Monday, February 25, 2013

Thoughts on Korea: land of the morning calm

I grew up in Inchon, Korea. Not a very catchy factoid. I lived across the road from one of the longest tides in the world on the Yellow Sea. We were on the west coast of Korea and the sun sinking into the waves is part of my ethos, my nature. Korea is part of me, a part I've come to appreciate with renewed force this weekend.

Last Friday we met a Korean couple, and Sam (obviously not his Korean name) was also an Inchonite. He treated me like a long-lost sister. As Phil and I enjoyed a delightful lunch with Sam and Sarah and we heard their heart for Africa, something else came through. Something else that reminded me why I LOVE Koreans so much.

There we are, doing what Koreans do: recording the event for posterity! (Sam is the photographer.)

Koreans are one people. They are not a hodgepodge of ethnicities like Americans, many European countries or any number of African countries. They are not Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or any other -ese. They are Korean. Their history is long and singular. They have certain characteristics that help describe them. One of my favorites is: "When Chinese go to a new place, they open a restaurant; when Koreans go to a new place, they start a church."

Their identity as Koreans is a lesson we as Christians need to learn. Koreans are brothers. They look out for each other. They help each other get started. They can be relied upon when the other ethnicities in a community fail. There is a kinship among Koreans that helps me perceive what Jesus meant when He said, "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (John 17:21)

This may sound strange because I'm talking about a country divided. Whenever I meet someone new who finds out I grew up in Korea, I invariably get a rather silly question: "North or South?" If they knew their history just a little, they'd have a clue. Korea has been divided for longer than I've been alive. They have been two countries; but they are one people. The rest of the world may have forgotten that. The rest of the world may consider the North the "enemy" and the South the "friend." But the Koreans know they are brothers.

My heart was deeply touched as Sam told me about a plan I hadn't heard of. The South Korean church has a burden for her North Korean brothers. The DMZ (demilitarized zone) along the 38th parallel is a barrier they know will come down one day. As surely as the Berlin Wall fell, that hateful "no man's land" will be gone.

And when it does, oh, when it does . . .

The South Koreans will be ready. The Korean churches are united in their vision (not their styles of worship, denominations, rituals or doctrines)--their vision--they are going to succor their northern brethren. The instant the DMZ is open, people from various churches already have been assigned to their northern location. They will pick up, lock, stock, and barrel, and uproot their lives for their brothers. They will go there, live there, minister there, and be salt and light. My goodness, EVERYONE will know they are brothers by the way they love one another. Every Korean church has a part of the big plan. The united Koreas will be healed by their church.

Doesn't it just make you wish you'd been born Korean? They are the second largest sender of missionaries in the world. And that after only half a century of peace and recovery from war. They understand:

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

We all live with some kinds of demilitarized zones around us: our hearts just don't get unity. The enemy uses everything at his disposal to divide us from one another. 

Let's take a page from the book of our Korean brothers and be deliberate about LOVE.


Bright.Eyed.Bug said...

I have to admit,part of me has always wished I was Korean-but that has more to do with my wonderful father than the actual country.
The fact that they already have assignments for where they will serve when they are once again unified shows such a strong sense of faith and hope that is so encouraging! I think we all need to be a little more Korean sometimes :) (not to mention their DELICIOUS food!)

Jarm Del Boccio said...

This is a beautiful tribute, Karen! And it did bring tears to my eyes. What a heritage you have had...

Katie W. said...

I know you don't know me, but I know Isabel. :)

I loved reading this and wanted to thank you for posting it; I spent a short summer teaching English in Korean schools in college, and it changed my life forever. The Korean PEOPLE changed ME. Your note brought joy to my heart and a fresh perspective to my spirit.

My thanks.