Winning Hearts and Minds Through Giving.
The mission of Operation Give is to give hope to the deprived and disconnected people of the world; most often where the U.S. military is serving. We provide the much needed material humanitarian supplies and resources to the U.S. Military men and women so they in turn can distribute these items to the people they come in contact with. Operation Give gives hope to people in war-torn countries and to people suffering from natural disasters. We build bridges through giving; spanning cultural differences and language barriers; speaking the international language of love through giving.
Serving our Military Families:
Operation Give’s mission is also to serve our men and women in the military and their military families. Through giving, we express the appreciation of a grateful nation and let them know their service has not been forgotten. We help provide for their families while deployed and give them and others the opportunities to participate in the giving process; as they take catch the giving spirit and become involved in the different giving programs.
Giving helps to save lives through Collateral Kindness.
Our Mission in Action:
Looking back over the past 11 years, since the inception of Operation Give, I have yet to receive one request from anyone serving in the military asking for supplies for themselves. Not one soldier, airman, seaman or marine has ever asked us to send items to them for personal use. Instead, it has always been requests for items they need to give out to others; for the people in the areas they are serving in, for kids in a school, for children in an orphanage and on and on.
No matter where the US military is serving in the world or in whatever capacity, our US military men and women, as they in the course of their duty, see someone in need and have a desire to help. It appears to be the basic nature of those serving in the military to want to help the people in the war-torn countries they go to, or the people suffering from some type of natural disaster, or to help children suffering from a variety of different tragedies. There is always collateral kindness, no matter where we go in the world.
The problem is that these men and women serving in the military do not have supplies or access to supplies of humanitarian-aide, nor does the military itself have the ability to provide the much needed humanitarian supplies. The soldiers, airmen seamen and marines are even forbidden by regulation from soliciting any type of aide or support in this area. (And I know this reg through personal experiences, read my book “Collateral Kindness”)
Even civil affairs units in the military, serving overseas, do not have the supplies they need to conduct their mission. For the most part without the help and assistance of outside organizations, civil affairs units would not be able to provide supplies for local citizens in need.
That is where Operation Give comes in. Over the past 10 years, we have been shipping humanitarian supplies to service men and women all over the world. We have become the collector and shipper of much needed humanitarian items, as we have attempted to fill this void. To date we have now shipped over 120 forty-foot ocean containers filled to capacity with all the items requested by those serving our country overseas, in order to help someone in need.
They might not speak the language, or understand the culture, but everyone understands the language of giving and receiving. Giving does build bridges over many obstacles that might normally prevent trust and mutual understanding from developing. Through the seemingly small acts of unselfishly giving, our service men and women are able to express genuine concern and love; consequently overcoming fear and misperceptions and I am sure at the same time they are creating more positive perceptions.
We aren’t conquering world hunger, but we are winning the hearts and minds of people, young and old, one person at a time, as we reach out to someone in need and provide something they need or want. In the course of our military efforts around the globe, there is collateral kindness and it is paying off.
For the past 40 plus years, in my various military capacities, I have been fortunate to have traveled to far off lands, interacted with many different people from all walks of life and performed numerous military missions and assignments. I have spent 3 deployments in Iraq, from the time the war began to when it basically ended, interrogated numerous Iraqi generals and seen first hand the ravages of war. Amidst all of that, more importantly, I have witnessed the effects of collateral kindness and how many lives have been touched and changed forever.
Celebrating Military Appreciation Month:
Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month in 1999 to ensure the nation was given the opportunity to publicaly demonstrate their appreciation for the sacrifices and successes made by our service members – past and present. As you contemplate the importance of our military in the history of our nation and think of ways you might show your appreciation to our service members, please think of Operation Give.
With our various projects and operations (you can see on our website), we have continued to ship items our service members have requested; ultimately destined for the people they desire to help. Operation Give will continue to supply humanitarian supplies to our service members, as long as the desire to help another continues. Everything we collect gets shipped out to wherever it is needed most.
As service members go about their business of killing bad guys, liberating and freeing those in bondage, and winning the hearts and minds of the people, our soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines will be the cause of much collateral kindness. And we at Operation Give will continue to be focused on supplying humanitarian-aide to soldiers and their families and providing all of them an opportunity to catch the spirit of giving.
Don’t forget to show your appreciation to our service members, any way you can.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Soldier, humanitarian uses ‘Collateral Kindness’ during Iraq deployments, charity work
By Alison Snyder For the Deseret News
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 12:00 p.m. MST
It started with a young Iraqi girl, separated from her mother.
The frightened 7-year-old was enveloped in the crowd waiting to enter the Baghdad
Green Zone. She was crying for her mother, who had passed through security at the gate
and left her daughter behind to wait.
That was the moment Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton saw the
difference he could make.
Holton, a Salt Lake City resident whose recent book, “Collateral Kindness” (Cedar Fort,
$12.99) narrates his deployment in the opening scenes of the Iraq War from a positive perspective. The book also tells the
story of how Holton’s desire to show love for the Iraqi people led to the creation of Operation Give, his nonprofit
Holton asked the soldiers at the gate to move the barbed wire so the girl could rejoin her mother, then ran to get something
from his office, where he worked as a strategic debriefer for Iraqi informants.
When he returned, he handed the girl some
new flip-flops and some hygiene items, then
placed a stuffed monkey with long arms and
velcroed hands around her neck. Her eyes lit
That moment he saw a vision of how he might
help. “Though it might have seemed like a
small, seemingly insignificant act, it was one
of those times when you realize that you can
make a difference,” Holton said. “One thing led to another, and that was the launching pad, if you will, to start asking people to
send me toys. That act initiated the formation and birth of Operation Give.”
It’s been nearly a decade since the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit was officially formed, and since then the organization has
shipped a total of 120 40-foot container loads overseas. Operation Give has evolved over the years, beginning with shipping
toys for Holton and other soldiers to give to children in Iraq, then spreading to Afghanistan and countries like Sri Lanka and
South Korea, where he is currently serving as the operations officer for the U.S. Army at the Korea Battle Simulation Center.
“Our focus is to stay with the military and support them,” Holton said, which enables the group to have extra resources to
connect with and help the people in the countries where they are serving. The nonprofit doesn’t just send out toys anymore,
but also clothing, shoes, sports equipment, school and medical supplies, hygiene items, and stockings for soldiers during the
Holton was deployed to Iraq again in 2010 as U.S. military operations there drew to a close. The second time around, he
wasn’t interrogating prisoners of war like in 2003, but working in civil affairs. He coordinated with the U.S. State Department
and with religious, community and civil leaders in Iraq, doing reconstructive work such as giving out micro loans to help
people start businesses. There was a more coordinated effort among Iraqis and Americans, Holton said, to go out and do good
things — very different from his first deployment to Iraq.
His deployments in Iraq “have been some of the
most rewarding and enjoyable times of my life,”
Holton said, especially because of what he has
accomplished there through Operation Give. “I can’t
help but feel good about what we’ve done, and the
people’s lives we’ve touched.”
“We don’t know if we’ve added anything to increase
the longevity of democracy in Iraq, but I know a lot
of people have benefited from the items we’ve shipped,” he added.
Since the majority of U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, Operation Give has sent the bulk of its donations to soldiers in
Afghanistan; the organization has gotten a lot of stories and thank-yous in return.
“You’re planting seeds,” he said. “You never know what will grow out of what you’ve done.”
The title of his book, “Collateral Kindness,” is important, Holton said. “You are on a military mission and you’re in a war. War
is ugly and people die and terrible things happen, but the one thing that also happens is there also is a lot of good and a lot of
Holton said that his faith in God has influenced his perspective as a soldier.
“I believe in mankind and that it’s our job to do things for others and help those in need,” he said. “It has a huge impact and
influence on what I do as a person.”
In his book, he frequently mentions how he has seen God’s hand influence and bless his life and change its direction.
He said it was an important perspective to include in his book — one that was often overlooked in favor of more negative
portrayals of the Iraq War in the media.
“I felt I wanted to be honest about that,” Holton said. “There were so many times that at night, I’d look back at what happened
during the day and I‘d almost come to tears thinking about how miraculous it was. It just forces you to come to your knees to
give thanks for the whole experience, and that I was part of it.”
Alison Snyder has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Brigham Young University, and has worked for newspapers at
local, regional and national levels.
Copyright 2013, Deseret News Publishing Company
I am sure you have all read or heard plenty of commentary (like the one below),
regarding the lessons of war, on this the tenth anniversary of the invasion of
Iraq. It is hard for me to believe that it has been ten years, since I stood there
in the deserts of Kuwait awaiting word that the invasion had begun.
Iraq, 10 years later, is less threatening but riven by turmoil
By Editorial Board,March 22, 2013
THE ANNIVERSARY this week of the invasion of Iraq has generated plenty of
commentary about the lessons of that war. But relatively little has been said
about the current state of U.S. relations with a country that remains one of the
world’s largest oil producers and a strategic crossroads of the Middle East. For
the first time in decades, contemporary Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors,
and parts of the country are flourishing. But violence continues, the central
government appears to be crumbling, and the United States, by failing to live
up to its promises of partnership, is tipping the country toward deeper trouble.
Iraq remains plagued by the sectarianism that now pervades the Middle East.
Following a democratic election in 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a
Shiite, formed a coalition government with parties representing Kurds and
secular Sunnis. But he has since driven the Sunni vice president into exile,
while the Sunni finance minister and Kurdish foreign minister no longer visit
Baghdad, much less carry out their duties. Sunnis in western Iraq are growing
increasingly restless, while the remnants of al-Qaeda continue attacks against
Shiite targets in Baghdad. Tensions are also growing between Mr. Maliki and
the autonomous region of Kurdistan, with both sides deploying military forces
near territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds.
Of course there is much to be concerned about, given the continuing sectarian
violence that permeates Iraq and most of the Middle East. As listed in the
above article, there is not much to be optimistic about.
But my focus was never on the Iraqi nation as a whole and I really had no
answer for the age-old problems that have plagued Iraq for hundreds of years.
My focus was always on the individual people; the men, women and children
suffering from the affects of a tyrannical ruthless dictator, indiscriminate
killing of thousands of people, unfettered corruption, years of neglect and the
ravages of a prolonged war.
It was always about planting seeds; the seeds of freedom, democracy and hope
for the future. It was about communicating through giving the message that
each individual can make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact
with on a daily basis. The US soldiers really were there to help them in any way
we could, with no strings or conditions attached. Through giving we really did
break down the barriers of language, religion and culture and built bridges of
kindness and concern.
Through seemingly small insignificant acts of kindness peoples lives have been
changed and influenced for the better. Much goodness has come from all that
has been done and a different way of being has been shown to thousands of
Iraqis. An example they will never forget.
The true life story of how all of this happened is in my new book “Collateral
Kindness”, available wherever good books are sold. Get a copy to read the
whole story about all the goodness done over the past ten years and how
Operation Give got its start.
So much time has passed, during which so much good has been accomplished
by Operation Give in the war torn countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, a midst
the fighting and killing. We have continued to ship container loads of donated
humanitarian supplies over those same ten years, now most recently having
shipped our 120th forty-foot container.
To Order New Book- go to www.collateralkindness.com
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Christmas Eve the Holton’s Way:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the plane, not a passenger was
stirring, not even the pilot named Blaine (halfway over the Pacific, I am sure
autopilot was fully engaged), all the travelers were nestled snug in their seats, with
visions of being home for Christmas with plenty of Christmas food to eat. OK, they
weren’t really dancing, but I was going to be home for Christmas for the first time in
almost three years and it was Christmas Eve, so I am sure you will indulge me just a
little this once.
As usual I couldn’t sleep much during the overbooked 15-hour flight from Korea and
spent my time fidgeting around; trying to keep my knees from constantly being
bruised by the large metal monster they call the food-drink-and snack cart, rolling up
and down the isle. Heaven for bid if, in my half-awake half asleep stupor, I was to
miss the soft warning voice of the stewardess to keep my legs and knees out of the
isle. With my knees touching the seat in front of me and my head constantly moving
from side to side, in an effort to find at least one comfortable spot on the headrest
(obviously built for much shorter people), I spent my time watching several in-flight
My plane touched down in Salt Lake City, Utah at 1800 hrs on Christmas Eve, having
left Seoul, about the same time that I landed. My loving wife and son Daniel were
waiting at the airport ready to whisk me away to Benihana’s (a Japanese restaurant),
where the rest of my clan was awaiting my arrival. In our usual Christmas Eve traditional fashion we spent the evening gorging ourselves on Japanese sushi roles,
sashimi and tempura shrimp and somewhat boisterously enjoying each other’s
company, as we joked and laughed the night away.
