Monday, April 28, 2014

Remembering: A Sewol Memorial

Tour buses shuttled people to and from the Ansan Olympic Museum where there is a 24 hour mass memorial for students of nearby Danwon High School, victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

So many people were gathered that a maze-like line was set up for mourners to walk through in order to slow down the pace...two young boys avoided the long zig-zagged line by crouching under their umbrella until their parents looped around again.

Friends and families of all ages appeared; many with expressions of despair, yet some, like this little guy - so full of life. In many ways, I envied his ignorance.

Signs were hung along the walkway where messages and prayers could be written.  Strings of yellow remembrance ribbons lined the sidewalk as the procession trailed onward.

The flowers were gone, after thousands upon thousands had visited since first opening on Thursday, so as we entered the community center we were handed small black ribbons to lay at the "altar." Large groups gathered and a man led us in a moment of silent prayer. We followed by laying the ribbons at the foot of the memorial wall of fresh flowers and photographs. The blanket of ribbons was so deep; I wondered how many had been laid before I gently offered mine. A woman beside me wept uncontrollably. My tears streamed down in the same manner. An attendant at the exit saw my drenched cheeks and handed me clean tissues without missing a beat. I thanked her. She bowed. I bowed in return, clumsily..

I arrived at home with hours to dedicate to report card writing, lesson planning and that lingering pile of laundry that naggingly calls my name. Yet here I remain; with nothing accomplished but a heavy heart and a kindred blog post. I try to close my eyes but the faces of students are tattooed in my mind.

Lord, be here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Resurrection Reflections

A journal excerpt, Easter Sunday 2014

"The sun is shining, the air is warm, the eggs are dyed and the new dress fits to a T. What a seemingly perfect day to celebrate our risen Lord!

Yet we enter the sanctuary with hearts heavy. It is a few days shy of one week since the devastating Sewol ferry accident. With each passing day, new stories are revealed; stories of children orphaned, loved ones lost, dreams shattered - lives that will never again be the same.

Today, I am reminded of the seriousness of Christ's sacrifice and the vitality of his risen life; I am reminded of how desperately humanity needs him. I pray this knowledge may be our joy are we reflect on the meaning of this day's importance to eternity.

Lord, so many are asking questions today.. wondering where you are; why you allowed this to happen; wondering where the joy of your salvation lies.

But these questions are not new to your ears, are they? You've heard them endless times - you even heard them from Jesus. He asked you to take away his cup; he questioned why you forsake him on the cross as he bore death for all.. Our questions go so far, for we do not know your ways. But your faithfulness - it goes further still.

In the midst of the brokenness, the anger, the loneliness, the despair. Be here.

Lives will never be the same, but Lord, I pray they will one day be whole. Through the power of your risen Son."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Long Time No See

Time has been flying. The faster it goes, the less likely I am to blog - there's too much to say! Here are just some a few highlights from the last two months. Thank goodness I feel the constant need to photo-document everything I do - I'll let the pictures do most of the talking:
  • 2/14 - Valentine's Day with my kiddos was a blast! Though the tradition in Korea is for the girls to give the guys chocolate on this day (it is reversed for White Day in March), we did it western style and had snack parties for all. Also..I discovered these gems in the office before work. They are too pretty not to share. (;
  • 2/22 - I visited the Korean War Museum with Abby. It was a lot to take in, but a really good way to discover more about this fascinating country. I need to visit more museums soon; they're one of my favorite ways to learn!
  • 3/1 - I've begun a loose remineralizing diet (similar to paleo) for health reasons. It's not easy being that I cannot get some of the essential ingredients here (no coconut oil?!) but I am easing into it one step at a time. I am not used to eating so much meat, so I am trying to really trust my body to tell me what I need. Here is a favorite recipe I've made so far: Indian Coconut Fish Curry. YUM-O.

  • 3/15 - We had a goodbye dinner for Juhee, Connexus' head grammar teacher. She is very missed but we are also happy to welcome two great new staff memebers at Connexus!  It's always changing around here - flexibility is key.
  • 3/21 - Sarah and Jong's wedding! It was so special to experience the Korean-style wedding of this great couple. We turned the celebration into a weekend retreat in Sokcho (on the east coast) for the whole Connexus/NARPI/KOPI community!

