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.




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.


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!).

The front of the hotel.
The town near Yokota Air Base where the hotel is located is called Fussa.
The large building where McD’s is on the 1st floor (where I didn’t get to eat!).
A restaurant near the hotel (across the street from 7-11). It’s an interesting mix of Western and Eastern styles.
Just a view of the hotel
Another view near the hotel.
There are vending machines everywhere!
You can even buy beer from vending machines, though you need a Japanese id to verify your age.
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:

20160723_230503 20160723_230525 20160723_230539


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.




To Japan and Back Again (Part II)

Day two in Japan. (You can read about my 1st day in Part I).  After a decent night at a very nice hotel I was shuttled back to the AMC Passenger Terminal and the airline provided breakfast at the eatery in the terminal. Not very good on a normal day, but preparing food for all the passengers of a delayed airplane put “mass production” to the test. In a “carryout” styrofoam container I was given two pieces of toast (cold), a square scrambled egg (not very warm), a piece of sausage (not very warm) and tater tots (their version of hash browns). The taste was OK, but as mentioned, it wasn’t fresh or hot and just barely hit the spot. At least I wasn’t sitting and waiting on an empty stomach!

The Red Cross showed up with comfort items and snacks which was nice. Of course, it just confirmed the “disaster” we were experiencing!

The theme of the day was “wait”! Since I was stuck in the Passenger Terminal anyway, I took the time to take pictures of displays around the terminal:

The “Missing Man” table in honor of those Service Members KIA and MIA.
Japanese windsocks hanging from the ceiling of the terminal.
Samurai warrior armor and weapons
Samurai warrior armor and weapons
Samurai warrior armor and weapons

After several hours in the main terminal with occasional announcements about our pending departure, they ran us through security into the “secure” waiting area where he had even less freedom or access to conveniences. Since I was through security I was able to get a Japanese Coke can from the vending machine, to add to my collection but that’s the highlight of the day.

Following two or three announcements of further delays with minimal explanation, the eatery from the passenger terminal bought “lunch” for the stuck passengers. Some got chicken sandwiches, some deli-style sandwiches, some chicken “nuggets” and all with french fries. I’m in the habit of being at the end of the line (I think it’s a chaplain/pastor thing, waiting until everyone else is fed to be sure there’s enough). By the time I was there my choice was chicken nuggets (which at least were fresh and hot) and cold french fries. Yum.

About that time, the pilot of the plane made an appearance with an explanation about what had happened and what the plan was. He admitted that the toilets could not be fixed here and had to be sent back (without passengers) to the U.S. for repair. There were psrts ordered from another airline they were expecting but that airline decided they needed them for one of their aircraft. He announced that they were trying to get another plane here to get us home but wasn’t sure how long that would take.

When he was through, I took the opportunity to talk to him privately. I told him I understand the repair issues and the necessary wait but told him about the meals not being adequate and asked if he had any contact with his company. I told him again, I’m not complaining about the delay, it happens, but with the delay they need to take care of their customers. He did thank me and said he’d see what he could do and later said he talked to the lady on the ground who was in charge and thanked me again for letting him know. I wasn’t complaining for myself, I could just buy better food on my own (when not in the secure area) but a lot of those traveling were families and junior enlisted who would have more difficulty bearing the cost on their own.

Not long after “lunch” they released us from the secure area to the main terminal and announced that they were off-loading our checked baggage for us to retrieve, and working on arrangements for the night. The airline gave us another meal voucher, though it was only good at AAFES (on post) dining facilities. As they were making the room assignments, they said we would get breakfast at the hotel and they would give us meal vouchers (again, for on post) the next day.

I tried my wait-until-the-end-of-the-line plan again, hoping for the nice hotel but it didn’t work this time. I guess they had enough rooms in the cheaper hotels they didn’t use the better ones.

