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Almost

13 Jun

Jiwon, I, and Yunju. AKA my roomies.

It is JUNE! 

어떻게?! 

This means I’ve made it ten months away from home. Except that statement feels somewhat false, since Chuncheon has also become my home. To put the strange mixed feelings I have into one simple phrase: I feel like the longest year of my life is flying by. I’m excited to see everyone I miss in Canada, but I’m overwhelmed by how little time I have left here. Not to mention all the goodbyes I have to say before that. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep, because it hit me: one more month. I am almost done here.

Anecdotes & updates from the last few weeks: Continue reading

Rested

7 May

A few months ago I was struggling with insomnia and anxiety. The two cycled, a chicken-and-egg scenario where I wasn’t sure which came first. And it was only at bedtime. My days were fine, happy, totally carefree. But then it came time to roll into bed and dread would take me. I wondered if I should get on some medication (for sleep or anxiety, I wasn’t sure), but I wanted that to be a last resort. My first resorts were evenings of herbal tea, lamp light, good sleep hygiene, and lots of prayer. I asked everyone close to me to pray about it, because, try as I might, I could not think myself out of it. Yes, that’s right. Me, a psych major and lay mental health awareness-freak was still thinking “if I try harder, if I do something right, this will go away.” The exact type of thinking I’ve always believed our society needs to abolish, because that’s the approach to mental illness that’s probably least effective.

Objectively I knew how a behavioural therapist might approach my problem. I knew what questions to ask myself, and I knew what good behaviours and thinking patterns to apply. Except, news flash, playing therapist to yourself is also pretty ineffective. Normally at this point, I’d have already consulted a doctor. But finding someone in Chuncheon was unlikely, plus there’s always the added negative of everyone suddenly knowing my health status (and I mean everyone). That’s just the sort of thing that happens when you have health issues in a different country. You need help and translation for every little thing. People tend to worry more about you.

The upshot: time would have to tell. I played my psych games, I drank my ginger tea. I still lay wide awake in bed, exhausted, shaking for no reason, heart racing as if I were about to go bungee  jumping, and pleading with God to give me rest. Sometimes He did, and there was a short respite. But it inevitably happened again.

Then, a few days ago, it dawned on me. I’ve been sleeping normally! I only noticed because I had another mediocre night (not terrible), and that was the break from normality that drew my attention. That’s when something else dawned on me: how true it is that we most turn to God in the bad, and not as much during the good. It’s easy to pray about stuff that’s making us feel bad, and we can be thankful when good things are being added to our lives. But when the bad gets subtracted? We no longer have to think about it, and therefore tend not to notice. Like when you take a painkiller, waiting those minutes before it kicks in: horrible. But before you know it, it’s like, “where’d my headache go?” Such as it was in the case of Deborah’s anxsomnia! Every night I was hitting  a brick wall, wondering when God would take compassion on me. Then when He did, I didn’t so much as thank Him, because I didn’t even notice.

I have a post-it by my bed, the prayer leftover from my sleepless nights:

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. – Psalm 94:19. Lord, that it may be so with me. Deliver me, that I may rest in you.

What it means to rest in the Lord is a lesson I’m still learning. I can use every pat textbook cure until the cows come home, but it’s not till I realize that God is the only thing I should lean on for consolation that I’ll actually find it. And when I do, the impulse shouldn’t be toward neutrality, ambivalence, or forgetfulness. It should be toward joy! Thankfulness! Praise!

This isn’t me saying I’m cured. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a problem like this again in the future. But until that happens, and/or when that happens, I’m going to remind myself that God already brought me through it before. He is faithful and He will do it – again and again, I believe my God will bring me through until I learn not just to praise Him in the storm, but also the sun and the drizzle. He always has compassion, we just have to train ourselves to see it.

Road Trip!

3 May
Let's get our road trip on!

Let’s get our road trip on!

Alternatively titled: Actually, strange-person-I’ve-never-met, Stuart Murray is not my father.

