Silk Road Seoul (6)

            We got to Reagan National Airport super early to check in, eat breakfast and start to miss each other already. I ate my Dunkin’ Donuts like it was the last I would ever have (Dunkin’ Donuts’ franchises were common in Korea, by the way). When it got closer to boarding time, mom and I said our goodbyes then me and my barely-made-weight luggage made our way clumsily toward the gate. Loitering in the terminal until departure time, I started to get anxious. Was I making a mistake? Had I heard God correctly? Those were important questions but I was more concerned about making the dreaded small-talk with my seatmates. At 6:20 AM the plane’s engines started and I realized there was no one sitting next to me! Hallelujah for the small things! I relaxed and prayed but I was too amped to sleep so I waited for the sunrise.

            It took about 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I scurried about in the wrong direction, wasting a large portion of my 54 minute layover. Right as I was about to drop to my knees in defeat, in dramatic fashion, there came a little cart that would take passengers to their respective gates. I was uncharacteristically chatty and talked with the driver about my mission trip, family, and God’s role in my adventure. He opened up to me as well and told me about his mom and relationship with God as well. It was a pleasant experience and it made me smile to think that I almost didn’t get on the cart because I thought they were just for handicapped people. I wasn’t going to ask for a ride but I must have really looked like I was struggling because the driver offered instead. He left me at the gate and as he departed I just counted it a blessing!

            I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it on time and by 9:00 AM, I was on my way to SeaTac Airport in Seattle, Washington. This time I had two people sitting to my left. I thanked God for window seats and nodded off as my neighbors happily chatted together, leaving me alone, just the way I liked it. I woke up and snapped a few photos out of the window while the plane was landing. This prompted my neighbor to ask if I was a photographer I was flattered to be mistaken for such but alas, having been taking photos with my cell phone I was a bit confused…but whatever, I didn’t mind the conversation since it was only minutes until we could be disembark. My seatmate and I got to talking about traveling, teaching, and my mission trip. She was so excited that I got excited too and I felt bad for trying to be invisible before since she was so nice. We parted after grabbing our carry-ons and I raced to the boarding gate. I was sweating like a Coke on the 4th of July in my fleece-lined coat, with my 20 lb. backpack and little, wheeled suitcase while trying to navigate the huge terminal at Mach speed. I had shared my testimony twice at that point so I was feeling all warm and fuzzy in the spirit by the time the plane reached the airport. However, the warm and fuzzy feelings came to an abrupt end and were soon replaced with stomach-dropping dread.


Silk Road Seoul (5)

“What’s his date of birth?”

“Huh? Um…”

I snapped back to reality and tried to focus on the lady peeping at me from behind the computer screen. I can barely remember my own birthday but this was important and I was drawing a blank. “God, you know I can’t do mental m…”

“ xx/xx/1939”, ”Thank you Lord!”

“What’s your relationship?”

“I’m his daughter”

            …and on it went. I overheard the EMT’s asking my dad a few questions too and also him lying about his smoking habit #facepalm. Thinking back, they probably had all of that information already. After all, it wasn’t our first rodeo. I signed as my dad’s guardian and went to the waiting room. They would not let my mom come back where my dad and I were because she did not ride in the ambulance so I knew she was anxious. We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Someone came and explained that my dad’s condition had stabilized but every time the nurses tried to get a scope down his throat to see the source of the bleeding, which they thought was in his stomach, brought his heart rate up to dangerous levels until he finally had a heart attack in the ER, which I ascribe to their efforts but I digress. Since he was not in pain and no longer spewing blood I figured he would be released in a few days but he would not be able to go with my mom and I to the airport. Maybe mom knew what I was thinking; sometimes she is intuitive like that. “I think you should still go on your trip.” I thought so too. In fact, it had never occurred to me not to go. Satan used this situation to get to me but I just was not having it. We made sure dad was situated and left for home. I am not sure what time we got home, around 4:00 am maybe, but I had been up for over 24 hours so I crashed into a dreamless sleep. We went back to the hospital later in the day to see my dad putting on a brave front. He wasn’t in any pain but he was ready to go. If we had not taken his clothes with us he might have escaped.

