Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election Pains

I think I'll make it a point to live in a foreign country every election year. I've heard account from people in the States saying that this year has brought more media, more mud-slinging and more annoyances than any election before. Goodness, I'm in South Korea and I still get my share of election news. I was getting on the subway in Seoul the other week and there was a news stand featuring a Korean magazine with McCain and Obama on the cover. Now, I highly doubt that the USA had extensive coverage of the S. Korean presidential election between Lee Mung-bak, Chung Gond-young and Lee Hoi-chang last year (but then again, I was here so I don't know). But the whole world has their eyes on this election. Why? What made America the world's super power? Is it all our money? Is it because we're perfect and have never made mistakes? Is it because we have the most guns? I know that events throughout time and many factors have contributed to making the USA such a super power. But that doesn't mean we know the best way of doing things.

I must admit, I much prefer the S. Korean way of going about elections. Sure, there is media covereage, but I don't believe I saw one commercial for a candidate. They do have these trucks that drive around with a banner of the candidate on the back with a speaker blasting the candidate's ideals and platforms. Also, on some street corners, supporters of a certain candidate will stand with sashes promoting their guy and they will do a little dance (see the sound-less video below). Needless to say, I was a little oblivious of the politics that were occuring around me. But I doubt that a foreigner living in the States could be oblivious of the media circus we create there.

Maybe all of this ranting is a result of my polotical apathy. Well, maybe not apathy but definite disinterest. Yes, I took the pains of applying for an absentee ballot. I researched the candidates (and heard about my friend's sister who works at a hotel in Grand Rapids, MI where both candidates stayed at one point, one treated her with respect and kindness and the other, well the other was a complete jerk and made her walk over 20 flights of stairs to bring him room service because he made them shut down the elevators...and he didn't tip her...yes please, I'd love for someone like that to be in control of tax breaks for the working class). I feel as though I made an informed decision that wasn't fudged by negative commercials and character-bashing. Nevertheless, I voted and that's the whole point, right?

All of this is to say, every four years, I'd like to live in a country other than the USA. Living here has opened my eyes to how great and not-so-great my homeland really is. Who knows where I'll be come next election. But I am grateful that for the 2008 presidential mayhem, I'm here in Asia, where everything just seems simpler.




video

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Passion in Seoul

I can hardly put to words the experience of the last couple of days. But I will do my best to pain a picture for you...hunker down, it's gonna be a big picture.

For those who don't know what Passion is, let me give you a little background info. Passion is a movement started by Louie Giglio and a few others. It started out with one day conferences in the States and then grew into a whole movement, gripping college campuses across the nation. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and David Crowder are the staple worship leaders for the conferences but others have been involved like the Nockels, Fee and Shane and Shane. Passion's mission is to mobilize the college-age generation (18-25) to make the Lord famous. They want to see a generation rise up, sold out for God. This year, Passion decided to take the tour to the world. They are almost done with their tour and Seoul was one of the last stops. They are going to 17 key cities around the world including Mexico City, Kampala Uganda, Cape Town, South Africa, Manila, Philippines, Jakarta, Indonesia, Tokyo, SEOUL and so many more. There's what you need to know, now on with the story...

On Friday, 8 of us RAs boarded a train and rode up to Seoul for the Passion World Tour. We unloaded all our belongings at our hostel and made a stop at On the Border (yeah for Mexican food finally being in Korea) before heading to the venue. The conference was held in the old Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul's Olympic Park. That in and of itself was pretty awesome. I got to walk around the grounds of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games and see where history was made. We waited about an hour in line and then entered the huge arena.

The evening began with a Korean strings ensemble playing "Bittersweet Symphony" and an amazing video (complete with Korean words I couldn't read fast enough since I read like a 2nd grader). This was such a POWERFUL way to start the night. I can't tell you how fast my heart started beating. If you want to see/hear exactly what I saw/heard, go to
http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=V--vAT0uffk. Only, change the highlighted city/country to Korea and change all the words to Korean. That's what we saw...amazing.

