Monday, October 13, 2014


This weekend, I had the absolute honor of accompanying my roommate, Haeun, home to Bristol. Originally from South Korea, her family moved to Bristol a year and a half ago. Staying with her family was so wonderful, not only was I fed the tastiest meals (including traditional Korean food AND my first full English breakfast, seriously, they went above and beyond), but I got to sleep in a nice big bed in a cute house on a hill in Bristol. I saw some of the sights of Bristol, but mainly I was able to spend some great quality time with Haeun and her family.

You know how God just ALWAYS provides above and beyond your expectations? Well, I do. He never fails at surprising me with how great His love, provision, and comfort is for me. Ever since I was accepted to Grad School I have been praying for my roommate, many of you may remember His provision for me in this area when I studied in Italy. However, coming to London, I never thought He'd be able to provide for me as amazing as roommates as He did while I was in Italy. But, I was wrong, and boy do I love being wrong!

Haeun has a servant's heart. She is outgoing enough to have a lot of friends, whom she makes easily, but loyal enough to let me tag along side her when in large groups. She is welcoming and makes everyone feel included. She was more than happy to have me join her on her first weekend home of the semester and I am so glad I was able to go!

She went home to play music for a conference her church was putting on. Her mom plays the piano and they did a concert for said conference. Her father is the pastor of her Korean church, which meets in a small upstairs room of a presbyterian church in Bristol. He also spoke at this conference, and Haeun said he didn't sleep for the two nights leading up to the conference because he was so nervous to give a sermon in English.

When I got to their house I completely didn’t realize that you don’t wear shoes into the house. So I just traipsed right in wearing my combat boots and instantly knew I was in the wrong by the gasps of horror and the surprised looks on their faces. Thankfully, I had actually only made it two steps into the house, and I'm pretty sure they forgave me. That night, after a delicious meal, we went to the suspension bridge to see it all lit up!

Haeun felt bad that she wouldn't be able to hang out with me all day Saturday, but a Bristol University student lives with her parents and her and another girl were practicing their singing for the church service Sunday. I sat in the piano room and listened to them practicing for two hours Saturday afternoon, and I think I now know the Korean lyrics by heart.

After their practicing, the girls took me around Bristol until Haeun got back into town from the conference and met up with us.

Will's Memorial Tower. AKA Bristol University
Will's Memorial Tower. Interior Detail.
Will's Memorial Tower. Interior Detail. 
Cabot Tower. And it's free to go to the top!
View of Will's Memorial Tower from the top of Cabot Tower

Sunset over Bristol
Selfie on top of Bristol!
Sunday I went to their church, but attended the "regular" English service downstairs in the main sanctuary. Haeun's father introduced me to the English pastor and he spoke with me for 5-10 minutes before I settled into the empty pews (we had arrived rather early). An elderly woman sat down right next to me and immediately started making conversation with me. Once she found out I was studying in London she told me all about her grandson getting his masters in London (I might've missed out on a great opportunity there... hmm...). The service ended 30 minutes before the Korean service and so Haeun met me downstairs to take me up for the end of the Korean service. Interestingly enough, I felt more at home in the small stuffy room upstairs packed with Koreans than I did in the large, cold, and beautifully ornate sanctuary that was sparsely attended downstairs.

While I sat through the end of the Korean service I was able to think on the comparison that these two services represent.

While sitting in the English service (towards the back) I had a great view of how empty and desolate the church felt, even at the height of its service. Everything was traditional (hymns, pre-written prayers) and even somewhat ritualistic. But, here I was sitting in the midst of a beautiful room filled with genuine and kind people (many confronted me afterword and made sure I felt welcomed) and yet I felt a huge disconnect from God. It was as if the religion and motions of the service took over the personal walks and loving community that are found within the body of Christ.

Immediately, as I stepped foot into the Korean service, I felt at home. When I arrived the congregation was singing and worshipping together. Not knowing any Korean, I had no idea what was being communicated throughout the next half hour, but I could feel the presence and love of God amongst these people. Haeun's father, being the pastor, was introducing new students and guests to the rest of the congregation at the end of the sermon. He wasn't standing behind a large pulpit on a huge stage, but wandering through his flock pointing out people and recognizing and welcoming them as newcomers. He even took the time to introduce me. I was surprised to hear him say my name along with the Korean word for roommate, which happens to be a cognate, and I was so humbled that he took the time to tell everyone who I was even though he had only met me that weekend. After the service it was an overhaul to turn the room into a hall fit for kings to dine. Tables were brought in, chairs were rearranged and a large buffet style meal was ready to eat. It was one of the best meals I've had here (that goes for all the meals this weekend, actually).