            We went back to the hospital later on that day and dad put up a brave front. Of course, he didn’t want to be there but when he asked about his chances of getting out of there by Sunday and was told that it was unlikely, I think I actually saw him deflate a little. Well, sometime Sunday before I went to see my dad, I got a phone call from a doctor at the hospital.

“Hello? Ms. X?

“Yes, this is she”. My heart was racing; I thought something was wrong.

            She said that as his guardian, I could sign some sort of temporary release waiver where my dad could get out of the hospital for a while and be checked in again later. I don’t know what possessed her to tell him about that but he was pretty surprised when she relayed my, “not happenin’ partnah.” His response was, “WHAT?!” and the doctor’s was, “See, I told you Mr. X”. His intention was to be released so he could drive me to Reagan National Airport, about a three-hour round trip, in the wee hours of the morning, then plop himself back down in a hospital bed. There was no way I was going to allow it. If anything happened on the way there or back, I would have to get on the plane knowing my dad was in bad shape. Mom and I explained that to him when we went to see him later. He finally accepted that our goodbyes would have to be said at the hospital and wished me well. We prayed, then mom and I went home to rest. My flight was at 6:00 am Monday, December 15, 2014 so by 2:00 am we were on the road to Reagan.

Silk Road Seoul (4)

          Through all the disappointing moments and frustrating circumstances, I decided to stay positive and trust God. I clearly felt the difference. This new “que sera, sera” Kelli was a complete departure from my normal, neurotic self. The devil knows how to push my buttons and I often fall for the provocation but this time it did not work so he changed strategies and attacked my family.

            My plane ticket was for Monday, December 15, 2014. On the 10th, my mom ventured out to take groceries to a church member. It was raining so for my mom, who prefers not to drive under such conditions, it was no bueno. Good Samaritan that she is, bless her heart, mom made the trip. On the way, as she was coming to a stop at a red light, her car cut off without warning. No power meant no steering. There was a car stopped ahead of her in her lane and a car approaching from behind in the adjacent lane. By the grace of God she had just enough momentum and maneuverability to drift into the other lane in front of the approaching car, narrowly avoiding the one in front of her, before coming to a stop. When the light changed, she coasted to the red light at the next intersection and restarted her car. It worked! Despite the scare, she came home transferred all the groceries to my tiny car and continued to her destination. Naturally, I was glad she got back safely and touched by her awesomeness. It is amazing the things that happen when you try to do good for someone else.

            Later on that day I went to hang out with my friends since it was supposed to be the last time I would see them for a year. I was super careful in driving after hearing about mom’s near collision. After hamming it up with the homies, I headed home. As I pulled out, I just felt this urge to get home. No hunch, premonition or bad vibes, I just felt like I needed to get home in a hurry. It was 1:00 am Friday when I got home. The inside door was wide open and the light was on, which was unusual. Mom was walking through the living room. She was cooking when I left (if you don’t believe in God, you might after you taste her cheesecake) and it was unlikely that she still was. “I know she’s not still making these cheesecakes”, I thought. She was on the phone, which was even more unusual for that time of the morning. I walked up to the door and hesitated. “Come inside”, she said. I went in and eyed her warily because clearly something was wrong and she said, “Go downstairs, your father’s throwing up blood”.

            I am not usually squeamish but seeing so much blood at once was alarming. There was a large bloodstain on the floor. My dad was sitting on the edge of the couch with a bloody paper bag between his feet. He was spaced out and sweating bullets. I have never seen anyone sweat so profusely. It was scary. All I could do was call on Jesus over and over between wiping dad’s sweat and asking him if he was in pain; thankfully, he was not. The paramedics came downstairs and I went up just before they carried my dad up. It was heartbreaking to see him carried like that but he was too weak to walk. The paramedics needed room to work in the ambulance so I was told to sit up front of the ambulance. There was a small, window separating back and front but I could not see much of my dad. I turned around and sighed thinking, “what now” and my mind was just blank. Whether I was talking to God, or myself I do not know. At some point the EMT driving and I spoke but I do not even remember what was said. My mom followed the ambulance in dad’s van and by 1:17 am we were in the emergency room.

Silk Road Seoul (3)

            Somewhere along the way I was informed that there would be two weeks of training at the end of October. “Cool, last two weeks of October, no sweat. I still have time.”

