Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Misconceptions About Living Overseas

Before we came to Korea, people would say things like:
"You will be such wonderful missionaries for the Lord."
"You must take pictures of all of your travels."
"What an adventure!"

And these same themes have been repeated frequently enough, that I think it's worth writing about. Because on most days, our lives in Korea don't feel anything like that.

Number 1: Missionaries

A missionary is "a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country." To be honest, we are not really missionaries. We did not come here with the sole objective of meeting with other Christians or spreading the gospel. We came to teach English for the public school system. We are as much "missionaries" in Korea as you could be a "missionary" in America.  Because American is a "foreign" country to most of the world and people go on religious missions there as well.

I do agree, though, with the notion that we are doing God's work. Because aren't we all? Aren't we all trying to mimic and live out what we believe that God wants for this world? Yup, that's what we're doing here too. We don't do it in a religious setting. We haven't met any Adventists since we arrived. However, we are hoping to make our corner of the globe a little better because we were here. And we'll want to do the same when we get back to the States as well.

Number 2: All the Travels

We have traveled a great distance to arrive here in Korea, but since then, we haven't moved much. We don't hop over to another continent every weekend. We aren't travel writers on a trek to see every corner of this country. We moved here to encounter another world and see what it had to teach us. Maybe we'll get to travel when we have vacation from school, however, until then, we do have jobs and we do spend most of our time in Korea working at those jobs.

Number 3: Adventure!

"Foreign" is a word I use or hear nearly everyday. Either, I am a foreigner, I'm talking about my foreign friends, or someone is calling me a foreigner on the street. Very quickly we've grown accustomed to knowing that this is not our country of origin. But "foreign" is a funny word because it all depends on where you stand. And anything new and different and foreign is often seen as intriguing and exciting. One big grand adventure.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, that I, myself, have used the word "adventure" to describe parts of this experience. But I don't really anymore. It's no accurate. It doesn't quite fit. Because amazingly, even after only three months, this place has become quite familiar. I know my way around. I can function. I know how to do my job, where to take my garbage, how to communicate in minimal Korean, and how to tell a taxi driver where I want to go.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that while Korea still surprises us on a regular basis, life here is sometimes quite mundane. We get into a routine, we go about our business. We get up in the morning, eat cereal, go to work, come home, go to the gym, and watch TV. So when people e-mail and say, "How's your great adventure going?" I'm temped to say, "Same question: how's your great adventure going?"

"Adventure" is a relative term we use to describe an experience that looks so radically different (and maybe more exciting) than our own. Please know that being on this adventure doesn't make me any less interested in trading mine for someone else s once in awhile.


We live in Korea. A place that is quite different than the States, but in some ways quite similar. There are people and families and homes and schools and good food and entertainment and celebrities and a democratic government. We don't get to travel a whole lot because that's expensive and we have jobs that we have to show up to. We interact with many people on a daily basis, but I have no more influence here as a "missionary" than you would anywhere else. We do our darnedest to show people love and compassion and grace whether or not that results in a change of religious proportions. And I think that's enough.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, be all there. Because inevitably someone else is thinking that you have it good. Someone else is wanting the very life you hold in your hands.


PMCS said...

Excellent words. Thanks for sharing. It's inspiring and interesting to pop over to your blog and hear about your adventures...this reminds me that I have adventures too! :) Have a great week!