And of course I was able to see my two granddaughters, who continue to change and
grow day by day. Katella now 17 and preparing to graduate from high school and
Maleah, her eyes-how they twinkled! her dimples how merry! He cheeks were like
roses, her nose like a cherry! (I had just had to finish up with the Christmas story).
With our bellies swimming with fish, we gathered at our home to participate in a few
seemingly harmless but hilarious parlor games; orchestrated by my son Matthew,
who is known to be quite the outrageous party-animal. Have you ever tried to move an Oreo cookie from your forehead into your mouth by using only your facial muscles
and the movement of your head, you should try it. How about trying to get 5 ping-pong balls out of a Kleenex box tied behind your back by just jumping up and down?
Now that is pure fun.
And of course no Holton reunion would be complete without our usual dance party.
Once the tunes start, no true blue Holton can resist the alluring beats, as one by one
we followed our daughter Dana’s lead to shake our booties a bit. I guess the kids just
get a kick out of watching their parents make fools of themselves.
Across the Waters:
Aside from having an outstanding wonderful time with my wife and kids, eating
plenty of great food, enjoying lots of fun activities and having gained a few pounds, I
was able to spend some time at the Operation Give warehouse, where, (with the help
of Elaine and Steve Ward and several volunteers), we loaded 3 more forty-foot
containers and sent them on their way overseas.
Two of the containers were being
sent to our contacts in Afghanistan and one container to a humanitarian group in
Korea that I am working with.
It was just like old times, all of us at the Mesa Systems donated Operation Give
warehouse loading up containers full of all the generously donated humanitarian stuff
that has come in since our last shipment. I have lost count but I believe with these
two containers shipped off that brings our total to about 120 forty-foot containers,
each holding around 30 pallets of boxes or about 20,000 pounds of much needed
With the background sound of the forklift moving pallets into position on the
container, our group of worker bees, utilizing one hand-cranked pallet jack, top
loaded all three containers with the items specifically chosen for their respective
the containers were stuffed with as many boxes as each would hold; from top to
bottom and side to side, with almost no room in between.
There is just no better
feeling then seeing all the love that can be packed into one large container.
With the loading of each and every box of school supplies, medical supplies, blankets,
hygiene kits, shoes, clothes, etc., my heart was filled with happiness and gratitude for
the generosity of all that have contributed so much to make Operation Give a reality.
As I reflected back on all those special moments made possible through these kind
donations, I couldn’t help but give thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ for all of his
sacrifices for mankind.
Soon the contents of these containers will be in our soldier’s hands, as they search for
the right recipient to distribute a bit of kindness to. “Winning the hearts and minds”
of the people where the soldiers are serving is a reality, made possible through all of
your kind donations. The words of that phrase are not just meaningless words to
make war sound humane. Armed with the right merchandise our soldiers really can
make lasting impressions on the people they come in contact with. They can build
bridges through giving; spanning religious and cultural differences, overcoming
misperceptions and falsehoods perpetuated over hundreds of year.
There really is one universal language, the language of giving, understood by all,
regardless of the barriers that might exist. There really is only one way to understand
the impact of such an act and that is through direct first hand participating in the
act itself, the act of giving. Operation Give provides the soldiers the resources needed
to communicate concern and love, to people they would otherwise not be able to
communicate with. The people will remember the day an American soldier gave them
a school bag with supplies, or a box of hygiene items, or their first pair of real shoes,
or a soft stuffed animal, or a soccer ball and the memories will be told over and over
again, as word will spread of the goodness being done.
Doing it the Wiggles Way
USO Korea brightened the days of more than 6,000 soldiers stationed across the Korean peninsula this month with stockings full of goodies donated by Operation Give. As part of USO Korea’s Operation Christmas Cheer program, soldiers from the northern Camp Stanley to the southern Camp Henry and everywhere in between received a friendly knock on their door from a USO volunteer bearing a special surprise: a stocking overflowing with books, playing cards, calendars, personal hygiene items and snacks.
“I knocked on so many doors to give gifts my knuckles are bleeding,” one soldier-volunteer joked after the event, which went from Dec. 18 to Dec. 25.
The efforts of the volunteers who stuffed stockings in the U.S. and the 90-plus volunteers who distributed those stockings in South Korea were clearly appreciated. The USO received positive praise from key base personnel and soldiers in all four USO Korea service areas. But the shocked grins and heartfelt thanks from service members across Korea were the best rewards.
One soldier was so grateful that he took the time to email the young stocking stuffer back in the U.S., whose email address was included in the stocking.
“The USO just came by our barracks roughly 30 minutes ago and gave myself and many other soldiers in our barracks a beautiful Christmas stocking with all kinds of goodies,” the soldier wrote. “I wanted to say thank you … Thank you for making my lonely holidays better. This will be the [sixth] Christmas I spent away from my family, so the more times I spend away from my family the harder it gets to feel the “Holiday” cheer. But young American’s like yourself and the incredible USO volunteers (on the “CC”) make me feel much better. … Thank you again for the outstanding gesture and the great feeling of warmth from across the waters.”
As evidenced by this email – and thanks to the hard work of all of the USO volunteers in Korea and the U.S. – USO Korea can declare this mission accomplished. Thanks again to Operation Give for their support of the troops, and happy holidays.
–Story by Laura Martinez, USO Korea Programs Mana
OPERATION CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS
With a certain degree of anxiety and anticipation, I woke early this morning, my
head full of all the things I needed to do this Christmas Eve. As my feet touched the
cold hard floor of my bedroom, I sensed immediately that it was going to be another
exceptionally cold day in South Korea. The weather report, passed along by most
Koreans like shocking gossip, had indicated this winter was going to be another
historically cold season, with snow forecast for later today. The events of the last few
days have definitely put me in the Christmas spirit, having had numerous
opportunities to give out the items in the 100 plus boxes sent by Operation Give,
recently delivered by FedEx to my apartment. It was touch and go, as the last of the
much-needed boxes of Christmas stockings arrived just minutes before our
Operation Christmas Stocking event was to begin. The boxes from the first
shipment were stacked on the side of the road, as the large group of Christmas-
Stocking-handout volunteers mingled about, anticipating the kick off of this years
volunteers, the boxes where opened and one by one the Christmas stockings were
With several stockings in hand, each member of our group of Christmas-cheer- givers
made the rounds throughout the barracks, passing out the bursting-at-their- seams
stockings to the surprised and grateful soldiers. The targets of our activity were the
young single male and female soldiers, away from their families and loved ones
during this Christmas holiday, perhaps their first Christmas away from home.
As the sound of Christmas carols rang through the air, (sung by a few members of
our own Eighth Army Band), we went through each barracks, door to door, knocking
on each and every room, in hopes of finding someone home. “Merry Christmas”, we
said, as we handed a stocking to anyone and everyone answering our knock. No
matter how many times I have done this over the years, (this year now being our 8th
year of doing Operation Christmas Stocking), the feeling is still the same. Seeing the
surprised and happy faces of each soldier receiving a stocking, brings back so many
great memories when I was on the receiving end back in Iraq in 2003.
A group of co-workers at FedEx had sent me a box of stockings; enough for everyone
in my group at the palace in Baghdad. I remember the joy and happiness it brought
each of us, as we pondered the kindness and thoughtfulness of the givers. We knew
we had not been forgotten. Ignoring the cold, our hearts were full of warmth as each
of us experienced the joy of bringing a small piece of Christmas to soldiers serving
our country in a far off land during the holidays. The sparkle in their eyes and the big
smiles on their faces was all the gratitude we needed to make each of us grateful we
had taken the time to participate in the event. Everything went as planned, as
hundreds of Christmas stockings were passed out to soldiers living here at the
Yongsan Base in Seoul, South Korea.
All of this was made possible by Elaine and Steve Ward, all the volunteers at the
Operation Give Warehouse, Mesa Moving & Storage employees, the Goldman Sachs
volunteers, all the great Americans around the country who on their own stuffed
hundreds of Stockings, and of course FedEx who through their trucks and planes
brought the whole thing together.
Thanks so much for your kind and generous donations of your time, substance and
money, helping to make Operation Christmas Stocking another huge success this
year. I salute each of you. Just so you know stockings were sent to many bases where
our troops are serving their country, away from home during this Christmas Season,
the base here where I am being only one of them. I really appreciate all that you
May God bless each of you with his gracious unconditional love.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Today, Dec 14th, while sitting sipping a coke and listening to Polynesian music playing over the loud speakers of the Honolulu Airport, the all too familiar yellow “Breaking News” sign flashed on the screen of the TV. The words “30 Killed, 18 to 20 children” of course caught my attention. I was shocked and instantly saddened by the news that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, killing the principle, the school psychologist and many children.
My eyes became instantly glued to the screen, in hopes of getting more information about the horrific tragedy. Who would do such a thing? What possibly could have gone through someone’s mind that would cause them to commit such a heinous act of violence?
Totally losing interest in eating lunch or drinking my coke, I sat bewildered by the news and couldn’t help but feel an immense sadness for all the families who had lost a loved one, especially to the parents who lost a child. My heart bleeds for their loss, as my mind tries to comprehend this incomprehensible act.
With over two hours left before my plane bound for Korea was to depart, I sat pondering the meaning of my own simple existence; wondering if I was doing anything to ease another’s burden or lightening another’s load. The stark realities of how difficult and challenging life can be continue to smack me in the face on a day-to-day basis. I wish there was something more I could do for the families that lost a child that day.
At around 1200 noon Hawaii time my plane was airborne. With my military course completed and the other purposes of my trip all wrapped up, I headed back to Seoul, Korea. For the next ten hours I flew far from the sunny beaches of the paradise called Hawaii, back into the bitter cold winter weather of South Korea. Leaving the lush green mountains, the pristine sandy beaches, and the cool fresh ocean breezes, I felt fully satisfied and grateful for the unique opportunity my wife and I have been able to enjoy for the past week and a half.
Even though this was a business trip, military related, this has been a much-needed break for both of us. The less demanding pace and peaceful evenings have been just what the doctor ordered. Nothing soothes the heart like the tranquility of the ocean.
Aside from the tragedy, this is a great time of year as we all gather our families together in celebration of our Savior’s birth. Perhaps this year we will give more thanks for all we have been blessed with; sharing more love with family and loved ones and offering up more prayers for those in need. Perhaps will be pause longer to contemplate the value of our own existence and look for ways we might reach out to others. It is never too late to give a helping hand and pay it forward.
For the 8th year in a row, Operation Give has, as you might imagine, sent out another shipment of thousands of stuffed Christmas stocking to our men and women serving in the Armed forces in foreign lands. This has been a phenomenal year for all of us involved in this great operation. People from all over America have come through again, sending in the most amazing Christmas stockings to our warehouse in Salt Lake City. With a little help from our friends at FedEx and Goldman Sachs, and thousands of Americans giving of their time, material and money, Operation Give has stuffed and shipped thousands of Christmas stockings.
Our special thanks go to Mesa Moving & Storage that have provided us a home for the last 5 years. They also receive donations and store them on pallet racks, but they also provide the services of their employees and management at Operation Give events, such as Stocking stuffing events and Veterans Day Events, and greeting our guests, such as the visits of American Legion National Commanders for the last 5 years. They manage the storing of our donations and load our shipments on to 40 ft ocean containers to ship to the troops, or assisting with our shipments through FedEx.
FedEx has picked up the pallets of Christmas stockings and they have already arrived at their destinations, as volunteers on the ground begin their efforts to distribute a little slice of Christmas to Soldiers serving their country. Over the next few days, thousands of Soldiers will know they have not been forgotten and hopefully they will know we appreciate their sacrifice.
Having been personally involved in the actual on-the-ground distribution of such stockings several Christmas’s in a row, I can’t wait to see the smiling surprised faces of soldiers here in Korea, where I am serving. This next week, with the help of the USO, we will be out making the rounds through the Yongsan and Camp Walker barracks, armed with boxes of stockings, as we do our part on this end to share a bit of Christmas cheer with others. Pictures of our events will be on the blog next week.
