Falling off the face of the Earth

Falling off the face of the Earth

This past winter in Portland was rainy – really rainy.  The rainiest winter since records started being kept in 1940.  The upside to all of the rain was plenty of incentive to stay inside and focus on work.  Over the fall and winter months I spent my days working on writing or video editing and even got an extra hour of work time in the afternoon while the boys were doing their indoor sports.  But the downside to all of the rain was pushing off a large swath of life “until the weather gets better.”  Home projects, task list items, workouts, and spending time with friends could all wait until the dreary weather improved.  Weeks of delay turned into months and my to do list steadily grew longer with the rainfall record.  Then came spring break.  Heading down for a week of sunshine in California, I took a break from work and purposed myself to get organized and ready for the impending summer.  Then the panic hit.  I had a long list of things to do that needed to be completed before the boys were out of school, and a whole other list of fun adventures and not so fun chores that needed to get completed during the summer months.  I wrestled with how I was going to get everything done that I needed to and still meet my work goals.   I figured I would be super efficient with my time and try alternating my to do list items with work, but it didn’t seem to work out that way.  The main problem was that we purchased a new house last spring and had decided to complete only essential repairs that first year.  So this spring, repairing the long list of problems we had noticed in our new house were coming due.  Finding a painting contractor and sampling colors to replace the well faded exterior paint.  Pressure washing ten years of grime and moss of the patio, driveway and sidewalks.  Digging out and replacing the silt clogged French drain in the back yard.  From the subfloor to the roof shingles, there were dozens of major and minor repairs or improvements to be done.  As with any project, once I got started fixing one issue, I found two more hidden behind.  Projects that were supposed to take several hours or days bloomed into taking several days or weeks.  In addition to working on projects, I started working out, meeting up with friends, and ferrying to boys to their now outdoor sports.  At the end of the day I would look back on a long and productive day, but guilty I hadn’t gotten any of my writing or video editing done.  I consistently told myself to give it another few days until the workload decreased, but it never worked out that way.  I wanted to provide an update to my predicament, but without a firm commitment of when my posts would recommence, I didn’t know what to say.  With summer break only a week away, it is finally time to face the facts.

I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, or given up on either of my writing or travel videos.  I still have years of stories to write and dozens of videos to edit. Life just got busy for a season.  And with the boys being out of school for the summer, I will be busy for a while.  So here are my goals: to stay connected on Facebook, Instagram and continue my Weekly Writing posts.  If I should happen to have time to work on my writing or videos, I hope to get some of those posts up too.  If all else fails, I will return with more writing and videos this fall, with the benefit of having completed my projects and summer adventures.

I wanted to say thank you for following along and hope you all have a great and safe summer!

~joel

Culture Shock

Culture Shock

“Normal is an illusion.  What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” – Charles Addams

After the first few weeks of being in the Philippines, the realization set in that we weren’t in California anymore.  It seemed that with every new task, there was a learning curve of how life would be different in this new land.  Even the simplest things like buying a soda came with unexpected changes.  When it was time to buy a soda from one of the sari-sari stories down the street, I selected my soda, asked how much it cost and forked over a few pesos.  The lady behind the counter then popped open the soda cap on a glass bottle, poured the contents into a plastic bag, stuck a straw in the bag and handed it over to me.  Holding the bag tightly, I thanked the lady and walked back to the house confused as to what had just happened.  As it turns out, the Philippines had not yet switched over to using plastic bottles or metal cans, and almost all soda was sold in glass bottles.  There was a bottle deposit added to your purchase so that you would return your glass bottle, which would then be picked up by the bottling company, washed, refilled with soda, and shipped out again.  To save the hassle of paying for and returning bottles, many Sari-Sari stores would simply pour the contents of the glass bottle into a clear plastic bag, and not charge you the cost of the bottle deposit.  As long as you held the top of the bag tight enough, the whole thing worked quite well. Continue reading “Culture Shock”

