Lunar New Year - Hiking and stuff


Last week, Korea celebrated the Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, over the course of three days. It is a time when families travel to be with older relatives to pay their respects. Children get to see their grandparents and, perhaps, aunts and uncles too, who often give them money. The new moon was on Thursday, New Year's Day, so very few businesses were open, but Tain, William, and I were able to catch a local bus to the area near Uijeongbu station and find an open budae jjigae restaurant. We joined families, some dressed in traditional clothing, to eat a holiday meal. Recently, Tain and William have had terrible colds with fever, sinus issues, coughing - you name it - so I have been praying for them to get better and for me not to catch their virus, because they've been miserable and I am scheduled to fly to Budapest on Thursday night. God has been SO GOOD, because I usually catch every cold that comes down the road. Those few hours riding the buses and eating wore William out for the day, and Tain came home to rest too, since he was flying to Russia on Monday evening and wanted to be well.

Friday morning, I received a message from Pastor DeVries asking if I would like to go hiking up a local mountain. The weather was nice and I had no other plans, so I said okay. He phoned to say that he would swing by to pick me up after stopping at Nogyang station to pick up an American friend, James Williams, who had taken the subway to come visit while his wife and their new baby were visiting her mother in Busan for the holidays. William was still asleep when I left around 10 AM and Tain was in no shape to go and declined the invitation. Later I would see the wisdom of his choice.

I got into the van with Pastor Steve, James, Tom Staalesen, and Emily DeVries, and not long after a short drive we were parking in a lot at the foot of a trail that led up the mountain. We each had a bottle of water and our cell phone cameras ready to go, so off we went.


We had not gone far before we saw signs of military preparations on the mountainside - concrete bunkers, trenches and foxholes lined with used tires, a helicopter landing pad, and barbed wire. 


I had seen the tire-lined trenches before on Bonghwasan, but thought they were for spring water run-off. I keep forgetting that North Korea and South Korea are living in a state of truce and that North Korea is not far away. I was reminded of the day last fall when I was on Bonghwasan and came across a brigade of South Korean soldiers resting, perspiring in full uniform with packs and weapons at hand. Military training is part of every young man's future once he completes high school, and young men in uniform are seen everywhere. Today on the subway I even saw a young female soldier. Freedom doesn't come free. People pay a price.

Up and up we went, 


and my asthma-diminished lung capacity and the somewhat thinner air had me huffing and puffing all the way. Nothing else bothered or pained me, just my breathing. Fortunately, we came to places where there were scenic lookouts where we stopped to rest and take in the view. 





From the tops of huge rock formations and boulders, 



and sometimes from in between them,



we were able to look out upon the mountainside and see the city of Uijeongbu below. 


I enjoyed talking with James about his recent move to Korea with his Korean wife and their new baby. He told me of how God had been working in their lives and opened so many doors for them to come here. He also spoke of the great kindness shown to him by the Korean people who have made him feel welcome as he acclimates to his new life in a new land.



I enjoyed scrambling up rocks, but I did have a careless moment on our return trip where instead of sensibly stepping down, I jumped with both feet and ended up on unstable ground which gave way, leaving me sitting abruptly on the ground. 


No injury to my tailbone, only my pride, but later that evening, I discovered that I had twisted my ankle during the fall, and I was painfully hobbling around the house until I went to bed.

Once we returned from our wonderful mountain outing with all its fresh air and exercise, we were hungry, so we ended up at the Vietnamese restaurant Tain and I discovered a few months ago, eating pho, Phnom Penh soup, pad Thai, and other cheap, yummy eats. After our lunch, I went home and hanged the new shower curtain I had bought near the restaurant in the bathroom William and I share. It's funny how a 3000 won shower curtain (less than 3 dollars) can bring a little color and happiness into your day.

Sunday, the service was well attended and the young people and I led worship. I am so blessed by these guys who play and sing with great spirit. They are all getting ready to start a new school year next week, and that was their major prayer request that day, prayer for them as some face new schools, and all face new subjects, classmates, and teachers. It's not easy being a kid growing up in Korea. Life is not as carefree as it is in the U.S., and so much time is dedicated to study. That they make time to practice piano and guitar and learn the English words to new songs impresses me. The more time I spend with them and get to know them, I see the godly potential in their lives.

Our study of the Old Testament Historical Books comes to a close this week. I have learned so much these past few weeks as we have studied the Divided Kingdom, Captivity, and Restoration periods of Israel's history. I will miss the last class and the pot luck lunch to follow on Friday, because I am leaving Thursday night for Budapest to attend the European Conference and work for a week at GGIS. I look forward to seeing some people I haven't been with for a while, hearing from God about my future, and being around teachers and students and all things educational. If all goes well, Tain will be in Budapest too for the first time in many years, and I hope to go out to eat with him there at least once.

Pray for me to stay well, to do my income taxes correctly, to be useful wherever I am, and to hear God's voice regarding His future plans for me.




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