Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reflections on a Year away from Korea

Last time I (or my dad) posted on this blog was over a year ago and I was saying goodbye to a work that I loved, people that I loved and a country that I loved.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about and long for Korea or the work that I was doing there.
I am currently an investigator actor in the MTC, a job which has blessed me more than I can say. One of the many missionaries that have taught me said something that really hit me:

She was talking about her family, saying that she had a younger sister at home whom she cared for, provided for and loved very dearly. She was nervous and saddened to leave her little sister, wondering if she would be taken care of or not. Fortunately, that sister missionary's sister was fine and was being taken care of and although this missionary loved her younger sister very much she needed to learn to focus on the work ahead of her.

That is exactly my feelings towards my mission and especially towards Korea. Korea, and more specifically the people in Korea, was something I put my whole heart and efforts into for 19 months. Leaving Korea felt like being ripped away from family, from something I loved so dearly. However, I have had to learn to move on and to focus on the Lord's work where I am now, realizing that God is continually watching over the Korean people and that the work is moving forward, with or without me. That being said, my heart will always be with my mission in Korea.

I've decided to write a little summary about my experience being home from my mission over the past year in the hopes that getting these pent-up feelings in my soul out on paper will help my mental state, and maybe even help returned missionaries who have experienced similar things.

The road coming back off my mission was a rocky, bumpy rollercoaster (or however you want to picture it). My first mistake was telling myself, Kaelin, you have been outside of your comfort zone for years. You're exhausted. But you're back home now. You don't need to push yourself anymore. Just take this time to relax. While my body, mind and emotions screamed at me to rest and take a much-deserved break, I wasn't able to realize that this self-centered, closed-in direction I was heading would be self-destructive.

On my mission I talked to everyone, I answered the phone, I was a leader, I counseled others, I volunteered, I went out of my way to serve. The minute I returned home, I closed myself off, I struggled starting conversations, I panicked when I had to answer phone calls, I lost the desire to reach out to others and I avoided social situations like the plague. The longer I spent in my shell I had created around myself the more miserable I became.

It wasn't until I started school at BYU this last spring that I realized the mess I had gotten myself in. The psychologist I saw after the first couple of panic attacks labeled it "social anxiety." I tried to keep up all the promises I made to myself at the end of my mission: to read the scriptures daily, to pray, to do the simple things. However, these simple things become harder to do when you suffer from anxiety. My church attendance grew spotty as I became increasingly more scared and nervous of any social interaction.

As my anxiety worsened, depression started to sneak into my life as well. I would have periods of heightened stress and anxiety followed by low valleys of depression. My whole life I had thought that symptoms of depression always included suicidal thoughts. I have never once considered ending my life, so what I'm dealing with must not be depression, I thought. However, as I talked to my psychologist more about the symptoms of depression I realized that depression is so much more than that and although I didn't have suicidal thoughts I had been experiencing all the other symptoms related to it.

It was only 6 months ago when I was mentally in the worst state of my life. Every time I thought about my mission (which was daily) I felt this sweeping melancholy which would spiral me for a day or two into a depressive episode. I would have to look in the mirror and accept the fact that I was not mentally well. Even though there were wonderfully happy things happening in my life I started to wonder if I would ever be as happy or feel as accomplished as I did on my mission.

Don't get me wrong, my mission was physically, mentally and emotionally the hardest thing I have ever had to do but as I was staring in the mirror wallowing in self-pity I started reexamining myself. I asked myself, Your mission was hard but you were can you find Sister Holdaway and bring her back? Granted, there were several differences between missionary life and the life I was leading and as I sifted through what had made me so happy I finally figured out what had mattered so much and what I was lacking: selflessness.

As I had learned from my mission, the Character of Christ is one that embodies selflessness. Christ was constantly turning outwards to serve and care for those around him. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. I had been so focused on myself and what I needed and what I was dealing with for these past months that I failed to see those around me.

I began making it a goal to reach out and serve at least one person a day. It was small things at first; I would comfort a struggling roommate, go out of my way to help a classmate, compliment someone who was looking down. Life became exciting again as I started looking up from my textbooks and out of the mirror. I smiled sincerely for the first time in months. I worked on much needed relationships that had been damaged by my hermit-like behavior. As I served others my love for them grew and I could lie down at the end of the day and feel, for the first time in a long time, successful.
As the anniversary of my return from Korea comes and goes I can look back over this year with a heart full of gratitude. Eventually, I was able to bring Sister Holdaway back the same way I found her in Korea years before, by loving others. I still struggle with anxiety and, at times, depressive episodes, but I feel closer to my Savior and closer to those people around me who can love and support me as well. I'm still working on it but I'm trying my best.

