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Spending Christmas in South Korea 1973

We spent our first Christmas season in South Korea, with Scott assigned to the State Department, as an adviser to the Korean Air Force. Embroiled in a whirlwind of social activity that included status seeking, fancy dress, excessive drinking, and party filled afternoons, evenings, and nights, we could hardly keep up. Unfortunately, there were no family activities or activities for our children. Our family life suffered. We spent no quality time with our children at all, even during the Christmas season.

A Christmas season of nothing but parties made us see that lifestyle changes were necessary. We sat down shortly after the New Year to take an inventory of our core beliefs, and re-evaluate our choices. When we did this, we discovered, after counting, that we had actually attended twelve Christmas functions, either parties or dinners, in only eight days, and we were shocked and disgusted by how quickly and easily we had fallen into the “party-time” trap in a few short months.

Even though we knew there would be repercussions, we took a stance and in our usual non-conformist way said, “No more … this is not the way we want to live.” We more or less thumbed our noses at the social norms of the military establishment in the 70s. We felt little or no regret or fear, just freedom to live in our own simple, but comfortable and reliable way.

The result? We had no friends anymore—none, period. There was one couple that we established a friendship with later on, and that was with a major from Scott’s office, but that was problematic, because we were enlisted folks fraternizing with an officer and his wife (oh my…).

I firmly believe that first Christmas season in Korea was used by God in a most profound way. It reminded me of Luke 14:26:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus used the word “hate” only to emphasize that even our family members should not come before him in our lives — let alone a Christmas season like our first in Korea.

My message is that the Christmas season isn’t about decorations, frenzied shopping, or lots of parties. It’s about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we have to make a difficult choice just as we did in the military environment of Christmas.

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