Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Korea, Land of the Morning Calm

Quoting from Grant's family letter, "We took a flight from Fukuoka to Korea on T'way Air leaving around 12:00 noon and  arriving in Seoul at about 1:30. We were very fortunate and pleased to find Song, a Korean exchange student that we hosted in 2011-2012, waiting for us at the airport.  She looked so good and has grown up so much over the last three years.  We enjoyed smoothies with her and then boarded a bus to Seoul.  This took us longer than the flight from Japan and we arrived at the Hyundai Residence in Jung-gu around 4:00.  After moving in we went exploring the neighborhood and found it full of motorcycle, pet and printing shops." 

     We also found a little restaurant down the street and had traditional Korean barbecue.

"Friday morning we were excited to see Gena.  Not knowing the traffic patterns nor the distances, we arose early and boarded a taxi by 6:15.  We were to meet to her at the Seoul South Mission Home south of the Han River after 8:00.  We arrived at 6:50 so had some time to kill.  We wandered through the neighborhood and had a light breakfast at Paris Baguette.  After lingering as long as we could we meandered back to the mission home.  There was still no activity but Jeanette opened a door and we heard voices coming from above us.  We climbed about three flights of stairs and found some missionaries milling around the mission home.  We introduced ourselves and inquired.  This was the right place.  Someone called for Sister Hurst and there was our gorgeous and faithful daughter, hugging her Mother with tears being shed by both.  She looked so good, so content and so confident.  Soon we met President Morrise who was very complimentary of Gena and her service.  This was reiterated by several of the young missionaries who were there, also in the process of returning home.  Sister Morrise came out a little later with similar accolades for our Gena.         

As the days progressed and we came to meet more and more of those Gena has worked with and touched, we were more and more filled with admiration for her and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for sharing such a precious and tender soul with us.  We have been able to meet with and share meals with so many people.  Fortunately, Korean food is not that fattening nor filling or we would be bursting.  First, we met Song and her Mom and Dad for  a big traditional lunch on Friday."  

"In the evening we were privileged to have dinner with Brother Hea  his wife, Sister Kim, and their son, Ken, visiting from Toronto.  Brother Hea has previously served 20 years as stake president and is currently the Public Affairs Director for Korea.  The family is an institution in the Church in Korea.  It was a delicious meal and afterward they drove us back to our place.  Great people." 

Saturday morning we made a quick visit to the Kyeongbokgoong Palace and Folk Museum.  Gena is posing here with her Chinese Zodiac year, the Dog. 

The Palace Gate.

We could have spent hours at the Palace there but had to limit it as we needed to be to the temple by 12:00 noon.  At the recommend desk we met Brother Choi and Sister Chu who we had known in Dallas in 1991.  We introduced their three boys to Halloween.  Jeanette was Sister Chu's visiting teacher and Sister Chu recited how after all these years she remembers Jeanette never missing a visit and always coming with small gift such as homemade bread.  We had a nice lunch with them at a Chinese restaurant."

"Following lunch we attended a session at the temple.  It is good to have that available once more."  

We then headed back south of the Han River and visited the  Noryangjin Fish Market.

"We met Gena's friend, Erica for dinner  in Noryangjin.  She is a wonderful woman of about 40 years who has enjoyed attending the missionaries' English classes.  She has the most infectious smile and personality - one of those persons who just makes you feel good by being around them."   We enjoyed the spicy chicken at Uganae, one of Gena's favorite hangouts."

For dessert we shared a mango bingsu at Surl Bing.
"Sunday, we attended services at the Noryangjin Ward and witnessed a huge outpouring of affection by so many.  Tears were shed.  On the way there, Gena, always a missionary, took advantage of a man's curiosity on the subway (after he stared at our badges and clearly wanted to engage us) and had a good conversation with him about the Church.  He seemed genuinely interested, immediately looked up the entry for the Church on Wikipedia on his phone and then accepted the local missionaries' telephone number.  He even shared his name and telephone number with Gena.  She passed it on to the local elders at sacrament meeting."

"After meetings we walked up the street to another family Gena had been teaching.  They served us a delightful lunch. Her name is Kim Sung Yun and his  is Hu Sung Te.  They have two cute daughters, ages 8 and 11."

"After lunch we returned to the Church where Gena met with Yija Young, a young high school girl she has been mentoring.  Again a tearful goodbye and  we headed back to our room at the Hyundai Residence. "

                   On Monday we met Gena's first companion, Sister Hong, for lunch. 