As part of our own Sub-for-Santa program here in Korea, this coming Saturday, the 22nd of December, a group of us will be taking donated items like blankets, school supplies, shoes, toys, etc., to two orphanages here in the Seoul area. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well, all made possible by your kind and generous donations.
Of course none of this would be possible without the untiring efforts of Elaine and Steve Ward running the Operation Give show back in Utah, during my absence.
I have my own good news to share with all of you. To my own excitement and delight, my book “Saving Babylon” has been reworked and is being republished under the title of “Collateral Kindness”. The title and cover have been changed and the book has been reworked with a new focus and a couple of additional chapters added covering the Operation Give story after my return from Iraq in the spring of 2004. I am extremely excited and I think you are going to love it. You will all have to get your own personal signed copy once it is released the first of January.
Hi this is Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton better known as Chief Wiggles, currently serving the US military in South Korea. I am also the President of a Utah based not for profit organization called Operation Give. Each year we sponsor Operation Christmas Stockingto send thousands of stuffed stockings to our men and women serving in the military deployed in foreign lands like Afghanistan and South Korea during the Holidays. Right now we are in the process of receiving, thanks to FedEx, stuffed Christmas stockings and items to stuff in Christmas stockingsfrom all over the US. We will soon be stuffing additional stockings over at our warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, so that we can reach our goal of 8,000 stockings, in order to get them all sent to our soldiers before Christmas.
Our men and women serving our country outside our borders, in foreign lands, many putting their lives on the line every day, desire the same things you do during the holidays. We can’t bring them all home, but we can send a piece of Christmas to them by donating Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. We need your help to make this possible.
Motivate your civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout units, church congregations, clubs, teams, etc, to start making and start stuffing and start shipping Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. This is our 8th year of doing Operation Christmas Stockings and this year our goal is to ship 8,000 stockings to service men and women in Afghanistan and other countries.
We need stockings, we need items to put in stockings, and we need thousands of stuffed stockings ready to ship by mid December. Most importantly we need all of your help. I know this is a busy time of year, with the elections and all, and I know times are tough, but the soldiers need to know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you still care about them. Please do what you can and then do more, you will be blessed for it.
You can ship all your stuffed stockings or your stocking stuffers for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can, if you use Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC, Utah.
Contact email@example.com to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number or call 435-512-4956.
We also are in need of monetary Donations to help ship the thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website.
When you ship to us, please use FedEx Express Saver a 3-day service and be sure to please write on the outside of boxes “Operation Christmas Stocking”.
Please visit our website for more information.
You can ship all your stuffed stockings or whatever you have for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can.
Please write on outside of Box:
Operation Christmas Stockings
Use Operation Give FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC.
We use Donations to ship the Thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Stockings to Operation Give’s Warehouse or call 435-512-4956.
Use FedEx Express to send boxes to:
Mesa Moving & Storage
2275 S 900 W Dock 49
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
This morning started like any other morning here in the land of the morning calm, South Korea, as I scurried about trying to check off each action on my routine to-do list. Having been a little under the weather, with some kind of a stomach bug, I was moving a little slower than usual, when my Magic Jack phone rang, identifying the caller as someone from the states. It was my son Michael on the other end. “You know Dad it snowed today up in the mountains”, he said. “What”, I answered, “Snow already in September”. The thought of snow already capping the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains surrounding Salt Lake City propelled me into thoughts of Christmas, creating just the right mood to speak to all of you about Operation Christmas Stocking. With Christmas lurking right around the corner, it is that time of year for all of us to start thinking about those Men and Women serving in the Armed Forces, in far off lands, away from family and friends again during the holidays. Thousands of soldiers are still in harms way as war rages on in Afghanistan, with men and women being killed every day. And we still have 28,000 troops in South Korea.
September is all but over and soon we will be adorning our favorite costumes, as we partake of the appetizer we call Halloween, a precursor to the main course of Thanksgiving, which leads us to the dessert we call Christmas. With all its bright colorful lights, beautifully decorated trees, old familiar carols and lively music, Christmas is the most special time of year, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
I long to be home with my family for Christmas, having myself been away for the past two years, (one Christmas spent in Mosul, Iraq and the other spent here in Seoul, Korea), I long for the smell of turkey, hot homemade rolls, and freshly baked pumpkin pie. I look forward to witnessing for the first time the excitement in my little granddaughter’s eyes, as she tries to fully grasp and understand the many wonders of Christmas. Our men and women serving our country outside our borders, in foreign lands, many putting their lives on the line, long for the same things you do during the holidays. We can’t bring them all home, but we can send a piece of Christmas to them by donating Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. We need your help to make this possible.
Motivate your civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout units, church congregations, clubs, teams, etc, to start making and start stuffing and start shipping Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. This is our 8th year of doing Operation Christmas Stockings and this year our goal is to ship 10,000 stockings to service men and women in Afghanistan and other countries. We need stockings, we need items to put in stockings, and we need thousands of stuffed stockings ready to ship. Most importantly we need all of your help. I know this is a busy time of year, with the elections and all, and I know times are tough, but the soldiers need to know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you still care about them. Please do what you can and then do more, you will be blessed for it. You can ship all your stuffed stockings or whatever you have for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can. Please write on outside of Box: Operation Christmas Stockings Use Operation Give FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC. We use Donations to ship the Thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website. Contact email@example.com to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Stockings to Operation Give’s Warehouse or call 435-512-4956. Use FedEx Express to send boxes to: Operation Give
Mesa Moving & Storage
2275 S 900 W Dock 49
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
We serve a faithful God — He is the God of more than enough! Not only does He promise to meet your needs, He promises to give you enough to meet the needs of others, too.
When you are a sower — when you give of your resources, your time, talent, finances and possessions — God promises to multiply those resources so that you can continue to be a blessing to the people around you. You might look at what you have in your hand today and think, “This doesn’t look like much.” But understand that when you give God what you have, He’ll turn it into more than enough! The Bible tells us that Jesus fed a crowd of over 5,000 people by multiplying the lunch of a small boy, and He can multiply whatever you have in your hand, too.
Today, dedicate what you have to the Lord by faith. Ask Him where you should sow your seed so that you can be a blessing to others. As you do, He’ll continue to pour out His blessing and abundance on you, and you will live fulfilled and satisfied all the days of your life.
Written by Joel Osteen
Right on schedule, actually a little early, the phone rang informing me the small Bongo truck had pulled up outside my apartment complex. I instructed him to pull into the first floor of our parking structure, where I would be to meet him. Quickly changing from my uniform into some work clothes, I dashed down stairs to find a suitable place for the Bongo truck to park while we loaded the boxes. Seeing me, the driver of the Bongo truck exited the vehicle, with a big smile on his face, the somewhat younger man stretched out his hand to greet me. My first impression of him was very good. Having only called him a couple of days before to inform of the boxes arrival, he was more than anxious to schedule a time as soon as possible for this meeting. Elaine back at Operation Give headquarters had arranged for FedEx to ship the 39 boxes directly to me in preparation for this event. Having previously discussed the nature of this visit and the children we would be helping, Elaine and Steve spent hours making sure the boxes were filled with exactly what was needed. As usual FedEx delivered the boxes right on schedule, even promptly keeping the scheduled time for the delivery driver to arrive at my apartment two days before. Grabbing two shopping carts from the small supermarket in the basement, the Bongo driver and I headed up the elevator to my apartment where the humanitarian supplies were patiently waiting. Loading the shopping cart as high as we could, we made several trips until the boxes were all carefully loaded into the truck.
With the arrival of Sgt Qualls from my office, my cohort in crime, the three of us loaded up in the small cab of the Bongo to make our way through the congested rush hour traffic of Seoul. Heading southeast we crossed the Han River and zigzagged through cars and pedestrians, finally heading up a steep narrow road lined with parked cars on both sides. Pulling into the driveway of what appeared to be the local neighborhood Buddhist church (they really don’t have churches, more like someone’s home), I wondered if we had come to the right place, as I read the banner overhead welcoming the return of Buddha.
I was relieved to see that we had parked across the street from our final destination. With one narrow house after another stacked almost on top of each other, separated only by a shared brick wall, I could tell we were in what would be considered to be a lower-income-housing neighborhood. Large metal gates adorned the front of each house, preventing unwanted quests from entering the homes. There was a cross and a church sign on the home/church of the minister we had come to meet. On the sidewall of his property, down the alleyway that separated his church from the home next to him, was a small metal cupboard like door painted in baby colors, with the English words, phonetically written in Korean, Baby Box (I will come back to that in a minute). No sooner had we pulled up then the Minister came out into the street to greet us.
The silver haired nicely dressed Minister politely offered up the customary English then Korean salutations.
Grabbing several boxes each from the bed of the Bongo, we all entered through the metal gate, then up a very steep flight of stairs, where we slipped off our shoes and carried the boxes into the first room on the left. As we entered the structure I could see several middle aged to older women sitting on the floor with Bibles in their laps and a number of children laying about; offering up what sounded like a prayer (we had obviously interrupted their mid-week worship service with the minister). One of the ministers assistants asked politely if it would be ok for them to first finish the worship hour before attending to our business. Finding a location on the floor next to the older patrons SGT Qualls and I sat Indian style as we took part in the worship. With nothing more than a keyboard, a computer and a small projector, the minister, like a one-man-band, conducted the service, played the keyboard, operated the computer, offered up the prayers, and led the singing. The computer screen was projected up on the wall behind the seated minister, for all in the room to follow along as we sang several hymns. As one of the assistants handed us a hymnbook in English for Sgt Qualls, we followed the bouncing ball to the words of the hymns. All the while the children of this disabled/handicapped children’s orphanage lay quietly in their cribs or on the floor of the room we were in; playing with small toys, or just lay enjoying the Minister’s music and prayers. One child, perhaps 9 or so, sat upright in a wheel chair the whole time without making a peep, as one of the ladies sat next to him holding his foot in the palm of her hand.
After the service we all moved into the first room where the boxes had been nicely stacked. With all the children of the house gathered around, which included the child in the wheel chair, one small child missing a hand, several Down Syndrome children, and others, all obviously anxious, one by one we opened the boxes. Handing each child a soft stuffed animal, we proceeded to review with the Minister the contents of each box. With the same enthusiasm of Christmas morning, we showed the children what we had brought for them. Knowing these gifts of toys, blankets, new-born bay supplies, clothes, and stuffed animals was not going to make an overall difference in the daily lives of these children, we still relished in the spirit and excitement of the children and we were grateful to be able to do this much. It was an emotional moment for all of us in the room; as we enjoyed the sweet spirit of the children.
After taking a few group photos, the minister took us up
another steep flight of stairs to view the three children, who due to a stroke at birth were completely paralyzed. It was heart wrenching to say the least and at times difficult to view, as one by one we touched their foreheads, spoke to them and saw their reactions. Our hearts ached for them, as we contemplated their existence. With the sun setting and evening quickly passing, we explained we needed to get back to our homes. Down the stairs, out the door and around the side of the house, the minister then took us over to the Baby Box I spoke of in the beginning. Grabbing the handle and opening the latch, he showed us the box, lined with what appeared to be a thin soft blanket and lit with one light bulb, the box was approximately the size of a small suitcase.
He explained that whenever a mother feels she is unable to provide the needed care for a special baby, with special needs, for whatever reason, she would anonymously drop the baby in the box for them to care for. So far the minister has taken in 68 babies. As we drove back in the cab of the Bango truck we couldn’t help but quietly reflect on the experience we had just been a part of. It was so sad. Silently I offered up a prayer for the children and for those special people who are dedicating their lives to the care of those children. May God bless them. Chief Wiggles. “Doing it the wiggles way”
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Missing my Children:
Due to a number of extenuating circumstances a few weeks have passed since I have been able to write in my blog. I apologize to any out there who might have become accustomed to hearing from me through this medium and vow to do better in the future. Fortunately this evening I have been able to dedicate enough time to perhaps bring you up to speed on what has been going on in our lives here in South Korea, the land of the morning calm, as it is often referred to.