After that, Chris Tomlin took the stage and led us in a worship set that brought unstoppable tears to my eyes. Even as I write this in my dorm rec room, tears are filling my eyes. After two of the roughest months of my life, I finally heard the voice of God. It was during the first song that I felt the arms of the Lord holding me. "Why are you letting Satan hold you down when I've already beat him?" Those words resounded in my ears and I couldn't focus on anything else. The Lord was there, He was speaking and like a plant desperate for water, I was being covered in His love.

As the worship set continued, 5,000 people (mostly Korean) praised the Lord in perfect unison. Hands were raised, the ground shook with all the jumping and dancing going on. Everyone seemed to sing in English (though the Korean translation was on the screen). A little later in the service, Louie came on stage and instructed us to get into groups of three and pray. We praise the Father, we asked Jesus to enter this place and we prayed for Tokyo, the next stop on the World Tour. If you know anything about Korean history, they don't like the Japanese. The last invasion that the small nation of Korea experienced was from Japanese and in the process, a lot of culture and resources were lost (the cut down a TON of Korea's trees and brought them back to Japan among other things). It's perfectly acceptable to dislike the Japanese here. Well, on the Passion World tour, each city prays for the next one (Vancouver, Canada prayed for Seoul). How fitting that we prayed for a nation that was so disliked. Louie prefaced it by saying sarcastically "we're going to pray for your favorite nation...but in the body of Christ, there are no nations". He challenged this generation to put aside their prejudice and love. During the prayer, the entire arena filled with prayers, English and Korean. It was such an AMAZING sound. The body of Christ was crying out to God and it was beautiful.

Louie talked about grace and how our God stands apart from all other gods because of GRACE. Christ didn't take our D report card and sign off on it so we could show it to Peter at the Gates of Splendor and he'd let us in. Christ took on the sins of the world. I've heard over and over that Christ took on the sins of the world but when you live across the world, that fact becomes a little more intense. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ became the sins of the WORLD. Every country. Every generation. Not just the sins of today in our cities but the sins from every age, everywhere. It was such a crucial reminder and something that was so good to process for a bit. Louie talked about the difference between HDTV and regular tv(which didn't really translate cross-culturally very well since HDTV isn't very big here yet). Regular TV viewers like what they see and it's perfectly fine. But when you see something in HDTV, you're like "whoa..." and you never want to go back. You never knew what you were missing out on. Christians are like that. So many of us are content to live our lives where we are, complacent. We don't know what we're missing out on. He challenged us to live our faith in High Definition.

One more note from the first session: Tomlin led us in the song "God of this City". The words of the chorus are "greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done is this city..." It was so amazing singing that along side 5,000 Korean residents. These people were singing about their cities, about Seoul, Daegu, Busan, Daejeon and others. God is at work in cities around the entire world! Then Tomlin did something that made so many of us RAs stop and just listen. He changed the words to "greater things are still to be done in Korea". So many of us are drained in this ministry. A few of us are ready to leave asap. Contract time is coming up and many of us are on the fence about returning or not. Then we heard thousands sing about how God has so much in store for Korea. Are we supposed to be part of that? Tears welled up in my eyes again (let's face it, Friday was a really emotional night for me and I was all cried out by the end). I don't know if God was telling me to stay, but I do know that He was refreshing me and encouraging me to keep my heart in this ministry as long as I'm here...at least until June 09. Also, Tomlin led "How Great is Our God" and then surprised us all when he started leading the chorus in Korean. I was so pumped because I could read the Korean fast enough to sing along. It was amazing to hear the whole crowd singing that chorus in their native tongue.

We left the arena, rode the subway for an hour to our hostel (had a midnight Burger King dinner), and headed to bed in anticipation for day 2.

