Teaching English, or so we thought.
Our understanding was that we were coming to Cheonan Joongang (the church that hired us) to head up an English Education program that would be used as an outreach in the community. But upon our arrival, we were surprised to be introduced as "Missionary Brandon and his 'samonim' [minister's wife] Brandy."
I guess the best way for me to proceed is to simply answer the questions we get asked most:
1. What are you doing there?
Brandon is teaching three different English classes: adult beginners, adult advanced, and children's beginners. In addition to his classes (which meet three times a week), he leads an advanced English Bible study and a "Saturday School" which is simultaneously a children's English class as well as a ministry outreach program. He also travels to Seoul once a month to work with Kidoong's ministry. They are in the process of developing English Bible curriculum that missionaries can use to teach English and God's Word at the same time. (Brandon's Saturday School is used as a kind of trial run for this curriculum.)
As for me, I am currently a full-time stay-at-home mom. I had plans to teach this spring, but because our baby was due to arrive right in the middle of spring semester, we decided that I should sit this one out and wait for fall. In the fall, I will hopefully be able to take half of his children's class (since his current one is really too big for one teacher) and perhaps an adult advanced class of my own.
Eventually (if the Lord leads us to stay for long enough) we have hopes of starting an entire English service on Sundays, complete with worship and preaching. But that is a distant dream right now which we will leave in the Lord's hands.
2. What are your living conditions like?
If you're like me, when you hear the term "missionary" you think of thatched roofs and dirt floors. We are far from that. The church has a brand new property which they moved into only days before our arrival. The property boasts a beautiful new church, a prayer tower, an education building, a playground, a convenience store, and a small apartment complex where all the pastors and their families live. This is also where we live. When we first arrived, much of the property was still under construction and covered with mud and building debris. But now that spring has arrived and all the buildings/landscaping is completed, the property is absolutely lovely. Every afternoon, the other Samonims and their children meet out at the playground to let the children play. We walk to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, and in the cool after-service evenings, we stop by the convenient store (next to the playground) to get an ice cream and let the kids burn off the last of their before-bed energy. What with the warm weather and constant goings-ons, much of this arrangement reminds me of my childhood Camp Meetings. The sense of family and community is wonderful, and I am really looking forward to summertime in Korea.
As for our apartment, it is the nicest place we have ever lived. You can see a video of our place here. Hm. Now that I see that video again, our apartment doesn't look much like that anymore. We have furniture now... and stuff on the walls... and a place for all our belongings. Hm. Well, after the grandparents leave and everything gets back to normal, I'll post a more updated video.
Anyways, because our apartment is on the same property where Brandon works and teaches, we get to see him a lot more than we did in the states. We have a balcony where we can look out over the parking lot and property to see what's going on in our little close-knit community, and we stand out there daily and wave to daddy as he goes and comes from class.
3. Do you know the language?
In a word: no. I have learned to read Hongul, the Korean written language, and can sound out the words on about a 1st-grade reading level. Brandon, always the one to pick things up more quickly than I, can read very proficiently and knows enough of the language to ask basic things like "Where is the...?" or "What is this?" etc. I know how to tell my taxi driver where to go; that's about it.
Brandon meets with a tutor one morning a week, and he is slowly picking up more and more of the spoken language. I am unable to attend said class (due to little girls at home), but I am praying for the Lord to provide a cheap-o used version of the Rosetta Stone software so that I can study at home. My goal for the summer is to connect more with the Samonims in our building, and much of that can't happen until I have a basic handle on the language (at least as much of a handle as they have on English).
4. How long will you be staying?
I get asked this about twice a week (by one grandparent or another), but the answer has remained the same: we don't know. Our contract is for one year. That's all we know right now. Many factors will affect our decision about when to return. These factors include, but are not limited to: the American economy, Cheonan Joongang's financial situation, the availability of teaching positions in our area of Georgia, other missions opportunities that may present themselves over the next few months, and the list goes on...
Of course, all of those things are physical, temporal things that can change over the coming months. The bottom line is that we wait to hear from the Lord, and we intend to follow the peace that only comes in following His perfect will. As of yet, we don't have any clear direction for our future. Therefore, we live "in the moment" and keep our minds and hearts to the task at hand.
5. How can we help?
Prayer. The Lord is meeting all of our financial needs each month, and He is slowly bringing about friendships and relationships that meet our emotional needs. But every day is a learning experience. There is always something new. While that fact often feels exciting and adventurous, it can also be overwhelming. We constantly ask for the Lord's grace as we continue to learn the ropes here.
We also ask for prayer for our spiritual development. The Lord has been so faithful to quicken our hearts to what He is teaching us during our time here, but the downside to fast-paced spiritual growth is that it often comes with growing pains. These have sometimes been difficult lessons to learn, as they often are learned as a result of mistakes we have made or misguided thoughts we have adhered to.
So that's it. You are all caught up. Feel free to comment, email, or facebook if you have any other questions, and I'll be happy to respond any time.
As always, thanks to you faithful few who keep coming back to my blog, even when I abandon you for days and weeks at a time. You folks are the best.