Tag Archives: korea

a few korea pics

our time in korea last week was wonderful in so many ways. i’ll likely post more about the trip, but here are a few pictures:

tic and i with ralph and judy winter outside sarang church

judy with the debris from a typically wonderful korean meal

the stage of the convention. this group was a trip! they were a wild combo of traditional korean music mashed-up with a punk attitude, performance art, and a dash of rock music

me outside the korean folk museum

monday morning update, may 4, 2009

the weekend that was: man, i can’t believe it’s may already. may, 2009. crazy. everyone says time seems to go faster when you’re older; so i must be getting older! i had a full, good weekend. friday night, we had a bit of a chillaxed family night (though liesl worked on homework). we got carry-out and rented the original terminator movie. could hardly believe that thing is 25 years old (not that it didn’t look that old — because it did — but because it doesn’t seem like more than half of my life ago that it came out!).

saturday, i had a great day with my kids. max and i ran a bunch of errands mid-day saturday; and while we were at the mall, decided to catch wolverine together (which we really enjoyed). i’m going to korea this week, and will be hosting ralph winter, the producer; so it was fun to see the movie before being with him. then, saturday afternoon, liesl and i stopped by my office. in prep for our office move, i’m getting rid of all my cds (and i have 100s, maybe 1000s, there). i let her raid my cds for her and her boyfriend. she took an entire box. matisyahu1then we picked up her boyfriend and the three of us went to the elemental experience, a day-long concert event fundraiser to build a homeless youth shelter in san diego. a friend of mine scored me free tix, which made it extra cool, since we had $65 vip tickets. we didn’t show up for the first four or five bands, but saw the last three: pinback (a san diego-based modern rock group), bassnectar (an extremely cool dj), and matisyahu. if you’re not familiar with matisyahu, he’s a hasidic jew who does reggae with a rock edge to it. very, very cool. and very trippy to see this fully-decked-out orthodox jew (complete with black hat, long beard, long temple curls, black jacket, and hanging tassels (tzitzit), singing about jerusalem, while pot smoke drifted through the swaying crowd. anyhow, liesl and her boyfriend dug it (as did i), and i scored some major “my dad isn’t as much of a dork as i thought” points. the highlight of the day was in the car on the way home from dropping off her boyfriend, when liesl said, “that was really fun; thank you, daddy!”

sunday was a blisteringly full day. i taught twice in my church’s middle school group sunday morning. had a great time, and love the opportunity to do that. i had one of those great moments in middle school ministry where i had to think and adjust on the fly. i was teaching on how we can see/find god; and at one point, i passed out a balloon to every kid, had them blow them up, then talked about how we can’t see the air, but we see the effect of the air (and how the same is true in how we “see” god). i knew i would have a hard time finishing my teaching if they all had balloons, so i’d planned on having them all sit on them and pop them at once. but when i told them that and quickly counted to three, only three kids (out of about 100) actually popped theirs. all the rest started complaining about how they didn’t want to pop them. and when i said they could keep them if they didn’t play with them, the ones who’d popped them started complaining that they wanted one too! ah, good times in middle school ministry.

sunday afternoon, we babysat for my co-worker dave palmer, watching his 3 and 5 year-old kids. they’re awesome kids, but their 3 year-old son has more non-stop energy than just about any human in the history of the world. so by the time they left at 5pm, we were spent. our home church came over, and i had dinner with them, before max and i took off to drive to orange county (next section).

where i am at the moment: in orange county for the day. all the southern california waldorf schools (the kind of school my kids go to) have a greek pentathlon to culminate their study of greek history, arts and literature. so max will be, today, throwing a discus and javelin (!), greek wrestling, and running a 40 (yard? meter?) dash and a relay. i’ll be baking in the sun, occasionally rooting him on, and mostly waiting. we drive home tonite.

on my to-do list this week: i only have two days in the office this week, and will have lots to get done. ys has a new vp of finance starting today, so i’ll be spending some time with her. there’s the ongoing ys office move stuff. and i have a bunch of prep for our youth workers event in korea.

procrastinating about: i’m seriously procrastinating about losing 20 pounds and getting back into an exercise routine.

book i’m in the midst of: still plodding through what would google do? not making much progress.

cockburnmusic that seemed to catch my attention this past week: i downloaded bruce cockburn‘s live acoustic double album, slice o’ life, and have been totally loving it this week. i know most of the songs (have been a fan of cockburn’s since college), and these solo acoustic versions are just fantastic. seriously, even if you’ve never heard of cockburn, i recommend giving this thing a shot. he has amazing lyrics, and is a brilliant guitar player.

