We said yes.
We said yes.
Bethany made another trip to the States, this time for her sister’s wedding. Bethany said before she left that she wanted to hike Bukhansan with us friends as a way to celebrate her birthday. Keeping in mind that she would have her birthday while she was in the States, I gifted her the latest CHVRCHES album and messaged her as she returned to South Korea. I was about to make another visa run to Japan when she messaged me about meeting me after my flight. It was then that I had an inkling that she was actually interested in me.
In October and November, I visited Bethany on Mondays. We would sit and talk and have coffee, then dinner, hiking around Seoul. It was like a dream. I was following this beautiful girl around the capital city of Korea, hoping to God this particular dream would come true. Then, I began visiting Seoul more often during the week as Bethany expressed interest in spending more time together.
One Saturday afternoon in December, after a visit to the border of North Korea, we sat down and talked about our relationship. Bethany said a long-distance relationship would be so hard, and I said that I wanted to stay if that would keep our relationship going. That night I stayed and helped Bethany decorate her place for Christmas. On December 24th, I attended a Christmas Eve service with Bethany and the long-term possibilities of our relationship began to be real.
Over the next 8 months, I would pay Bethany more and more attention. I went with a couple of friends over to her house for dinner and coffee. I went along on a ministry trip to the North Korean resettlement center with Bethany and her mom. I would see her at church, every once in a while.
And then Bethany made a couple of trips to the States. The first trip was for training for her new job and she had expressed the need for motivation and encouragement to get through. I emailed her and sent her motivating youtube videos to get through the monotony. After she came back from this trip, I went with some friends to her new place in Seoul and we hiked up to the world-famous Namsan tower. On this outing, she expressed a desire for intellectual conversation or book suggestions. After she mentioned some books she had read, I messaged her later about, of all things, feminism. It was then that Bethany had an inkling that I was actually in to her.
So, I landed in Korea in February 2015. In the first couple of Sundays at my new congregation, I met a lot of new faces. One of them was a lady (Connie, Bethany’s mother) who gave me her family’s contact info and invited me to come over to their house the days during Korea’s lunar new year holidays.
I met Bethany during those holidays. I had stayed the previous night at her parents’ house and enjoyed the hospitality of an American-style home-cooked meal. Bethany came over that day – the first time I met her. Bethany’s friend Brittany was over as well. We talked late that evening about a lot of things (I’m pretty sure I defended the virtues of child-bearing . . .) and the next morning the three of us actually went for a hike near Bethany’s high school. I found her to be well-spoken (I got her attention when I talked about something I read on North Korean propaganda – something Bethany wrote her master’s thesis on – the first of many divine orchestrations where I somehow say the right thing to gain her interest or trust), beautiful, and notably caring: her friend Brittany was leaving for the States and Bethany bid her an affectionate, tearful farewell. Even in my jet-lagged state, my curiosity was piqued.
In hindsight, that time set a good baseline for our later relationship: eating, talking, and hiking around Seoul. But it would be 8 months later before I would be hiking alone with Bethany.
So, my life has taken an unexpected turn. I came to South Korea to take part in a pastoral internship for 2015. Along the way, I met many people, made many new friends, and encountered Korean life. In the months preceding the end of 2015, a romance began to blossom. I guess the story will come out in bits and pieces, as the romance continues to grow, and I just want to share with anyone who is interested!
Her name is Bethany. She’s lived in Seoul for a long time, but she grew up in the Philippines, where her parents were missionaries. They are originally from Tennessee and she has U.S. citizenship. She has a masters in applied linguistics and wants to minister to people in Korea: specifically as an accomplished advocate for the North Korean people.
I’m convinced that the Lord brought me here firstly to meet and fall in love with her. We are convinced it is all His doing!
Before I moved to Korea, I didn’t know exactly where and how I would be serving here. During my interview, I got asked a range of questions, and a good number of them were about leading music. I even was asked if I would feel comfortable leading music for 1,000 people! Well, I have had a chance now to lead the worship music a couple of times now: one time, it was for Global Family Worship in the Korean congregation, where there were 800-1,000 people! But I want to describe what my English congregation looks like.
I serve the Global English Ministries [GEM] congregation, which falls under the Global Department of the Korean congregation, Global Mission Church. It is a congregation of approximately 400 English-speaking people, who may be native Korean (often “2nd generation”), ‘ex-pats’ from Australia, Canada, etc. and some ministers and missionaries, as well as the youth group. It is largely made up of people around my age, but there are healthy children’s and youth ministries as well. There are two services each Sunday, 10am and 2pm, and a youth service at 12pm. We have some Bible studies and discipleship meetings and various other ministries, such as visiting the orphanage or building relationships with North Korean refugees.