Sometimes Being a Missionary Means...

Sometimes being a missionary means baking cookies. Making the cookie dough and having all kinds of young people (and a mom) making the dough into balls, rolling them in sugar, and putting them on a makeshift baking sheet.
 The cookies come out of the oven and fill up the plate, batch after batch.

And then you share them with your helpers. (None of these young ladies is the aforementioned mom.)

Today, Tain Palanun planned to have a dinner party for the young people in the church at his home in Uijeongbu, but he woke up with a migraine headache. Minhee, the young lady in the University of Pennsylvania sweatshirt above, decided we could meet at the church instead and eat pizza. I said I'd bake some cookies, and brought a couple of eggs from my home so that we could make a double batch of ginger crinkles. (Yes, my mom read my blog and immediately sent the recipe to me.) I am a decent baker, and cookies are one of my better baked goods. I introduced my Korean friends to the wonderful flavors of molasses and ground cinnamon and ginger. The church oven was big enough to accommodate our baking sheets, and we made about 54 cookies. 

While we were waiting for our cookies to bake, I asked Minhee if she had ever eaten applesauce. She hadn't, so I suggested we try making that too. Right outside the church door is a produce store, so she went with some of our helpers and bought apples. I set everyone to peeling, coring, and cutting apples into chunks. Once that was accomplished, into a pot they went with a little water to begin boiling down into a mushy state. The guys were very helpful using a plastic rice paddle/spatula to break down the apples into a chunky sauce when they got mushy. I added just a little sugar and cinnamon, and we had applesauce. I mentioned that my father likes to eat ginger crinkles with applesauce, so everyone tried dipping a cookie into the applesauce and some took spoonfuls of applesauce and topped their cookies, like spooning caviar on toast tips. I told them I would be telling my dad that they liked his idea.

Minhee ordered pizzas, so we at pizza, drank soda, ate cookies with applesauce and then ate tteokbokki that arrived when Petros and his family arrived to join the fun. We had quite a crew there. Nobu joined us with his manager from work whom we have christened Josiah, and his friend who Tain christened Joshua. They have been coming for the past couple of meetings, and we enjoy their company very much, and today was no exception. We had Dongsu skateboarding in the hallway, one very funny angry outburst over a Rubik's cube by Youngjae, Bella trying to learn how to play Holy is the Lord despite Nobu's loud drumming right next to her, and I received some awesome shoulder massages, but nothing compared to the one Nobu's manager gave him which had him writhing in pain as we all laughed.

Sometimes being missionary means lying in your bed for two days, sleeping, dosing yourself with Jen Lynch's supertonic, ibuprofen, cold medicine, and gummy vitamins, and then sleeping some more as you try to get over a cold or flu virus. Sometimes it means eating bowls of cereal and slices of leftover pumpkin pie to keep your strength up when you are awake enough to do so, trying to read and dozing off, going to Bible college via Skype, and praying you have the energy to get up, take a shower, and go across the street to eat lunch with the man whose home you live in, because he doesn't like to eat alone. 

Sometimes being a missionary is, by faith, getting dressed up to take a subway ride to a university so you can attend a special event even though you feel like crap and everything inside of you is telling you to just turn around, go home, and go back to bed. That happened last night. The event was the 10th anniversary of the Yeomyung School where we've been doing the Bible class for the former North Korean students. 

I don't know what it was, perhaps my tiredness, perhaps my teacher's heart, perhaps just the Holy Spirit shedding the love of God abroad in my heart, but I found tears in my eyes time and time again as I watched students that I have met perform on the stage. I must be getting soft, because just typing that last sentence brought tears to my eyes. All I could think all evening is, "Do you students know how loved you are? God brought you to this country and this school to tell you how loved you are, how precious you are. Do you have any idea how loved you are?" And I answer the same question now, posed to myself: "No. I have no idea. I know nothing as I ought to know it." And now my face is really getting wet. There was a testimony of a graduate of the school who almost gave up on himself and nearly committed suicide before he found the school. He had a hard time accepting that people loved him there and reacted against it until the day his principal confronted him. She smacked him good and hard and then wept with him for an hour as he allowed himself to be loved with God's love. Today he is a successful man, because he let God love him.

This past Monday, before I got sick, I shared some words of edification with the awesome staff at the KONIS school, and the words that I said in passing, "We need to just let God love us," were the ones that stuck with one of the teachers. It's so true. Being a missionary means letting God love you and then letting God love others through you. Maybe that's making cookies and applesauce. Maybe it's going out when you feel spent and achy to tell some students you hardly know what an awesome job they did performing. Maybe it's just the ordinary acts of love and kindness of our everyday lives motivated by the Holy Spirit in us, bringing glory to God. Paul was right when he said in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, anything we do is of no value. I need to remember that.


  1. Thank you for including us in your life over there. Could you tell more about these former North Korean students that you mentioned. How did they get to this school etc.

    1. I don't know the personal stories of the students that I have met in the school. I would like to know, but I don't think I know them well enough to ask them such a personal question yet. If you are interested in what life is like for North Koreans living in North Korea and how some have escaped, I recommend a book called Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick for a non-fiction account that I found heartbreakingly good and the book Across The Tumen by Young Sook Moon for a realistic fictional account of children's lives and escape from North Korea.

      As far as Yeo-Myung school goes, it is unique in Korea. It is the first accredited alternative school for North Korean refugees. Their literature says 60% of their students feel insecure, 30% show signs of depression, and 60% suffer from diabetes and anemia due to malnutrition from their lives in the North and their escape. Six out of ten North Koreans students won't admit where they come from for fear of discrimination. They are not used to living in a society that allows them to make their own decisions, they have linguistic problems since there are 3,000 words that are different now between North and South Korea, and they find South Korean society much more complicated to master. For them, understanding that they have personal worth and value and that others do too is huge. Being loved can be an alien experience for them. The school provides specialized education that helps the students to socially adjust to a new culture, health care, counseling, a Christian school environment, and ability based academics, since some older refugees may only have elementary school level knowledge and skills after living lives where survival meant foregoing education. I think if you read the two books I mentioned, you'll get a good picture of these young people have been through (and some much worse than what is in the books) and how we need to pray for God to move in that dark, dark country. I hope this helps answer your question. Thanks for reading the blog and liking it and leaving comments.



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