The same love that Heavenly Father expects of us on our missions towards the people we served is expected towards those we interact with here at home, towards our family and friends. My mission is the most precious experience of my life, but I'm looking forward to adding more to the collection.
저는 하나님이 살이 우리를 사랑하신다는 것을 알고 있습니다. 그렇기때문에 하나님은 우리 주위에있는 사람들을 사랑하기를 원하십니다. 저는 이 복음과 교회가 참되다는 걸 알고 있고 사랑합니다. 저는 그리스도로 설정하면 그분이 우리를 인도하실다는 것을 알고 있습니다.

I know without a doubt that this church is true, that God loves His children and that Christ will never leave us comfortless if we allow Him into our lives.

Here's to wonderful years ahead!

- Kaelin Holdaway

P.S. Special thanks to my boyfriend, Spencer Stanley, who was with me and supported me through all of this. God knew that I needed someone who would refuse to be pushed out of my life.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Saying Goodbye ㅠㅠ

Well, here we go! My last email as a missionary.

I don't have a lot to say that I haven't already said.

Mostly because it hasn't hit me yet. And it probably won't hit me 'till I'm on the plane.

I guess, as this amazing, life-changing adventure is coming to it's unavoidable (trust me, I tried) end, I can say that this has been the best decision I have ever made.

Before my mission I was looking at a poster that was given to me from a beloved choir teacher that says "Decisions Determine Destiny." As I looked at it I thought about the decisions I had made up to that point and what my destiny would have been according to those decisions. It was at that point that I knew I had to serve a mission. That out of all the decisions I could have made at that time in my life the decision to serve a mission would be the best.

I am so grateful I made that decision. I'm so grateful for the gift of agency that allows us to choose our destinies.

I love Korea and I love Missionary Work more than I can express in writing. As I have tried to help people come closer to Christ here in Korea, they have been helping me come closer to Christ.

I will definitely miss the time in my life where I only go to focus on and worry about serving the Lord better every day. But even when I go home, I will still give my heart and might, mind and strength to Him.

Thank you all for your love, your support, your email, and your letters. I will never forget the love I have felt from my friends and family back home :)

Saying Goodbye!

At English Class:

Our little friends:


- Sister Holdaway

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Happiest Day Ever!


Wow, this week flew by fast!

I don't know if any of you remember Elder Whiting? He said the closing prayer in General Conference. He's the area president for the Asia North Area and he and his wife held a mission tour with us. It was really, really good, really faith-building and eye-opening.

He spoke really frankly with us on how we need to be better, have more faith, be more Christ-like etc. It gave me a long list to work on for these next two weeks. Always trying to be better!

So the most amazing, life-changing thing happened was the baptism of my dearest friend Yoon! 

She is such an inspiration to me. This entire week leading up to her baptism, things have not been working out, to say the least. She has had to endure a lot but through it all she still smiled and said "It's ok! Because I'm going to be baptized next week!"

I feel so honored to be able to be a part of her baptism. To help, even in a small way. My heart was full as she went in the water. I could see that she was nervous but she still had a smile on her face.

After the baptism, even though she was soaking wet, we hugged and with tears in her eyes she said "Wow. It's over! I think I'm going to change my birthday to today."

Words really can't describe it. I got to see my best friend's faith and testimony grow and I was able to be there for the start of her new life.

"And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" - D&C 18:15

Even after the baptism she had some really unfortunate things happen but the whole time she said she felt happy and at peace because she was baptized. Her faith blows me away. If we all could have faith like my friend Yoon we would be able to do anything.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week~~ <3 <3


Sister Holdaway

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sharing My Last Words at Zone Training

This week was my very last Zone Training. They ask everyone who is going home that transfer to share a 마지막 말씀 or last words of advice to all the missionaries.

There were 3 of us: Me, Elder Ellsworth and Elder Robinson who will be leaving at the end of this month.

Some people are good at going up and just speaking but I spent a good amount of time preparing so I didn't randomly start crying. Contrary to my hope, I did start tearing up but I had good notes to keep me focused.

So . . . I wanted to share my "last words" with everyone. [Disclaimer: I still have 2 weeks left. This is just what I shared at my last Zone Training.]

"As I was thinking about what to say I ran across my journal entry from the first day of the MTC and I think it captures everything I want to say:

'There are just so many emotions and I'm so tired.'
[hopefully people laughed]

I was really tempted to just say that but I don't think that will benefit anyone~  ㅋㅋ

As many of you already know, both my parents served in Korea about 25 years ago. I grew up eating 김치 and speaking 반말. My parents were so happy to find out that I would be serving in Korea. They both love Korea. And that is something I would have never understood if I had never come here.
Even though I am far away from my parents I feel like I have never been closer to them, because I can finally share with them the love of this country and this people.

