Archive for July, 2022

Beautiful Jeju Island

From Gail: We have finished our third week here on Jeju Island. We are enjoying our time with these kind and loving people. We have not had an opportunity to tour the island and really have only been to the supermarket twice, the hospital to support one of our new friends who had a baby girl, and Bob to see a doctor for some medicine for congestion caused by allergies.

We walked the prayer labyrinth with 5 youth from Mayflower Church.

When the Pastor suggested an outing on Saturday, we jumped at the chance! We are on an island and you probably can guess what that means. Beaches!!!!!! This place is called the Hawaii of S. Korea. I really love the beach and draw life from just seeing it and hearing the waves hitting the shore. It certainly was an offer we could not refuse!!!

Green Tea Ice Cream. A first and very tasty.

Five of the older teens, the Pastor and his wife, and Bob and I all piled into a minivan, and off we went! The first stop was a lovely prayer garden with different scenes of Jesus’ life portrayed in an interesting way in statuary. The grounds were beautifully landscaped. There was a big amphitheater, a lovely lake, and a prayer labyrinth which was longer than it looked! We all walked it in a line and it was intriguing to find yourself getting close to the center only to be led away back to the outer edge, then winding back again into the center – just like a person’s spiritual life and seeking God’s will sometimes can be. Everyone did eventually arrive at the center, which presents a hopeful view of pursuing God, I think. If we seek Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him.

We then drove to a tea museum – that’s right, an entire museum about tea. What, you might ask do you see in such a place? I’m not sure because we actually skipped the museum, and we all had Green Tea ice cream! It was really good! The grounds there were intricately landscaped with Korean styles, winding paths, little buildings and statues in among the plantings, and there were lots of places to sit and rest and talk. That is the hardest part of the trip – language. Fortunately, we had Google translator, and the teens have some English, so it all was a very restful and diverting time from what has proven to be a busy daily schedule.

Third on the list was lunch at a well-known Korean restaurant with authentic local fare. We enjoyed sharing cook-it-yourself-hibachi-on-the-table meat and veggies – delicious. Bob even used chopsticks like the other customers – well, not exactly like the other customers! His big question about chopsticks – how do you pick up rice with chopsticks…very carefully.

The unique hexagonal shaped lava columns that form the base of Jeju Island are easy to see where the lava met the sea so many years ago, causing this unusual rock phenomenon along the shoreline.

We then visited an area along the shoreline of the Pacific. A winding trail led us along lava cliffs high above the crashing ocean. Such a wonderful site. I could have stood there for hours watching the tourist catamarans that were viewing the same cliffs from the water, the parasail boats, and the speedboats impressing their customers with sudden bursts of speed and the occasional airborne leap.

I’ve never seen cliffs like these. They are topped with normal-looking black lava flow, but the bottoms of the rocks, where the lava hit the sea long ago, are broken into something called “hexagonal columnar joints” (from the signs which thankfully included English). The rocks looked like solid-rock crystal-shaped columns all joined together into large sections with the waves crashing up against them. It’s very hard to describe, so I’ll include a picture. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. Apparently, the whole island’s foundation is structured like that.

Last on the list was the beach!!! Hooray!!! We didn’t have our bathing suits, but that did not stop us from wading out into the splashing waves. The waves were great and there were lots of surfers though the waves were pretty small. We stayed there several hours. Bob taught two of the boys how to throw a frisbee, which we had brought with us from the US. The ocean always gives me life!

A beautiful way to end a long week of teaching. One more week to go!!!!

The ocean makes me happy!

Can You Speaks It?

Language barriers must have caused some real ruckuses over the thousands of years of interactions between cultures in this world. Here in South Korea, we are experiencing a tiny bit of that, but we now have translators built into our cell phones. Still, we often find ourselves baffled by the language hurdles.

We are staying among a group of Chinese refugees who have little English, and who in turn live on a South Korean island where few speak Chinese. Interactions in the community end up as triple threats when we must translate our English to Chinese and then they must translate whatever we said into Korean, which they don’t speak.

This all came to head in the last few days as I have been sick with what I think is a food allergy to citrus juice. The inflammation has dropped from my nasal passages to my chest, which is normal for me when I have ingested something citrusy. I have no idea where I encountered citrus juice, but we have eaten many unfamiliar things over the last two weeks, and anything could have been sauteed in orange or lemon juice, and I wouldn’t have known it. (Yes, the latest version of Covid has been considered, but I have no fever at all, and it seems like the very familiar pattern of an allergic reaction that I have experienced numerous times previously.

