Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Around the World Wednesday: GUEST POST from South Korea

Today I wore the most comfortable shirt—a purple v-neck that’s extra soft and fits perfectly. It’s not old and doesn’t hold incredible sentimental value; it’s just a great shirt. It’s great because I feel great in it.

Home is like my shirt: you should never force yourself to feel great at home; you can’t fabricate that kind of pure comfort.

However, what is home? As a TCK (Third Culture Kid), home is that shirt I have clung to as it was constantly torn from my body. I’ve felt the panic of trying to clothe myself and cover all my insecurities as I don’t fit in any country or culture. I keep searching for “home.”

Until 2 years of age, Media, Pennsylvania was home; not only to my birthplace, but also native to some vague memories of the carpet, backyard, and the oversized dogs next door. At nearly 3, my family and I arrived in Seoul, South Korea. I don’t recall fighting the concept of our missionary compound duplex being home. Mom, Dad, & Megan were there; why question? I even had a friend next door who was white like me. Life was good.

We lived in Seoul for several years. It was home to my favorite popsicles: the penguin ones that the Korean students would buy for us if we would merely escort them to the corner store after church—Megan and I figured that deal out quick! Home to Miss Chin, our “ah-jeum-mah” who taught me how to eat rice and kim. It was even home to my first school: Seoul Foreign School. Morgan arrived on February 4th, 1991…and went just days later to be buried in the Seoul Foreigner’s Cemetery. That was when Seoul truly became home. In 1992 we welcomed my brother Michael and took a year of furlough stateside.

Upon returning to Korea I was overwhelmed with the need to find “home.” We were temporarily living with another missionary couple before moving from the capital city to the country town of Jecheon. Each of us was cramped, anxious, and nervous. The tension eased once we settled into our apartment in Jecheon. It fit our family, even after the arrival of Melanie and Mitchel. We grew up in that apartment. If anywhere was home for our family as a whole that was it. The roof was our playground, its walls adorned by us as a home school art project. We knew all the best hiding spots, how to arrange everything in the bedrooms to max capacity, and where to get the best ice cream and movie selection from neighborhood vendors. Nearly six years later, it was a part of us. We all felt the clothing being torn from us as we left Jecheon.

This move was for a two-year furlough in South Carolina, and by the end Megan was staying for college. Returning to Korea brought us to Songtan, where I finished high school at International Christian School-Pyongtaek and left for college myself. I bawled as I had to give up my Korean residence card at immigration. I officially had no home, no status. That was worse than leaving the Jecheon apartment, as I stood in the airport alone, naked—stripped of my home.

Now Megan and I are both married, and our younger siblings are in their teenage years. Two years ago I was able to visit Korea for Mom’s 50th birthday. I knew Korea wasn’t home anymore; it was some strange piece of me and my past. I left after my three week visit not knowing if I would ever return, resolving that I had a home now—with my husband Mason in Texas. Yet, Texas didn’t feel like home. I had to just let Texas clothe me, not try to fabricate the sense of belonging that I yearned for.
January of 2010, Mason and I knew that God was stirring something monumental.

Our world turned upside down as God led us to step out in faith and move to Korea ourselves. By this time, I had determined consciously for 9 months to let Texas become my home, and now I’m just supposed to leave? The Lord confirmed, and we took the leap together to Songtan, where my family still resides. My parents have moved to a different apartment, still within the same building. We live in the building also, just feet away from where I lived in high school. It’s not the same home I once knew. I don’t know where home is. As much as I have tried to create home, it usually feels fabricated—too synthetic, not enough soft, natural cotton in the blend to make it comfortable. When I feel that texture, I know that I’m trying too hard. I hate that. I want it to be real, authentic. I have to just let it clothe me.

Read more about Marla's journeys in South Korea and beyond at

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