Thursday, June 19, 2008

Introducing the Shalom Home

On a crisp December evening in 2004 I embarked on a journey that spanned 18 months and I will never forget.

I was living in Seoul, South Korea with my husband, Willy, and our son, Andrew. Willy was serving a two year tour with the United States Air Force at Yongsan Army Garrison. Our family was very blessed to be granted an "accompanied" tour. (Which means is instead of Willy spending a year in Korea by himself, Andrew and I were able to go with him and we all spent two years there.)

Members of the Shalom Home December 2004

We were attending The R.O.C.K. (Relying On Christ in Korea) chapel service on the army post. My family and I wanted to be involved in visiting Korean Orphanages with the chapel. So on a Friday afternoon I received a call from the Outreach Coordinator asking if we were available to go with them for a pre-visit to a place called the Shalom Home. Willy was working , but Andrew and I agreed to go.

It was about a 50 minute drive, depending on traffic (it took about an hour and 15 minutes that first trip) and it was dark when we arrived. I had been told we were visiting an orphanage for disabled Korean citizens, and I was not sure what to expect.

What I found was a group of roughly 40 people whom I came to love over the following months. They came from all walks of life, the once affluent to the destitute. And they created a "Home" for each other. That first visit my heart was touched by the love, and by the need of these people

We only had one interpreter with us that evening, so we mostly smiled and nodded. We were served a very unpleasant tasting hot tea that I did my best to drink. (In Willy's job he had been informed that it was an insult of sorts if you did not accept and consume offered hospitality.) And the were giving out of their need.

Jordan, two resident women, and Andrew

The people of South Korea look down on anyone with a disability, whether it is a physical, mental, or emotional one. It doesn't matter if you were born with it or it was a result of an accident. The majority like the illusion of perfection. Mr Pak is the director and founder of the Shalom Home. He was once a famous rock climber in Korea. As a result of a fall he became paralyzed from the waist down. He went from hero to lower class citizen...(to be continued)