Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Let the poor say I am rich...
When my mom and dad knew that they were to be sent to work as missionaries in South Korea in the mid 1950's, the first thing they did was go to school. They studied Korean language, history and church growth classes. For two years before they even set foot on Korean soil, they were immersed in the preparations of a lifetime of service to the church in Korea. It was exciting and dangerous and challenging for them to arrive with two little children (I wasn't born yet), to adjust to that war-torn land.
As years went by and I came along, their Korean language skills improved tremendously, my dad could navigate through the most treacherous streets in his Land Rover, negotiate out of a traffic ticket with any Korean policeman, and befriend practically anyone he met. They were constantly going to church meetings, grand openings of Christian schools, or new churches out in the countryside, making long speeches surrounded with Korean church officials. The church, the country, the service to those people was their life...but not mine.
I learned to love some of the food and parts of the culture, but every time we'd see an American TV show on the US military channel, I would long for that far distant country that was supposedly my own. The Korean toys and dolls of 1968 were so poor and uninteresting, and the clothes were so odd when I compared them to the Sears catalog my grandmother would send us every six months. My siblings and I would dream of chocolate ice cream, American hamburgers, real pizza with real cheese, everything American. In the process, I began to resent the fact that I was stuck in a third world country while my cousins got to have what I thought, was the best of everything.
Only years later did I come to realize how shameful my attitude had been, how much of a blessing it was to experience another country, to have the opportunity to learn another language and to have the honor of being a part of the work of God. I had a rich and extraordinary childhood, but in the cold winters with the air thick with the smell of rotten fish from the open markets, with roads full of frozen mud puddles and lined with beggars, I just couldn't see it.
Now I am so thankful that God gave me that past, and I feel a sense of grief when I see others who have come to the US, whose hearts and minds still cling to their countries and refuse to learn the beautiful lessons that God has for them here. I was a selfish child who wanted what I couldn't have, and I've tried my best to make sure my children never hold those attitudes no matter where we've lived. I just wish others who have it so easy could understand.