So yesterday, the pastor and I went looking for a pharmacy, hoping to find a decongestant and cough suppressant. We drove down to a seaside village where there was a pharmacy he knew about. No matter how I tried to communicate with the pastor and then the Korean pharmacist, the best we could get from him was a negative hand wave brushing us away. I’m not familiar with Korean sign language, but I’m pretty sure he was saying, “No, we don’t have that,” or, it seemed to me, “No, don’t bother me.”

I showed him an internet picture of a common over-the-counter decongestant packaged in Korean packaging with Korean labels – hand brush, “No we don’t have that.” Okay, so I tried using the translator on my phone to say, “Do you have some medicine for a decongestant or a chest cold?” Vigorous hand brush, interpreted, “No, we don’t have that,” or maybe, “Go away.”

Really? You’re a pharmacy and you don’t have any decongestants. I guess Koreans don’t get colds or nasal inflammations – that’s a place I’d like to live. Oh wait, I got mine while I was here. Darn!

The pharmacy was a total bust, so the pastor made a phone call to one of his church members who works in the city near the hospital and told him what we needed, all in Chinese, so I have no idea what he might have said. But I know there is a pharmacy associated with the hospital. We returned to the hotel where we are living, and just after lunchtime, the church member showed up at the door with the decongestant he found. It was Theraflu, which would do. I thanked him and quickly poured it into a glass of water and chugged it down before running to class. I had been feeling better most of the day, but after that, I took a turn for the worse. The sore throat came back and so on. By evening I was pretty much laid out again.

I got to looking at the Theraflu package and couldn’t read the Korean, so I looked up the ingredients online. This particular kind of Theraflu included the ingredient citric acid. So in taking the cure, I just ingested the very thing that I am allergic to. Back to zero! I guess I should have checked first, but we had to run to class, and I have used Theraflu before, so I never suspected it.

We have two of these in our suite. This one freezes everything. I would just use the other one, but neither one hold very much.

Language is as good a barrier as any other fence in separating people (didn’t the Bible say that somewhere)? The other night before all this started, Gail and I were very tired from a week of teaching English and settled into our room. Because we were tired, we were also very punchy and were laughing at about anything – I guess our filters were worn down.

We have two small refrigerators in our room, and one of them freezes everything we put in it. I have been trying to fiddle with the thermostat dial to adjust the temperature but have had a hard time finding the right setting – all the markings on the dial are in Korean. So I got my flashlight, got down on my knees, opened the door of the fridge which sits on the floor, and peered up into it. The thermostat dial is up near the top of the fridge at the back. I removed everything to get at it and shined my light up onto the small dial. Then I held my cell phone translator up to it and pressed the camera setting. This is a pretty neat little feature – the camera focuses in on the text you are trying to translate, and voila! the Korean symbols turn into English. It’s really a modern miracle.

Here’s what I got from my translator while practically standing on my head, holding my phone up into the back of the refrigerator: one end of the dial translated, “Hey.” The next notation said, “River.” Finally, hoping to solve what was fast becoming a perverse mystery, I fixed my attention on the final small letters at the other end of the dial – all I wanted to know was which way I needed to turn it to raise the temperature in the fridge so it wouldn’t freeze everything. It flashed back and forth between two translations: “Egg Sanctuary,” and “To the Castle!” Frankly, I didn’t know which one to believe, but by now we were both on the floor laughing uncontrollably.

The Korean thermostat in question

Long story short, everything still freezes in that fridge no matter how I set the dial. If I choose “Hey,” yup, frozen solid. If I turn it to the other end of the dial toward its enigmatic “castle,” we still end up thawing our sandwiches before we can eat them. Language barriers again. If you think about this at all, you will begin to understand why there is so much confusion and hostility in the world. There’s a lot of misunderstanding. You can lead a horse to water, but you might end up going up the river to the egg sanctuary.

Can you Eats It?

