“Compelled to proclaim freely” – 1 Corinthians 9

“Compelled to proclaim freely” ♦ 5th Sunday After Epiphany ♦ 2.4.18

♦ 7th & James Baptist Church ♦ Jonathan Balmer

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (NRSV)

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.


  • I didn’t know what it was, except that it was fish, on a stick, kind of gray, and squiggly.
  • And I was DETERMINED to eat and ENJOY IT and be a GOOD American “homestay.”
  • Imo (aunt), the “host-mom” of the family I stayed with when I lived in Korea, had been stressed about me losing weight recently. And I didn’t want to stress her out more.
  • I doused the stick-of-fish in red pepper paste and stuffed it in my mouth. I was going to chew and swallow, and everyone would think I LIKED it.
  • I could not hide my displeasure. As the poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “My secrets cry aloud/ I have no need for tongue/ My heart keeps open house…” and my goodness I hate the squiggly fish on a stick.
  • Imo typed wildly on her translator app, yelled at me, and showed me what it said, “DO NOT FORCE FEED!”
  • On the flip side, my co-workers asked me to bring in my favorite “Western snack” for them to try. That would be chips and salsa. All I could find were pretzels and ….Rico’s nacho cheese sauce.
  • My co-workers gingerly dipped pretzels into the “cheese salsa,” as they called it (because I had told them I was bringing salsa).
  • They hated it. What’s worse is they said: “Oh, it’s very delicious”.
  • My “Korean older siblings” from church, Oh Juhye and Oh Eunseong, were comforts amidst all my failed cultural and culinary exchanges.
  • I met with them every week. I helped Oh Eunseong with his English conversation. Oh Juhye spoke to me almost exclusively in Korean, VERY slowly, and patiently. When I thought I understood her, she would smile, and say, “Jon’s a HALF Korean person!”
  • She was being very kind.
  • In short, I felt like a failure. A fraud.
  • We got lots of talks in Fulbright orientation about being “cultural ambassadors” and building bridges by being as culturally involved in your host-family and community as possible.
  • And here I was thinking everyone around me—INCLUDING MYSELF— was very transparently, and badly, forcing themselves to do things they hated and lying to people they were trying to make feel better.

Movement 1

  • In our passage, folks in the Corinthian Christian community are VERY concerned with money. There are haves and have-nots.[1]
  • In “The Great Gatsby” terms Corinth is both New-Money West-Egg and the trampled-upon, poor Valley of ashes. In Corinth, not just money, status matters.
  • There are many issues; and most seem to be sociological, not theological—their treatment of others— rather than explicit doctrine.
  • Spirituality is one status symbol among many.
  • They want the speaker with the most watched TED talk, who are featured in Oprah’s book club: REAL spiritual gurus.
  • Some begin to think: maybe this Paul doesn’t stack up.
  • There are several criticisms of Paul:
  • His preaching about the cross-it seems foolish;
  • Paul’s spirituality, it seems weak.
  • And, they seem concerned Paul is working with his hands – like a common laborer – and rejecting their money.
  • Paul responds—the foolishness of preaching the cross is God’s wisdom; the weakness of the crucified Lord is the Power of God.
  • Paul offers not mere spirituality, or signs, but the truth of the cross which shames the wise: God come down to die an unspeakable criminal’s death.
  • He addresses his refusal to eat meat sacrificed to idols—which the Corinthian community attributes to a lack in “knowledge”.
  • Who you dine and associate with, it matters. And you’re limiting your social capital if you do what Paul does.
  • But Paul’s message here is that he will give up his rights.
  • He will be all things to all people, so that he might present the Gospel free of charge.
  • Now, when I told Pastor Erin I was preaching about offering the Gospel free of charge, he asked “You’re not going to get our salaries slashed are you?” So I want to point out that in 9:14, Paul says, the “Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”
  • Paul is preaching free of charge, but Pastor Erin, or even your youth minister, don’t have to. 😊
  • Paul preaches freely for a reason, one we can learn from, to become a living example of the Gospel itself. Understanding why he is doing this, helps us understand what it means that the Gospel is freely given.
  • It may help to look at 3 objections to what Paul is saying in our passage today.

Objections to becoming “all things to all people” and the Gospel offered “free of charge”

  1. That becoming “all things to all people” is “inauthentic”.
  2. That offering the gospel “free of charge” means one’s wrongs are not taken seriously.
  3. That a Gospel which is “free of charge” doesn’t help us live rightly.

Movement 2

  • The first objection we may have to Paul’s Gospel is that being compelled to do something, or that becoming “all things to all people,” is “inauthentic,” insincere, duplicitous, unnecessary. Paul, after all, says he is under an obligation.
  • So, is Paul just pretending to like the squiggly gray fish or pretzels and cheese salsa?
  • Or pretending he doesn’t like them, to be around the people who don’t?
  • One of my favorite quotations carved in the sidewalk of Brooks College is by Iris Murdoch: “We need to return from the self-centered concept of sincerity to the other-centered concept of truth.”
  • Our life is so much more complex than the things we actively choose. And truth, if it’s true, certainly exists outside of our decisions and preferences. We may miss the point here, if we make it about “authenticity.”
    • Paul’s point is that he not like the hired special and spiritual gurus promising knowledge. He profits from something ELSE entirely than money: the gospel itself.
  • There is a lot of debate about the section right before this passage regarding the gritty details about food and idols. I won’t get into them.
  • What is clear, however, is Paul’s stance.
  • He is not afraid to identify with those under the law, or those not under the law—or, notably, the weak.
  • Paul wants to share the Gospel, without barriers, to all.
  • I follow people on Twitter who post “youth minister” jokes. And I relate to just about zero of them. They remind me of a “30 Rock” skit in which Steve Buscemi, who looks about 8,000 years old, has a skateboard, a backwards cap, a shirt which says, “Music band” and walks up to high school students saying,
  • “How do you do, fellow kids?”
    • This is not a matter like Steve Buscemi pretending to be young, when he is not. Or me pretending to like squiggly-fish-on-a-stick “just like a Korean,” when I don’t. This is a matter of serving others, loving by example.
  • My professor, David Garland, put it this way, “Knowledge can be taught, but love needs to be shown, especially the radical love that Christians are to live out.”

