Sunday, September 18, 2011

Professional Couch-Surfing

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone born of the Spirit." --John 3:8

I wouldn't call myself homeless, per se. Every night I sleep happily underneath strong, protective roofing built by someone else many years ago. I stay on my father's couch, or my grandmother's bed. On a fold-out futon in a friend's living room, or in another friend's guest room. Sometimes I stay in someone's teenage daughter's upstairs loft. I guess you could say what I really am is room-less.

"I'm sort of a professional couch-surfer," I told my friend Mario via online chat a couple of weeks ago.

"Hey, do you mean on, or the non-internet, real-life version?"

"The non-internet, real-life version."

"It kind of works like this," I went on. "I live with my grandmother... only until I don't. If I have to go into town, I catch the bus early that morning and stay all day, sometimes not coming back until the following day."

Mario was incredulous. "Do you just not want to be at your grandmother's house? Do you dislike it there?"

"No, no," I reassured my friend. "I am involved in Toastmasters [International] in town and cannot get there if I don't take the bus early in the morning. It's supposed to work where I'm only in town Tuesday and Wednesday and am with my grandmother the rest of the time. But if there's a special occasion like Labor Day, I don't mind going out to celebrate it."

Before leaving Korea, I had the chance to experience couch-surfing for the first time--and I felt God move through it in a whole new way. Just after finding out that I had two weeks left at my job, and subsequently in my apartment, I debated about whether I should pay to stay in the apartment for one extra week. I knew the hagwon was closing at the end of May and as I prayed through my dilemma, I felt the Spirit say, "Move out May 31."

Plans were already formulating for me to join Holly Schoephoerster in Southeast Asia sometime in June, but if I left at the end of May, that meant there would be a critical time gap between vacating my apartment and traveling. Where was I to go until then? From out of the woodwork, God started bringing girlfriend after girlfriend who offered me not just support for what I was going through, but places for me to stay.

December, who worked close to my school in Dongtan, was the first to step up. Though it was only twice the size of my Korean apartment (i.e., less than 500 total square feet), she said I could crash at her place anytime I needed. She even offered to hold part of my luggage while I was away in Thailand.

My Korean friend Young Sook, who lived less than a mile from December, wanted me to bring my stuff over to her place simply because she had one whole extra room (including a bed) more than my American friend. "Your luggage-y, big and December apartment small," she said matter-of-factly. At one point, she too offered her apartment as somewhere for me to be.

"Jenny-pah," she said as she gazed intently at me, "stay. In Korea, you stay."

"I can't stay," I told her. At that moment, visions of my family and their need for comfort raced through my head. I knew couldn't.

At the same time, my Korean co-worker Grace Teacher also offered her place. "I would love you to come stay with me," she told me over the phone. "With my mom."

I was astounded by all of the people who wanted to come to my rescue and I knew that they offered themselves through the prompting of God. I never felt so loved or cared for than during those moments. In the end, more because of convenience than anything else, I chose to room with December.

But I wasn't the only one who started a couch-surfing career at that time: So did Frankie. Though my friends wanted me to stay with them, they weren't too eager to also entertain my cat. December was highly allergic, Young Sook deathly afraid, and Grace didn't think her mother would very much approve. So what was Frankie to do without me?

"I'm taking your cat," a new friend of mine, Kealy, asserted the first day I met her. We were out at Hangang Park celebrating Holly's last Sunday in Seoul with swan paddle boat races on the Han; I had just told her about my need to vacate my apartment building in less than two weeks. Though I had had one other offer to take Frankie already, it was still unconfirmed because the girl needed to check with her school first. "I'm taking her cat," Kealy repeated, telling everyone within earshot.

And so it was settled. Just as my mobile life had begun.

"It's fun, but it's not a good way to settle down," I confessed to Mario that day online.

"Getting tired of the couches?" he asked.

"I've been doing it so long it's kind of the new norm I guess. I just want to take control of my own something."

"That's a real shift from having your own everything in Korea, eh?"

A sobering thought, Mario. In my need for control, I have to stop and ask one question: If the LORD provided for me then, in the midst of a foreign people speaking a foreign tongue in a foreign land, why must I doubt that He can provide for me now?

I've certainly seen a lot of Texas towns while under someone else's roof: Somerset, Kirby, Converse, Schertz, Temple, Killeen. I've visited or reconnected with no less than five local congregations. I've also had a chance to spend copious amounts of time with dear friends and family in this new season. Being room-less isn't all bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment