With 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 the 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 variety 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 fresh 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.
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.
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 “
While both of the boys had received answers to their prayer requests, there was still one prayer request unanswered. After two years of our family of five living in a two-bedroom apartment, my sister desired a space of her own. My sister, always the introvert, had claimed a tiny hallway closet as her safe space upon moving in, but as she had grown older, the space was shrinking. We had prayed for years about being able to move into a larger, three-bedroom apartment, but the opportunity never arose. As it was, we were receiving generous support to help pay for our current apartment from our missions organization, the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA), from our grandparents and even Christians that we did not even know. Many of my clothes came from the “missionary barrel” – a collection of donated clothes meant for poor or needy families – missionaries often fitting both requirements. Some clothes were the wrong size, some were tattered and the ones near the bottom had a funky smell. But they were free and even my picky self was happy to have something new – even if it was something new to me. But I digress. Dad had pondered buying lumber and subdividing part of the living room to give my sister the space that she needed, but there were other needs as well. Mom was going through a crisis of her own. Despite doing well in her studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, she was worried about an uncertain future returning to South Korea, the noisy apartment neighbors that were a constant interruption to her sleep, concerns over my sister’s needs, and the crux of all of the problems, the lack of funds to change the situation. Feeling the weight of her problems, she drove the car to a hilly park where we often played, stopped the car and wept. As she opened her Bible and reflected on the Psalms, she understood the need to trust God alone as the provider of peace, of respite, and of our family’s needs. Then and there, she had a change of mind and heart. She would trust the Lord, even in the difficult times, and even if it meant doing what she did not want to do.
Continue reading “Lambert House”
At Jefferson Elementary School, while I did not necessarily fit in with the kids around me, I did find places where I did fit in. GATE stood for the Gifted and Talented Education program. Students recommended by teachers and administrators were assessed for the program and, if qualified, became participants in a curricula designed to stimulate academic achievement and research-based skills. As I recall, it provided me with a lot of unique learning opportunities. My favorite memory from GATE was when we had a scientist come in to visit who had brought all sorts of samples from her ocean studies. We sat and read a book about ocean creatures and she would bring out physical samples for us to look at and touch to understand what the book was talking about. I was amazed by touching whale baleen and thinking about how much water needed to be filtered out of a huge gulp of the ocean to get at a bunch of tiny krill. Continue reading “Settling In”
Somewhere between the first three to six months of being back in the States, the adventure of moving to a new place and all of the exciting activities that accompany it had drawn to a close. Life began to settle into new patterns and with each day that passed my life began to feel “normal.” Everyone in the family started going to their new schools: elementary for me, a combined middle and high school for my brother and sister and seminary for my parents. The routines of the morning became commonplace again: waking, eating, lunches, backpacks. It was good to be settling into routines again, but that’s not to say it was easy though.
One of the biggest changes was adjusting to living on a missionary budget in the United States, and it meant a lot of belt-tightening including sacrificing the little things. We didn’t buy something we needed unless it was on sale and we got hand me down clothes from friends or from the “missionary barrel” (used clothing from churches). Buying a toy was a special treat on birthdays or as presents from others. Mom clipped coupons and comparison-shopped for supermarket deals. We ate a modest diet of made-from-scratch meals with few snacks, and eating out was a very rare treat, made possible by supporting churches or birthday gifts from family and friends. Continue reading “Third Culture Kid”
May 2, 1986 Chicago – United States
It was the last flight home after our two-week whirlwind 12,600 mile trip home. Mom, as only a Mom would do, had prepared me for my journey back to the United States by warning me of a new danger I needed to be aware of: drugs. “If someone offers you drugs, you need to tell them no and walk away,” she said sternly. But in an act of hypocrisy, before we had even landed, Mom was telling Dad that after landing she needed to visit “the drug store”. My attention was peaked and I began to plead with Mom not to go (in light of all of the horrible drug effects that had been previously described to me). At that point Mom stopped and informed me about the difference between street drugs and prescription drugs. In South Korea, it seems she had always used the word, 약국, “ Yak-kuk”, to refer to a pharmacy and now she was using the American term “drugstore.” This was going to be the first of many things I would need to learn about my home country. Despite the fact that I had been born in America, I had left for South Korea when I was two years old and my home country was all but foreign to me in memory. My parents, siblings, friends and media had taught me about the USA, but this was the first time I was going to experience it for myself. Continue reading “Tourist in Your Home Country”
Most missionaries leave their home country for the mission field for a period of several years (usually four) in what is called a term. At the end of their term, they return to their home country for furlough, a year where they can re-connect with their home culture, churches and family. After their furlough year, some missionaries return to their previous field, while others due to changing politics, needs elsewhere or a myriad of other reasons, are sent to a new field. The number of terms a missionary serves becomes a symbol of their service, much like the stripes on a soldier’s shoulder. But one of the main effects of the term system is that from the moment the missionary arrives on the field, they, as well as the people they serve know when the missionary will return home for their furlough; barring any problems, of course. Continue reading “Globe Trotting Kindergartener”