“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want two thousand of something.”
Over the first few weeks I have been in Korea, there have been many funny and also educational moments. Our first day in Korea we went out for lunch with the pastors of the church at the university where I live. It was our first real Korean meal. And it was delicious!
During the meal, one of the pastors noticed I hadn’t finished my bowl of rice. Knowing I couldn’t understand Korean, he pointed at the rice, then hit his stomach with his fist, flexed his arms, and proclaimed “밥심!!” (pap sim). This phrase translates to “Rice power!” Of course, I finished my bowl of rice after such a profound statement.
After spending a little more time in Korea, I realized that I really like rice. Growing up I never cared for it unless it had soy sauce with it. But the rice in Korea is cooked so that it has flavor and sticks together, making it easier to pick up with chopsticks. I’ve also spent time thinking about the American cartoon character known as Pop Eye, who got his strength and muscle power from eating spinach. If there was a Korean equivalent, the character would definitely draw his strength from rice. Maybe he would be called “Pap-sim Man”? Or maybe he could also eat kimchi and then turn red and breathe fire…But I digress.
We also started our Korean language class. The course is taught almost entirely in Korean because the students are from different countries such as the US, China, and Mongolia. The first few days were hard but as we have expanded our vocabulary, our understanding of the language has improved. I can almost follow along with slow hymns in church!
Finally, we started our Sunday worship and youth groups as well. Each Sunday, I attend the beginning of the worship service and then leave to help with the middle school and high school youth group. Not much has happened yet, but I will post about it once things really get rolling. After the service, we eat lunch. We also found out about a contemporary worship service in the afternoon that some of our university friends attend. The music is very good – bass, drums, and quite a few passionate college students singing. The sermon is done in a slightly different style and by a different pastor than the traditional service. Even though we, the Americans, can’t understand most of what people are saying, it is still spiritually empowering.
I find this very funny. Honestly, I like church. But in the US you could not get me to attend two church services in the same day (and those services would be in a language I completely understand). Yet here I am in Korea attending two services almost every Sunday when I have no idea what is going on. And I really enjoy it. Maybe there’s something in the rice that gives me heightened spiritual awareness…and if not, the rice (along with kimchi, bulgogi, and some good vegetables) fill us physically while these worship services fill us spiritually.