Reading in Church and Kimchi Making

During Sunday’s (November 7th) worship service, I read from the Gospel of Mark in Korean! It was painfully difficult but I felt better after I finished. I am so grateful for the members of this church who encouraged me and helped me prepare for this reading – I accomplished something that I didn’t think was possible. I have a little more confidence now and maybe next time I won’t be so scared.

After the service, I was invited by the youth group to help make Kimchi, an annual event and an extensive process. First, we went to the market and bought 100 cabbages and soaked them in salt water over night. The next day, we shredded radishes for the kimchi sauce. On the third day, I walked out of our house into the rain, and the court yard between our house and the church was filled with women preparing to make kimchi. I was given an apron and elbow length kitchen gloves. I sat with the women of the church who shared their very important tradition and guided me through the process of Kimchi making.

I was instructed to sit with my legs on the ground and tucked under a large tarp. First, we piled the shredded radishes on the tarp and mixed in the red sauce (which the ladies made earlier in the day). Next, we added a gallon of fish oil, shrimp, garlic, red pepper, fresh green scallions and onions. We rubbed this mixture all over the presoaked cabbage, making sure to coat each individual leaf. Then the cabbages are stored in containers to ferment, and are eaten throughout the year. The older women of the church spoke minimal or no English, so they spoke in Korean and showed me what to do and I tried to copy them. I understood some of the instructions with my limited Korean skills and tried to follow along. I was following one woman’s instructions and then another woman told me I was doing it wrong by putting too much sauce on the cabbage. Despite our communication issues, we all had fun and I learned so much from these women. I felt like we bonded and I was accepted into this group while slathering cabbage leaves with spicy sauce.

At home, I frequently ate kimchi from the small Korean grocery near my house, but I had no idea how much work was involved or how time consuming the process was. The day was extremely rewarding and I now have memories to last a lifetime. In the end, they praised us for doing a good job and I felt honored that they took us under their wing and guided us. Afterwards we shared a delicious lunch of pork, fresh kimchi (Baechu Geotjeori), and cabbage soup which tasted wonderful after working in the cold and rain that morning.

Somehow, I am in 5 different singing groups at church, and an elderly member of the congregation gave me an ocarina flute and is trying to teach me how to play. I know music is supposed to be the universal language but I feel like I am learning two new languages now and I am out of my league. Send prayers for musical enlightenment.

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