Visiting a community of Chinese people like the members of Mayflower Church is a little like living in a Chinese restaurant. Every family cooks fresh, authentic Chinese food every day. We are invited to lunch with one family, and dinner with another each day, and they always bring an abundant breakfast to our room. The fellowship is great – one of the three somewhat-English-speaking teens is assigned to accompany us to each meal to translate for the group and ends up translating both ways between gulps of food.

The people have cleared a space on the Hotel property for a large garden. My daughter-in-law Amy, who is into that kind of thing big-time, would go crazy in that garden. Each family has their own plot and grows food for their family. They have pumpkins, different kinds of lettuce and tomatoes, onions, and all manner of Chinese vegetables that we can’t identify. They work in their plots daily between running to jobs and taking care of the children and church meetings.

The amazing garden they have planted on hotel land where they get all their fresh vegetables for their meals. I took this picture from our first-floor room window before we moved upstairs.

The dinner tables are loaded with high-quality Chinese dishes of meats and soups and vegetables, often with three entrées each meal. It is more food than we can ever eat, and they are all concerned that we eat so little compared to what they’re packing away. But it seems to us that we’re overfed most of the time. Graciously, they always provide spoons, and, when available, small forks for us to use, but of course, they’re all using chopsticks, and it is obvious that they wonder why anyone would try to eat with spoons and forks. I’m not sure they know how to use them.

Many of the men do a lot of the cooking, which is interesting. They make some great-tasting dishes that are better than what we’re used to in American Asian restaurants. It helps that the veggies are all fresh. I had an interesting conversation today about canned foods. They don’t seem to use many canned foods.  I asked why, and the husband replied with some amazement at my question that “it’s not fresh.” So they value fresh food very highly, and I suspect most of them will always have a garden wherever they land permanently. I’m sure east Texas farmland would welcome their efforts. As they relocate and move on with their lives in new careers, I suspect there may be some new Chinese restaurants springing up nearby.

Enjoy the pictures. I wish you could taste the food.

During the first week we were here on Jeju Island, S. Korea, we were awakened by someone’s cuckoo clock cuckooing incessantly in the early hours of the day before 6 a.m. We are lodged in the hotel where the Mayflower Church is living. They and a small number of Korean residents occupy the entire hotel, and, because it has essentially been transformed into a residence hotel, it looks like a hotel but operates like an apartment building.

our-hotelAll the little suites have a long balcony along the windows, and we follow the custom of most of our neighbors by leaving the windows open to allow the
cooler air in during the night. We thought it was odd that one of the families would have a loud cuckoo clock, but the open windows, we thought, accounted for the early morning wake-up call, the sound traveling easily in the early morning quiet. We are used to roosters in Uganda, so why not a cuckoo clock here in S. Korea?

We wondered about this, and each morning I would get up and try to get a sense of which direction from our suite the clock was located, but the sound, though loud, was elusive – I couldn’t pin it down.

Then on Thursday of that first week, when I woke up, it finally dawned on meOur Porch
that we were not hearing a cuckoo clock but the call of an actual cuckoo bird in the wild. I jumped on my computer and sure enough, S. Korea, and Jeju Island, in particular, is host to eight different kinds of cuckoo birds within the cuckoo species (Cuculiformes: Cuculidae). And because I know you’re going to ask, I’ll just go ahead and tell you: they are the Northern Hawk Cuckoo, the Indian Cuckoo, the Common Cuckoo, the Oriental Cuckoo, the Himalayan Cuckoo, the Chestnut-Winged Cuckoo, the Lesser Coucal, and the Lesser Cuckoo. Wow! It’s a cuckoo convention out here.

This brings up a very interesting tidbit about cuckoo birds. I’ve always had a warm place in my heart for cuckoo birds because of the familiar and traditional cuckoo clocks of my childhood. I realize now that my affection for the clock version may have been misplaced. It seems that several species among the various cuckoo birds are classified as “brood parasites.” This means that the mother cuckoo flies through the forest seeking out other birds’ nests. When she finds one, she lays her eggs in the nest and flies away happy and carefree.

I guess birds are not the brightest bulbs in the lamp because when the builder of the nest returns and finds it full of eggs, she rejoices and settles down upon her miraculous clutch of eggs that she can’t remember laying, but well, there they are, so…. 