Movement 3

Consider Will Campbell. He called himself the bootleg preacher. By 1970, he had[2]:

  • Attended the founding meeting for the Dr. King’s southern Christian leadership conference, the only white man invited.
  • Been run out of his position as campus minister at University of Mississippi for his Civil rights activism.
  • Escorted the Little Rock 9 into school, standing between them and the seething mobs of those viciously opposing integration.
  • Counseled Freedom Riders and marched in Birmingham in 1963 when water hoses, and dogs, were turned on protestors.
  • Ministered to the families of the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
  • So why was Will Campbell also known as the “civil rights chaplain to the KKK[3]”—Why did he visit Bob Jones, the grand dragon of the KKK, in prison?
  • Why did he minister to James Earl Ray who killed his friend. Dr. King?
  • All things to all people. Surely not for this. . . .
  • Certainly, he could have claimed to have put all those racists, all that past behind him. He had the right. He had proven by his actions he was better.
  • But he didn’t.
  • Even though more than perhaps any white activist, he could have justly declared have truly put racism behind him, there Will Campbell was—visiting white supremacists.
  • This leads us to our second objection: doesn’t a Gospel free of charge ignore our wrongs? Does it not ignore the evil in the world?
  • That is not how Will Campbell saw it at all.
  • It was precisely because we are wholly unable to act out salvation, we can recognize the gravity of Sin.
  • Sin is both a Power we need liberating from AND a fault for which we need atonement—to be put right.
  • Campbell knew this. He offered the Gospel free of charge, because he knew how deep in Sin humanity really is –and it didn’t always make him friends to say so.
  • He made more than a few hate him by speaking at universities.
  • Sometimes he would say “this institution right here” -meaning Ohio State or Georgia Tech or whatever school he happens to be visiting – “has contributed, wittingly or not, to incomparably more bloodshed and misery, done more to maim and murder, than the whole lot of poor old country boys in sheets holding cross burnings in rented cow pastures.
  • “Now then, the Klan may be more bigoted than the ‘children of the light.’ But they’re not more racist. Racism is in the structures, the system in which we are all bound up. We’re all basically of a Klan mentality when it comes to our own structures and our own institutions.”[4]
  • Not all crimes are created equal. But we are all alike sunk in Sin.
  • Modern discourse in social justice has intuited this truth, when it comes to ideas of “intersectionality”—that one can be oppressed on one way, and benefit as an oppressor in another— ALL APART from just individually chosen actions.
  • You can be disadvantaged and poor, and still have other advantages for being white –for example.
  • I’m a white male, who went to the wealthiest school district in Ohio to boot.
  • I benefit, and too often operate, from racist, sexist assumptions and systems. I grew up with sometimes subtle, but pervasive, beliefs that my needs and my ideas can be regarded as “the default”—an idea directly opposed submitting to others’ needs in Christ-like love.
  • And, according to any government I’ve been under, I’ve committed no crimes.
  • What Campbell points out is because of the reality of Sin in our world, none of us are innocent.
  • Campbell is really hard to quote because he uses a lot of… “square words,” so I will change his words here slightly to be more appropriate for a sermon:
  • “RECONCILIATION!…,” he would thunder, “Our trespasses are not held against us, we’re already forgiven. Don’t you see how that liberates us all?
  • “Black, white, Kluxer, preacher, banker, teamster, murderer, chairman of General Motors, head of the Ford Foundation – we are all ‘illegitimate children’, but God loves us anyway.”
  • When Campbell visited violent racists like Bob Jones or James Earl Ray, some asked him: “Do you really expect to save his soul?“
  • Will said that would be presumptuous: “No, but he might save mine.”
  • Perhaps this is what Paul meant by “becoming all things to all people… for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”
  • By rehearsing this story of Jesus, by offering the Gospel free of charge, we learn God is God and we are not.
  • God has acted. Christ has freely given. Nothing could reaffirm more the reality of our wrongs, than this blessing of the Gospel.

Movement 4

  • Rachael Denhollander was the first of more than 150 survivors, mostly former gymnasts, to come forward against Larry Nassar, a former physician.
  • I won’t go into detail about his many, horrid crimes of abusing those under his care.
  • What must be said is Rachael spoke up to declare that what Larry did was wrong, that his victims should be believed and are never-at-fault for the harm done to them, and that justice must be enacted.
  • In her impact statement Rachael addressed Larry, who had brought a Bible into the courtroom in early proceedings.
  • But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done…” she added later,
  • Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found.
    “And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.”
  • The objection that Gospel “free of charge” does not help us seek justice, is the most potent objection to what Paul is saying here. Because, too often, that is how it has been misinterpreted.
  • And yet, in this same letter, Paul is clear about what should happen to a man practicing sexual immorality in the Corinthian community “of a type not found even among pagans….You are to hand this man over… for the destruction of the flesh.” (1 Cor 5:1, 5).
  • Would it be any surprise the reason the Corinthian community not only allowed his behavior, but BOASTED in it, because the man involved was wealthy or powerful?
  • Perhaps he was one of the “spiritual” leaders people flocked to, and divided over.
  • Rachael is too familiar with this phenomenon of protecting the powerful, at the cost of their victims.
  • She lost her church for her advocacy for victims, when she discovered church leaders defending a pastor who had covered up abuse.
  • She was dismissed as someone who sat around “reading angry blog posts all day,” because of her previous experience. She was asked to leave the church.
  • Rachael diagnosed the problem: “people are motivated by poor theology and a poor understanding of grace and repentance and that causes them to handle sexual assault in a way where that a lot of predators go unchecked.”
  • Good works cannot cover up the wrongs of those who hurt others.
  • And the Gospel given free of charge cannot be legitimately used to further the hurt of the vulnerable, because the Gospel stands to free is from such Sin and atone for our participation in it.
    {if time, more about Rachael’s advocacy, particularly her attitudes toward forgiveness, what it meant to “give to God” her rights to vengeance, her trust in God’s eternal justice, and her advoacacy for victims today. Etc.}[5]


