A rambling of emotion

12 Nov

I have been hesitant about adding my voice to the many that have been overwhelming social media platforms over the past few days.  Even now, I struggle to find words.

As overly emotional as I am, it has been really difficult to watch the amount of hate and fear that has issued from both sides in the last week.  I watch as family and friends attack each other on social media.  Though I do not claim one side or the other, being the empathetic person I am, I try to put myself in people’s shoes; I try to understand the meaning and experiences that would cause such hate, fear, and judgment and what has prompted some to treat their neighbors with anything other than respect.  My heart breaks with every post, every comment, every video.

And I feel compelled to reach out.  I want to comfort, encourage, and understand.  There are many who are angry, hurt, confused, and afraid, whether the results of the recent election were what they wanted or not.  These feelings stem from our beliefs about the world and the experiences that we have had throughout our lives.  These experiences may tell diverse stories and may lead us to make decisions and form opinions that vary from others’, however, each story is worth being heard and respected.  And each person is worthy of love and respect.

I hope and pray that we may find unity and peace in spite of division.  May this become an opportunity for us to learn from each other, support one another, and lift each other up.  May we have tongues that speak kindness and respect, ears that listen, minds that understand, and hearts that love.

And though men and women sit in office to govern the country, God still sits on His throne.

Today’s verse of the day seemed appropriate:

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

The Heart of Worship

3 Dec

 

One day as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across this video.  I love the energy, music and sincere worship in this video and many people in the comments would agree with me.  However, some other comments caught my eye.  Several were suggesting donations should be made for this church to buy new instruments or “real” instruments.  (By the way, what are “real” instruments?)

While I can appreciate the sentiment and the intentions were certainly good and came from a giving heart, I am not sure that is the response I would give.  Whoever made that drum set and that guitar is a genius.  They used materials that they had to create pretty awesome-sounding instruments! And why do they have to have “real” instruments?  They don’t seem to have a problem praising God without them.

There are those on both sides of the spectrum who think they need to “westernize” developing countries.  I realize that there is a need to develop a country for the benefit of the people but that does not mean that they need to uproot their culture, change their way of life or get “real” instruments.  When my parents accepted the call to be missionaries to the “French Equatorial field” in Africa, I thought that we were going to minister to the people there.  But what I found was that they ministered to me.  They changed my way of life. Some of the most heartfelt worship I have experienced was when I was worshiping with my family in Christ in Rwanda and the DRC.  And I would never want to taint that.

God looks at the heart.  “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).  God looks at the spirit, at the heart of worship.  He sees those instruments and hears the beautiful sounds they make.  He hears the worship that comes from the mouth and from the heart.  And He smiles.

Or as the song, “The Heart of Worship” says so well:

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You

(P.S. If you’d like to donate, why don’t you donate towards putting a roof over the church instead?  That might be a little more practical…)

South Korea, how I miss you!

9 Apr

As I prepare for my trip back to South Korea this summer, I have been reminiscing and thinking of all the things that I miss and all the things that I’m looking forward to.  I thought I might share some of the things that I think are awesome about Korea.

(*Disclaimer: These are just from my point of view.  I am not claiming that one country is better than the other.*)

-all the appliances that “sing” or make a musical melody when you turn them on/off or use them (school printer, rice cooker, electronic lock to my apartment, etc.)

-getting phone service anywhere and everywhere (yes, I understand that it’s a small country compared to the U.S.)

-easily accessible and cheap public transportation that will take you anywhere: bus, taxi, train, subway, … (way cheaper and easier than having a car)

-my cute bus/subway card in the shape of a bear that I could reload with money at any station or convenience store

-not having to pay tips (yes, different systems, I know why we need to tip in the States)

-calling the waiter over when you need him/her or using a button on your table to ring a bell (which is fun)

-my “bank book” or check registry – I could just insert it into the ATM and it would print all of my transactions onto the bank book (saved me the trouble of writing it all by hand)

-the cute, modern and sometimes very unique coffee shops on almost every corner

-the culture of respect – bowing to one another (even the KTX workers bow when they pass through your train car or the parking garage attendants bow as they point your car in the right direction)

-the stationary stores where you could buy phone accessories, blankets, umbrellas, mugs, and, of course, office supplies that were so cute – not just regular cute but it’s-so-cute-I’m-gonna-die cute

-the cheap restaurant meals (I’m sorry but 5 bucks here will get you fast food, 5 bucks there will get you a main dish with rice and side dishes)

-the way that an 아줌마 (what’s a good word for this? older woman, auntie, …) wouldn’t mind scolding middle school boys on the street for doing something wrong

-the cheap and good quality clothes you can buy at the underground shopping centers (often connected to a subway station)

-the group mentality, the “let’s all go together” kind of mentality

-the fast-changing fashion styles (stores are always getting new clothes in)

-getting hand massages and iced tea while I waited at the hair salon

-getting extra goodies (lotion, moisturizer, socks) with a purchase at the skincare shops (what do you even call those shops – a shop where you buy skincare products?)

