{South Korea} Language & Gender

{South Korea} Language & Gender

Seoul, South Korea 1982

One of the most difficult things for a Westerner moving to Korea was learning the language.  Most of the world’s major languages use a Cyrillic alphabet (or variant), but Korean uses a semanto-phonetic compound. Each hangul stroke or letter describes a syllable or one sound. The strokes or letters are grouped into blocks to form words. These blocks are then arranged horizontally from left to right or vertically from top to bottom as writing. Commissioned by King Sejong and completed in 1443, this orthography made reading and writing Korean possible for the illiterate masses—previously one would have had to learn Chinese and many of its characters to be literate. The difficulty of Korean is compounded by vocabulary and endings that reflect differences in age, status, rank, profession, and relationship between two speakers as well as four levels of speech ranging from polite formal to intimate. Mom and Dad were also taught the rudiments of a fifth level of speech, reserved for God and the king—a form they used especially in prayer.   Continue reading “{South Korea} Language & Gender”

Arriving in South Korea

Arriving in South Korea

April 16, 1982

My Mom recalled “it was early March as we circled Kimpo Airport and prepared to land.  Looking down on the bleak grey landscape we could see sandbag emplacements and barbed wire fences surrounding the airport below.  We were warned not to take photos.  Disembarking, weary and worn, we were met by our Canadian field directors, and a contingent of pastors and leaders from the seminary and churches we were meant to serve.  You did not remember this but there were bows all around.  The house had been kindly prepared and decorated for our arrival; balloons hung on the door and the heating was on.  Mixed packages of what we decided were dried soup were in the larder and milk and eggs were in the fridge.  We brought some dried soy milk with us for you, like bringing coals to Newcastle.  You quickly swarmed the house with your siblings, opening and closing the rice paper doors, running up and down the stairs to the basement and lying on the soft yos and quilts on your bedroom floor.  As I remember, the pastors had lovingly contributed a few toys, as well.  For many of them even cheaply made toys would have been a luxury.  Even coming out of winter and with the ondol floors the house was cold.  We bundled up as well as we could and tried to adjust to the jet lag.”  Continue reading “Arriving in South Korea”

Midwest

Midwest

After completing his four-year tour in the Navy, Dad flew his young family from Honolulu to Dallas.  He took up a job as a security guard that provided a meager income while he attended studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).  My parents and my brother lived in a rather run-down apartment complex that was undergoing renovation.  The buildings were two stories tall and shaped into a horseshoe surrounding a grassy courtyard.  Four large trees provided shade during the hot, humid Texas summers and my brother would go out and play among them in what he called “the forest.”  A group of gypsies were squatting in several of the apartments across the courtyard of the complex.  The manager, who was also a student at DTS and a former bar bouncer, asked my parents to pray while he confronted them and asked them to vacate.  When it came time, my parents watched and prayed from the porch as the manager knocked on the door.  The leader of the group, a wizened older man appeared. He scowled at the manager’s request to leave and it looked for a moment as if a fight might break out.  But suddenly, the old man’s visage changed; he shook his head and agreed to go.  My parents watched in amazement as the group began to pile bags, chickens and even a rocking chair into their cars.  Only later did my parents discover the cause of their hasty departure.  A Mexican mariachi player living above their apartment had overheard their conversation with the manager, and decided to help. Leaning against the balcony, his rifle pointed in the direction of the confrontation, he assured the gypsy that it was time to move on.  Mom said “God, it seems, works in many ways.”   Continue reading “Midwest”

A Calling to Missions

A Calling to Missions

 

“Many missionaries will talk about a “call” to missions and ministry.   This is, as they describe it, the firm conviction that God would have them serve Him, first, and second, a willingness to go where He sends them.” -Mom

Dad’s position aboard the submarine was to be the Supply Officer.  It was his responsibility to keep track of all the inventory aboard ship from food for the kitchen to spare parts for the engine.  He would compile the information and determine the nature and quantity of items that needed to be stocked aboard ship before heading out to sea.  “You never wanted to run out of toilet paper,” he would joke.  It would seem that going into the Navy would be one of the least likely options for growing one’s faith, but God has His ways.  Dad had originally requested the Mediterranean as his place of service, but when his assignment was announced, it was to be aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Pogy, stationed out of Honolulu, Hawaii.  Dad was amazed; his father had served aboard the Pogy’s diesel counterpart in WWII.  It was not only an unexpected link with a father he loved and admired but a continuing connection with the Asian culture he had learned to enjoy at UCLA.