  • 3/22 - I've always considered myself a mountains kind of girl, but feeling the warm sand underneath my feet literally felt like home. 
  • 3/27 - Spring is here!! This is VERY good news. I haven't needed my winter jacket for two weeks (and yes, I have been keeping track). Ahhhh ~
  • 3/29 - I received a unique gift from a complete stranger..a man saw me eating this (giant) Asian pear at the bus stop, walked up, and gave me this brand new knife as a "present." I think I shocked him by eating the peel. hehe
  • 3/30 - My first batch of homemade remineralizing toothpaste! I had to order the ingredients to the US and then my mom sent them here (international shipping is so steep!). I am hoping this will help with some of the oral problems I have had recently. But regardless, it's fun to make and doesn't taste too bad either!
  • Picnics are one of my absolute favorite things. Kaia, Abby and I hiked up the cemetery hill in our "back yard" for a wonderful view of the mountains. 
  • 3/31 - After three days with no voice, I was finally diagnosed with laryngitis. Doctor's orders? "Don't talk for one week."  Not an easy task for a teacher. I'm so thankful for ALL the people that pulled together to teach my classes yesterday! Their flexibility is such a blessing. And my students - how precious - gave me vitamins and throat drops when they heard I was sick. These kids are seriously the best.
  • I am now in the double digits of my time remaining in Korea - I will be leaving around July 1st! Though I truly anticipate the adventures returning home will bring, I've also realized how much doing and learning there is to do here still! Three months. It's going to fly. Planning to make the most of it.

Prayers for wisdom and discernment are more than welcome as I strive to use my time here wisely, pour myself into teaching, job hunt for opportunities back home and seek the Lord in it all.


PS. Veronica's journal today:

Date: Monday, March 31st, 2014 
Weather: It is like a summer. 
Title: Kate teacher!!! 
Today my mom took backpack to me after piano class. 
But today was story book day so I said I don't need it then she said Kate teacher is sick so her voice didn't come out. 
So our class learn with Kaia teacher and Aile. 
I was a sad a little bit because I can't talk with Kate teacher. 
I am worring because maybe her clod get bad. 
I am so sad when I am thinking that. 
I miss her very much. 
Please, cold come out of Kate teacher!! 
My cold get better after I wrote "Go away!!!" 
So I want Kate teacher get better. 
Kate teacher it will be better!!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Prayers for Peace

The Lunar New Year brought a much welcome long weekend! It was a wonderful time of rest and relaxation, but also life-enriching experiences. Sarah invited Abby and I to join her on a trip to Ganghwa Island to spend a few days with new scenery and visit the Peace Observatory. As we trekked up the hill to the observation deck, North Korea emerged across the water from seemingly no where. It was completely surreal. I have never experienced the cliche "near but yet so far" so flawlessly.

As the three of us took moments to pray onlooking the North's shore, all that consumed my mind was: if we were doing this across the river, we would be executed.

But some exciting news did arise this week: on February 4th a meeting was held between North and South Korea to arrange family reunions that will take place at the end of the month. It's hard enough being separated from family because of distance...but to think of the families that live within miles of each other that aren't allowed to be together because of an oppressive government?

As with so many other struggles the world is currently facing - big and small - I don't want the aching of my heart to stop with acknowledgement of how blessed I am. May I never be satisfied with feeling "blessed." That is just not enough.

Though words and pictures could not possibly touch your heart as deeply as experiencing it yourself, here are just a few simple shots to help see it through my eyes:

A map of Ganghwa
(the Observatory being on the northern-most tip).
The tan on the map marks North Korea.

Catching a glimpse of North Korea, up close and personal.
People were just walking around,
participating in their normal daily routines.

Sketches from a concentration camp escapee.
His heartbreaking yet empowering story is told in the book Escape From Camp 14.

A room in the observatory dedicated to prayers and wishes for unification.
It was incredible seeing the commonality of hearts in people from all around the world.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! ~Psalm 133:1

Where are you today?
Are you working? In class? Busy at home with the little ones? In this very moment I challenge you, no matter where you find yourself, to seek peace and pursue it in your corner of this world ~

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

By Our Love

Few things hurt my heart more than Christians bashing other Christians. 

It pains me to see the consequential result of their words or behavior, and the effect it can have in many ways - including on people's views of Christians as a whole. However, I will choose to not be driven into responsive shame brought by those whose words or actions do not seem to measure. I know that the confidence of my faith should come from no one but solely the Lord! When Paul wrote to the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 12), he addressed their current sin - not out shame from their actions or pride from his own - but in a determination to speak the truth in love! I pray this will be the initial response of my own heart when faced with similar struggles.

Today I've been meditating on this passage of scripture:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" ~ Matthew 5:43-47

It seems many Christians have taken that verse to the extreme: we are finding it easier and easier to love the world, yet are coming to hate those who share with us in the Body of Christ. Do we agree with everything other Christians do? No. Will we ever? Very unlikely. Do we sometimes want to cover our eyes at the actions of other believers? Absolutely.