With all that has been going on over in Korea in my new assignment in G9 Civil Affairs and for that matter in my life over the past couple of years, I have hardly had time to catch my breath. With hardly a break in-between my last deployment to Iraq and my new military assignment here, it seems that I have been on a perpetual ride, traveling through one culture and place in time to another. I was home for only a little over a month before I had to jump on another plane flying me the other way around the world, to a place so different in every way from Iraq.
Without boring some of you who already know the situation of my travels here, I have to say that coming here at this time in my life, under these circumstances, has been nothing short of a miracle and now in hindsight I can see that it was definitely meant to be. Unfortunately for my family, this personal journey of mine has come with its sacrifices and challenges, forcing me to be away from all of them for long periods of time. At some point I hope they will understand how necessary of a separation it has been for me personally.
I do miss them deeply and think about them every day of my life, no matter how busy or preoccupied I might be. For the sake of my own sanity, I am forced at times to get caught up in my work, so as not to be constantly worrying about their wellbeing. The flame of my love for each of them burns brightly, never flickering or dimming and I can only hope they each know that. In that I have the least amount of contact with my daughter Dana and her daughter Katella, I can honestly say I yearn for them the most, wishing they would take the time to send me an email or call me more often.
Fortunately, two of my sons, Matthew and Michael with his family, have been able recently to spend some time visiting us here in South Korea and my third son, Daniel, will be flying over sometime next week, if all goes well. It has made a huge difference to all of us to be able to spend some quality time together, in their mother’s homeland. They all appear to have gained many new insights into the culture their Mother grew up in and perhaps a better understanding of why she is the way she is.
The Boys are in Town:
A Day on the DMZ
The bus pulled away from the Dragon Hotel inside the confides of the US army base we refer to as Yong San, or Dragon Hill. It was early, the air still quite cool from the lack of sunlight the night before, the weather of Korea still not sure if it has decided to be spring or not. With a certain amount of excitement and perhaps trepidation of the unknown (for those that had not been there before), we headed north to the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone, less than an hour away. With Grandmother, my wife, watching the baby back at the house, the four of us, my two sons and Michael’s wife Kaitlin, were looking forward to a full day of touring the DMZ, the line separating North and South Korea. In a state of continual armistice, for the past 60 years the line of demarcation has separated these two countries, one a totalitarian, single-party Stalinist dictatorship and the other a thriving democratic/capitalistic state, now one of the top ten economies in the world.
With a plate full of KimBap and a few other Korean goodies to tide us over, we ventured on to catch a glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the line and to better understand what it might be like to have an enemy so close to Seoul, one of the largest cities in the world.
Within a few minutes we had left the urban sprawl of Seoul, traveling into more rural surroundings, out in the countryside of rice fields, small villages, and densely forested mountains. Our tour guide came on the intercom to inform us we had passed through the southern boundary of the DMZ, into no-mans land, populated mostly by migrating birds who have transformed this area into their own private refuge or sanctuary.
Looking across the DMZ, northward, one could easily notice the striking contrast between the treeless mountains of the north and the thickly forested mountains of the south. After many years of drought, floods, and a shortage of heating fuel for those many freezing cold North Korean winter nights, the North Koreans have been forced to cut down any available trees to heat their wood and warm their homes.
Moving northward through the DMZ, towards Pan Mun Jpm, our tour guide welcomed us to Camp Bonifas.
“Camp Bonifas is a United Nations Command military post located 400 meters south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It is 2400 meters south of the military demarcation line and lies within the Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjom. The Military Demarcation Line (or 38th Parallel) forms the border between South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
Camp Bonifas is home to the United Nations Command Security Battalion- Joint Security Area, whose primary mission is to monitor and enforce the Armistice Agreement of 1953 between North and South Korea. Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers (known as “security escorts”) conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Program tours of the JSA and surrounding areas. The camp has a gift shop which sells DMZ- and JSA-related souvenirs.
The camp, formerly known as Camp Kitty Hawk, was renamed on August 18, 1986, in honor of U.S. Army Captain Arthur G. Bonifas (posthumously promoted to major), who along with 1LT Mark T. Barrett, were killed by North Korean soldiers in the “Axe Murder Incident”.
There is a par 3 one-hole “golf course” at the camp, which includes an Astroturf green and is surrounded on three sides by minefields. Sports Illustrated called it “the most dangerous hole in golf” and there are reports that at least one shot exploded a land mine.
Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post reported in 1998 that Camp Bonifas was a “small collection of buildings surrounded by triple coils of razor wire just 440 yards south of the DMZ” that, were it not for the minefields and soldiers, would “look like a big Boy Scout camp.”
Our bus pulled up to a large granite building, our guide referred to as the Freedom house, through which we walked in order to see the small blue-roofed buildings of PanMunJom, where the Military Armistice Commission still periodically hold talks with North Korea.
One travel guide on the Internet put it this way,
“Once you have been given your guest badge you are driven the short distance to Panmunjom itself. Until the 1950′s this was a small farming hamlet, nowadays the village has been replaced by some grand buildings surrounding three blue huts. In all honesty, there is nothing of real interest to see here, what you’re paying for is the chance to see the Cold War at full freeze. From the marching North Korean guards looking at you through binoculars to the South Korean elite troops with mirrored sunglasses (for extra intimidation) and dozens of chains swinging from their trousers(to fool the North Koreans that there are more soldiers around than there really are) this is a one-off experience. Of particular note is the P’anmun-gak building on the North Korean side of the JSA. Built in 1969 on the highest point of elevation in Panmunjom, this is a full one meter wider than its equivalent Freedom House(built by the South Koreans in 1965). An ornate looking three-story building with huge windows, P’anmungak is nothing but an elaborate facade with a depth of only six meters.
You’ll be taken from Freedom House into the hut where the Military Armistice Commission still periodically hold talks. If you saw the episode of ‘Full Circle’ in which Michael Palin came here then you’ll already be familiar with the interior of the hut(a table is situated in the middle of the room with flags at both ends and microphone cables-denoting the border between North and South-running across the centre). If you remember the contents of the program you’ll also be more than vaguely aware of the speech the escort makes after you crowd around the table: “Those of you on my left are now in the Communist North Korea, while those of you on my right are relatively safe in the Democratic South”. Under the watchful eye of two South Korean soldiers you are then free to cross the border by walking around the right hand side of the table. Throughout, the soldiers remain still in an extremely menacing looking Taekwondo stance.
One funny story that sums up the atmosphere at the Armistice meetings relates to the respective flags of the two nations: One day, a flag was brought in by one side that was larger than the flag of the other. At the next meeting, this smaller flag was replaced by a flag larger than the at of the other side. On alternate meeting days, the respective sides brought in continually larger flags until they were finally too big to get into the building. Only then were the flags limited to their present size.
Before you leave the JSA you’ll also get a chance to see the North Korean community called “Propaganda Village” by the US. It’s a long distance away but you should be able to make out a number of high-rise buildings (hollow structures complete with painted windows we were told) as well as the world’s largest flag. Hung from a 160 meter tall flagpole, and proportionately large-the flag is so heavy that it tears in half whenever it rains. Apparently, the only sign of life in the village is the man who comes to take it down at the first sign of rainfall!
Of course, as with all things in this place, what one side does the other tries to do better. In this vein, you’ll be driven past Taesong-dong (termed “Freedom Village”) on your way back to Camp Boniface. Home to 200 inhabitants, the villagers are exempt from all taxes and national military service and farm an average of 17 acres of land (as opposed to 3 in the rest of the country). To live here your family had to have resided in Panmunjom prior to the outbreak of the Korean War.
One Very Unusual Thing Happened:
As we stood on the back steps of the Freedom House, looking past the several small huts of PanMun Jom, across the actual line of demarcation, towards the tall three-story building façade of P’anmungak, for the first time ever from my several trips, a crowd of North Koreans, mostly in military attire, had gathered on the steps on their side, appearing to be having their own tour of the DMZ. Then suddenly, two North Korean guards turned and marched towards the other side in traditional North Korean fashion, arms swinging side to side and legs thrust out in front of them step by step. It was definitely a first for me.
Entering the main blue-roofed building, we were actually able to see the negotiating table, which is split in half as the line of demarcation actually travels straight through the table, allowing you to stand in South Korea then move to the other side of the table to step foot in North Korea. All the time North Korean guards were peering in at us through the glass windows on the North Korean side. It was quite a treat for all of us there that day.
A Day at the Orphanage:
In hopes of delivering a large box of Tupperware toys donated by Tupperware Sales Agents back home, when my son Michael and his wife Kaitlin were in town, I had saved up these toys for such a special occasion. Taking advantage of their presence in South Korea, we picked a time one afternoon, to travel over to the orphanage to make the special delivery.
Through the steep winding backstreets from our house to South Mountain, we made our way over to the South Mountain orphanage. Up a hill and past a large somewhat famous girls high school, we finally entered the gates of the orphanage. At first glance it was a small but clean compound of several buildings, a few buildings obviously living quarters for the 60 some children ages 0 through 20. Aware of our approximate arrival, a small greeting party had gathered in front of the main office.
After being ushered into what appeared to be the main office, we met with the Managing Director and his staff, who at once proceeded to give us a tour of the facility, along with introducing us, at each step of the way, to the children living on the grounds. Arriving at cleaning time, we were able to witness first hand the well-behaved, well-mannered and disciplined nature of the children.
Our first stop was to the nursery where some 7 or 8 infants, ages 6 months to 16 months, had been placed to receive the mostly infant toys we had brought. Somewhat in awe of our unusual appearance and anxious to play with the toys, all of the infants remained relatively quite and well behaved. My own granddaughter, Maleah, was quick to jump into the middle of the others to help out in distributing the toys, not fully ware herself what was going on.
They were all so adorable, but yet for one reason or another had been abandoned by their biological mother and father. With no hope for adoption, the children are destined to be raised by the orphanage staff, who do their best I am sure to offer each child as much love and attention as is humanly possible. Each child is allowed to stay at the facility until they are able to graduate from college or decide to leave after high school.
It was a very special day for all of us, especially for my son and daughter-in-law, who were responsible for sending the toys to us in the first place. The children were all so wonderful, it was hard to leave when the time came. We were grateful to have been able to share a little bit of happiness with those very special children.
Love to All
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The General was in town:
The landscape of leafless trees and brown winter foliage flashed past my window as we sped along the tracks at around 180 mph. Enjoying the more spaciously situated larger chairs of KTX’s first class, I sat comfortably enjoying the companionship of General Tarbet, the Adjutant General for the state of Utah. He has been my long time friend, who personally requested that I tag (no pun intended, only military people will get this one) along with him during his whirlwind two-day trip to Seoul, South Korea. I have known him since he was a 1st Lt and he has actually been my commander in one capacity or another to send me off on my three deployments to the Middle East. But I won’t hold that against him, given the overall outcomes of those life-changing mobilizations.
In the Korean’s version of the bullet train, the three of us sat along one row, with plenty of style, legroom, comfort and the occasional snack cart, we traveled the one hour and fifty minutes from Seoul to Daegu. All of this made for easy conversation, the sporadic cat nap and of course there was plenty of time for the customary barrage of sarcastic jabs and bantering. I personally truly enjoy General Tarbet’s great sense of humor and his no frills leadership style.
Looking out the train window I thought for a moment I was back in 1971, making my way by train from Seoul to Daegu (spelled Taegu back then), as a missionary with my transfer in hand, in route to meet up with Greg Newby, my new companion. The train was must slower then and the living conditions drastically different, but the country side, the mountains were still basically the same. The steep mountains and terraced hillsides, with numerous small villages nestled up into every ravine and narrow valley, reminded me of the many memorable moments I have spent over the years out with the country/farm people of Korea.
With its old style Hanok homes, terraced rice fields, and unique calmness and solitude, the countryside of South Korea has always had a certain allure and magnetism to me. Also, with out a doubt the country folk are definitely different in many ways from city folk, still exemplifying a special humbleness that attracted me back in the 70’s and still does.
“Hanok is a term to describe Korean traditional houses. Korean architecture lends consideration to the positioning of the house in relation to its surroundings, with thought given to the land and seasons.
The interior structure of the house is also planned accordingly. This principle is also called Baesanimsu (배산임수), literally meaning that the ideal house is built with a mountain in the back and a river in the front, with the ondol heated rock system for heating during cold winters and a wide daecheong (대청) front porch for keeping the house cool during hot summers.