Apparently, she never realizes she is raising a brood of baby cuckoos – “It’s funny dear, they don’t look like you or me, and look how big and strong they are. I don’t know why all of them make that same annoying sound. I love them, but they are such a handful. I can’t wait for the empty nest phase cuckoo birdsof our life together.” So that famous little cuckoo bird we all think is such a cute little critter popping out of that clock and cuckooing so delightfully upon the hour is actually quite a little rapscallion.

All this to say that we are awakened daily upon the hour of 5 and 6 a.m. by the latest musical rhythms of one of eight possible kinds of pregnant cuckoo birds briefly squatting in some other bird’s nest out there in all that tropical greenery. Now that’s what making a memory is all about.


One of the problems these 60 Chinese people here on Jeju Island face is the lack of language resources. This cuts two ways. First, they are living temporarily (2.5 years so far) on a Korean island where Korean is the local language, and they don’t speak Korean. Second, they want ultimately to land in the U.S., but they don’t speak English.

As for the Korean language, they don’t speak more than the few phrases they have picked up to get by, to use on their jobs, etc. Everything here is written in Korean in a different alphabet than Chinese or English. Many of the signs have English subtitles, and some of the stores and restaurants have English names. I guess English has marketing value here. I’ve never seen as many coffee shops as I’ve seen driving through the city of Jeju (pop. 634,000) and most of them have English names. Back to my point – the Chinese folks don’t speak English yet, except for some of the youth, and they don’t speak Korean, either.

This lack of local language isolates them. There are a few Chinese people living on the island, but they tend to keep a low profile for political reasons – mainland China is right there 300 miles to the west, after all. There is no one who is willing to volunteer to translate for them while we are here, for instance. Mostly the teenage son of the pastor and one teenage girl try to keep up with the translating, but their skills are limited. A Chinese man volunteered to come all the way down from Seoul last Sunday morning to translate for my sermon during the worship service, but this great and unexpected blessing was a one-time thing. Generally, we are spending a lot of time on the Google Translator App.

As to the English gap, the adults have no English at all and are in the beginner class that meets one hour a night, M-F. It is hard to teach much English at that pace of study. The teens are in the Intermediate-range of English studies, but even they have a long way to go. The children are in our 8:30 a.m. Beginner class, M-F. Without a strongly focused effort, learning English will be a long haul for all of these people, though I expect the teens and children will pick it up much faster when they arrive in the U.S. It’s hard to be highly motivated to learn English while sitting here in Korea trying to survive day to day.

We are charmed by the people and how loving they are. We are impressed with the spiritual discipline that we observe, prayer groups, study groups, etc. Our prayer is that they will catch the vision for learning English. It’s hard to do that when their very survival greets them every morning when they wake up again still under the threat of deportation back to China.  

(Apologies for so few posts over the last two weeks. We have been very busy teaching 3 classes of English 5 days a week, and teaching on Sunday in church.)

About two and a half years ago (late 2019), an entire church in China decided to escape the constant police harassment, increasing number of arrests, and intensified scrutiny by leaving China in search of religious freedom. They are as true pilgrims in 2022 as our own pilgrims who, in seeking religious liberty, landed on the shores of the New World in what is today’s Massachusetts in 1620. Except these pilgrims come with cell phones, ipads, laptops, and a host of modern conveniences that our American pilgrims did not possess. This group of 60+ Christians is also seeking to complete their search for freedom in the U.S. and is seeking asylum from the U.S. government.

Jeju, China, JapanFreedom Seekers International (FSI) is a Texas-based organization that helps persecuted Christians across the globe escape from religious oppression. In concert with a number of other rescue organizations, they became involved with this group of Chinese refugees in mid-2021. The church’s location was kept secret for security reasons because the Chinese government has continued their harassment and persecution with phone threats to individual members of the church, telling them if they don’t return, they will face charges of treason in China (and, in fact, this will happen even if they do return).

In order to communicate to various agencies and individuals about their situation, FSI gave the church the codename Mayflower Church so that their safety would not be compromised by various communications about them. For the last year, many people have known about their situation but did not have any details other than that they are called the Mayflower Church.

But the situation has changed. Somehow, the Chinese government located them in the residential hotel where they live on Jeju Island, South Korea, which sits 25 miles south of mainland South Korea. It is unclear exactly how this security breach occurred, but one thing is clear: the Chinese have recently increased their pressure on them to return, so much so, that according to the pastor’s records, the number of threats received between April to May, 2022, is equal in number to all the threats received in 2021. This includes personal harassment calls to members, police interrogation of family members back in China, etc.

