We are going to buy a camera for my companion today, but I will buy one next week; thank you for updating me on the bank account situation! When do you go to Disney World?
To come up with an appropriate response to your question dad, I asked my companion. These are his words: "the sister training leader is the middle man between us and the sisters." In essence, I suppose that is true! :P The sister training leaders are responsible primarily for the overall welfare of the sisters in the zone. They go on exchanges with every sister in the zone (although we only have one STL in our zone now, so I don't know if she goes on exchanges with every sister or just every companionship), where they train them and report to us and to the district leaders on any struggles that they see, or any help they think would be beneficial. They also go to MLC with us every month, where they help us report on the zone. Our sister training leader in 인천 zone is sister Chao, who was in my district in the MTC!
We had zone conference this week, which was a completely different experience as a zone leader! I felt that our additional responsibilities and preparation, though exhausting, contributed to a more spiritual experience for me personally. Elder Nemelka and I invited our zone to fast before the conference to prepare to learn through the spirit, the results of which were miraculous and simply too numerous to mention! We made cookies and spend a little extra money to buy more pizzas for them during lunch, as they were fasting and would be hungry. :P We also got two dozen krispy kream doughnuts from one of our ward members, which we handed out during lunch to people who answered the some questions we prepared. The very first question I asked turned out to be the hardest; the only missionary that knew the answer was our German Elder Gehrig. The question was: "what is the capital of Canada?" No one knew except for Elder Gehrig! Yikes! :P
Elder Nemelka and I had an interesting experience while we were preparing our training for zone conference. Our assigned topic was "Finding through the Spirit." Our first thought was simply to train on techniques for street contacting, since that has been the principle method of finding here for a significant period of time. As we were studying, however, we both felt that we should train on broadening our perspectives in our efforts to find.
We mentioned some activities that we had tried in the past week, which consisted mostly of working with members, and trained on usage of materials that do not frequently get used by missionaries. Immediately following our training, at the conclusion of the conference, President Morrise made the very significant announcement that our mission is no longer counting proselyting conversations as a statistic, but instead will consider lessons taught to church members. In a discussion with him after the meeting, we were able to hear some of President's thoughts on this big change.
He was quite honest and straightforward. He said that Korea needs a change in missionary work. The membership in Korea, though it is listed as 80,000, is not reflective of the active membership, which is substantially less. To give an example of the struggle that Korea faces, my previous ward's membership list consisted of about 35 active members and 500 less active members.
He said quite simply that we need to stop spending our time on the streets and start helping the members to support themselves through basic programs such as family home evening and home and visiting teaching. He mentioned that our area president (President Ringwood) gave a talk a few months ago, in which he told us that missionary work in Korea is not the "work" of the missionaries, but rather the work of the members, whom the missionaries are called to support. Though I was shocked to hear of the change, I have come to really appreciate this timely progression in missionary work in Korea. It truly is an inspired change, and I am excited to see the results. If our stats from just this past week are any indication of the progression that will continue, then I am more than excited! In our zone, our baptismal dates went up from 2 last week to 7 this week, with an additional jump of 16 progressing investigators to 32!
I also discovered in our discussion with president after the meeting that I was the vehicle through which president received the inspiration to initiate a greater emphasis of Korean learning, which has also changed the culture of our mission. As a result of President's push to learn Korean more effectively, many more missionaries are speaking much more Korean, setting goals to speak only Korean at certain times and consequently seeing miracles that President shares with all of us through his weekly email to the mission.
I had set a goal to speak only Korean for a week a while back, during which I had to call president for some sort of permission, where I explained why I was speaking Korean and not English, as was normal a while ago. Apparently, he was impressed enough to make this a focus for the whole mission. He told me after zone conference of my role in that mission focus. It is a great feeling to contribute something to the mission, especially considering I went through a period of time not too long ago where I felt my efforts were anything but a contribution.
Anyway, I am sorry there was not too much about our proselyting week in that email; I am simply so excited for these changes! :)
Love, Elder Higham