On January 5th, I hit my 6 month mark in Korea! So 9 months total. Of course it wasn't some crazy party or anything, I just hit the streets as usual. I didn't even have time to send texts to my MTC group to remind them, but I'm guessing they realized. My first day in Korea, my Mission President told me that people usually start really being able to understand and use the language when they hit their 6 month mark. Or course it's not some magical day where you become fluent.
After my first couple of months in Korea, I thought, "6 months... NO way!" The language is a beast. But since I've become a trainer, I truly have been blessed. I'm focused like I never have been, I'm praying harder than I ever have, and I'm not wasting a second. My learning truly is being quickened through diligently relying on the Lord. The weeks coming up to my 6 month mark, I began to see, that it kind of is a magical point in your mission. Especially for my case, training so "young,"and being with a person I'm forced to use Korean 24-7 with. Elder Yoo is such a blessing.
As a missionary you're never focused on yourself. I notice myself progressing only after the fact really. You're always thinking about the people you are teaching, their needs, and your companion, and his progression, and how you can help them become a more effective tool in the Lord's hands. But yesterday, I had a very cool experience with the language. When I first came to Korea it was like someone gave a walky-talky, I hear sounds, but I could only make out a few words. Lately it's like a cell phone that cuts out every few seconds, and you just have to rely on the Spirit to fill in the gaps.
It's like hearing, "I went back to that place you aloiydfgaliufb finally I had to liuawghef and since then I've been much better."
Every now and then you hear words that sound like other words so you think you're hearing:
"Can you give that grape juice I asked you to fill out? If you're finished with it I can give it to the circus bear climate actor building place."
Yesterday, we brought one of our new investigators to church, and I introduced him to a couple of sisters in our ward who are English teachers here in Korea. One is Hawaiian, and the other is from New Zealand. Neither of them speak Korean, so I sat by them and said I would attempt to translate for them. The first speaker went up, Kevin, who is actually fluent in both languages, and spoke, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to convey any of the stuff he was talking about past the first 30 seconds of explaining what he was gonna talk about, and why it was a difficult subject. I whispered to the Sisters, " Sorry, he's giving analogies and he's using a ton of words I don't know... but he's speaking about unity."
So Kevin finished, and came down to translate for them. The next speaker went up and he wasn't translating for them. "Kevin, translate!" He whispered, " I can't, I'm not as fluent as you think." "YOU'RE completely fluent!"
So the final speaker was a member of the Stake presidency, and right before he got up to speak, Kevin had to go quiet down the young men who were literally punching each other (of course one of them was Gun-Ha, our recent convert/trouble maker). So I said a little prayer, and said " ok, Let's give this another try."
I was able to translate most of his twenty-minute talk. Again, the speaking in analogies and constantly quoting other people threw me off sometimes, but I was amazed I was able to do it.
Afterward, I thought to myself, ok, 6 months... the magical mark.
This was a pretty amazing week, despite it being painfully cold. Literally, your talk gets numb from the cold, and it throws off your pronunciation!!! So bad. But we got a lot of investigators progressing, especially the ones we picked up this week.
Sometimes it takes big moments to recognize how far you've come. But you will only progress through hard work, and continually building and exercising your faith. I will soon hit my one year mark as a missionary, and around the same time I'll hit my 25 year mark as a person, as a son, as a brother, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.