Life is Beautiful

8 Apr

Forget traditions and focus on meaning. That’s the goal here, whenever another holiday creeps up and I realize I can’t celebrate the way I traditionally do. This Easter was challenging on a few different levels. Emotionally and socially, I felt a little bereft. But I quickly realized that’s exactly where my heart needed to be, in order for me to focus on meaning, and be filled spiritually.

First things first; Good Friday. The day traditionally reserved as the day Jesus dies. I was almost able to put myself in the shoes of the disciples who, in the very simplest of terms, had to say goodbye to a friend. This year, I did the very same. I lived with Doogii for seven months, knowing the whole time that she’d be leaving back to Mongolia come February or March. Unlike the disciples, who never understood Jesus’ warnings, I was able to prepare for it – but darned if it still struck me as incredibly difficult!

A joyful moment with my favourite Mongolian!

A joyful moment with my favourite Mongolian!

Momentarily stuck in a state of surreal disbelief, I hugged my friend goodbye, and watched her be driven off. I was able to fight off the tears, but that’s only because I sometimes have nerves of steel. What made this so difficult? There’s the glaring possibility that I may never have the opportunity to visit Mongolia as we both wish. I’m determined to make it happen, but you really never know what curve balls life could throw your way. But then Doogii chose her last words to us before leaving, and they were “see you again.” Not only does this sum up her eternal optimism, but it’s also the God’s-honest truth. Whether it be on this earth or the next, I will see her again.

Easter in Korea is a one day thing. People go to work on Friday and Monday, so that’s what I did. But I was relieved to find out JVC was holding an evening service on Good Friday. Given my state of “mourning” my friend, it wasn’t hard to get into the right mindset. I didn’t get any translation, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover I didn’t much need it. It’s easy to find the same passages in my own English bible, and, at one point, I even understood enough Korean words to recognize that a series of quotes being projected on the screen were all of Jesus’ words on the cross. There was communion, and there was foot-washing. This is always an awkward affair, but I guess that’s the point. There is humility in servanthood, and sometimes even in being the recipient of service. It was good to be on both ends of that, and to be reminded in such a tangible way.

On Saturday I set out to see Connexus/NARPI (Connarpi?) friends, which included – bonus – some fresh homemade paska! So I still got some traditional Mennonite/Easter munching. I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting, playing word games, and watching a movie with various people in that community. I am constantly blessed whenever I visit those guys.

Easter Sunday was a break from regularity. I decided to visit Onnuri’s English Ministry church. Onnuri (“All Nations”) is one of the mega churches in Seoul, and it was recommended to me prior to arriving in Korea. Eight months later, I finally got a chance to attend. It was amazing to walk into a church and be able to understand everything being said; to overhear English conversations; to look around and see people who truly represent all nations; to sing worship songs! That I already knew! And it was wonderful to get a sermon first-hand, instead of a translation (though I’m not complaining…I appreciate all the translations I can get at JVC!). I love church for the learning opportunity it presents. I seriously enjoy studying scripture. I like cross-referencing; I like speculating what things might mean; I like theories based on actual historical practices. The bible is dense with layers and layers of meaning, and I get all fired up whenever I’m given new insight into old words. A church service entirely in my native language was just what I needed. I’ve been so conscious of “church” this year (if you hadn’t noticed from my last post) – to the point where I’m considering taking at a few bible school courses when I arrive back home. But that’s a digression, so I’ll get back on track…

Me and my Oma.

Me and my Oma, before I left to Korea.

Easter is all about new life. Jesus’ resurrection is an amazing miracle that results in our ability to be rebirthed from out of darkness. Pentecost is all about how we sustain that new life and pass it on to others. The last eight months have presented so many interesting paradoxes to flummox and amaze me, all of which bring me back to the cross, the grave, and then the sky, where Jesus told us our mission. I think of the recent death of my Oma, followed just a couple months later by the birth of a new niece. And, though today happens to be gray and chilly, spring in Korea is beginning. Newly blooming forsythia, magnolia, and cherry blossoms are everywhere. I have my mom’s home garden to thank for knowledge of those flower names, and I’m overjoyed to discover they all exist here, too. It makes me feel like the whole world is my backyard. It reminds me that I should feel at home anywhere, able to serve and be served.

A glimpse into "lunch club". I have my first chai latte in 8 months, while enjoying the company of my wonderful ajummas (aunts).

A glimpse into “lunch club”. I have my first chai latte in 8 months, while enjoying the company of my wonderful onnis and ajummas (sisters and aunties).

Last week I met with my ladies’ English novel-reading group (alternatively called “Lunch Club”), and, perhaps without fully realizing the incredible validation of it, they gave me the best gift I could ever ask for. We’re reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (albeit a simpler abridged English version). One of its themes claims that the things we love are not necessarily unique or special in and of themselves, but they become so when we’ve chosen to love them. Trying to find a real-life example beyond the Little Prince’s rose (the thing he loves even after discovering she’s not the only one in the universe), someone likened it to the group’s relationship with me. She said at first I was just another foreigner in Korea; since getting to know me, however, I’m more than that. In Little Prince terms, I’ve “tamed” them. (That sounds somewhat ego-maniacal, but you’ve really got to read it to understand fully.) It was a powerful moment, because that’s exactly why I’m here. I don’t intend to be “just another foreigner” in Korea. I’m here to build relationships. That these women recognize that; that they gift me with expensive meals and coffee and homemade jam; that they take me places; that they mark the date I’m leaving in their smartphones and profess that they’ll cry when I do – it all says I’m doing something right. That’s so gratifying. It shows that I’m experiencing service from both ends here; maybe, maybe I am giving as much as I’m getting (and how much I’m getting, I’ll never be able to put into words). And I can’t help but feel it’s a big ole pat on the back, my master telling me to share in His happiness. If that’s not what life’s all about…I don’t know what is.

Flash Updates!

  • Following the teaching of two hyperactive children every Wednesday evening, I will now also be eating dinner with and teaching a hoard of all ages children. I’ve met them once and it nearly sucked all the life out of me. Every one of those kids is starving for attention. Please pray that I have enough energy on Wednesdays!
  • Monday evenings may soon be devoted to teaching/helping at an after school program. Great – more kids! Please pray for energy on Mondays, too.
  • JVC has approached me about helping in Sunday school. You know what? Just pray that I have energy, period.
  • The university student group has been reinstated! I can’t remember if I’ve already blogged that, but so far (after a few false starts) it’s going alright. The only hiccup: it’s me plus five boys. No other girls. Sigh. (Please hold any husband-finding comments. Trust me – I’ve heard them all.)
  • There’s another YALT reunion happening this weekend! No big plans except, perhaps, an Easter egg hunt.
  • My birthday is in a week!
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5 Responses to “Life is Beautiful”

  1. Kaite April 9, 2013 at 9:59 AM #

    You sound happy here Debs which, of course, makes me happy. Good luck on Wednesday.

  2. Carol Wiens April 9, 2013 at 2:58 AM #

    I love to see how you are embracing the path that God has set you on. And the little symbols of His caring for you – paska in Korea, an English service, a deep and wonderful friendship with a fellow Christian (from Mongolia, of all places).

  3. alyssa301 April 9, 2013 at 1:35 AM #

    As usual, great post cuz!

  4. Mama April 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM #

    Wow, reading the paragraph about your “book/lunch club” aunties and sisters—i think you’ve caught the full intent of the SALT program. You’re doing it, sweetie.

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