To Japan and Back Again (Part IV)

Well, it’s day 4 of what was supposed to be a 1-day trip from my last duty station in Yongsan, South Korea to my home in Missouri where I was going to take 5 weeks leave before going to an Army school at Fort Belvoir, VA for 3.5 months. The mechanical problems on the plane that forced it to turn around over the Pacific Ocean and return to Yokota Air Base in Japan has shortened my leave by 3 days so far. Three days aren’t a lot normally, but when you have been separated from your family for a year, it seems like an eternity!

It’s a sunny Sunday morning here in Japan and I am enjoying a cup of coffee with the rest of a cookie I got with my dinner last night. I’m hoping and praying that the new scheduled departure time for today happens without a hitch, so that I can be with my wife by the end of the day (or early Monday). This has certainly been an adventure with one disappointment after another multiplying the frustrations of the passengers who just want to get home.

The airline I’m on is contracted by the U.S. government for these types of flights. It’s the same airline that I flew on going into Iraq during OIF. It’s not a big “brand name” airline but evidently the one who had the lowest bid so won the contract. They have put us in hotels every night and tried to provide meals, though many of the meals have been sub-standard.

The Air Force personnel at Yokota Air Base have been amazing. They are stuck in the middle of this situtation between the airlines (who they have no control over) and the passengers who they are trying to take care of. Their attitudes and helpfulness have remained high over the last few days as they have had to put in long hours and even work on days that they’re normally off, just to take care of us.

Usually the government takes care of all of our connecting flights to get us where we’re going. Since I am going “TDY en-route” to my training location and taking leave in between, I had to take care of my own connecting flight home. I booked through Delta Airlines using my frequent flyer miles (“Skymiles”) that I’ve accumulated on the couple of flights I made back to the States while in Korea for Army training. Normally, changes to these reservations come with a hefty fee, but they have changed my reservation three times without a charge, working with me (and my wife who has had to call the last two times) to make my experience as stress-free as possible. Delta Airlines has won a loyal customer through all of this!

As of early this morning, the Yokota Passenger Terminal is telling us that the plane was fixed late last night and is scheduled to depart early this evening getting us into Seattle Sunday morning. Of course, we’ve been given similar reports every day of this episode, so the news is received with some skeptisim. Only when I’m buckled in and in the air will I believe that we’re finally leaving.

We got back to the terminal about 1130 and checked our bags. I was looking forward to getting something to eat sonce I hadn’t had anything to but thr rest of my cookie from last night. However, there wasn’t an airline rep there to give us meal vouchers. I thought about having a pizza delivered so looked up the number fot the on-post Pizza Hut and called them only to be told that they didn’t bigin delivery until 1545. Oh well. About then, I heard the announcement that they were issuing the meal vouchers so I got one and got a Bacon Cheeseburger and fries. I am so tired of cheap fast food and ready for a home-cooked meal!

Hurry up and wait!

The latest word is that we’ll be called to the secure area at 1330 but as I’m writing this I see it’s almost 1400. They also said that we’d begin boarding at about 1600 for a 1640 departure. We’ll see.

At almost 1430, an hour after we were supposed to progress to the secure area, they announced that the maintenance crew was still performong ops checks on the aircraft. I thought when something is “fixed” then it’s ready to go…

The crew boarding the plane seemed like a good sign.

At about 1500 we begin moving to the secure area. While we’ve been there before, it’s a good sign. RUMINT says departure time is about 1630. Again, we’ll see.

At about 1730 they announced that we would soon start boarding. This was as close as we had gotten to leaving in three days. You could tell people were getting excited by the cheers that were raised with each progressive announcement. At the same time you could sense -and sometimes hear- the skepticism. We had been told before that we would be leaving. It was hard to believe that this time we would.

