Chuseok Week 2014

It is Friday again, so it is time for another update. A lot has happened since last Friday. Where do I begin...? Sunday I was invited to join that day's worship team and sing along whenever the English lyrics were sung. I don't think I had ever sung any of the three songs we sang that day, but I learned how in the hour before the service began and had the advantage of having the words on pieces of paper on a music stand in front of me. I enjoyed humming along when the Korean lyrics were sung, and I opened in prayer as well. I was hoping that my new friend Isaac would be in church so that I could give a Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) gift, but he did not show up. There were a number of people missing and a number of visitors too, just like during Thanksgiving season in America, because people travel to be with family. 

I don't think I have mentioned Isaac before. Isaac is a young man not long out of high school who recently began attending our church. He stands out in a crowd because he has his hair colored blond. I wish I had a picture of him to show to you. I got to know a little about him from attending the young people's fellowship after the morning service. He travels an hour both ways to come to church, which is amazing for a guy his age to do, since I don't think he knew more than one person in the church before he came and he comes to church after working an eleven hour night shift at a convenience store. His prayer request one Sunday was for time to do something beyond working and sleeping. We prayed that he would get a job with better pay and better hours, hoping God would bless Him. The last Sunday he was in church, I spoke to him about his job and he began to converse with me, telling me he is working so much so that he can afford to travel overseas before he enters the military next May to complete his mandatory service requirement. I asked him where he would like to go and he mentioned Canada (he has a friend living there), America (it's one of THE places to go in the world), and English. He said he wanted to go to English. I assumed he did not mean the class, so I asked him where English is, and he replied, "Where Sherlock is." 

I don't know if any of you have seen the modern twist that the BBC has put on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, but the series is very popular even in non-English speaking countries. My friend Seongho loves Sherlock (as do I), and it turns out that Isaac is a big fan too. 

When I asked Isaac if he meant England, he smiled and said he did. It turns out that he has seen every episode at least five or six times while minding the convenience store at night. When I asked him if he knew that Sherlock Holmes has existed as a character in books for about one hundred years, he was surprised. I told him there are many, many Sherlock Holmes stories, and he looked happy to hear that. He asked me if he could meet on Sundays after church to speak English with me, since all the countries he hopes to visit are English speaking ones, and I said that since English is easy for me, I would be glad to talk with him. The Chuseok gift I have for him is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories in Korean. If he can stay awake long enough during his work shift, he can read instead of watching reruns.

The next day, I was up early, bag packed, and out the door to the subway station to board a train bound for Yongsan station where I would catch a speedy KTX train to Daejeon. I arrived at Yongsan early enough to figure out which track my train would leave from and to buy a Dunkin donut for breakfast. The KTX train was quiet and ran smoothly through the countryside. I read a book on my Kindle and dozed for a few minutes. Soon enough I was at Seodaejeon station and meeting up with my friend Minmok. It was a beautiful day and as we walked to his mother's apartment, he pointed out the greenhouse florist that he frequents to buy his girlfriend flowers. I joked that they must know him fairly well, and he said they did. At his mother's house, I was warmly greeted in Korean, and we drank water, since the day had turned warm and we were thirsty after our walk. Not long after I had sat down, Minmok's brother and sister-in-law arrived from Seoul. The family resemblances were obvious in the brothers and their mother. Food began appearing on the table, and before I knew it, dinner was being served.

There was a seafood stew filled with shrimp and meaty chunks of fish, cooked whole fish, yummy japchae, an apple salad, a leafy green salad, a plate filled with special Chuseok delicacies made from various meats, kimchi, rice, and more that I am not remembering at the moment. As the guest of honor, I was served a portion of the stew with many shrimp and a high hunk of fish in it. I gamely ate the shrimp, but I told Minmok he could eat the fish, since I have a hard time eating fish without gagging.I was enjoying the company around the table when Minmok's grandmother came through the door. We all stood to greet her and she reminded me so much of my Grammy Manzo, all wrinkled and cute, so I told her so, with a little translation help from Minmok, and she smiled. She went to watch TV as we ate and soon was serenely snoozing on the sofa.