  • When I left Korea, Eunseong and Juhye gave me a gift:
  • It was this, John 16:33 written in Korean calligraphy. “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
  • Eunseong saw me off at the bus station the day I left for the airport. “Be well.” He said, “Maybe I won’t see you again, but, if not, I’ll see you in Heaven.”
  • Now, the largest word painted in the verse is 담대하라 (dam-deh-ha-rah).
    I look at it whenever I leave my room for the day.
  • In English it means “Take heart”, be encouraged, be bold. It’s a command, with a promise.
  • Do you know how often commands come alongside promises in Scripture?
  • And there is a third element: true speaking about reality.
  • Eunseong’s words had the same pattern: the reality – we may not see one another again. The command– be well. The promise– even if we do not see one another on this side of eternity, we will meet again.
  • Proclaiming because you are obligated is not inauthentic.
  • For whatever God commands, God also grants.
  • God promises and gives us the power to do what God asks. We proclaim a Gospel free of charge because we are claimed by it, and love because of it.
  • Trusting God’s promises, does not ignore the evil in the world: for promises are made because of them.
  • Clinging to the finished work of the cross, does not mean we ignore justice in our world now:
  • As Fleming Rutledge said:
  • “Christians do not simply look to the cross of Christ with prayerful reverence. We are set in motion by its power, energized by it, upheld by it, guaranteed by it, secured by it for the promised future because it is the power of the creating Word that ‘gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things do not exist (Rom. 4:17)….’”

So take heart

In this world you will have trouble.

“담대하라 Damdehara

in this world, there will be unspeakable evil you may meet with a love for God’s justice, and a trust in God’s mercy.

Take heart

In this world, you may give up your rights, live from, and offer the Gospel free of charge, and share in its blessings,

“담대하라 Damdehara

For He has overcome the world.

Pastoral Blessing:

Take heart,

And Go Forth.

Because Christ has overcome,
You may freely give, as you were freely given,
surrender your rights, and share in the blessings of the Gospel.

[1] Commentaries referenced:
Barrett, Charles Kingsley. A commentary on the first Epistle to the Corinthians. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1994.
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2014.
Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1998.

[2] General information on Will Campbell available at his New York Times Obitiuary. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/us/will-d-campbell-maverick-minister-and-civil-rights-stalwart-dies-at-88.html

[3] On Will Campbell’s particular approach to reconciliation. https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/will-d-campbell-unconventional-approach-racial-reconciliation-%E2%80%94-jeff-jay-0

[4] Rolling Stone has the quotation regarding universities:  http://www.maryellenmark.com/text/magazines/rolling%20stone/920S-000-031.html

[5] More info at Christianity Today (interview) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html and CNN https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/rachael-denhollander-full-statement/index.html . Denhollander is not only a survivor, but an advocate and a lawyer for victims of sexual violence.



“So Abraham Went” -Genesis 12. Sermon on All Saints Day Eve 2017/ 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation


Truett seminary hosted a preaching conference. All the sermons were to find their basis in Genesis. I preached earlier today, which happens to be Halloween (All Saints Day Eve), and the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 thesis to the castle church in Wittenberg. My text was Genesis 12 (the whole chapter).

Here is the video followed by the sermon text.

“So Abraham Went”

A friend once told me that in America 50 miles is nothing and 50 years is a long time, while elsewhere 50 miles is a long distance and 50 years is nothing. I saw this well in Korea when I taught English. Mr. Lee, or Peter as he told me to call him was my co-teacher. My first semester he picked me up and dropped me off from school. Once we talked of our homes. We spoke of what an American suburban neighborhood looked like, what it’s like to live in a city compared to a small town. We spoke of his chickens which lay blue eggs, and how he used to work in a big bank in Seoul. I asked what caused him to return to such a small town, one without so much as a movie theater. His response: “Of course I returned. My family has lived in my house for 500 years.” As someone who had not been in a city which had existed for 500 years until I was 21, such an attachment to land was unfathomable.

Around the small garlic farming town in which I taught, I could be instantly identified by children I never met. “Mom! Foreigner! English teacher!” toddlers would shout to their parents. There was no doubt of my foreigner status, however privileged or welcome I was. One surely sticks out.

And so, it was for Abraham—amplified by a hundred-fold. “By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents,” the sermon to the Hebrews said, he and his descendants both “heirs of promise.” As Walter Brueggemann notes, Hope required risk, and becoming a foreigner. He was to sojourn in a land which he would inhibit be promised. Sarah, we were told just before, is barren. There is no foreseeable future; there is no human power to invent a future except that God spoke to Abraham. God speaks, Abraham and Sarah go, as Calvin said, “with closed eyes… until having renounced thy country, thou shalt have given thyself wholly to God” As Paul says in Romans, Abraham is the one who “…who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rm 4:17). The word of God brings forth life, where there was none.[1]

Abraham is a picture of faith. Augustine asks, “Was Abraham ever in a position to say to God, “I will believe you, because you promised me that and paid up”? No, he believed from the very first command given.” Going involved renunciation of self, as it does for us.

 The call is not for Abraham and Sarah alone. There is inclusivity and exclusivity to the call which promises Abraham he will be blessed and be a blessing to all generations. Devotion is to God alone. And the blessing will be extended to all people: those who bless Abraham will be blessed; those who curse, cursed.

A sojourner in the land, among Canaanites, amidst temptations to live and provide in other ways, Abraham built an altar and invoked the name of the Lord. On the day of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s appropriate to note Luther: “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon is properly your God.” The human heart, said Calvin, is an idol factory.  God’s call into the unknown does not always chart for us a clear path. In fact, it may provide anything but. But God’s faithfulness to the one responding in faith is sure.

William Carey’s famous call resounded and launched a movement “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” He spent 40 years in India, without furlough. His stay was not without personal difficulty. Of his early poverty in India: “I am in a strange land,” he wrote, “no Christian friend, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants.” But he also retained hope: “Well, I have God, and his word is sure.”[2]

It was 7 years before his first convert. His translations sparked a literary revival in Bengali and other languages. He revolutionized bottom-up missions, and it is because of Carey’s efforts that most Christians in India belong to the “outcasts.” He founded Serampore College, sought social reform to end widow burning, infanticide, and inspired literacy in dozens of languages with full translations in Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit of varying quality.