Within a few minutes we did start boarding and there was a reserved optimism that we were finally on our way. The Air Force personnel had to do another roll call once we were on the plane, delaying our departure a little longer. Evidently the passenger manifest didn’t match the number of passengers. Once that was sorted out we were cleared to go. With every foot the plane rolled away from the gate the greater the expectation that it was for real. Every delay we encountered; every minute we were still on the ground, there was a chance that we would have to turn back, deplane, and resume the endless wait to go home.

One of my last views of Korea

After a year in South Korea, I left Seoul for Osan on  Wednesday morning then caught my flight from Osan on Thursday morning expecting to be with my honey Thursday evening. Instead, I spent the next three nights in Japan and most of four days in the Passenger Terminal at Yokota Air Base, while aching to be home.

Flying into Seattle

Finally at at about 1145, after four long days of traveling and waiting, I returned to American soil, soon to be back in my home with my family and likely not ready to begin another deployment for some time.

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To Japan and Back Again (Part III)

This is my 3rd day in Japan. I was just supposed to be here for a 2-hour layover! You can read about my 1st day in Part I and my 2nd day in Part II. As for my 3rd day, I had noticed last night that there was a McDonald’s across the street from the hotel so I decided that I would add Japan to the list of places that I have eaten at McDonald’s (and, I like their breakfast). So I walked by the hotel-provided breakfast to the door and crossed the street.

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I went in fully expecting them to accept plastic (doesn’t everybody?) but was surprised to learn that they only accepted cash! Disappointed but not defeated, I went back to the hotel front desk to exchange some U.S. cash for Yen, since I had done that at the hotel I stayed at the night before. To my dismay, they did not exchange currency and directed me to a bank, which there wasn’t one nearby and I doubt it would be open on a Saturday anyway. I asked about an ATM and in their broken English said, “7-11.” Of course. I wasn’t encouraged by that since the last time I was at 7-11 I would have had to withdraw 10,000 Yen which is roughly $100. I wasn’t that hungry! I went anyway thinking maybe this ATM would be different than the last but it wasn’t. I give up (on McDonald’s, not life or anything like that!).

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The front of the hotel.
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The town near Yokota Air Base where the hotel is located is called Fussa.
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The large building where McD’s is on the 1st floor (where I didn’t get to eat!).
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A restaurant near the hotel (across the street from 7-11). It’s an interesting mix of Western and Eastern styles.
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Just a view of the hotel
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Another view near the hotel.
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There are vending machines everywhere!
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You can even buy beer from vending machines, though you need a Japanese id to verify your age.
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The breakfast offered by the hotel. I’m sorry, and no offense intended toward the Japanese people, but nothing here appealed to me. I got coffee. Black.

The buses were scheduled to pick us up from the hotel at 1000 so another day in the room wouldn’t be charged. That got us to the Passenger Terminal before 1100 where we waited in line nearly an hour to re-check our bags.

Yesterday they announced that our show time was 1800 but after a little while in the Passenger Terminal , they announced it would be 2100 then about 5 minutes later changed it tp 2000. I wonder how many more times it will change!

It turned out that they were able to get the parts they needed from Korea so it looks like they’re still trying to fix it instead of sending another plane. I hope they can fix it, otherwise we’ll be waiting even longer for that replacement aircraft.

This is the culprit!
This is the culprit!

I used my voucher and got lunch at the eatery in the Passenger Terminal. Since I didn’t have breakfast I was really hungry so the Classic Bacon Cheeseburger and fries tasted good.

After lunch, more waiting. I’m debating about walking up to the BX Mall but that will mean lugging my backpack in the heat…I went ahead and walked to the BX (Base Exchange instead of Post Exchange like on an Army Post) to get dinner and cough drops; and just to do something. There really wasn’t time or means to go very far. The flight schedule could change at any time.

I got a Philly Cheesesteak from Charlies (Charly’s?) Which was really good. I also looked around a bit and saw a Samurai sword that my daughter asked me to get her when she heard I was in Japan. Unfortunately, you carry a sword on a plane and it was too late to get it into my checked baggage. I guess I’ll need to come back!

