L'Abri Newsletter, July 2008

Dear Praying Family,

How are you? My name is JungWon Choi, and I have been a helper at Korean L’Abri since May of last year. (I had also studied here for one term in 2002.) Inkyung and Kyungok kindly gave me the opportunity to write a prayer letter this month, so let me tell you about what’s going on here and also ask for your prayer on behalf of the L’Abri family in Yangyang.

The construction work that began in March is now almost done, and the only part that still needs work is the entrance. The retaining wall behind Inkyung and Kyungok’s home, the stairs up the wall, the embankment along Jongchul’s Valley, the wooden bridge across the stream, and the garden are all complete; and we have also gotten rid of all the dust and waste from the construction. There was a lot of physical labor to do, but we had very few men among the students. So the women had to take care of all the cleaning and gardening. Dozens of professionals, of course, were involved in the construction throughout the spring. Neighbors also sent us flowers and trees for the new garden. At Korean L’Abri, we used to work every afternoon. But there was so much work to do, that we decided to devote the whole day to work every Saturday. The problem was that none of the students knew how to work with our hands and feet. We had studied and worked at the desk all our lives; the physical world was totally new to us. We had pain all over our bodies, and many of us dozed off during Sunday service the next day. But by the end of the term, our skills had improved to the point that Inkyung said we should consider becoming real construction workers.

Meanwhile, our animals suffered a lot – though not necessarily because of the construction. Both of our cats bore kittens this spring, but three of them were abandoned by their mother and died in the first week despite our efforts to help them. The other five, however, are alive and well. One day, a dove arrived on our garden badly hurt and unable to see. We kept her away from the dogs and cats, and we tried to feed her, but she died the next day. Then on the last night of our term, both of our trusty Jindo dogs were stolen. Mapsi broke loose and found her way home, but King is nowhere to be found. We feel very sad for the animals we lost. They were such good friends to all of us.

Pastor Jeon of Yangyang Methodist Church and his wife Heawon offered to take charge of Sunday services, Tuesday suppers, and film discussions. All of us were also invited to a special outdoor service in the pine forest. (I was also at Pastor Jeon’s outdoor service last year, but I never thought I would stay long enough to attend it twice. Really, you never know which way your life will turn next.) The service was followed by a barbecue party, but unfortunately Euijin was responsible for cooking. What that’s supposed to mean is that Euijin, who has the biggest appetite among us, wasn’t able to eat as much as he wanted to, believe it or not. Anyway, please pray for Jeons who also run a study room for local children, so please pray for God to replenish him always with the energy he needs.

According to Inkyung, this spring marks the first time in 20 years that women formed the majority of students here at Korean L’Abri. We do not know if this new trend will continue or if it’s just a special occasion. The last term was also one with the most cancellations in the history of Korean L’Abri. Many students wanted to visit us from abroad, but only two made it to Yangyang. It seems that a lot of them were in a hurry to make reservations, because we announced that this branch will be closed for the next six months for a much-needed sabbatical. We hope that those who couldn’t come don’t get disappointed. Three Ghanaian students who were planning to visit in the autumn have changed their reservations to after Christmas.

In the last week, we had a two-day seminar during which we discussed essays written by several students. Songmi identified wrong spirituality as a cause of her passive spiritual life, and talked about the relationship between God’s authority and leadership on the one hand and our responsibilities on the other. Eunmi, who also served as a helper this term, gave a talk about the meaning of service and those whom we serve. Judong, a schoolteacher, applied the “problem of facts and values” as discussed by Nancy Pearcey to the reality of public education in Korea. I talked about Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent, which I’d been reading, and explained what I now understand about “metaphysical necessity” as well as those parts which I still can’t get myself to agree. Not only workers and other students but also pastors and family from local churches joined our seminar to ask questions and participate in discussions. After the seminar, we embraced and encouraged each other for the hard work we’d done.

Please pray for the young couples who visited us in the early part of the term that they can build a good family with love and in the Truth. Please pray for Jin who had to leave in the middle of the term that she eventually finds the true answer to her question, “Why should we live?” Please pray for Songmi, an English teacher now, who wants to become a clinical psychiatrist. Please pray that, as she said in her seminar, Songmi learns to acknowledge both God’s authority and her own responsibilities in deciding which way to go; and that she finds good companions on her chosen path. My sister Jungsim has been going to church since last month. Please pray that she founds her faith and life on the correct Christian worldview.

As for me, please pray that I can get to know, as Schaeffer says in his book, that Christianity is not only the best answer but the only answer. Eunmi is interested in studying furniture design, and she hopes to make up her mind in the next few months. Please pray that her time will not be wasted. Judong has applied for a position in an “alternative school” (which does not follow the usual curriculum). He is now attending a six-week course for alternative school teachers, after which a decision will be made regarding his application. Please pray for him. And also for Seungjin, who will begin missionary work in an Islamic country in a year and a half: that he should be armed with all the necessary training and also with the True Christian worldview.

Please pray especially for Inkyung and Kyungok. Life at L’Abri is a little too dynamic for their fragile bodies to endure. Whenever they find a moment to take a rest, somebody opens the door and looks for them. Construction workers who are not supposed to arrive until the next day will suddenly show up and make all sorts of noise. There are always students who wake them up at 2 o’clock in the morning. They have been hard at work for the last two decades, and they are very exhausted. Please pray that this year’s sabbatical helps them regain their strength. Euijin, now 17, is supposed to be an exam this year in order to earn his high school diploma. He is concerned not so much with how he’s going to overcome the limits of public education as with whether or not it’s worthwhile to try to overcome it in the first place. Provided that Euijin has the motivations to study, Eunmi, Judong, and I are ready to help him with various subjects.

When we began the construction in March, we didn’t expect the cost of labor and materials and to skyrocket as much as they have done. Inflation in Korea is at an all-time high; not only L’Abri but the entire country is having a hard time. Please pray that our costly efforts pay off in the form of safety this summer, when the usual batch of torrents and typhoons hit. Mr. Han, who supervised the construction of the balcony two years ago, also oversaw the construction this year. Several other people also helped us mitigate the rising cost of constriction, but we are still in the red. Please pray for God to send us the funds that are necessary for keeping this place safe. Our branch sabbatical will last from late June until Christmas. Please pray for an adequate gift of supplies during this period. Please also pray for God to send us new workers (both singles and families) and helpers to assist Inkyung and Kyungok. It is L’Abri policy not to actively recruit workers but to wait and pray for God to pick the right
people for us. Several people have shown interest, but none have braved the adventure of joining us as workers. I wish you a very happy summer.

Yours sincerely,

JungWon Choi

Translated by Kijin Sung

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