He inspired much of the modern missions movement. As Sociologist Robert D. Woodberry, at Baylor University, observed “conversionary protestants catalyzed mass education, mass printing, and civil society–hampering elite attempts to monopolize these resources.” While excesses and abuses existed, in most places leadership is now indigenous– and the people themselves took over the churches, leading to the rise of Christianity in the Global South we see today. Where there was no visible church, God called out new life.

Carey had his critics, saying he spent too much time translating Indian religious texts and learning about his environment and not enough time in the task of conversion.  Similarly, Korean Christians, like others, have grapple with this same question of how to interact with culture. We’re about a month away from the Fall harvest festival. In Korean, it’s called Chuseok. The Buddhist family I lived with held a traditional observance of Chuseok and the lunar new year, Seollal.

At Chuseok, the family lit candles and offered food in front of banners with their lineage on them—the Hong family’s history spanning back to China. They brought me along as they visited their ancestor’s burial mounds, and poured out alcohol and left offerings there. For Catholic Christians, much of this could be appropriated. For the large Presbyterian Korean contingent, some of these accommodations to culture could not be allowed. Bowing in front of one’s living ancestors was a sign of respect. Offerings and other elements of the ceremony, my Presbyterian Korean friends warned were nothing less ancestor worship. Catholics would counter they were only continuing to honor their ancestors after death.

The question of how to live faithfully as sojourners is one not just for missionaries, but all followers of God. Abraham’s faithfulness is not all we can see in him. Famine hits. God’s gifts do not seem to provide. He goes to Egypt. Didymus the Blind claims it is not Abraham’s “vice that leads them there but the fulfillment of a divine plan. The virtuous man enters into Egypt in the sense that he makes use of foreign culture to draw something useful out of it,” such as when Paul cites the Greek poet Aratus saying, “for we are indeed his offspring.” Living as sojourners, relationship to “the world” can be complicated—used for good or ill. Didymus thinks Abraham knowingly acted virtuously for God’s cause[3].

Here, I think Didymus gives Abraham a little too much credit. However sympathetic his situation is, Abraham lies and schemes to win the favor of an ignorant and benevolent Pharaoh. Yes, inscrutably, Abraham is protected. Yes, God’s plan prevails. But  Abraham brings a curse on Pharaoh for through his own deceit, and attempt to provide apart from God’s plan. In a bizarre Exodus, Abraham is brought out of Egypt, delivered from his own fault alongside blessings his works did not deserve.

In his first response to the call of God Abram fails in response. Pharaoh asks the same question that God asks Eve in the garden, “What is this you have done” (Gn. 3:13). Abraham, like Eve, had no response. He has only silence. And Sarah, core to the scene and prominent in the Genesis narrative, here, is completely silent.

Abraham is a picture of faithful response, worthy of emulation by all seeking to journey unto holiness. He is also an example of the reality of human faithlessness. Entrusted with a great promise, our faithfulness or faithlessness affects not only us but those around. Just as Sarah is silenced, so was William Carey’s wife—Dorothy Carey.

Historian Ruth Tucker noted Carey’s concern for his work, the mission to which he was called, could leave casualties. She noted women like Dorothy, as throughout much of history, had little agency. Part of the nature of the Careys’ relationship included the realities of the day. As Sir William Blackstone said: “The husband and wife are one, and the husband is that one.” William’s decision to go abroad came suddenly—not at home with Dorothy at his side, but at a Baptist Missionary meeting.[4]

On April 4, 1793, William Carey abandoned his pregnant wife and two little children and boarded the Oxford on the Thames to begin his voyage to India. That trip soon ended when his colleague John Thomas had to settle debts. Carey wrote to again attempt to convince his wife: “If I had all the world I would freely give it all to have you and my dear children with me” Thomas was more harsh warning that if she didn’t go “she would repent it as long as she lived.”

While in India, Dorothy had another child, her sister married robbing her of companionship, her five-year-old son, Peter, died and she became increasingly prone to delusions. Several years later, she was confined to a room in the house. Carey poured hours into his translations while, as one observer said, “an insane wife, frequently wrought up to a state of most distressing excitement, was in the next room” locked inside. She came hardly of her own will, and suffered a complete breakdown.

Christians themselves are confronted with the blessed and marred examples, past and present. We stand on the shoulders of giants, yet those giants are not giants simply because they are paragons of virtue. It is All Saints Day, it is also the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We’re faced with questions: what of these figures, our sordid and sanctified forebearers?

In Abraham and Carey, we see both the great fruits of faithfulness extend generations beyond their lives. We also see their own concerns, their reliance on their own efforts, trap others and even curse them. Similarly, we cannot ignore the antisemitism of Luther, or the various and horrible wars and killings of perceived heretics on all sides of the Reformations. This day is All Saints Day Eve, and All Saints are Sinners.

God is not a stranger, nor, frankly all that surprised by human failing–the sins of women and men– as much as God hates Sin. We face twin temptations, equal and opposite possible faults. Either we ignore the faults of those who came before and fall into ancestor worship. Or we ignore what they have to teach us completely, and engage in chronologically snobbery and, invariably, worship of the present.

We can afford neither. The notion of simul iustus et peccator simultaneously a sinner and justified should be applied to the Luther, the Reformers, and all of us. As Paul says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Let there be no mistake, it is not just those in the past in danger of silencing others and imposing our will to supposedly achieve God’s ends.

No, it is all of us who need to be reminded of this heart of Evangelical faith: God rectifies, justifies, not the righteous but the ungodly.

God speaks life, and speaks eternally the eternal word, God provides Sarah and Abraham a name, a son, a nation, and makes them a blessing; and this blessing has come to us in the Father’s own Son who did all that was necessary and himself was the perfect sacrifice who was obedient in our place where we could not and did not—obedient in life and death, even death on a cross.

Jesus established a new people, a new covenant, a church. With no fewer problems now than in the past, and no less cared for, love, and no less under the liberating bonds of grace.

As Theologian Stephen Holmes clearly lays out, Baptists generally accept the Reformation objections have objected to the cult of saints: the idea that those undergoing purgation intercede for the church and can be called upon. Yet, we still have our own Sanctoral of sorts– our own “saints”.

Beyond Foxe’s book of martyrs, or Lottie Moon’s offering, or the stories of Carey, we have memories in our churches. In San Antonio, you find art commemorating the first mass celebrated. Across the street, at 7th and James Baptist Church where I serve, you find a plaque commemorating the first sermon ever preached. We have institutional memory! Imagine moving a couch in any Baptist church youth room. Someone may well comment about it, and tell you exactly who donated it and when!

