PASTOR OCK SOO PARK

  • 2. The First Trip to Africa / Why Don't You Go to Ghana?

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    The First Trip to Africa

     

    "Pastor Park, what do you often eat in Korea?"

    "like Dwaen-jang Ji-gae(Korean bean paste soup) and Kimchee (spicy, Korean cabbage side dish)"

     

    My first trip to Kenya, Africa was very difficult because I was not familiar with their foods. The food they ate, such as Sukima and Ugali, didn't match my taste. I tried not to eat the food, thinking, "What kind of food is there that a person cannot eat when they're hungry? I guess I am just not that hungry. I'll probably be able to eat it when I am famished.” Unable to bear watching me abstain from eating, Sister Dorothy and Detho asked me what I had eaten in Korea.

     

    When I responded that I liked Dwaen-jang Ji-gae and Kimchee, Sister Dorothy and Sister Detho asked, "What is Dwaen-jang made of?" "It's made from beans," I replied.

    Sister Dorothy was overjoyed by this response and exclaimed, "Pastor Park, you no longer need to worry. Let's go out and buy beans to make Dwaen-jang today." I was dumbfounded. It seemed as if they expected to be able to make Dwaen-jang simply with beans. I explained to them that it would not be possible because of the year-long process of preparing Dwaen-jang. Sister Dorothy was shocked and wondered what kind of food took a year to prepare. I then carefully began to explain the process of making it.

     

    "You first boil soy beans to make Mae-ju (a type of soy bean paste), which is then set out to dry for a couple of months. It will then ferment, forming fungus and mold. Afterwards, it is laid out in the sun to dry, then drifted in saltwater and prepared in an earthen pot. The Mae-ju will become saturated. The curds become Dwaen-jang and the extract is used for soy sauce. This process takes a year to complete."

     

    Sister Dorothy was surprised, commenting that, "In Africa, all dishes can be prepared within 30 minutes from the time it leaves the garden till the time it ends up on the dinner plate." We all had a good laugh.

     

    One day, I accompanied Sister Dorothy and Sister Detho to the market, and I noticed some cabbage that was being sold. I was so glad to see the familiar cabbage that I asked the sisters if we could buy it. With a troubled expression on their faces, they commented that they had never prepared a meal with this cabbage before. I told them that it was one of my favorite foods and that all they would have to do was boil the vegetable. From that day on, it didn't matter if it was undercooked or overcooked, I was just so happy to be able to eat cabbage.

     

    Although it was difficult to adjust my eating habits when I first visited Africa, I gradually became used to the food. Now I can enjoy Sukima, Ugali, and even the Ghanian dish, Fufu. There was one time when we had an evening conference at Migori, Kenya; we had dinner at a pastor's house. Dinner had been especially prepared for my arrival. We had dinner in a dim-lit room with one small candle to shed light. An array of dishes were set before us, containing rice, fresh sliced cabbage, as well as fish and fried chicken. Chicken is extremely expensive in Kenya. That is why there are many who live a lifetime without ever having tasted chicken.

     

    The pastor's wife had prepared the chicken in my honor. Rather than cook chicken soup, she cut the chicken in pieces and fried it, which resulted in only seven pieces of chicken on the table. There were twelve people in all who sat to eat dinner, and we couldn't possibly all share. Therefore, I didn't touch the chicken so that others could have a taste. Luckily, there was sliced cabbage on the dinner table and I placed some on my plate and was about to eat when, to my surprise, I found that it was mixed with spices which made me a bit nauseous. Not being able to eat this, I turned to eat fish. But due to the fishy odor, having been fried with its scales, it made me feel queasy and I was incapable of eating this dish as well.

     

    Lastly, there was a bean dish that suited my taste. I figured that it was edible with some rice, and hence scooped a heap of beans onto my rice. As I ate my rice and beans, I felt myself bite into a pebble. It was impossible to eat the beans with the pebbles in them. I couldn't just sit there and munch away at the stones, but as I looked around the dim-lit room, I found that everyone was enjoying the beans with no trouble at all. It seemed unfeasible for me to sit there and glean out the pebbles when I was the only one fussing over the beans. However, as I ate, I formed a method of gleaning the pebbles with my tongue and disposing of them by depositing them onto my spoon as I ate.

     

    It seemed as if Africans do not thresh their food to sort out the pebbles, and just eat it as it is. Even though the food isn't properly sorted, African people have no problem eating. It seemed as if we were the only ones who felt uneasy about eating food prepared in this manner.

     

    As I spent time with the people in Africa, I realized that I have lived much of my life on behalf of my flesh. Therefore, although it was difficult, I made an effort to get used to their foods. Fortunately, the second time I visited Africa, missionaries Jong-duk Kim and Jong-soo Yoon were there, and so veal wasn’t a real problem. To my relief, by the time I left Africa, I had become adapted to most African dishes.

