Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Best Movie #6: Gone with the Wind

Today, I've spent most of the day in bed due to the stomach flu. I know, I know, I must be getting old. I'm still getting acupuncture treatment on my back, so I just prayed that I wouldn't have to make a run to the toilet with needles sticking out my back. (Probably too much information there!)
With all of this extra time off, I've finished reading Harry Potter (5), and today I watched Gone with the Wind. AFI ranks it as the 6th best movie of all time.
I was greatly disappointed, though. Sure, it's a great story with some great lines: "You need to be kissed good and often and by someone who knows how!" and of course, "Frankly, my dear ..."
However, I felt a steady sense of disgust at how the movie glamorized the old South, completely varnishing over the horrors of slavery. The rolling text narration consistently referred to that era as one full of gallantry, chivalry, and grace. I'm sure it didn't feel nearly so beautiful at the end of the whip in a cotton patch.
Also, the whole point of the movie is how Scarlet O'Hara throws her life away. In Rhett Butler's words, she was "throwing happiness away with both hands." She lives with nearly utter selfishness and reaps the rewards: a lonely heartbroken life. I suppose that could be the negative image of a positive message: don't be selfish - it doesn't pay. But over all, Rhett and Scarlet seem to glamorize and promote selfish and careless living.
Another downside: it is very, very long: 3 hours 40 minutes!

All in all, I give it a jjj rating. A good movie, but not all it was cracked up to be.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Emma's Theology

Thursday night, our friend Amanda (christened "Mamanda" by Emma) graciously agreed to a late night babysitting venture so Sarah could join me at pool night. Later she sent us an email relaying what happened during bedtime:

Oh funny story...so after I read the books to Emma I was saying good night and almost forgot to pray. As I'm looking at the puzzled look on her face, I remembered. I asked if she wanted to pray or if she wanted me to. She said that she wanted me to pray. So I start...."Dear Jesus...." I forget to ask that she have no bad dreams and since I'm some what praying for her I say "please help me to have no bad dreams" when I finish she's like pray that I don't have bad dreams either. Oops what was I thinking. So I then pray that EMMA doesn't have bad dreams. When I finally finish she says we usually say "Dear God" then I say well they are the same. And she's like "no they're not." I say "well....yeah..." Then she said "well they're not. Jesus lives in the clouds next to God, but God is all around us."
Hope I haven't confused her too much.

And we think the Trinity is hard for adults!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Arrow in the Back

I often have mild back pain. I had a minor injury in High School, and my stress collects in my upper back, causing tension and knots.
However, starting on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, I have had sudden, random pain between my spine and my right shoulder blade. The slightest movements can set it off one minute, and lifting something heavy or doing the same exact thing a minute later might have no effect.
Thursday night, at pool night, the pain reached its zenith. I felt like I had been accosted by American Indians and still had an arrow in my back. There was a steady pain (like from the intruding arrow), with sudden, random, very sharp pain (as if the arrow bumped into something I couldn't see). Great fun.
In the taxi on the way home, I canceled my appointments for today. I have spent most of the day in bed. The pain is significantly less today, so I haven't been to the doctor yet. I'm waiting to find the location of a highly recommended eastern medicine doctor. I haven't been very impressed with chiropractors here, and our family practice doctor would just give me pain relievers. Unless the pain gets bad again, I'll just take it easy for the rest of the day.
Maybe not a very exciting post, but it's what's happening around here - other than that I was 2nd place in last night's pool tourney, despite the arrow in my back. Random!