After eating our bellies full and chatting with other students, we went back to the suspension bridge to see it in the daylight and wandered around Bristol in the chilling weather.

Me and Haeun!
Haeun had told me previously that her mom made the best scones and I had asked her if her mom would teach me to make them. So, there I was, Sunday night, making scones while her mom made Sunday dinner. Haeun's mom has such a sweet-natured spirit. She is still learning English, but I think she doesn't give herself enough credit. Most of the time she would get frustrated trying to explain things to me in English and resort to hand signs, or she would forget I don't know Korean and just talk to me in Korean anyway.

Making scones!!! I've seriously missed baking.
I mean, just look at this spread! Pretty sure I came back to London with a permanent food baby.
They had the new students over for dinner Sunday night and it was fun just being a part of their conversation, even if it was all in Korean. After spending the weekend with them I was starting to pick up on certain topics they were discussing. They started realizing I was laughing right along with them even though I had no idea what was being said. Of course, this just made everyone laugh harder as I joked I had been kidding about not knowing Korean all weekend and actually understood everything they were saying ;).

After dinner, we had my homemade scones, which were insanely delicious; I'm going to have to send Haeun's mom a gift to thank her for teaching me her scone making ways. And then we had a private concert by Haeun and her mom! It was so much fun.

It took a lot to keep the tears back all weekend. I felt so much at home and at the same time so far from home. I think Haeun's parents and my parents would be the best of friends. Her dad is funny and quirky, loving and kind, gentle and the spiritual leader of their home, and her mom is so accommodating, talkative, and genuine, making everyone feel like they are a part of the family. I only wish I could've met her younger brother who goes to boarding school in Wales. I'm sure he's a lot of fun to have around.

While sitting in a small room with 8 people listening to Haeun and her mom play for us, I was extremely thankful for the environment I was able to experience this weekend. Being surrounded by a loving and believing family and seeing and experiencing people from across the world worship the same God I do is extremely humbling. Listening to the talented musicians, it was easy to forget I didn't know Korean. Music has a way of surpassing all language barriers, and in that moment I wished more than ever that I could play an instrument to join in their melody.

I did not want to leave Bristol or my new Korean family. Nor did I want to face reality with my heaviest week of reading yet and an essay due in a short seven days (yikes!). But, after this week I have a "reading" week, which means no classes. So far I have no travel plans (and no money to even travel anywhere if I did have plans) for the precious "free" week I have "off" of grad school, but it will hopefully serve as a time to rest and get ahead on school work (and finish the Harry Potter books, only one left!).

I thank God for my weekend glimpse into the life of my loving roommate and the amazing hospitality shown to me in Bristol. I hope to go back and visit her family and friends again (they are all wanting more of my scones) and eat some more delicious Korean food.

During the weekend I learned some facts about myself/America that Koreans think are very interesting:
  1. I have three brothers. From what I gathered, in Korean culture it is uncommon to have more than two children, and the fact that my parents have four made for some very surprised responses. 
  2. My family owns six cars. This is apparently one of the first things Haeun tells ALL of her friends about me. America is weird and the majority of the country has no means of public transportation, so I tried and failed at explaining that everyone has to drive themselves everywhere, which means the five drivers in my family all need their own car, plus a car that can hold all 6 of us and a few extra if need be (which we use more often than you’d think). 
  3. I am from Texas. Which means, in their eyes, my family is a bunch of cowboys shooting pistols at outlaws across the plains from the backs of their horses, which, isn’t that far off ;). My family farms, has cattle, grows crops, and used to have horses. So, I let their imaginations run with that one a little bit. 
  4. I was born into an English speaking country. This was huge for them. I had so many of them tell me that I was so lucky to have English as my first language. I tried to explain that it’s my ONLY language, and that they can speak to twice the people I can with their Korean and English, but I don’t know if this concept completely sunk in. I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them had they not learned English. Wow, America, we need to step it up, am I right? 

So, my weekend in Bristol was a ton of fun and quite the adventure. I can’t wait to see what other cultures I get to “submerge” myself in the next year; it’s so much fun learning and seeing things from a new perspective!

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