Houses differ according to region. In the cold northern regions of Korea, houses are built in a closed square form to retain heat better. In the central regions, houses are ‘L’ shaped. Houses in the southernmost regions of Korea are built in an open ‘I’ form. Houses can also be classified according to class and social status.”
Before I knew it the train was pulling into East Daegu, our stop, forcing us to gather up our few belongings in preparation to jump off the train, of course after it stops. No sooner had we exited the train then we spotted our welcoming committee, who whisked us away in their waiting van, off to where the troops were already setting up for the training exercise. With a large contingent of soldiers from Utah in country, the General was here to just say hi and shake as many hands as possible.
Once at K2, a joint Korean/American military base in the center of Daegu, our escorts drove us over to the location of our Utah soldiers, the focus of the General’s visit. Having been the Adjutant General for the state of Utah for the past 12 years, General Tarbet has a great reputation and rapport with the soldiers and has a personal relationship with many of them, which became very evident once he got amongst the troops to interact with each and every one of them. After a short introductory briefing regarding the mission and operational goals and objectives, and a great meal offered up in the US DIFAC (dining facility), we were off to the train and on our way back to Seoul.
Having spent several years away on deployments with the military, my wife has been able to also develop a good friendly relationship with General Tarbet, who has always had an opened door policy with her. During difficult times during my absence she has sought his advice on numerous occasions and of course to jokingly get after him for sending me away to war three times.
Arriving back into Seoul much earlier than expected and with some extra time on his hands and a desire to hook up later with my wife and I for a night out on the town, he requested I return in a couple of hours. This allowed him to crash in his room for a bit, as he attempted to get caught up on his sleep. As requested my wife and I, as his personal escort service, with him in tow, took him and the Command Sergeant Major to a local restaurant affording them the opportunity to enjoy a typical Korean dinner, before his departure early the next morning. It turned out to be one of the better meals we have had, introducing the General to a number of new flavors, which he took to quite easily. I was very impressed.
Paladins the day before:
Having arrived late Wednesday night and on a tight schedule leaving early Saturday morning, the General didn’t have any time to waste. With another group of troops up north of Seoul on the live fire range, early Thursday morning we took off to witness the actual shooting of live rounds from the M109 Paladins the 155 m self propelled gun (Google).
With the hatch swung open, a hand from inside the Paladin motioned for me to enter inside to join the other crewmembers already positioned to perform their duties. I gracefully crawled through the open hatch of the large mobile howitzer, as only a 60-year-old soldier can, to find the 4-crew members preparing for the live fire demonstration. Each with their respective duties and responsibilities, they handed me the short length of rope and hook system used to fire off each round. With ear plugs tightly jammed into my ear canals and with great anticipation, when called upon to do so, I hooked the loop and yanked the rope as one round after another fired off, launching a projectile some 2 or 3 miles away to smash into its target. This was my first time ever to be in a Paladin, so up close and personal, and oh what a thrill. The sounds, the boom, the smell of gunpowder, wow, big toys for men.
Bringing you all Current:
Our Trip to Kyushu, the rest of the story:
A few weeks ago, with the coldness of winter still frozen to us like frost on a metal pipe, we decided to take a short weekend excursion to Japan for a couple of days. Having weathered most of what we thought to be a historically cold winter of humid South Korea, we longed for a short vacation to Japan, where we had been some 30 years before. Advertised as a hot spring tour in the southern volcanic Island of Kyushu Japan, we had thoughts of sitting in the warmth of a natural hot springs, sipping cold drinks amidst the coolness of a Japanese winter. It didn’t quite turn out that way but it ended up being a most memorable break away.
Having decided to leave just a few days before, we didn’t have a lot of options to choose from; even so we were excited for the experience. We booked it through a travel agency, not wanting to have to worry about hotels, transportation and such, deciding to go with one of the more reliable travel agencies in the Seoul area.
With 36 other people on the same tour, a tour-guide with us the entire trip and not too much at stake, we took off from Incheon International Airport. With the sheer number of people traveling on the various tour groups that day and the orderly fashion in which it was all managed, we were totally impressed with how the Koreans have this mode of travel down to a science. With tickets in hand, our middle-aged somewhat taller than average Korean female tour guide greeted us at the Hanna Travel check-in counter.
In a short hour, no sooner had we taken off, had a quick sandwich lunch and a drink, then word came over the intercom system to prepare for our landing in Kumamoto, Japan, where our tour was to begin. Through Japanese customs and on to the bus, we took off on our two-night 3-day Hot Spring tour of Kyushu Japan.
Somewhat removed from the crowded hustle bustle of the more populated areas of Japan, Kyushu would be regarded as more of a rural setting where mostly senior citizens reside. With the trend for the younger generations to move to Tokyo, Kumamoto appears to be more of a retirement community, made up of original residents or transplanted seniors in search of a slower life style.
As only the Japanese seem to be able to do, the streets, the sidewalks and the side roads were all clean and orderly, just as I remembered them to be. There is a certain calmness and tranquility even in the busiest cities, where order and peaceful coexistence is stressed above all else. Not much has changed, as the Japanese chose to leave things as they were, ignoring any urge to redevelop the areas with large apartment complexes and high rise office buildings. Quite on the contrary, the Japanese have a reverence for leaving their surroundings in place, opting to have smaller homes and mini-sized cars. You only have to go out to eat to any Japanese restaurant to realize the value they place on smaller is better.
With the ocean as the backdrop and volcano shaped mountains filling the landscape, one can see clouds of steam rising up through the thick green foliage as steam and vapors are released through out the area. Visions of settling down into the warmth of a natural hot spring filled my head, until I realized that the naturally heated water is merely piped into a public bathhouse inside the hotels that we stayed in. Not being too fond of public bathing, regardless of the quality of the water, I opted out of the hot spring bathing the first night, but succumb to the pressure to at least check it out the second night.
Along with ancient temples, hot pots, active volcanoes, old cities, shopping areas, and beautiful scenic landscapes, we spent time just relaxing and being together. Once the sunset each evening the time was pretty much ours to spend as we saw fit and of course that meant eating. Surprisingly enough, the Japanese food was quite good.
In the course riding around in a large tour bus with 36 other Koreans, we grew close to a couple other like-minded people, whom we exchanged stories and daily dialogue with. One particular couple took an unexpected liking to both of us and has made an effort to stay connected to us many times since that initial meeting on the tour. I will tell you more about this friendship in my next blog.
Rather then bore you with any more details regarding our trip to Japan; I will finish my travel blog of this trip with pictures of the beauties of Japan.
Thanks, keep smiling
Sunday, February 19, 2012
After much trepidation the news finally came the other day that our shipment to Honduras was actually going to happen. Weeks had turned into months as we have waited patiently for the word that our Denton Grant was going to actually materialize; providing us the financial support needed to ship the 3 forty-foot containers to Honduras. With the help of Alex, a good friend in the Utah National Guard, who originates from that country, and with the constant logistical assistance from FedEx to move the pallets to Hill Air Force Base, all the pieces have miraculously fallen into place.
Given all the small miracles that have occurred making this all possible, now must be the right time for the 80 plus pallets, piled high with school supplies, hygiene kits, shoes, toys, and the like, to arrive at their destination. With the help of a Non-Profit Organization on the ground in Honduras, and of course Alex who will be traveling with the shipment, I am sure we will soon hear of many great stories of how these items all went to good use.
With the Lord’s hand directing the forward motion, numerous balls of hope continue to roll forward, opening doors and knocking down obstacles in many directions, fulfilling so many of our dreams. The success of Operation Give continues to amaze all of us involved, as it appears at times to have a divinely assisted path of its own. We do our part, but we know who the master puppeteer is and we let it flow, as it will, not knowing most of the time where it might head or lead us to.
Lately, as I have been seeking for further direction and knowledge regarding our next steps, the message that appears to be constantly whispering to me like a gentle wind chime, is to wait patiently – for all will unfold as it should. Having gone through many personal challenges lately, I have felt this to be the designated time for me to be remolded, to feel the torch of the refiners fire as certain defects are removed, forcing me to take the time also for self reflection, self-improvement and self-evaluation. With many of life’s lessons finally being understood and internalized, even at this stage of the my life, I feel the molding affects of the Savior’s hands, as he attempts to remove additional imperfections and character flaws in my being.
I am reminded of a talk given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell
On becoming a Disciple of Christ.
Here is an excerpt from that talk:
“Given all you and I yet lack in our spiritual symmetry and character formation, no wonder God must use so intensively the little time available to develop each of us in this brief second estate. One’s life, therefore, is brevity compared to eternity—like being dropped off by a parent for a day at school. But what a day!
For the serious disciple, the resulting urgency means there can be few extended reveries and recesses and certainly no sabbaticals—all this in order to hasten God’s relentless remodeling of each of us. Reveries and special moments may come, but they are not extended. Soon the drum-roll of events, even difficulties, resumes. There is so much to get done in the brief time we have in this mortal classroom.
Comparing what we are with what we have the power to become should give us great spiritual hope. Think of it this way: There are some very serene, blue lakes on this planet situated in cavities which once were red, belching volcanoes. Likewise, there are beautiful, green, tropical mountains formed from ancient, hot extrusions. The parallel transformation of humans is much more remarkable than all of that—much more beautiful and much more everlasting!
So it is, amid the vastness of His creations, God’s personal shaping influence is felt in the details of our lives—not only in the details of the galaxies and molecules but, much more importantly, in the details of our own lives. Somehow God is providing these individual tutorials for us while at the same time He is overseeing cosmic funerals and births, for as one earth passes away so another is born. It is marvelous that He would attend to us so personally in the midst of those cosmic duties.
Are we willing, however, to be significantly remodeled even by His loving hands?”
That is really the question we all must answer. More specifically how bad to we really want to become like him and how bad do we really want to give up our will to do his will. In automatically answering yes, to the affirmative to these questions, I too have paid lip service without really fully understanding what is required if I truly desire to become a disciple of Christ.
Filled with hope that I have accomplished some good and touched the lives of perhaps a few in a positive way along this my journey; my tutorial continues day by day. With sorrow for those I have negatively impacted and for the times that I have fallen short of my own personal potential, I relish in the opportunity each morning to begin a new, looking forward to those moments when I can see the affects of the Master Potter’s Hand; as flaws are removed, bumps smoothed over, and holes filled in.
Again from his talk:
“Be assured that God is in the details and in the subtleties of the defining and preparatory moments of discipleship. He will reassure you. He will remind you. Sometimes, if you’re like me, He will brace or reprove you in a highly personal process not understood or appreciated by those outside the context.
In the revelations, the Lord speaks of how the voice of His spirit will be felt in our minds. He also says that if we read His words—meaning the scriptures—we will hear His voice. Many disciples have had private moments of pondering and reading the scriptures when the words came through in a clear, clarion way. We know Who it is who’s speaking to us! We’ve all had the experience of going over a scripture many times without having it register. Then, all of a sudden, we’re ready to receive it! We hear the voice of the Lord through His words.
So it is in the process of discipleship. There are more meaningful moments than we use profitably, just as in terms of service there are more opportunities around us than we now use. God is ever ready; if only we were always ready.”
With whirlwinds of difficulties swirling around us from all directions, the time is now to allow the Savior to make what adjustments might be needed in each to prepare each of us physically, emotionally, and spiritually for what might lie ahead. These are the times that will test our faith.
Off to Japan for the weekend:
With the long 4-day Presidents-Day weekend ahead, we decided to take off for a little excursion to the southern most island of Kyushu, Japan. In a quick hour flight from the Incheon International Airport in Korea, we touched down in the capital city of Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, (roughly around a million people). Persuading my wife to put her fears away regarding the radiation contamination of that portion of Japan, we embarked on what was to become a very memorable weekend.
As part of a Hana Tour Group, with our own personal guide to take care of our every need, we piled into a tour bus with about 34 other people for what we are calling the Hot Tub Tour. For the next three days and two nights, we drove around the volcanic island of Kyushu, taking advantage of two of the many natural hot spring hotels spotting the landscape. In between eating, sightseeing, and volcano watching, we took the opportunity to bathe in geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust.