As Holmes notes, perhaps our notion of Holiness, as saints in covenant to walk together and watch over each other, entails remembering not just individuals of prominent status but entire communities. All Saints day is a fine occasion for remembering, as is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, but so is Church anniversary.[5]

In the Gospel of Luke, we are reminded of this example of Abraham. In the healing of a crippled woman, cursed for 18 years, called by Jesus a “daughter of Abraham.” Lazarus, not the rich man, in Luke is the one who is with Father Abraham. The outsiders are blessed through him. Zacchaeus, the tax collector too is called the “son of Abraham.”  Abraham is the prototype of all the disciples who forsake everything and follow (Mark 10:28).

We too may be daughters and sons of Abraham by faith. Simultaneously justified and sinner. Following in the footsteps of faith, and heeding the warnings of forcing our wills over God’s own—and, hopefully, by God’s grace, resisting the temptation to secure our prominence, security, and blessing by silencing, deceiving, or overpowering our neighbor.

When Peter and John healed a man in Solomon’s portico, they responded to baffled, crowd “You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:25-26).

It is through Abraham’s descendent we have been blessed. All ungodly Saints are called onto a journey of Holiness, revealed by faith and for faith in Christ: absolute promise, and a sure gift.
God spoke to Abraham, so Abraham went. God speaks today, what will you do?

[1] Walter Bruggeman has approved especially instructive particularly in his preaching commentary: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis: a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching. John Knox Press, 1982.

[2] Galli, Mark, and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians everyone should know. Broadman & Holman, 2000. section on William Carey

[3] Sheridan, Mark, and Thomas Clark Oden. Genesis 12-50. InterVarsity Press, 2012

[4] Tucker, Ruth A. “William Carey’s Less-than-Perfect Family Life.” Christian History, 1992, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-36/william-careys-less-than-perfect-family-life.html.

[5] “A Baptist Sanctoral Cycle?” Shored Fragments , The Blog of Stephen R. Holmes, 15 Aug. 2011, steverholmes.org.uk/blog/?p=697.

Where does Truett seminary stand Theologically? A description by Dean Todd Still

Dean Todd Still gives the opening convocation address at Truett Theological seminary August 22nd, 2017. Source: @TruettSeminary


The entire opening convocation was a wonderful way to begin my second year of seminary. We all gathered together as a seminary, faculty and students, new and old, worshipped God, and heard an address by our Dean, Todd Still. We awarded scholarships for women in ministry, and given as gifts by Truett alumni. And all this took less than an hour.

While noting views can be diverse, and he was not speaking ex cathedra or in a way suggesting laying down some special law, he gave a description of who Truett Seminary is as a gathered seminary. He ended by asking if we, with all our differences, from progressives to conservatives–and a host of other binaries– could stand together in a world where the “deep middle” is eroding, and we increasingly see people regarding those as ideological others with suspicion, rather than humility, humanity, and genuine engagement.

In short, I appreciated his words greatly. I encourage you to view his address, “Here We Stand” (August 22nd, 2017) Truett Seminary’s Fall Convocation. If you haven’t the time, please take a look at this extended rush transcript of the middle section of the address I typed up:

Baylor’s Truett Seminary has been, and remains, a centrist, orthodox, evangelical seminary within the Baptist tradition. Rejecting both a fundamentalism of the right, and its arid positivism, and a fundamentalism of the left and its vapid relativism, we continue to position ourselves in what may be thought of and spoken of as the ‘deep middle’ of the Christian Tradition. Someone, somewhere said, ‘Mere Christianity.’

Over the sweep of her short history, Truett seminary has tended to embrace and espouse what most Christians, in most places, and in most times, have embraced and espoused. As such, we’re centrist and orthodox. All the while, we have an evangelical orientation and passion with a decidedly, though not exclusively, Baptist stamp, as both a seminary community and as individuals which comprise the same. We’ve been grasped by God and the Gospel. We’ve been given new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve been plunged into a watery grave. And we’ve been raised to walk in newness of life with other believer priests.

While we categorically reject indoctrination, we warmly welcome and embrace a common confession of essential doctrines and regard it and both our role and responsibility to contend for the faith which was once, for all entrusted to the saints.

It has sometimes been said that if you stand for nothing, then you will fall for everything. So the question comes our way today, where do we stand theologically as a seminary? This is a wholly appropriate, and an important question, even a pressing question to ask. Not least because we are Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological seminary.

First of all, we stand under scripture even as we seek to understand it. The Bible, we have said, when properly interpreted, is authoritative for matters of faith and practice. It is the norming norm. It is the standard by which we measure our beliefs and our lives. Even though no creed but the Bible is too simple of a slogan, and too shallow of a shibboleth, to capture adequately the theological complexities that attend our work and witness, it does nonetheless convey the belief that the bible serves as our convictional guide and our doctrinal core.

Such a high view of scripture does not preclude higher criticism. Indeed, we welcome such here. The Bible does not interpret itself. It must be interpreted. The so-called “plain sense of scripture” must seek to make sense of a biblical text both in its ancient and contemporary contexts. As it happens, every seminary course you take, in one way or another, will require you to interpret and interact with scripture. Here, that is as it should be.

Additionally, one who holds the Bible as trustworthy, and inspired by God, need not fall prey to bibliolatry, nor feel compelled to subscribe to some sort of rigid inerrancy. Rather, that for which we seek and aspire is a hermeneutics of trust that sees the thrust of scripture in none other than Jesus the Christ. We do not commend a flat-footed, wooden literalism with respect to biblical interpretation. Instead, we encourage a commitment to approach God’s word, both in public and in private, with all the tools as one’s disposal and with an attitude of chastened curiosity and reverent humility as we struggle, wrestle, grapple, and see if but in a glass dimly. The text is truth, and truth in the text, which will in turn serve to us as lamp and light. ‘Where do we stand theologically at Truett seminary?,’ people wonder. [We respond] under scripture.

