Far and Near

By this time next week, if I am still here on the planet and everything goes according to plan, I will be sitting in the living room of my parents' home in Maine and my long flight from Korea will be behind me. I have been doing a bit of flying lately and although I appreciate the convenience, flying is only a means to an end and not an end in itself that I enjoy all that much. Since I have moved to Korea to do missionary work, I have done more flying in two years than most of the rest of my life altogether, and my luggage is starting to show some wear and tear. This is a good thing, I suppose, but I wonder how Pastor Scibelli flies so much and doesn't lose his mind.

I returned from another trip to China yesterday. My day began around 6 AM at my hotel, packing, checking out, bargaining with the taxi driver for a ride to the airport, negotiating check-in, immigration, and security, and then literally chilling all alone in the cold departure area until some other travelers finally arrived to keep me company.  After a four hour flight which showed the same two Chinese movies with blurry subtitles I had tried to ignore when I flew to China last Friday, I arrived in Seoul, navigated through immigration, collected my luggage, and bought a bus ticket for Konkuk University Station so that I could return my rented suit on time.

Rented suit? Yes. I had to rent a dark suit to take with me to China, because I was speaking at a Bible college graduation and I don't have any suits here in Korea. I may still own a suit, but it is probably somewhere out of reach in the back of my father's closet in Maine. I will check when I get home. I didn't think to bring the suit with me when I came here, because I wasn't planning on wearing one.

  • Advice to future missionary guys: consider bringing a suit on the mission field. I've discovered that I could have used one for attending weddings, going to a funeral where I was the speaker, and for speaking at a ceremony like I did this past weekend. Oh! And I also used it to attend a banquet in China on Saturday evening. 

After riding the bus for at least an hour in rush hour traffic, I got off the bus, dragged my suitcase down the sidewalk and across two busy streets through throngs of university students and office workers and successfully ascended to the fourth floor of the KB Bank building where The Open Closet's return department was still open beyond its 6 PM closing time to receive the black suit, belt, and dress shoes I had rented. Phew!

Back on the sidewalk, I wove in and out of the pedestrian traffic and entered a Mono Cheese restaurant populated by only women eating bagels with cream cheese, drinking cheese milkshakes, and sipping cheese coffees. (Don't ask.) I parked my suitcase and ordered a cheese and tomato panini to fortify myself for the rest of the trip home. I felt a bit conspicuous being the only male in the little eatery and my bag took up valuable real estate too.

After dinner, the bag and I rode an elevator up to the subway entrance and then trekked the length of Line 2 station, down two escalators and up one flight of stairs to Line 7 station where the bag and I caught the subway and rode standing for the next hour or so from Konkuk Station to Dobongsan Station. There we transferred to Line 1 and rode together to our stop at Nogyang Station. It was about 7:50 PM by then, so the bag and I took a taxi home where we were greeted by the landlord's barking, yapping dogs. I hauled the bag up the rocky stairs, deposited it on the bed, and immediately headed to the shower, because I felt so dirty and tired from travel. And then at 8:13 PM, I started washing the dirty laundry...

Missionary work isn't always nice pictures of yummy food, beautiful locations, and smiling faces of people like I usually put on my blog. It can be bad food, ugly, boring scenery, and lots of faces of people I don't know who may not even want to know me.

There are times when I say to myself, "What am I doing here? Did I think I would like doing this? I'm sorry, but I don't really feel like being a missionary today, God."
I'm sort of hoping that I'm not the only missionary who sometimes feels this way. I wonder if my friend and inspiration Pastor Scott Robinson ever feels like this in Jinju, South Korea? Does Nikki Colby ever have moments when she wakes up in Budapest, Hungary and thinks, "Why am I here, Lord?" I'm not saying this happens often to me. In fact, it hardly happens at all. But when it does happen, I feel like the psalmist in Psalm 10:1 where he says, "Why do You stand afar off, Lord?" 

I suppose any of us can think and feel this way wherever we live and serve. The people here in Grace Mission Church in Seoul probably have their days or moments when they feel God is afar off from them too, and they live in the same city as I do. But as I heard this past Sunday morning in China, God is not far from any of us (Acts 17:27). 

I find that when I go against these thoughts and feelings by faith and begin to prepare a message, a class, a Bible study, a skit for the students back at GGCA - pretty much anything that involves ministry to other people - God ministers to me and He is near. 

"For in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). This should be my missionary mantra. When I try to exist outside of Christ, He seems so far off; and existing is all I am doing - just life without living, movement without being moved, being without any meaning. 

To live, to move, to be, I must be found in Him, I must draw near.


  1. This is fantastic! So true on so many levels. You and your bag, cheese coffe (I've never heard of Mono Cheese), the faces, the weariness from travel, but then there's God! We follow the call as those who seem to hear the faint cry from others' hearts. Thanks for sharing. -Dana


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