-the different fashion styles you could wear (without getting weird looks – unless you live in a big city in the U.S.)

-convenience stores located inside or near most apartment buildings

-the food!!!!!!!!

-the street food!!!!

-my students who always made my day, could be so mischievous at times, and screamed “TEACHER!” when they saw me

Yep, those are just a few of the things that I can’t wait to experience again, even for a short time.  South Korea, here I come!~

 

My Precious Gift

16 Jul

Last week, I was called about a job interview.  I was asked to bring one item to the interview that represented something I was passionate about.  There are many things that I’m passionate about: travel, food, family, missions, cultures, languages, teaching, Jesus… well, you get the idea.  But I knew right away what item I would bring.

This item sits on my dresser day after day.  It’s a small burgundy and gold drawstring bag.  Sometimes it goes unnoticed but some days, it brings a smile to my face or a tear to my eyes.  What about this bag could make me so emotional?

Inside this bag are 4 stones.  Not just any stones, but crystals, purple quartz crystals.  These stones were a gift from a friend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Since the age of 9, I had been writing to my friend Maua.  She was my age and also a pastor’s daughter.  Our correspondence began when my parents started sponsoring Maua through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.  Then one day, my parents announced that we were going to the mission field in Africa.  We settled in Rwanda, right next door to the DRC.

My mom worked with the Compassionate Ministries in Rwanda and DRC.  One of her coworkers said that Maua lived near his hometown Rutshuru.  So we made the trip from Kigali, Rwanda to Goma on the eastern border of DRC.  Maua and her dad made the 2 and a half hour trip through the jungle by hitching a ride on the back of a truck.

It was a wonderful experience to meet Maua and finally see the girl I’d been writing for several years.  I brought her gifts but they seemed insignificant compared to hers.  She and her dad were so thankful to our family for sponsoring her, allowing her to go to school, buy a uniform, etc.  They had wanted to bring a live turkey but they couldn’t take it on the truck and had to leave it behind.

This gift coming from a girl wearing worn-out flip flops and a threadbare dress was one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.  This gift now sits on my dresser to serve as a reminder.  It reminds me to be thankful for what I have and to give my best in all I do.  It represents my desire and calling to help the Mauas of the world to receive an education and achieve their full potential.

my gift from Maua

my gift from Maua

Dream Tree Church

6 May

The KNU (Korea Nazarene University) program hires Christian teachers to teach in Cheonan.  When I came last year, the people in charge of the program suggested that I go to a Nazarene church called 꿈나무교회.  It means Dream Tree Church.  I started going to this church and I haven’t left since.  Three other teachers from my program also go to this church.

The people there are very sweet.  The pastor,  his wife and their families started the church a few years ago.  The pastor and his wife speak English; they lived in the States for more than 10 years and both have a couple degrees from the States.

We call the pastor’s wife 엄마 (Mom in Korean; pronounced “uhm-ma”) because she treats us like her daughters.  She has taken us out to a park, to the store, to the doctor and out to eat a few times.  We usually contact her if we need help.  She used to translate the sermons for us but she has been so busy lately.  She is a professor and a pastor’s wife so she has got her hands full.

There are 2 services on Sunday morning.  I go to the later service that starts around 10:45.  We sing praise choruses and hymns in Korean.  Since I can read Korean, I usually can sing along in Korean but I don’t always understand what I’m singing. 🙂  Most of the hymns I am familiar with because we sang them at my church in the States.  Thankfully, all Korean Bibles have a hymnal in the back so I can follow along with my Korean-English Bible.

Something I have noticed and appreciated is that every church I’ve been to, regardless of denomination, recites the Apostles’ Creed from memory every Sunday.  Also, both tithes and offerings are put in an envelope with their name and then dropped in the offering box at the back of the sanctuary.

Lately, Daniel, a KNU student, has been translating the sermons for us.  He recently started coming to our church.  He is from Korea but grew up in Ecuador and speaks Korean, Spanish and English fluently.  We all sit in the back pew and he translates the sermons into English by typing on a laptop.

Most Korean churches have lunch after the service.  The lunch is provided and cooked by the ladies of the church.  Sometimes we have noodles or rice with soup, kimchi and side dishes.  After lunch, a lot of people stay for a while cleaning up, for choir practice, Bible study, cell group meeting, activities with their age group, etc.  As opposed to most American churches, where you leave after morning service and come back for the evening service, going to church on Sundays is an all-day thing for a lot of Christians in Korea.  There is no evening service at my church but people are there most of the day.  After lunch, a couple of my teacher friends and I teach English conversation classes to elementary – high school students.