Arriving in the Philippines

Arriving in the Philippines

June 28, 1990

After spending the previous night in a hotel after our long flight across the Pacific Ocean, my Brother, Sister, Mom, and I prepared ourselves for the relatively short three-hour flight from Taipei, Taiwan to Manila, Philippines later that morning.  Before long, we were watching the blue ocean and puffy white tropical clouds stream by under our wings.  Starting our descent into Manila, banking left over Manila bay, the ocean water changed from a vibrant blue to an emerald brown as the shoreline appeared.  The land was swathed with vivid green palm trees and dotting the outskirts of the city were small collections of homes built out of corrugated metal roofing with intermixed colors – shiny sliver, rusted red, and painted black matte.  As the plane lowered to the ground you could start to see office buildings, neighborhood developments, and every piece of spare space filled in by shanty towns.  Nearing the runway, the plane finally touched its wheels down onto our new home.  The plane loudly rattled down the rough runway, like a car quickly driving over a pitted road.  The plane slowed, turned off onto the taxiway, and made its way to the nearby terminal.  We disembarked through a flight bridge into a bright and airy terminal lined with plants, posters of tropical island beaches, and images of blue city skylines.  Continue reading “Arriving in the Philippines”

Preparations and Plane Flights

Preparations and Plane Flights

In the years that we were living in Pasadena, Mom and Dad had watched as the political climate in South Korea become increasingly nationalistic.  The government started pressing Protestant mission organizations to prove that their missions work in South Korea was necessary, and that they were doing tasks that the South Koreans themselves could not.  The number of visas were being restricted and several missionaries with other organizations had already had to send missionaries to other countries instead.  In addition, the group our mission organization had been working with had splintered and was no longer considered by the government to be a stable sponsor.  By the start of our fourth year, the writing was on the wall that the door to return to South Korea had closed, and our missions organization, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, asked my parents about changing their field of service.   They were interested in having my Dad become professor at the Alliance Biblical Seminary (ABS) in Manila, Philippines.  The change was a disappointment for my Dad, who really wished to return to South Korea, but he accepted the new assignment it faith.  Serendipitously, the leaders of the South Korean churches we had worked with had previously approached ABS about training their South Korean missionary candidates there, so Mom and Dad were encouraged that their work with Koreans would continue even in Manila.

During this time, my parents had remained silent about the changes to us kids until they knew for sure what they would be doing and where we would be living.  One seemingly normal evening after dinner, Mom and Dad called us kids around the dining table for some news.   “We’re not going back to South Korea,” they solemnly said.  Continue reading “Preparations and Plane Flights”

Final Furlough Year

Final Furlough Year

1990-robert-cindi-joel-pandaWith our furlough years almost over, the summer before our departure was spent visiting family, while we still had the chance.  We went to the Panda restaurant in Pasadena with Uncle Bob in the years before it turned into the popular chain Panda Express.  We took one last road trip up to our Grandparents house in Sunriver, Oregon and visited Crater Lake.  And we took a trip up into Washington to meet some relatives we hadn’t met before – our Great Grandma and our Uncle Dale and Aunt Leigh.  They lived several hours north of my grandparents house on a farm in Worden, Washington.  Along the way, we stopped at a ghost town and explored the old buildings in Shaniko, Oregon.   I was tired from staying up 1990-03-crater-lake-family-1the night before, so when it came time for continuing the road trip, I asked my parents if I could take an afternoon nap in a sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon, and this still being the 1980’s, my parents obliged.  What I failed to realize was that the journey took us through the high desert of Oregon, and when I awoke several hours later covered in sweat.  I unzipped the sleeping bag and felt the cold air rush in against my now damp clothing.  As darkness settled, we stopped at a restaurant for dinner and I felt chilled to the bone sitting in the air-conditioned restaurant throughout the meal.  Heading onward, we pressed into the night and finally arrived at the long gravel road leading to my Uncle Dales farm.  Waking up the next morning, we explored the surroundings of their farm.  They had acres of land that grew a 1989-07-shaniko-hotelvariety of crops and several farm animals.  At the center of the land was an old farmhouse with several outlying buildings.  During the day, I spent time exploring around the grounds, looking at the farm animals, and riding on the back of an all-terrain-vehicle while my Uncle drove.  My parents deemed that my brother and sister were old and qualified enough to drive off on their own, and I watched as they gleefully drove off across the field, down the gravel road, and disappeared.  A few minutes later they returned looking nervous and frightened.  Apparently one of the cows did not appreciate them encroaching on their space and chased them away while by brother quickly hightailed it back to the farmhouse.  Before dinner I assisted Grandma and Aunt Leigh pick 1989-06-uncle-dales-family-oregonfresh raspberries from the rows of vines that grew next to the farmhouse and that night at dinner, we sat down at a long farm table covered in a white tablecloth and had a meal resembling a thanksgiving dinner, compete with ice cream and fresh raspberries for desert.  The next morning we hopped back in our old Oldsmobile station wagon for the drive back to my grandparents house and then the further drive back to our home in Pasadena, California.