October 1st – I found out that I was expected to be at the Institute in Seoul on the 16th which meant I would have to leave on the 14th or 15th, due to time zone changes and whatnot, almost a week before the “last two weeks of October” that I expected…”Jesus take the wheel!”

October 2nd I was told “they” were still deciding whether they would have me join for the October or December term.

October 10th – I was a little frazzled and challenged God, “You told me to go and I’m going but you have to get me there.” I had just figured out the apostille process and sent my documents off. Without the apostille, I could not get my visa and the instructions said not to get a plane ticket until I had it. I asked if I could switch to the December term because I was still waiting for documents and at that point felt rushed and unprepared. I had not even started packing.

October 11th – My contact basically said, “we’re ready and waiting so just come.” No apostille, no visa, no ticket and just come? Sounds legit.

October 13th – I was running around like crazy.


October 14th – It was 1:15 am, I was spent. I was packing, unpacking, repacking and about to get frustrated so I prayed and took a break. I told my mom, “it looks like I have to get a ticket and just go tomorrow. I am unprepared but I just have to go and that is that. If God said go, He will have my back.” I figured I would check my email once more before buying a ticket and this was the message I read,

            Hi Kelli,

            I’m awfully sorry about this but one of our schools cancelled their request for a new teacher so I’ll have to move you to the next upcoming term [for] which the arrival date is set to December 16. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you.

            All I could do was praise God! I got that message the day before I was supposed to leave. My mom said that sometimes God just wants to know we are willing. Of course He knows but maybe He was making plain to me my own level of commitment and I am grateful. I could barely have imagined myself being that open and obedient. That is the type of thing I would read about and say, “wow, that’s amazing” and yet there I was taking that leap of faith. Better still, at 6:28 pm that evening I received an email that my apostilled documents had been shipped and were on their way to me. Amen! Little did I realize that Satan had been attacking the whole time and the small battles were going to escalate exponentially. It was about to get “real”.

Silk Road Seoul (2)

            I was calm, cool, and collected. This time I stepped out of God’s way. When I did that I realized that I was moving too fast and in my excitement to tackle something new, I had not thought things though. The teaching job in China would require me to work on my Sabbath, not much religious freedom in a communist country you see. It was the same for teaching jobs in Japan, except for the communism angle. Once in a while there would be an activity or sports day scheduled on the Sabbath and I just cannot compromise even if it is just once and in my experience having compromised before, it is rarely just once. It was a blessing in disguise and because I leaned on God and not my own warped understanding (Prov 3:5-6), I could discern things that I would not have if I had reacted in my usual manner. Was so happy. I felt like I was finally doing something right and being rewarded spiritually for heeding God.

            First, I started filling out the forms. Then I started working on Passport to Mission, an online course of sorts that lets the decision makers see where your head is or how you would possibly cope in a new environment. The online session had already started for those who desired to begin their missions in October and about half of my time was already gone but I pushed through and finished with little time to spare, maybe minutes before the deadline. Next I started on the identification related things; fingerprinting, FBI background check, photos, etc. Things were moving right along but time was winding up.

            September the 16th my contact at the main branch of the SDA Language institute in Seoul asked if I wanted to start in October or December. Well, things were still going fairly smoothly so I said, “October”, which was the plan since my timing for the August session was off. “Yeah, I can do this,” was my sentiment at the time. Then I hit a snag; the mysterious and oft dreaded apostille/notarization process. Getting my degree notarized and apostilled was a trial in itself and has its own blackened file in my memory. Some people I asked treated these separate processes as if they were the same, I had conflicting information, and in general no one even knew what an apostille was nor had they hard of it. I even went back to my Alma matter and they gave me the run around too.

Silk Road Seoul (1)

           I am back in the US as I type but hear me out. So after my unsatisfying jaunt through grad school, while I was pitying myself and working temp jobs, my friend Kyle said, “hey wanna teach in China for a year?” Me teach in China? Let me get this straight, you want introverted me to stand in front of a room full of people and relay information to them and you want this to happen in a place so far from my comfort zone that it may as well not even exist in the same universe? No way. Not happenin’ partnah. However, Kyle always encourages me to do things out of my comfort zone and sometimes I listen, so I told him I would apply and I did.

