How God Got Me to Go
Perhaps by now you have heard the news that next September I will be in South Korea and not here in Baltimore serving as the principal of GGCA. Perhaps you are hearing about this now for the first time. In either case, I am writing today to describe what brought about this change in my life. It is an long, odd story, but I think it shows how God works all things together for the good.
I have a good Thai friend named Tain Palanun who taught high school math alongside me for several years at GGCA. When he left the country, he bounced around Asia teaching school in Japan, attending university in China, and then teaching school in Korea. Everywhere he went, he told me to come and visit him, but I never did until last summer when I took my two-week vacation in South Korea. What made me decide to finally go visit him after seven years of putting him off?
A few years ago, I had a subscription to Netflix, because I didn't (and still don't) like to watch commercial television shows. I watched all of the Christian movies I could find plus a lot of Bollywood and other foreign films that were recommended to me by friends. One of the features of Netflix at the time was that it would recommend other things to watch based upon your viewing choices. Netflix began recommending a couple of Korean television series. I ignored these recommendations for months, but then decided I would give one a try - one episode. It was a show set in a Korean high school, so I decided that it might be an interesting cultural experience for me to view seeing that I am an educator. What I discovered was a culture very different from mine, yet with similarities since all of humanity faces the same struggles and has the same needs. I watched the entire show and watched another and another, because I found the culture so fascinating and the scenery beautiful. This helped make me want to go to Korea and meet the people, eat the food, and see the country.
It was only supposed to be a vacation, but once God got me to Korea, my visit turned into something more than a sight-seeing tour. Those of you who know me are aware that I am socially reserved, that I do not go out of my way to speak to people I don't know, and as much as I tried to maintain my usual reserve, I found myself being drawn to people, Korean people, and finding them in my thoughts and prayers, because God had made a place for them in my heart. This was a surprising discovery that I attempted to dismiss as an emotional experience which would soon pass once I returned home and resumed my work and church life. I blocked the thought that God could be calling me to come to Korea and squashed the sad feelings that leaving Korea gave me when I slipped and entertained that thought. When Pastor DeVries brought me to the bus stop and I had to bid him and one of my new Korean friends goodbye, the pent up sadness broke and I cried. At the airport, I looked at the planes and thought that one day one of them would be bringing me back to this airport for some reason.
When I came home, I found myself looking up at the sky at the vapor trails left behind by the high altitude aircraft and thinking that I belonged on one of them headed for Korea. I reactivated my Facebook account to keep in touch with my new Korean friends. I began to pray for God to take these thoughts and desires if they were not from Him. The thoughts and desires remained, so I got my godly parents involved praying and spoke to Pastor Schaller and Pastor Lange and then Pastor DeVries. I signed up for an online course to learn how to teach English to speakers of other languages just in case God was serious about sending me to Korea and He would want me to work there. I thought that if I hated the class, it would be God's way of saying the Korea idea was a no-go. I enjoyed the course and my certificate just arrived while I wrote that last sentence. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, I spoke with my parents about this burden on my heart, and a couple of weeks into January, I came to the conclusion, after lots of prayer and listening for God's voice every time I heard the Word of God being spoken, that God truly is calling me to step down from my position as principal at GGCA to serve God and the Body of Christ in South Korea.
Once the decision was made, a great sense of relief filled me and it felt as though a great burden was lifted off my shoulders. Since then, a new weight has been placed on me, all the things that have to be done for me to gracefully exit my position in the school and all the hoops that must be jumped through to get myself from living here to living there. I will need a visa. I will need to sell my home. I will need to put my stuff in storage. I will need to deal with my junky, but reliable car. And I will need to say goodbye to my teachers, my students, my friends, and my family - and the lines between all those categories can be pretty blurry. I think that sometime in July or August I will be boarding a jet with a couple of large suitcases and soaring overseas to the place God has prepared for me. In the meantime, there are still five months of school to complete decently and in order. I'll keep you posted on the progress of this process.
Isn't it funny how God makes ways individually tailored to us to bring us around to recognizing His plan? Who would have thought that my friendship with a Thai friend and watching a Korean television program, combined with all the messages I have heard on missions and all the work of God in my life in the 32 years since I graduated from Bible college, would bring me to this point in my life. God has to be very creative with me, since He knows I am not a risk taker. I love His gentleness. God is truly a gentleman.