Sunday School, Chinese School, Dentists, Doctors, and the Baby Box

Yes, that was a long title. I originally considered the title What's Happening? but decided that older readers might confuse it with the American TV situation comedy from the late 1970s.

I think seeing this will make my sister happy.
I will tell you a little about what has been happening in my life since my last posting. I taught Sunday school for the first time since coming to Korea. Miss Jadzia has been under the weather recently, so she lined me up as a substitute teacher, since her voice was fading. I was sent via email an outline for teaching about the prophet Samuel anointing David the next king of Israel. I replied asking how long I should plan to teach the lesson, thinking I was doing just the teaching. Another email came explaining that as the substitute teacher I was responsible for everything from the opening song to the closing prayer with the lesson, the craft, the memory verse, and clean-up in between. I was very happy to recall that I had once opened a Pinterest account and began seeking for ideas. I found a fictitious story about what Samuel may have seen as he looked over all of Jesse's sons and adapted it into a role playing game complete with props, so that all the children could participate in the story. I even had Samuel play Samuel. That went okay, and I had most of the students' attention. I found a cool word search and a crossword based on the Bible story, some coloring pages, and an object lesson which had an unexpected outcome...

This is Joy.

Sorry, Joy. I wish I had a better picture of you!

And this is Hana.

I hope you like this picture, Hana.
I asked for two volunteers, and Joy and Hana raised their hands. I showed the class two clear plastic cups of water and told them that from the outward appearance the two containers and the clear liquid were the same. However, as we would see (I thought), the liquids would be different, since one would taste good and the other would taste bad. Before class, I had mixed a lot of salt into one cup of water and put some sugar in the other cup of water and stirred both so that the salt and sugar would dissolve. Joy and Hana each chose a cup and drank. Joy's face immediately twisted into an expression of disgust, while Hana's remained unchanged. Aha! Joy had chosen the over-salted water! I had tasted it before class and found it to be almost bitter to my taste buds. Hana must have gotten the sugar water.

Nope. Just the opposite. Joy had tasted the sugar water and Hana had the salty water. "Ugh! It's so sweet!" exclaimed Joy. "I like mine," said Hana. I was momentarily dumbfounded. The sugar water hardly tasted sweet at all to me, while the salty water tasted nasty to me. That shows the general difference between Korean taste buds and American taste buds. What Koreans consider sweet hardly seems sweet at all, at least to me. Joy tasted the salty water and showed disgust again, so I think Hana either took a small sip of her water or she has a high tolerance for saltiness. I ended up laughing at how my object lesson went awry, because I hadn't factored in Korean and American taste differences. It only goes to show that even small things can change the outcome of a lesson, and that as missionaries, learning about cultural differences can be important.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I have been doing some work lately on preparing a presentation for a proposed international school in China. For the past few days, a slideshow presentation has been one of my main projects, one that attempts to express our basic philosophy that academic excellence plus character development from a biblical worldview equals success, and that school family plus child's family working together promotes success. This would be an American international school, meaning that the staff and teaching style would be American, that some of the curriculum materials would be American, and that we desire an international student body including Chinese students. From my experiences addressing Chinese audiences about education, I have heard how greatly Chinese parents desire an alternative to the Chinese school system, and how they hope to send their sons and daughters abroad for further education in English speaking countries like America. It is the hope of the proposed school I am doing work for that this international school will be the answer to many parents' desires. I travel to China on Saturday to prepare for some open house meetings and to meet the Chinese businessman whose partnership would make this school startup possible. Please pray for my time there and for me to have wisdom and discernment regarding this venture.

Monday afternoon after Preparation for Team Life class, I went to the dentist here in Seoul. I was long overdue for an oral exam and teeth cleaning, so I scoured the Internet in search of an English speaking dental practice. There were several to choose from, but one caught my eye because they had a special offer for the services I wanted, and it seemed easy to find. I corresponded with one of the appointment directors and made my booking, and shortly after 12 PM Monday afternoon, I was riding the subway south to Apguejong. After transferring from line 7 to line 6 to line 3, I found myself looking down to the Han River passing by below the train as we crossed a bridge. Moments later we were back underground arriving at the station. I climbed the stairs and found the entrance to the building where the Hu Shu dental practice is located. When I stepped off the elevator, I emerged into an entryway that brought to mind entrances I have seen to fine department stores, and stepping into the waiting room was like finding myself in one of those stores' VIP lounges. There was some sort of machine that made fancy coffee drinks, a platter of pastries,

fresh flowers, warm lighting, soft jazz music playing in the background, leather couches, and well-coiffed, smiling, helpful people to greet me.

As I filled out the registration form, I heard a staff member speaking to one patient in Japanese and another staff member speaking to a patient in Chinese. This was a very professional operation that included a dermatology practice in the same office, so people could get skin and dental treatments in one location. When it was mine turn, I was escorted past a wall of photographs of Korean celebrity patients into a clean room filled with modern equipment. The dentist came and used a tiny camera to take "before" pictures of all my teeth and to ask if I was having any issues. Next, I went down the hall for x-rays, then back to the dental chair for my cleaning. Cleaning complete, the hygienist took "after" pictures of my teeth and showed me both before and after and my x-rays which revealed no problems. The best part of my visit was when I payed the bill. How can that be? The fee I paid for cleaning, x-rays, and the dentist's consultation came to only $36.25. It would have been less if I had had Korean insurance. As a missionary living off the generosity of those God leads to send me support, I'm not rolling in dough, so this inexpensive trip to the dentist was a blessing that has the song "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me" echoing in my soul.

