Our wake up call sounded at 4:40 a.m. We had already been up for 40 minutes by then but the beautiful music over the intercom was not unwelcome. I was not excited to be up this early. Traveling is tiring, and I was truly exhausted. Little did I know how worth it being up that early would be. The first thing that astounded me was how many people came. The bottom level of the sanctuary was more than sparsely filled. Over 500 people were in attendance. As we walked in, we saw many people in deep and honest prayer already. I guess that they had been there quite a while. After a few hymns and scripture readings, they began to pray. They start praying by shouting (in Korean), "Lord! Lord! Lord!" They then pray out loud and all at once. There is name for this prayer that I know how to pronounce but not to spell. The music in the background is not mild and quiet, but full of energy and the spirit. It matches the prayer. The musician plays until 6 a.m. so that those praying can tell time by the music, but the faithful do not stop praying at 5. They pray until they are done praying. What a beautiful experience to be a part of.
We boarded the bus to Gangwha island shortly after. While we were all tired, few of us slept because we reflected on the morning. It was great to see green after being in cities for a few days. I really am a small town girl... For every cornfield in Ohio there is a rice paddy on Gangwha island. They are neat to see.
Our first stop was an Anglican chuch which was built in the traditional Korean style. Before walking in (like many places in Korea) you take off your shoes. It was a testament to the Korean Christians and their unique balance. They seem to balance their ancient culture to their religion which is so relatively new. We also visited the first Methodist church on the island, but before we got there we were randomly stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint. The sea on the North side of the island is so narrow that Gangwha is easily accesible from North Korea, and though the banks of Gangwha are lined with barbed wire (as are many coastlines and riverbeds in northern South Korea) and guarded by soldiers it is still a vulnerable spot. It was a harsh reminder that the beautiful, peacefull, free people of South Korea are (rightfully) always on guard.
We left the island and had lun with Rev. Lee's mother and the mother of a Korean classmate of mine at MTSO. It is a small world! Over lunch we discussed our trepidation regarding the homestay that was to come upon our return to Bupyeong Methodist Church.