The second year I came to Korea, I was sent to a town called Seosan in Chungnam Province to teach English. I am a member of the church of Christ, and I soon figured out there was no church of Christ in town. I couldn’t speak Korean back then, so I decided just to look for an English speaking church of any kind. I found a place called “Global Worship in English.” It was sponsored by the Presbyterian church, but lots of people who spoke English from several different churches were worshiping there. They were foreign and Korean English teachers, foreign and Korean businessmen, etc. After the first worship I attended, a group of the Korean leaders pulled me aside to ask me questions about what I believed. They could all speak English. They began asking me Bible questions. I responded by giving them scriptures because I knew that they were from a different church, and I didn’t want any arguments and misunderstandings. They were so happy with my answers and what I did, they invited me back to teach a Bible class. I began teaching an English Bible class at Global Worship in English.
However, it wasn’t just the native English speakers who showed up for the class, but also Koreans who could hardly speak English. As I usually do with the first time I teach a group, I was reading through Matthew with them. I had trouble because the Koreans were having trouble understanding. I wanted to draw pictures on the board, but I couldn’t because there was no black board or white board in the room they gave me. I had an idea. I bought an art tablet, and when they didn’t understand, I drew pictures on an art tablet to help them understand. Since I had the art tablet at home with me, when I prepared to teach, I began drawing the pictures I would probably need ahead of time. The pictures were so well received, I continued drawing them and got some magic markers and began coloring them to make them more three dimensional to make them understood better. However, I never worried if they were great pieces of art. I was just drawing cartoons, and at times, I have drawn stick men. I was more worried about getting the message across than anything else. Since the class was in English, I had the cartoons speaking English because back then I didn’t speak Korean anyway, and half the class only spoke English, and the other half of the class spoke broken English. My pictures helped them understand, and they really enjoyed them.
I have developed a system of telling the whole story with cartoons. These are the next two from Matthew 20: 2-4, the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
The story of the parable of the workers in the vineyard continue, Matthew 20:5-7.
The story continues…Matthew 20:8-10.
When I let Seosan to come to Seoul to teach at Korea Christian University, the students learned that I had been teaching Bible and asked me to teach easy English Bible lessons for them outside of class. There was also a Chinese girl who couldn’t speak English, but spoke Japanese, and I taught her in Japanese. I continued using the cartoons I had drawn for these students. My easy English Bible classes became very popular at KCU. Often, my office was filled. We had about 12-13 students on a consistent basis at times. There was never a no show. There were times I didn’t have enough chairs, and I had to go looking for chairs. Three things were happening: 1) Students who needed English conversation got it. 2) Those who were curious about the Bible got their questions answered. 3) Theology students who were looking for another Bible class that didn’t give grades got it. There were students being converted to Christ. There were students passing their English tests. Their were students who had stopped going to church going back to church. There were students who decided to become preachers and Bible class teachers because of attending that class. I learned that the method was great for them.
However, the time came when KCU asked me to retire. I no longer had an office for the students to meet in, and I had to move to an apartment so small that even the furniture hardly fits, and there was no way any class would fit. I was afraid the Bible classes were over. I was wrong.
One of the students from the Bible class showed up at church. He had a friend he wanted me to teach Bible to. That particular student was never good at English, and we always had to end up translating everything to Korean for him. His friend he wanted me to teach could speak no English at all. It was a first. Koreans always ask foreigners to teach Bible in English, but he was asking me to teach in Korean. I accepted. A group now studies Korean Bible with me in a coffee shop called Lemon Tree in Hyochang Dong. There is a group of five in that class with a crazy work schedule that only gives them every other Sunday off, and they appreciate me teaching them every other Sunday when they have off of work in Korean. We study at 2:00 every other Sunday afternoon. This class doesn’t include English because it is just for spiritual development. My daughter and Korean son in law come with me, and if I stumble and lose a word, they can help me because both of them speak Korean better than I do. I may end up making a Bible teacher out of my Korean son in law because he is really good at answering their questions. Another class has begun, but it doesn’t have a completely stable place and time yet. The time and place seems to be changing a lot for that class.
Someone asked me how it is that I have so much impact on the church here in Korea. It is because the Koreans help me and encourage me. My friend, Hanul, studies with me now, and used to attend my English Bible classes at KCU, and when I had trouble trying to help a student understand in English and had to resort to translating everything to Korean, Hanul decided to help me. She would let me speak in English and take over the translating. She is now a Theology/ English major at the university, and she plans on becoming a Theology professor. When someone from my Bible class was baptized a few weeks ago, Mr. Um, a Korean preacher and university professor, my daughter’s father in law, baptized him, and my daughter’s brother in law made sure he was taken to the Hyochang Park church of Christ for worship. And, I have already told you my Korean son in law is great at answering Bible questions in Korean. In times past, when I was teaching at KCU, Joseph Choi and Joopil Park helped me so much with some of those KCU students! I brought them to the church, and introduced them to these guys, and they embraced them in friendship, and made sure they got more teaching. Joseph was one of my students when I taught at OVU in the United States, and he has B, A. in Theology from the States and part of a masters in Theology from the States. Joopil has several Theology majors,some from the States, and some from Korea, and is about to finish his doctorate from an Ivy League university here in Korea. I am not alone. Joseph and Joopil are from the Konghang church of Christ in Bangwha dong.These guy have a strong foundation, and they help me. The Korean Christians make sure the work I do isn’t in vain and give a more solid foundation to the new Christians. Now,the cartoon characters I draw speak Korean, not English.