Playing Catch-up

So after a month of high-stress, barely keeping my head above water, work, I am now finally playing catch up. I will not be preaching for the next three weeks, so I have a burden of pressure lifted, and I can focus on some less urgent but still important things.
This week I have:
- given a much needed cleaning to my office, including sorting through the mountain of books and papers on my coffee table and desk. That mountain has now dwindled down to a smattering of post-it notes and scattered papers - still not what I would call neat, but a vast improvement.
- met with a slew of people. I've had lunch appointments every day of the week, plus extra appointments on most days. I am catching up on some pastoral visits and meeting with people to start working out the (corresponding) slew of activities our Advisory Council approved on Sunday.
- slightly reworked my syllabus and English teaching handouts. I had planned to give them a major going over, but I've settled on some minor (very unstressful) changes.
- completely caught up with my gmail account.
- begun to attack my yahoo email account, which has almost 150 unanswered emails! I am starting from the back, so right now I'm answering emails from January.

I'm still not caught up, but I've decided to to skip my planned spiritual retreat, due to the incredible (and mostly unplanned and unavoidable) busyness of this winter break. That extra time should reduce my stress and help me start the semester on solid footing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KNU Looking for Many New Teachers

Korea Nazarene University is planning to expand its English teaching into the area public school system. This is a great opportunity for ministry (and paying off debt!). Check out this article for more details.

KNU also wants to hire more professors to teach within the university system. The article above does not talk about this, but if you have a masters degree, you are eligible to teach at the university (less hours, more vacation, better pay). The initial contact person is the same.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Articles on the Bible

Last week's sermon was one of the hardest I have ever preached. The concepts involved were so complex and difficult (at least for me). The text (Matthew 5:13-37) raised questions about the authority of the Bible, the relationship of the Old and New Testaments, contemporary interpretation, the relationship of Jesus (and Christianity and Christians) to the Old Testament, and more.
Here are three articles that I found both helpful and thought provoking as I though through these issues:
N.T. Wright: "How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?"
Dennis Bratcher: "Torah as Holiness"
Kieth Drury: "Who Says What the Bible Says?"

I highly recommend that you take the time to read all three of these articles. If you do read them, I would love to hear your feedback.

Matthew 5:13-37 - "Being Biblical"

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

February 17, 200

Read Matthew 5:13-37.

As I was studying this week, I read two difficult quotes. One author said, “This is perhaps the most difficult passage to be found anywhere in the Gospel.”[1] Yeah, I love to hear that when I’m getting ready to preach! Another author said that this passage is key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount, the Kingdom of God, and the whole Gospel of Matthew.[2] Great! So today’s passage is one of the most difficult and most important passages in all of Matthew. No pressure, huh? (I feel kind of like I’m up to bat with 2 outs in the 9th inning. We’re down by one run, and I never was any good at baseball.)

OK, so what’s the big deal here? What’s the great controversy? Well, this passage raises lots of basic questions. What is Jesus’ relationship with the Old Testament? And, now that we have the New Testament, what do we do with the Old Testament? Is it just helpful background knowledge, or does it still count? Does it still have authority over us?

Here’s the real difficulty. Jesus seems to contradict himself.

First, Jesus expresses undying commitment to the Hebrew Bible (the law and the prophets). “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved” (5:17-18). When Jesus says “not even the smallest detail … will disappear,” the word he uses is for the little dots and marks that complete letters, like the dot on an “i” or the cross of a “t.” As far as Jesus is concerned, even the teeny tiny stuff will not go away. It’s hard to get more committed to the Bible than that.

But then, 60 seconds later, Jesus starts ripping into the law like a kid with a pair of scissors. In six successive points, Jesus says, “You have heard that our ancestors were told,” and he quotes something from the Hebrew Bible, always from the Torah (the “law” section). Then, Jesus says, “but I say” something different.

This is amazing stuff here! Once, Jesus reinterprets the law (“love your neighbor” 5:43-44). Three times, Jesus adds to the law (murder 5:21-26; adultery 27-30; and vows 5:33-37). Two of those were from the 10 Commandments. Jesus said the 10 Commandments weren’t good enough!

Here is the really amazing stuff. Two times, Jesus even changes the law.

Moses said husbands could divorce their wives if “she does not please him” or if he discovers “something wrong with her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus seems a bit more realistic. In any marriage, there will be times when a wife will not please her husband or when he’ll find something wrong with her. That was a big, big step forward for woman-kind. Some Jewish rabbis said that burning a meal was enough grounds for divorce.

