Thursday, February 28, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #100 - KNU International English Church

I saved the best for last.  The only problem is that it's impossible for me to list all the reasons I love KNU International English Church.
Of course, the people are awesome and loving.
The community is multicultural in almost every way possible.
God is doing good things among us and through us.  People are being transformed by God's grace.
We are reaching out to our local community and to the global community through Bangladesh.
We are creative, innovative, resilient, and faithful.
I could go on and on and on.  Instead, I'll just share the my historical reflection from Sunday.  (I love you guys.  Thank you for letting us be part of your church, your lives, and your hearts!)

Transition in Context

Today, I want to do a quick review of the history of our church.  I guess 90% of us here today have only known this church with me as the lead pastor, but our history extends far beyond me.  
Everyone, please stand up.  I want to thank you for being here today to worship and to celebrate God’s grace in the midst of this transition.  God needs all of you.  Whether you are a new attender or an old member, I hope you will engage what God is doing here with your whole heart.  Volunteer, serve, show hospitality to each other and to new people.  God is changing the world through this loving community here.  Many people through the years have said this is the best church they have ever experienced, and they are right.  You guys are awesome!  Give God your heart here, and you and our world will never be the same.
OK, now, if you have started attending our church within the past three years, please sit down.  For those of you standing, you have seen some amazing things happen in our church over the past few years.  
  • We’ve had baptisms of new and recommitting Christians once or twice a year.  In 2011 we had our first baptism service outside on the KNU campus, with 9 people from 4 different countries.
  • After a season of spiritual dryness, we started doing 24/7 Prayer in 2010, and God has used that to pump spiritual life into our church every semester.
  • In 2009, we established our partnership with the Village of Hope in Bangladesh, and since 2010, we’ve sent a total of six teams to care for our widows and orphans there.  Last year we began sponsoring the kids, and this has become an integral part of the life and mission of our church.  God is using our church here to draw KNU and other Korean churches into partnership with Bangladesh.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #99 - Annual Reports 2011 and 2012

Doubling up here to finish at an even 100, and I've already posted these, so here are the links.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #98 - The Year 2012

Thanks to the apartment the church helped us buy in 2011, we were able to host small group in our home that fall and in 2012.  We really enjoyed hosting again, and John David really connected with Pete!

We really enjoyed spending more time with James, Beth, and Abby Picket.  We had lots of fun Sunday afternoons (and into the evenings) playing Catan and just generally hanging out.  We were sad to say goodbye as they moved back to the states to prepare to do church planting in Hawaii.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #97 - The Year 2011

One benefit of living in Korea has been relatively easy access to other countries.  In February, our church took our second trip to Bangladesh, with Wooyoung, HaYoung, and Il-Ho (among others).

Thanks to my mom coming to visit, Sarah and I were also able to do up our 10th anniversary in style.  We took a hop, skip, and a jump down to the Philippines to a great little resort on a spectacular beach.

We had fun times at the local park with Bruce, Susan, and Gabriel Kim.  We've gotten a lot of use out of this little park.  Emma has done countless laps around the track on her bike or inline skates.

Hermann Gschwandtner and Nathan Biswas came to Korea to talk about our partnership with Bangladesh, and we were about to tag along on a KNU culture trip.  They loved making kimchi and bulgogi.

A few months later, we welcomed John David into the world, named after my father and uncle (who were named after their uncle, who was named after ...).  My mom came over early and was here when he was born.

The icing on the cake was that Sarah's sister Elizabeth gave birth to Ella in the same hospital just three days later.  They were literally across the hall from each other for a day or two.  I'll never forget the look of terror on Michael's face when we walked into the room (after hearing Ella cry from across the hall through two closed doors).  He said, "We've got a screamer!"  She's gorgeous, but she's a feisty one!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #96 - The Year 2010.

JD Wiley entered the world with all of his cute old-man-baby looks.  That meant we were able to be with Joe and Elena for the birth of all three of their boys!