Of course we weren’t bathing alone, but we were both accustomed to this form of public bathing called an Onsen in Japanese, which is very common in Korea also. Of course the sexes are separated, men with men and women with women, even so I am not a big fan and don’t really understand the enjoyment of bathing with a bunch of other men. Being the main attraction of this tour, I did indulge myself one time to take advantage of the large hot pools of naturally heated water, as I sat around completely emerged in the hot water with about 30 other guys,
“Sentō (銭湯?) is a type of Japanese communal bath house where customers pay for entrance. Traditionally these bath houses have been quite utilitarian, with one large room separating the sexes by a tall barrier, and on both sides, usually a minimum of lined up faucets and a single large bath for the already washed bathers to sit in among others. Since the second half of the 20th century, these communal bath houses have been decreasing in numbers as more and more Japanese residences now have baths. Some Japanese find social importance in going to public baths, out of the theory that physical proximity/intimacy brings emotional intimacy, which is termed skinship in Japanese. Others go to a sentō because they live in a small housing facility without a private bath or to enjoy bathing in a spacious room and to relax in saunas or jet baths that often accompany new or renovated sentōs.
Another type of Japanese public bath is onsen, which uses hot water from a natural hot spring. They are not exclusive: A sentō can be called an onsen if it derives its bath water from naturally heated hot springs. A legal definition exists that can classify a public bathing facility as sentō.”
KYUSHU is the southernmost and third largest of the four main islands of Japan. Covering an area of 44,256 square kilometers and home to 14.5 million people, it is known for its picturesque coastlines, pristine forests, smoking volcanoes, landscaped hot springs, hot sand baths, geysers, geothermal plants, weird theme parks, Christian historical sights, subtropical scenery and high-tech factories that produce push-button toilets and a tenth of the world’s integrated circuits.
Even so the Northeastern part of Kyushu, being one of the less populated areas of the island, is considered to be somewhat rustic or countryside by most Japanese, providing us a look at more of a rural side to Japan I hadn’t seen before. Being quite mountainous and spotted with mounds of whitish earth, from which rise dense clouds of steam, the island appears to be constantly on fire.
In many ways the landscape of Japan in this area looks a lot like Korea, only much greener this time of year. With tall – green – thick forests, full of pine trees, against the backdrop of the ocean in many areas, it is really beautiful. Large white clouds of steam, rising up through the trees, give you the appearance of low fluffy clouds floating through the area.
Using the steam as a heat source to cook with, in many of the volcanic tourist areas, the local residences sell hard boiled eggs and other such foods.
Free from the worries of the usual hassles of traveling in an unfamiliar area, we sat back and enjoyed all that we were delivered by our trusty tour guide. Enjoying the scenery and the fresh somewhat cold air of Kyushu, we traveled here and there seeing the sites and enjoying the local cuisine of Sushi, udon, miso soup, tongatsu, and a few new things we hadn’t tasted before. With my usual emphasis on eating, we even had a few very delicious and memorable buffets; with an assortment of Japanese, Chinese, American and even some Korean Kimchi to top it off.
Of course we had to sample every type of food we came across, just because. What else do you do when you are traveling other then eating?
In that most of the young people have left the countryside for more opportunities in the larger cities, the small towns and cities we visited were very quiet, serene and peaceful. In traditional Japanese fashion, the locals keep the city streets clean and orderly, and are very polite and considerate of others, especially if they are foreigners. During our free time in the evenings and with nothing else on our schedule, we ventured out into the streets surrounding our hotels, to catch a glimpse of nightlife in Japan, (which wasn’t much to speak of, given most of the shops and businesses close at 5pm, except for the occasional 24 hour Pachinko Parlor, Google that one).
We really enjoyed our time away, but glad to be back in Korea, with all the hustle and bustle of Seoul, a city of 20 million people.
Have a Great Day
“Doing it the Wiggles way”
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday Morning on South Mountain:
The regular workweek was over, it was early Saturday morning just after daybreak. Bundled with layers of sweatshirts (one with a hoody), a baseball cap, a facemask and insulated hiking pants, I exited our building with renewed anticipation and excitement for this my day of hiking. I wait all week for this day to come; as I look forward to Saturdays when I can get out into the mountains and hills around Seoul. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I just really enjoy getting outdoors for a little hiking.
Today I was going to attempt to set a new personal record for the round trip from my place to the top of Nam San (or South Mountain) and back. Having made the trip before in less than one and a half hours, today I was determined to see if I could do it in an hour, (even though I knew that I would have to stop and grab some food for my wife and I on the way back, as was our tradition). But, I was going to give it a try, as the thought of Nam San’s 900 plus stairs flashed through my head.
With clear blue skies overhead and the sun shinning brightly down on a still very cold winter’s day, the automatic doors of my high-rise complex opened as I approached and I could immediately feel the chill of the freezing air against my face. Almost out of desperation to keep warm I picked up my pace this morning as I headed down the street. Glancing up I could see Nam San’s tower off in the distance, serving as a guide for my morning jaunt.
Wanting to save time, I jogged down the flat street sidewalks, knowing I would have to slow down as soon as I hit the stairs. Past a variety of shops, stores, and street vendors, I ran down the somewhat uneven cobblestone like sidewalks, pausing only to wait for the streetlights to change in my favor.
The road started its expected incline as I rounded the corner of the Army base, just past Yongsan High School. People in the neighborhood were just beginning to go about their daily activities; as I could see shops opening and goods being placed outside for sale, fresh vegetables and fish on ice already filling the sidewalks.
I came to the first set up of steep stairs, which ascended straight up before me, as if they were stairs to heaven. Fully warmed up at this point, still focusing on my overall time, I moved quickly and somewhat gracefully (or at least it seemed so in my mind) past this obstacle, then on to one set of granite stone stairs after another, all perfectly set in place by expert craftsmen (or so it seemed).
901 stairs later, reaching the top, I checked my watch to see that it had taken 45 minutes to travel from my apartment to the top of Nam San, a respectable time I was happy with. With my hat and gloves off at this point and all of my clothes soaked with sweat, I made one round at the top and started my descent down the same path, stopping at the lookout point to catch a glimpse of the Seoul city skyline visible in all directions.
Down off the steps and back on the stone sidewalk, I stopped at Kim Pob Heaven to pick up a couple of Korean style seaweed and rice rolls, as was our tradition, hoping to eat that with my wife for breakfast. Grasping the black plastic sack of rolls in one hand, I continued jogging, running, and fast walking through the streets of Seoul, as I made my way back to my apartment. Checking my watch it took one hour and fifteen minutes, a new personal record.
Although the hike this morning was more of a form of exercise and a personal challenge, there is still time to enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of life in Seoul, Korea. The hustle bustle of people and cars all competing for time and space, as they each attempt to scratch out their existence in a city of some 20 million people. The energy of the city can be felt at all times, 24 x 7.
The Changing Land of Korea:
One advantage of living in such a city is that there is food everywhere; on every street and on every corner, down every alleyway and up every building. Food is a major part of life in Korea, everything your heart does or does not desire. Any time of day or night, you can find a full assortment of food, of all shapes and sizes, pretty much everywhere. There is always something to eat, no matter where you are.
I ponder for a moment the enormous amount of change that has occurred here over the past 40 years, but still very grateful for the things that haven’t changed. Searching out at times for the food flavors of times past, we continue to venture out into unknown areas, in hopes of finding the perfect food. Fortunately we have been lucky so far, scoring big time on some great meals.
The past 4 decades have brought unbelievable growth and development to this nation, once referred to as the Hermit Kingdom. With a state of the art subway system and their own backbone to the Internet, there is probably no more modern country on earth.
In their quest for modernization and developed nation status, Koreans have become a marketers dream target market. Their unquenchable desire for the latest products, technology, name brand items, and every thing else money can buy, has turned most of them into the ultimate materialistic consumer. Pushing old traditions aside, they even have taken on the western way of spending more than they make, creating a mini version of our debt crisis.
In their desire for perfection and constant improvement, as they compete for wealth, fame and fortune, they have also become obsessed with plastic surgery. Korea has become the world’s capital for plastic surgery, with whole neighborhoods of the city filled with dermatologists and plastic surgeons, office after office. Eye jobs, nose jobs, face jobs, boob jobs, you name they are all doing it over here, so they can all look more western, creating of men and women that look almost identical in my eyes.
Words to my Kids:
With the world’s economy in a tail spin, our own economy in a free fall with no recovery in sight, and our enemies gathering their forces at our borders and in far off lands, I thought it would be good to provide my children with a short list of essential things they should be doing during these difficult times. Not to alarm them, but just as advice from their father to provide them with some good suggestions. I want them to be prepared for whatever might happen.
There isn’t anything new or startling about the list and overall is quite basic, but as a starting point for my kids and with hope they might pay attention, I sent them all the following list. So I thought I would share it with all of you in hopes that you might find it valuable.
1. Save as much money as you can. Do whatever you can to save as much money as possible.
2. Make sure you have some money at home, enough to survive if you have to for at least a month. Make sure you have some cash.
3. Make sure you have gas in your car. Keep your car at last half full all the time.
4. Make sure you start buying two of things that you need so that you have extra at home. Have food at home you could eat to survive on
5. Pay off as many bills as you can. I know you are all strapped for money but stay out of debt.
6. Make sure you have water stored up at home, somewhere.
7. Don’t go in debt for anything. Pay cash or don’t buy things.
8. Make sure you have some kind of a 72 hour kit, or survival kit, with matches, flashlight, batteries, snacks, blankets, clothes, etc. Keep it handy in case you have to grab and go
9. Get a good book on survival and start reading it.
10. Pray about what you need to survive at your house if things get tough and figure out what you can do with what little you have.
Doing it the wiggles way.
February 5, 2012
Where are North Koreans From:
On a clear bitter cold winter night, with time on our hands and our hungry stomach’s as our guide, we decided to head over to Shin Chon for a bite to eat. Given that my wife and I have both spent time living in that area, we knew there would be endless options and every type of cuisine imaginable, along with the energy of thousands of college students livening up the night.
Wrapped up and layered up we headed out into the coldness of the night like North Pole explorers. Feeling the cold humid night air against our faces, we almost gave in to the urge to return to the warmness of our apartment. Driven by hunger and a certain amount of crazy desire to get out, we ventured on.
Once in the Shin Chon area memories of days gone by flooded our minds, each of us remembering certain fond moments from our past. Her as a child growing up and me as a missionary back in the early 1970’s, each of us remembering places we frequented before in very different circumstances and surroundings, some 40 plus years ago.
Sinchon University District is an area of Seoul, Korea, that is famous for its shopping and nightlife. It is jam-packed with restaurants, bars, cafes, and clothing stores. Sinchon is at the heart of surrounding universities, such as Yonsei, Ewha, and Sogang. As a result, it has become a hot spot for both Koreans and foreigners to converge on.
Given our endless desire to indulge in the local cuisine, we have developed a pattern of eating small amounts at numerous eating establishments throughout the course of one evening out. So as not to fill up with just one item, we would rather spend the evening restaurant hopping, from place to place, in search of the perfect selections.
On that evening we selected a certain noodle house to share a bowl of soup together. In the course of our dining experience we started up a conversation with one of the ladies working on the other side of the counter. We could tell immediately by her accent that she was from North Korea, but even after several attempts to inquirer about her origin, she continued to state that she was from China. She claimed she learned Korean after she moved to South Korea from China.
To us it was obvious that the only way she would have learned to speak with a North Korean dialect was if she had been born there. Currently there are over 20,000 plus North Korean defectors living in South Korean, who have escaped North Korea across the northern border into China and made their way south through China, across the Yellow Sea, to their final destination of South Korea.
For the most part their individual journeys through China extend over a period of a year or more; full of pain and suffering as they each secretly have moved southward, attempting to remain undetected by local Chinese police. Their stories are astonishing and extremely sad, full of amazing acts of bravery and incredible human injustices. Many are forced to serve as slaves for their Chinese masters, who abuse them repeatedly.
I was saddened by her reluctance to admit that she was from North Korea and by her continual insistence that she was from China. I had heard of the persecution and discrimination that defectors receive at the hands of their fellow brothers the South Koreans, but how bad would it have to be for her to lie about her homeland. Perhaps it is much more serious then I expected.
