Sunday, July 15, 2012

교회 - Church

Happy Sabbath! I've gone to church here twice so far. In tiny little 괴산, there are no churches with services in English. But some local students helped us find a friendly (and non-cultish*) place to worship. It's called 괴산중앙교회 (Goesan Central Church), and it's apparently Methodist. Like most Asian churches, it's somewhat charismatic, with loud prayer and lots of singing.

The first week I went, I understand only a few words here and there in the hour-long service, including 아버지 (aboji, Father), 기도 (kido, pray), and 피 (pi, blood... yeah, I promise it's not a cult). I also heard the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer in Korean, but I couldn't understand much of either. One thing I did pick up on, however, was that every time the pastor (목사, moksa) said 축하합니다 -- which I had learned meant "congratulations" -- the whole congregation replied, "아멘! (Amen!)" My guess is that the phrase could also be translated as "praise".

Anyway, I meant to write about a small adventure I had this morning on the way to church. Tracey and I were the only ones who intended to go this week (down from about a dozen curious Americans last week), as many people were asleep or on weekend excursions out of town. But, we missed the shuttle that goes into town from campus, and the next one wouldn't leave for another hour. So, we got our friend (and RA, actually), a Korean guy named Caden, to call us a taxi before he rushed off to his part-time job. As soon as the taxi arrived, Tracey and I realized that we couldn't remember what the name of the church was. Neither of us is fluent in Korean. Here is the ensuing conversation with our 댁시 운전사 (taxi driver), roughly translated from Korean:
Taxi Driver: Where do you want to go?
Tracey and me: Uh...
Me: Goesan... Church?
Tracey: Church!
Taxi Driver: What?
Me: Church! (in English, to Tracey: Oh no, what was it called? How do you say Methodist?)
Taxi Driver: ... What?
Tracey: Chur-ch. Church! Church? (in English: Does he not know what church is?)
Taxi Driver: ...
Tracey: Um, (mimes holding a Bible) Jesus! Amen! Hallelujah!
Taxi Driver: ...
Me: (in English: Okay, wait, what's somewhere near the church?)
Taxi Driver: Are you going into town? Into Goesan?
Tracey: Yes!
Taxi Driver: Okay, you just give me directions, then, okay? Right, left...
Tracey and me: Okay!
And so we got to the church, and the driver charged us about fifty cents extra (3,500 won total, which is about $3.50) for the trip, probably because we were stupid and unintelligible. (But in all seriousness, it seemed less like he didn't know where we wanted to go and more like he didn't know what a church was. Which is weird. When we ran into some of our Korean teachers later -- also on their way back to campus from church, albeit a different one -- one of them said that taxi ahjussis don't ever go to church, so it was slightly more reasonable that he didn't understand. But still...)

Anyway, during the service they sang two songs I recognized: 'Tis to Sweet to Trust in Jesus and Joyful, Joyful, translated into Korean. The sermon was delivered on the story of Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14. That's about all I understood. Oh, and after the service, some of the ahjummas insisted that Tracey and I eat lunch with them, so we joined them for a lunch of kimchi onions and chicken soup that had half of an entire chicken in every bowl. Score!

Next week we'll see if I can keep up with the sermon a bit more. Perhaps this is a good way to track my progress in listening comprehension!


*I was warned by one of the Orientation Coordinators to be careful of what churches I went to, as some of them were actually branches of Korean cults, which are fairly common and not at all like the American stereotype of a cult.

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