Yesterday marked another big transition in my life. I moved away from Korea. Those of you faithful readers can attest to my consistent mixed feelings toward the country. Those confusing feelings were only heightened as I left. When I first arrived in Korea, I was grateful to be in a country full of strangers. I relished my time away from any semblance of reality. I just wanted to be alone and Korea was the perfect place for that. And God used that place to heal me from some major pains and to draw me close to Him. By January, I was feeling a little more ready to face the world. And it was at that time that God led me to Covenant Church. My first Sunday there was like a breath of sweet fresh air. I knew that I had found my “home” in Korea. Sure enough, things moved quickly from there. I found myself delving deep into relationships with people there. And even thought I had spent the last 6 months avoiding all relationships, I loved it.
The church was growing. When I first came, there were maybe 30 of us. Then 40. Then 50. By summer, we were filling out the sanctuary with almost 70 people each week. My social butterflyness was welcomed and the church made me the official welcomer. I joined a small group and was eventually asked to be colead it with the leader Chris, who would become one of my closest brothers. The pastor’s wife approached me and asked if I would want to start an accountability group with her and a few other women. Of course. After about a month, she handed the leadership of the group over to me. This group would eventually give birth to a bigger idea of how women in the church could be discipled. In that group I got to know deeply a woman named Betsy. She is a few years younger than me, but full of wisdom and compassion. She and her husband James moved to Korea in February to teach and my friendship with them is one of the sweetest parts of my life in Korea. My roots were running deep in the community there. Every newcomer was welcomed by me, and I found the Lord using my social skills to help build a community at Covenant.
I had found a church that let me serve to my full capacity. So many churches would say that they wanted people like me, people jumped at the bit to serve. But logistically, there were too many hoops to jump through and too much bureaucracy to overcome. Many pastors, especially of church plants, hold the reigns of their church tightly. They struggle with micromanagement and have a hard time letting people run along in ministry. But Pastor Jae had no such issue. Covenant was too small for hoops, and Jae was too lax to squash people’s desires in ministry. Anyone who wanted to serve in Covenant, as long as their vision fit in Covenant’s mission to be a gospel centered church in the city, were given blessing to move ahead. So when I realized the need for a class to help women understand how to read the Old Testament, I was given an immediate green light. This was once again, my dream come true. We ended up meeting for 6 Sundays, covering various topics under the heading of Biblical Theology for Women: How to read the Old Testament. I saw the Old Testament come to life for women who had avoided it in fear of the confusion it could lead to. I saw Jesus’ story of redemption grow deeper in the hearts of the women. And I saw the guys get jealous. It was a dream come true.
My heart was planted deep in the soil of Covenant. And when the time came to say goodbye, it hit me like a truck. As Jae brought me up to the front of the church in my last Sunday service, he said, “All of you know her, there isn’t anyone in this room who hasn’t been served by her. She has made relationships here as if she would be here for 10 years, not 10 months.” And then it was time to say goodbye. It felt like I was a plant being uprooted. Each person I had to say goodbye to was a root that was being pulled out. Some of the roots were shallow and didn’t hurt that bad. But some of them were deep, deeper than I had imagined.
My last day in Korea, my last day with Covenant, was one full of tears. It started off dry, but as soon as I hit communion, the tears started. And they didn’t stop. The height of the tears came when it was time to say goodbye to those closest to me. Jonathan, Chris, Betsy. I couldn’t do it. I told Jonathan, through tear soaked sobs that I didn’t know how to end our friendship. He told me that it wasn’t over. But his words didn’t comfort me. I was just sad.
I left Korea surprised. I didn’t go to Korea to make friends. I actually thought I would be able to go through the whole year without friends. I knew I would make some shallow friends, but I didn’t expect or even want the depth that I found in Korea.
So leaving, crying. Not sure how to stop it, of even if I wanted to stop it. My heart swells with gratitude when I think about Korea. I love that the Lord is in control. I love that I can trust Him. I love that I know I am resting in the palm of His great and powerful hand. That no harm comes to me, only mercy. So when I cry, they are not tears of sadness, but tears of fullness.