Meade International was asked by FSI to go to Jeju Island for several reasons.

Teaching in S. KoreaFirst, it is hoped that if enough American, Japanese, European, Etc., Christians will go to Jeju for a brief time to show solidarity with the Mayflower Church, it will demonstrate to the Chinese that the world is interested in what happens to them. We are trying to bring international attention to the attempt by this courageous small church to gain religious freedom.

Second, we are here to teach English to the members of the church in preparation for their move to the U.S.

Third, we are here to offer orientation and counsel in preparation for moving to the U.S.

We arrived July 2 and will be here until July 30. An American videography team arrives on July 14 to interview the members of the church and record their experience for a possible documentary or news program. Other Americans and other nationalities are scheduled to stay in the hotel for a week here, two weeks there, etc., over the next few months. Jeju is the “Hawaii of S. Korea” and is a beautiful, tropical island with many fine beaches and interesting sites and tourist attractions. If we were not here to work, there would be plenty to keep us busy playing.

Meades Go to S. Korea

We arrived safely in Jeju Island, South Korea, for the first mission we have ventured out on since 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. We are here to teach English to a group called the Mayflower Church, a group of 60+ persecuted Chinese Christians who have left China seeking religious freedom. They got as far as Jeju Island, South Korea, before immigration laws halted them. Now they are seeking asylum in the US. They have been here for two and a half years waiting. We will tell you more in later posts.

It was a long and interesting trip getting here. Now we face signs in Korean, only a few also with English subtitles – so many questions to ask! However, our hosts are Chinese, not Korean, so we all are using Google Translator constantly. Do you know that you can turn on the camera in the Google Translator app, and it will change the language you focus the lens on into English right in front of your eyes, right on the sign or page in the picture…? I sure didn’t (quit rolling your eyes, please). But we’re now reading everything from the labels on the microwave to food package contents, to signs. Sometimes the translations even make sense!

Mimosa Tree
We walk up the mountain from our lodging every morning at 5:30 before it gets hot and humid. This morning we found this beautiful mimosa tree.

We flew from DFW to Seattle and from there to Seoul, South Korea. Then we searched for the bus counter to take a bus from the airport to another airport 45 minutes away. The bus ticket office was outside the terminal. It was a nice bus ride across Seoul, a whole enormous new city to see. We crossed a bridge over the ocean that seemed a mile long.  When we got to Gimpo airport, we found another airline to take us to Jeju Island. It turns out when we finally looked at a map finally on about our fourth day here that Gimpo Airport is rock-chucking distance from the North Korean border.

Our flight from Seoul was on a smaller island-hopper plane and had strict rules about the weight of our bags. We had 2 suitcases each, and they were full to the brim of things we would be needing for our stay. The international flight to Seoul allowed 50 pounds per bag and two bags each, so we brought lots of extra supplies to give to the church people – 200 pounds total. The island-hopper to Jeju only allowed 33 pounds per person! So we had about 135 pounds of extra weight they charged us extra for. We just made our 8:30 p.m. flight and fell into our seats for the one-hour crossing to the island. We were last off the plane and very tired. When we reached the luggage carousel, our four heavy (expensive!) bags were the only ones remaining! I guess most of the people on these hopper flights are tourists with just a little luggage, like sandals and socks, etc. It turns out Jeju Island is the Hawaii of Korea.

Coastal View
Yes, that dark band on the horizon is the Pacific Ocean. Our lodging overlooks the coastline.

We waited for our host and some people from his church, and our American friend who sponsored us to come here, to find us and take us to our “home” for the next month. We left our door in Texas at 6:00 a.m. on July 1st Texas time and arrived at our hotel at 10:30 p.m. on July 2nd  Korean time after about 25 hours actual travel time…Whew!!

Somewhere out over the Pacific Ocean, we crossed the International Date Line and, going west, lost a day (?). We are still trying to figure out what effect that had on our actual time and date here in S.Korea, and what effect it will have going home a month from now. All we’ve figured out so far is that our home is 14 hours earlier than us, and the jet lag we experienced was significant.

So, you must be wondering, what are Bob and Gail doing in S. Korea. I thought they ministered in Africa. What’s the story here?? Tune in to our next post!!!