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We’re Getting Married!

December 3, 2009

Meet the Parents

In the West, meeting the parents isn’t really considered a huge deal (as far as I know). Many of my friends have brought home their boyfriends or girlfriends for a casual weekend at home and introduced them to their parents. Sometimes, those boyfriends or girlfriends were even different the following month.

However, in Korea, meeting the parents is a big deal. That kind of thing only happens when the dating couple is ready to get married. Therefore, it was nearly a year and a half after the start of our dating  before I finally met her parents.

Additionally, in Korea, a marriage is viewed as a joining of two families more than a joining of two individuals. We also talk about that in the West, but in Korea, they really act it out. Therefore, the family often plays a huge role in helping a single person decide whether or not to marry a certain individual. And plenty of couples have broken up or delayed their marriages for years because of the negative reactions of their families to their significant other. In the West, although parents and family may sometimes react negatively toward one’s love interest, the individual generally decides for themselves whether or not to marry, regardless of their parents input.

We (I) knew these kinds of challenges would come up in our relationship from the beginning. Add to that fact I’m not a Korean and don’t speak Korean fluently, and we had a recipe for trouble. Therefore, I knew it was important, if I was serious about Sarah, to be serious about her from the start.

But…Pray, First

When difficult times came up in our relationship, I did my best to be a rock: unmoving in my devotion, with eyes (and hope) to the future. Even through the hardest of times, when we were on the edge of breakup, we clung to each other and held on. She wanted me to give her hope and confidence in our relationship and future, and I did my best to do so. But sometimes, even the very best I could offer wasn’t enough. So, I had to give her more to hope in than just me.

Prayer became a cornerstone and defining aspect of our relationship, and as our prayer deepened, our relationship deepened as well. As our relationship deepened, our prayers deepened as well, going beyond casual prayers and deep into soul-aching, heart-melting prayers and hopes.

So, it should come as no surprise that my first meeting with Sarah’s parents was preceded by months of prayer. In fact, I prayed nightly for them for a month before we met – a habit I’d picked up from my first courting of Sarah (it took three months of nightly prayers before she agreed to be my “girlfriend”).

Actually, prayer has been a habit of ours from the very beginning of our relationship. From the first time Sarah agreed to have dinner with me, even before she’d agree to be my “girlfriend,” we’ve prayed together. Walking home that first night, I knew she was Christian and found great value in God, so I was inspired to suggest a simple prayer together before bed. And from that day on, our every day has been bathed in prayer – with some amazing results.

House Problems

In Korea, it is not uncommon for tennants of apartments, or even one-room Villas to put down a large sum of money as “key money” on a place to live. Sometimes, with a large enough “key money deposit,” this even exempts them from paying rent.

Sarah’s family had done that for her on a one-room near the public university. When Sarah wanted to move out, she requested the return of her key money deposit from the building owner (as is customary, to be used as a down payment on the next house). She waited for months, and the owner kept saying “I’ll get you the money next month,” (the amount was more than the price of a new car) but the money never turned up and eventually the owner ran away (with all the other tennants money as well).

That was in the Spring of 2008.

For Sarah’s first meeting with my parents, we’d originally planned to go to the US in November 2008 for my friend’s wedding in South Dakota. However, she said didn’t feel right leaving the country with house problems like that, so the plans were scrapped.

In February 2009, after over a year of dating, I was getting anxious to move our relationship along and meet both sets of parents (we’d met neither by then). So, we tentatively made plans to go to the US in July to meet my folks, and prayed that her house problems we be resolved by then. It was also at that point that we began praying to meet her parents.
Finally, on Children’s Day (May 5), I met Sarah’s whole family. It was a big step that said, “We’re ready to marry.”

House for Sale

As July approached, Sarah’s ownerless one-room apartment went up for auction in the court. We prayed for a quick sale that would return most of the stolen money to her parents and our prayers were answered (though with only half the money) before we left for America in July – she finally felt free to leave Korea for a while.