The hotel I was given wasn’t awful. I was just spoiled after the night before. I would equate it to a clean Motel 6 (from how I remember them from about 20 years ago). Here are some pictures of it:


Not a bad hotel but after the last night it seemed tiny and lacking.
Tiny TV which didn’t even have the English CNN channel (like the other hotel)
More tea for Holly!
The whole bathroom was like a self-contained pod…and small.
This hotel also had slippers but not to keep (the sign did say they’re washed every day)
A variety of devotional reading in addition to the Gideon New Testament and “The Teaching of Buddha.”
The view from my room
The train station was right below my window which concerned me but it turned out I could barely hear anything from it.
The lights from outside also concerned me but the blackout curtains did their job.

I needed an adapter to plug in my laptop and wanted to see what there was to see anyway, so decided to go for a walk. I found another 7-11, which wasn’t hard and got what I needed plus a couple other goodies. Night time pictures aren’t the easiest but I got a couple then went back to my room.

A shot down one of the streets at night.
McDonald’s nightlife
More yummy stuff to take home

I set my alarm for 0700, which was like sleeping in, and began to prepare myself for another day of waiting or travel or both. The bed was hard and the pillows were weird but I finally got to sleep though didn’t sleep well on a new bed (again). 

I was up and ready to go for a walk in the light before heading back to the passenger terminal. More on that and the events of my third day of a one day trip at To Japan and Back Again (Part III).




To Japan and Back Again (Part I)

On its trip from Korea to the United States, the Patriot Express flights make a stop in Yokota, Japan for a short layover while those going to Yokota get off and those getting on are processed. They also add more fuel for the trip across the ocean. This is usually about a two hour layover. All was going fine: we layed over, re-boarded and got on our away. About an hour into our flight, however, (and keep in mind that we’re now over the ocean) the Captain comes on the intercom and announces that they are having mechanical problems and need to return to Yokota. He goes on to say that they’re not “safety” issues but “comfort” issues and explains that all but two of the planes 8 toilets have stopped functioning. With a plane full of people and many hours to go, that can be a problem!  So, the captain said we’d be turning around and would hopefully get it fixed and get back on our way soon.

You can see our flight path. Well on the way, then turning around to go back to Japan!
You can see our flight path. Well on the way, then turning around to go back to Japan!

Well, it wasn’t a quick fix. After waiting several hours, they brought out food for us (pizza and subs…) and began making hotel and transportation arrangements which took quite a while. It’s really a bummer when you are all set to get home and see your family who you haven’t seen in a long time, and the plane turns around and heads the other direction then a short delay turns into an overnight stay.

Fortunately the airline pays for our meals and hotels when it’s their fault. We were told to form a line to get our hotel assignments then head toward the waiting buses. Not one to wait in line, I just stayed seated until the line got short. With just a couple people left I got up and got in the line. As it turns out, apparently they started assigning rooms from least expensive to more expensive which makes sense to save them money. Since I was about the last in line, I was assigned to what turned out to be what looked like a 5-star hotel! The Forest Inn was about 20 minutes from the air base and as we pulled into the driveway I saw that it was a very nice hotel, which was confirmed when we walked into the lobby. Here’s a look at the hotel they put me in:

This is the way the room was presented. Drawers partially open (fancy) and very nice furniture.
Inside that cabinet to the left of the desk is the refrigerator. Too nice of a room for it to be exposed!
Big, comfy bed, of course!
In the nightstand was not only a Gideon's New Testament but The Teaching of Buddha.
In the nightstand was not only a Gideon’s New Testament but also The Teaching of Buddha.
The drawer over the refrigerator has an assortment of teas and coffees (some that I brought home for Holly) and Noritake tea cups/saucers!
The mini-bar had complementary drinks but I went with water.
The mini-bar had complementary drinks but I went with water.
The bathroom was even well appointed with everything one might need…
The closet had, in addition to a brush and towel to polish shoes, clothes freshener and slippers to use and take home! (yep, I did!)
You could adjust the bath/shower by the temperature, not just by feel...
You could adjust the bath/shower by the temperature, not just by feel…of course, it’s celsius…
I didn't use this! Well... I used it, I just did take advantage of all of the features. ;)
I didn’t use this! Well… I used it, I just did take advantage of all of the features.

