Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Soup and hospitality

A Korean pastor, on sabbatical in Iowa City, teaches at a women's university. When she returns to South Korea, she wants to start up a campus ministry program. I was asked to befriend her.

This week we had our second lunch meeting. We went to a place that serves Korean food, at K's request. When we arrived, K spoke to the owner in Korean, and we were shown to a table. K asked what I wanted to order. It has been a cold few weeks in our church building (still without heat during construction) and my hands were icy to the touch. K was concerned about warming me up, and apparently told the woman at the restaurant to bring me hot soup. I ate it gratefully. Then our big bowls of noodles and vegetables arrived.

My new friend K asked "you like the soup?" and I nodded yes. I started on the vegetable dish and couldn't imagine how I'd eat it all, having eaten a large bowl of soup first. Then the wait person brought another bowl of soup! In the meantime, K asked if I'd like to try her spicy noodle dish. I was thinking a spoonful would be fine, but she called the wait person for another bowl for me! Yikes.

I wanted to finish all the food, because my friend ordered it, and it was her turn to pay for lunch. This was her best effort at hospitality. I thought it would be rude not to eat it, but finally had to say, "This is so good. But I cannot eat more." Offering hospitality is only part of the story. Receiving it can be more complicated that it appears.


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