Slice of Life Challenge Entry #6: Mondays, Mountains, and Myeong Dong
Every Monday evening, for the past 3 years, I’ve been trekking up a mountain, both in the physical and spiritual. I travel after school via bus, subway and foot to Namsan Mountain located in Myeong Dong. It takes me a good hour if I make the subway transfers quickly. By the time I climb up the steep, curvy, and narrow street just wide enough for a car and pedestrians on both sides, I am usually breathing a bit heavier and realizing how out of shape I am. The good ten-minute walk up the street to where the orphanage is located is not the most pleasant, especially when it’s freezing winter Seoul weather.
Every Monday evening, as I walk up the mountain to the orphanage where I volunteer to tutor a 14-year old Korean girl in English, it has been a spiritual mountain to climb as well. Part of my reason in volunteering was this verse that has always spoken to me deeply, “Pure and undefiled religions in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world,” James 1:27. Yet, sometimes I admit I didn’t want to go. I would try to think of excuses of why I shouldn’t go. However, I would still go, sometimes with an unwilling attitude in my heart and then after working with my girl and seeing all the loving kids in the orphanage, I am full of joy.
In Korea, many of the children in the orphanages are not true orphans. Many of them do have 1 or 2 parents still in Korea, but for whatever reasons (financial, mental, physical, etc…) cannot take care of their child and send them to the orphanage. One would hope that would be an absolute last resort, but sometimes, it seems almost like an easy way out. They are allowed to keep in contact with their child in the orphanage and sometimes after a year or two some children do go back to their parents.
It is not as common and desired by Koreans to adopt kids like in the U.S. There is no foster care system here. Many kids that have been given up or abandoned by their parents come to these orphanages. There is unfortunately a negative stigma against orphans in the Korean society and people look down on them. One of the most heart breaking things I’ve heard is that sometimes teachers in school, when they find out their student is an orphan, they treat them badly and give up on them. These are the people that I would hope would do exactly the opposite of that. I do hope and pray that there are teachers that give these orphans more love, like I would.
Every Monday evening, I wonder, am I really making a difference? As my Monday’s in Korea are coming to an end, I’m slowly coming down this mountain. I hope she realizes that even though I might not be there with her physically, I will be supporting her through my prayers. I’ve persevered, weathered a bit of my soul and learned that God’s love can overcome mountains of any size.
The view of Seoul from the top of Seoul Tower
Another view of Seoul from the top of Namsan Mountain