So as you can see, they put me up in a very nice hotel which allowed me to relax some after a hectic day. Before turning in, however, I went for a walk up to 7-11. It’s not that 7-11 is all that spectacular (though I’ve heard the thousands of them in Japan are much better than the ones in the U.S.) but it was the only place nearby to get a snack. It was beginning to rain so the the hotel clerk let me use an umbrella. On my walk, I found it very funny to see so many people riding their bikes in the rain-holding an umbrella! I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere else that I’ve been.

There were a few other interesting sites on my way, though the darkness and the rain prevented me from getting good pictures, but here they are anyway:

This appears to be some sort of memorial next to a map of the surrounding area
It seems like there’s a Harley-Davidson shop just about anywhere I go!
There were charging stations for electric cars in the hotel parking lot.
After about a ten-minute walk, I got to the 7-11. The outside looks pretty much the same as any other.
The inside, though, had things you won't find a U.S. 7-11!
The inside, though, had things you won’t find in a U.S. 7-11!
I was hoping this was cow milk...
I was hoping this was cow milk…
Those French Bread rolls were yummy, and came with butter inside!

After my walk and roll, it was getting late so I tried to get some sleep. The bus was going to be there at 0600 to pick us up so I had to get up at 0500 to be ready. Not much of a full night’s sleep, but I got to relax a bit anyway.

The next day began with a breakfast that was, how should I put it? Anything but optimal, but the events of the next day I’ll save for To Japan and Back Again (Part II)!




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.

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!




Suwon Hyanggyo Confucian School (수원향교)

In the city of Suwon, not far from the Hwaseong Fortress where I take Soldiers new to the brigade, is the Suwon Hyanggyo Confucian Temple and School. It “is one of the Confucian temple and school[s established] to teach local students in the Chosŏn Dynasty period (1392~ 1910). The Suwon Hyanggyo houses the memorial tables of Confucius, Mencius, and twenty-five notable historical Korean figures. The structure was originally built in the 22nd year of King Wonjong’s rule during the Goryeo era (918-1392) by Hwaseonggun, but was moved to its current location when Hwaseong Fortress was constructed.”1

I stumbled across it on one of our trips when I walked a different direction, trying to explore other areas of Suwon. I wasn’t able to go into any of the buildings the day I was there, but took several pictures of the buildings and art.

Suwon Hyanggyo
“The Suwon Hyanggyo, one of the national educational institutions of the Joseon Dynasty period, originally located at Bongdam-myun, Hwaseong-si, moved to Paldal mountain in 1789 (Jeongjo 13).
Hamabi and Hongsalmun displays its authority and building arrangements follow Junhakhumyo conventions (Myungryundang: frong, Daesungjeon: back). Masonries made of rectangular stones level up the floor height from the wuesammun to the Daesungjeon (Ikgonggae building with ornamented double-eave-gable-roof).
Memorial tablets of 18 saints of Korea along with those of Confucius, Mencius are enshrined. As Confucianism head temple and historic sight known for the visits of JeongJo (1795), ceremonies for saints are carried out until today, although it stopped functioning as an educational institution after the Gapoh reformation.”
Suwon Hyanggyo
Beside the compound is the memorial of some kind.
Suwon Hyanggyo
This artwork is on a wall in the compound
Suwon Hyanggyo
This artwork was on a wall in the compound
Suwon Hyanggyo
One of the traditional buildings on the compound
Suwon Hyanggyo
Another building on the compound
Suwon Hyanggyo
More buildings on the compound, with a statue of Confucius at one end.
Suwon Hyanggyo
A closer view of the statue of Confucius.
Suwon Hyanggyo
A view of the traditional part of the compound from above
Suwon Hyanggyo
A building above the traditional part of the compound which I think is part of it.
Suwon Hyanggyo
A pagoda beside the above building. It looks like it was sponsored by the Lion’s Club.