Jesus says that faithfulness demands sticking with the marriage unless the other person commits adultery (Matt. 5:31-32). Men can’t just toss out women like some old trash and put them in the streets to fend for themselves as “used goods.” That kind of makes sense, but still, the Bible was wrong? Jesus later says, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts” (Matt. 19:8). So Jesus can change what Moses said in the Bible? Really?

OK, what about this? Moses was trying to keep people from going overboard in seeking revenge, so he said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This concept was so important that it is in the Hebrew Bible three times (Ex. 21:24, Lev. 24:20, Deut 19:21)! But Jesus wipes all three of those aside and says, “Don’t resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also” (Matt. 5:38-39).

What?! Are you serious? OK, forget about whether or not we should actually “turn the other cheek” for a minute. Did Jesus just say that the Bible is wrong? Did Jesus just say that a command from the Bible, which was repeated 3 times, was wrong? Yeah, pretty much. It was good in its time. It kept the violence to a minimum. But Jesus says we’re past that now. Maybe it wasn’t wrong for its time, but it’s wrong for our time. Now we’re moving on to a higher morality, or perhaps moving down to the deeper morality which was at the heart of that command in the first place.

So Jesus says:

1) He has not come to get rid of the Bible.

2) He has come to fulfill the Bible.

3) Even the smallest part of the Bible is here forever.

4) We can’t ignore even the little stuff.

Then he says:

1) You guys just aren’t getting what the Bible is really talking about. Your teachers are misinterpreting and misapplying the Bible.

2) The Bible (even the 10 Commandments) didn’t go far enough.

3) Sometimes the Bible is wrong, or at least wrong for today.

Is anybody else confused, here?

I had a really hard time understanding what Jesus was talking about here, and I had an even harder time understanding what this means for us. I wrestled and wrestled with this. Sometimes I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall. Sometimes I WANTED to hit my head against a wall. Finally, I remembered the Hebrew word torah. Then, the lights began to go on for me.

We usually misunderstand the word torah. Most of the time, torah is translated into Greek or into English as “law,” and sometimes torah definitely means law or specific laws. But torah has a much richer meaning.

To start with, torah is also the name of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and sometimes, torah is even used to refer to the whole Hebrew Bible. This in itself shows us that torah must mean something more than “law.”

Think about it. Jews of Jesus’ time calculated that the Hebrew Bible has a grand total of 613 “laws,” or specific commands from God. That sounds like a lot – 613! That would take a lot of memorization. But think about this. The Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) has a total of 27,570 verses. If you figure that each command takes one or two verses, then “laws” make up only 3-4% of the OT and only 10-20% of the Torah.[3]

Most of the Bible, even most of the Torah, is story. How can a story be “law”? Imagine if that you go to a lawyer or a judge with a legal question: “Is it legal if I …” And she says, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who …” Huh? Story can’t be “law,” but it can be “instruction” or “guidance.”

And that’s what torah is really all about. The torah is God’s guidance on how to live. Dennis Bratcher explains it like this: “The OT concept of torah is a lifestyle of nurtured and nurturing relationship with God and others... Torah is not primarily a book to obey or rules to follow; it is a path to walk, a way of life to lead.”[4]

The point of the torah, and the Bible, in general is to teach us how to live God’s way, and really, the point is more than teaching. The point is to get us to actually do it.

The Biblical concept of torah is complicated. Torah is living and active. It is both stable and changing. Torah is law and story and application and song. Torah is old and new. Torah is written and unwritten. Sometimes torah is the written code of laws. Sometimes torah is the fresh voice from God to the people

In the first chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah says, “Listen to the torah of our God.” Then he goes on to tell the people that even though they are obeying the laws in a technical sense, they still aren’t obeying the torah. In fact, Isaiah’s preaching is an actual embodiment of God’s continuing torah or instruction on how to live. Isaiah says, “God doesn’t care about your sacrifices. Get your lives straight and help other people.” (See Isaiah 1.) Isaiah’s preaching is a new part of the torah of God.

