Since returning from China nearly three weeks ago, much has happened that I hope to recall and share with you in this blog. I will try to hit the highlights and spare you the mundane details. One thing that you know happened during my first week home, if you are a regular reader of my blog, is that I wrote four blog entries recounting my time in China with Pastor DeVries and the other people who traveled with us. Bible college began again on the Monday after our return to Korea, and Pastor DeVries began a study of the doctrine of salvation. One of the key things I learned from his teaching is that many of the verses that we read about salvation are not about justification (salvation by grace through faith from hell), but about sanctification (salvation from the world, the flesh, and the devil in our daily lives as we walk by faith with Jesus as disciples, growing in grace) and glorification. 

Justification is the easy part for us as sinners: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). It's easy because of everything Christ did for us and as us, becoming sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. He did the impossible so that justification is possible for sinners. 

Sanctification is the hard part for us, because it involves taking up our cross daily and following Him. Justification takes place at a moment in time; sanctification is a process that continues until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Fortunately, it is God's work in us that He has promised to complete, and we only have to be available to allow His Holy Spirit to do the work. The hard part is that the old sinner nature takes every chance it gets to war against the Spirit within us, because it hates the cross and everything it stands for, and our taking up the cross daily means death to the old sin nature. 

Sanctification, not justification, is the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14. Justification is "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:12) and "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). The gate is open wide to sinners, and there is a broad way that leads to justification by faith; but there is a narrow gateway, through the cross, that leads us beyond justification into a life of sanctification as Christ's disciples. My flesh wants me to avoid the narrow gate and take the broad way, the "any way but the cross" way that leads to destruction, to carnality, to wood, hay, and stubble, to ashes and vanity, to living as a pauper in the pigsty in the far country instead of living as a beloved son in the Father's house.

I hope you get a sense of how amazing these classes have been for me. I have come to see the wisdom of Pastor Schaller's "Learn it all over again" idea of Bible college.

Besides Bible college, there has been the resumption of the Caffe Tiamo Bible study on Tuesdays, the Yeomyung school Bible class and Viccollo Discipleship class on Thursdays, and the KONIS fellowship time on select Mondays. It was good to see our students and friends once again and to share a bit of what we experienced in China. As the last week of October drew near, we all began to think about Pastor DeVries' upcoming trip to America to attend the GGWO pastors' retreat and to visit his family there. I knew that I was going to be teaching Survey of Doctrine 2 class in the Bible college, but who was going to do everything else? I told myself that I would do whatever I was asked to do by faith, not because I wanted to do anything else or thought myself capable or qualified to do anything else. I simply decided to be available if God wanted to use me, hoping that maybe God would find other people and tell Pastor DeVries which ones.

After writing blogs all week, I decided to get out of the city on Saturday and take some pictures. I boarded a subway train headed for Asin, about an hour away from where I live. I had heard of Asin from a young man who started attending our church named YiSak (Isaac) who works there in a convenience store. I knew he was home sleeping since he works the overnight shift, and I just starting walking around on a sunny autumn day, novel in hand. Here are some of the pictures I took. It was a rather quiet, restful walk along the biking trail that ran along the riverside, under a bridge, and near a military base. 

I had planned since September to visit my college age friend, Seongho, in Busan where he lives and attends university studying chemical engineering. I had spent one day in Busan with him and Tain last summer, and I wanted to go back and see Busan and spend time with Seongho. We worked out a weekend in October when his schedule was less hectic and when the weather would be cooler, and I book a seat on the KTX train from Seoul to Busan a month in advance. The Friday I was to leave, I was rather nervous, because I knew that I would be teaching my first Survey of Doctrine class the following Tuesday, and I still had no idea how to begin teaching about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I packed a sheaf of papers that I had printed filled with information to study, along with some clothes, a toothbrush, and Wilmington's WordView of the Holy Spirit on my Kindle.

