(THANK YOU, Angie, for sharing your photos!)
We did a presentation about our trip to Korea at our Kingdom Hall Saturday (10/25/2014). It was a wonderful afternoon. We shared our favorite photos in a slideshow and shared stories. Afterwards we served coffee, tea, candy & other snacks - many of the goodies were gifts from our loving Korean friends. We toted it all the way home and every one who came was excited to enjoy Korean treats.
(THANK YOU, Angie, for sharing your photos!)
... we have absolutely no time to check email or post pictures. Our wonderful new friends in Seoul kept us very busy from early morning until late at night. We'd come back to the hotel, take a shower, & fall fast asleep for an early start the next day. We are very tired but it is a Very Good Tired. And we wouldn't miss one minute for the world!
Our internet is limited now we are in Beijing - there are certain "restrictions". So we will post more photos to a photo sharing website when we get home. But for now here are a the highlights of our time in Korea...
In the past, Koreans lived in villages and enjoyed the rural life. This folk village is like a living history museum (think Colonial Williamsburg) and is four times the size of the original Disneyland. We only had one morning but it was really enjoyable and we saw an amazing performance.
The afternoon was spent at the Korea Branch office. They were hosting a LOT of delegates that day but things were very well organized. We enjoyed seeing all the departments involved in producing Korean, Korean Sign Language and Korean Braille literature, videos, and audio. That week they had just received a huge new assignment that we will let you know about later.
Each department put together entertaining displays describing the work they do.
Following the tour, they fed everyone lunch. The afternoon concluded with a wonderful concert under the trees with very talented singers and musicians. It was definitely a wonderful way to end our visit to Korea.
We truly hated to leave Korea. The brothers and sisters showed us so much love. We will definitely be back!
Over the top amazing! Stupendous! Our grateful hearts are overflowing with love! We just can't think of enough superlatives to describe this convention. The Korea hospitality committees really outdid themselves. Plus every brother and sister we met was warm and loving and so very generous.
We have been blessed to have gone to other international conventions and they were all amazing and the friends were very loving. But this one had something a little extra special. The foreign delegates were cared for so lovingly. We didn't have to worry about one little thing - even lunch was served to our seats each day (no matter where we were sitting in the stadium) & the trash was taken away when we were done. Every thing was incredibly well organized.
Most of all we were extremely impressed by the love shown us by the Korean friends. Very kind, very loving. The children were very sweet and polite. Our hearts were swelling from the love we were shown each day. Our Korean brothers and sisters are absolutely beautiful and it radiates from the inside out!
~ The special release of the New World Translation in Korean at the end of the first session the first day. Korean is the 2nd language to receive the revised version of the NWT and everyone was so excited. On the stadium's field there were large "Bibles" each with covers featuring the language of the delegates. The English Bible had a gray cover; the rest black covers. After the Korean Bible was released, the black cover was removed revealing the new gray cover! Seeing the Korean friends receive their new Bibles really impressed on us what a great gift it is and how we are already taking it for granted.
~Brother Splane from world headquarters released the Korean Bible and then assisted in handing out copies in the elderly & infirm section during the break.
~Attendance: 54,000+. The Seoul convention was tied to six other locations in Korea making a total attendance of over 110,000.
~630 were baptized in Seoul. Three of the large Bibles on the field opened to reveal baptismal pools - very clever. Another 500 were baptized at the other six conventions.
~3500+ delegates, missionaries and special pioneers attended from the U.S., Canada, Finland, Poland, the Philippines, and many other countries of Asia. :)
Finally here are some photos!
We arrived at the airport to a wonderful welcome. The local friends have been planning for two years for this convention and they were so excited to have delegates arriving from all over the U.S., Canada, Finland, Poland and from all over Asia. There was a welcome desk set up at the airport. We received a very warm welcome, a gift bag, our name badges & info we needed for the week, we were personally escorted to the spot to catch our bus to the hotel. At the hotel, a team of volunteers manned a hospitality desk which took care of everything for the week: our itineraries, transportation, answering questions, everything!
I can't even begin to describe the love and kindness and personal care every single person gave us. From the moment we arrived at the airport until the day we left, every detail - large and small - was cared for meticulously! We didn't have to do anything. I really can't even find the words to describe the hospitality and love we were shown. But I think if you look in the dictionary under "hospitality" the definition would be "Korea".
