Korea Update: Reflecting on a Crazy Year on the Pen

Last week marked our one year anniversary of arriving on the Korea Peninsula. It’s been a remarkable year for many reasons, but (unsurprisingly) COVID was the toughest unforeseen first-year-of-chaplain-ministry challenge.

Some Differences

Some of my first impressions of Korea included almost getting run over by Koreans at the airport who were glued to their cell phones. I haven’t run into any yet, but Koreans tend to walk fast and focused on their phones. At the last moment, they’ll veer out of the way and avoid a collision. Another funny thing I noticed is that the bathroom sinks are lower than ours (Koreans tend to be shorter than Americans), so I tend to hunch over when brushing my teeth. One difference I really like is that Koreans clean their bathrooms by spraying everything down with the sprayer from the sink faucet or bathtub sprayer. It’s a pretty smart system, and makes the cleaning process much faster and more efficient. Because of this difference, their light switches are outside the bathroom right by the door. That took some getting used to, and the kids enjoy turning the lights off on each other from time to time.

Some Food We Love

Two of my favorite restaurants are Coco Salsa and El Pino323. Coco Salsa taste EXACTLY, and I mean EXACTLY like In-n-Out Burger. It’s fresh and fantastic. The menu is virtually the same with some additional taco options. If you love In-n-Out Burger, you’d love Coco Salsa. I suspect the owner used to work at In-n-Out. El Pino323 is a gourmet Mexican restaurant with LA vibes. The 323 is the area code for Los Angeles. The owner grew up in LA but was deported to Korea when he was arrested for dealing drugs. He grew up abandoned by multiple adoptive families, lived on the street, and sold drugs to survive and provide for his younger sister. I suspect God has been working in his life. When I spoke to him, he mentioned a chaplain who had helped him on his journey. The food is amazing, and it’s hands down the best Mexican food I’ve enjoyed in Korea. El Pino323 has locations in Seoul and Pyeongtaek. Incidentally, I found a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Warsaw (El Popo) during my Poland deployment. I hit it up every chance I could. It had even won an award from the Mexican government.

Some Stuff that Really Blessed Us

There are definitely things that have frustrated us. COVID and everything that comes along with that been really aggravating. However, I read recently Korea is the 4th best place in the world to live during the pandemic, so complaining about it is unhelpful. We have a lot to be thankful for–especially good health. When I came to Korea, my predecessor recommended I check out Agape Humphreys. God really has been working thru this chapel community. It has grown from dozens of people to become the largest chapel community in the Army. We came here, and got plugged in right away. Bethany began teaching Agape Kids, and I got involved in teaching adults and kids and the Connections Team. After a while, I had some opportunities to preach and focus on leading our missional communities. God has continued growing the ministry here, and I’ve been really blessed to serve with an amazing pastoral team and staff. It’s a lot of hard work and hours especially since we’re all (chaplains) bi-vocational. But it’s been rewarding Kingdom work seeing many people make decisions to follow Christ and follow in obedience thru believer’s baptism. I’m also grateful to serve with some amazing Soldiers at my battalion. Ministry is definitely a team effort, and I’m very thankful for great battalion, brigade, and chapel teams.

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