We jumped on the subway early in the morning and arrived at Olympic Park to grab seats and settle in for a day of mobilization and revelation. Matt Redman took to the stage and led us in some more powerful songs, some original like "Blessed be Your Name", "You Never Let Go" (which really resonated with my current situation) and others (also, there was a surprising presence of Hillsong songs, which of course brought a giant smile to my face). He also led the chorus of "How Great Thou Art" in Korean...very cool. Francis Chan was the speaker and he hit a cultural home run. He's ethnically Chinese but was born in America. However, his father was from China so his message was so appropriate. Let me explain. In Korean culture, there is a huge drive for success and education. Kids are expected to study their rear-ends off so they can get into a "name" college in the States or Korea. Starting in elementary school, kids go to school all day then go to hagwans (tutors) where they learn specific subjects (they have music, SAT, English, art, math and more). They get done with hagwan at varying times but I'll sometimes see 10 year olds walking home, still in their school uniform at 10 pm. THEN they have to do their homework. Oh, they also go to their tutors on the weekends. Fathers are traditionally distant as well. Many of my students have told me that they have never gotten a hug from their fathers. The mothers traditionally raise the kids and the fathers provide. (now, these are generalizations based on what the majority of my students have said and what the Korean books I have read say). Anyway, Francis talked about how hard a time he had thinking of the Lord as Father since his father didn't show much love. He did an amazing job of depicting our Father as loving and graceful and if the tears around me were any indication, he really spoke to a culture crying out for Fatherly love.

We had a lunch break and then session 3 started with the David Crowder Band leading worship. Songs like "No One Like You" and "You Are My Joy" just refreshed me. I can't tell you how liberating it was to be myself in worship. I feel like since coming to Korea, I've had to "conservatize" myself. As bad as it sounds, I haven't felt free to lift my hands, dance or jump (and if you went to my international church, you'd understand why...but it's the only church I can really go to here). But this weekend, I could raise both hands up to the heavens and just be one of the thousands doing so. For the longest time, I thought that Koreans just didn't do that. The people at my church don't, the students in chapel don't, even the teachers at the school don't (well, some do...sometimes- mostly the South Africans). But seeing thousands of Koreans praising with such emotion and movement, wow. I was blown away. It really encouraged me to see so many young people throwing off all their dignity and just praising! But at the same time, it was discouraging to know that it's not a cultural difference at TCIS...it's a heart difference. Our kids just don't do that. If the Christians raised their hands in chapel, they would undoubtedly get made fun of. The few times I have raised my hands in church or chapel, students have said stuff to me. It's really disheartening. But this weekend, I could jump, cry, dance...whatever and not worry about what anyone else was thinking. I felt FREE. As I read this, it sounds like I'm really letting other people affect my worship, but you'd understand if you could experience it here...

Francis Chan spoke again and we ended the session with David Crowder again. There was one more big, 3.5 hour session that night, but unfortunately, I had to go back to Daejeon in time to go back on duty. So, I missed Louie Giglio's last talk and Chris, Matt and David leading all together. I also missed the massive prayer for Tokyo. BUT, I don't consider it a loss. I was able to go to 3 sessions, hear all the worship leaders and both speakers and truly enter the presence of the Lord.

As I walked out of the arena, I felt more alive than I have in a long time...spiritually alive. I'm motivated to finish this year strong. I'm excited to minister to these students, Christian and non Christian alike. I'm prepared for hardships but I feel more equipped to deal with them. I'm not saying that one weekend with some famous Christians did it all. Rather, being a part of a movement this big, seeing so many worshiping the Lord, being able to worship freely, hearing the Word of the Lord preached...that all attributed to it. But ultimately, the Lord spoke. He showed up and put me in my place. I was convicted for my spiritual weakness. The Lord revealed things that I'm sure He's been trying to reveal for a long time but I haven't let Him. I've been "too busy" or "too tired" or "too depressed". But this weekend, I was able to slow down and sit in a place where I couldn't do anything BUT encounter the Almighty. And boy did I ever...

For more pictures and videos from Passion Seoul, visit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rDMHSdo3yc

http://268generation.com/blog

http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=4tlw0LpECwo

http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=tfuXijPSBm0&feature=related

The group of us that went from TCIS (and a couple more)



Part of the opener...in Korean (translated: Jesus is alive)


The masses (photo from www.268generation.com/blog)


A view from the top (photo from www.268generation.com)

I feel as though I haven't even come close to painting an accurate picture of this weekend, but I did my best. Thanks for hanging in there...and thanks for praying.