Who would have thought the biggest downfall for the Church could be the Church itself? I am convinced that if the children of God humbly exercised love, accountability and forgiveness among one another - as we have been called to do - we would see immeasurable transformation in the progression of God's kingdom here on earth. 

Jesus calls us to love the unlovable. To forgive the unforgivable. To reconcile what was meant for Him. Well, sometimes our brothers and sisters will be the unlovable ones. There will be times when forgiving them seems impossible. Sometimes, if we're honest with ourselves, we do not want to be reconciled to particular members of the family of God. But do you know the beautiful thing about God's love? He didn't just give enough to satisfy our hearts - he has lavished His love upon us so that it overflows!  It's a gift that is meant to be shared! We need to just trust in His provision.

Love covers wrong. Mind you this does not mean it justifies wrong, but rather it allows forgiveness to have the overriding word. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

God is love and will faithfully supply us with all the love we need to share with others. "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." ~ 1 John 4:7

Despite our various shapes and sizes, love - for God and for one another - unifies us! "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." ~ Colossians 3:14

The words of this convicting hymn have been playing on repeat in my head. They will know we are Christians by our love for one another! How are we doing, truly?

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.

All praise to the Father, from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus, his only Son,
And all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Measuring Sticks & Burning Bushes

Student 1: "Would you rather marry a handsome dumb man or an ugly intelligent man?"
Student 2 (and followed by the rest): "I'd rather marry an ugly and intelligent man, because since he's smart he can get a good job and have plastic surgery to make himself handsome."

This conversation happened a few days ago, and while it may initially pull out a laugh or two at its seemingly absurdness, it only added to the burden I have already been hauling for this class of four preteen girls. Such questions and answers do not only mirror their thoughts toward others, but the way they view themselves. 

I live in a culture where it is not uncommon for parents to provide their children with plastic surgeries as graduation gifts and where before-and-after billboards plaster the walls of subway stations displaying the endless possibilities for "improvement." One could hardly blame these helpless hearts for the lies they believe. 

I'm fat. I'm ugly. I'm dumb. I'm not good enough.

Thoughts like these and others can encourage drastic and destructive measures..

I need to lose weight.  I need to change my looks. I need to be the smartest.  I need to be something; anything more than I am now.

My mom recently shared a devotional with me from Anne Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. The post was her reflections of the harm caused by comparison:

“The world isn’t a forest of measuring sticks. The world is a forest of burning bushes. Everything isn’t a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here. That God is working through this person’s life, that God is redeeming that person’s life, that God is igniting this work, that God is present here in this mess, that God is using even this.” (Anne Voskamp)

This is the message I long to instill in the lives of my precious students. It pains me seeing the insecurities that seep through mouths and actions of these amazing girls I have come to love so dearly; it pains me because many of those insecurities are battles I have fought and continue to fight deep down. I know the war is real. I know the wounds can cut deep. As I riot at the door of their spirits, seeking to engrave in their hearts messages of love and hope and worth, I often hear my words as if they were not words leaving my own mouth.

Do you really believe what you're saying to them right now? Of course! Then allow these truths to be engraved on your heart too, dear one.

I am not here to be known for who I am.
I am here to make Him known for who He is.
Oh, the security of being in His arms!

In a world of measuring sticks, I so long to be a burning bush ~

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Though all the staff are followers of Christ, Connexus is not publicized as a faith-based academy. Our students come from all different family backgrounds and experiences to join Connexus with the purpose of learning English in a positive environment. But, God has been providing daily opportunities for His love to be shared in this place.

In my final class of the day we celebrated the birthday of my two eldest students (twin girls). When first arriving, they ran to me, each giving me enormous hugs. If that wasn't enough to make my day! Along with the other two girls in our class, we had a great time eating cake and exchanging gifts while still having time to complete our entire lesson. No complaints from this teacher!

This evening, shortly after classes were finished, I received a homework assignment from one of the birthday-girls and just had to share it:

'Today is my birthday. So my friends give me a presents. I like that so much. And I went to the connexous. Kate teacher, Sally and Allie gave me a present. That was 2 notebook and 3 pens. I like that very much! My best time today was in connexous and night in our house!! I think you would want to go to your home. I will pray instead for you! "Please Kate teacher's family don't became not healthy. Please Kate teacher's parents, sisters and brother became healthy!" Bye!!'

~ A-very-encouraged-and-thankful-Kate-Teacher