Being committed to the torah is being committed to the ancient voice of God preserved for us from generations and being committed to the present voice of God who interrupts our lives and speaks a new word. Being faithful to the torah involves a commitment to the written words and a commitment to the Spirit of God who continually reinterprets those written words in our lives.[5]

In our passage today, Jesus expresses a deep commitment to the written torah, but like Isaiah he is bringing out more torah, new torah, from God. Jesus is helping the people to get closer to God’s original intent with the torah. Jesus is saying, “Look, this is what God really wants for us.”

Jesus is saying that it’s not enough just to read and do old written words. We have to dig deep into the written torah and discover God’s living and active torah for our lives today. We have to get to the heart of the torah. What was God really saying? What kind of life does God really want from us? What is the heart of God’s plan for his people?

But even that is not enough. It’s not enough just to discover the heart of God’s torah. It’s not enough just to figure out how God wants us to live. We have to get the heart of God’s torah into our hearts. We have to get the life that God really wants for us to come alive in our hearts. The Kingdom of God, the torah, God’s dream for the world, the revolution of God – it has to start in our hearts. It has to live in our hearts, and from our hearts it moves out into our lives and into the world.

This is what Jesus means, “Your righteousness has to be better than the Pharisees and teachers of the law” (Matt 5:20). He doesn’t mean we need to take their 613 laws and make 614 or 6,014. Our righteousness has to be qualitatively different, deeper, from the heart.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14). Salt does lots of different good things. It makes fires burn hotter; it makes meat last longer; it makes food taste better; but basically it makes the world better. Light is pretty much the same. It makes things grow; it gives life; it shows the way; it makes the world better. Jesus says, “You are salt and light for the world. You are God’s instruments of change in the world. You are God’s instruction or torah to show the world how to live. So be salty. Live a bright life.”

Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see.” The Greek word for “good” here is not just “good in quality.” It is that kind of good, but it is also beautiful, attractive, alluring.[6] It’s like Mother Theresa said, “Let’s do something beautiful together.” Jesus is saying, “Live a life so beautiful that the world sees what I really want. Live the Kingdom of God from the center of your heart. Live so that your very life becomes God’s torah for all who see you. Live so that people will want to follow you. Live way of God so beautifully that the world will become captivated by the beauty of God’s love. Live the way of God so that others will find the way of God.”

So what does this mean for us and Jesus, for us and the Bible?

First of all, God’s torah is still alive today. God’s Spirit is still alive, still giving his instruction to his people.

Second, we have to honestly face that the Bible is a difficult book. It’s not consistent. The Bible reinterprets itself. In the Bible, we see the ongoing process of the people of God trying to get closer and closer to the heart of God.

Third, that doesn’t mean we abandon the Bible. It means we run to the Bible. We need to go deeper into the Bible. We need to join the ongoing adventure of swimming into the deep depths of the Bible. We need to plunge our souls deep into the heart of God’s torah, especially as revealed in Jesus. And there, deep in the heart of God’s dream for the world, we need to discover together how to live in our world. Like Isaiah in his time, and like Jesus in the New Testament time, God has a new word a new torah for us. God has something new to say to us about how to be his faithful people in this time, our time. Together with each other and with the Spirit and with the Bible, we need to discover that.

What we really need here is PMS. If we are really going to get the Bible, we all need more PMS. Let me explain.

This works backwards. First, we need to SUBMIT. Ezekiel says we need heart surgery. God is going to take out our old hearts and give us a new heart filled with his Spirit and his torah (36:25-27). If we are going to have heart surgery, we have to submit to the doctor. We have to lay our lives down on that table and say, “OK, do whatever you need to do in me.”

Second, we need to MEDITATE. If we are going to get to the heart of the Bible, we need to think deeply on it, and let it get deep into our hearts. We need to think about it all day and all night.