Visit Korea website




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…


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!:

IMG_20160703_172301943 IMG_20160703_172335920 IMG_20160703_172355647_HDR IMG_20160703_172403111 IMG_20160703_172411215 IMG_20160703_172427605 IMG_20160703_172544861 IMG_20160703_172549437 IMG_20160703_172619722 IMG_20160703_172631343 IMG_20160703_172655470 IMG_20160703_172711419 IMG_20160703_172809933_HDR IMG_20160703_172848640


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


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.


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!




Imagine Your Korea website.

Gyeonggi English Village website.



Ilsan Lake Park

Following the worship service at Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Kim and his wife took me on a tour of the area. One of the sites we saw was Ilsan Lake Park, which is one of the largest man-made parks in Asia. “The park offers visitors a lot to see and do including the Riverside Square, artificial islands, a 4.7 km bike path, children’s play ground, natural experience site, musical fountain, 100 species of wild flowers and a dense forest with 200,000 trees.”

It was a beautiful day to walk through the park where there were many families enjoying the park and nice weather. Around the lake is a walk/bike path with several areas to enjoy as you walk. We didn’t walk around the whole 4.7 km path around the lake, but we saw much of the park. Here are some pictures of from our walk, the pictures that have me in the were taken by Pastor Kim’s wife (thanks!):

Ilsan Lake Park
Checking out a map of the area.

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park


Ilsan Lake Park Ilsan Lake Park

John is showing me how to play Yutnori,  which is “a board dice with four wooden sticks, is one of the most popular traditional games of Korea and is usually played on the first day of the New Year by two players (or teams). Each player (or team of two players) takes turns throwing yut sticks. Each stick has two sides (round and flat), which makes the stick roll. Five combinations are possible with yut sticks: do, gae, geol, yut and mo. A player achieving a yut or mo is allowed to roll again. If a board piece lands on a space occupied by an opponent, it is returned to the start and the player goes again. If a piece lands on a space occupied by one’s own team, the pieces can go together (counting as one). The combinations determine how the board pieces are moved, and the team which moves all four pieces around the board first wins…”2

Ilsan Lake Park
I’m not sure how much longer this board would have held out!

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park
John and me by the Lake.
Ilsan Lake Park
This is part of the Rose Garden
Ilsan Lake Park
In the Rose Garden
Ilsan Lake Park
My wonderful hosts, Pastor Kim and his wife, at the entrance to the Rose Garden.



Ilsan Lake Park


Ilsan Lake Park
There are several pieces of art throughout the park. This one is a commentary on television.

Ilsan Lake Park


Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

One of the attractions of the park is a small cactus display in a nice greenhouse:

IMG_20160703_153330038 IMG_20160703_153345562_HDR IMG_20160703_153358268 IMG_20160703_153411865 IMG_20160703_153521052 IMG_20160703_153546062 IMG_20160703_153600172 IMG_20160703_153613072 IMG_20160703_153644007 IMG_20160703_153656433

Ilsan Lake Park
Me and John in the Cactus greenhouse.

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park
They also had a large variety of cactuses (cacti?) that could be purchased.

The stone lion statues have been regarded as symbols of power and dignity in China, so they used to be displayed in front of residences of the upper classes (above the 7th grade of feudal bureaucratic system) and government offices.

Among the common people, the statues were used to decorate incense burners, houses and pavilions. In order to expel devils and avoid misfortunes they are usually exhibited outside the gates with their majestic airs, as the sign of wealth and prosperity.

Stone lion statues are usually displayed in couples. The male lion steps on the ball by his right forefoot that symbolizes power, while the female lion sets her left forefoot on the small lion, that means prosperity of descendants and the fact that there must be a prominent leader among them.