While I was out I walked by the Traditional Chapel to get better pictures. Sadly, it was locked so I couldn’t get any of the sanctuary.

There were a couple of small Samurai statues in front of a cafe which were kind of neat. They were across the street from one of the wing headquarters where there were the flags of the U.S. (still at half mast), Japan, and the U.N.

Back at the Passenger Terminal a bit more tired after the walk with a heavy backpack. Back to the waiting (which is the hardest part!).

At 2000, the time we were to show up at the Passenger Terminal for our flight to leave about three hours later, the airline representative announced that the plane still isn’t ready to go so they’re putting us back in hotels to show up again tomorrow (Sunday) at noon. Here we go again!

You can feel the frustration in the room. Even some anger. One Soldier missed his wedding. Another missed her son’s birthday. I really miss my family and want to get home to them! Who knows how many other life events have been missed or are about to be. It’s really nobody’s fault. Things break down. Delays happen. But this is tough on our Service Members. This is hard on their families. This is bad.

The last announcement they made is that they’re going to double up on the hotel rooms. I don’t think so. That is not SOP. That will not work. They also are putting people in rooms in downtown Tokyo which is about 2 hours away. That means by the time they get there and have to get back, they won’t get much sleep!

A few rooms opened up at a lodge on post which I jumped on. It’s an old building but nice. There’s actually a bedroom, living room and kitchen (and bathroom, of course). Military lodging also has free laundry rooms so I am able to get clothes cleaned. I sent most of my civilian clothes home with my un-accompanied baggage and mailed boxes, since I didn’t anticipate this trip taking so long. It will be nice to have clean clothes!

There’s another chaplain on this flight with me, a Catholic Priest. I talked to him this evening about he and I offering services at the Passenger Terminal tomorrow. I think that sharing this common experience has created a sort of “bond” similar to deployments so I believe that worship together could be meaningful. Having a Protestant and a Catholic chaplain, we can have two services to cover most of the bases.

Here are some pictures of my room at Kanto Lodge on Yokota Air Base, Japan:

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Well, it’s late and this day is about complete. It’s been another long day with no progress on getting home. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and I’ll be on my way.

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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.

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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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Paju

After the worship service at Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene and our walk through Ilsan Lake Park we headed to Paju to go to the Odusan Unification Observatory overlooking North Korea. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the gate had just been closed 4 minutes! But there were still several things to see in the area before we had dinner then headed back.

Odusan Unification Observatory
You can see Odusan Unification Observatory on the hill in the distance. Sadly, it was closed by the time we got there…

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Heyri Art Valley (헤이리 예술마을)

“Korean artists of various specialties such as writers, painters, actors, architects and musicians constructed the cultural town of Heyri. Within this community there are residences, workrooms, art galleries and museums. Artists make a living by opening exhibitions, trading or selling their art. Currently, there are about 40 museums, exhibitions, concert halls and bookstores, and around 30~40 more are expected to be added. Currently about 10 cafes and food courts are included in these buildings for the convenience of its visitors.

“Heyri Art Valley was constructed to blend in with surrounding structures. The local construction regulations require all buildings to be no more than three stories tall. Just by glancing at these buildings you will admire their artistry since architects constructed each building with its own unique characteristics.” 1

This was a really neat village that we drove through. We didn’t take time to to get out, but it would be a fun village to walk through, enjoy a tea or coffee or maybe lunch…with so much art and crafts, though, you would need to be sure to bring plenty of cash!  Here are some pictures of our drive through, but I noticed later that I probably should have cleaned the windshield a bit!:

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Gyeonggi English Village (경기 영어 마을)

We just drove by the English Village, but it’s such an interesting concept that I wanted to mention it and share some pictures. According to their website:

Gyeonggi English Villages are for the residents of Gyeonggi Province and the Republic of Korea to experience the English language and the cultures of English-speaking countries. It is our intent to provide strong support for the public and private English education system of Gyeonggi Province and for Korea as a whole. In addition to learning and studying the international language, we want to instill in students a better sense of their role in the global community. 2

Gyeonggi English Village
This picture is from the website, but a better one than I could get from driving by.

