As 2015 was ending, my pastoral internship drew to a close. Around this time, I told Bethany that I wanted to be with her and I was praying that God do something soon and unexpected for us to be together. Bethany’s best friend Charlotte visited her right at the end of 2015, and I got to spend time with them both (the dreamlike quality of this time cannot be exaggerated – I was done with my job, and I made another visa run to Japan after which I got to spend day after day with Bethany). After Charlotte had gone back to the States, Bethany proposed a plan to get married, just before her spring break. This was also unexpected, and an answer to prayer. We began to work on co-creating shared values to guide our decision-making. We also opened up to family for counsel.
You see, for this whole relationship to have worked, Bethany had to employ BOTH supernatural patience AND supernatural initiative. In the beginning, I was just a foreigner guy who had lived his whole life in the States, and would be returning there at the end of the year, knowing nothing of how diverse and unique Bethany’s upbringing and life had been. I had to wait and wait and see, biding my time to show romantic interest – our lives were so different and because of the events in my own family, I knew a marriage could not be built on unilateral action. There was too much to learn and process for a long-distance relationship. There had to be a back-and-forth for us to work.
I was just a seminary student doing a pastoral internship, talking about how I wanted to do cross-cultural work, so that by all accounts I seemed an outspoken proponent of the stereotypical Christianity of which Bethany, a missionary kid, knew better. I was just a 30-year-old guy who only had maybe one official girlfriend in his life and barely had a cent to my name. If I initiated a relationship, if I proposed marriage, where was I going to take her? What did I have to offer? I didn’t even have a residence to call my own. When Bethany initiated and showed up to the Incheon airport, it may have been a small action-step for her to take, but for me and my life, it was the giant leap I needed someone to make. Because Bethany waited for me to initiate and introduce things about our relationship and show affection, our love warmed and progressed naturally and intuitively but at a strong pace.
Around this time in the first half of January 2016, Bethany took me on a date to her old haunts in Seoul including Yonsei University. Something very important happened then. On February 14th, we returned to Yonsei University to hike Ansan. I proposed at the spot on Ansan where we had hiked to more than a year ago.
As the Lord allows, Bethany and I will hike together for the rest of our lives.
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.