I would also say that we stand amazed. We stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. At Truett seminary, our focus rightly falls upon Christ Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, His matchless life, vicarious death, glorious resolution, present reign and promised return. We life high our Lord, who was lifted up, so that all people might be drawn to him. Wounded was he for our, and for all, transgressions. Crushed was he for our, and all, iniquities. We herald a Gospel of a crucified, reconciling Christ, who calls us to a cruciform life and to a ministry of reconciliation. Inviting those who are far away to come and see and encouraging those who are near to go and tell, for whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, they’ll be saved. And we are to call on him, while he may be found.

At Truett, we encourage one another to cultivate a meaningful, vital, relationship with God through Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit in the context of community. The divine summons upon our lives in Christ is to be more fully formed into his image and likeness. Here, we are deeply committed to know more about Jesus, even as we are desirous of knowing Jesus more. This occurs in classrooms, covenant groups, chapel services, the offices of faculty and staff, in lectures, fellowship times, hallway conversations, ministry placements—and more. Because here Christ plays in 10,000 places.

To say Truett is Christo-centric is, I trust, true, but it is in no way meant to be trite. We want to continue to make much of the one who accepts us and saves us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us as He found us. We want to follow faithfully and fully the one who has called us to deny self, take up cross daily, and follow him.

In addition to standing under scripture amazed at what Jesus has saved us from and for, since its inception, Truett has been a community of sinner-saints who are seeking understanding. ‘Fides quaerens intellectum,’ as Anselm put it. In this place, we strive in the words of J.B. Lightfoot toward the Highest Reason and the Fullest Faith.

Although we affiliate and cooperate with various congregations and denominations, especially the Baptist General Convention of Texas, we are neither a church, nor a denominational body. Rather, we are an educational institution that values academic rigor….

[A]ll of your professors are not only interested in, and committed to, informing you that you might understand, they are also equally, and simultaneously, interested in cultivating your faith. What is more, they themselves are devoted to loving their lord with heart and head, mind and soul. At Truett you will be challenged academically, have you heard the name Dr. Ngan? You will also be encouraged spiritually. You will be both informed and formed.

If it sounds too good to be true, come and see a place which has one foot firmly in the academy, while simultaneously playing another further, and firmly, in ministry. There are very few places like it…. It’s a gift that must be stewarded, it’s a trust that we regard as sacred.

Like the Reformers, and other believers throughout the sweep of Christian history for that matter, we stress scripture, grace, and faith. We stand under scripture even as we seek understanding as those who love and trust the one who first loved us, by living a faithful life, and by dying a faithful if fateful death….

-Dean Todd Still,

George W. Truett Theological Seminary

August 22nd, 2017, Fall Convocation

I’m happy to be here learning under academically rigorous and faithful Christian scholars, alongside students with with whom I’m happy to encourage, talk to, and–occassionally!– engage in friendly (if impassioned) debate, and to serve and grow in church ministry all the while.

It’s the opportunity of a life time.



MLK day, Two Views review on “Words about God,” and more.

  1. Happy MLK, Jr. day. I hope we can spend the day wrestling  with and furthering the as-of-yet-unrealized dream Martin Luther King, Jr. shared. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” should be required reading for all Americans, especially Christians. As a seminary student, I’m taking pains to remember the letter begins “My fellow clergyman.” King wrote the letter to white Alabama clergyman whom were critical of him. Their criticism of King sounds familiar: many agreed with his aims but not his tone, action, or so-called impatience. They called their criticism “A call for Unity.”
  2. My friend and fellow Truett student is launching a book review blog today: “Words about God.” I have reviewed Zondervan’s “Two Views of Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church.” I recommend the volume. If any of my summaries of the arguments seem odd, please note that space constraints make it difficult. I hoped to give a preview of the types of points being made without indicating which arguments I found convincing. Here is an excerpt of my review:

    Zondervan’s Two Views of Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church (edited by Preston Sprinkle), is worth your time because it does two difficult things successfully. First, it provides approachable essays by committed Christians and academics which present the two major views of the church’s practice as it relates to same-sex unions. Secondly, the book refuses to relegate this topic to the theoretical or abstract. The work recognizes the real pastoral concerns and persons affected by these questions.

  3. Silence, the Martin Scorsese film based on Shusaku Endo’s novel, is released to a wider audience day. I plan on seeing it and hope to finish the novel soon. One of my favorite Twitter voices, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, wrote a wonderful piece on the film for The Washington Post. Her theological reflection on the film by way of the Donatist controversy is spot-on, in my opinion. We will see if I agree with her assessment of the film.

    Most Christians in the West have never had to choose between martyrdom and apostasy, though the persecution and murder of Christians for their faith still continues in the world today. Among those there may be some who apostatize under pain of death and privately repent. Unlike those commentators noted above, I don’t think the final point of “Silence” is that apostasy is sometimes approved by God. The message is even more difficult to accept: Apostasy is sometimes forgiven by God. That the creator of the universe would love weak and fragile creatures so much as to forgive their direct rejection of him is, indeed, shocking — but it is also the promise of the faith. That it requires so much convincing to get across more than justifies Endo’s novel and Scorsese’s beautiful film. -Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig


The Rev. Mrs. Fleming Rutledge on Justification

Rev. Fleming Rutledge. Her book on the crucifixion won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year of 2017 and Catholic Bishop Robert Barron called it the best work on the subject he has read in a decade.

“God is using you in spite of yourself. We aren’t responsible for making progress. Whatever progress is made will be the gift of God. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock. For it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” [Luke 12:32] Who will ascend into heaven to bring Christ down? Who will descend into the abyss to bring Christ up? The Word is near you on your lips and in your heart: The Word of faith which we Apostles preach. The Christian life is not a staircase or progress spiritual or otherwise. . . .

It would be a great benefit us and the church if we hold on to this great biblical insight of the Reformation. The Christian life is not one of spiritual and moral progress. The grace of God is new for us every morning, because we are just as incapable today as we were yesterday. . . There is great comfort in knowing that we are just as incapable yesterday as we are today especially, let me tell you, when you get really old. There is great, great comfort in knowing God knows our incapacity and it is His good pleasure to work through us just the same.