 

Gyeonggi English Village
One of the large English-style buildings and the roofs of several others.

 

Gyeonggi English Village
A small replica of Stonehenge outside of English Village

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Dinner in Paju City

After a all of the site-seeing and walking through Lake Park, we had gone hungry to the they took me to dinner at a restaurant in Paju City. It was a neat place, with several buildings in a “compound.” We had a traditional Korean meal with several sides, hot soup, and grilled beef to eat wrapped in leaves/lettuce.  While there, I learned that Koreans are the only ones who actually eat the leaves of the sesame plant, which was on the plate of “wraps” for the meat. Here are a few pictures for dinner, all take by Pastor Kim’s wife, except the one that she’s in (I’m not sure why I didn’t take any pictures here!):

 

The three of us in the courtyard of the restaurant (I'm the one on the right).
The three of us in the courtyard of the restaurant (I’m the one on the right).

 

John and I still eating...
John and I still eating…

 

John and I enjoying plum juice and coffee...and the cooling evening.
John and I enjoying plum juice and coffee…and the cooling evening.

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It was a long day, but a really great time spent with friends and seeing Korea. I’m really thankful that I met Pastor John Eun Yup Kim and his wife, and for all of the kindness they’ve shown me while I was in Korea!

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Imagine Your Korea website.

Gyeonggi English Village website.

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Worship at “Tree Planted by the Water” Church of the Nazarene

Tree Planted by the Water Church of teh Nazarene
The church is on the 3rd floor of this building.

With me no  longer having the responsibility of a congregation on post, I was finally able to attend a local Korean Church of the Nazarene, in fact, I had the opportunity to preach. “Tree Planted by the Water” Church of the Nazarene is a bit north of Seoul and is pastored by John Eun Yup Kim. I first met Pastor Kim on Facebook before I moved to Korea when we were commenting on the same post. Since coming to Korea, he has been very helpful in connecting me to the Church of the Nazarene in Korea and has become a good friend. I was honored and excited when he invited me to preach at his church.

Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The third floor entry into the sanctuary.

Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene has just been in their current location for a few month. They own the third floor and roof of a three-story building which has businesses and stores on the 1st and 2nd floors. This building configuration seems odd to someone from the United States, but is quite common here since space is at a premium.

The church uses the roof for children’s activities and picnic cook outs. When the weather is nice, it’s a great space. The third floor has the sanctuary, two rooms to the side (could be classrooms) and a small room which glass in the back of the sanctuary. There is an entry way with literature and book racks, bulletin boards and other information. There were enough things posted and on the racks that were familiar as being Nazarene, that I felt “in the right place.” The welcome that I received from the church people made me feel very much at home.

3WThe church’s name, “Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene” is longer than usual and reflects its exciting vision, which is “to see the fullness of fine trees of righteousness in this world by planting the fine vision of Jesus Christ in the broken hearts of this nation.” Their goal as a church is displayed as “3W” representing Worship, Word and Witness: “Worship the Lord, Teach the Word and Go in His power to the world as a witness for empowering the next generation.”

John Eun Yup Kim
Pastor Kim leading worship

The order of worship was common, though in Korean, and the movement of worship was familiar. While I couldn’t understand what was being said, I sensed God’s presence and experienced the joy of the congregation in being in God’s house to worship him. Pastor Kim did well in taking my text and sermon and tying in the music to form a theme. There was wonderful participation from the congregation throughout the service, including the special music sung by Pastor Kim’s wife and her two brothers. I was blessed by the song they sang realizing that it can be “well with my soul” wherever in the world I go because wherever I go, God is there.