A high schooler at our church gave Emma a baby rabbit for Christmas.  After debating hundreds of normal names, Emma named her Moscow.  Unfortunately, she died a few days later (probably due to a combination of us introducing new foods too quickly and her being separated from her mother too early).  We made it up to Emma by getting her a new rabbit for Easter, whom she promptly named Charlie Brown.  After we discovered that Charlie was a girl, we changed her name to Manilla.

Monday, February 25, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #95 - Annual Report 2009

Dedicating ShinHyuk Kim

This fall we are 15 years old. (So how old are we in Korean years?)  To get a feeling for how much we've grown, I thought it might be fun for us to look at some of our previous “firsts.”  
The first baby born in our church (Jenny Mitchel's daughter 2001).  (The next baby was Esther Kim in 2006.)
The first Advisory Council was elected in 2003.  For our first 8 years before that, we were just a hodge-podge group that worshiped together.
Our first mission trip (Indonesia, 2004).  We are now planning our fourth, and we're hoping to do one every year.
Our first year with regular heat in the winter (2005).  That may not seem like such a big deal, but it's easier to worship when you don't have to wear gloves and a hat just to stay warm!
Our first store room – a tiny janitors closet, which we were forced to get because we bought a drum set (2005).
Our first assistant pastor  - Hoom Jeong (2005)
Our first big attendance day: 79 (2005).  We were really excited about 79 people back then!
More than 50% of our regular attenders from outside the KNU community (2005)
First after church snack time – started just once a month (2005).  I remember our fellowship team feeling really concerned about trying to do it every week.
First website – a free blog that Susan Kim set up for us (2005)
First church members to get married (Anderson and Dianna Cheon, 2004)
First baptisms (2006)
First time to have organized children and youth activities (2006)
First time worshiping in Patch Hall and at a “normal” time (2006).  Before this, our worship services began bright and early at 9 a.m.  
First time to have more than one Korean on the Advisory Council (2006)
First time to have more than one returning Advisory Council member (2007)
First time to take in members and to be an official Church of the Nazarene (2007)
First church soccer team (2007)

100 Things I Love About Korea: #94 - The Year 2009

2009 was a year of joy and sadness.  The ever beautiful SoYoung Gu threw a birthday party for Sarah and Isabel, and lots of folks turned out to celebrate my Mom's first birthday without my Dad.  But shortly after this, SoYoung was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.  She was gone by Easter.  That was a hard, hard three months!

Emma embraced life with her characteristic drama and flare.  Never a dull moment!

After many years of trying, Paul and Hoom returned from Turkey to start the baby boom in our church - 9 straight boys!

We initiated more people to the good times at DaeCheon beach.  This time around it was: Keith, Megan, Shannon, Heather, and Stephanie.  

Not wanting to pay an arm and a leg for turkey (extremely expensive in Korea), I made duck for Thanksgiving.  It was definitely tasty.  The only problem was it was one scrawny bird!

100 Things I Love About Korea: #93 - Annual Report 2008

Preparing the Foundations

My first time to attend an annual meeting as a pastor, I forgot that I was supposed to give an annual report.  I had only been a lead pastor for about two months.  Near the end of the meeting, Cathy Williams asked if I had a report to share, and I said something profound like, “Uh, not really.”  Every year since then, I've tried to spend some time thinking of an analogy or a story that will help us put the year in perspective.  I've talked about zits and puberty, giant flies, Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and how God answered a prayer I prayed while walking across a basketball court.

This year, I want to tell a story about some of the times I've worked with my Uncle John.  If you think I'm crazy, you should meet my Uncle John!  One year for Christmas, the women wanted to have a nice formal dinner, so they asked the men in the family to “dress up” and to put on some “nice clothes.”  My Dad and Uncle John disappeared into the bedroom and came out looking like this.  (silly picture)  I distinctly remember them saying, “What?!  We're wearing ties!  What else do you want?”  (They also had the nice 80's afros going, too.)