I left for Seoul station after morning class in the Bible college, caught the train, and was whisked rapidly southeast to Busan. KTX trains are very fast, and I was at Busan station within two and a half hours (it takes a good part of a day to drive the same distance). Once off the train, I boarded the bus Seongho had said to take and waited to hear the announcement for the BEXCO stop where he planned to meet me. Either the announcement was never made or I never heard it, because an hour later I was the last passenger on the bus as it pulled into the bus terminal. I got off, spoke to Seongho on the phone, and got on a bus leaving the terminal heading back in the direction of BEXCO, the convention and exposition center in Busan. Through constant text messaging, we managed to get me to the place where he had been waiting now for two hours. We were happy to finally see each other and we headed for his family's home, taking, yes, another bus. We arrived at his home and stopped long enough to greet his parents, then headed out the door to eat, since it was now way past our usual dinner time and we were hungry.

We walked to a local Korean barbecue restaurant to eat samgyeopsal, grilled pork belly, which is like thick slabs of bacon that has not been cured or smoked. It is delicious, by the way, and you shouldn't let the words "pork belly" keep you from trying it. Seongho was the grillmaster and he cooked each piece to perfection.

Korean barbecue comes with many side dishes that you can eat alone or in combination with piece of the grilled meat all wrapped up in a leaf of lettuce. Oh, so good! Our meal came with pork skin that had been marinated in soy sauce. I tried this too. Not "Oh, so good" but edible. It's supposed to be good for you too.

After our meal, we went back to the house to collect some things for our trip to the jimjilbang, then caught a bus to go there. When we got off the bus, we could not find the jimjilbang Seongho had chosen anywhere, and nobody we asked could help us, so we got into a taxi and went to another one. 

Okay. I have used the word jimjilbang two - no, three times now - without telling what it is. A jimjilbang is a public sauna/bathhouse. Why were we going there? Because I had never experienced this part of Korean culture before. When Seongho had come to visit me and Tain in Seoul last year, he had stayed overnight with a local friend at a jimjilbang. When he had asked me if I knew what one was, I had replied that I did, but had never been to one. I told him that if I ever did go to visit one, I wanted to go with him and have him show me how it goes, since I knew there was some sort of etiquette to these places.
Well, here I was, living in Korea a year after that conversation, and now it was time to discover what it was like to take a bath in public, so to speak.

Please understand that I am not an exhibitionist by any stretch of the imagination. The closest I have come to being unclothed in public was when I played Jesus dying on the cross in the Easter play. I like fall and winter because I can wear long sleeves and long pants and layers of clothing. But having hung on the cross in little more than a glorified diaper in front of a crowd of people night after night, I was not bothered by the idea of showering and bathing in a public area filled with other males. I figured, "If they can do it, so can I." There are other Korean cultural experiences that do not go along with my convictions, such as drinking alcoholic beverages, often to excess, that I will not engage in while I am here, but getting clean with a bunch of other guys is okay in my book.

[FYI - the following pictures are ones I found on the Internet. I did not take a camera into the jimjilbang. That would have been creepy...]

We entered the building a approached the front desk, like checking into a hotel, paid the 10,000 won fee, and received a numbered key on a curly, elastic bracelet along with a T-shirt and matching pair of shorts. This key was first used to lock up our shoes in a like-numbered locker there in the lobby. 

Next we took an elevator to the fifth floor where we found second lockers with the same number. This locker is where you store all of your clothes and other belongings that you are not bringing with you into the bathing area. Off came the clothes and then we walked to the entrance to the bathing area. Beside the door was a pile of long, rectangular, orange washcloths, not soft dryer fluffed washcloths, but thin, somewhat rough, washcloths. 

Passing through the doorway, we immediately encountered warm, moist air emanating from all of the showers and bathing pools. We went straight to the first stop - the showers. Beside each shower was a dispenser for both bath gel and shampoo. The idea was to thoroughly cleanse oneself before going to bathe in the pools, so we lathered, scrubbed with the washcloths, rinsed, and repeated until we were squeaky clean. After hours of riding trains and buses and sitting over a hot barbecue grill, it was a pleasure to take a warm shower. The used washcloths were tossed into a plastic laundry basket as we headed for the second stop, which was a sunken bathing pool. 