ysk_logo1next trip: thursday of this week, i fly to seoul, korea for 8 days. it’s our first ever yskorea convention (called “the next wave convention“). general session speakers are len sweet, brian mclaren, dave gibbons, mike pilivachi, ralph winter, and myself. all the seminars are being done by koreans. we really don’t know how many are coming (since most will just show up), but are hoping for somewhere between 1000 and 1800. tic long is coming with me, and i’m really looking forward to spending this time with him. since he’s leaving ys in late july, i think this will likely be the last time he and i have a good long trip like this with just the two of us; and i’m sure it will be bittersweet.

how i’m feeling about this week: a little stressed about how much i have to get done before leaving for korea!

random korea thoughts

– man, koreans like HEAT! almost every building i was in was roasting hot to me. of course, maybe that’s because the average korean has, um, slightly less body fat than me…

– seoul really is a world class city. beautiful, easy to get around, very friendly.

– i had thought there were two options in the world, when it came to tipping and service: countries like the US where you tip a lot and get ok service because of it, and countries like france where you don’t tip much, but get lousy service as a result. korea! i love you! no tipping here at all (it would be considered offensive); but GREAT service, all the time.

– i suppose this is my limited subjective white-boy perspective, but it seemed like people fell into one of only two extremes when it came to style, hair, etc: either way-hip, or way-not. not a whole lotta in-between.

– real korean barbecue is just a gorgeous palette pleaser. i’ve had it in the states, but it was better there.

– people have asked me why i think there are so many massive churches in korea. i’m sure there are scholarly and researched books that give the correct answer to that question; but my 2 cents is this:
first, christianity grew from basically 0% of the population to 25% of the population in roughly 50 or 60 years, with a real explosion in the 70s and 80s. the speed of growth led to huge churches, church planting couldn’t keep up with the massive influx of new believers.
second, most of the large churches grew like crazy in the 70s and 80s on church growth models of small groups. really, all the big churches here are a hive of small groups, rather than a big “seeker” show like some of our “large” (though small, by comparison!) churches in the states.

– there’s a down-side to all of this massive church stuff: the senior pastors are treated like gods (though the ones i met seemed to be wise and godly men). i mean, rick warren and joel osteen might be revered by their followers, but i doubt anyone tries to touch them thinking it might bring healing.

– incheon airport (the main airport for seoul) is a gorgeous airport. one of the most beautiful and well appointed i’ve been in.

– my friend and host charles told me that a dozen years ago it was very hard to find a coffee shop in seoul. now there are starbucks and coffee beans and “angel-in-us coffee” shops everywhere, usually two on each side the street, on a given city block. and french pastry shops.

– all the church leaders told me that teenagers are too busy studying during the week, due to massive academic pressure for college entrance, to have mid-week youth ministry stuff. they said that kids come home from school around 3 in the afternoon, then go to study places until 11pm, every night. but i saw tons of teenagers out on the street every evening. i’m not sure that the kids are all where their parents think they are.

– there’s a ton of amazing things going on in the korean church, but there’s a pretty big lack in worship bands (we’re having a hard time finding the right bands for our convention).

– seoul is the fashion capital of asia, and, clearly, “tight” is the current fashion. a fatboy like me wouldn’t have a chance of being fashionable without terrifying people.

– almost everyone i met (really, maybe everyone) had been to the states at least once. the connection between the korean american and korean cultures is so strong, it almost seems like we’re neighboring counties. (yes, counties, not countries)

– i think there’s one woman somewhere who does all the english-language airport announcements all over the world. i’m sure the voice here in incheon airport is the same one i hear in the san diego airport.

korea update, 4 (final)

it’s tuesday morning here in seoul (monday at 4:45 in san diego as i write this), and i’m about to pack my bags and head for the airport for the long trek home. it’s one of those weird “crossing the international date line in an easterly direction” things where i leave seoul at 3pm and arrive in san fran early the same morning. then i catch my flight to san diego, and arrive home — still before i left korea — at 12:30 in the afternoon. crazy.

yesterday was a good day, and not as frenetic as the previous one. i walked to a coffee and pastry shop by myself for breakfast. then, closer to noon, i met charles and we drove back to young nak presby church for a press conference. there were about a dozen reporters, all with laptops and cameras, and four video cameras. these were from a variety of christian and secular press sources. the whole thing was only about 45 minutes long, so i didn’t get too bored! i was asked a couple questions about youth and youth culture, but there weren’t very many questions. after the press conference, i did a couple short interviews (one on video, one just a stand-up mtg with a reporter). then we all (including everyone who attended the press conference) went to lunch. that was quite an experience in and of itself, as we went to a japanese (they told me it was a korean version of japanese food) restaurant, and all sat on the floor around a very long, low table. about 30 of us. massive quantities of food kept arriving: sashimi and sushi (which i love), and a wide variety of things i did not recognize, some of which i tried.