Uncle John is also an expert concrete worker.  Sometimes during the summers or when I had free time in college, I would work with him doing the concrete work for new houses.  The concrete truck drivers said Uncle John was so good that he could do jobs by himself that usually took 10 people to finish.  When I helped Uncle John, I usually got all the jobs he didn't want – shoveling rocks, carrying steel, drilling into old concrete.  But I also learned a little about what it takes to make a good foundation for a house.

Step 1:  Clear and Level the Land.  Before you can do anything else, you have to get rid of all the trees and junk, and you have to make the ground fairly smooth and level.  No, I never got to drive one of those cool little bulldozers.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #92 - The Year 2008

2008 brought us some friends from Russia.  Ilya, Yulia, Sasha, Mirek (and later Misha) moved into the same apartment complex, and our girls became fast friends.  We also started wonderful a tradition of celebrating New Years together (which is the big holiday of the year in Russian speaking cultures).

English camps brought in extra money as well as extra friends and family.  Here are my dad and Jerry and Raylene Tucker, who adopted Emma as a grandchild of their own!

As always, we had lots of fun, including a KNU trip to Busan, our annual trip(s) to Daecheon Beach, and the annual halloween costume party at Outback.  Bruce and Susan Kim usually have the best costumes of anyone there.  Here's Susan (the cafeteria lady) polishing my boots!

Adam, Robb, Houston, and a few other folks also hosted a charity concert at the "Helicopter Bar," which is actually inside a restored chinook helicopter.  Amazing location, amazing music.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #91 - Annual Report 2007

Ladies Retreat 2007

Tonight our focus is on telling stories, so I want to start by telling a story.  This story begins a few years ago.  During my first year here, we said goodbye to leader after leader, as people moved back to their home countries.  After about a year, I began to realize that we need more stability, and I also began to realize that stability was only going to come by having more Korean leaders involved in our church.  
I remember praying one day when I was walking home.  I was thinking and praying about this problem of rotating leaders in our church.  I thanked God for Dr. Cho.  (Some of you might not remember Dr. Cho.  He no longer attends here because he is preaching regularly in the Sunday evening service of another church.)  I prayed, “God please give us 25 people like Dr. Cho.  Give us 25 committed and passionate Korean leaders.”  I figured that would be enough to give us a stable core group, year in and year out.   
This year, we have seen this prayer begin to be answered.  This year more than 60% of the Advisory Council was Korean.  We celebrated this with great joy, and rightly so.  It is right for an international church to have international leadership.  Also, this was a great answer to our prayers and a great step of progress toward becoming a stable, enduring church.
Well, like they say, be careful what you pray for.  Sometimes God answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect.  And sometimes God’s answers bring their own challenges.
After we elected the 2006-2007 Advisory Council, I felt like we were “off to the races.”  Our Vision Team had just finished establishing our mission and vision statements.  Our people seemed to agree that this is what God was calling us to do and to be.   I felt like everything was finally coming together.  
Within the first few months of the 2006-2007 year, we decided to become an official Church of the Nazarene on the Korea National District.  We also welcomed our first official church members, and we went on a Work and Witness Trip to Indonesia.  And as a great surprise to me, the Korea National District worked out the details for me to be ordained here in Korea.  We were also experiencing our highest attendance ever, with an all-time high of 139.
I was ready for our church to explode with growth and momentum.  I was pumped and read to go.  But I was probably a little too pumped.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: # 90 - The Year 2007

Ah, the joys of the McDonald's highchair train.  Life doesn't get any better than this.  For a spell, about half of our church would gather for Sunday lunch at McDonald's.  Not so healthy for the body, but oh so healthy for the heart in other ways.

