Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thank You

On my first visit to South Korea in 1980 I was overwhelmed by one word, kam sah hamnida, which means “thank you.”

A simple word, but I did not hear many “thank you’s,” in the previous four years while living in Kenya. Our family was on our way home from a grueling first term working in the bush of Africa and we spent twelve days in Korea visiting friends and speaking in churches from Seoul to Pusan. Among the tribal people of Pokot and Turkana, thank you didn’t come easily from many and non-existent for most. As a mzungu (white person) from the West, what I did for them was more expected than appreciated. It’s not that I need affirmation but I didn’t realize how nice it was to be valued until we visited Korea. The people of that country bowed and said kam sah hamnida to everything, all the time. They even thanked me for America’s part in the Korean war, though I was only four years old during those days in the early 1950’s.

In the early 1980’s I invited Dr. Kim to Kenya to speak to our pastors. He immediately asked me to teach him to say “thank you” in Swahili (which is asante). I thought it was interesting that the word he wanted to learn was one of appreciation. (I also told him the word for “toilet” was choo. He laughed and said that was a family name in his country.) What a wonderful culture that incorporates such an expression of respect in their language.

On this most recent visit to speak at the forty-fifth anniversary of the Bul Kwang Dong Bible Baptist Church I was reminded once again of the gracious spirit of the Korean people. Dr. Daniel Kim is a one of the nicest men I know, and it was a privilege to be invited to speak at their missions conference.

To Dr. Kim and the people of the Bible Baptist Church, let me say publicly, Kam sah hamnida. You were a great blessing to me this past week.