We spent the first two days with our new congregation and immediately fell in love with them. Several members of the congregation picked up about 18 of us at the hotel and personally helped us navigate the subways and buses (which were are very efficient and very clean by the way) to their Kingdom Hall.
We spent the morning in the ministry and Mike & I enjoyed our first taste of working with the literature display cart in metro witnessing in Seoul. Too cool!
Of course a morning in the ministry isn't complete without a coffee break. There I am with my newly adopted daughter, Yura. She didn't speak a lot of English and my Korean was limited to "hello" & "thank you" but we communicated what we needed to and became fast friends. She got baptized at the convention. Such a sweetheart!
The congregation took us to lunch at an amazing Chinese restaurant and then we divided into smaller groups for activities. Some friends took us and a couple from the Philippines Branch office to museums. Mike tried his hand at ink making and calligraphy. Fitting for someone who is in the printing business. =)
After a delicious dinner at a Korean buffet, the congregation put a musical performance on for us and we spent time getting to know each other. Of course, we got attached to the adorable baby all dressed up in her Han-bok.
The next day they took us to the N. Seoul Tower for a spectacular city view. We had another spectacular lunch and then some shopping. Do you like my outfit? (Sorry I couldn't bring it home - it was just for fun!) We walked the Seoul equivalent of Times Square. That evening the whole circuit put on the best musical choral performance ever & there was lots of fun too. We haven't laughed so much in a long time!
I have several hundred more photos & stories but it will have to wait for now ...
If you've read the South Africa section you know that my claustrophic self Very Greatly Dislikes long distance airline travel. 6-7 hours is my max and these 13+ hour flights are definitely anxiety inducing for me. But that is the only way to get to the other side of the world. I won't bore you with a blow by blow this time. Obviously we did survive. The flight wasn't horrible - just very long.
Brief synopsis: Reno to LAX (1.5 hrs); after a few hours at LAX we board the 1 a.m. non-stop red-eye to Beijing - 13+ hrs non-stop; 3 hrs in Beijing Airport & then 2 hrs to Seoul.
We arrived in Beijing at 6 am (their time) and not many shops were open at the airport. We rounded the corner to find the gate for our connecting flight & the clouds parted & the angels started to sing & there it was ... Starbucks. If you know us, we always try to eat local when we travel. But at 6 a.m., after leaving home 18 hrs previously, it was a beautiful sight!
Beijing airport is new (built for the '08 Olympics) & modern & very nice & clean.
So far - the worst service we saw at an airport - ground staff at LAX - very rude.
Best airport service: Incheon Seoul Int'l. But more on that later.
This adventure all started last year while we are on the bus going to the first day of the special convention in Pretoria, South Africa. We overheard other delegates on the bus asking one another if they were able to turn in their applications for the 2014 International Conventions before they flew to South Africa. The deadline was in two weeks (before we were to arrive back home). Mike & I looked at each other and turned around to ask the others: Excuse me, what did you say?? Apparently the applications were made available the day we were flying to the east coast. We decided we would just go to the convention and enjoy the day and we wouldn't talk about it until that night.
When we got back that evening, Mike checked the website and, yes, there was the application. We talked it over, discussed finances (after all, we had just paid to travel all the way to South Africa) and said a prayer. We had just enjoyed a wonderful day meeting many new friends, so we decided we should give it a try. (We figured that we wouldn't get invited to a 2014 international convention after attending a 2013 convention.) So we downloaded the application then & there, filled it out online, and emailed it to our congregation's secretary. (Thank you, Ed, for getting it to the service committee and turned in so promptly!) We did note we were willing to go anywhere.
Several months later we were pleasantly surprised to have been invited to the international convention to be held in ... Seoul, South Korea! Wow!
Here's our itinerary: We will have one day seeing the sights of Seoul, one day visiting with a local congregation including some time in the ministry, time visiting & getting to know each other, time to eat ;) and a special evening program. We will attend the International Convention for 3 days at the World Cup soccer stadium in Seoul. There will be delegates from around the world. Of course the most enjoyable part will be getting to know as many of our dear Korean brothers and sisters as possible. Our final day in Seoul will be spent visiting the Korea Branch and a visit to a Folk Village.
After our time in Seoul, we will go on a sightseeing tour to China for a week!!
Thus begins our next big adventure ...