In March, my Mom and Dad came to visit so they could witness my ordination.  (And that, by the way, was an interesting story.  Apparently, the KNU President and the District Superintendent kind of pushed me through the ordination process, skipping over several steps, so that when our church was officially organized in April, we could have an ordained pastor at the helm.)  While my parents were in town, we went to the zoo and the folk village, and our friend YoungMin took us out for Bul-Dalk (Fire Chicken).  Thankfully, YoungMin was wise enough to bring along a few liters of milk to cool the flames in our mouths!

100 Things I Love About Korea: #89 - No Tipping

The price you see is the real price.  No guessing.  No estimating.  No guilt.  No trying to figure out how good your service was.  Best of all no 10-25% extra charge at the end of your meal.
Korea gives great service, and they simply pay their serving staff enough money to keep them happy, without relying on tips.  I love it, and I'm going to miss it - especially when I have to start paying tips again.
(Thanks again to Ron K. for pointing out this excellent part of Korean culture.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #88 - 2006 Annual Report

Across the Rubicon and Setting Up Camp
Annual Report 2005-2006
Pastor Josh Broward

In 49 BC Julius Caesar had a decision to make.  He had spent the last few years serving in Gaul and extending the Roman rule across Europe.  The Roman Senate now called him back to Rome, and they told him to come without his army.  If Caesar had gone to Rome without his army, he would have lost power and possibly lost his life.
One little river served as the boundary line for Julius Caesar’s choice.  It was the Rubicon.  By Roman law, no Roman general was allowed to bring his army past the Rubicon.  
If Julius Caesar crossed this stream, he would begin a civil war.  As Caesar stood on the banks of the Rubicon, he looked at his companions and said, “Still we can retreat! But once we pass this little bridge, nothing is left but to fight it out!”   This was the point of no return.  This was the deciding moment.
Caesar and his troops crossed the Rubicon.  Then, he tore his shirt off and gave a tearful speech.  (Don’t worry – I’m not going to tear my shirt off!)  Caesar’s speech included the famous words: “The die is cast.”  This is referring to a game of dice: “The dice are already thrown.”  In other words, the direction has been set.  The decision has been made.  There is no going back now.  Caesar quickly took control of Italy and eventually gained control of the entire Empire.  But all of this started with a few short steps across the Rubicon.

This year our church has “crossed the Rubicon.”  Two little decisions stand as our Rubicon.  The first decision was moving to Patch Hall in March of this year.  This move has provided us with space to grow, access to technology, consistent temperatures, much-needed storage space, and convenient classrooms.
The second decision was much more important than the first.  When we moved to Patch Hall, we also decided to change the time of our worship service from 9:00 am to 10:30 am.  This was a HUGE decision for our church.  There were two factors in our decision.  First, we decided that we wanted to be a primary church, not a secondary church (a place people go before their “real church”).  Second, we decided that we wanted to reach out to people who didn’t usually go to any church, and we felt they would be much more likely to join us at a later time.  (Really, 9am is like the crack of dawn for a lot of people around here!)  So in this one decision, we identified ourselves as a primary church deserving of primary commitment and as a church committed to outreach.
This was our Rubicon.  We have declared our course for the future.  In a sense, “The die is cast.”  We have followed the Spirit and rolled the dice.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #87 - The Year 2006

We started out the year 2006 with a visit from Sarah's parents.  Teaching at KNU's English camp enabled them to pay for their airfare and stay for about a month.
Not long after they left, I had to make an unplanned trip back to the USA to help care for my Dad who had major back surgery.  While I was gone, Sarah had to move our apartment without me.

But the move was for a good cause.  We were making space for our good friends Joe and Elena Wiley who were coming with their two boys, Brett and Ian.  That summer, we began what would be a long tradition of taking friends to DaeCheon beach.  On this go round, we had our good friends Mark and Naomi, and later the Wiley family.  This picture is one of my all time favorites of Emma.  They look just like an old retired Korean couple enjoying a day at the beach.