 Tuesday was another lunch with one of Gena's former investigators, Binna, in Gangnam.  After lunch we took the train to Pyeong Taek, Gena's last area, to visit more friends.

We had dinner with Brother Lee and Sister Kim of the Pyeong Taek   Ward.  After the meal, she treated us to a little gayageum concert.  

This morning we said good-by this cute family and joined the Bishop of the Noryangjin Ward, Brother Kim and his wife, Sister Hwang (a "country girl").

                            We spent a pleasant morning at the Suwon Folk Village.  

                            Courtyard of a traditional house. of a well to do person.  

                                We enjoyed a show of traditional dance and music . . .   

horse back riding and acrobatics . . .   

                               and a re-enactment of a traditional Korean wedding.   

Afterwards the Bishop treated us to Samgaytang a "whole" chicken soup which is eaten on the last day of summer (according to the lunar calendar) which was today.   


                               Tonight we enjoyed one last Korean treat, Naemgmyeon.  

Almost home!

On our last evening in Guam, August 29, we had a lovely farewell dinner with President Zarbock and the wonderful Senior Missionaries with whom we have been serving.  They are precious people and we will cherish our memories of serving with them forever.

Sister Hurst, Elder and Sister Guercio (Mission Medical), Elder and Sister Martin (Office), Elder and Sister Thomas (Military Relations), Elder and Sister Hamilton (new Office), President Zarbock, Elder Hurst.  We departed early Thursday morning.

Our first stop on the way home was Osaka where we were met by Shigehiro and Michiko Sugimoto.  They drove us first to Nara, the capital of ancient Japan.  The deer who live in the park surrounding the Todai-ji Buddhist Temple are very aggressive if they know you have food!

From there we drove to Kyoto Prefecture to the town of Uji where we visited the Byodoin Temple.  Next stop was the city of Kyoto.  We spent the next day seeing the sights there which included the Nishiki Market and the Kiyomizu Temple.  Saturday we took a bullet train to Yamaguchi and the World Scout Jamboree.

We had the great opportunity of working at the LDS tent in the Faith and Beliefs area of the Jamboree.  Although under the auspices of the Young Men's Organization, the tent was organized by FamilySearch and included a My Family booklet activity on tablets, photo ops in front of three huge pictures of Christ and a temple and family history display, and an map pinning activity.  Scouts could earn the "Thomas S. Monson Award" by doing several of these activities.   We helped man the tent from about 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.  This is one of the beautiful photo backdrops in the tent.

Sunday morning we had Sacrament Meeting under a breezy porch.  About 300  were in attendance.  That evening we participated in a fireside in the nearby town of Ube given by Brother Stephen W. Owen, YM General President and Elder Aoyagi of the Asia North Area Presidency. 

A group of scouts from Taiwan reading a statement by President Monson about Scouting. 

We met many interesting people from all over the world.  Among them was Sister Jemima Nartey, Vice-Chairperson, World Scout Committee and Church member from Ghana.

He we are with some of the staff from the tent.  Front row:  Jim Green, Laura and Gary Dollar, Brent Summerhays, Back row:  Tom Hunsaker, ?,  Larry Call, Steve Anderson.

Sushi lunch with the Family History leadership of Asia:  Sister Hurst, Steve Tsai (Manager, Chinese), Hashick Hong, Regional Manager, Asia Area), Jun Hori, (Family Search, Japan), Keiji Sugimoto (Manager, Japan), Elder Hurst.

Tuesday night (August 4) farewell dinner with the Family History leadership.

Detail of meal pictured above.  The Japanese have such a way with everything, including food.  Lovely, simply lovely.  Jun drove us, along with Steve and Hashik to Fukuoka.  The others headed home and we had a day to spend in Fukuoka.  

We visited the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum and  Kushida Shinto Shrine.

The Sumiyoshi Shrine.

The Sumiyoshi Shrine

The Sumiyoshi Shrine.

Wednesday evening we attended the Fukuoka Temple.  It was wonderful to be back after 18 months.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An Amazing Book of Mormon Celebration

As we are writing this a couple of weeks after the fact, we will use quotes from our family letter of July 26 to describe the Celebration and events leading up to it.

"It has been a momentous, exhilarating and exhausting week here in Kosrae.  Monday President Zarbock arrived from Guam along with Elder and Sister Hardy from Chuuk.  They have been here all week (and will leave with us on Tuesday) to help with the Book of Mormon celebration.  Monday evening was relatively relaxing as we did not have a rehearsal.  Tuesday we were back on and the practice was as frustrating as ever with its late start (by about three hours) and failure of cast members to show.  Wednesday we practiced only those scenes that had most fallen short on Tuesday.  The rehearsal was promising but we realized that once more we were practicing with different persons standing in for the various cast members who did not come.  Thursday we had a “dress rehearsal” which actually went fairly well with only a couple of glitches.  Friday we had no practice as everyone was busy scrambling in the process of making food and decorating the Church grounds for the event.
            "We went to buy a pig with a pre-agreed price of $300.  Once we (Binton Lowary, Elders Hardy and Batty and I) were there the owner saw the three white shirts and the price suddenly jumped to $500.  After a bit of haggling and the seller not budging, we walked away.  We later found a pig (much larger) owned by a member and purchased it for $500 and Kaston Albert, a local member, found another about the same size for just $300.  Our “pig budget” was set at $800 so we were spot on. 

The members worked hard all day Friday to prepare every detail for the Celebration.  Sister Nena wove this beautiful food basket from a coconut leaf.

Sister Hadley wove this lovely book cover from pandanus.  

The Sisters Lowary made marmars for the guests.

"Friday the local Ace grocery store delivered the 19 cases of chicken, 15 cases of pork rib and 45 cases of bottled water, along with a case of hot dogs and processed ham.  The members were up most of the night cooking on the local “uhm” and otherwise preparing.  There were also buckets full of local seafood, including lobster and crab, reef fish and huge yellow-fin tuna.  This was supplemented by rice, breadfruit and taro prepared in various traditional ways.  Of course, most of this was for the end-of-the-day dinner on Saturday.  Friday President Michael T. Ringwood of the Asia North Area arrived along with Bishop Bill Davis (Manager of the Church Service Center in Guam) with his wife, Wanda, Agustine Jimenez and Tevita Tu’ituu from the FM (Facilities Mgt) Group in Guam, and the assistants to President Zarbock, Elders Fabiano and Striplin.  Also with them was Koji Kodama (humanitarian)."

Preparing the ribs for the barbecue on Friday night.

Elders Amato, Johnson and Gibb helped grate coconut for the feast.

Sister Nena making leis for the guests.

We took a moment to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on Saturday morning.  It was a good omen and a promise of good weather for the Celebration.

The members had been on the food all night.  Brother Binton Lowary prepared the uhm for the pork.

Butchering the pigs.

Sister Alokoa and an assistant prepared the pork for the um.

Sisters Daniel and Lowary were busy cooking reef fish.

Crabs and lobsters were boiled.

Barbecuing the chicken.

Preparing the cooked taro for serving.

Sister Mitchigo Toleona prepared some delicious pineapple, served on a "local plate" made from a coconut leaf.

"At 10:30 AM we began our Member Devotional.  This ended around 11:00 and the showing of Meet the Mormons began as did the missionary open house in the classroom side of the building.  The movie lasted until around 12:15 when a light lunch of local “soup” was served.  This is a delicious mixture of rice, coconut milk and large chunks of tuna. 

Brother Nena's wonderful Kosraean soup served in "local bowls" i.e. half a coconut shell.

"The afternoon entertainment, scheduled to begin at 1:00 actually got underway closer to 1:30." 

Sister Elitcher Phillip prepares the Utwe branch boys backstage.  They were the first on the program and  performed several traditional dances

The Young Men from the Lelu Branch performed a traditional stick dance.

The Primary children from both branches sang "Book of Mormon Stories"

A combined choir of members from both branches sang "Now Let  Us Rejoice" and "Count Your Blessings."  

"At the end of the entertainment, we hurried the entire cast to the dressing rooms and were able to start the “skit” (pageant) portion of the event around 3:30.  The run of the skit was the best it has been." 

Rigina Hadley and Sepe Lowary wait backstage.

The opening "Family Home Evening" scene introduced a series of Book of Mormon stories.

Lehi and family wait backstage.

Nephi (Carson) with the plates.

Abinadi (Yulsin Phillip) rebukes King Noah's (Likaska Tony Sigrah) guards (Steven and Stevenzun Phillip).  

Darkness and destruction before the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Nephites.

The appearance of Jesus Christ (Lance Mongkeya).

Mormon laments the fate of his people.

The First Vision.  Joseph Smith was played by Rocky Alokoa.

The pageant was followed by a wonderful feast.