These stone lion statues are presented for Koyang city from Binzhou Prefecture in People’s Government of China in commemoration of the World Flower Exhibition Koyang, Korea 1997.

Ilsan Lake Park


Ilsan Lake Park

The city of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province, People’s Republic of China, has constructed and is donating this Hakgoejeong (a traditional Chinese pavilion), to its sister sity of Goyang in Gyeonggi Province, Republic of Korea, to reinforce the friendly relationship and to celebrate the opening of the World Flower Exhibition Goyang 2000. “Hak” stands for Danjeonghak which is the city bird of Qiqihar, “Goe” stands for roses which are the city flowers of Goyang, and “Jeong” for a pavilion. This Northern Chinese traditional style pavilion represents the long history of cultural exchanges between Korea and China at the same time. The pavilion, situated in Lake Park surrounded by beautiful flowers, symbolizes wishes of peace, happiness, development and prosperity for the both cities of Qiqihar and Goyang. The granite stylobate of two steps shows the friendship of the two cities is as firm as a rock and the paintings of Danjeonghak and roses decorating its eaves amplify the splendor.

Ilsan Lake Park
A view of the Music Fountain, though not flowing at the time…
Ilsan Lake Park
A water fountain that the children can play in (which they seemed to be enjoying on this hot day).
Ilsan Lake Park
The fountains randomly turn on!
Ilsan Lake Park
One of several horse-drawn carriages beside the park.




“Imagine Your Korea” website

Wikipedia, “Traditional Korean Games.”




Unification Church in South Korea

From left to right: Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and the Koran.

Out walking the other day, I passed a curious statute that I had to return to with my camera. What it turned out to be was part of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as its name prior to 1994 when Rev. Sun Myung Moon consolidated his several organizations, Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity  or the Unification Church. Many non-Unificationists (as they prefer to be called) may know them best as “Moonies” though this is viewed as a derogatory term by adherents.

The founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. Moon was raised a Presybeterian, but according to Moon, on Easter when he was 15, Jesus appeared to him commissioning him to complete the work that Jesus had started. In the 1950s, after being excommunicated from the Presbetyerian Church for his unorthodox beliefs, Moon founded his church which today boasts several hundred thousand adherents around the world.

Interestingly, Moon has had quite a bit of trouble with the law both in South Korea and the United States where he spent 13 months in prison for tax evasion.

The Unification Church views the apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity, who codified the teachings of Jesus into a formal religion. Hell is accepted as being present on Earth now, but in time will become Heaven on Earth. They also view Communism as an expression of Satan and link it with Cain, while viewing Democracy as the expression of God and link it with Abel.

They also believe that Eve had a sexual affair with Lucifer which caused the spiritual fall of humankind. Before she was married to Adam, she also had premarital sexual relations with him, causing the physical fall of humankind. Their marriage produced an imperfect family allowing Satan to have control of the world.

The remedy to this problem was for Jesus (the 2nd “Adam”) to form the perfect marriage to redeem humankind, but he was crucified before he could complete his mission. His spiritual resurrection did secure spiritual salvation for humankind, but because Jesus wasn’t able to complete his mission, physical salvation is not possible in this lifetime. Therefore, a third “Adam” is needed to provide complete salvation for humankind. According to the Resurrection Church, this 3rd Adam was born in Korea between 1917 and 1930 and his appearance will be recognized as the 2nd coming of Christ. This 3rd Adam will marry, producing the perfect family, enabling complete salvation for those who choose it.  Many Unificationists had viewed Rev. Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han (his 2nd) as this perfect family, the “true spiritual parents of humankind” but he died in 2012, having appointed his youngest son,  Hyung Jin Moon, his successor in 2008.

The Unification Church is known for their mass weddings. Many times, the couples do not know who they will marry until a month before the ceremony, sometimes not meeting them until that day. They can, however, not participate in the wedding without shame. The newlyweds do not consumate their marriage for 40 days, representing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The church emphasizes the importance of the family and encourages times of family study and devotion.