Continue reading “Final Furlough Year”

Seminary & Ministry

Seminary & Ministry

Before beginning his work as a pastor and then missionary, my father had completed a Masters in Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.  In the years that followed, our missionary organization (the Christian & Missionary Alliance) had recognized my father’s gifting in teaching, language and leadership and had marked him for further study.  With the completion of our four-year term in South Korea, the C&MA felt it was time to further his studies and suggested he attend Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  Fuller, at the time, had one of the premier programs in Church Growth and some of the best Missiologists or teachers in missions.  The expectation was that after he had completed his doctorate, the door to return to South Korea would be open and if not, he would serve somewhere else, most likely in a seminary capacity.

My mother was also interested in furthering her studies.  Over a decade earlier, she had walked away from her dream of earning a Ph.D. in linguistics in order to marry my father.  Throughout my father’s years at seminary, as a pastor in Oklahoma and on the mission field in South Korea, Mom had quietly and faithfully served by raising us children, leading children’s groups and having women’s Bible studies.  But her desire and leading was to be a true partner in her husband’s ministry. Some people assume that living abroad alone is preparation enough for cross-cultural ministry but that is rarely the case.  Even though Mom had lived in Germany, Great Britain and Korea, had learned several languages, and had completed thirty units of Bible and Theology, she still had many lingering questions and relished the idea of being properly trained for ministry.  While the C&MA would not pay for her schooling, Fuller offered a grant of nearly matching funds to couples that wished to study and serve together, and  Mom enrolled as a student as well.

Continue reading “Seminary & Ministry”

Furlough Summers   

Furlough Summers   

When it came for our family to travel, it quickly became obvious that airfare for a family of five on a missionary budget was prohibitively expensive.  That could only mean one thing: road trips.  Our trips were planned out with three goals in mind: seeing the sights, stopping to see old friends and supporters, and reaching our destination.  Our longest road trip was to visit our Grandparents’ house in Chicago.  Packing up our grey diesel Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon, we headed out east of Los Angeles.   After several hours on the road we approached Death Valley and Dad asked us to roll down our windows slightly.  “I’m turning off the air conditioner so that the car doesn’t overheat going through the valley” he said.  As we sat three kids across in the back of the now sweltering car, the arguments started.  My brother, sitting to my left, had a regular habit of what is now described as “manspreading,” where he would sit with his legs wide open.  For me in the middle seat, I would then have to move my legs to the right side of the car where my sister would have her space taken up.  For whatever reason, the greatest source of arguing in the car was always my brother’s spread legs which after several years, hundreds of discussions and several fireman drills to switch people around, never seemed to have any lasting effect.  Fortunately, before we killed each other, Mom and Dad had arranged a steady stream of sight-seeing adventures.  Continue reading “Furlough Summers   “