Given our short interaction with the restaurant worker, I can’t tell for sure what her story was or why she would feel inclined to make such a claim. But, either way it is really a shame that someone would have to make up a story about their own birthplace.
I have heard stories about how defectors are looked down upon by South Koreans who continually discriminate against them in various ways. Perhaps the South Koreans feel superior in some way or perhaps they just don’t trust their communist brothers and sisters from the North. I don’t fully understand the nature or the level of the discrimination, but even so I am deeply saddened that it exists at all in any form.
Actually North and South Koreans are all the same race of people; speaking the same language, with the same origin. But, after 60 years of separation, divided by a demilitarized zone and having lived under very different forms of government (free capitalist based society vs a communist totalitarian regime), it is as if they are now totally separate countries.
South Koreans live in a very modern and advanced country; enjoying the status of having one of the top 10 economies in the world. North Koreans live in what is considered to be one of the most closed, tightly controlled totalitarian countries in the world; ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world.
Here is some news regarding North Korea, to give you an idea of conditions there.
According to his report, the outflow of NK refugees along the Tumen River, which had temporarily ceased, has begun again.
Although border security remains strict following the period of mourning that marked the death of Kim Jong-il, a growing number of North Korean refugees are being seen in villages along the Tumen River.
Most of them cross the frozen Tumen River at night, as they head for the Korean ethnic villages along the River, sometimes in groups of 6 or 7. Their most common request from the villagers is for food.
Unfortunately, the villagers have become reluctant to help NK defectors. Most of the villagers try to drive them away, since they fear punishment by the Chinese police for helping defectors. In addition, the villagers are less than friendly since a number of North Koreans have robbed and even murdered villagers despite being welcomed with kindness in the past.
In fact, in one village in Sanhezhen, China, located opposite Feryon in North Korea, a few robberies have already been reported in the first week of the New Year. Also, a burglary was reported on January 5 in Yanji, when an elderly couple in their late 60’s was robbed of money by North Korean burglars. Fortunately, the couple was not harmed.
To deal with the situation, check points have been established at village entrances in Sanhezhen. There, armed border guards and armed police are working jointly. The armed guards and police record the license numbers of all passing vehicles, check IDs, and demand detailed explanations regarding the purpose of visits to the villages.
On the national road along the border, check points have been instituted under the joint control of armed border guards, armed police and civilian police. Security inspections have been conducted since the death of Kim Jong-il.
A new security check point has been set up at the entrance into Tumen City, plus another check point at the city exit leading toward Sanhezhen. Patrols on the road along the Tumen River have also been beefed up. These patrols are comprised of civilians hired by the local governments. On the road running along the Tumen River between Tumen City and Mabei, two-man civilian patrols cruise on bicycles at 300- to 500-meter intervals.
Our local staff member commented that he has never seen security so extremely strict.
It is very likely that a serious food shortage is spreading throughout North Korea, with many citizens growing desperate and unsure whether they will survive the winter.
People in Onsong are saying that the recent conditions in North Korea remind them of the “Arduous March” back in the late 1970s. There was a serious shortage of food then too.
On Jan. 23, which is New Year’s day on the old calendar, the People’s Committee of Onsong County issued an order to distribute one 450-ml bottle of Shochu (distilled 20% proof spirits) per household. Some troops received food rations on Jan. 2.
It has been an unusually cold winter and people are witnessing many more fires resulting from people trying to get warm. Of particular note are the many fires breaking out in school buildings, dormitories and government facilities. These include the Art Institute located in North Hamgyong Province and the vocational mechanical college located in Onsong county.
The people of North Korea are apparently feeling insecure about their future, which naturally leads to conversations about politics. Their conversations center on the food shortage and on Chang Sung-taek, who is the vice-chairman of National Defense Commission, now backing up the new leader Kim Jong-un.
One frequently heard comment is: “The international community has always seen Kim Jong-il as a dictator and they have stopped supplying food to help us.” Another common remark is: “Kim Jong-un is too young to be a successful leader. He has no political experience and is already failing to secure food aid from other countries.”
People usually conclude by agreeing that “Chang Sung-taek is serving as a regent, just as they did for the Chinese Emperors in the old days.” Most people in North Korea do not believe that Kim Jong-un, now the North Korea Supreme Commander, is really heading the regime, but rather that Chang Sung-taek has actually taken over as the de facto ruler.
Time to Think:
In the course of celebrating my wife’s birthday, full of eating and more eating, I had an opportunity for some personal time, while my wife was engaged in other activities. In the lobby of what is called the Dragon Hotel on Yongsan Army base, I sat lost in my own thoughts; relishing in the time to finally ponder and meditate. For some time now, I had been longing for this kind of opportunity to have free flowing thoughts, perhaps even inspired thoughts.
Forgetting my surroundings I sat searching for new ideas, new thoughts, perhaps creative solutions for some of the challenges facing me. Sometimes, at least for me, my best ideas come to me during this type of personal reflection time, almost as if they are inspired creative thoughts from above.
During the day-to-day activities of our busy existence, most of us don’t take the time to ponder, reflect and meditate on the various issues, problems, and challenges we are all forced to deal with. Perhaps this is exactly what might be needed for us to find answers to our daily prayers. Perhaps our bodies need time to disconnect from our daily demands, so that our minds might be able to tap into our more creative side, or perhaps to connect with our maker as he attempts to communicate with us.
If we constantly rush through life, and jam up all our channels with outgoing transmissions, it might be difficult for our Savior to provide transmissions of his own in response.
Also, all of us have the God given ability to create ideas of our own, providing solutions to our greatest challenges. We all possess creative abilities, if we can but learn how to tap into them. Each of us must learn on our own, the best way for each of us to come up with these creative thoughts. It just takes a little bit of effort, an open mind, and a little bit of faith, for the thoughts to begin flowing.
For me it is a combination of meditating, praying and listening. I consider all creative thoughts to be gifts from God. So during the process I am asking for ideas and then taking the necessary time to listen for responses from above, as thoughts are created in my mind and heart. Thoughts do come, especially if I need new ideas for a specific new challenge. They might not come the first time, but they do eventually come.
The two hours of searching and meditating there in the hotel lobby went by in what seemed to be 15 minutes. I was pleased with the results, hoping to be able to spend this kind of time again real soon. I didn’t come up with the next IPad, but I did receive answers.
Recharge your batteries.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Pigs Feet to Go:
With no destination in mind and nothing but an urge to get out of our apartment, my wife and I caught bus # 740 outside our place one evening this week and headed towards Mapo (Google). The cold chill of the winter evening was settling in on Seoul, as we ventured down the road in hopes of just checking out the sights and sounds of a mid-week night on the streets of Mapo, (a district in Seoul).
For me just riding the bus around the city is entertaining enough, as you can observe through the large bus windows, the active daily life-style of Koreans as they, even at around 8pm, hurry about their business. All of them seem to have an urgent place to go, engaged in any number of daily activities, to include; eating, drinking, shopping, returning home from work, meeting up with friends, etc.
With a blanket of darkness now covering the city, we existed the bus and immediately felt the cold brisk winter air hit us right in the face, chilling us down to the bone. Well experienced now with the humid-cold Korean winter, we came bundled up prepared for the worst it had to offer.
In route during our 10-minute ride, we decided to get off the bus in Kong duk Dong, to check out an area both of us used to be familiar with many years ago. With dinner on our mind we made our way across a couple of streets to what looked like a fairly quite restaurant area.
The streets were somewhat void of pedestrians and the restaurants only partially full of patrons. But, as soon as we entered the neighborhood, we heard a certain loud commotion going on. It sounded like a large mass of people talking at a high rate and high volume. The sound seemed to just jump out and grab us as we past by a certain alleyway, pulling us into the epicenter of the noise.
As we daringly walked down the alley, to our surprise, we saw a whole subculture of some 30 small shanty like restaurants, all jammed full of people. There must have been several hundred people all eating and drinking inside these little restaurants. All eating the same thing, Jok Bal or pig’s feet (Google).
Jok Bal is kind of like stewed and simmered pigs fee. The hair is removed from pigs’ feet and they are thoroughly washed. Leeks, garlic, ginger, cheongju (rice wine) and water are brought to a boil. The pigs’ feet are added, brought back to a boil and then simmered until tender. Then additional water, sugar and soy sauce are poured into the pot and the contents are slowly stirred. Once the jokbal is fully cooked, bones are removed, and the meat is cut into thick slices. It is then served with fermented shrimp sauce called saeujeot (새우젓).
Hidden away behind the main buildings that lined the streets, these Jokbal Restaurants, all side by side, separated at times by only very narrow – dark alleyways, all seemed to be part of a larger collective or hive. It was quite a sight to behold, even for my wife who grew up here. We weaved in and out of the labyrinth like alleyways and narrow corridors, from one restaurant to another, finally deciding to stop at one small hole in the wall place to have a bowl of Soon Dae soup, Korean Sweet Rice Blood Wurst Sausage Soup, not really in the mood for pigs feet at that time but thought maybe the sausage soup might be more the treat.
We didn’t partake of the golden hoofs but both of us agreed that someday we would have to come back to try out that delicacy, with out the local brew of course. As the night grew colder, we made one more stop into one of the restaurants out on the local main drag,
Friends from the past:
With the arrival of our household goods and my wife and I now somewhat settled into our high-rise apartment, we felt it was time to invite a couple of close acquaintances over. So last Monday evening we had three close friends, whom I knew as a missionary here some 40 years ago, over for a home-style Korean dinner.
For most of the day my wife had been slaving away in the kitchen cooking up a few special dishes; some spicy kimchi tofu soup, Oyster sauce pork chops, dukboke gee, yaki mando, and of course a few side dishes to top it off. Based on the amount of food they all consumed, everything seemed to have turned out to their satisfaction.
Old stories from days gone by and new stories of what has transpired in between then and now were exchanged back and forth, as we joyfully ate and chatted for a couple of hours. It was great to see them again and to reacquaint our selves with each other, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
After dinner we all moved to our living room area to continue the discussions of all that has transpired over the last 40 years, especially as it related to the husband and wife couple, now serving a mission as temple workers in the South Korean temple. In a spirit of closeness and reverence they shared their spiritual experiences that led them to leave a lucrative business in LA, to find happiness as missionaries serving in the temple.
Hearing of the power of their faith concerning the Lord’s work and tithing moved both my wife and I beyond description. We were touched by their sincere and honest testimonies and humbled to see they were still strong in serving the Lord.
With the lunar New Year traffic already picking up for the weekend, and 150 facial care kits loaded in our van, we headed out of Seoul for our next event. We were heading to Pyeong Taek, a port city about an hour and a half south west of Seoul, to meet up with the founder of the Sunlit Sisters Non Profit organization.
We were to rendezvous with a truck carrying a load of 150 bags of rice and the FedEx truck delivering 52 boxes from Operation Give both already in route to our destination. You might recall the small miracle I wrote about in my last blog regarding the miraculous way in which Elaine at Operation Give was able to vicariously ship a load of 150 blankets, 150 knitted hats, and 150 dental hygiene kits for this event.
Arriving in Pyeong Taek, after catching a quick bite to eat, we made our way over to the location of the Sunlit Sisters Center. After winding our way through back roads we arrived at what appeared to be any other residential area of small old style traditional Hanok houses (Google). At the end of a narrow walkway, one of the home’s entrance way was painted bright green and had the name of the organization painted on the wall adjacent the front door.
Entering through the main gate I was greeted by the founder of the organization and several of her volunteers, who offered up the customer bow and a handshake, somewhat of a mixture of Korean and Western cultures. Looking through the opened doors of the house I could see that a large group of elderly women, perhaps 60 or more, were sitting on the floor in customary Asian fashion.
After offering a few quick greetings to the seated women, I went back outside to help in the delivery of the rice and facial care kits, as they were being brought into the house. And to wait for the FedEx truck to show up with the rest of the donated items.
Once the rice had all been brought into the house, I went back in to address the large gathering of elderly women, patiently awaiting the arrival of all of the items. In my somewhat awkward Korean(not quite sure of what to say), I explained to them where these donated items came from and how many had made their way from Operation Give in the United States via FedEx to their front door.