We also enjoyed lots of good fun doing small group at Belle's house. We went through books of the Bible and various books about life and Christianity.  But most of all, we prayed for each other and just generally supported each other and had a good time.   These are some deep and lasting friendships.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #86 - 2005 Annual Report

Congratulations are in order for you church.  You have done well on several counts.
First, I feel like you need to be congratulated on surviving my rookie year as a senior pastor.  I came to you fresh out of seminary with lots of enthusiasm and not much experience.  You have been gracious to me and to my family.  You have welcomed us with open arms and open hearts, and I thank you.

Second, I want to congratulate you on gaining a better self-understanding.  In the spring of 2005, the Advisory Council set out to find answers to the question: “Who are we?”  We wanted to know who we are as a community.  
Jean Johnson and Patricia Clark studied our church history.  Two trends are clear in our history.  First is the trend of increasing size.  We have steadily grown from about 15 people (10 years ago) to over 60 people now.  The second trend is increasing organization.  In the beginning, what is now our church was more like a home Bible study.  However, as our numbers grew, our need for organization also grew.  In 2002, we established the Advisory Council and wrote a congregational constitution.  Now, as our numbers continue to grow, we are also continuing the trend of increasing organization.
Part of our new self-understanding as a church is expressed in our new name: KNU International English Church.  This is not just a name.  It is a statement of who we are.  
KNU: Not only are we located on the campus of KNU, but about 40% of our people are also employed by KNU or its sister institutions.
International:  Sometimes I hear people refer to us as a 외국 church.  That really frustrates me.  About half of us are Korean almost every Sunday.  We are not a weigook church, and we are certainly not an American church.  Our people come from all around the world.  We are an international church.  
English:  We are an English speaking church.  We have two common bonds.  We are all seeking God, and we all speak English.  English and God bring us together.
Church: We have outgrown some old labels like: “English Service,” “English Chapel,” “Worship Service,” and “Congregation.”  We are more like a church than ever before.  So it is time to claim our name and to expect us to live like a church. 

100 Things I Love About Korea: #85 - The Year 2005

Sarah babysat Suhyun (the daughter of our good friends YongGi and KyoungRan) for most of this year.  She is just a few months younger than Emma.  I don't think either of the girls remember these early play times, but they were tight from the very beginning.  It's hard to believe now, but Emma was actually much bigger than Suhyun then.  Emma used to take her toys and push her around, and Sarah and I used to say we wished Suhyun would just sock Emma good for once to teach her some manners!

For our annual anniversary mini-trip we stringed together a babysitting relay team, so that we could go away for a night.  Someone recommended a spa in Asan.  Little did we know, it was actually in old town Asan.  But we still had a good time.  We got away to a mountain for some hiking.  At the train station on our way home, there was some kind of protest (probably for Dokdo), and some of the protesters recruited us and outfitted us to join their ranks.

We also did some cooking lessons for our good friend Belle's son, EungChul.  This was his birthday "cake."  E.C. joined me on a trip to Bangladesh in 2010, and he will probably be coming to live with us in American in a few months.

One of our favorite special occasion treats was going to Outback for a little taste of home with the Bloomin' Onion.  (Outback Korea no longer serves these because they were having supply chain problems, but they were good while they lasted.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #84 - Automatic Banking

No more check writing.
No more balancing check books.
Just stick your bank book in the ATM, and you get an up to the minute, accurately balanced bank statement.
Need to pay a bill or send money to a friend?  Just input their account information, press a few buttons, and it's in their account.  It's like magic.
Korea's electronic banking takes a little getting used to.  But it will be hard to go back to the dark ages of filling out checks and then flipping to the register and writing the info in those tiny little lines.
(Thanks to Ron Knickerbocker for reminding me about this - one more thing I'll miss about Korea.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #83 Vietnamese Food

OK, I know that sounds weird.  Vietnamese food is not Korean, but I discovered it in Korea.  And I probably would never have tried it without living in east Asia.
Here are a few of my favorite dishes:

