Friday, December 25, 2009

The Merry Christmas Cake

Holidays are different everywhere. Christmas, while celebrating (generally) one event, manages to look and feel very different in different places. This was my first Christmas away from my family - and it was a little difficult.

I had, up until a few weeks ago, a homestay family. I love them very much and always will. They took care of me and are the only Koreans to really make me feel accepted. Language was always a barrier, but we had fun and never got too stressed out about miscommunications. I was excited to spend Christmas with them. And then the family emergency happened and I suddenly had to move out. My homestay father, who is the most gentle and kind man, was sentenced to prison for an old white collar offence. Not only was I losing my beloved family, but a good friend was going to prison. I feel so sad for them. I just feel that they are the nicest people in the world and that this was a tragedy.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

I had to teach on Christmas Eve. It was my final day. Near the end of the day, the Korean teachers gave me a package. It was from my homestay mom. She had made a very nice card and written a letter to me and attached it to the cake. Koreans share a cake with their family on Christmas - it's how they celebrate and it sure is different from our celebrations. I was so moved at the generosity of my homestay mom - to be without her husband on Christmas must be so sad and she unselfishly thought of me - it made my heart grow warm with the Christmas spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Now, after I moved out of my homestay family's house, I had to be moved somewhere. My school found a hotel that fit every requirement it had - it was cheap! The hotel was the most run down building I have ever seen in Korea. But, perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the hotel was the prostitute in the room next to mine. I imagine that those around me have always known that I would end up living in a shady motel in the room next to a hooker, but I always thought it would at least be my decision. I always tried to smile politely, but not too politely as to look like a potential client. I spoke with her son when he was standing in the hallway waiting for "uncle so-and-so" to leave. I even greeted the Johns. But, I always wished that I could do something to show my neighbors the love of Christ.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I really couldn't have eaten the whole cake. I had eaten a large dinner and wasn't even sure if I could polish off one slice. And as I walked down the hallway toward my shabby room, I knew the right thing to do. I knew what I wanted to do, the opportunity God had given me. I knocked on my neighbors door, and handed her the cake. She was so surprised - her face lit up and she said Kamsahabneda (thank you) about a dozen times in quick succession. I finally felt like a real missionary again, the connection with the outcast that has been missing from my life was there again and I was truly happy.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

In Korean culture, when one receives a gift it is customary to give something in return. And within a few minutes I heard a knock at my door. I opened it to find her son, standing in front of me with their return gift: a basket of a few hardboiled eggs, some salt, and a few oranges. It was the most wonderful present I have received in a very long time.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Goodbye Song

This is the song the kindergarten students sang at the end of every class. Saying goodbye to this bunch was tough! I miss them already.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I was Santa Clause at the kindergarten yesterday. It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly enough, I didn't make a single child cry. HoHoHaHa.

Today is my last day teaching. I'm happy to be finishing on a strong note. It's a little strange to be working on Christmas Eve - especially working at a Christian school!

This Christmas season I would like to thank all of you for your love and support as I move from Korea to Mongolia.

Merry Christmas!
Love, Michael.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The hotel room

In my fifth living situation in six months, my school moved me into a former love-motel. For a quick cultural lesson, all Koreans live with their parents until they get married. Young adults don't bust out on their own ... so, promiscuous young people take advantage of love motels. They are usually nice, clean establishments - suitable for a romantic evening or honeymoon shenanigans.

This was all true about my current room in the late 80s. Now, recently divorced men, and -apparently- English teaching missionaries live here. Here are some pictures so everyone can have a good laugh at my expense.

I can't decide if my bathtub is shaped like lips or a heart. It sure is unique though!

This is where the fire extinguisher should be. "Should" is the operative word of the sentence. This is also my door that doesn't close and my lock that doesn't lock.

Nothing says love like the combination of a poorly done poster of a deer in a field and black mold on the ceiling. Classy.

Someday, I'll look back on this situation and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

The museum

The teachers I loved most always told me that your classroom should feel like an interactive museum.

Posters of famous paintings and political figures hang on every wall. Since my kids were learning about museums - I decided that this would be the perfect time to make an aquarium and dinosaur display. The kids had a great time, and it really stretched their ability to communicate with each other in English.

Each student made one sea animal for the aquarium window.

Each student was responsible for one part of the dinosaur fossil.

Sitting Buddha

The largest sitting Buddha in Asia is less than a mile from my friends' house. The other day I hiked up to see it. It was bigger than the one I saw in Thailand, which also claimed to be the biggest sitting Buddha in Asia. It's a really beautiful statue, and an active Buddhist holy site. It was much more beautiful than any other Buddhist site I have been to; so remote and peaceful. Here are the pictures.

Apparently, Smokey the bear has an Asian cousin. I love that the eyes are just a little bit more narrow than the Smokey I grew up with.

This picture is a little small, and you might not be able to see it, but ... the swastika is a sign of peace and serenity and there was a very large swastika on one of the buildings.

This was our first snow storm, and the sun had just come up to melt the snow away. I could have spent the whole day taking pictures. The architecture combined with the mountains was stunning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mongolia here I come ...

I hope you enjoyed the guessing game!

On January 6th I will fly from Seoul, Korea to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The United Methodist church planted it's first church in Mongolia within the last decade, and currently has 3 churches. The new work in Mongolia is very exciting and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Read this Hallelujah Moment for an inside look at what's going on.

I will be joining two mission interns, Erin Eidenshink and Holli Vining , as well as a wonderful community of General Board of Global Ministries missionaries.

I will be joining the missionary community in a number of really exciting ministries. They work with children, the elderly, and everything in between. I will be teaching English, visiting hospice care patients, doing outreach and evangelism, and working with people at a detention center.

I look forward to an exciting few months with new friends in Mongolia.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clue 3

I'll be visiting an old teammate,
mission intern, Erin Eidenshink,
January 6th is the fast approaching date!
Any guesses, yet? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guessing Game

I'm going on an adventure,
As some of you must know.
The first clue is called a ger,
The second clue is snow.

Have you guessed it yet?
More clues, soon. Please dont' fret.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Farewell Letter

As you can see, I haven't posted in quite some time. I apologize for that. It isn't for lack of interesting events.

I have resigned from my position at Wesley Mission Language School.

This may seem like a sudden decision, but it is one that has been prayed over for many months.

I have had great moments over the last 6 months, and have really enjoyed spending time with the children and the Korean Methodist church.

I feel that the specifics of my departure should not be aired for everyone in cyberspace to read, but I would love to have a one-on-one e-mail conversation with anyone who would like more information. mairgood (at)

Briefly:I tried very hard to make a difficult situation work, but ultimately decided that my time in Korea had come to an end and that I would be better off in a different environment.

I will be leaving Korea in early January. I will not be going to America. I have plans made, but until I recieve final comfirmation and buy my plane ticket I will keep everyone in suspense as to the nature of my next move.

Thank you for your prayers and support during this difficult time. I covet your prayers over the next few weeks as I finish out my time here and move on with my life. It has been truly amazing to see God throw open doors in these last few days for my next step in ministry.

Love, Michael.