Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Seoul Sisters

Seoul. A crowded, bustling city of 10,000,000 people.

My Asian adventures continued as I breathed in the new smells of this foreign country.

With my suitcase trailing behind me, I stepped onto the crowded subway and made my way across the city to have more reunions with friends. Throughout the week I spent in Korea I was able to visit with friends I had met in North Carolina, Hawaii, and at seminary in California.

You know the song, “It’s a small world afterall”? I was humming it all week as I marveled at how small our world truly is. With 8 hours on an airplane, I went from beaches and palm trees to kimchee and ancient Asian temples. Friends whom I thought I would never see again were suddenly sitting across from me.
Exploring Seoul with Eunice
 My journey began by visiting with Eunice, a friend I met in Hawaii in 2010. She showed me some sites in Seoul and introduced me to some amazing food. After 4 years, it was so great to see her!

With Charles, Eunice and Jooha at their church
I made my way down from Dongdaemun to Miguem where my friends Charles and Eunice live. Charles is the English pastor of a large church in the area. I was able to go to his church service and hear him preach. I was in seminary with Charles and Eunice. We spent so much time in classes with each other and studying in the library.

It was a joy to see them in action and see how God is blessing their commitment to serve Him. When we were in seminary, we had no idea where God would lead- but two years later I’m in Hawaii as a missionary and the Kims are serving in South Korea. We exchanged stories over dinner of how God has been at work in our lives- what a blessing!

Coming from a college of 3,000 in a tiny country town in North Carolina, it’s amazing that Juyeon, Mina and Alice ended up there (all the way from Korea!) But I’m so thankful that God brought them there because during those years at Campbell, we became close friends.

With my "Seoul Sistahs" Mina and Juyeon
Five years later, we found ourselves catching up on years past and reminiscing about our memories in North Carolina. Hairstyles had changed and we’d all grown up a bit, but the bond we shared had only deepened. Seeing them in their country and experiencing their culture helped me to know them even better.

Not much has changed since our college days :)
My friend Sylvia was an exchange student in Hawaii in 2012. Her family graciously invited me to stay in their home and boy was that fun! Her parents (who speak very little English) insisted that I call them “Mommy and Daddy.” Hand gestures and smiles were our common language- and of course laughter, which is a universal language! I became a part of their family that week and was sad to say goodbye!

Learning all about Korean culture with Sylvia and Danwoo
You can't go to Korea without going to a water park!
 I'm so thankful for the friendships I have with people all over the world. I love our differences, I love their cultures...and I love how our faith in God binds us all together. Looking forward to the next adventure!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Japan- the joy of rekindling a friendship

For eight years, Yoko lived and studied in Hawaii, an ocean away from her home in Japan. It was during that time that I met Yoko and we instantly became friends. We’d hang out nearly every night- cooking together, watching sunsets, and bonding by watching episodes of Friends. She’s got one of those personalities that is so sweet that you almost wonder if she’s real! She’s one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever met.

This group was inseparable when we first met back in 2009
In her first years in Hawaii, Yoko was going through a tough season of life and was battling with depression and loneliness. It was at a shopping mall, of all places, that she saw a worship team from a local church singing praises to God and she was so moved that she showed up at their church the next Sunday. God captured her heart that day and since then, she has become a very committed follower of Christ through the years.

Last year, Yoko moved back to Japan, where she teaches English to freshmen at Utsunomiya University. Yoko’s heart for her students is evident in the way she talks about them. For her, teaching isn’t only her job…it’s her mission field.
The last time I saw Yoko before she left Hawaii for Japan
 Back in May, I traveled to Japan for the sole purpose of reuniting with Yoko and a few other friends I’ve met through the years. I spent most of my time with Yoko. You know, sight-seeing was great, the food was good, and Japan is a lovely country. But my absolute favorite parts of the trip were the hours and hours we spent talking- whether it was on a train or in a teeny tiny hotel room in the wee hours of the night.

Exploring Tokyo with Yoko
Though we’ve kept up with each other through e-mail, there’s just something special about having those face-to-face conversations. It’s totally worth a trip across the world to have such a sweet reunion!

One of the most memorial days of the trip was the day I went to work with Yoko. As a teacher at a public university, she is not allowed to outwardly share her faith with her students. However; since I was visiting as Yoko’s guest, I had complete freedom to do so…so we made the most of the opportunity :)
Some of the girls from Yoko's English class
In all three of her classes that day, I shared with her students about my life in America and then about my faith in God. I also told them that Yoko follows Jesus and they can ask her any questions that they may have.

Her students were so kind and even sent me a scrapbook after with sweet little notes of appreciation.
Eating Utsunomiya's famous "gyozo" on my last night in Japan
My time in Japan was wonderful because it gave me time to deepen a friendship with a sweet sister in Christ. I think I needed it as much as she did. Her encouragement ministered to me deeply, and I thank God for a friendship that knows no bounds…not even continental ones!