  • Beef brisket noodle soup.  A mild, but steaming broth holds long white noodles and strips of pink beef (which cook right before your eyes).  You add in bean sprouts, onions, peppers, and sauces to your own personal taste.  Great on a cold winter day (like today)!
  • Wol Nam Sam.  Imagine a huge party tray with thinly sliced vegetables, meat, and shrimp.  Then, you dip a small piece of "rice paper" a into a steaming bowl of water to soften it.  Then, like it's a tortilla, you fill it with all of the veggies and meat and add sauce.  Finally, roll it into a ball and eat it in one bite.  Sweet goodness.  (Best of all, since it's mostly vegetables, I can pig out and not feel guilty!)
  • Vietnamese Shabbu Shabbu.  This is almost the same, except that about half of the vegetables and beef go into a boiling cauldron right at the table.  Then you spoon them out and eat it either as soup or in the rice paper wraps.  Can't go wrong with this.

Monday, February 18, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #82 - Our Advisory Council

At KNU International English Church, our church board is called the Advisory Council.  Down through the years, this rotating group of leaders has joined hands with me in leading our church.  Together, we have put our ears to the wind to see how God is leading us.
This year, God has blessed us with our strongest Advisory Council ever.  75% of this group has served on the Advisory Council in previous years, and they are well equipped to guide our church through this time of transition.
This past Sunday, I delivered my official letter of resignation to the Advisory Council.  I hope it will help you see why I love them.

Dear Advisory Council,
Now, with a heart full of both sadness and anticipation, the time has come for me to submit my official resignation as lead pastor of KNU International English Church, effective February 28.  I have spent 25% of my life in Korea, 75% of my adult working life, and 100% of my full-time ministry as a pastor.
This is my last opportunity to address you as the elected leaders of our church, so I want to leave with a few parting words of advice and some well earned thank-you’s.  Let’s start with the advice.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

100 Things I Love about Korea: #81 - Pepero Day

11-11, AKA November eleventh, is Pepero Day in Korea.  Pepero are classic Korean snack cookies shaped like sticks and covered in chocolate.
According to one legend, middle school girls in the southern tip of Korea spontaneously invented this holiday on November 11 (because the one's look like the Pepero sticks).  They gave each other boxes of pepero along with the wish to be "as tall and slender as pepero."
But cynics say that the holiday is nothing more than a shameless marketing ploy by Lotte Confectionary, the manufacture of said snacks.  Either way, they get more than half their annual sales during the month of November, so I'm sure they're happy about it.
I love it because it's just good fun.  Who doesn't like eating chocolate covered cookies?  We all need another reason to celebrate life and taste a little more joy.

By the way, there are 10 different Pepero flavors.  Can you name them all?  What's your favorite?  Mine is almond - hands down.

100 Things I Love about Korea: #80 - Black Day

Finally, singles have a holiday all to their own.  Unfortunately, it's called Black Day.
In Korea, after Valentine's Day (for men) and White Day (for women), comes the singles' holiday - Black Day on April 14.

For all of the folks who didn't have anyone to celebrate with on the previous holidays, they can get a few other lonely friends together and go eat some jjajjangmyun (noodles with black sauce).  I'm not sure I support the idea that being single is a cause for sadness or mourning.  But I do appreciate that singles are included in the holiday festivities.  Another plus is that this holiday encourages folks to get together - even if it is to commiserate in their mutual singality.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

100 Things I Love about Korea: #79 - White Day

After the male-focused Valentines day, it's payback time for the women with White Day on March 14.  Men should now give a gift to any women who gifted them a month earlier.  Some traditions even have a triple return - where the men give the women something 3 times the value of the gift they received.
Traditional gifts are marshmallows or white chocolate, but nowadays, almost anything works.
Basically, this is just splitting up the big Valentine's Day romantic holiday into two separate celebrations.  I kind of like this.  As I said before, men need all the romantic help they can get.  Also, it spreads the intentional expressions of love out for another month.  (The candy makers don't mind all the added business either!)