Exact membership numbers are hard to determine but are said to be in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, with about 5,000 in the U.S. It appears that membership in South Korea is not significant enough to appear anywhere but in the “others” column of religious adherents.

Here are some pictures I took of Cheon Bok Gung Church of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Seoul:


Cheon Bok Gung Church Seoul
The announcement board outside of the Cheon Bok Gung Church in Seoul
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This view of the church building shows the symbol of the Unification Church designed by Sun Myung Moon the elements of which have these meanings: “The center circle symbolizes God, truth, life, and light, the four elements that reach out or radiate from this origin to the whole cosmos in 12 directions. The number 12 represents the 12 types of human character and that truth (the Principle) is able to spread out in 12 ways (such as in the 12 tribes and 12 disciples). According to Moon, the structure of the heavenly kingdom is also patterned after this system of 12. The outer circle represents the harmony of giving and receiving action, the principle of the cosmos. The square represents the four position foundation. The symbol is used on Blessing Ceremony rings, jewelry, on churches and in publications.” (RF site)
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This is the view that caught my eye on my walk…I thought that looked like Jesus on the right…


Cheon Bok Gung Church
As you walk in the main entrance, your eyes are drawn to a round room in the center surrounded by blocks and pillars.

Cheon Bok Gung Church

Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the right is a small cafe.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the left and behind are a number of personalized tiles.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
By the information desk at the entrance is a schedule of the services offered.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The round room in the center is the “Jeongseong Room.” According to the sign in front of it, this room is an area for offering prayer and jeongseong in silence. Before entering, pray-ers are to remove their shoes and be careful not to fall into the water, which doesn’t have a cover.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the left side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Buddha.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the right side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Jesus.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The Cheon Bok Gung Church is housed in a large building with space for worship, prayer. lectures, conferences and education.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On an outside door of the building is a saying which found nearly anywhere might be a good one: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved…forever.”


A brochure with the order of worship for the Cheon Bok Gung Church






All photos were taken by the author. Information for this post was gathered from the following sites:

Religious Tolerance website, “The Unification Church…”

Religion Facts website, “Unification Church”

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification-USA

The Unification Church, “Rev. and Mrs. Moon”

Wikipedia, “Unification Church”




Camp Humphreys, Korea

As a chaplain, when I visit a new post, the first things I like to visit are the chapels, followed by chaplain’s offices and work areas, then memorials and cemeteries, finally historical points of interest…that is, of course, after I visit my chaplains or accomplish the mission I’m there for. I state that first, to explain why the majority of pictures I’m going to share in this post are of those things.

Humphreys-CW2-Humphreys Memorial Plaque-croppedCamp Humphreys or United States Army Garrison (USAG) Humphreys, is a U.S. Army post near Pyeongtaek, beside Anjeong-ri. Humphreys is about 55 miles Southwest of Seoul (at least an hour and a half drive depending on traffic). What is now Camp Humphreys began as Pyeongteak Airfield in 1919 by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. The Air Force rebuilt it during the Korean War and renamed it K-6, then in 1962 it was renamed Camp Humphreys in honor of CW2 Benjamin K. Humphreys of the 6th Transporation Company (Light Helicopter). Humphreys was killed in a helicopter accident on 13 November 1961 near Osan-Ni, Kyung-Gi Do, Korea. Camp Humphreys is home to Desiderio Army Airfield, said to be the busiest Army airfield in Asia.

Camp Humphreys is rapidly growing since it has been chosen as the new home for most of the nearly 30,000 U.S. Army troops in South Korea to include the headquarters of United States Forces Korea (USFK). By the time the move is complete, Camp Humphreys will spread over 3500 acres.



When building is complete, there will be a total of four chapels on Camp Humphreys. Here is a look at what’s been built so far and what is coming:

Camp Humphreys Main Post Chapel
Artist’s conception of the mid-size chapel being built in the Main Post area of Camp Humphreys. It is scheduled to be complete by December 2016 and will be called Freedom Family Life Chapel.


