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  • Writer's pictureitallstartsintheho

Seoul to Soul, Part II - Stepping Out

One of the reasons why I was content going to Korea was because my husband is very comfortable speaking the language.  If he were to live in Korea, he would have no problem adjusting quickly and easily.  Before leaving Korea as a teenager, he had plenty of time to learn the language and culture.  On the other hand, I came to America when I was two.  We actually arrived on American soil on the day of my second birthday.  So whenever my birthday comes around, we recount our humble beginnings to the US.  

When people hear I left Korea at the age of two, they say that I was basically born in America.  My parents tried to make my siblings and me bilingual by speaking to us in Korean and enrolling us in a Korean school; however, it was unsuccessful.  I'm uncertain what age I can compare my language skills to.  Maybe a toddler?  I can read and write and understand better than I can speak.  

When the kids were younger, my husband and I would try to speak Korean when we didn't want our kiddos to understand our conversation.  It doesn't work as well now since my daughter studies Korean, and the kids are picking up on the basic terminology I use.   Even though my husband's ability to communicate, write, and understand is far better than mine, he bears with my limited skills.   I watch Korean dramas on Netflix, hoping it will help.  At least, that's my excuse so I can enjoy some of the rom-com episodes.

Being back in Korea made me wish I was more fluent.  I was jealous when the interpreters spoke both languages effortlessly.  We had earpieces where someone would listen to the speaker in Korean and then translate the message into English.  The speakers spoke fluent Korean during each session, and I probably understood 5% of it.  

We also had interpreters "assigned" to us.  So whenever we tried to minister or converse with native speakers, one of the translators would help us understand.  They weren't with us 100% of the time, so we naturally leaned on my husband to step in.  At any point, during formal introductions, casual conversations, prayer time, etc., we tried always to be ready to communicate.

There were those moments when we would minister without interpreters, and my husband couldn't translate, so I would jump in.  Even though it was still my (significantly) low-level ability, I didn't care.  I put words together that made sense to me.  Sometimes, I even used English words in my Korean sentences.  I'm sure I created my own words, using Korean and English together = Konglish.  But I knew there was a message the Holy Spirit had for the individual, and I wasn't going to back down because of my lack of proper grammar or vocabulary.  I had to escape my limited thinking and ask God to use whatever I had.  I offered what I knew, and He graciously used it.  The recipients (miraculously) understood and accepted what was shared.  

I took the risk and may have sounded foolish, but God blessed it.  (I mean, if God can use a talking donkey in Numbers 22 to convey a message, then He can use me too.) It was priceless to witness people have an encounter with God.  We watched as God broke off the shackles that held them in bondage for years.  Even though they were no longer prisoners in North Korea, God set the captives free once and for all.  My tiny step of faith was a big win for the kingdom.  

What tiny steps or gigantic steps can you take that will challenge you?  Take the limits off because we have a limitless God who can do everything with anything. 

My husband and I have been dreaming with God about what another mission trip in the future could look like.  We have been praying for Him to prepare us for what He plans to do.  One of my personal goals is to speak Korean comfortably.  Ideally, I would love to be bilingual, but will accept any measurable improvements.

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