Passing through the Fire (Luke 4:1-13)

[Note: This is my last sermon in Korea, for a long while.]

Luke 4:1-13
 1Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.
Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,‘You must worship the Lord your God    and serve only him.’”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.  11 And they will hold you up with their hands    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent.  Lent is a season of repentance and fasting.  It is kind of like spiritual spring cleaning.  This is the time for us to take a fresh look at how we are living and ask God where we need to change.  During Lent, we fast to help us refocus our lives on God instead of on all of the other stuff in this world that begs for our attention.
In the past few decades, Christians have developed this tradition of giving up all kinds of different stuff.  Some people give up a food: meat, coffee, sweets, chocolate, spices, soda, etc.  Other people give up a normally innocent activity: watching TV, Facebook, internet, shopping, movies, elevators.  Some try to stop a negative behavior: complaining, gossip, using the snooze button on the alarm, not listening when someone is talking.  Some people try to add something instead of giving something up: waking up early, 15 minutes of prayer every day, writing a letter every day, giving compliments, or picking up trash you see on the street.  A few people try to get funny.  One year, Scott Norris said he was giving up fasting for Lent.  I read a story this week about an old lady who apologized for being a little shaky, “I’m giving up beer for Lent, but the whiskey is really killing me.”  
But for pretty much all of these fasts, even the funny ones, the people choose for themselves what to give up.  As I’ve been thinking about this sermon today and its timing, it struck me that there is another kind of fast going on here - one you didn’t choose.  It’s kind of like KNU International English Church is giving up having a full-time permanent pastor for Lent.  Yes, you’ll have Bill Patch, and he’s great, and he’ll do a good job.  And yes, you have a great team of assistant pastors, but they none are full-time, and none are the lead pastor.  Yes, you’ll hire a new lead pastor - maybe not by Easter, but eventually.  
In the meantime, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit has led KNU International English Church into a time of testing.  The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, and people have debated why ever since.  It seems that Jesus needed to learn some lessons.  Jesus needed to settle some fundamental issues before he got started in his ministry.  The wilderness was his time of trial and testing between two important stages in his life.  In a similar way, this interim period between pastors is a time of testing for our church between two important stages in our church life.  

100 Things I Love About Korea: #78 - Valentines Day (All for the Men)

Korea has scored major points in my book by focusing Valentines Day on men.  Every February 14, women are supposed to give gifts to the most important men in their lives.  Men are officially off the hook.
Don't worry women, your day is coming.  It's just delayed a month to White Day.  But breaking them up like this actually gives men a fighting chance to remember the holiday.
Also, the women go first, so they set the gift-giving standard.  That takes a lot of pressure of the guys.  You don't have to guess how big or how nice you should go.  Just match what you got.
So making romance easier on men ... yeah, we definitely need that.

Friday, February 15, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #77 - 2004 Annual Report (or Lack Thereof)

About a month after we arrived in Korea, it was time for the annual meeting.  I knew all about the nominations for the church board (or in our case Advisory Council), and I had that covered.

After we did the voting and reports from each outgoing board member, I was just about to close the meeting with prayer.  Then, Cathy Williams (bless her heart) said, "Um, Josh, aren't you going to give a pastoral report."
I said, "Oh, am I supposed to do that?"
"Well, traditionally speaking ..."
"Um ... well ... I just got here, so I don't know much of what happened over the past year, but I'll try to do better next year."

