Smiles at Seoul Station:
With the cold chill of winter well behind us and all the flowers and trees of South Korea in full bloom, I once again am motivated to begin again with the distribution of our latest container load of humanitarian supplies. For me spring always brings a new beginning and a renewed vigor to resume my work of helping those in need. Even though it has only been a couple of months since our last event, it seems to me like I have been out of commission for some time. With our second largest simulation training exercise in February and March, it seems like I have been extremely business since the new year began, just now able to catch my breath long enough to begin anew with our efforts to distribute the contents of the container we worked so hard to get through customs and moved over to a warehouse new by.
Each day as I drive around the streets near my 17th story apartment I call home, I am reminded of the plight of the homeless individuals that hang out around the Seoul train station. The station is only a mile or so from my apartment and according to the experts there are some 500 individuals that live in and around the area. Just down from the station, not even a block away, is a humble church set up in an old crowded 4-story building, that serves as a shelter for some 300 homeless individuals.
For some time I have been speaking with Bobby, a like-minded friend of mine, about what we might do to help these people. We have discussed different ideas and options; just have not taken the time to actually formulate a plan. So with supplies ready to move in our temporary warehouse, I just decided to pick a day and make a delivery.
A week or so ago, I dropped by the church to speak with the young minister that runs the shelter to discuss my idea and to decide on a date. He was more than willing to oblige and we selected the following Sunday (which was last week Sunday) as the best time, right after Sunday service at 1430 (2:30 for you non-military types).
I spoke with my good friend and cohort, Mr. Moon, who owns the warehouse space we are using, and gained his support for the activity. Sunday finally came and as planned Mr. Moon showed up with his caravan of three vehicles full of friends and family members who volunteered to help us make the deliver. Counting mine, with my wife and I, we had four vehicles full of boxes of supplies selected specifically for the homeless, mostly men, who frequent the Seoul station church.
As if connected by some invisible chain, down the streets of Seoul we traveled weaving in and out of traffic, as we headed to the church to make the delivery. Pulling up front our team of volunteers went into action, pulling out all of the boxes of humanitarian supplies. One by one, at the direction of the Minister, we carried the boxes some going up stairs and others downstairs, as we separated the items between what we were going to pass out that day and those that we going to be left in storage until needed.
As my wife and I walked in off the street into the main floor of the building, the minister was just wrapping up his Sunday service. The room was his temporary chapel, that afterwards quickly re-transformed into a waiting room for some 50 homeless to sit and rest their weary bones. The minister’s office was just to the right as you walked in; which looked more like a DJ’s sound box, surrounded by see-through Plexiglas. There he had set up a small folding table, one chair, and several small screens that enabled him to see what was going on in all the other rooms of the building.
As before he greeted me with a big smile and a hardy handshake, welcoming us to his humble church. He quickly set things up for us to begin passing out the 300-plus hygiene kits that had been lovely prepared by Rose Ann and her group back home and carefully packed in the container by Elaine and the other Operation Give team members. Each kit contained a bar or two of soap, a small hand towel, toothpaste and toothbrush and other personal hygiene items.
One by one the 300 or so homeless men walked down the stairs and passed our team of volunteers to receive a kit. With outstretched arms and a soft thank you, each person graciously received a hygiene kit. Greeting each of them with dignity in Korean we wished them well and hoped they would make good use of the items in the kit. They were all very well mannered and well behaved, with kit in hand, as they orderly made their way back up stairs to resume their daily routine.
All the members of our team, even the children took part in the activity and enjoyed the experience of helping those in need. All involved felt the spirit of giving and witnessed the joy that even the smallest of things can bring to someone in need. The children’s parent all commented later fon how grateful they were that their children we able to take part in this event, hoping this would be a lasting memory for them.
Afterwards we all reconvened back up in one of the rooms on the third floor, around one the folding tables, over drinks and cake that the minister’s wife had set up. We discussed what we might do in the future; exploring a couple of ideas Bobby and I had come up with. I had the minister explain to our group of volunteers some of the details about the individuals who frequent the shelter and to discuss a few of the programs they offer to their visitors. We finished our meeting with a quick visit to the garden area on the roof, where some of the homeless were nurturing the squash and pepper plants.
In addition to the hygiene kits, we left a few boxes of blankets for the 50-plus homeless who sleep there every night, 5 boxes of disposable razors for those who would like to shave and a couple boxes of Crocs slippers.
With our hearts full of joy and thankfulness, filled by the spirit of giving, all made possible by our Operation Give team back in the states, we said our goodbyes and returned to our vehicles, promising to do this again soon.
“Doing it the Chief Wiggles way
Posted by Chief Wiggles Wednesday, 07 May 2014