Saturday, 21 July 2018

C Columns

Outdoors With Dougherty: Travel to Korea Enlightening for Teacher

 

By Dan Dougherty

God  is  good!  Sometimes  He  provides  an  opportunity  that  takes  us  to  a  new  level  of  understanding  His  awesomeness.  In  the  fall  of  2016,  Don  Armstrong,  the  Director  for  Asia  and  Pacific  Region  of  the  Church  of  God  Ministries,  was  searching  for  an  educator  to  teach  at  an  English  Spiritual  Camp  in  Korea  in  January  2017.  He  contacted  his  old  friend,  my  brother,  Pastor  Tom.

Don  and  Tom  first  met  in  eighth  grade  in  PE  when  they  both  sat  out  of  a  square  dance  class.  They  were  both  sons  of  pastors  in  Caldwell.  Don's  father  was  pastor  of  the  Friends  Church  and  Tom's  pastored  the  First  Church  of  God.  Don's  father  would  later  serve  for  a  time  as  Tom's  associate  in  Boise.  Don  and  his  wife  Caroline  would  spend  16  years  as  missionaries  in  Tanzania,  helping  build  a  successful  school.  After  moving  back  to  Boise,  Don  became  Tom's  associate  for  four  and  a  half  years.  Following  God's  call  he  became  the  Regional  Director  of  Ministry  for  23  countries.

Tom  talked  to  me  about  possibly  doing  the  camp.  God  definitely  opened  my  heart  for  His  service,  so  when  Don  asked,  I  accepted.  The  camp  would  run  for  two  weeks.  I  would  have  to  prepare  a  curriculum  and  would  be  teaching  about  20  students,  ages  12  to  19.  Throughout  the  next  couple  of  months  I  prepared  a  curriculum.  My  wife  made  arrangements  with  her  work  to  be  able  to  take  vacation  and  comp  time  so  she  could  join  me.  Our  church  raised  funds  to  pay  for  our  travel.

Peggy  and  I  arrived  at  Incheon  International  Airport  in  South  Korea  on  Friday,  January  6,  2017.  The  camp  would  start  the  following  Monday.  Heerak  Moon,  a  youth  pastor  in  Seoul,  picked  us  up.  It  took  awhile  for  him  to  find  us  —  the  airport  was  huge.  I  think  you  could  fit  all  of  Boise's  malls  inside  it.  We  were  taken  to  a  nice  hotel  while  Heerak  went  to  pick  up  two  missionaries  who  were  coming  to  help  at  the  camp.  Soon  we  met  Vic  Viray  from  the  Philippines  and  Steven  Beverly  from  Sri  Lanka.  We  were  provided  a  good  meal  at  the  hotel  and settled  in  for  a  sound  night's  sleep.  

Next  day  we  were  on  a  fast  train  from  Seoul  to  the  city  of  Mokpo,  a  trip  of  about  200  miles  to  the  southwest  tip  of  the  Korean  peninsula.  Mokpo  is  a  port  city  of  about  600,000  people.  It  is the  site  where  missionaries  first  entered  Korea  and  has  over  600  churches  of  various  denominations.  Looking  down  on  it  at  night  from  a  hillside  area,  there  are  lighted  crosses  everywhere,  most  of  them  green.  I  enjoyed  the  train  ride.  It  was  fast  and  smooth.

Most  people  in  South  Korea  live  in  high-rise  apartments  in  the  cities  and  towns.  The  countryside  had  houses  and  buildings  of  various  sizes  surrounded  by  many  kinds  of  cultivated  fields,  most  of  which  had  been  harvested.  Rice  was  the  main  crop.  Other  crops  produced  in  South  Korea  are  corn,  soybeans,  buckwheat,  and  all  kinds  of  vegetables.  Fruit  trees  and  grapevines  could  be  seen  growing  all  across  the  countryside  near  the  homes,  buildings  and  field boundaries.  Small  hills  covered  with  pines,  conifers,  and  many  varieties  of  deciduous  trees  dotted  the  landscape.  Occasionally,  between  the  edge  of  the  forested  hills  and  cropland  were  cemeteries  and  shrines.  I  was  impressed  that  through  Seoul  and  the  heavily  populated  areas  to  the  cultivated  farmland,  everything  was  clean  and  well-maintained.

The  camp  was  located  several  miles  outside  of  Mokpo.  It  had  a  large  three-story  building with  many  classrooms  and  a  cafeteria.  It  had  no  central  heating.  Large  portable  propane  units  were  wheeled  into  the  rooms  being  used.  Nearby  was  the  dormitory  where  we  and  the  students  stayed.  When  class  started  that  Monday,  Don  arrived  to  work  with  us.  Peggy  and  Don  were  a  great  help  in  working  with  the  students.  We  all  helped  each  other.  I  taught  a  “Walk  through  the  Bible”  course  covering  creation  through  the  early  church.  Vic  was  in  charge  of  the  afternoon  recreation  and  games  and  taught  a  discipleship  course.  Steven  taught  various  classes  on  aspects  of  Christian  living.  

