Cheers!

I have a few things on my mind that I want to put into words before I forget them. These will be disjointed thoughts, but maybe some sort of overall theme will emerge by the time I finish writing.

The other day at the top of Bonghwasan a.k.a. The Mountain in my household, I saw a man in his hospital pajamas strolling along, cane in hand, with his friend. A hospital patient had climbed the mountain in his pj's and it was threatening to rain at any moment. To all my American friends in the healthcare professions, what would happen if a patient got out of his bed, left the hospital, and climbed a small mountain and then got caught in the rain? Wouldn't there be hell to pay by someone? This man was not a mental patient who lost his mind and wandered away. I thought I was beginning to get used to seeing hospital patients outside in their jammies, smoking a cigarette, chatting with a friend, taking a walk down the sidewalk, like this guy,


but when I saw this man at the top of the mountain that I had hiked up, and to see him relaxed and cool while I was hot and sweaty, threw me for a loop. "I've got to tell people about this," I thought to myself. 

On the way up the mountain, I passed an older woman wearing a Nacho Libre shirt. I wanted to stop and ask her, "Have you ever seen that movie? Are you a fan? Did you think it was funny?" She did not look like a Jack Black fan at all, so it struck me as funny and stuck in my mind until now.

Before I climbed the mountain, I had a memorable though brief conversation with a Korean of 6 or so years of age. He was straddling his bicycle at a crosswalk. I stood at the crosswalk too, waiting for a break in traffic. I think he was waiting for his mother to catch up with him. I looked at him and smiled and he did not look away in shyness or embarrassment as other Korean children do to me, so I said, "Hello." He replied, "Hello," which many young Korean can do, but then he smiled and said, "I know how to speak English," without any hint of a Korean accent. My eyes grew large and a grin spread across my face and I gave him a thumbs up as I said, "Wow! You speak English very well!" He beamed. I wanted to stay and talk more, but I saw his mother coming and I didn't know how she would feel about an adult American man carrying on a conversation with her son, so I crossed the street. When I reached the other side, I turned and looked back and saw him smiling at me and he said something I could not hear as he gave me a thumbs up. My heart wanted to sing, and I couldn't help but attack the steep steps leading up the mountain with energy sourced in joy.

That same afternoon, I found my local public library with help from my friend Seongho living at the other end of the peninsula. I mentioned that I'd like to visit a library and he found the nearest one to the apartment complex within a minute or so. I went there from the subway after the Caffe Tiamo Bible study class on Tuesday. I walked in wondering if the library was a place I should be, because people kept looking at me with "I wonder what he is doing here? Is he lost?" expressions on their faces. I scoped out all three floors of the building, found the books written in English on one floor and then the magazines and newspapers in English on another floor. I decided to catch up on world news and began reading TIME magazine. I was so absorbed in my reading that I did not notice that all the other library patrons have left until a librarian politely informed me that the library was closing. I was more amused than embarrassed by my behavior and amazed at the quietness of the Koreans who seemed to have evaporated soundlessly from the periodical section while I read.

The day before my library visit, I decided to walk through my neighborhood and see what was nearby. I always take the same route from home to the subway and back again, so I decided it was time to venture into unknown territory. I discovered a restaurant called Cheers and immediately the theme song to that TV show came to mind and I laughed because certainly nobody would know my name at this Cheers. 


I found all sorts of restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops, cell phone stores, convenience stores, beauty shops, martial arts schools, a butcher shop, a shoe washing shop, a clothing store, a PC bang (a place to pay to use a computer, usually filled with young guys playing video games) and some doctor and dentist offices, all within a very short distance from where I live. I am astonished at the ready access to food here in Korea. There are restaurants and sidewalk food stalls everywhere, along with people selling fruits, vegetables, and seafood out of the backs of trucks or spread out on a mat on the sidewalk or in the subway. And Korea gives new meaning to the word convenience store, because it seems there's one or two on every block and in every subway station - super convenient.

Okay. I got a bunch of stuff off my mind, and now I can perhaps say something to make sense of it all. Korea is different from America. There are things that seem unusual or amusing to me, like an old gent parading around in his nightclothes on top of a mountain when I think he ought to be resting in his hospital bed; but there are many things that are familiar and wonderful, like the smile of a child who is happy that he has been recognized for doing something well. As the song from Cheers says, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You want to be where you can see that troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name." For me, that's not going to be a library, a subway car, or my local 7-11. That place is going to be my local church, Grace Mission Church of Seoul, South Korea. 

Me and Samuel with his father Petros, his sister Hannah, and mother Sujin.

I must find my place in the body of Christ here, the place He promised to prepare for me. It is taking some time, but I have time; I have peace in my daily life and joy in moments that can sometimes be sublime. I have love around me, even when I am riding the subway in the midst of people who don't know me from Adam, because I am being carried, sheltered in the arms of God, covered by the prayers of His people. God has given me a great gift - to be a Bible college student again, like an international student who goes to school and gets to go to Bible studies and attend raps and be saturated in the Word of God. It is an amazing blessing that I hope never to take for granted.

Pray for my schedule and for God's plan for me and if it includes me going to school here to learn Korean. It would have to be in His perfect timing and for His divine purpose. I hope this post was informative and edifying for you.

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