L'Abri Newsletter, June 2017
May 25, 2017
Dear L’Abri praying family,
How has the Lord led your life lately? Although I have not been able to provide updates as often as I would have liked, I thank you for your continued prayer and gifts. Here in Korea, we have been through several significant events such as more nuclear tests and missile launches in the North, the American response including THAAD and an aircraft carrier, the impeachment of the President, and the election of a new one.
All of this has left our nation weary, and young people in particular have been shaken a lot by recent events. Political instability always affects the poor and the young the most. It is easy not only to waste money and time in these uncertain times but also to be left with a broken heart and a shaken sense of identity.
Many young people in Korea are economically, socially, and psychologically insecure. Neologisms representing ever deeper frustration and resignation are becoming popular in the media. As a reporter wrote in a book titled Cynical Society, unlimited competition throws them into a terrible sense of inferiority and hopelessness.
What do people need in these times? The answer is not to eat and drink your worries away, or to curse the society and try to flee abroad. It is not to seek some sort of “total solution” as our politicians like to offer, nor to follow the motto of Amor Fati (“love your fate”) that Professor Nan-Do Kim taught his students. All of them are either too unrealistic or too romantic. I would much rather follow Henri Nouwen’s suggestion of “a place with food, conversation and comfort.” Nouwen speaks not only of a physically comfortable space, but also of space in our minds where the body and soul can rest together.
Is there such a place on this Earth? This morning, I read the words that King Solomon spoke to his people after he finished building the Temple and his palace: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” (1 Kings 8:56) The word “rest” (menuha) is usually translated into Korean with a word that implies social stability, but its original meaning is the Sabbath and rest that comes from God. It is also often used in the Bible to describe a place of spiritual rest, an eternal Sabbath in the soteriological sense. It means resting our bodies after hard labor, the peace that follows a bloody war, a comfortable state free from anxiety, and finally the salvation of our bodies and souls from pain and sin.
What we so desperately need in this country is rest in this sense. Young people who have suffered so much from anxiety, frustration, and a persistent sense of inferiority are also in great need of true rest. Jesus prescribed rest when His disciples were exhausted from their interaction with other people: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
Sabbath means stopping what you’ve been doing all along. It means trying something else. In order to achieve peace, we need to take a break from all the anxiety and competition. Dr. Bong-Ho Son wrote in Taking a Short Break that “the rest that we need is rest from competing with all these other people for money, power, and prestige.” So many of us have been obsessed with these three things. Koreans can only experience a good rest when we heed his advice.
Unfortunately, true rest cannot be manufactured. It doesn’t come along by itself, and it is not something we can reach by running away. It cannot be won or acquired; it must be a given to us. Jesus told us that He is the only one who can give us true rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) True rest is a gift that follows the restoration of relationships, both among nations and between God and ourselves.
The prophet Elijah was a spiritual giant, but even he became completely exhausted and even suicidal after confronting the political and religious oppression of Jezebel. He was desperate for rest. But then “an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’” When Elijah had eaten and rested a bit more, “The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’” (1 Kings 19:5-7) The food in this story reminds us of the Last Supper, or Jesus’ promise to the church in Laodicea that “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20) The gentle touch (nahga) of the angel means fellowship with the Lord who gives us new strength, and the warmth with which He caresses us.
This summer, I hope that you will find some space to stop that which has kept you so busy lately and to give your body and soul a much-needed rest and fellowship with our Father. I hope that the whole country and its young men and women can find true peace in God and find new strength.
Several of us at L’Abri are suffering from illnesses. Julia commutes to school in Yangpyeong every week, which I suspect might have made her anemia worse. SeongWoo, a student, is allergic to pollen. Haejin has a bad back, ChungSeong has a dry cough, and my right arm hasn’t fully recovered from the injury I had in February. Alessandra in Brazilian L’Abri is fighting cancer. Please pray for all of us.
SamWon and KyungOk don’t even have time to be sick, as they are so busy this term. I miss Kijin, my son, who has left L’Abri to focus more on his business.
We are preparing two small forums this summer, the first in August 3-5 and the second in August 10-12. Anyone who would like to share what they have studied and get feedback from the point of view of the Christian worldview is welcome to visit. Please see our website for the registration guide.
Translated by Kijin