In  the  evenings  we  had  a  couple  of  hours  to  present  to  the  students  topics  for  discussion  to  help  them  practice  speaking  English.  They  loved  the  pictures  of  Idaho  landscape,  Idaho  outdoor recreation  (winter  and  summer),  and  hunting  in  Idaho.  They  especially  liked  the  hunting  pictures;  there  is  nothing  to  hunt  in  Korea.  The  picture  of  Peggy  with  her  gun  and  whitetail  deer was  a  big  hit.  They  also  found  the  pictures  of  wolves  fascinating.  One  boy  asked  what  a  wolf  tasted  like.  That  became  a  joke.  Sometimes  in  line  in  the  cafeteria  you  could  hear  the  students  speaking  in  Korean,  then  the  word  “wolf”  and  laughing.

I  was  very  impressed  with  the  students'  diligence  in  their  classwork.  They  all  had  a  Korean  toEnglish  translator  on  their  phones.  We  usually  spent  10-13  hours  a  day  with  them,  and  they  did  everything  you  asked  of  them  —  they  were  a  teacher's  dream.  

The  students  went  home  on  Friday  for  the  weekend,  and  we  were  taken  to  spend  the  weekend in  a  nice  hotel  on  the  bay  near  a  bridge.  It  had  an  American  food  buffet.  As  I  was  walking  back  to  our  table  with  my  breakfast  Saturday  morning,  an  elderly,  gray-haired  Korean  man  wearing  a  baseball  cap  came  up  to  me.  He  asked,  “You  American?”  I  answered,  “Yes.”  He  said,  “Wherefrom?”  I  said,  “Idaho.”  With  a  puzzled  look  he  repeated,  “Idaho?”  I  said,  “West,  near  California,  Oregon.”  He  nodded.  I  thought,  “What's  going  on?”  as  I  saw  tears  running  down  his cheeks.  He  said,  “I  want  to  thank  you  for  all  the  American  boys  who  died  to  save  Korea.”  He  bowed  and  walked  off.

The  next  morning  we  waited  for  our  ride  to  take  us  to  church.  The  lobby  was  crowded  because  of  an  upcoming  wedding.  Through  the  crowd  on  a  bench  near  the  window  I  saw  the  elderly  man  waving  his  hat  at  me.  He  proceeded  through  the  people  with  a  grin.  As  he  neared  he  loudly  asked,  “Where  do  you  find  Jesus?”  Seeing  our  confused  faces,  he  repeated  it.  Tapping  our  chests  we  said,  “Heart!”  With  a  huge,  beaming  smile  he  said,  “Yes,  yes!  I  Christian.  I  follow  Jesus!”  He  bowed,  turned,  and  walked  away.

On  our  way  back  to  camp  Sunday  evening,  we  heard  from  the  pastors  on  how  excited  the  students  were  to  be  going  back  to  camp  and  how  much  they  shared  and  learned.  We  were  pleasantly  surprised;  they  had  been  somewhat  reserved  the  first  week.  The  second  week  was  much  different.  They  were  quite  animated.  Many  times  during  each  day  one  of  the  girls  would  shout  out,  “Peggy,  Peggy,  I  love  you!”  or  “Teacher,  teacher,  I  love  you!”

On  Friday  as  camp  concluded,  parents  came  to  lunch  and  picked  up  their  kids.  We  had  a  rewarding  time  meeting  the  parents.  Pastor  Moon,  Heerak's  father,  was  pastor  of  one  of  the  churches  in  Mokpo.  He  introduced  us  to  an  elderly  lady  with  a  cane  and  big  smile.  He  told  us  she  was  one  of  the  key  financial  backers  of  the  camp.  He  went  on  to  say  that  she  had  been  saving  money  for  years  to  have  knee  replacement,  but  hearing  about  a  need  to  build  a  church  in the  Philippines,  she  donated  her  money  to  build  the  church.  He  concluded  by  telling  us  she  told  him  that  she  could  get  around  with  her  crutch,  but  the  people  in  the  Philippines  needed  a  church to  know  and  love  Jesus  and  not  go  to  hell.

I  came  home  with  with  a  great  appreciation  for  the  church  in  Korea.  They  give  more  money for  the  missions  of  lands  in  their  region  than  our  own  U.S.  churches.  Almost  60  percent  of  Koreans  claim  Christianity  as  their  religion.  We  took  part  in  several  different  church  services,  and  all  the  services  were  very  charismatic.  Everyone  was  active  and  involved.  They  all  sang,  and  sang  loud,  even  if  some  were  not  good  at  it.  In  commenting  to  an  old  retired  Korean  pastor  on  their  enthusiasm,  he  said,  “Everybody  can  do  something.  Listen  to  little  voice  in  head.  God  tell  you!”

I  thank  God  for  the  experience.  I  pray  that  we  will  listen  and  not  be  spectators  but  participants,  truly  understanding  what  worship  is.

Dan  Dougherty  is  a  retired  school  teacher.

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