Lessons from the Korea years

Yesterday we received a Christmas letter from the other American couple we taught with in Korea. They left seven years ago when we did – the English program at the University was changing. They then went to Japan, Los Angeles, & just this school year returned to Myong Ji! How fun to hear from them again & hear how Korea has changed over the last ten years. Keith & I have often thought it would be fun to go back & visit, but Seoul is so transient. There wouldn’t be many left that we knew from before. Maybe we’ll get back & meet up before they are off to new adventures!

Korea changed our lives. I am so thankful G-d led us to that University job for three years for many reasons. Being newly-weds, it was good for us to spend the first five years tv-less! We highly recommend that for anyone. We spent so many hours talking about anything & everything! Korea isolated us quite a bit, too, in spite of the 15 million living literally all around us. We had each other & not many others with similar backgrounds. That cemented us as a team early on. We have so many great memories that were just us that nobody else shares. Funny experiences; unique experiences! It was a very good thing for the start of our marriage.

After Korea, Keith & I felt like we could do anything anywhere! If we could live three years in one room, no vehicle, in a city of 15 million, etc. we really could conquer anything. That’s a fun feeling. We both would love to go back overseas, it’s just a matter of when & where we’re called as far as we are concerned. We always want to be open to G-d moving us whenever & wherever He chooses.

That leads me to the biggest lesson from our Korea years. There is no such thing as “home” to a Christian this side of eternity. That same feeling we had when we first got to Korea – not fitting in at all, not being understood, sticking out in the crowd, missing “home” – soon gave way to a feeling that never left. We didn’t feel like we completely fit in to either side of the ocean. Things in the US started seeming strange. We had friends & loved ones both places. When we came back to the States to stay, we were quite shocked at the reverse culture shock & how long that lasted. But we both agreed we never want to lose that feeling the rest of our lives because it taught us something deeper.

We are strangers in this land. We are far from Home! We have loved ones both here & on the other side. (That is another lesson to blog – what we’ve learned this last year on heaven & death.) We are not understood here by most. We are “counter-culture”.

We learned quickly on in Korea that we NEED others! If you spoke English, you were an instant friend! If you were American, even more so. If you were a Christian, you may as well be an instant blood relative! That sense of really needing others is not here in the States at all. We are such an independant group. But the fact is, we DO need each other. Even if we aren’t aware of it, we need each other here just as much as we did over there. It may not be a need to share information about where to find what you need (like wheat bread, chicken, or spaghetti goods) but we need each other as iron sharpens iron. What the Bible calls “koinonia” – real fellowship – doesn’t happen very often around here. You have to work to find it. And it takes years. Most don’t even realize they need it. In Korea, it happened very quickly out of necessity & we ALL knew we wouldn’t make it without it.

So there you have it – a few of life’s lessons we learned in our Korea years. It’s hard to put into words. Living overseas never really leaves your blood. It’s different than visiting overseas. I hope each of our children get a taste of it early in their adult lives.


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