Here’s a snippet of “It is Well With My Soul” sung during the worship service
Chaplain Densford preaching
Me preaching with Pastor Kim translating

I’ve only preached with a translator one other time, when I was in Argentina on a Work and Witness trip, so I had forgotten how difficult it is. Having to break after every paragraph makes it difficult to maintain momentum and keep flowing. It’s times like these when you really have to rely on the Holy Spirit to do his part. I prayed for an Acts 2 kind of experience, not that there would be a miracle of languages necessarily, but that the Holy Spirit would help the congregation hear what God wanted them to hear. Since that doesn’t rely as much on me, I can trust that God will come through every time! I decided to preach on the Temptation of Jesus found in Matthew 4:1-11. Had I felt God’s leading in a different direction, I certainly would have gone that way, but wanted to use this message for a number of reasons: 1) I believe that as we consider Jesus’ temptation, we can learn how to resist temptation when it comes our way. 2) I had preached from my outline on this passage 14 other times over the last 14 years, so it’s familiar enough that I could put my best foot forward as a guest preacher. 3) There is some excitement for me preaching this message in Korea, since I have preached it in other countries and several states in the U.S.  It seemed to be received well, at least the congregation was very kind to me!

The introduction to my sermon translated by Pastor Kim. This video shows the difficulty in getting into the “groove” of using a translator

Another small portion of my sermon being translated by Pastor Kim

Another couple minutes of my sermon, talking about being safe in the center of God’s will.
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
Eating lunch at the English-speaking table

After the service, the congregation always eats a meal together. Usually one of the family prepares it for everyone. Today, it was provided by the pastor’s wife’s brother who was visiting from China where he’s the Korean ambassador. It was a good meal, though I’ve found that some Korean food just doesn’t work for me and some of it was too spicy for me, though everyone else was eating it fine, with nothing to drink. Pastor Kim arranged it so that those who could speak English sat at the table with me, so we could enjoy conversation. The others sat at another table- one where they sat on the floor. so I was thankful I was at the “English” table! After the meal, we were served a few other goodies, cherry tomatoes (which they grew on their roof), a chocolate covered treat from Japan and a filled cake from Beijing; all of this along with a small cup of coffee as we talked together. Fortunately, all of the men at the table spoke English so we were able to communicate. There were several questions asked, by me about them and their culture and many from them about my experience in the Army and the United States.

A short time after eating, they have Bible study, since many of the members drive from a distance to attend, coming back for an “evening” service would be a lot of driving. I sat in on the Bible study, though other than a couple of pictures and an English word or two that Pastor Kim put on the white board, I didn’t understand any of it.

Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
After leading the congregation in singing  choruses, Pastor Kim leads the Bible study

.It was a great day with family. It’s true that wherever you go in the world, you can find family in the Church of the Nazarene! I was blessed by the time I spent with the congregation of Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene and humbled & honored by their welcome.

Here are a few more random pictures of the church and service:

Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The congregation singing during the worship service
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Kim’s wife and her two brothers singing “It Is Well With My Soul”
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The meal we ate after the service
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The bulletin board as you enter the sanctuary
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The entry into the sanctuary on the third floor
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
Me with Pastor Kim’s brother-in-law who is the Korean ambassador to China
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Kim leading music at the Bible study
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
Some things are the same wherever you go!
Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene
The church’s notices in the lobby on the 1st floor of the building. The one on the bottom is a notice of my being the guest speaker!

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Following the Bible study, Pastor Kim and his wife took me on a tour of the area including Lake Park and Paju. I’ll share information and pictures of that in my next post…

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BDE UMT Hail & Farewell

An Army tradition that nearly every officer and NCO is familiar with is the “Hail & Farewell.” Hail & Farewells”  are informal gatherings, often at a restaurant, where Soldiers new to the unit are hailed and Soldiers departing the unit are farewelled. Along with food, Hail and Farewells often include games of sorts or other fun activities. Units usually do them regularly, spaced to ensure everyone is hailed and/or farewelled as they come or before they go.

