Food for Thought or Thinking of Food? You Decide.

Today was the BIG college entrance exam day here in Korea, when third year high school students, a.k.a. "seniors," take one of the most important tests of their lives, the test they have been studying for all year. This test generates a lot of media activity, which I witnessed this afternoon when I passed a high school around 4 PM on my way to the Anguk subway station. Reporters from television stations were on the scene doing remote reports on the students exiting the school gates after their hours of testing, some of them being greeted by parents and significant others bearing flowers and other gifts. I have been told that the country goes out of its way to accommodate the test takers, having workers come in later so that test takers have no problems traveling to the test sites and even re-routing flights so that the sounds of the aircraft engines do not disturb the students. 

Middle and high school (grades 7-9 and 10-12) are pretty serious in Korea. Students are expected to study, study some more, and study even more after that. I don't claim to be an authority on the Korean education system, so don't take my words as the gospel truth, but from what I've heard, schooling after sixth grade is all about getting good scores on tests, and that the key to doing so is memorizing information. Memorization has its place in education, but it is down near the bottom of the list of thinking and learning skills. Memorization is good for spelling, math facts, grammar rules, learning the names of countries and their capitals, etc., but it is only using the recall abilities of the mind. What about the other levels of Bloom's Taxonomy: application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation? Okay. Enough about that.

Because of this event, my Bible class at Yeomyung school was cancelled this morning. I was really looking forward to seeing those students again. Every week I'm there, I lead a chorus, sometimes teaching a new one. Last week, we learned Deep and Wide and had a lot of fun humming the words that I left out each time we repeated the song. We've also sung God is So Good, I've Got Peace Like a River, and The Joy of the Lord is My Strength. We clap, do motions, and I act rather silly sometimes and am rewarded by smiles and snickers from the students.

This week we are studying Ecclesiology at Grace Mission Institute (http://www.gracemissionkorea.org/grace-mission-institute). Tomorrow is my last day of teaching before Pastor DeVries returns to teach us Eschatology. I am happy he will be here for that part of our Survey of Doctrine 2 course, but I will miss teaching the class, since I'm a teacher and teachers like to teach, even if it is something they aren't used to teaching, like the Doctrine of the Church or the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit; I think I'd rather teach high school kids math. Sometimes I wonder if I really know what I'm talking about. Faith to faith. Grace to grace. Moment to moment. Learning by doing each step of the way. Fall down. Get back up and go on. Trust God for everything. That's all I can do.

I have a relatively new friend who writes to me faithfully from Baltimore. Her name is Karen Corsey and she is the new seventh grade English and American history teacher at Greater Grace Christian Academy. She reads this blog, she has listened to some messages I have spoken here in Korea, and she writes to let me know what she has found interesting and encouraging, and, in turn, she encourages me. We are both new to our situations, two experienced educators, but we are like toddlers trying to find our legs and explore the place where God has called us to follow Him by faith. Those of you who know her, make sure you tell her that you will be praying for her and that you are certain that God has called her to GGCA "for such a time as this" and that He will be faithful to her each step along the way. Even if you don't know her, pray for her. She has an awesome group of students, but they can be handful at times, especially that Colby Dunbar kid. 

I continue to have a small part in the life of GGCA through the elementary chapel skits that I write for fifth grade all-star teacher Angie Wright to put on stage. Secretary extraordinaire Dakota Hobbie sends me the verses of the week, and I wait on God to inspire me with something dramatic and comedic that I hope will shed some light on the verse. My former Gary character has gone to Korea, but a new character, Billie Jean McQueen, a drama queen wannabe played by Angie Wright, has come to life in Gary's absence. I enjoy writing these skits so much, knowing that elementary students are playing some of the roles, and that other real life characters, like Karen Preston, Nate McFarland, and Jen Lynch, are also playing characters that I make up for them in the skits. I wish I could be there to see them. Keep GGCA and Pastor/Principal Barry Quirk in your prayers. The school plays such a vital role in the lives of many young people and their families.

This Sunday, Grace Mission Church will celebrate Thanksgiving with a special service and a Thanksgiving potluck lunch afterward. There will be no turkey, as far as I know, but this is Korea, right? If the pilgrims had landed in Korea, the first Thanksgiving would probably have been octopus or pork with rice instead of mashed potatoes and kimchi instead of squash. Whatever we eat, it will be with grateful hearts and much love around the table, just like the potluck Thanksgiving in an American church. I am leading the song service and maybe making whole berry cranberry sauce. I'd love to make my mom's stuffing, but I don't know if I can find all the ingredients here. Last Sunday morning, I preached a message based on Psalms 42 & 43 that I suppose you could title, "Bless the Lord, O My Soul." God gave me the message to go along with the song 10,000 Reasons that the young people sang during worship. We'd been working on the song for three weeks, and I guess the song got worked into me and then worked out through the Word and the Spirit. At the end of the service, we sang the song again, and we've been singing it this week in Bible college too.

Perhaps you are wondering where all the usual photographs are. Perhaps you are wondering, "What did he eat this week? Where is the obligatory food picture?" Just to let you know, I'm not eating all the time here, even though it may seem that way from all the food pictures. If you knew me and my family, you'd realize that that going places means finding food to eat along the way or when we get there. My friend Suzi Monti laughs when she hears us planning a vacation or an outing around where we can stop and eat. Food can be very photogenic - it just sits there waiting for me to snap the picture. Today I went with Tain and three of his friends to eat budaejjigae in Uijeongbu. It was quite cold here, just above freezing, and so some warm, "army base stew" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budae_jjigae) sounded very good. We asked for some American cheese to add to ours, and the lady brought it to the table as Tain was taking a picture of the bubbling stew. She joked, "Say cheese!" meaning that the stew ought to smile for the picture. Here is the stew with cheese being added and then ramen noodles:


Such a cooperative model, don't you think? When we left the restaurant, we saw a group of people making kimchi. They were brining the cabbage, soaking it in salty water, the first step in the kimchi making process. One of the ladies gave us samples to taste. It was yummy!



A stack of brined Napa cabbage ready to be made into kimchi.
Since I'm on a food theme here, I will finish with this photo I took of some food that a dear lady in our church prepared for me last Sunday. I think of her as Young Jae's mom, because she is the mother of one the Korean teenage boys in the church. For some reason, she has made it her mission to bless me with special food each Sunday that she cooks after the service. It usually consists of some sort of meat, usually steak, and some vegetables. In my mind, she is a ministering angel. I asked Young Jae why she does it and he said he doesn't know. She gives some to me and to Pastor Steve. I'm thankful. And I'm looking forward to the food we'll be eating Sunday, and next month in the Philippines and Thailand and China... I'm talking about the spiritual food at those conferences, right? You decide!


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