Even more than developing a better relationship with my earthly parents I have also strengthened my relationship with my Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father also loves the people of Korea and as I have served here I have only come to feel a small portion of that love but as I have loved these people my faith and testimony in a loving Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ have grown.

A scripture that I have come to love is in Mosiah 18:30. I originally liked this scripture because I was impressed by how many times the word "Mormon" was used . . . but I have come to love it for a different reason now:

And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.

How beautiful is Korea to me who here came to the knowledge of my Redeemer.

It was 가가호호ing [ed.: door knocking] in the tall apartment buildings in 수지 (Suji) where I learned to follow the spirit.

It was 전도ing [street proselyting] at the 사거리 [intersection] in 부평 [Bupyeong] where I learned to conquer my fears.

It was with the members in 계산 [Gyesan] where I learned to express my love.

And it is on the rolling hills of 성남 [Seongnam] where I have offered the most powerful prayers of my entire life.

Korea, to me, will always be holy ground.

I guess my advice to you all today would be to love it. Love every minute of it. Embrace this opportunity to become. Yes, sometimes on our journey of becoming it may seem like God enhances our weaknesses, elongates our trials, and sometimes even enlarges our pet peeves and frustrations.
However, we were made to do hard things.

All of those things will be swallowed up on the day when we can look back and see the lows but also the glorious highs and see truly how far we've come and what we've become.

So make Korea your holy ground. Make it beautiful to your companion, your ward members and your investigators. Make them sing the praises of their Redeemer forever.

There has not been a single night where I haven't knelt down and thanked my Heavenly Father for this opportunity to serve in Korea and the opportunity I have had to become, to become more than I ever could have been. And I'm still growing and learning.

I would like to end with a quote from Doctor Who. Right before the 10th doctor regenerates into the 11th doctor he said: "I don't want to go." Just like the 10th doctor ended his old life and was about to start a new life and a new adventure, I too, am ending this life as a full-time missionary and starting a new adventure of my own.

But now, I can face it with a strong, unshaken testimony that this church is true. The fullness of the gospel was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith in these latter-days. Heavenly Father loves us so much He sent His only begotton son to the world to atone for our sins. Through Jesus Christ we can return to live with Him someday. And that hope can lighten our lives as it has to mine.

I say these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

These last 2 weeks are going to be the best. I am continuing to see miracles every day.

I love you all!
Have a wonderful week<3

- Sister Holdaway

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Miracle in Seongnam


This week we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leader and for the first time in moooonnnthhs I got to leave my area. I was so proud of Sister Tolley for taking on the area for a day! And better yet, her companion was also a new missionary :) haha they had a lot of fun. Unfortunately we had no appointments that day so they set off to explore the area, only getting lost a few times.

I definitely needed exchanges though. It was a nice change of pace. And I got to go on exchanges with Sister Dowding who is also a Doctor Who fan so it was the first time I was able to geek-out about DW without my companion giving me a concerned look.

When Sister Tolley and I got back together again she showed me a text from one of our Investigators (and my best friend) named Yun.

The text said "When can I get baptized?"

We said we could meet and talk about it. We set up an appointment for Friday.

That Thursday was Temple Day! We were fasting and praying for Yun and her desire to get baptized and it was a wonderful feeling to be in the temple and receive the peace and comfort that it brings.

When we met with her I was a little nervous because I had never taught someone who wanted to be baptized as much as she did. We talked a little bit about baptism and the blessings that it brings and she said "Well, when is the soonest I can get baptized?!"

She said she had been reading the Book of Mormon in 2nd Nephi Chapter 9 about the consequences of sin. Later on in the chapter the Lord invites all men to repent and be baptized in his name.

I have been meeting with her since I got to Seongnam and I had never seen such a beautiful light and hope in her eyes.

She will be baptized on the 18th :)

Please pray for her. I know that it was the prayers of me, Sister Moyer, Sister Sweetnam, Sister Tolley and our entire district that helped her make this important decision.

If only our investigators knew how much we prayed for them. Prayer is powerful, the Book of Mormon is powerful!

So, that's the biggest news! These last few months have been a big learning experience for me and I still have a few more weeks to learn and to grow as much as I can!

I love you all!
I hope you have a wonderful week ~~

- Sister Holdaway

(most of) my living companions at the Temple! (sorry Sister Sweetnam)

Kitty Cafe after the Temple! Yes, I went to a cafe where you can drink, eat, and pet cats at the same time! Super therapeutic.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chuseok! 추석!

