I went to church on Sunday and understood exactly two words. It’s not because I don’t get God. I do. I totally get God. It’s simple. He’s in charge. I am not.
No, I only understood two words because the service was conducted in a language I do not speak. Korean to be precise. Yes. On Sunday I visited the Vancouver Korean Presbyterian Church (밴쿠버 한인 장로 교회(미국장로회 PCA). It was my second time. The first was a personal dare. Book research. And was likely one of the most uncomfortable church experiences I’ve ever had. Mostly because the tables were turned. Suddenly, I was the sole auburn-haired maiden in a sea of dark, bowing heads.
I was the minority.
Afterwards, I discussed the experience with my friends telling them that I felt every white American should do exactly as I had done, attend an Asian church service and discover what it must feel like to someone who is not culturally in sync, to enter our white bread places of worship, to sense how out of place one feels, how difficult it is to understand or communicate, how happy you are to flee.
One of the people I shared this with, Chye, was not necessarily a close friend, but a supportive co-worker, a Korean woman who happily answered questions that arose as I created a Korean family in my first manuscript. She thought I was odd to go to church, she doesn’t have faith, and even odder to thrust myself into a cultural morass, but she evidently stored the ‘spiritual visit’ away, allowed it to percolate then surface when her stage of life changed.
She nabbed me in the hall, referenced the Korean church, and noted she needed to find out where they were located. Why do you seek out church if you are ambivalent at best about heavenly matters? My curiosity piqued and after a few questions I learned, she wasn’t shopping for a good God experience. She was shopping for a good husband.
Where does a nice, divorced Korean girl meet a nice, single Korean man? With approximately less than 0.6% of the local population Korean, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Unless you go to church.
While my Korean church experience had been excruciating I was still drawn to to the little building on 18th Street and possessed some longing to go again, but could not muster the courage. Accompanying Chye would be my ticket back in so I volunteered to go with her. “Really?!” she said astounded. I nodded.
Worry clouded her dark eyes as they swung back and forth between mine. She was particularly stressed about connecting with the local Korean community. She feared they might latch onto her and not let go. Set some sort of Korean-cultural trap from which one doesn’t escape, pursue her, push her into a relationship with someone she didn’t like. Ridiculous I thought and countered, “I’ll be the matchmaker. They’ll have to be approved by me, and if they bother you, I’ll handle it.”
I thought I was invincible. I had not met The Koreans.
To be continued…