When dinner ended, Minmok showed me how to play yut nori, a game played with four sticks that are tossed. 

Depending on how they fall, one can move his board pieces around the board in an attempt to get all four of his pieces home before his opponent does. The game is a little like parcheesi, only with a twist and a bit more strategy. I had a decent grasp of the rules, but not all of them and not all of the strategy. For a game board, Minmok took down a large wall calendar and drew one on the back side of a page. After picking out some movies to watch (Minmok is a movie buff), we settled down to view, of all things, Frozen, which I had never seen. Minmok's mother and sister-in-law brought out a bowl of rice cake dough and some delicious-smelling sesame mixed with honey filling and began to make some sweet dumplings (songpyeon). She showed me and MInmok how to make them, so we helped. These are steamed over water mixed with pine needles. Ours turned out to look like the lavender ones below.

An aunt and a cousin arrived for a visit, and then another aunt, uncle, and cousin arrived and the yut nori game began, guys against girls in teams. The guys won the first two out of three games, but the next two out of three were won by the ladies when ice cream was on the line. Minmok went out and returned with ice cream treats for all, and then he and I went out for a walk through Daejeon.

Minmok is one of the most thoughtful people that I know, meaning that he thinks of others and he is someone who thinks about things. When we are together, we talk about things that he has given some thought to. We talked about my life in Korea, his dream to own a hakwon, and a little about why I believe in God. He's going to finish his police officer training and give police work a try even though he's not certain he's cut out for that kind of work. We got back to his mom's house and she fed us again and then I showered. He showed me a book of photos his girlfriend had made for him, and then we went to sleep since I had to be up before 6 AM to catch a bus to the train station. Early the next day, he saw me off at the bus stop. I ask everyone to pray for Minmok's health (he has a bulging disc in his back) and his future. He would like to travel, perhaps with Tain and I to Thailand, and I am hoping that he will come to know God and God's love for him in a personal way.

I arrived in Seoul and took a subway train to a stop near the royal palace where I had heard of a bookstore that publishes and sells English language books about Korea and by Koreans. With the help of some friendly guides who gave me a map, I located the store, but it was closed for the holidays. I was glad to have found it and planned to return later in the week. Back in Uijeongbu, I fell asleep on the couch and chilled for the rest of the day.

Wednesday was a special Survey of Doctrine class and potluck lunch for the combined morning and evening classes, since everyone still had the day off for Chuseok. It was another incredible class on the nature of man according to the Bible - Anthropology. Every class is further illumination of the greatness of our God and His great plan and purpose. There is never a day that goes by that we are not in awe of our Lord. Lunch was a delightful mix of foods, as you can see.

Yes, those are cut up Dunkin donuts on the right, and , no, they were not my contribution. That evening, I helped the Wednesday worship team lead songs. Pastor Steve spoke his second message in a series about judgments in the Bible. This one was about the judgment of Jesus on the cross for our sins so that we will never have to face that penalty. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Thursday was a return to Yeomyung School and our thirteen precious students, some of whom were a bit drowsy after five days off from classes. However, once the teaching gained some momentum, the students were engaged, answering and asking questions. I know none of their names, but I'm starting to look forward to seeing certain ones who have begun to distinguish themselves. There's the young man and woman who always show up first. They begin reviewing their notes before class starts and sometimes, like this week, have a question. He always has a smile on his face. Another memorable student is the class skeptic, a sort of "bad boy" who asks the challenging, yet honest questions that Pastor DeVries loves. This week he asked why God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Another guy is the studious boy who likes to get the right answers. Next to him this week is the wise guy whose answer to the question, "What would it be like if Adam and Eve did not eat of the Tree?" was "We would all still be naked." There is also the guy with the colored, floppy hair who tries to doze off in class, and the girl who is always late but very focused. I plan to ask if it would be possible for me to spend some time sitting in on some of the English teacher's classes some Thursday. We only have 45 minutes with these students once a week, and I'd love to have more time learning about them and this school. Pray for God's will in this.

