..."
"Who are you?"
"Wait, you called me."
"Sorry, we're trying to call the Jangwi elders..."
"Wait, where's Jangwi? What mission are you from?"
"Um, Seoul...why, what mission are you from?"
Pause. "Busan. Have a nice day."
Then we panicked, hung up and called President, who just laughed and laughed. Glad we could make his day. 

We're having good luck finding new investigators as well. We met with a new one last week who really opened up about her life. In fact, she started crying so uncontrollably that me and Sister Rowberry were actually worried. It was cool to see how much she trusted us after meeting us just twice. 

Sanggye is a miraculous place and it has changed my mission in so many different ways. More than wanting to talk to everyone, I want to have a conversation with everyone. This feels like a comfortable place to get uncomfortable and work on becoming a better missionary. One thing Sister Ami taught me is to teach everyone everywhere at all times. It's been really fun getting street lessons. The key is good questions!

I love my companion, love our district, love our zone -- everyone is so hardworking~! It's SUPER inspiring.

I know more than ever that this gospel changes and blesses lives. I've seen God in wonderful action. When we do our best and look around for miracles, I promise they're there.