we went back to the church, and shot some promo video stuff. then the ysk secretary took me shopping for my kids. we had a fun time bumping around a tourist section of seoul, where i really didn’t find much. but she helped me find a massive music store (like, the size of 3 guitar centers), where i was able to find a great korean instrument for max (he has a collection of percussion instruments from around the world that i have bought him on trips).

after a nice break at the hotel, we headed out for dinner with the ys korea team (there are about 7 people working — full time or part time — in the temporary ysk office). we went to another fantastic korean barbecue place, and had large quantities of some special kind of pork. man, it was so good! oh, and for some reason no one could quite explain, all korean chop sticks are metal, not wood.

in the evening, charles and i went to a nice hyatt on a hill for drinks and final debriefing. we met up with a friend of his who’s a top fashionista in korea. the guy was a kick, and it was good to laugh. slept great last night, and am overdue for a shower and packing right now.

what an amazing trip. i really look forward to returning here in may for the convention!

korea update, 3

first: funniest thing so far on this trip… a few partners on the event we’re planning were surprised to find out i’m not korean. they’d heard my name was marko, and thought it was my first and last name; either “mark oh”, or “mark koh” (both common korean last names). funny!

so, sunday was a good, but very long and tiring day.

started with coffee and pastries with charles to talk about the day. then we began our trek to three major korean churches to meet with senior pastors. first up was a short walk to sarang church (a church of about 50,000 people). we met with the senior pastor in his office, just after one of the many services. this church has already contributed financially to help make the ys korea convention a reality. we had a brief but nice chat about youth ministry and the vision for ys korea. these meetings have been so interesting for me — great cross-cultural experiences.

after leaving, we took a cab to the world’s largest church: yoidi full gospel church. we’d been there the day before to meet with the current senior pastor. today we attended a church service where the pastor emeritus, david (paul) yonggi cho, was preaching. the whole thing was quite an experience. we were treated like special guests, and there were reserved seats for us in the “foreigners” side balcony. they have live translation (on headphones) in 8 languages! this church has 700,000 members; but many of those are in satellite churches all over the world. the main campus has (only) a couple hundred thousand, with 12,000 in each of the services, plus video overflow rooms; and they have services all day long. a giant choir, a big orchestra. the singing was really cool, actually.

then came one of the most unique experiences of my life, one i’ll remember for a very long time. we got to meet with the founding pastor, dr. cho. it felt like i might imagine meeting with the pope would feel like. we were ushered into a lobby of an office, where a couple dozen handlers and security and other pastors were waiting. at some point (i think they knew he was on his way), they hurriedly moved us into a meeting room with comfortable furniture. the current senior pastor was there with us, and a film crew was videotaping the whole thing, along with a couple people taking photos the whole time (apparently, someone had convinced them that i was some kind of VIP, which was simultaneously funny to me and a little bit freaky – i’m told the video will be part of a report on korean christian tv, and the photos are for newspaper and magazine articles). most church leaders i met in seoul have never even had a meeting with cho, and it was truly a weird god thing that we were given this opportunity. when cho entered, we all stood up and did some formal greetings. i shared what an honor it was to meet with him, and how encouraged we are with the support his church is giving us. then i was silent, and waited. he shared a tender story with me about the american soldier who led him to christ. he asked a few questions about our plans, and he talked about the importance of reaching teens and young adults. at some point, the current senior pastor asked him, on our behalf, if he would act as “honorary chairman” (along with the two other most influential pastors in korea — a presbyterian and a baptist) for our event, and he graciously agreed. i asked if he would pray for us, and we stood together. he held my hands and prayed in english — it was really moving. then we were ushered out.

that’s when i started breathing again.

we grabbed a cab to the neighborhood of the third church we were visiting, and poked around in some stores while we waited for the right time. this church — young nak presbyterian — is an older church, and was historically the most influential church in seoul. it’s another church of 50,000 members (with about 25,000 adults attending on a given sunday). we had a much longer meeting with the senior pastor of this church. they’re actually hosting the event in may, and not charging us anything for the facility. we also asked if they would consider giving us a space in their building to have a youth ministry center for seoul, where a library of youth ministry resources could be kept and smaller meetings could be held (and maybe a future staff of ys korea could work). they were very open to this idea (this was just the initial ask).

we went for coffee with the education pastor of the church, then came back for a dinner and gathering with about 30 parachurch youth ministry leaders, to talk about their involvement and partnership in the event. it seemed like the meeting went well, but i was really tired, and it was 3 hours long, and it was — no big surprise here! — almost all in korean, which meant i was completely in the dark most of the time.

so, it’s late sunday night, and i’m cooked. up tomorrow: a press conference, an interview with korean christianity today, an interview with a newspaper, and a dinner with a couple publishers.

