That is what Sister Gayle said when I told her I was going to write about this.
On Saturday, I started to think about what to do Sunday morning before the Farewell Brunch scheduled as part of the 50th Reunion weekend activities. If I would be able to attend a Worship Service, it would need to be at 9am or 9:30am. There were a couple of places that came to mind at first. Gayle reminded me of the obvious, Our Savior Lutheran, the church we attended in our growing up years.
I looked up Our Savior’s website to check on the Worship time. It was doable, 9:30am. Assuming the Service lasted about an hour I would have time to get changed and to the Brunch at 11am. (By the way, it lasted an hour and a half, and I was late for the Brunch – now I understand how my Parishioners felt on similar occasions in the past.) As I
looked at various pages on the site, something very strange caught my eye. The Director of music had the same name as the Director of music at the Church from which I retired three years ago six hundred miles away from here. Young came to that Congregation a year or so before I retired. We had gone through a long and involved interview process. I had come to know her well, valuing her many gifts and abilities, her skill at the piano and
organ as well as her choral conducting, her ability to organize and lead large celebrations.
It is a Korean name that I assumed must be a common name, since the odds against it
being the same person were astronomical. In addition, she had always listed her name as Young Hee, plus her last name. She had left the Congregation in Kansas, traveled to Minnesota and then back to Kansas City the last I had heard. There must be 15,000 Lutheran congregations in the nation. She could also serve other brands of Christian congregations, dramatically increasing the number of possible places she could be.
Just to be sure I was correct in assuming the Young on the web site was not her, I used
the email address I had from years past and tried to contact her. Here is what I wrote:
Young, I am in Aurora, Illinois for a class reunion. I noticed that there is a Young Chung listed as the Director of Music at the church I am planning to attend tomorrow (the church I grew up in).
I am assuming it is a different Young Chung, but I thought I would check with you anyway. What are you doing now?
The response was almost immediate. It was her! She is the Director of Music at the church in which Mary Ann and I were born, Baptized, Confirmed, and married. I preached my first sermon there and was ordained there. It is there in the chapel that one year ago I led a Memorial Service for Mary Ann. I am not sure which of us was more surprised and excited, Young or me.
It was so good to see her at the keyboard and the console, leading a group of singers at
various times in the service. I talked with her for a short time after the service reviewing the above mentioned rituals in Mary Ann’s and my lives at Our Savior. She could hardly believe it. While there was little time due to the need to get to the Brunch, we agreed to make contact via email to arrange a supper out.
Later in the day she emailed some options and later phoned to determine where supper would be. We decided on a Korean Restaurant some distance from where I am staying.
Her Husband, Yun, is in town from Korea, where he teaches New Testament in a Korean Presbyterian Seminary. By the way, between them, he and three brothers have three PhD’s and one Doctor of Ministry. Later I found out that Young and Yun had attended Service at a Korean Congregation in the early afternoon and asked for suggestions of the best Korean restaurant in the entire region.
I felt quite honored that they spent the time and effort searching out such a fine
restaurant. I had not eaten Korean food until Chris and a longtime friend took me out to eat in Melbourne, Australia early in April. I met Chris and his wife Lydia on the Milford Walk in New Zealand. I can’t remember what I had there, but I remember that I liked it. Young and Yun picked me up at Gayle’s house and we drove for about an hour, far into Chicago to Woo Lae Oak in Rolling Meadows.
It is a very large restaurant with spacious rooms decorated elegantly with fine art and
ceramics, traditional Korean Drums (one the size of a large wine barrel), intricately carved screens. One room had a domed ceiling covered with a colorful mural. There were many tables mostly filled with Korean families, evidencing the authenticity of the restaurant. It was a calm and peaceful space even with all the people.
The menu was a mystery. Even though there were some descriptions in English, most of the menu was in Korean characters or Korean words transliterated into English lettering.
Had Young and Yun not been there, I would have had a frustrating struggle trying to determine what to order – and how to eat it! They suggested menu for groups of diners that included multiple courses of many different foods so that I would be able to
sample many Korean dishes. Here is what we had: DanhobakJuk, Gaesal Salad, Ahnsim-Pyeonchae, Godori-twigim, Samseak-Jeonyuhaw, Jinji & Doenjang-jjigae, LA Galbi-gui, Gwail, all preceded with an appetizer, Japchae. You understand why I was grateful they ordered for me. Those were the only descriptors using English lettering. There were names above and below the English lettering in two different forms of Korean characters. The Korean characters looked remotely similar to the Hebrew characters I learned to read at the Seminary. (I am no longer able to read Hebrew without using many reference tools.)
I can’t remember all of the dishes, but I had transparent noodles with veggies, Pumpkin
soup with pine nuts and a date, a salad with beef in thinly sliced radish tubes and shredded beet root, a plate with lightly breaded fish and another meat (I think), another stew-like soup made with meat and bean curd and veggies, a plate with three lightly breaded medallions (one beef, one mushroom and one chicken), a bowl of rice, a plate of four small barbequed ribs, seven or eight small dishes of condiments including squid with a hot sauce, Kim Chi (fermented cabbage), cucumber salad, sweet shredded veggies, ending with a slice of honeydew melon with a strawberry – I have just run out of memory! I think there may have been one or two other items.
Absolutely everything I ate (all that the server put in front of me) tasted wonderful. There was nothing that did not titillate the taste buds all over my tongue. It was not only the tastes that were so good, the presentation of every item was visually engaging. I have no
doubt the visual component of the meal increased the enjoyment of the tastes. Each plate had a small amount of food on it, but by the time the meal was over I was completely satisfied. The meal was not simply about getting nourishment, it was an entertaining experience. I am pretty proud of the fact that I managed the entire meal using chopsticks, except for the soup that came with a spoon and the dessert fruit that came with a fork.
We spent time after the meal updating one another on what we had been doing in the last
few years. We have all been through a lot. Young is excited about her new position (since March) at Our Savior, and Yun is taking a semester break from the Korean Seminary to check out the possibility of teaching in the Chicago area. They have two grown sons in
Korea. I especially enjoyed getting to know Yun better. He wondered if I had thought about traveling to Korea. Who knows?
When I left to come up here for my 50th high school reunion, I had no idea what surprises
would come and just how rich the experience would be during this two week trip. There have been some meaningful times with my Sister Tish who has been enduring some serious health challenges. I am very glad to be here during this time in her life. All five Siblings will be together on Friday. There is more to come.