A Fond Farewell to the Land of the Morning Calm

Flag of the Republic of KoreaThis is my last night in Korea after being here 377 days. I came on orders reluctantly, not wanting to leave my family or the position I was in, but as everyone who wears the uniform understands, when Uncle Sam says “go,” we either go or we get out. Since I believed that God still wanted me serving as a Chaplain in the Army, I “saluted the flag,” packed my bags, and said “goodbye” to my family.

BDE Hail and Farewell
Brian, Eric, Me and Maya at our BDE UMT Hail and Farewell

After arriving, however, I discovered that my new unit of assignment was a great one that I would enjoy being a part of while ministering to its Soldiers and encouraging and equipping the chaplains in the subordinate battalions. Those chaplains, Eric, Maya and Brian, proved to be great chaplains and grew to be good friends. I also appreciated the chaplain assistants and KATUSAs both in the battalions and my UMT in the BDE, SSG Pagan, SSG Kendrick and CPL Kim. Had this been all that this year included, it would have made the sacrifice of the year worth it.

20160125_102914
Me with Young Ho Kim, a chaplain in the ROKA

Through my Army assignment to the Yongsan area, I also reconnected with chaplain friends from previous assignments and attendance at the Chaplain School. In C4, I met Young Ho Kim, who is a chaplain in the ROK Army. It was nice to run into him again at a joint training event we both attended. Sean was another chaplain I got to know at C4, who along with his wife were very kind to me while in Korea without family, inviting me out and checking in on me.

Me, Sean and Jorge at Mr. Kabab
Me, Sean and Jorge at Mr. Kabab

Then there are the other chaplains who I met here and got to know a bit as we worked together to provide religious support to the USAG Yongsan: Chaplain Kim, Mark Lee and Brian Oh of USAG Yongsan Religious Support Office; Yun Kim who was pastoring the Traditional Protestant Service when I arrived, who I took over from; Jorge Budez who pastored the Episcopal service where I attended many times (and even preached once) and who also covered for me; Jamison Bowman who was on rotation in Korea; Chaplains Wheatley and Morris in the 8th Army Command Chaplains Office; and finally Martin Cho who I was in the same CHOBC with and now he has come to replace me as Brigade Chaplain; all just to name a few. I look forward to running into these chaplains again as we continue to serve.

Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service
The final group photo of the congregation taken on our last Sunday together as a congregation

My additional assignment as pastor of the USAG Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation was a rewarding experience. I didn’t think after just a year in the congregation that I would grow so attached, but they are great people who became great friends and our times of worship and fellowship were very meaningful. I will not soon forget the blessings that I received through this congregation!

Ilsan Lake Park
John and me by the Lake.

There was so much more that I experienced in Korea that multiplied the blessings of the last 377 days. I met John Eun Yup Kim online before arriving in Korea and soon connected with him and and his family who provided a warm welcome and great introduction to Korea. John  helped me attend the Korea National District Assembly and later invited me to preach at his church.

Eoulrim Church of the Nazarene
Bashir and I

I met Bashir Asim Gil, from Pakistan, at the District Assembly, and we got together several more times (including in his home with his wonderful family), culminating in my visiting the church where he ministers my last Sunday in Korea and getting to preach at the English Service. Both John and Bashir have become good friends who I hope to keep in touch with for years to come and hopefully see them at Nazarene gatherings somewhere in the world!

Fortunately, we had our KATUSA to translate for us!
Me with my KATUSA, my new Chaplain Assistant and my old Chaplain Assistant at a restaurant in Suwon

As I was preparing to come to Korea, I thought that due to its proximity to other Asian nations, that I would get to visit countries like China and Japan, not to mention many areas of South Korea, but it turned out that I didn’t do much traveling besides my many trips to Suwon with my Soldiers and a “Staff Ride” to the DMZ. I didn’t even visit some of the interesting sites in the Seoul area that most tourists make sure to see. This is kind of disappointing, but as I look back over my posts on this blog and see the many things that I did do, I’m satisfied that my year here was anything but wasted and I have many experiences and friendships to show for my time.

While I have really enjoyed my time in Korea, I really miss my family and home so am anxious to get back to them. But I take back with me many great memories of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited. I continue to be blessed when I think of the times I’ve been able to worship with Korean Nazarenes and the military congregations on post. I return to the Untied States with a better appreciation of the work of the military in this part of the world and the challenges faced by ministers and churches seeking to reach people in this country. I will cherish the memories and and friendships that have been made and continue to thank God for the blessings they have brought.

So to everyone who has been such a blessing to me this year: thank you, thank you, thank you! I pray that God will return to you many times the blessing you have been to me!

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