Sleepless in Seoul

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, a sprawling metropolis where hyper-modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet temples, palaces and street markets.

An emerged bustling city boozed up by influences of materialism, from its rich traditions and culture traced back as far as 18 BC, much of it, has today become, historical remains.

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It was a relaxed trip for me. Small party, no plans, no fuss. I was happy to go where my travel mates led. Other than shopping in the boutiques, malls and the very popular Lotte Marts, we roamed along busy streets and feasted from one cafe to another restaurant.

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We also visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first and main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, built in 1395, which once had more than 7,000 rooms. This was once where the hustle was-court officials gathered to meet with the emperor daily for business proper.

I always believe that our God is One of colors and details. He is One who would meticulously put together all the neccessary frills, spending all the time required for His beautiful creation.

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It was a little chilly, something different to be away from our humid tropical island. At times, we had to rush into malls and underground subway stations to find some warmth.

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The leaves were just turning red and gold, just in time for us to catch the falling leaves that drift by the windows.

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While having a time of my own on a beautiful morning, I chanced upon the Boshingak Bell Tolling right in the middle of a busy street in Myeongdong. The Bosingak Bell was rung to signal the opening and closing of the four Main Gates (Sungnyemun, Heunginjimun, Sukjeongmun, and Donuimun) and the four Small Gates (Hyehwamun, Sodeokmun, Gwanghuimun, and Changuimun) in the capital city since the fifth year of King Taejo (1396) during the early Joseon Dynasty.

By dusk, most streets are boozed with bustling night lights, blasting Korean-pop music, indulging in alcohol and feasting in barbeque meats into the wee hours. By dawn, street vendor is up and awake at work as the morning dew greets the early birds, the same boozed street is filled with well-dressed Koreans all ready for a new work day.

Something caught my eye while enjoying my wandering time-alone-with-God, in this bustling city. There were a few well-dressed ahjussi joining the morning crowd but they were not rushing, just strolling and pausing at times to enjoy the moment. Our world is full of uncertainties, and our daily lives may be marred by conflict and turmoil. But God promises His people a peace that surpasses all understanding. In today’s competitive environment, it is even an effort to take just a moment to pause and see the beauty of God and His creation. This pause, in itself, is beautiful. It gives space for peace to transcend. Jesus said to His disciples to encourage them after His last Passover, the night before He died-John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 

Not about anything special that mega-churches can have but we had to make a trip to visit the biggest church in Korea. Yoido Full Gospel church-a Pentecostal church affiliated with the Assemblies of God on Yeouido (Yoi Island) in Seoul, South Korea. With about 830,000 members (2007), it is the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea, and the world, founded and led by David Yonggi Cho since 1958. The church building sits right across one of the numerous parks that dot the embankments of the Hangang River.

We took a morning out from the bustling city to visit the prayer mountain. An hour bus-ride up and another hour bus-ride down the mountain. The buses were almost filled with the local ahjussi and ahjumma. Anyone can spot us as tourist from a mile. 

Psalm 50:15 (ESV) “and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

We sat through one Korean-speaking recorded worship service. Difference in our languages but I could feel that we share one spirit when the song I’d Rather Have Jesus was sang in Korean, originally by George Beverly Shea.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hands

Than to be a king of a best domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus
Than anything this world affords today

I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
Yes, I’d rather be true to His holy name

Than to be a king of a best domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus
Than anything this world affords today

Maybe we need to be away from the noises in the city, the hustle and bustle of life. Maybe it was the air, high up on a mountain that made it feel like we were closer to God-It made everything easier to choose Jesus, to choose freedom from disturbance, the peace that God so given His Son to die for us because He loves. Maybe it is to be at the right place; at the right time.

A heart that goes on beating, a city that never sleeps. An attempt to pause for the moment while the hustle and bustle continues to fill the void, is precious and beautiful.

The right place, at the right time for me, indeed-a closure to my season of rest in a sleepless city.

His beautiful & relentless love makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.


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