Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Big Meal and a Missionary Moment

Yesterday our small group of foreign teachers was treated to dinner. Korean barbeque is truly an experience. The table is set when you arrive. A small, round gas-grill resides in the center of a glorified coffee table. Everyone sits on the ground around the short table; the first 20 or 30 side dishes waiting for the eldest member at the table to take the first bite. The server brings a plate of raw meat to the eldest male at the table; he holds the responsibility of placing the meat on the grill. The youngest member of the table pours water for everyone and hands out silverware.

The side dishes are various and numerous. Kimchi is omnipresent, in various incarnations. As the meal continues the eldest male cuts the meat into smaller portions. When the main course is finished cooking everyone present begins constructing leaf rolls.

First you take a piece of lettuce, then pieces of meat dipped in various sauces, then you pile different side dishes on top of the meat. You roll the lettuce, meat, etc, into a ball and stuff the entire thing into your mouth. It’s very rude to not shove the whole thing into your mouth. All of the main course must be consumed before anyone may leave the table.

So, now that you know all of that, here is the fun story.

Our school began its first all-English all-subjects grade this year. Our first grade class is small, but so far very successful. The biggest problem we have encountered so far is the parents and grandparents. They are constantly hover around the school to make sure that their children are learning sufficiently. One grandmother in particular spends an extreme amount of time listening in. She even walks in the dirt behind the school to look in the back window. She has become somewhat of a running joke.

So we were very surprised and happy when we found out that she wanted to treat all of the foreign teachers to dinner. We were even more surprised and happier when we realized that we would be eating at a very tasty Korean barbeque dinner. So, we went and we ate … and we ate … and we ate some more. I ate so much that I was a little light headed, which I didn’t know happened. And yet, after all of this eating, there was still main course meat left on the table.

So, to remedy this situation, our Pastor began making very large lettuce, meat, etc. rolls and LITERALLY SHOVED THEM INTO OUR MOUTHS! I’m not kidding. Apparently publicly force feeding young adults is less rude than leaving main course meat uneaten.

Following our very large meal we were invited to the grandmother’s apartment for dinner. I’ve never seen a two-story apartment, a roof-deck dining room, or so much crystal. The apartment felt like a mausoleum, every floor and wall was granite or marble of some kind. The ceilings were mirror. The view from the 15th and 16th floors of the nicest apartment building in town was nothing short of breathtaking.

We found out later that the woman is a Buddhist, but is very happy with the fact that her grandson is going to a Christian school and is even willing to bring him to church on Sundays. The pastor made sure that we understood that we had made this contact through our language ministry and that God was doing great things in this woman’s heart.

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