monday morning update, febuary 9, 2009

the weekend that was: busy weekend in seoul, south korea, meeting with pastors and ministry leaders, doing set-up work for our ys korea convention in may.

where i am at the moment: still in seoul. i fly home tomorrow.

on my to-do list this week: get home! then, i’m in the office at ys weds – fri. this week is the national pastors convention in san diego, and i’ll be heading down there some each day for various meetings.

procrastinating about: haven’t touched the tweaks and gaps in need to fill in for the middle school ministry book.

book i’m in the midst of: same three as last week. i haven’t been making much reading progress.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: the slumdog millionaire soundtrack. really cool.

next trip: i have a one-night trip to zondervan (in grand rapids) in a week; but am in san diego, otherwise, for the rest of the month.

how i’m feeling about this week: ready to be home.

korea update, 2

my first full day in korea was great, other than waking up at 5am and knowing i wasn’t going to get back to sleep.

i met charles at 8, and we walked to breakfast with the head of a large christian book distributor to talk about yskorea books. it was a very profitable conversation, and breakfast was yummy also. lots of western food, but i also enjoyed some spicy kimchee fried rice. after a little morning break, we had a great sushi lunch with the leader of a youth ministry training organization here. he needs to be a key partner on our event, but there are lots of politics involved; so it was a relationally challenging conversation. but i think we made good progress. the miso soup was great, and i had some green tea ice cream on milk-covered shaved ice.

after lunch we walked to the yskorea office. it was saturday, and no one was there, but it was fun to see the massive whiteboard with plans for the convention all over it (all in korean, of course).

then we drove to the largest church in the world: full gospel church. the church has 700,000 members (not the 200,000 i previously wrote), and about 100,000 – 150,000 of them worship at this location on any given sunday. we had the great honor of a private meeting with the senior pastor, rev. young hoon lee. this is the church that david (paul) yonggi cho was the pastor of for years. he’s retired, but still preaches at one of the services each weekend, and is considered one of the most influential and respected church leaders in all of asia. our time with pastor lee was very interesting — a good cross-cultural experience for me. to get time with this guy is almost unheard of, but god really seems to have opened some doors for us. he welcomed us into his office, and was very affirming of what we were doing (charles had met with him previously, so he already knew the basics). we talked about the importance of youth ministry, and the need for encouraging and training youth workers in korea. and we chatted about how this kind of ministry could grow into something influential for all of asia. the time was very formal, and his office was crazy-hot (i was dying, and wearing a suit!). at the end of our time, i asked if he would pray for us, and he asked that i start, and he would add to my prayer. we joined hands and had a very memorable time of prayer. certainly, this will be a memory for a long time.

then came nap time.

in the evening, charles and i walked to a hole-in-the-wall korean barbecue place, and the food was stinkin’ awesome. we had bbq beef and pork, cooked on a grill at our table, along with all kinds of korean goodies (yes, kimchee!). we topped off the evening by going to the bar in the hotel next to mine. it was surreal to be sitting with my korean-american friend, in a bar in seoul, listening to an 8-piece filipino band dressed like punks, but playing american 90s music, including such wonders as achey-breaky heart. yes. it was odd and hilarious.

tomorrow is a long day: visits to three major churches and a few moments with their senior pastors, a short meeting with david yonggi cho (again, it’s amazing that we have an opportunity to meet with him), and then a gathering in the evening for the leaders of various para-church youth ministry orgs in seoul.

korea update, 1

i made it to korea, after almost not making my connection. flight to san francisco (where i was connecting) were all jacked out of san diego, as there was low clouds in san fran creating the dreaded “flow” problems (sounds like a medical issue). my flight was massively delayed, as was the “earlier” flight. i was lucky to get on the earlier flight, but the connection was still questionable. just as i was boarding, i heard someone yell out my name, and saw karla yaconelli cuing up to get onto the flight i was supposed to get on!

when i landed in san fran, i literally ran over to the international terminal. as i was approaching the gate for my flight to seoul, the gate agent yelled, “hurry up, mr. oestreicher!” (apparently, they knew i was coming.) they closed the door right behind me, and i took my seat, huffing and puffing.

i met up with charles kim, our yskorea dude, upon arrival, and took a long cab ride into seoul. charles has some connections at the ritz carlton, so that’s where i’m staying! i’ve never stayed at a ritz carlton in my life. it’s a bit… well, posh.

charles and i walked through the crowded and alive streets, and found a hoppin’ chicken and beer place for a late supper. it’s now midnight here (but 7am in san diego), and my body clock is very confused. we have a breakfast meeting with a key korean publisher, and a full day of meetings tomorrow, including an appointment with the pastor of the world’s largest church (they have something like 200,000+ members). crazy. hope i don’t make a fool of myself.