100 Things I Love About Korea: #76 - The Year 2004

We arrived in Korea at the end of July in 2004.  Bill Patch hired me to be the pastor of small English speaking congregation at KNU, and to do this I also had to teach English at KNU.  Sarah also worked at the KNU hakwon (after school language academy).
When we arrived, we were blessed to come to a furnished apartment.  Jean Johnson (a church member and KNU professor) graciously stocked our fridge with a few bags of groceries.  Over the next few days, she also led us around Cheonan to do some initial shopping and money exchange.
We would not be paid for several weeks, and we soon realized that we didn't bring nearly enough money to set up house AND to continue eating until we got paid.  Alan Rosegrant (another church member and KNU professor) was aware that this is a common problem, and he graciously approached us with the offer to lend us a few hundred dollars to get us through the first month.  We humbly accepted.
Our upstairs neighbors Woody and HyoJin Morris were also a great help in getting to know the area.  They showed us around some and introduced us to the wonders of Korean bathhouses.  Their son Hansel was one year older than Emma, so they had lots of good times playing together.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #75 - Alameda

As far as I know Alameda is the first restaurant in Cheonan to serve western style breakfast food.  Not to knock McDonalds, but a McMuffin can only go so far in restoring the feelings of home.
Alameda is a small, owner-chef cafe near the Galleria.  Look across the street for the Cafe Bene and keep walking in a straight line.
The atmosphere is simple-chic, and the food is very good.  The owner serves as chef, and his girlfriend is the friendly waitress.
Sarah ordered the Alameda Brunch - with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, and - oddly - a small garden salad.  Even giving it the bonus of being the only place to get Western breakfast in Cheonan, this was still a very good meal.  Everything was well prepared and well presented.
I ordered the grilled mushroom salad, and I have to say that it was the best restaurant salad I've had in Korea.  (I have to add that restaurant caveat because my sister-in-law makes a mean spinach-pecan-strawberry salad which may be the best I've ever had anywhere.)  The greens were varied and fresh.  The mushrooms were also varied and well seasoned.  There were even chunks of fresh cheese.
Even the music was great.  The only downside to Alameda is the price.  Plan on paying around 15,000 a person.  At that rate, it's a little to much to become part of our regular circuit, but when we get the hankering for pancakes, waffles, or knock-out salads, now we know where to go.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #74 - Fusion Food

Fusion Food can be almost anything.  Usually, it is mixing two ethnic foods together into something new - like Shanghai Spaghetti (a very popular pasta dish in Italian restaurants, with a spicy sauce and lots of seafood and vegetables).  But occasionally, it is mixing two foods that don't normally go together (like sweet potatoes or chestnuts on pizza).
A few weeks ago, Sarah and I stumbled onto a very interesting fusion restaurant: Carbone.  It has a funky urban vibe, and it was quiet even though busy.  

We ordered "Salad Pasta" and "Spoon Pizza."  Now, that's not pasta salad, like those twirly little noodles you might get at a church potluck.  That's actually lettuce salad over a bed of spaghetti.  It sounds crazy, but the creamy honey mustard sauce actually made it work.  The Spoon Pizza is a deep dish pizza with a soft crust and lots of toppings, and naturally, you eat it with a spoon.  
Good times.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #73 - Taylor Ford and Community Art at Church

Last week, I preached on Ephesians 3, and I asked Taylor Ford to do some art work depicting this beautifully image-rich passage - especially the prayer "may you be rooted and established in love."  She didn't finish in time to use it on Sunday, but here it is now:

Last year, we preached a series on Exodus during Lent, and each week we showed similar art from people in our church.  Taylor was a regular contributor.  Check out those drawings, collages, poems, and photos here:

Monday, February 11, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #72 - Neon Nights

I love cities at night.  With a high population density, Korea's downtowns with lots of tall buildings really pack in the neon.
Here's a cool time-lapse photo video of downtown Cheonan by my friend Andy Phelps, who is an outstanding photographer.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #71 - Mr. Pizza.

Shrimp Nude Pizza.
Potato and Bacon Pizza.
Golden Cheddar Crust Pizza.
Sweet Potato Crown Pizza.
Secret Garden Pizza.
Chestnut Pizza.
Bulgogi Pizza.
Roasted Garlic Pizza.
Crab, Lobster, Octopus Pizza.
Asparagus Steak Pizza.
The best pizza motto ever: "Love for Women."

Need we say more?

Well, Korea is the home of the original pizza after all.