Camp Humphreys Troop Chapel
When construction is complete there will be two of these troop chapels on Camp Humphreys. This one is expected to be named Pacific Victors Chapel, the other Indian Head Chapel.
Camp Humphreys Troop Chapel
Inside of one of the Troop Chapels on Camp Humphreys


Camp Humphreys Chapel
This is what will be the main chapel on post when complete in August 2016. It’s located across the street from the Elementary School and is expected to be named Four Chaplains Memorial Chapel.


Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park sits on a hill and covers about 42,900 square meters. It includes several picnic pavilions, a disc golf course, the USAG Humphreys Memorial Park and trails and walkways through a wooded area. Beacon Hill is also a protected area, having “potential buried cultural resources” from after the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). According to the sign on the hill:

The Beacon Hill area shall be preserved due to the presence of buried cultural resources. Several artifacts, such as a piece of bluish-gray celadon and a piece of white celadon, were detected at the ground surface. Also, many historical graves were scattered throughout an area 42,900 square meters (m2). Other cultural resources may be buried within the area that have so far [not] been unearthed. Developing the area should be minimized as much as possible…

Camp Humphreys Beacon Hill Park
The picnic pavilions in Beacon Hill Park were built in 1989 by 22nd KSC CO.
Camp Humphreys Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park has a nice wooded area.
USAG Humphreys Memorial Park
Located in Beacon Hill Part is the USAG Humphreys Memorial Park.


Various Buildings

Even with over 3500 acres, space is at a premium as they build sufficient infrastructure and headquarters for the influx of troops and family members to Camp Humphreys. Many areas resemble the cities of Korea with high rise buildings and large above and below ground parking garages. Here are a few pictures of some of the buildings being built or already occupied on Camp Humphreys.

Camp Humphreys Family Housing
One of the family housing complexes. This is a cluster of three semi-high rises with underground parking.


Camp Humphreys Barracks
Some of the semi-high rise barracks buildings
Camp Humphreys High Rise Barracks
A few more of the semi-high rise barracks buildings
Camp Humphreys Super Gym
The new Fitness Center, locally known as the “Super Gym.”
Camp Humphreys Picnic Pavilions
Picnic Pavilions outside of the Super Gym.


BDE HQ Building
This building complex will be my new BDE HQ once completed. The taller building is for the BDE, the smaller one in front will be home to two of the BNs.


Camp Humphreys HQ
Another one of the HQ buildings being built on Camp Humphreys…there’s a whole row of them!


Camp Humphreys HQ
Another HQ on “Headquarters Row”


Morning Calm Conference Center
In the distance is the Morning Calm Conference Center. Beside it is being built a large expansion of Humphreys Lodge.


Army Aviation

As mentioned above, Desiderio Army Airfield is the busiest Army airfield in Asia. Here are a few unclassified pictures of Army aircraft.

Camp Humphreys
A couple of Kiowa Warriors
Camp Humphreys Chinooks
A group of Chinook helicopters parked on the airfield
Camp Humphreys Army Aviation
One of the fixed-wing planes operated by one of my BNs.
Camp Humphreys Army Aviation
A Kiowa Warrior taking off from the airfield.
Camp Humphreys Cobra
A mounted attack helicopter in front of a BN of the 2nd CAB.
Camp Humphreys helicopter
Another helicopter mounted in front of BN HQs of the 2nd CAB.


Here’s a video produced by USAG Humphreys which shows much of Camp Humphreys from the air:


There is still a lot of building taking place on Camp Humphreys, as well as in Pyeongtaek, which will provide more for Soldiers and families to do and make life both comfortable and enjoyable. Additionally, a fast-train line is being added to Pyeongtaek which will make travel to Seoul a lot quicker, providing even better access to more of what Korea has to offer.

It will be interesting to see Camp Humphreys in a few years when the transformation is complete.