Gnosis, spiritual knowledge, is a treacherous concept leading to a lot of problems for the church and for individual Christians. I’ve seen it over and over Christians worry that they simply aren’t good enough, or spiritual enough, or persevering enough or gifted enough to be even remotely like St. Francis or Mother Theresa or that person in the prayer group who seems to be so far ahead of somebody else. Concerning this problem, Paul writes to the Corinthians about his own ministry. Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God not that we are competent within ourselves to claim anything– our competence is from God who has made us component. Such is the competence that we have. [2 Corinthians 3]”

Rev. Mrs. Fleming Rutledge, November 3rd, 2015



Stephen Speers and I explore Jungwon (Fulbright: 1 Year Since)

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that there is not much to follow.

In short, this grant year, I have done horribly at documenting what I have done on this blog.

Therefore, I’m starting a new series “Fulbright Korea: 1 year after.” Basically, I’m using TimeHop to post about what I did exactly 1 year before.

This works well because while my blog presence was lacking my facebook presence…wasn’t. I facebooked. Oh my, did I facebook….

AND this way you get the added commentary and benefit my hindsight provides. That way you can see how I have revised my own history realized the significance of the events as time has passed.

I did update during orientation so this actually overlaps. 

What I didn’t mention in my post 1 year ago was that on July, 13, 2015, I first really spent with Stephen Speers.

Stephen took the photo of me and the knock off-Mickey.

Stephen and I are good friends now. We first bonded over realizing we had not left Jungwon at all for 3 days. In fact, I had not spent much time with anyone yet–other than my roommate Abhik. Then, Stephen and I decided to explore.

We looked at all the unusual sights around Jungwon. Stephen was particularly fond of the dinosaur statue and life-size jet plane model. He studied education in college so we spoke about teaching some as well. It was impossible not to note how often he mentioned Asheville and North Carolina. I was probably just as bad, if not worse, with my storytelling about Kentucky, Ohio, and my first year teaching.


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Bryan Betts was there and took some pictures with a pretty nice camera. None of those pictures can be found here.

That night, I remember telling Kendall about Stephen on a video call. She remarked, “He sounds like your opposite.” And he’s certainly one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Later, our small group of guys which bonded over winter vacation travels, would poke fun at his hyperbolic proclamations. We joked that if Stephen had a travel show, every place would be “[expletive] TERRIBLE” or “[expletive] AMAZING!”

Just as he called the Jungwon statues “The GREATEST” he had ever seen, many of the restaurants we travelled too were the “Best” or “Worst” thing ever (with some more colorful words added in as superlatives.

He’s also a very caring friend. While I barely ever use my phone as a phone, just yesterday I called him. We spoke about the frustrations and excitement and oddities of wrapping up the grant year. I sat in a Korean coffee shop in Uiseong. He was on his way to Mom’s touch: New Orleans Style Chicken and Pizza in Gyeongju. And we talked about everything from stingy landlords who wanted him not to use hot water or A/C for his last week to telephone companies which would only allow you to terminated service same day you requested a cancellation (no waiting until the end of the month. It means we’ll be going to the airport with no cell phone service).

And, somehow, it seemed a natural end to the beginnings of our friendship marvelling at dinosaur statues in a college town in the middle of South Korea, spending our days in Korean classes, seminars, and school visits wondering what the future would bring.

me and stephen baseball game
2nd semester. Stephen and I at a Samsung Lions game on Children’s day. Also, a laudable photo-bomber.

I can’t think of a better place to start a friendship. We will still marvelling at tiny differences in culture and things that seemed strange. Still navigating and trying to be good “cultural ambassadors,” but now we were a bit more confident.

I had stayed at his apartment in Gyeongju, travelled with him to Vietnam and Thailand (and let him do all the planning), went to my first Korean baseball game, and enjoyed his friendship throughout the year. I laughed with,at, and because of him more times than I can count. I’m grateful for his friendship. But there will be other times to post about that.

For now, let me say, it all started on a hot July day in Geosan, July 15th, 2015.
That was one year ago today.




Visiting Gwangju: Mid-term school observation trip report.

My principal gave me mid-terms off to travel to Gwangju, under the condition that I write a report and take pictures about what I saw.
So, I thought, let’s kill the blog bird and the school requirement bird with one report stone. Idioms. How fun. I wonder if that idiom is on the walls of Sarah’s school? (Read on and you’ll find out what I mean).

Travelling to Gwangju

Travelling to Gwangju was no easy task. Though similar distances, Seoul is a much easier trip with fewer transfers. In order to go to Seoul, one simply takes the Uiseong bus to Seoul available more than 5 times a day–even from a smaller town like Uiseong.

Gwangju was more difficult to travel to than Seoul.

I have heard many reasons cited for this. Some say the mountains make this difficult (though there are mountains on the way to Seoul as well). Others say that the political and cultural divides between the regions mean that development has not taken place to speed travel. Over the course of my travel I did not come across a definitive answer.

Whatever the reason, the travel consisted of first a bus to Buk Daegu. I left at 9a.m. Wednesday. Then, I had to take a intra-city bus from Buk Daegu bus terminal to Sobu Daegu bus terminal. From Sobu Daegu bus terminal, I left at 10:42am for Gwangju. There were many stops along the way. And the journey was much longer than the 3.5 hour trip to Seoul.

Some kind ajummas on the bus insisted I eat their kimbab and peanut-coated duk. I suppose they were concerned because it was a long bus ride and we had no time for lunch. I arrived in Gwangju at around 4p.m. or 4:30 pm. It took me almost a full school day just to travel to Gwangju!


Cultural exchange

Wednesday ended with me visiting the homestay family of my friend, Taylor Kuramoto (she updates her blog very often–check it out!). She is also a Fulbright foreign English teacher. She has a good relationship with her host family and has many conversations with her host siblings–especially the host brother named Tae Jun. He is in 2nd grade middle school and attends the same middle school at which Taylor teaches.

Taylor’s host family had me over to their apartment. Taylor and I made chili. The whole family enjoyed it. The host mother even asked me for the recipe!

I made chili (an American food influenced by Texan and Mexican cooking). It is a thick soup with ground beef, chili, chili powder (pepper and cumin), tomato sauce, onions, and crushed red peppers. It is a popular dish in my hometown in America. We also made grilled cheese sandwiches to eat with the chili. We also put crackers and shredded cheese in the chili.

The family really enjoyed it. The host mother even asked me for the recipe. Unfortunately, chili beans are very difficult to find in Korea. The can of chili beans I used was mailed to me from America by my parents.

