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Of pastors, baseball, and Kimchi


December 08, 2003
- Erwin Wiens

Mennonite Church Canada mission worker Erwin Wiens, centre with children on lap, worships at Jesus Village church in Chun Chon, Korea. Wiens has started a Sunday afternoon baseball game for local children that has led to relationships with their parents. “Korean parents seldom, if ever, play publicly their kids,” writes Wiens.

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Chun Chon, Korea— It started back in August. Mina Kim had just returned to Korea from Canada where his father had been for a sabbatical year.

Mina is a rambunctious 4th grader. Since the new school term had not yet begun, he was bored and said, “I wish I had somebody to play baseball with.” I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

My glove and a couple of balls had been sitting in a drawer for over a year. Minah and I played catch for an hour. But he had played ball in Canada and he wanted to do more than play catch. I suggested he find some friends and meet me on Sunday afternoon at the local elementary school.

That first Sunday afternoon Mina brought two fourth grade friends plus Dawhee and Dajin, a kindergarten kid and a first grader. Dawhee and Dajin had no clue what baseball was so the learning curve was steep that first day. But Minha was happy, so we agreed to meet again the following Sunday.

Mina and his friends each brought a friend and Dawwhee and Dajin brought their older sister and we learned some more fundamentals of baseball and laughed a lot. By the third week, I felt like the Pied Piper as our numbers doubled. A ninth grader whose family had spent a year in the US came out with a bag full of equipment. Things got more competitive and we expanded our schedule to Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

For the last few weeks we've had about 25 kids out, all wanting to play. It gets a little crazy at times, since we have to share our space with a soccer game and high school aged guys shooting hoops.

Before each game I sit every one down and go through the basics again. Then Mina or Jinwhoo translate it all into Korean. Last week several parents came to watch and one knew enough about the game to help with some of the coaching. One mom kept score. Others brought cases of pop and snacks for refreshments.

Korean parents seldom, if ever, play publicly their kids. I suspect that a sixty year old pastor with very limited language skills playing baseball with 25 kids is a total novelty.

Parents are now beginning to express their appreciation by bring food to our place. Yesterday we were given a curry meal with two different Kimchi dishes and later another mom and player brought more food and even more arrived today.

And I love it. Actually baseball is just another of the many joys of our time here. This morning, in church, both Marian and I suddenly thought of how difficult it will be for us to leave in 2005. We love our church and we love our work.

Erwin and Marian Wiens (Windsor Mennonite Fellowship, Ont) are MC Canada workers in Chun Chon, South Korea where they relate to the Jesus Village Church. They also connect with fellow MC Canada workers Tim and Karen Froese (Jubilee Mennonite, Man.) in Seoul, coordinators at the Korea Anabaptist Centre (KAC). Cheryl Woelk (Zion Mennonite, Sask.) is on an internship assignment with the KAC. The Wiens, Froeses and Woelk receive financial support from MC Canada for their ministry.