Yesterday, Pastor Steve had to attend a meeting at Uijeongbu International Christian School, better known hereabouts as ICS, so he couldn't attend his usual Tuesday afternoon study group at a local hospital with doctors. He asked me if I would be willing to cover for him and after my first, natural response of fear, faith kicked in and I said yes. (I'm hoping that one of these days that initial fear response will go away.) After eating a Mild burger (that's what it was called) for lunch at Burger to Burger, Pastor Steve drove me to the hospital to show me how to get to the meeting room on the 14th floor and introduced me to one of the doctors. We returned to the church where he played a few games of ping pong with Haeok, one of my fellow Bible college students and part of the Sunday rotation of song leaders, and I worked on the VideoPsalm program, entering some new songs, before I stopped and prepared for the doctors' study.

By 4:30, I was out the door and on my way to the subway, allowing myself time to wander a little and pray before heading up to the 14th floor. My prayer was, "God, this only lasts one hour. Please use me and let Your life pour out of me for that one hour for these doctors." I was nervous since there were supposed to be first time visitors coming, and I didn't want to say or do anything that would cause them to not return next week when Pastor Steve would be there. At 5:30 on the dot, three doctors arrived and opened the door to the break room where we sat on couches and spent an hour getting to know each other. One doctor, Dr. Jung (I probably misspelled his name), led the group. He said the group had been meeting since 1989 when the hospital opened. I was the twenty-something-th pastor/missionary/English teacher (in my case, missionary) to come minister to the group of doctors who get togther weekly to engage in English conversation around whatever the current English speaker wants to talk about. Bob Hotchkiss and now Pastor DeVries have been the latest speakers, and Pastor DeVries has been using the Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford to teach principals of Christian growth.

For the next sixty minutes, we mostly conversed about my life and the life of the new doctor, an opthamologist. Koreans like to ask lots of questions as they get to know you. I was asked about my family, why I had come to Korea, what I like about Korea, what my plans are, and I told them about my education, my call to be here, and how God had even put Korea on my radar. Dr. Jung, who says he is not a believer, asked me if I had had a born again experience and what that was like. My coming to Christ was not a spectacular deliverance from a life of wicked sin. I was a 7-year-old Baptist boy who got saved in Vacation Bible School after listening to a story involving a squirrel. My life history doesn't include drugs, alcohol, criminal behavior, promiscuity, or any tremendous highs and lows. Dr. Jung said that I was the first person to address the group that had been just an ordinary good kid, and he remarked that I seemed to have great peace. He and another doctor in attendance were two regular members of the group and they had a funny bantering relationship. The opthamologist was the father of two who stopped attending church when his children were born, but was now interested in practicing his English in the workplace around the Bible. With this group of men, I once again sensed how much God truly loves and cares for the hearts and souls of Korean people. I was glad I had an opportunity to meet these hardworking people and talk about how God called me to their country and how we need Christ in our lives. It was nothing what I had expected it to be. (God is so good, He's so good to me.)

Another way God recently revealed His goodness to me was by allowing me to attend a dinner at Vicolo Caffe where the pastor profiled in the documentary film titled The Drop Box was the guest of honor. In Korea, the drop box is known as the Baby Box.
Our church, Grace Mission Church, sponsored the dinner for all of the people who had gone out that day to raise awareness of the problem of unwanted babies in Korean society, asking people to oppose proposed legislation legalizing abortion, and to support legislation that would make adoption of Korean orphans easier. Pastor DeVries spoke a beautiful message from Ecclesiastes about the vanity of living for ourselves and about our purpose to have a personal relationship with God Who values every soul. God led him to speak this way, because among the guests were several university journalism students who had covered the event as a news story that day. God's heart reached out to their souls that evening. When Pastor Lee Jong-rak spoke, it was simple and brief.

Pastor Lee Jong-rak
He demonstrated true humility and he made a point of greeting all the guests personally, some with a handshake, others with hugs. I got a hug and a picture.

I had to brighten this photo, so it looks a bit odd.
A humorous moment that evening occurred when Pastor DeVries asked me to get up and sing or lead the group in a song before his message. I asked the group if they would prefer that I sang a song to them or to sing along with me. To the one group of Christian young people sitting on the right, this translated in their minds to, "Do any of you want to come stand up here and sing with me?" Before I knew it, one young lady had joined me and was looking at me as if to say, "What are we going to sing?" I quickly determined that her English proficiency was limited to some stock phrases memorized in school and that she didn't understand me when I asked her what songs she knew. Blessedly, a person in the group shouted out, "Amazing grace!" so we began singing that song, she in Korean and I in English. We sang a single verse together and then I thanked her for her help. After the meeting, she wanted to take pictures with me and Pastor Steve. When she stood beside me, her friends joked and said we were relatives, because she had permed curly hair. She shook our hands and said, "I love you," to us before we went home. I wish I had a picture of her to show you. Again, something that turned out much different and much better than I could have planned, all thanks to the spontanaiety of the Holy Spirit's life.

It is now 3:11 on a sunny Seoul Wednesday afternoon. I am sitting at the computer in the chapel where in four hours our midweek prayer meeting will be held. Today I heard that Pastor Mark Minichiello is coming, Lord willing, to be our guest speaker at this year's East Asia Conference July 17-21, 2015. The theme is Bless the Lord, O My Soul! and we will be meeting outside the city at a beautiful campground in the Korean countryside where we can do some outdoor activities to refesh our bodies as well as our souls and spirits. If you've thought about coming to Korea to visit, perhaps because this blog has made you curious about this wonderful country, the summer conference is a great opportunity. Please come! You can also visit our church website, to listen to messages and Bible college classes, and see some pictures of all of us.

Thanks for reading! It is my great pleasure to share my experiences here with you.


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