Friday, October 14, 2011


Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Allow me to digress needlessly into Star Wars references in order to make my point. Anakin is a better pilot, but Obi Wan has a better overall grasp of the Force. C3PO can communicate, and R2D2 can do everything else. Han Solo’s good at being a bad-ass, but not all that great at understanding women. You win some, you lose some. (Unless you’re Jar-Jar Binks and you’re only good at ruining everything. C’est la vie, Jar-Jar.)

I have my own strengths at weaknesses. I am good at nitpicking, making toast, and coming up with horribly racist mnemonics for Korean words. On the other hand, I stink at killing the mosquitoes in my apartment, not scaring MinHee, and empathizing. The first idiom I taught my Masters of Divinity students was, “suck it up.”

In other words: if I were visiting Yoda for training on Degoba, he would not be likely to say “the mothering instinct is strong in this one.”

And yet I’ve become horribly protective of my mDiv kiddos. And by kiddos, I mean grown men with degrees and wives and a mature passion for the gospel. But the word “students” doesn’t denote how I feel about them. Maybe it’s because every week I’ve read their essays, learned about their mothers, their favourite foods from back home, their personal relationships with Christ. Nothing bares the soul like writing, and my kiddos have such beautiful souls.

This is how I would take on the system. Watch out, Korea.
Mother hen gonna slap a bitch.
But they also have only six and a half weeks until they have to take the TOEFL test—the grade of which determines whether or not they can stay at Kosin, studying to become pastors. No one warned them (or me, for that matter) that they would have to take the test so soon. To avoid being sent home, my first-years students must achieve a mark of 80 or more, a feat which most of the men and women about to graduate from Kosin’s divinity program could not achieve.

Some days I wish I had a light saber and the powers of a Sith Lord so I could take on the system.

Instead, I have my kiddos: Samedi, with the sweetest disposition and a deficiency in subject-verb agreement; Palash, unable to use an infinitive to save his life, but refreshingly belligerent; Richard, humble, joyful, and muddled somewhere between French and English; Dieudonne, 70 pounds of goodwill towards others; Ermeyas, earnest and hardworking and utterly lacking in sentence structure; Menglay who already speaks Cambodian, Thai, and Korean but audits my class—completing all the homework—to improve his fourth language; Vannak, who laughs at jokes I don’t understand and reminded me today of a Korean saying.

In Korean expression, they say ‘fighting to the end’ we will never give up.”

So we say to you, TOEFL (our Death Star, the Dark Side): you can stuff it.

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