In the MTC, they say the two hardest languages for English speakers to learn are Finnish and Korean. Even though that may have be the case, for some reason, Korean wasn't hard for me as a missionary. I'm not saying I was a genius and was somehow completely fluent after three months of study. But it just wasn't hard for me. We were taught new grammar forms, and I would just plug in different verbs and nouns. Almost like legos, or an algebra equation. Which makes it truly ironic that I loved it so much because I've always hated math, and I never played with legos as a child. I just accepted that I wouldn't be perfect. I just accepted that I wouldn't understand anything at church or meal appointments. I remember one of the sisters in my district telling me that she went to bed crying every night over Korean for the first few weeks. I was shocked because 1) I hadn't noticed and 2) I couldn't relate. But I came to find out that learning the language wasn't meant to be my trial as a missionary. Having surgery, getting sick, almost having to have a hip replacement, getting delayed in the MTC, leaving a people I loved so much that hurt- all of those things were my trial.
And so now I'm back. In some ways my Korean has improved. And in some ways it's.... well, it's bad. But somehow I've still been able to maintain the bright optimism about it all. Until today.
When they asked me to give a lesson in Young Women's, I thought, "Ok. This will be hard. But I can do it. I used to give 40 minute lessons as a missionary all the time in the MTC." Of course it wasn't good Korean, but it was good enough for the people I was teaching to understand and feel the Spirit. For the past two weeks I've been praying and preparing. I even enlisted the help of my Korean "tutor" (really my best friend in Korea, Oh Kyoung Mi) to help me figure out some vocabulary and sentence structure.
But when I got up to teach today, everything sort of fell apart. I didn't follow my lesson plan. I couldn't connect to the WiFi to show the Mormon Message I wanted. And I could tell that the girls were bored. So even though the other leaders said I did a good job, I barely held it together during the car ride home.
Upon arriving home, I bawled my eyes out for a good 15 minutes until I finally responded to Lindsay's text to Skype. And then I cried a little bit more.
As I was crying, I tried to do some self-examination. "Ok, why is it exactly that your crying? They said you did well. You bore testimony of Christ. You left a commitment. No one was mean to you. What's the problem?" I think the biggest problem was that I didn't try hard enough. I put in more preparation for this lesson than I do for lessons in America. I learned new vocabulary. I had a lesson plan. But I didn't practice. I didn't role-play. I didn't do the things that I did as a missionary with every gospel lesson I taught. I wasn't frustrated with the language, I was frustrated with myself.
There was a moment this afternoon when some dramatic thoughts started to emerge. Thoughts like, "What am I doing here? I'm so alone. I miss having someone my age to talk to." But it was strange. Even before those thoughts could fully take form, my rational side pushed them completely away. "You know why you're here. You're not alone."
So, I don't know exactly why I'm here. But when I prayed about coming to Jeonju, it felt good. It felt right. There's been these instances with people I've met here, just in this short month, that have shown me this was all meant to be, cliché as that sounds. So even though I don't know what the plan is exactly, the evidence suggests that I just have to believe, that I have to keep going with a positive attitude, that I have to act in faith. Which is quite ironic because that is the very topic my lesson was on today.
There's a scripture in Esther that I love. It's found in chapter 4, verse 14. Esther's uncle Mordecai is speaking to her, pleading with her to speak to the King on behalf of the Jewish people. "...who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a
Now if only I could say that in Korean.
The Good Shepherd, Henry Ossawa Tanner 1902-1903