After class, I headed back via subway to the English language bookstore. I took a picture of the entrance:

Hank's Book Cafe carries the books published by Seoul Selection publishers. Hank is the English name of the Korean guy who started the company. I came here to find one particular book titled Ask A Korean Dude which is a compilation of columns written by Hank himself in the company's Seoul magazine, which is an English language magazine filled with beautiful photos, interesting articles, maps, and news of upcoming events. One can subscribe to a digital version for about $1 a month if one buys an annual subscription. In the little book cafe, I found the book I wanted in the damaged goods section for 50% off! It did not look damaged to me, but I snapped up a copy anyway along with another book about a boy who escapes from North Korea called Across the Tumen also for 50% off. The sweet sales girl showed me another section where there were FREE books, so I took some of them too. he one book I read while I was there just begged to be read. It was a children's picture book called Holding Poop at Night. I chuckled all the way through it and I plan to go back and purchase a copy for someone. Is it you???

Leaving the bookstore, I decided to try finding my way back to Myeongdong area where the school and Viccollo Caffe, the location of the discipleship class, are located. I knew it was south of me, so I headed in that direction. Not long into my journey, I realized that I really needed to use a bathroom. Fortunately for me, Seoul has signs showing locations of restrooms out where they can easily be seen like this one:

The restroom was clean and this time, the toilet paper was conveniently located in the stall. After this pitstop, I came out to find a small parade coming down the street:

I have no idea what is what about and I didn't follow since it was lunchtime and I wanted to find my way to a restaurant in Myeongdong. My inner GPS led me to familiar territory, and I was wandering through Myeongdong trying to decide where to eat in no time. (I ate pork cutlet at Han's deli.)

In discipleship class, we reviewed 2 Peter 1:5-7 and discovered even more in these verses for us as disciples walking by faith. Our touchstone verse in this class is 1 Corinthians 8:2, and we discover every week how much we do not know as we ought to know, and the Holy Spirit is faithful to teach us. 

Thursday night was the fulfillment of a dream night. Dawn Doorenbos had gone to Costco on Wednesday and bought sour cream, tortillas, and a bag of shredded Mexican cheeses for me, so William and I ate quesadillas for supper. Will contributed some Tostitos salsa he had bought on a visit to a U.S. army base, so, as God said in Genesis 1:31, "it was very good."

Today was the beginning of our study of the doctrine of sin - hamartiology. We are such sinners that God needs at least eight Hebrew words to describe it all! Fortunately, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more, and we will be learning that in soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. After today's class, I spent time editing PowerPoint worship song slides, fixing any English errors. It was like sitting in the back of the chapel in Baltimore doing the same thing all over again. I enjoyed myself. And I got a haircut, since I was looking shaggy again.

Tonight, William and I ate Kyochon's honey series fried chicken. ( It came with that little can of Coke.

Korean fried chicken is awesome. I probably said that in another blog, but it bears repeating. I want to try some of their other flavors sometime. The weather is getting cooler here and I am loving it, but William is already wearing a sweater here in the house. I still have the fan on. I guess that's the difference between a boy raised in Maine and a boy raised in Thailand.

This Sunday, the young people, including William, will lead singing. I have been helping them a little to prepare. I think the Body of Christ here will be blessed by their joy as they praise. Pray that Isaac is not too exhausted to come to church. Pray for Tain who will be traveling on Monday from Thailand to Korea. We have missed him. Pray for my trip to China at the end of the month.  Also, the fall approaches, I am looking to traveling south to visit Pastor Scott Robinson and his church and visiting my friend Seongho in Busan after he finishes his midterms. Pray for safe travel and for God to use me as He sees fit.

Okay. Time to wrap this one up. God bless you, all. ~ Dan


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