This pool had water that was 42 degrees celsius, and it felt comfortable to sit on the stone tiles up to our necks in the water, feeling some of the tension come our bodies. It was dark outside and we were high up enough that nobody could see us as we looked out over the city at the lights along the coastline below. From the warm pool we went to stop three, the hot pool. This pool not only had hotter water, but some sort of minerals in the water and tiny jet streams of bubbles that were supposed to be good for us. We started with just our feet in the water, sitting on the edge of the pool, because the water was quite hot and we needed to gradually acclimate to the heat. I splashed hot water onto my legs and then went into the water up to my knees, then up to my waist, and then all the way up to my neck as I sat on the bottom. I'm afraid that I felt like a Maine lobster boiling away in a pot, and the water had a similar effect on my skin which began to turn a shade of pink. This was about as hot as I wanted to get, but there were hotter places - wet and dry saunas, that we could have visited, but did not.

After sweating a while in the steamy water, I suggested we move on to the next pool - stop four - which turned out to be cooler by a few degrees. This pool had places to sit in water up to your neck along the edge while jets of water massaged your back and your legs. The jets were rather powerful and I found myself being pushed out of my seat and up to the surface of the water. It was enjoyable and relaxed my muscles. The fifth spot was a rectangular pool that ran the width of the room, and it was filled with cool water, like the water in a lake. This pool had an overhead pipe that gushed water onto your head and shoulders as you stood under it, like standing under a waterfall. Of to one side was another water nozzle that blasted a stream of water horizontally. Both water blasts were invigorating, but I enjoyed simply sitting in the cool water up to my neck, allowing my body temperature to drop to closer to normal, for me anyway. 

After a while there, we returned to visit some of the hot pools before going to a second shower area. This shower area was for sitting showers. We sat on plastic stools in front of mirrors with handheld showers that could be anchored on the wall. The idea here is give yourself another thorough scrubbing now that you've soaked for a while, and to remove all the dead skin that is easier to slough off. Using a fresh orange washcloth, you soap up and exfoliate your skin. Dads give their sons good washings, friends wash each others' backs, and guys bring their razors and toothbrushes to shave their faces and clean their teeth. 

Rough, scrubby, green hand washcloth in this photo. Watch out, dead skin!
Once you are spic and span, you walk to the exit where you take a basin of cool water from a laver of sorts and clean off your legs and feet before stepping out into an area where there are fresh hand towel sized towels for drying yourself. We dried our bodies and then went into the adjacent room. 

This room had counters on three sides where you could dry your hair with a blow dryer and use the lotions and hair gels. The room also contained a snack bar and a large LCD TV tuned in to a sports channel. Guys in various stages of undress sat and stood watching a World Series game while munching on some crispy snacks. 

From this room, it was back to the lockers to put on the matching T-shirt and shorts and then head down a flight of stairs to the fourth floor common room where men and women mingle together. Fathers and sons are reunited with mothers and daughters who had been bathing on the third floor, husbands and boyfriends rejoin wives and girlfriends to sit on the floor and eat jimjilbang snacks together, like rice punch and hard boiled eggs as they watch a family friendly television variety program, read comic books from the comic book library, play card and board games, or just sit and talk. 

Punch and eggs
The jimjilbang provides quilted blankets and brick sized foam pillows covered in pleather (plastic leather) so that people can sleep on the floor. When Seongho and I arrived on the fourth floor, it was already nearly filled with people who had spread out their blankets and claimed their sleeping spots for the night. We managed to secure some floor space and shared an extra-large iced rice punch and saw maybe five minutes of the TV show before it was turned off due to the lateness of the hour. The lights were dimmed and people began to fall asleep. 

