L'Abri Newsletter, December 2012
December 17, 2012
Dear L’Abri praying family,
It has been very cold the last few days. But this morning, the sun is warm, and a family of cats is taking a nap in front of our house. It is a rare, wonderful day of rest and peace. The forecast, however, calls for another cold spell, prompting us to prepare once more for the harsh winter that the mountains have in store for us.
As the weather swings between warm and cold, so our lives take a rollercoaster ride. This year, the most serious problem that we face is the lack of workers. We reduced work to cope with the situation, but there remained still too much work for the two of us to handle. In desperation, we settled for an experimental opening schedule: two-week terms followed by two-week breaks. This has been necessary in order to prevent ourselves from becoming too exhausted, but we feel sorry for those who wish to stay longer at L’Abri, and especially for foreign students who have nowhere to go during our frequent breaks.
Without the labor that you have shared with us through your prayer and gifts, and without the Holy Spirit who sent us students and worked alongside us to help them, we would not have been able to sit down today to write this letter. As we look back upon the year, we have nothing but thanks to give, both to you and to God.
We are also thankful that, even in the absence of full-time workers, we were blessed with many volunteers who helped us with specific tasks throughout the year. Members of Hanwool Church in Sokcho, which we attend, helped us maintain the garden. Several people from Yein Church in Bucheon, along with Pastor Seongkyu Jeong, visited us twice to carry out construction projects. Thanks to the timber, time, and effort they donated, we now have a small office in a corner beside the entrance, as well as large eaves in the back of the building that allow us, as well as cats, to get around in foul weather without getting wet. (Speaking of cats, a dozen of them stroll about all over L’Abri, and we should probably thank them for the complete absence of rats in recent months. We also have two dogs, Maepsi and Ireh.) A volunteer who does not wish to be identified visited every week to help us with maintenance; thanks to him, we have enough firewood to last a winter or two. Others helped us with meals; sent us fruit, vegetables, snack, and health supplements for me; and painted various parts of the property. We are deeply touched by the selfless love that all of you have shown us, and by the graceful hand of God that never fails to provide for us.
One of the questions that I was asked the most frequently throughout the year was about my health. Virtually every phone call that I picked up was from someone who had heard about my illness. I feel sorry for troubling you so much, but at the same time I thank you very much for your care, prayer, and concern. Good news: I have no particular illness other than continual fatigue and exhaustion. Inkyung and I are getting old; we are simply unable to perform the same amount of work that we did before. I think that, nowadays, I am only able to do about half the work that I could do 10 years ago. While this is certainly a cause for concern, I am also learning to let go of my greed for work. I take great care to find a balance between doing more work than is necessary, on the one hand, and using my age as an excuse to get lazy, on the other hand.
Another thing that frightens me is the fact that, as we become older, it gets more difficult for us to listen to young people and to be sensitive to their needs. Instead, we find ourselves trying to lecture to them. The opportunity to help people as L’Abri does is a scarce and precious thing; we need to make the most efficient use of such God-given opportunities. And yet, we are reluctant to admit that we should be even more careful as the age gap between ourselves and our students gets ever wider. Although our experience and knowledge of past failures might help us serve future students better, we are also more liable than before to act in authoritarian ways. We could commit sins that were not even possible when we were younger! More than ever before, we need patience, humility, love, and wisdom. Please pray for us.
A young man who stayed with us recently before he joined the army left us a note with several thoughts about the way we have been running L’Abri so far. 1) There seems to be an expectation of perfection, or that everyone will put in their utmost effort; and this causes uneasiness. 2) We are prone to squeeze new students into categories that used to fit another generation of students. 3) We are prone to admonish and discipline students, using our age as an excuse. 4) We don’t listen to and talk with students as much as today’s young people would like us to do. These four points shocked and confused us for several days afterward. We even asked ourselves if it was time for us to resign. But the same mistakes occur to everyone who works with young people; the only answer is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, moment by moment. Please pray that we will remain open-minded and listen to God and to our students more than we rely on our all-too-human experience.
Another question that we were often asked was about new workers: whether there were any candidates, and how soon they would be able to join us at L’Abri. In fact, we would like to know the answer to those questions, too. But so far, only God knows. The young people who visit L’Abri need young workers to be friends with. Please pray that God will send us young and passionate workers whom students can think of as their brothers and sisters rather than parents or pastors. Please pray in particular that suitable housing will be prepared for them.
Thankfully, a couple of candidates have volunteered as helpers this winter. JunWon Shon is a man in his 30s who used to work at LG and obtained an M.B.A. from Australia. EunHae, his wife, is a graduate of Handong University and a close friend of L’Abri; she first contacted us many years ago when she was still in high school. They are looking for a home near L’Abri where they can stay with their one-year-old daughter, MinJin. Please pray for God’s guidance in the matter of their relocation and employment.
Special thanks are due to our helpers MinHyun and BoKyung, who have helped us with meals every day for the last year. They are among the best chefs and most faithful helpers that any L’Abri can hope for; thanks to them, our students could enjoy dishes that are typically only served at the best restaurants in Korea. Though we don’t have words to express our gratitude to MinHyun and BoKyung, I am sure that even now, God is preparing abundant rewards for them on our behalf.
Please pray that we will be a good team together and serve the people whom the Holy Spirit sends us. Please pray that God will continue to work through Korean L’Abri, using us to perform miracles in the minds and souls of those who had left Him. Your prayers save lives, literally. Please remember in your prayers countless young people who are lost in this world.
Please pray especially for the School of Christian Worldview that will be held in Chuyang House in nearby Seorak Mountain from January 7 to 10, 2013. Please pray that many people who are in need of Christian worldview studies attend and get help at the School. A young man who stayed with us this autumn sent us an essay explaining the importance of having the right worldview:
“Sin damages our relationship with God, but why do we keep sinning? Until now, my thoughts have only scratched the surface of my problem, realizing that I have sinned but not understanding why. So, what makes us commit sins? This time, I had the privilege of burrowing below the crust of the problem, through the mantle, and into the very core. At the most basic level, we find what really drives our behavior: our thoughts, our worldview. Wrong worldviews interfere with our attempts to follow God with a true spirituality. Since we are sinners, we are easily tempted to adopt such worldviews. So let us not forget the importance of a good worldview!”
For the first time in 10 years, all five members of our family are together. Thanks to their presence, I feel rich even when there are no side dishes on the table. Our children and we are also learning about each other since they have been away for so long. We could not attend their graduation ceremonies, but their diplomas arrived by FedEx a few weeks ago. We were so delighted by this wonderful occasion, especially since we still remember the countless times that we prayed for God to send us money for tuition. Kijin and Haejin’s diplomas are proof that God has led them so far, the fruit of all the love, prayers, and scholarships that you have offered us all these years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your help so far, and to ask you one more time to pray that our children will serve God and fellow humans with humility.
Romans 13:14 says: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Just before that, Paul also exhorts us to “put on the armor of light” (13:12). To wear Christ is to live in a way that demonstrates His love, mercy, and peace. I pray, cautiously and ardently at the same time, that none of us will fail to wear Him in this season of love and grace.
Always yours, even though we are weak,
KyungOk and InKyung
Translated by Kijin Sung