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

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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

Nami Island, Ice Fishing, and Norebang

24 Feb

I’ve just said goodbye to my YALT friends, who have left Chuncheon after 2 very short days. Time well-spent! They arrived on Friday evening, and we all had dinner with Kyong Jung’s family. Shepard’s pie, mixed green salad, buns! Delicious and very nostalgic. On Saturday we slept in, waking up to the wafting scent of Alex’s french toast (made complete with fresh strawberries and bananas). Then we decided to take a walk to Lotte Mart because, well, you can never really go to Lotte too often. Then it was time to go home, pick up Doogii, and head out once again, to Nami island. For those not in the “know”, Nami is where the famous Korean romance drama “Winter Sonata” filmed some pivotal scenes. In the drama (yes, I have watched some of it), it always looks like this desolate, beautiful, quiet place to fall in love. In reality, it’s littered with touristy “attractions” which are more cheesy than romantic. Examples of things to see at Nami include ostriches, strange inexplicable breast-feeding statues, fake tee-pees, a statue of the stars of “Winter Sonata”, bridges, soju bottle and other art installations, gift shops, and hundreds of other people. Not relaxing or desolate, but very fun in a group of six girls. Once it was dark, we decided to trek back home and reward (gorge) ourselves with pizza and chicken. Today (Sunday), we went to church and enjoyed the first Korean food of the weekend for lunch. Soon after we had to start saying goodbyes.

This week also marked my first women’s-English-bible study session. It went pretty well, but I’m glad to have Jiwon here to help translate the difficult stuff! I also taught my kids, which continues to go well. They are wild, but seem to be absorbing what I teach them, so that’s good! I continue to have tons of fun with them. The time flies by whenever I go to teach them.

My women’s English novel-reading group is also still going strong, but this past week we did something a little different – they took me ice fishing! How strange, to sit in front of a hole, with a small plastic stick, and wait for a bite as you shiver against the wind. Why should that be as exciting and fun as it was?! I caught 5. (They were very small, like a baby carrot, so don’t be that impressed.) What I loved most about it, though, was the occasion our little excursion became. When we needed a break, someone pulled out the camp stove and boiled water for ramen. Someone else pulled out a thermos of coffee and offered real whipped cream as a topping. Then we ate lots of regular AND triangle kimbap, too (because everything’s better in a fun shape). The fishing ended up seeming incidental to the winter picnic. It was great.

Last Sunday was also the first time I went to norebang (the Korean word for karaoke). It’s different from North America-style, where you’re typically pushed into singing in front of drunken strangers in a bar. Here, it’s not quite so nerve-wracking. You pay by the hour and go into a private room with its own screen, mics, and disco lights, and you and your friends can go crazy singing into the night! (Though people outside the room can hear your miked voice. It’s pretty funny just to stand outside and listen to the off-tune bleating of several occupied rooms!) There are tons of popular English songs to choose from, so I sang my way through an eclectic mix of Nirvana, Sixpence None the Richer, Adele, and Maroon 5. We went on what happened to be my six-months-in-Korea “anniversary” (technically it was my friend Heather’s belated birthday celebration). I’ve been wanting to go to norebang for quite some time, now,  so it was quite appropriate. I’m so glad I finally went – I will be requesting this activity for my own birthday festivities!

I have no idea what this next week brings, but I also have no doubts that it will prove both fun and challenging. Pray for me and my English groups; pray for me to have patience in all circumstances, and keep a servant-like attitude. I have less than five months left here, and I want them to count!

Thanks again for reading.

Deborah

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February is the Shortest Month

17 Feb

I just spent three hours composing a long new post, only to decide not to publish it. I realized the last few have all been more on the introspective side, and I didn’t want to do that to you again. Still, if you’d like to read it, ask me and I’ll send it to you (deborah dot wiens at gmail dot com). Now for a few short updates and some lurvely photos!

The last few weeks have been a fun mix of regular activities. We welcomed Jiwon into our home and, even though she’ll still go home on most weekends, I think she fits in nicely here. Her first week here, three of us watched the documentary “Babies”, because it’s got barely any talking and therefore language barriers, and it’s cute. And there’s a Mongolian baby in that film! We oohed and ahhed over all the Mongolian landscape shots, and it pretty much settled the deal that I’ll visit Doogii one day.

Last week was Lunar New Year – the other big Korean holiday beside Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness much “authentic” celebration, but no, I’m not that upset about it. I took advantage of the long weekend, visited my Connexus friends once again (watched Argo, highly recommend), and then visited Seoul on a whim of independence. Quite honestly,  I needed to get out of Chuncheon for a while. I meandered around the big shopping area called Myeongdong, realized it was all cosmetics stores, and then decided to hit up the National Museum of Korea. The weather was crisp but sunny, so I got a coffee and walked around the little park there. Remember how happy that made me in Shanghai? Nothing’s changed. I felt a much-needed resurgence of “I love Korea” feelings, and I was happy to go back to Chuncheon that evening. (This video sums it up nicely!)

Yesterday Doogii and I went on a looong walk toward the Lady of Chuncheon statue which I’ve passed a number of times but never got a picture of till now. It took us 2 hours to get to her from home, and then we decided to walk towards Chuncheon’s Myeongdong for a dinner  of coffee and baked goods at the Paris Baguette bakery. A Saturday afternoon well-spent!

This coming week promises a few new and exciting events. First off, I’m starting a new English class, with two ladies. It will be Bible-based English study, so probably a little different from my other classes. I’m also leading my second cell group! Last week I led the study on Esther, this week I’ll do Job. Next weekend is another YALT reunion. Are they happening more often than usual, or is time flying? I’m excited to visit Chuncheon’s Nami island with those girls and both my roommates.

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Thanks again for reading, and have a good one!

Deborah