Tae Jun is a bright and funny, albeit slightly mischievous, student. He enjoyed the American food I made (chili) very much.



I asked Tae Jun about his school life. He said sometimes he became bored in classes, but he liked seeing his friends. He had come home late for dinner because of an after-school punishment. He had to write the same sentence repeatedly. This punishment sometimes exists in America too. You can see it in the show The Simpsons, when Bart Simpson is writing a sentence repeatedly on the chalkboard in the opening scene of the television show.

Tae Jun told me about his travels and studies in English. His family is Catholic and he went to America for three weeks through a program operated by the Catholic church. Two weeks were spent in English study and one week was for sight-seeing. Tae Jun’s English was quite advanced. I was very surprised that Taylor did not slow down her speaking at all when talking to him. He was very willing to speak and to interact with both me and Taylor. He was a slightly mischievous, but very funny and bright young student.


Thursday- School Visit with Sarah Hulsman at Jeonnam Middle School

On Thursday, I went to the school at which Sarah Hulsman teaches. She is another Fulbright English teaching assistant. She teaches at Jeonnam Middle School which has around 800 students.

The grounds of Jeonnam Middle School which houses 3 grades and around 800 students. Gwangju. Sarah Hulsman is the resident Fulbright English Teaching Assistant here.

Sarah teaches 3rd grade weekly and 1st and 2nd grade every other week (biweekly).

Her office is not just an English office. There is also a Chinese teacher and a foreign Chinese teacher (two days a week). All third grade students take Chinese as well as English language classes. There are around 800 students in the school. Another interesting fact about the school is it has a very competitive swimming team.

One of the classes I observed was a 2nd grade co-ed (boys and girls) class. It had 28 students.

The students were well-behaved and many were at a fairly high level. Sarah does not travel to other classroom. She teaches exclusively in the English multimedia room.

Sarah Hulsman teaches her 2nd grade co-ed English class. The pictures on the board represent sandpaper (sand + paper). Side note (not included in the report): students at both schools frequently inquired if I was Sarah or Taylor’s boyfriend. A boy and a girl FRIENDS? That’s madness.

Here is an outline of what occurred during class.

Warm-up activity: Students began in pairs at tables. The teacher instructed one person at the table to get supplies. The supplies included a white board and markers. This was for the warm-up activity.

The warm-up activity included showing compound words to answer the pictures’ suggestions.

For example, a picture of a chair, and that of a wheel were shown. The answer was the compound word: wheel chair. Other words included lipstick and screwdriver among others.


Some students made “smart errors.” These are errors which are logically understandable. For example, instead of “screwdriver” one team said “nail car.” Instead of “toothpaste” one team wrote “teethpaste.” These errors make sense, but are still errors.

This was a warm up to “get the students thinking in English,” Sarah explained.

speak of the devil cropped
The stairwells of Sarah’s school are filled with English idioms and translations. Some, like this “Speak of the Devil” are relatively conventional. Others are more unique (Ex: “He has a big belly”) or old-fashioned (“Mend the barn after the horse is stolen.”)

Main lesson: Direction and location.

The teacher introduced vocabulary, next to, beside, near, in front of, behind, across from, etc.


The teacher showed examples to demonstrate the vocabulary.

Sarah’s office. It houses a Chinese teacher, Sarah, and Sarah’s co-teacher. Unlike my school which uses desktops in every teacher office and classroom, Sarah carries a laptop between her school office and her classroom. Neither Sarah or Taylor travel to student’s homerooms.

The co-teacher translated–focusing on words that students were less likely to know. Sarah has the same co-teacher for all of her classes.

Sarah, similar to my own Balmer Bucks system, offered a “dollar” reward system after guided practice. That is, students answered questions and received a dollar which can later be redeemed for a reward.


Main activity: Where’s Waldo? (Waldo has a different name in Korea).

Students were to write 3 sentences on where Waldo is.

The first team to write correctly received “Sarah Stacks” (money reward system).

Students rushed to the board to find Waldo. Then they rushed back to write their sentences.

This was done around 5 times.


The final check for the activity was a drawing activity. This checked student’s understanding on locations words. The teacher said things like “Draw a triangle inside the circle.” By the end, students were supposed to have drawn a smiley face. The teacher checked for understanding, revealed the answer, and dismissed class.



Friday- School visit with Taylor Kuramoto at Jongwon Middle School

Taylor and her students after lunch. You can see a new apartment building being built in the background, as this area of Gwangju is growing.

On Friday, I saw my friend Taylor again. She teaches and Jongwon Middle school. It is a Buddhist-affiliated middle school next to a private Buddhist-affiliated high school.

It has around 650 students. Taylor teaches 2nd and 3rd grade only.

Taylor also does not travel to student’s classrooms or have an office with the teachers. She spends all of her time in her classroom.

Taylor has 5 different co-teachers, 4 women and 1 man. There are a large number of younger teachers at her school.

I visited her lunch conversation class. It had about 25 students.  They asked questions about me and I asked questions about their school and their interests.

Taylor’s English classroom. Taylor does not have a desk in a teacher’s office. She spends her whole day in her classroom.

The school has meditation classes taught by a school Buddhist monk. The school has a large soccer field shared with the high school and a school store frequented by students. Decorations were being put up in commemoration of the Buddha’s birthday which is upcoming. A statue of Admiral Yi Sun Sin was near the edge of campus.

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Reflection: It was very interesting to see a very different part of Korea, as I had never been to the East. I learned about the Gwangju unique political culture, I learned of Kia motors and other large industries, and I had the opportunity to see school life and lessons in larger middle schools–both regular public school and a Buddhist school. The trip was very educational, as a language teacher and as someone learning about Korean culture.

What I did not include in the report:

I had a great time visiting Taylor and Sarah (and Jenna–she was at dinner one night with us though I could not visit her school!).

Also, I went the wrong way on the bus on the way to Taylor’s school. I had to ride through 57 stops and finally got to her school around lunch. But that was the only travel snag over the whole trip, so I consider myself pretty successful.

Then, during the weekend, I visited my friend Abhik in Daejon. We saw Captain America: Civil War in IMAX (a full week before America gets it!). Here are some select pictures.