This group of actually 150 elderly women all now well into their 80’s are part of a somewhat forgotten group of women. For one reason or another, for sure all with somewhat different circumstances, these women were all bar girls or prostitutes back after the Korean war in the early 1950’s, servicing the needs of the US soldiers stationed there. Consequently all were later ostracized and persecuted by their own Korean society; left to fend for themselves, most not able to work or have any type of normal life afterwards.
For the most part these women have been abandoned by their own country and of course forgotten by the US soldiers that used them, some 60 years ago. Thus the reason for the establishment of the Sunlite Sister’s Organization, which was set up about 10 years ago to help these women.
With only the small amount of $300 they receive from the Korean government each month, they are forced to live in very substandard conditions. Most of these now aging women don’t even have the money they need for a proper burial, which for many will be soon. This last year alone, 8 more of these women passed away with out hardly the clothes on their backs.
It was a great event, one we hope to repeat again. We were all uplifted by their humility and graciousness and glad we could at least do this small act of kindness.
We are all God’s children, worthy of his love.
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”
January 16, 2012
And the Good News Came:
As my ring-tone sang its now familiar tune, I could see from the display on my cell phone that it was an international call. International calls are somewhat rare, as my family members have all become used to SKYPing with us once or twice a week. “Most likely it is Elaine”, I thought to myself, (Elaine is part of the team of Three Musketeers at Operation Give back home). Answering the phone with my usual “Hello”, (many continue to try to imitate my tone as they poke fun of how I answer the phone), I heard Elaine’s somewhat muffled voice, say “Let me get RoseAnn on the line”. No sooner had she said that then the call was dropped. I was in route by car back from a lunch appointment with the rest of my coworkers back to the office. I was later very relieved that the first call was lost; given my response to the conversation that unfolded, when she called back the second time with RoseAnn on the line, well after I had arrived back to the office when I was finally alone.
Leaning up against the red-bricked walls of our building to shield myself from the bitter cold wind, somewhat crouched in a corner, I was immediately warmed by RoseAnn’s good news that she had miraculously found a digital copy of my book “Saving Babylon”. The digital copy of my book had been lost a couple of years ago, as a result of my own hard-drive crashing and I was without any of the material in an electronic format. We had all been praying for the past several weeks in hopes that someone would still have a copy of it.
RoseAnn humbly and sincerely relayed the amazing news and events leading up to the discovery of the file containing my book. As she spoke I could tell she was getting a little choked up and her words conveyed such a sweet spirit that I knew the Lord had taken part in locating, for me this priceless file. The news was music to my ears. And I too had to hold back my own tears of joy and gratitude for the miracle that had just occurred. I won’t go over all the details, but it suffices to say that it was like finding a needle in a haystack.
With all else that was going on over the Christmas Holidays and her own serious family health issues to deal with, Roseann was stretched to the max, but still eager to satisfy my request to help locate the file. She herself had gotten a little impatient, but a peaceful calmness had come over her as the spirit continually told her to be patient, perhaps reassuring her the file would be found.
Upon hearing the news, we all expressed with joy our gratitude for the Savior’s hand in our work, reaffirming our belief that what we are doing is important to him in some small way. Of course I can understand the importance of the file for me, but not sure yet how the book and all that we are doing at Operation Give fits into the big scheme of things with him.
No sooner had we finished discussing my book then Elaine had her own bit of good news to share with us. Somehow – someway she was able in 24 hours to pull off getting the FedEx shipping paperwork to RoseAnn’s people early Tuesday morning and then able to sufficiently instruct them over the phone on what boxes needed to be pulled off the shelves at the warehouse and how to go about shipping 57 large boxes containing 150 homemade quilts, 150 knitted hats and 150 dental hygiene kits. All of this had to be shipped by Tuesday for another community event we were having on Friday here in South Korea.
With little prior notice and with no time to travel the two hours from Richmond to Salt Lake City, and a doctor appointment of her own, Elaine orchestrated everything flawlessly. Everything was pulled, packed and shipped via FedEx and I was already notified on Thursday that the boxes had arrived in the Incheon port, (which in and of itself is an amazing feat given the 16-hour time difference).
I was totally ecstatic at this point in our conversation, as my heart was full of love and gratitude for these two incredible women, who continue to amaze me and who continue to teach me, through their example, the power of their faith. Their faith definitely can move mountains, and does every day.
Thanks to all who participated in helping to make so much possible.
Christmas at Lotte World:
It was a few days before Christmas on a Saturday afternoon. For a change we were on time, actually a little early for our scheduled bus ride to the largest indoor amusement park on earth, “Lotte World” (Google this). Fashioned after parts of Disneyland, only all indoors, Lotte World, was the perfect place to conduct Operation Santa; for a large group of about 100 Orphanage children and an equal number or more of American soldier’s children, all there to have the time of there life.
As expected the place was packed with children of all ages; running around from ride to ride in an effort to take in as much fun during the allotted time as possible. On the main stage in front of a crowd of several hundred anxious children, we were able to grab a few minutes up front, before they were scattered to the winds, to give a few introductions and explain the plan for the evening. We promised to pass out a few gifts, just to keep their attention.
In an effort to force the Korean orphanage children to interact with our US children and adult chaperones, they were all playing a game of collect the dots; to see who could collect the most colored dots from all of the Americans wearing a certain tag around their neck. To get a dot each child at to at least say hi and ask us for a dot in English, forcing a brief but joyful interaction. For the next couple of hours these super charged up children raced around the theme park, dashing up to anyone bearing the special badge.
With ice skating on center stage down below, surrounded by a roller coaster, a pirate ship swinging to and fro and an over head tram, with plenty of places to grab a snack in between, the kids dashed off with parents and chaperones in tow, as they attempted to capture the full excitement Lotte World had to offer.
A couple of hours later, with the kid’s energy levels winding down, all the children gathered back at the Christmas Tree, where the gifts and boxes of presents were spread out on the ground. With lots of love and kindness, Operation Give had sent over enough toys, school kits, dolls, cowboy hats, and more for all the children present that day. It truly was Operation Santa; as the children got to actually walk around in between the hundreds of items to personally select the ones they wanted.
With no children of our own in the mix, my wife and I strolled around eating junk food and spending more time watching the ice skaters than on the rides and attractions. We were happy just to be part of the event, knowing so many wonderful people back home donated their time and money to make this possible. It was worth it just to see the looks on the children’s faces as they selected their presents.
Children really are the same anywhere in the world.
Our Next Event:
A group of 150 forgotten and neglected grandmothers:
A call came on Thursday, requesting my signature on the custom’s clearance forms, needed to get the 150 blankets and quilts delivered to their final destination an hour or so south of Seoul. I was informed by FedEx that they would not be able to deliver the boxes until Monday, so our last-Friday event was postponed until Wednesday of this week, to insure the boxes of quilts would be there when we arrive, along with the rice, kimchi and makeup kits, donated by our Good Neighbor members. I will explain more later about this group of 150 needy Grandmothers.
I will let you know how this event goes later this coming weekend, when I have time to write again.
Thanks for all of your help, assistance, generosity and love
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”
Sunday, January 8, 2012
A Walk in the Park
From inside the warmth of our heated apartment, the bright warm rays of the midday sun streaming through our picture windows were somewhat deceitful and made us think for a moment that the outside, under clear blue skies, was going to be warm. But, that was definitely not the case, once my wife and I stepped out into the bitter cold of a normal winter day in South Korea. As we walked along the crisp winter air cut through our clothes like a new set of Ginzu knives, instantly chilling us down to the bone.
Our faces reddened by the chill factor of the gentle breeze, we walked along with an intentional quickened pace, to help warm us up and keep our blood flowing. It was our intention to turn walking into a form of exercise in hopes of burning off some unwanted calories. We walked towards the Han River a quick 15 minutes from our high-rise apartment, hoping to link into the Han River bicycle/walking path that runs for miles in either direction along the shores of the river.
After only a few minutes into our midday jaunt, we came across a Korean-Chinese Restaurant, advertising hand-made noodles in their Jajangmyeon (Goodgle this), something we have been searching for since we arrived. (Most places have now switched over to machine made noodles, to save on time and effort). Of course we had to pause to share a quick bowl of noodles, just to see if they would meet up to our expectations.
No sooner had we placed our order, than we saw through the opened kitchen serving window a man pulling, twisting and stretching out the hand-made noodles for our dish. Within minutes he had them at the right thickness and length, and then dropped them into a large metal pot of boiling water, for a quick maybe two-minute bath, then they were ready to serve. It was everything we hoped for, nice and chewy, full of flavor and surprisingly not oily.
Now with our bellies warmed and somewhat full, we continued along our stroll in hopes of enjoying the afternoon rays of the winter sun. As we walked along, we tried to keep our pace up so as to increase our heart rate, now needing to burn off our quick tasty treat of noodles, not originally planned for.
Ice had formed along the shores of the Han River, but for the most part the river was still flowing at it’s normal pace, which was unusual for this time of year. (Normally it would be frozen over by now). To break up the monotony of walking we chatted about a variety of topics; you know the children, life in Korea, our apartment, and of course some of the events we have been involved with since our arrival, (my wife having been here only a month now).
Feeding the Homeless and Underprivileged:
Through the mostly quite streets of Yongsan Army base (Google), located in downtown Seoul, then out the back gate of Camp Coiner, through the typically crowded streets of Korea, our small group of volunteers drove along, aboard a small mini-van, ready for action. We were heading to a park where Operation Warm Comfort was to begin.
As we pulled up a large crowd of Good Neighbor Volunteers and Soldiers had gathered to participate in this the first of such an event, in hopes of helping to bring good cheer to a group of elderly underprivileged and homeless South Koreans living in the area. I was happy to see so the smiles of so many happy volunteers, willing and ready to carry out the tasks at hand.
Within minutes of our arrival several small trucks pulled up loaded to the hilt with bags of rice and cartons of eggs, purchased by our Good Neighbor Members and boxes and boxes of quilts and warm clothing previously sent by Operation Give and delivered by FedEx. A small meals-on-wheels truck was parked along side the park area already well into preparing lunch for those underprivileged who might be hanging out in the area, which by the looks of things was going to be a substantial group of people.
Our military training kicked in, as we quickly formed a human chain; lined up shoulder to shoulder to unload and pass along all the donated items moving the goods to their temporary resting spot inside the park under the hanging banner announcing the purpose of the event. The sight of the boxes and food items created a buzz in the neighborhood, as the word quickly spread of our intentions to hand out the items.
With the 8th Army Band playing Christmas carols in the background, the assemble-line tables were lined up end to end, loaded with the soup, noodles, and vegetables as final preparations were made to dish up a hot bowl of Kalguksu (Google), enough for each and every person in the area. As the hot noodles came out of the boiling pot of water, they made their way down the line, as each ingredient was added to complete the dish. With soldiers acting as waiters, the now seated elderly were served up a hot bowl of noodles with kimchi, as they listened to the sweet sound of Christmas.
As soon as the crowd of about 300 people were fed, they were all instructed to return to their rooms or temporary housing, so they might receive the other items brought for the occasion. With all the US military divided up into small teams of 4 or 5 people, they began carrying the blankets, eggs and rice to the locations selected by the local government.
With my camera in hand, I went out with some of the teams to witness the donations being delivered. I was stunned and awe struck by their bleak living conditions, as I peered into the rooms of those selected to receive the items. From inside small rooms no bigger than a normal sized bathroom, one by one older gentleman would pull open the door to what was their home and with outstretched arms and a humble heart received the items we had brought. Up and down alleyways, up dark narrow stairwells and down lightless hallways, this was repeated over and over until all the items had found a home.
A few days later we noticed an article in the local newspaper, with a picture of my wife and another wealthy Good neighbor member, receiving a bowl of noodles, with the caption of US soldiers serving up a hot meal to the homeless during the holidays. (As if my wife and the other lady were homeless underprivileged senior citizens receiving the donated items). That picture became quite the laughing point in the office the next day. The news just can’t get it right here either. (Actually they were in line getting the food for the homeless who were already seated).
Aside from a couple of altercations with the local drunks, all and all it was a fantastic event, everything going as planned to the delight and excitement of all in attendance. Truly warming all of our hearts during the Christmas season, as we all were looking for ways to give to the community this time of year. All of this was made possible by the generosity of Korean Good Neighbor members, US soldiers, and gracious citizens back home donating items to Operation Give.
Thanks to All
“Doing it the Wiggles way”