안녕하세요 여러분 ~~

This week was actually really eventful! Because . . . it was Chuseok! This time last year I was serving with Sister Wright and we performed the infamous "Jerusalem will Fall" act.

This year I was pressured into sharing a talent~ Here it is, in all its glory . . .

So for this special holiday our mission had a 2 day conference. We had a lot of wonderful training and some fun activities! Some fun quotes I like from our very own President Morrise: "If you wait for the motivation to do it, it will never happen." "Just because you start slow doesn't mean you won't get far."

(There were more but I forgot to bring my notebook)

It was so wonderful to be gathered with all the missionaries in the Korea Seoul South Mission! If you have never been in a group of 150 full-time missionaries you are truly missing out on the biggest spiritual boost ever.

The highlights of the conference were the talent show, the proselyting activity at Olympic Park in Seoul, and the testimony meeting at the end.

The let 150 missionaries loose in Olympic Park with a Book of Mormon in our hands, a smile on our face, and a traditional Korean board game. It was probably the most creative way to proselyte ever. We asked a cute family if they knew how to play this game (윷놀이) and they were more than happy to help us play! We played a few rounds with the family and we introduced a little about who we were and what we were doing.

Here we are with the two little kids, so cute!

We also sang the Korean national anthem at the main gate

So if someone sees a video of a bunch of foreigners singing the Korean national anthem in Olympic Park I'm probably there too :)

Walking all around Seoul was fun but exhausting.

It was nice to sit back down and have a testimony meeting to wrap things up. President Morrise gets up and starts calling on people to give their testimony. "Oh, I shared a talent yesterday, he probably won't call on . . .” – "and then we will hear from Sister Holdaway." 아이고 ~~

I got up and I don't even remember what I said. I know I said something about how being desperate makes us closer to God. I just spoke whatever came into my heart, mostly because this wasn't planned ahead of time. Later, people came up to me and thanked me for sharing my testimony. I'm grateful for the promise "Open your mouth and it shall be filled."

It was a little heartbreaking leaving the conference that night. Everyone was saying "goodbye" and I'm not very good with goodbyes.

But it's not a goodbye yet! I'm still going hard, still going strong. I don't want a single moment of this amazing opportunity to go to waste!

I love what I'm doing, I love where I'm going!

And . . . I love you all!
Until next week,

Sister Holdaway

More pictures:

The bishop's wife gave me a traditional Korean dress called a Hanbok

My beautiful daughters! A family reunion! 
The MTC DISTRICT is back together for the last time!

My beautiful Seongnam! <3 <3

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Like Spicy Food!


This week we actually had a bit of free time (which never happens) and we used to help Sister Tolley get used to the area, since we know for sure that I will leave and she'll have to take over the area. So we have walked and walked and walked all around our area mostly because 1) public transportation is expensive and 2) we can talk with people on our way to places. Not to mention the exercise benefits.

We were walking on our way to an appointment and I saw a cute puppy and of course I'm going to go up and pet that cute puppy. We also got to talk with the man who owned the puppy. We invited him to church; he came, and will be meeting with the Elders!

#Puppy전도 (Proselyting)

Because Choosuk is coming up (a big Korean Holiday) we weren't able to meet with a lot of investigators BUT we did meet 4 times with one of our most progressing investigators who is also my best friend! She is 19, speaks English fluently, and loves the Book of Mormon! I love meeting with her and she came to church for the first time last week! I don't think I've ever been so happy <3<3

With Choosuk coming up we are going to have 4 more sisters in our TINY 2-person house. 6 people over all. It will only be for 1 night but we are cleaning and today we will get breakfast foods for them! It will be so fun!

Speaking of cleaning - I have been comparing cleaning our house to repentance. As a missionary I can literally compare everything to the's a talent:

Elder Holland said "People love receiving a remission of sins but aren't concerned enough about retaining it!"

It's easy to get our house clean once for interviews but the challenge is to keep it up.  Just like we have to pick up our clothes and do the dishes EVERY day we have to also remember to have "real-time" repentance and not wait till Pday (or Sunday) to clean it all up.
Just something I've been thinking about.

^^An excerpt from my letter to President.

I'm sorry my thoughts are so jumbled today.

On Saturday we went on a hike to Namhansanseong! We went with our ward and had a picnic at the top. If you notice, our ward is very ethnic. 2 Peruvians, a Samoan, a Tongan and us 4 American missionaries. I'm pretty sure half our ward is foreign! (that's a bit of an exaggeration)

This is what my companion drew of me. It's her "favorite picture ever" :)

Sugar ~~

A beautiful smoggy picture of Seoul! That tall building? That's the tallest building in North-East Asia, the Lotte Tower.

- Sister Holdaway