After flying half way across the Pacific Ocean, Mom and Dad landed in Honolulu.  Settling into a motel while they awaited housing, Mom and Dad became familiar with the base and the local mall before attending a welcome aboard dinner given by the ships’ officers.  It was there that the next step unfolded in their call to ministry—an unexpected opportunity.  Dad was seated next to the executive officer’s wife, a self-described atheist.  When the subject of religion was broached, Dad suggested that “we simply do not have enough information to determine there is no God. The most someone could be was an agnostic”, he said.  The conversation was low key and the topic was easily dropped for less controversial themes but his thoughtfulness had its effect.  The following day, when he reported for duty aboard the submarine, Dad was surprised to discover that in addition to his duties as Supply Officer, he had also been appointed the Protestant Lay Leader.  Unlike other ships that carry one or more full time chaplains, submarines carry only essential crew.  On submarines, two of the existing crew members would be assigned collateral duties as non-ordained clergy, or lay pastors – one Protestant and one Catholic.  Despite little formal training for this position, they were expected to take on the role of clergy aboard ship – from sermons to counseling.  Dad accepted this assignment and delved into the study of scripture and reading books about the Christian faith.  Working alongside the Catholic lay leader, he and other spiritually-keen men aboard ship held Sunday and midweek services, retiring to pray in the quiet space next to the diesel generator.  Seeking guidance from chaplains on larger ships whenever they were in port, Dad steadily grew in knowledge and faith, and the change was evident to those around him. Continue reading “A Calling to Missions”

Parents

Parents

It goes without saying that a child with a divergent life only does so on account of having divergent parents.  Adventure, it seems was always part of their blood line.  My mother was born to a second-generation German immigrant and the daughter of a Texas pioneer.  Her father, who spoke Pennsylvanian German in the home, ran a modest variety store where my Mom and her siblings worked growing up.  I can only recall a few stories she told of her childhood; it was normally something she didn’t talk about.  What I do know is that she did very well academically.  During high school she was selected for an education exchange program and began her world travels at the age of sixteen by studying for a term in northern Germany.  She stayed with a German host family, went to a German public school and toured parts of the country on bicycle.  This experience whetted her appetite to know even more about world cultures and languages.  Returning home to the United States, Mom graduated from high school and dreamed of going to college, knowing that she could not afford to.  However, her family attended church regularly and her mother believed in the power of prayer, so they started praying.  God’s answer came in the form of a letter from the University of California waiting for her one day after school.  She ecstatically opened the letter and read that she had been accepted into the University and granted a large scholarship.  This was a dream come true, but it was also confusing for she had never applied to that campus before.  Still, the opportunity was too good to pass up.  She drove from her Southern California home up to the admissions office and presented the letter she had received to the clerk.  “I am here to accept my scholarship,” she stated.  The clerk asked her to wait for a moment while she went to get her file.  A short time later the clerk returned confused and stated: “I’m sorry, it appears that we do not have your application.”  Responding quickly, my mother replied, “if you have one available I could fill it out now.”  She was handed the application, sat down in the lobby, and filled it out then and there.  The clerk accepted her application and an admissions packet arrived in the mail several weeks later.   Come the Fall, my mother began attending the University of California Santa Barbra, knowing full well the miracle that God had provided her.

With a love of linguistics, Mom chose to major in English and did very well in her studies.  Her senior year, she had the honor to be elected the Mortar Board president.  The Mortar Board was an all female honor society whose purpose was to recognize outstanding students “dedicated to the values of scholarship, leadership and service.”  She was excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the year ahead.  Soon after, however, she was stopped in a hallway by a man she did not know who suggested she apply for the University of California (UC) education abroad program.  She had not thought about this opportunity before.  Mom asked the Lord to guide her; should she spend a year studying abroad or serve the University through Mortar Board?  It was a difficult choice, but her love of cross cultural experiences led her to apply for the education abroad program and she was accepted a short time later.  That fall, she attended St. Andrews University in Scotland.  My mother has a great many memories of her time in Scotland.  I remember her telling us stories about her British and international friends, her studies in Anglo-Saxon language and literature and of the blackout curtains they used to sleep through the long daylight hours of late summer.  Despite coming from a humble family, without resources, her hard work, God’s providence, and her interest in traveling had already taken her to Europe, twice. Continue reading “Parents”