Lastly, I am discovering a big key to understanding the Bible is PRACTICE. We have to actually put it into practice. Understanding the Bible goes in cycles. We understand; we obey. We understand more; we obey more. Part of the understanding process is actually practicing living it out. If we don’t obey or practice what we already understand, we aren’t going to be able to understand much more.

PMS, or SMP: Submit, Meditate, Practice. May you all have PMS! Even the men.

When I was in college, some of my friends used to sing a fun little kids’ song: “If I had a little white box to put my Jesus in, I’d take him out and smooch, smooch, smooch, and share him with my friends. If I had a little black box, to put the Devil in, I’d take him out and SMASH HIS FACE, and put him back again.”

Sarah keeps telling me that the theology of that song is not so good. Maybe she’s right, but my point is that I think we spend a lot of time taking Jesus and the Bible out of our little white boxes and putting him back again. We like to tell Jesus how wonderful he is (smooch, smooch, smooch) and then put him back in the box where we can contain him. We like to read our little Bible passage for the day or the week, and then put it back in its little box where it can’t disrupt our lives.

I think the call of Jesus for us today is this. Get so serious about the Bible that you open the lid of your box. Let God speak to you in new ways. You might find that it’s like Pandora’s box. The Spirit just keeps coming out, and you can’t contain it.

God’s torah is alive and active. Let it out. God’s Spirit has a new word for your life. God’s Spirit has a new word for our church. Let’s go deeply together into the Bible and deep into the Spirit, and open the box.

If we do, the Spirit might escape us. Once we let him out, we might not be able to stop him. Things might get out of control.

Make it so, God! Make it so!

[1] Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox, 1993), 46.

[2] Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 227.

[3]Old Testament Statistics - New American Bible,” compiled by Felix Just. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/OT-Statistics-NAB.htm.

[4] Dennis Bratcher, “Torah as Holiness: Old Testament ‘Law’ as Response to Divine Grace,” A Paper Presented to the Thirtieth Annual Meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society, Dayton, Ohio, November 5, 1994. http://www.crivoice.org/torahholiness.html

[5] Dennis Bratcher, “Torah as Holiness.”

[6] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 144.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two Koreas

I just finished this book this week, after borrowing it months ago from my friend Chris Hodam. (Chris, eventually, I'm going to watch TaeGukI and get that back to you, too!) It was a great read, a must read for any foreigners living in or interested in Korea.
This is a "modern history" telling the story of North and South Korea from the end of WWII to 2001. It focuses on politics and on the relationships between the two Koreas and other nations (especially China, USSR/Russia, USA, Japan, and Eastern Europe). This book helped me assemble the fragments of my knowledge about South Korea's political history into a cohesive whole, and it gave me my first in depth look at North Korea's systems, history, and politics.
What makes this book stand out as different from any other history book I've ever read is the amazing amount of first hand interviews and information. The author (Don Oberdorfer) was a journalist in Korea for several decades, so he interviewed almost all of the key players while they were in office. In preparation for writing this book, he interviewed in person or by mail countless diplomats, national administrators, and national leaders (including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Gorbachev!). It was amazing to read again and again something like this: "The first time I met President Kim Young Nam (substitute any major leader), he appeared to be ..."
If you live in Korea, or if you just like history, pick up this book. You'll be surprised how fast it reads!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

