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.


  1. Merry Christmas Mike! Safe travels and adventures to you in 2010--

    Emily Cleland

  2. hi mike, just want to say i enjoyed reading about your stay in korea. the lord sent my son to me from korea. he was 9 months when he came home to pa. usa he is almost 6 now. that god would choose me to love and raise this baby is amazing ,and i could never put into words how grateful i am. i never blogged before! i don't know if you will get this ,and it takes me forever to type. may god bless you and show himself to you on your travels. your post touched me. thanks for writing it. katie