     

     

    Why Don't You Go to Ghana?

     

    When we first traveled to Africa in 1994, we decided to stop by the German Church where Pastor O-seon Kwon ministered. We departed Korea on an evening flight on a Saturday, which made a stop at London, England arriving at the Frankfurt, Germany airport late at night. We rushed to Pastor Kwon's house and spent the night there. The next morning, Sunday service was held with a couple of brothers and sisters. After service, we traveled to Gottingen, which is 300km away from Mainz. We drove for a couple of hours and had service there, returning late at night in order to board a plane the next day. The journey was tough. I asked myself, 'Why did they make such a tight schedule?'

     

    Nevertheless, I could never forget that day we had service at Gottingen. People who moved to Germany from Africa were attending the Gottingen church. It was the first time I had preached to Africans. By the time I got to the church, it was time for service with no time to spare. I was sitting in the service area when many Ghanian people started singing and dancing to the beating of drums. I didn't know what to do; I had never danced before in Korea, and it was my first time holding service in this manner. It was so new to me that I just stood up and clapped to the music. After a while, I preached the Word. The Word was preached through translation. As the noisy atmosphere subsided, I witnessed the people becoming engrossed in the Word. After service, everyone flocked around me to ask questions and have fellowship. One person had invited me to their house. Although I had to return to Mainz, I accepted their invitation and we conversed over dinner. Through all this, the Ghanians in Gottingen and I immediately became close.

     

    I planned to go to Africa for the second time in 1995. Brother Sam and his wife, who lived in Gottingen, heard we were going to go to Africa and got in touch with me through Pastor O-Seon Kwon. "Pastor Park, why are you only going to Kenya and not Ghana during this next trip to Africa? My dear family lives in Ghana. Pastor Park, although it may be a bit demanding, I hope that you'll go there and preach the Word." They gravely asked me, but I declined them saying, 'Although I would be glad to go to Ghana, time doesn’t permit me to do so.' Even though I refused, they called me and asked me to go, even if it were only for a couple of days. But once again, I earnestly apologized and said, 'I can’t. A conference is scheduled immediately after my return from Kenya, and there are other plans that have already been set, so I can't possibly go.’ I thought that would have finalized the decision, but Brother Sam called me a third time. This time I couldn't refuse his earnest request, so I modified my plans and got back in touch with him and told them, 'I'll go to Ghana for about a week.' They were overjoyed.

     

    For our second trip to Africa we decided to first go to Kenya, then to Ghana, to preach the gospel. Sam couldn't make it to Ghana, so he sent his wife instead. As he sent his wife, he told her to prepare for our visit – a house to stay at; a car for transportation; as well as a driver named Asare were all prepared for us. Coffee and black tea for us to drink, sugar, butter, and even knives were brought all the way from Germany for us. Although it was our first time in Ghana, we finished the missionary trip with little difficulty.

     

    When they asked me to preach the Word, I went to Gottingen where I simply preached to Ghanians. By the way - God used this chance and opened the way for us to preach the gospel to many people in Ghana. Afterward, we sent Missionaries Jun-hyun Lee, Mahn-kil Chang, and Young-sun Bahn consecutively to Ghana. When we see Ghanians being saved one by one through the works of the missionaries, our hearts became so thankful toward God.

     

    God continues to lead us in this manner. Although it may seem as if we are just living life, we have no need to set or design plans because God leads us each moment. At first, we set plans and it looks as if things are occurring according to our plans. However, if we look back, we find that nothing has been accomplished through us, and that God is the one leading us.

     

    We become lost and fearful in the beginning of any situation, but God is always guiding and aiding us. So, whenever an unfamiliar situation may arise, or even if something unexpected happens, we know that God is steering us. We gain faith that through us, His glory will be revealed. In the beginning, I feared before such situations. However, as I encountered them once, twice, and so on, I started to ask myself, 'Why does God put us through these situations? I wonder, how He will change this circumstance?' And each time, I look up to Him and eagerly hope for the works He will perform.

     

    The fact is, the mission in Africa is toughest on the missionary who is there. There were also many times we, the supporters, shared the anxieties, but no matter what, God has always helped us during our moments of need. He didn't just leave it at that, but changed our hardships into blessing. And in return, we are able to rejoice in Him at all times. Moreover, within difficult situations, we can anticipate and hope in that God will change our hardships each time around. When I see others just follow their humanistic thoughts and methods, denying the One who is there leading our lives, you can't believe how distressed I feel and how foolish they seem. God truly wants to become their Lord, and to guide them.

     

    On the other hand, people refuse God and become absorbed in only themselves and what lies before their eyes. As they encounter situations they cannot handle, they become doomed to pain and fear. I cannot express in words the gratitude and happiness that I've experienced in having depended on Him who led me, and never for a second forsook me, throughout my life. 

     

     

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