Many moons ago (actually, only about 2) Kyong Jung put a bug in my head, promising that if he could find accommodations for me, I would be coming along on the ’round-Korea road trip planned for April 22-26. Stuart Murray, the Briton who wrote The Naked Anabaptist, was here for two weeks, on a tour that took place in three major cities. This was my chance to see more of Seoul, Daejeon, and Busan! And on the KAC’s dime! I would be there primarily as book-sales-girl (so not totally off-duty), but I still REALLY wanted to go. Long boring story short, I obviously got to.

Seoul

We visited a mega-church (Samil) and the Seoul Theological University during our two days in Seoul. Stuart used this time to talk about   Post-Modernity, and how this affects our views of church and the gospel. I found his discussion about what makes a church attractive quite interesting – especially since our most reliable info about this seems to come from what church-leavers are saying! (Sad, but true.) The second day focused more on Anabaptism, which is then basically what was discussed for the rest of the week (for the sake of brevity I’ll just recommend you pick up Stuart’s book if you’re interested).

deathbeds

My experience was not very romantic.

We only slept in Seoul on Monday night, and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t for very long. We were put up in a fabulous guesthouse that a pastor and his wife use for returning Korean missionaries’ debriefing. It was a great place because (unlike the usually decoration-void Korean home), it had books, wall hangings and knick-knacks from all over the globe. Plus, my bed was SUPER comfy (as in, it had an actual mattress on top of the box-spring! Wonder of wonders!). Unfortunately that night I battled a mysterious illness, which was accompanied by alternating mental images of Beth March and Gilbert Blythe on their sweaty deathbeds.  Temporary scarlet fever plus over-active imagination did not make for a good night’s rest, even despite a proper mattress. What a waste. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to Me (feat. Cats)

17 Apr

It’s April 17th, and birthday wishes are still trickling in from around the world. This leads me to conclude that it’s not so bad, celebrating a birthday away from home.

The story starts on Friday, when my women’s English group took me to an art gallery in Yanggu.  Imagine my delight when I learned all six of us would be cramming into a car with a capacity for 5. Now, Yanggu is about a 40-minute drive from Chuncheon (at least). Joy. Canadian sensibilities quashed (along with my hips), I reasoned that should we get into an accident (and I was sincerely praying against that), maybe the four of us wedged in the back seat might just keep each other in place. The good news is that the rides there and back were uneventful save many stories, laughs, joking, and one serious discussion re: North Korea (which this trip brought us significantly closer to). The point is I came home to see another day.

Speaking of the DPRK and living to see another day… I’ll remind all you worried folks out there that recent events are better understood within an ongoing dialogue between North and South. Tensions are currently higher, but this, too, shall pass. When people ask me about the political situation, I have two responses. The first is: do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will worry about itself! The second is to think about the millions of Koreans who won’t be able to leave in the event of an attack; it’s them you should worry most about, not me!

And now that’s cleared up, back to the fun! The other YALTers visited this weekend. That’s significant because it’ll be our last meeting until the week we leave Korea. That’s right people – less than 100 days until I’m home! In fact, I think I may even post a count-down on this blog…. Am I looking forward to it? Mixed emotions, really. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again, but it will be hard to say goodbye to my Korean family and friends. ANYways…Friday dinner posed a mini birthday celebration because, surprise!, my ladies secretly bought me a beautiful cake in lieu their missing my birthday due to a couple cancelled classes. One awesome thing about Korea (and the list is extensive) is buying cakes: not only are they pretty affordable, immaculately decorated, and yummy…they also come with complementary candles, matches, and confetti crackers. How cool is that?! Impromptu pre-celebration!

On Saturday we relaxed, shopped, ate tons of junk food, had the first patbingsu of the season, and Cindy even made us some delish Indonesian food! That evening we watched a Korean film (with English subs). It was a tearjerker and I loved it.

Sunday and Monday were meh, and there’s almost nothing to report except that Alex stayed one more night in Chuncheon and that was fun. Also, we wore the same sweatshirt.