At most posts, installation Unit Ministry Teams (UMT) also have regular Hail & Farewells for Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants (and their families). Occasionally, brigade UMTs also have Hail & Farewells, though they’re needed less often.

My brigade has two chaplains, a KATUSA and myself preparing to leave so we had a BDE UMT Hail & Farewell. We wanted to include the families, but didn’t want it to be a stressful time for the parents, so reserved a picnic pavillion by the “Super Gym” at Camp Humphreys. Here are some pictures of our time together:

BDE Hail and Farewell
As the BDE chaplain, I took the opportunity to share my appreciation to the chaplains, chaplain assistants and family members for all they do.
Eric is one of the chaplains leaving. I gave as a farewell gift a mounted Beomjong, since a big part of what we did together as a BDE UMT was visit the Hwaseong Fortress, which features prominently one of these bells.
Eric is one of the chaplains leaving. I gave as a farewell gift a mounted Beomjong, since a big part of what we did together as a BDE UMT was visit the Hwaseong Fortress, which features prominently one of these bells. There was a plaque on it with his name, dates of service to the BDE and a message of appreciation.
BDE Hail and Farewell
I also gave a bell with plaque to Maya, who is also leaving soon.
BDE Hail and Farewell
The whole crew, though since Brian isn’t leaving soon, he didn’t get a bell!
BDE Hail and Farewell
On the left is a bell like the one I gave my chaplains. On the right is the one they gave me. The small pink spoon tied to the left column is from Baskin Robbins. They did that because my custom on our Suwon trips was to get a Strawberry Blast.
Chaplain Corps Crest
I also gave a vintage Chaplain Corps crest to each of my chaplains.
BDE Hail and Farewell
Brian and Amiee brought smoked brisket they prepared themselves. Delicious!
BDE Hail and Farewell
Each family brought something good, which was tough for those who are leaving, with few dishes and dwindling foodstuffs!
BDE Hail and Farewell
Brian and Chris were ready with a tune!
BDE Hail and Farewell
Here’s the BDE Unit Ministry Team, chaplains, chaplain assistants and KATUSAs (though my KATUSA is missing).
BDE Hail and Farewell
Here we all are, families and all (though my family is back in the States).

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Congregation Picnic & Worship Service

One of the responsibilities of any chaplain is to contribute to the religious support mission of the garrison on which he/she serves. While in Korea I had the opportunity to pastor the Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation at Memorial Chapel, which is coming to a close after over 25 years due to the transformation of U.S. forces to Camp Humphreys in order to return the area now occupied by USAG Yongsan to the Republic of Korea.

One of the traditions of this congregation that took place annually for many of those 25 years was taking the worship service to a park with a cook-out and picnic following. Today was the day for this annual picnic. We had over 40 in attendance, which represented most of the congregation. There was a threat of rain, but it held off until we were through so we only dealt with the wind that kept us holding our papers tightly.

Yongsan Traditional Protestant Service picnic
Congregation and choir worshiping in the park

The choir joined in the hymns and sang the anthem as well as they do in the chapel. When I first arrived in the service, I was amazed at the quality of the music for such a small congregation. Here’s a short video of the chorus of today’s anthem:

Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship
Richard reads the Scripture.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship Service
The keyboard was not the same as the grand piano in the chapel, but it did the trick.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship
Me preaching from Acts 2 (It was Pentecost Sunday).
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship
The meat, buns, condiments, etc. were purchased from congregation funds. The other dishes were brought by congregation members. Many of the dishes were brought in wrapped in gold cloth. Some seemed to have something embroidered on them. Maybe a traditional way of carrying in side dishes?
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship
Kalbi marinated short ribs, sausages, hamburgers, and many American and Korean side dishes made for a great lunch.
Yongsan Traditional Protestant Congregation Picnic Worship
Some of the men of the congregation cooking the meat.

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