For Christmas, my parents and I gave Sarah a complete collection of Jane Austen's books (6 in total). Since Sarah and I usually read a book out loud together at nights before bed, she chose to read Sense and Sensibility for our next book.
I was apprehensive but indulging at first. A few years ago, we tried to read Pride and Prejudice together, but I just couldn't stomach the high-faluting language and attitudes of the main characters.
I expected more of the same from Sense and Sensibility, but I was pleasantly surprised. Also surprising was the book's regular dose of humor. Especially toward the end, I found myself laughing out loud almost every night.
It is a beautiful little story of two young women trying to find their way (and their husbands) in the world. One has lots of sense (reason and self-control), and one has lots of sensibility (passion and outward emotion). The book regularly pokes fun at rich people who give so much importance to riches and good standing. The social critique stands, but it is weakened somewhat by the main characters' desires for at least some wealth and servants. The message (possibly not intended this way) is that good character, good education, and good family are far more important than wealth or outward appearance, but nonetheless wealth is still quite helpful at least in moderation.
Reading this book has helped me to understand why Jane Austen is so popular. She has a wry, slanting sense of humor that often catches the reader off guard. Her characters are well developed, very human, and believable. The plot has unexpected twists and turns (one of which upset Sarah because the main character didn't get the guy Sarah thought was best).
Over all, I give Sense and Sensibility 4 j's.

Most Stressful Month of the Year Award

If you read this blog regularly, you have noticed that I haven't posted in a long time (11 days), and even then, my posts were pretty sparse, mostly limited to the sermons. There is a good reason for that.
The last month has been the most stressful month of the past year for us. It seems like every year events coalesce to make one month far and away more stressful than all the rest. One year ago, the month was March with the following stressful events:
- My unexpected ordination on the Korea National District
- The hurry-up "organization" (a Nazarene term for official formation) of our church as a church on the Korea National District of the Church of the Nazarene. (Before this event, we were semi-independent and semi-Nazarene and, by some standards, not fully a church.)
- Setting the policy for taking in members as a church (before being organized we never had any official membership since there was nothing official to join) and taking in our first members.
- Holy Week, with the accompanying special services.
- A one month visit by my parents, in which they spent much of their sleeping on our bed or in our living room. (As always, it was great having them here, but it still adds stress.)
- Making some big decisions as a church advisory council for the first time with a truly multicultural leadership team (and amid the stress, I managed this process pretty poorly).
So that was March of 2007, one of the most stressful months of my life.