Unfortunately, however, with the sale of Sarah’s one-room, it also meant that she would have no new place to live upon returning from America. Her move-out date was set for two weeks after we returned – not nearly enough time to find a new house.

So, with much prayer and hope, we journeyed to America to meet my family and let them also know “We’re ready to marry,” and arranged to move Sarah out into her sister’s house when we returned. But, there was no place for Sarah’s furniture there, so we gave most of it to her brother to use for his daughter’s room. We moved Sarah and her suitcases to her sister’s, her furniture to her brother’s, and her books and dishes to my place.

Within a matter of a few months, we went from a couple who was “ready” to get married and had met both sets of parents, to a couple that had no house, no furniture, no car, and no career jobs (we both had jobs at a private English academy, but Korean mothers generally view those positions not suitable for careers). Of course, all of those things (we lacked) are very important in Korea and are considered prerequisites for marriage by many Koreans. Time to pray.

Heaven Helped Us

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

From high hopes in the early summer, to a nearly “un-marriable” position by the end of summer, we’d come full circle, and were broken and discouraged in spirit. But God didn’t disappoint us.
As we took time to pray and seek God, remarkable things happened. Though we had nothing of our own, God began to provide His own in ways we couldn’t predict or even imagine.

#1: Get a (good) job

Although we have jobs at a private academy, we’ve both been told that those jobs aren’t suitable for a married couple. So, before leaving for America, Sarah applied and interviewed for a public school job (which she got), and I was just offered a job at Jeonju University (today at 4:30).

#2: Buy a house

With Sarah houseless for over a month, we were both getting anxious. One day, on an impulse, we checked with an agent we know he showed us a wonderful two-room that would be available for the very next day. With a little help from my parents, we signed the contract.

#3: Furnish the house

Earlier the same morning we met with the agent, we also met a man who worked for a US helicopter company in Korea. Their contract was up and they were trying to sell off an apartment full of furniture. He gave me an unbelievable deal on the lot of it, and I cleaned him out.

Our house and furniture are by far the two most significant blessings we’ve received. There is no doubt that God’s hand was in it all. After returning from America, our finances were drained from our purchase of new airline tickets, and Sarah became homeless shortly thereafter. One month (and many prayers later) we found ourselves in possession of a full set of furniture and  a new house to put it all in.

#4: Get a car

While a car would be nice to have, in Korea it is not as much a necessity as in America. The public transportation system is amazingly efficient and cheap, and I prefer riding my bike to driving anyway. Even still, we will need a car sooner or later, (at least to visit her parents more often) so we have been praying for God’s provision in a car.

#5: Marriage $

Due to our ticketing issues (and then reissues) in the airport in LA, I spent much of the money I’d saved  for our (potentially upcoming) honeymoon just to return us to Korea. Most of the rest of the money I’d earned in Korea has gone off to pay student loans. Thankfully, Sarah’s old house sold so that we could use some of her parents’ house money. Sarah has also been saving since last January, so she can pay them back next January after the wedding.

#6: Parental Consent

Although my family gave their permission for our marriage after our trip to America, Sarah’s family was a lot harder to win over. In fact, I expected it to be a long battle for their blessing after we returned, but was very surprised when her family brought up the topic of our marriage before we did. The first weekend back, we visited their home and they asked, “So, when are you getting married?” Her father and brother then started to talk about an appropriate date.

#7: Set the Date

One of the most challenging things was arranging the date for the wedding because my family lives in America, and needs at least a week away to come here to see the wedding. Sarah’s family didn’t want to wait until 2010, and my family couldn’t make it to Korea until after December 12. Finally, we decided December 19 would be best to accomodate  both.

The last word

“Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.”     – John Aikman Wallace

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. All our relationship has been bathed in prayer, without which we wouldn’t be where we are today.  We pray big prayers, not because we expect it all, but so that we can be rejoice in God’s grace. As  Phillip Brooks says:

“Pray the largest prayers! You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches, but for wings.”

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