             I forgot all about it and was confident that I would never be chosen yet I was called in for an interview and started to get excited about doing something new and different. The interview went extremely well, which was surprising because I usually sabotage myself. Then some communication issues popped up. The company asked me for documents I had never received, I was being told conflicting information, and they took way too long to respond to me once the problems arose. There was no way I was going to feel comfortable having to rely on them in China when I couldn’t even rely on them in DC.

            Once I extricated myself from Chinagate I set my sights on Japan. “Ok God, China didn’t work out so what now, Japan?” I found the JET program online. It was government-funded and I met the qualifications so I thought I hit the proverbial jackpot. I went through the whole process; filling out forms, doctor’s appointments, shots, getting my international drivers license just in case, and running people down for recommendations. I harbored an unfounded and inexplicable affection for Japan since I was in high school so I was convinced that God was sending me there but so far, so wrong. I got the second most painful rejection letter of my life, which I saved because I want to occasionally find it and relive the pain, obviously. I did not even make it as an alternate. I heard the program was getting increasingly difficult to get into but a rare wave of confidence had swelled up in me and it quickly dashed me against the rocks of disappointment.

             “God…whaaaat are You doing?” “No, what are you doing?” was the response. Well, I was trying to circumvent God. I thought that somehow if I went through the church, I would be the lowest on the spiritual totem pole wherever I went due to religious standards I just could not measure up to but who am I to compare when God does not? So what if I not Supermissionary, no one starts out that way. I went through Adventist Mission and could not believe I had wasted so much time. As I was looking through the list of countries with mission trips available, repeatedly scrolling back and forth over Japan with the little “0” in brackets next to it and holding my breath, South Korea caught my eye.

“God, you have got to be kidding me”.

“I’m not.”

“Not Spain or Mexico? I can get by with Spanish but I don’t know any Korean and I know next to nothing about South Korea beyond K-Pop, Naver, and hanboks!”

“South Korea. Trust me.”

            I was a little upset about China, crushed concerning Japan and all God would say was, “wait”. I trusted Him and though I was disappointed, I was not angry, I did not get frustrated like I usually do nor did I whine or complain; I prayed. For the first time, I completely handed all my stuff over to God.

Dear Friend,

This is a letter I wrote to someone who just up and disappeared months ago. My mom said I should post it. I thought about it and agreed. I hope it can help someone else who is suffering.


How are you? If the answer is “not good”, that’s okay. In one of our ******group meetings, you shared that you have struggled with depression, so for you to disappear for so long makes me think that you are hurting right now. I too have struggled with depression. I’ve battled with it since I was ten years old. It’s been so long that I don’t remember who I was before then. Please don’t think that no one knows how you feel. Sometimes I hate myself so much I can’t stand it. I even tried to kill myself in high school and have experienced a myriad of dark thoughts of that nature. I am a lot better now but my most recent breakdown was July 2013. I stayed in bed for three days and even prayed that I wouldn’t wake up when I went to sleep. Meds, psychiatrists, psychologists, I’ve been there. I’ve cursed God, hated Him, doubted Him and tried to cut Him out of my life but in spite of all that, He still has me in His hands. Prayer, talking it out, I felt like it was pointless but I take confidence in God’s word that He is working things out for my good and that He loves my broken, incompetent self. I decided that I could not let Satan rule my life and miss out on the blessings God has in store for me, even if there was always this lingering feeling of self-hate and worthlessness. I decided to trust God and He has turned the bile of my doubt into the sweet nectar of faith. I’m far from where I want to be in my relationship with God but I am reaping benefits and blessings by giving Him the reins. One of these blessings doubles as an act of faith. I feel like God has called me to go on a mission trip to South Korea. The journey to acceptance and discovering what God wanted rather than what I wanted was long, hard, and painful but I have come through it all and will be on a flight to Seoul on December 15th. For the first time in my life I am stepping out completely on faith and for the first time I am not afraid! Living my life in fear hinders me from reaching the potential that God has granted me. Though I still do fear quite a bit, I am looking forward to this new chapter…Please just let me see you before I leave. As my departure draws near, God has brought you to mind more and more! I love you, miss you and hope to see you.