Seongho and I talked for about an hour and then slept. We awoke the next morning when the floor manager said we had to get up, around 9 AM. We returned to the fifth floor for another round of bathing, getting our money's worth of this very relaxing experience, before dressing in our street clothes, retrieving our shoes, and turning in our keys. I would definitely visit a jimjilbang again. Maybe I would try some of the other service they have available there. You can pay for a massage, a haircut, or to have a guy scrub you from head to toe to remove every last flake of dead skin and leave you pink and soft as a newborn baby. (The scrubbers are clothed in bathing trunks, by the way.) If you are away from home and need an inexpensive place to stay for a night, a jimjilbang is a great option. It's also a fun place to spend time with family and friends.

From the jimjilbang, we walked in search of a meal and ended up in a marketplace eating bowls of Busan's famous pork soup (dwaeji gukbap).

From the market we headed to the beach and walked along the boardwalk until we came to a place beside the ocean where we met a mermaid...

...crossed a swinging bridge...

...saw some beautiful views that reminded me of the Maine coastline...

...and came to a lighthouse.

We spent quite a while beside the sea resting and talking, breathing in the brisk, sea air before heading back to Seonho's house for a rest.

That night we headed back to the beach area for the tenth annual Busan Fireworks Festival. There were so many people! We ended up standing in the midst of a crowd on a boulevard, looking off to the famous Diamond Bridge, oohing and aahing at the 45 minute long spectacle in the sky. It was the most incredible fireworks show I have ever seen. The evening's theme was Love, and there were songs to illustrate love of family, love of friends, love for the city of Busan, and for each song, there were fireworks to illustrate the lyrics and the mood, perfectly timed. For example, when the lyrics, "All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love, love. Love is all you need," at least three red and pink heart-shaped fireworks exploded in the sky every time the word "love" was sung. It was incredible.

This is a video of some of the fireworks display from YouTube.

We slept at Seongho's house that night. In the morning, he got up to go take an exam at the university and I ate a wonderful breakfast his mother made for me. She spoiled me. I showered and headed to the public library to study the doctrine of the Holy Spirit for a couple of hours, then went back to Seongho's house and went out to lunch with him and his mom. I had cold noodles like the ones you can see here.

After saying goodbye to Seongho's mom, we went to the train station where I was so glad Seongho was with me, because I needed help buying a ticket for the KTX. I hate saying goodbye to him. It always makes me sad. He got me on the train and I rode standing room all the way back to Seoul, sitting and standing on the floor in the area between cars next to a vending machine. My company for most of the trip was a Korean soldier and a young teenage boy who played games on his phone the entire trip. I arrived back in Seoul, went home, and was soon in bed.

This week began with receiving my marching orders from Pastor Steve, which included preaching in the services as well as teaching in the Bible college and at Yeomyung school. Okay, God, I thought, it's time for you to be faithful and true. My first college class I must have been nervous because I talked way too fast for the Korean students to reasonably keep up and for the translator to translate comfortably. Since then, with coaching and prayer, I have gotten better, and I am not nervous. I'm enjoying teaching the classes mornings and evenings, and my message Wednesday night came out okay. I still have two more weeks of this, so I need you all to wear out the knees of your pants praying for me. Tomorrow is, "Help me, Jesus! I need a message for Sunday" day.

I'm calling this entry Nakedness for two reasons.The first reason is obviously due to my time spent in the the jimjilbang. The second reason is because I'm learning more and more that God sees right through me, that He knows my heart, my capacity, my needs, my thoughts, and that I don't need to hide from Him. He knows me and He still loves me and sees me perfect in His Son. There's no need for fig leaves with God. He can be trusted, and I'm learning that, little by little, day by day.


  1. Jimjilbangs are great; you feel like you have a new lease on life when you walk out of one. Really enjoyed your detailed account of the typical jimjilbang experience.

    It was great to have Pastor Steve here Wednesday and enjoy his rich teaching and fellowship.

    So thankful you're there enjoying Korea and walking by faith as the plan unfolds. Praying for your message Sunday and your responsibilities/joys while Pastor Steve is in the States.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Blue Christmas

Before We Call, God Answers

Friends Like Jonathan