Late January and early February of 2008 have not been as stressful as that month, not by a long shot. However, the combination of several small or moderately stressful events all in a short time has added up to a whole lot of stress for Sarah and I. Here's a list of the events in basically chronological order.
1. We began the adoption process. I posted on this earlier. This has been stressful for several reasons. We have had to gather and/or order lots of documents like birth certificates, bank statements, and criminal background clearances. We have to do some online adoption education, and we found out that the two agencies we are working with demand different education programs. We had to choose a country to adopt from. (We are now leaning heavily toward Russia, which means we may finally be able to visit our good friends Davide and Tanya Cantarella in Moscow.) Some of these documents had specific time requirements, so that was stressful for Sarah. We also realized that this will cost more than we thought, so that has caused stress as we have been sending out the first few thousand dollars and preparing for (and worrying about) the other tens of thousands of dollars.
2. Sarah signed up to be a long-term substitute at KNU's "English Village" (an English immersion program here in Cheonan). This was not so stressful in itself, but it kept Sarah out of the house about 40 hours a week, far far more than the 15 hours or so she was gone for the middle school.
3. Sarah was completing the hiring process to start working at KNU as an English professor. This is great, but characteristically, the information was slow in coming. We did not know for a long time what would be required for her to change her visa to KNU, which added another stressor later. We still don't know where Sarah's office will be, so my office is stacking up with stuff she eventually wants to put in her office.
4. My parents arrived for a one month stay. This was great. We love having my parents here. It's especially good for Emma, and she was really excited for them to come. But it adds stress, nonetheless, especially because I always wish I had more time to spend with them. It also adds stress because I usually try to take some extra time off while they are here. That means I need to get my normal work done in less time or do less work.
5. Sarah, Mom, and Dad taught at the KNU's English Camp (like a church youth camp with an educational focus instead of a focus on spirituality and fun). The English Camp was very well run this year, reducing stress, however, the extra work and time away from home still added stress.
6. Sarah taught 3 more days at the English Village - maybe not the best idea in retrospect.
7. We found out with 2 weeks notice that we would have to move. KNU leases our apartment, and apparently the owners would not renew the lease. We moved to an identical apartment a few buildings over. The move itself was fairly painless by American standards. At 8:30 am, we had nothing packed. The movers came in, packed everything, moved it to our new place (using a nifty crane elevator - pictures to come later), and unpacked everything. All we had to do was clean up both places and organize the stuff which was put into our cabinets and wardrobes fairly randomly.
8. On the day of our move (Monday), KNU notified us that the entire campus of KNU would be without electricity the following Sunday, due to major construction on campus. Too bad so sad for the two churches who meet on campus. This wouldn't have been so stressful except that we only had 6 days notice. To make matters worse, since our attenders are so transient, we don't even have phone numbers or emails for lots and lots of people. We organized an impromptu location change to a building 200 meters away with a beautiful dining room on the top floor with a huge glass ceiling. This would provide natural lighting, and the room was small enough that we could operate without sound equipment. Later on Sunday, 20+ people turned up to help arrange tables and to carry hymn books, candles, and more up and down stairs between the two buildings (no electricity also means no elevators!). I was really encouraged by the way the people from church really pulled together to make a difficult situation turn out really good. I think this event actually strengthened our church. Thankfully, Jackie was already scheduled to preach this Sunday. Having to prepare a sermon amid all of this might have sent me off the edge! She did a great job, and it was wonderful to just focus on making sure the unusual day went off OK.
9. Lent began last week, so we celebrated with our Third Annual Fat Tuesday Pancake Supper. Our Fellowship Team, led by JiHwan, did a great job planning this and organizing the cooking, so all I had to do was show up. The next night, I organized the Ash Wednesday service with some extra late-notice help from Young-Min, Chris, Matt, and So-Young. I did such a poor job planning that I forgot to ask these people for help until Monday! That wasn't the way I would have wanted it to go, but it worked out pretty well in the end.
10. Thursday was Lunar New Years Day (Sul-Nal). That doesn't mean all that much to us, but it does mean that several people wanted to stop by to see us and drop off some gifts (including, pears, dried seaweed paper - to be eaten with rice, ddok - a rice pasta, beef, tuna fish, grape seed oil, and more pears). All stores and many businesses and restaurants were closed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, especially Thursday. This created some problems getting our bulletins and sermons copied for Sunday - bulletins made the cut, sermons didn't.
11. We had a social worker come to our house on Friday for our adoption home study. This is to make sure that we are fit parents and that our home is adequate for an additional child. This went pretty well over all. The social worker was actually a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, so that was pretty cool. The big stressor here was not the home study itself but the great pressure Sarah felt to make our house perfect before the social worker arrived. She spent a LOT of time cleaning and organizing between Monday and Friday. The house did look great by the time she was finished.
12. The last big thing on our agenda is that Sarah has to go to Japan. In fact, she is in Japan right now. Korea's immigration system requires people to leave the country if they change their employer. Then, the people file for a new visa through the new employer at a Korean consulate in another country. Since Japan is the closest and easiest country for this, Japan is the site of countless "visa runs" for foreigners teaching English here in Korea. Sarah left at 5 a.m. this morning, and she will return Wednesday night. Thankfully, our good friend and "pillar of the church," Patricia Clark, has a son who lives in Fukuoka, Japan, the most visited city for visa runs. Patricia organized everything for Sarah and is even going with her to see her son at the same time. That helped a lot, but in the meantime, I'm learning how it feels to be a single parent. Tonight as we returned from buying groceries, Emma peed her pants while we were waiting for the elevator. She's now taking a long bath. I plan to let her stay in there as long as she wants!

Throughout this stress marathon, we've each had a few bad days and many more bad moments, especially in the last week or so. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and that helps a lot just in itself. When Sarah gets back on Wednesday, our marathon of stressful little events will hopefully be over. Then, we will have a few days or maybe a few weeks to get ourselves ready for the beginning of the semester in March. If you think about it, maybe you can pray that the time between Japan and the start of the semester will be relaxing and refreshing for us. We'll need it!