That leads us finally to Tuesday, which is what this post is really all about. My 25th birthday!! The big XXV. The quarter-century. Of course, in Korea, I was already 26 on New Year’s, which sucks megabigtime. But if we’re using my language abilities as an indication, I’m really not  Korean, so we’re good. (It’s a different story if we’re using my chopstick abilities… hmmm….) The day was delightful, if pretty normal. We had a nice lunch at the office, and in the evening Jiwon and Yunju (our new roommate!) took me for a night on the town. We were gonna get pizza, but then a “Mexican” restaurant called “Dos Mas” caught our attention. Mexican it was not, and we certainly did not order dos mas. When will I learn? Good Mexican food does not exist in this hemisphere (save the one outlier in Busan, but there’s the definitive proof that every rule needs an exception). After the sketchy dinner we…drum roll, please…visited a cat cafe! As in, order something to drink whilst petting one or several of the cats who mill freely about the place. There were at least twelve at this place. Everywhere you looked: cats. Basically…Heaven. Cats are so wonderful! I can’t even. I’m just going to dedicate the whole rest of this post to cats everywhere. Please feel free to find some inspiring instrumentals to go along with the following slideshow:

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Thanks also to every human who made my birthday extra sweet!

Love and kitty-kisses…until next time,

Deborah

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. Continue reading

When We Talk About “Church”

28 Mar

Recently, my church situation here in Korea has changed. Being the native English-speaker closest to the situation, I was asked to write a report about it, for anyone who may be curious. I’ll share it below. Hopefully it will also shine some light on the Korean church as a whole, as it stands today.

Before I do that, though, I want to preface it with a few thoughts that have been swimming around in my head lately. Living abroad teaches you things. For me, the biggest learning curve has been the realization – not just the knowledge, but the actual witnessing of the fact – that church is personal. How we “do” church is so intertwined with how we approach God. And that’s something that differs from one Christian to another. I always knew this, of course, but this is the year I’ve been forced to confront, and then make peace with that (an on-going struggle). My preferences for how to do music, prayer, any sort of learning/preaching; the number of people I most enjoy worshiping alongside; style of communion; focus on Jesus versus the Holy Spirit – all these things are incredibly personal to me and my preferences. As humans we really like to put labels on that, and as Christians we’ve argued tooth and nail about which is most holy in the sight of God. Well…that’s futile. I’m so past arguing what’s the “right” way to follow Christ. Everything I’ve just listed is peripheral. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God – and we’ve all been bought back, too. As Christians, we need to recognize that that is all we need to have everything in common with the Mennonite, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, non-denominational, emergent, whatever Christian standing beside us. Let’s accept that those who don’t do it “our” way are still under God’s care. Let’s trust that He alone knows how to deal with those “doing it wrong”. And let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith, no matter how they’re labelled. They are, after all, God’s people.

***

Korean house churches a response to the ‘mega church problem’

March 20, 2013

On March 10, 2013, Jesus Village Church (JVC) of Chuncheon, South Korea, had a last “sending service” with all one hundred of its members. As of March 17, those individuals officially comprised two separate churches: JVC and a new, smaller house church called Jesus Heart (JHC). However, thinking of this as a church “split” in the traditional sense is misinforming. Continue reading

Beware the Strides of March

19 Mar

Yikes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?! This is so unlike me…I’m usually dying to blog something at least every week (true writer at heart)! Time is basically moving as slow as a freight train. I still complain about waking up on Monday mornings, but usually before I know it, it’s Thursday afternoon. I write this a few days after the Ides of March, which surprises me greatly, since I thought we just started  a new month. I’ve been here exactly 7 months, and only have 4 more to go! 어떻게?!

So what has March been like so far? The main thing is the winter chilliness has all but ceased. We’re getting more and more peekaboos from Mr. Sun. It’s amazing to step outside and have the air not hit you like a thousand knives. And it’s amazing what that does to my mood.

That’s another thing. Despite delicious weather, my mood has been a terrible roller coaster lately. Full disclosure: I’ve had a lot of trouble with insomnia and a bit of anxiety the last couple weeks. I’m sure this too shall pass, but what does it mean when you’re tired, having a bad day, and you can’t really complain about it to the people you usually complain to? It means suck it up, sister. That’s really the extent of my big lesson this past week: my mood does have an affect others. The only solution is to stick a smile on my face and hum a prayer.

As for activities, I’ve had my share this month. Continue reading