Being involved in a Korean church has given me more insight into Korean culture and helped me build great relationships with the family of God in Korea.  I cannot share or rave enough about my church so stay tuned for more! 🙂

A New School Year

11 Apr

March marked the beginning of the new 2013 school year.  The school year usually runs from March to December with a short summer break in August and a longer winter break.  But most of my students study and go to school camps and academies, even during their vacation! 

I am still teaching at the same schools as last year, Seongsin Elementary (Monday~Thursday) and Sinbang Elementary (Friday).  Thankfully, Sinbang was able to stay open due to advertising and government funding.  They have made some changes to the school; we got a new playground and a brand new teachers’ bathroom!  It is still a very small school (only about 20 students from kindergarten to 6th grade).

It is common for teachers to switch classes within the school or change schools every year.  There were quite a few teachers that left at the end of the school year.  Some teachers left for maternity leave, sick leave, to fulfill their military requirement, to work at a school closer to their home, etc.  And a lot of teachers change grades within the school.  Mrs. Kang who was teaching 6th grade last year is now teaching 4th grade.  Ms. Shim, who was a regular 5th grade teacher, is still a 5th grade teacher but now she is also the head 5th grade teacher. 

At my school, each grade has about 2-3 classes with 25-30 students in each class.  My school is in a more rural part of Cheonan; some schools have up to 12 classes per grade!  The classes are numbered by grade and by class number.  Ms. Shim teaches the 5-1 class.  Since she is also the head teacher, she is in charge of all the 5th grade teachers and classes.  There are 6 head teachers, one for each grade.  They have more responsibilities than the regular homeroom teachers.  This hierarchy is evident in most Korean schools.  From lowest to highest, this is the usual rank: after school teachers & teachers’ assistants < subject & homeroom teachers < head teachers < Head Teacher (in charge of all teachers) < vice principal < principal < school board, etc.  Switching teachers around each year helps teachers share the work load and responsibilities.  It also  enables them to experience teaching different grades and age groups.

This year, I have the privilege of working with Ms. Cho.  She was the 6-2 teacher last year.  She is a very sweet lady and a Christian.  This is my first time working with a Christian teacher since coming to Korea.  She has several responsibilities and gets very busy but I enjoy the little time I get to spend with her outside of class time.  I have enjoyed talking to her about God and how our beliefs enable us to see students through God’s eyes. 

A new school year brings many hellos and some goodbyes too.  I said goodbye to my 6th grade students last year.  I was sad to see them go but I was so proud to see them graduate.  Also, I have a new set of 3rd graders.  They are so cute and sweet.  I am somewhat of a novelty to them and they get excited when they see me, which is refreshing.  I am excited to see what blessings and challenges God brings this year.

My First Year as a Teacher

28 Mar

I don’t have enough time or space to write everything about my first year as a teacher but I will give a quick overview.  I am what is called a Native English Teacher (NET).  There are usually 1 or more Korean English teachers.  I work with the Korean teacher in and out of the classroom.  My relationship and interactions with the Korean English Teacher (KET) affect not only the two of us but also the students, the atmosphere of the classroom and the workplace.  The relationship between co-teachers can make or break the classroom.  I’ve even heard this kind of relationship described as a marriage.

Over the past year, I have seen several teachers come and go.  It is not typical to have so many different teachers in such a short span of time but for whatever reason, this happened at my school last year.  My first head English teacher, Ms. Lee, left mid-year and I taught on my own for a month.  That month was both very rewarding and stressful.  I enjoyed teaching and having my own classroom but the language barrier created some difficulties.  Both the students and I got frustrated when we didn’t understand each other.  When communication failed, I used hand motions and the little Korean I knew to help me out.

There were a couple temporary (or substitute) teachers that came through.  One teacher, Ms.  Shim, was very sweet but after a few weeks, she became one of the 5th grade teachers at my school.  Then Lanessa came and taught the rest of the semester with me.  I got to know her pretty well.  We enjoyed talking and spending time together, in school and outside of school.  Her contract was temporary so she stayed till the end of the school year and then left.  It seemed like a roller coaster with teachers in and out and each time was like starting over, acquainting myself with the teachers personally and with their styles in the classroom.

As I reflect on the past year, I see how God brought each teacher into the classroom.  Each teacher had a different level of English fluency and each had a different teaching style.  Sometimes it was harder work to communicate well  because of the language and cultural barrier; other times, it was deciding which methods and activities would best benefit the students’ learning.  All in all, I gained a lot from each teacher.  I learned more about Korean culture and I learned from their teaching styles.

Since my call to become a teacher, I had imagined having my own classroom and teaching by myself.  Last year, I wondered why I was required to have a co-teacher and thought maybe I was too inadequate to teach on my own.  But, as God has been showing me over the past year, co-teaching is a both a blessing and a calling.  Building relationships, good communication, patience, compromise all go into being a good co-teacher.  God has placed these co-teachers in my life to mold me into a better teacher and person and to plant seeds of His love and grace into their hearts.