Globe Trotting Kindergartener

Globe Trotting Kindergartener

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”

{South Korea} Safety & Security

{South Korea} Safety & Security

One of the greatest things about North America is the relative safety and security you feel in everyday life.  Stepping off the jet bridge from the plane and into the airport, the feeling of relief is palpable.  Looking around, everyone is going about their business without the least concern that anything bad could happen to them.  In the United States most of us readily have services like the police, fire department and advanced medical care available within several minutes notice.  Most of us live without fear of being kidnapped or attacked by another nation.  And even with the various attacks over the past fifteen years in America, I have not once talked to a person living in fear or changing their plans due to a security concern.  But choosing to live overseas often means giving up any assurances of your safety and security.   Continue reading “{South Korea} Safety & Security”

{South Korea} Food

{South Korea} Food

In South Korea, the question of what constitutes food was vastly different from the American diet that I was familiar with.  Through centuries of hardship, isolation, occupation and famine, the general rule was that if it was already edible, could be made edible or could be preserved in any manner to be edible later, it was food.  With great creativity, the Koreans developed methods to use the entirety of any animal or plant as well as unique methods of preserving and cooking to prepare their food.  The variety of their foods, as I recall, rivaled even that of the Scandinavians–any food item from seafood to vegetables could be eaten raw, cooked, pickled, fermented, dried or even rotten.  As such, the flavors of Korea were bolder, aroma was more pronounced, textures varied and meals were more balanced: spice with sweet, sweet with sour, sour with bitter and bitter with salty. Continue reading “{South Korea} Food”

{South Korea} The Second House

{South Korea} The Second House

Up the road and clearly visible through the window of our first house was a mountain often covered in the rolling mist indicative of most Korean mountains.  Ahn mountain, was a constant backdrop of our childhood experiences in South Korea, where at its base we lived in two different homes as well as attended two different schools; Seoul Foreign School and Yonsei University.  The mountain, located at the northern reaches of Seoul at the time of the Korean War, played host to continuous battles from both sides.  Soldiers from Communist China, Russia and the ethnic Chinese Koreans that made up the Korean People’s Army (KPA) would push south, and take portions of the mountain while South Koreans and its allies, from 21 other nations including the US and Australia would push north to retake the mountain.  Heros were made and many died during the attacks, adding to the thick history and mystique of the area.  Continue reading “{South Korea} The Second House”

{South Korea} Memories of Church

{South Korea} Memories of Church

1982-1986 Seoul, Korea

During our time in South Korea my parents attended, spoke and taught at many different churches. Within the first week or so of arriving we were invited to a rural church situated next to a stream. Since the service had already begun, our family slipped in quietly and sat in a pew at the back next to the door. We listened while the congregation sang, recognizing several of the hymns, and then the pastor rang a little bell on the podium. Apparently, that was the signal for the beginning of the prayer time. Unexpectedly, everyone in the congregation began to shout in a universal discord “Yea-su, Yea-su, Yea-su!” My siblings and I, afraid of what terror would cause an entire congregation to burst out shouting, bolted through the doors and outside! Our parents quickly followed and tried to calm us down. It took awhile for them to assure us that this was “normal; that it was just a different way of praying” and that nothing bad was happening. When the praying stopped, we finally went back into the church, comforted to see that the congregation had returned to normal. While this was the pattern in all the South Korean churches we visited, it was a definite “we are not in Kansas anymore” (or Oklahoma in our case) moments.  Over the next several months, I became accustomed to the “new normal,” but I’ve always had sensitive ears and would often put my hands over my ears in anticipation of prayer time. Continue reading “{South Korea} Memories of Church”

{South Korea} Finding God in Rough Places

{South Korea} Finding God in Rough Places

November 15, 1983   Seoul, South Korea

Boiling water. It is such a mesmerizing thing…. watching a myriad of tiny bubbles form out of nothing from the bottom of the pan, billowing up through the water column with dozens of its friends and bursting forth with a puff of steam in its dying moment. It is one of the many reasons that since as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to watching things happen the kitchen. I would love to watch Mom cut with a knife, mix bread with her doughy hands, and cook things in steaming pots. It was a full sensory experience punctuated by the skill of a talented cook. The sound of a knife bearing down through a crisp carrot; the vivid palate of onions, leafy vegetables, eggplant, carrots, squash and potatoes diced and splayed for the pan; the lifting aroma of garlic, onion and grated ginger sautéing in a roasted sesame seed oil.  And the taste… the taste! There are few human pleasures quite as desirable as an excellent meal.

So one fateful evening, Mom had started to cook dinner after a busy day in language school and left for a moment to go check on something elsewhere in the house.  I knew that I was not allowed to be next to the stove, especially unattended, but my desire to see the cooking in action was greater than my three-year-old will to follow the rules.  I fetched a three legged stool, pushed it over to the stove and carefully climbed up to the top of the stool where took my usual Korean position of squatting.  As I was squatting there, watching the boiling action in the pan before me, I heard Mom’s voice call out from behind.  “Joel David!”  Quickly, and without thought, I tried to hop off the stool. Unfortunately, this was a three legged stool, and as I jumped, the stool simply fell out from under me.  I found myself in free fall, and in an instant, one of my arms caught the pot handle slightly sticking out over the edge of the stove.  A split second later, I landed chest first on the kitchen floor with the boiling contents of water and macaroni spilling onto my back. “DAVID!” Mom called out with one of those other-than-human sounds that imprint the emotion of the moment into your memory. Dad rushed in and took note of what happened.  In one fell swoop he picked me up and charged to the bathroom, turning on the shower and plugging the bathtub to fill with cold water.  The boiling water had soaked into my shirt and pants, and Dad quickly removed my shirt as the cold water poured down on top of me.  I protested my father’s actions! First I was burned and now I was going to be thrown into a freezing cold bath, and I didn’t see the point of needing an ice bath at this moment in time at all.  I remember hitting the water and taking the short stuttered breaths that accompany a dive into cold water.  I struggled to escape, but Dad was unrelenting.  He pushed and held me down into the water even as the spigot flowed more cold water into the tub.  Then suddenly, in a mixture of boiling, freezing and pain, I passed out.  We would find out later, that Dad’s act was instrumental in saving my life, the first of several circumstances God would use to save me. Continue reading “{South Korea} Finding God in Rough Places”

{South Korea} Our Ministry

{South Korea} Our Ministry

1982-1986  Seoul, South Korea

If anyone had asked the four-year-old me why we moved to South Korea, I would have simply responded, “My parents are missionaries – and missionaries live overseas.”  I gave little thought to why we moved there, and even what my parents did there.  Apart from the fact that they learned the language and worked with pastors, even into my youth I never inquired as to our purpose there; at least until recently.  My parents, however, thought about it a lot.  In the 1980’s, the South Korean church was already mature, with red crosses glowing atop steeples throughout all of the major cities; and Seoul was full of churches, including the largest church in the world on Yoido Island.  Christian schools, seminaries and ministries were also in full swing.  Mom and Dad were not needed as church planters, that was for sure.  Rather, the Korean denomination that contacted us wanted partners in faith and mission; people who could link their Korean congregations with the C&MA and further their missionary vision.  A type of ambassador of missions, if you will.  Continue reading “{South Korea} Our Ministry”