I met Kristin through her brother. He was a student at my school last year. I met him during sports (read: field) day when he flipped over the handlebars of a bike, landing on another student. I was the first teacher on the scene. He was fine, but the next day he tracked me to my classroom. I thought for sure I was being sued. But no, he just wanted me to tutor his younger sister. I agreed, very warily. You see, I cannot accept money for any job I do here outside of working for the public schools. To do so gives Korea grounds for my expulsion. So I made it clear repeatedly: I will not be accepting money for what I was doing. Her parents were uncomfortable with this, but they found ways to make up for it, mostly by way of food.
Kristin and I started meeting weekly, quickly going well over our allotted hour of study time. I found myself thoroughly enjoying our time together, especially since she didn't really need much tutoring. She had gone to an international school in Prague, where she had learned English. Somehow, she'd managed to retain it, despite living in Korea for the vast majority of her life. (Don't you wish you could learn languages the way kids do?)
One day, I don't really remember how it came up, we started talking about religion. She had no idea what I was talking about, despite my attempting to incorporate the Korean words I knew on the topic. To make my point, I told the story of my religion and my faith in Christ. Halfway through, she understood what I meant by the word "religion," but, having had the opportunity to witness to her opened, I wasn't about to stop; I continued my story. At the end, she looked me in the face and said,
"Is it okay for me to love [Jesus] if my family loves [Buddha]?"
I told her it was, and she told me that she wanted to follow Christ. We prayed, and, from that week on, our English lessons turned into lessons about Christ and His teachings with the help of the Korean-English Bible my church had given me. The Bible daunted her, but she was eager to learn the stories from me.
To be honest, I didn't expect her decision to stick. I fervently prayed that her fear of her family finding out wouldn't overwhelm her (as she was terrified). I found myself on my face, begging G-d to guide me on the right path and keep me from saying something wrong to her. I asked Him to teach her Himself, and lock her into His love.
Weeks went by, and never once did she waver. But she was scared. Oh, she was scared. So I made a bold move. I invited her to church.
It was Shrove Tuesday, and the English church was having a pancake supper. The pastor's daughter was the same age as Kristin, and I thought they would get along. Figuring I could sell it on the English angle, I asked her parents. I'm sure my face voiced all of my surprise when they agreed she could go. Even up to the last moment, I kept expecting a call to say she was cancelling, but it never came. Her father even drove us to the church, promising to pick us up afterward. I was confused, but I was happy, and even happier when Kristin and the pastor's daughter disappeared to go play computer games together. Kristin had such a wonderful time that she ran up to her father when he reappeared and told him that she was planning to go to church every week from then on. He was shocked, but he wasn't discouraging.
Her mom, however, was not in that same boat. Her mom was clearly uncomfortable with what was happening, but she never showed me anything but the utmost friendliness and respect. I feel bad about that, but I know that in the grand scheme of things, it's more important for me to make her uncomfortable at this point.
Then, things started to make me realize how entirely in G-d's hands the whole situation was:
- I bought Kristin a children's Bible story book in Korean. She read it cover to cover every week without any prompting.
- I tried to explain simplified versions of things like the Trinity. She corrected me.
- I found a pack of tarot cards in her room, and briefly explained what they were and what the Bible says about them. She asked me to destroy them.
- Her mom consulted with a fortune teller about the situation. The fortune teller said "it would be bad for [Kristin] to be allowed to keep her Bible in her room," so the Bible was moved. The story book, however, was allowed to stay.
I asked G-d for help, and slowly started feeling like I should have her memorizing scripture. So we made that move, and I couldn't believe the results. Suddenly, her Bible had moved back into her room. She told me that her dad was helping her to memorize them. At first, I felt like he was off-put by it, but within a couple weeks, she was telling me how much he liked the assignment. In fact, he was trying to memorize them too. I don't know if there's anything to read into that aside from the fact that memorizing English scripture resonates with the way that most Korean people like to learn English (memorizing phrases and conversations), but I'm hopeful, I'm amazed, and I'm excited to be part of this journey.