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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

This is the text of a sermon I preached today at International Christian School. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Eric J. Zanger
The God Who Sees
Preachment before International Christian School—Pyongtaek
November 21, 2007

Let’s Pray

Today, we are going to talk about God’s eyes. But, by way of introduction, I want to show you the incomparable glory of the eyes of God by comparing His eyes to our eyes. God does not see as we see. It is foolish to compare God’s vision to our vision. 1 Corinthians 2:9 states, However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

How can we compare God’s eyes to your eyes? It’s insane! It’s like trying to see a distant star with binoculars. Put on binoculars and we still can’t see it. “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” You know those things are huge right? You are high schoolers. But, to our eyes, we see them as little pin pricks in the sky, because we have limited eyesight. We cannot see everything in its fullness. However, God definitely can. God sees those stars for what they are, because he made them and put them right where they are.

Or, try this one…can any of you possibly see what you’ll be doing in ten years? Sure, you may have dreams and hopes and ambitions, and those are wonderful—keep running after them. But, can you possibly tell me where you’ll be living, if you’ll be married, how many children you’ll have, what their names will be, what job you’ll be doing? The list could go on forever. Here’s what I’m afraid of…is that you take your hopes and dreams and ambitions and you shove them in God’s face, as if you dictate to God what you should be doing. Do you really think you can put God into a little box?

Goodnight! Some of us need a shot in the arm that God has something unbelievable prepared for you. There is glorious victory over sin over the horizon; there is a chance to spend your life in building up another believer; there is glorious reality that the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love and has set a way for you to escape the fiery furnace of hell.

Our problem is that we get stuck in the rut of our sin, and then, instead of bringing it into the light, we willingly hide it from everyone, hoping we can fake out other people. I lived that life for a long time. In public, I portrayed “Happy Zanger.” In private, however, I lived a life that was the exact opposite from “Happy Zanger.”

My problem, and your problem, is that we are unbelievable fakers and hiders. The deadly problem I had was that I could fake everyone out, but I could not fake out two people: 1) Myself and 2) God.

First, you have yourself. You cannot hide from the man or woman looking back at you in the mirror. You know at the bottom of your heart that you are a sinner. Your conscience is often the best prosecuting attorney against you. Sadly, every single one of us is guilty. And, we are not guilty by association. We weren’t accidentally walking by when someone robbed a bank, we are the bank robber. We didn’t happen to walk in on a murder victim, we are the murderer. However, I’m not here to talk about that…yet.

Secondly, you need to come to grips with the fact that you cannot hide from God. That’s where I’m going first. You cannot hide from God because he sees everything.

We have three Scripture passages today. One should make you leap for joy, one should serve as a warning, and one should worry you.

Will you stand with me out of respect for the inerrant, authoritative, and inspired Holy Word of God as we read today’s Scripture passages: 2 Chronicles 16:9a, Proverbs 15:3 & Hebrews 4:13

2 Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (That’s the one that should make your heart leap for joy.)

Proverbs 15:3
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (This should serve as a warning...what do you do when you think nobody is watching?)

Hebrews 4:13
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (This is the one that should worry you…maybe.)

Will you pray with me?

I want you to stop everything you are doing for a moment and think about this fact: God sees everything you do. He sees what you do in secret; he sees what you do in your bedroom; he sees what you do every single day. For those of you who are faithful followers of the Lord, God sees the little things you do every day. He sees obedience in the way you conduct your life. Perhaps, for some of you, he sees what you don’t do. He sees you, instead of getting drunk on a Friday night, staying at home and spending time with your family. Instead of having sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend, he sees you making the countercultural decision and saving that for a better place and a better time. God sees it, and according to 2 Chronicles 16:9, God’s delight is to bring you into a deeper and lasting relationship with Him.

The first thing I want you to get: If you live a life that is fully committed to God, you will receive strength to endure all things.

Notice what I am not saying. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never have health issues. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never have relationship issues. I am not saying that if you live a life fully committed to God, you will never face trials, tests, failures, or total suffering. What I am saying is that if you live a life fully committed to the Lord, He will strengthen you to endure those trials, to endure those tests, to endure those failures, and to endure the suffering, and in the end, to come out of those things with a greater faith and a greater trust in the Lord. Moreover, you will walk out of those things with a purer heart.

In order for a person to purify gold, the purifier must stick the gold into the fire, so that the imperfections are taken away. Imagine in your case that you are the gold and the fire is the trials and tribulations and sufferings that you are facing. While you are in the fire, it doesn’t feel so good, and I know—I’ve been there; I am there—but when we come out of the fire, we are a purer gold. We know our faith is real by how we struggle and fight through painful trials. And what God is saying in this verse is that he is scanning the earth looking to help and equip saints to stand in the fire of trials, so at the end, they may be perfect.

James 1:2-4 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” In another version, the word for mature is “perfect.” God’s goal through your trials is for you to become perfect, and he comes alongside you to help you through those trials.

Imagine it like this: In Cuba, the Marines has a base called Guantanamo. On observation towers, there are individuals who have the job of using binoculars to scan the horizon to look out onto Cuba to see if there is something going on. Should a Marine get outside of Guantanamo, then the other Marines would do whatever possible to bring him back.

Now, imagine with me, that God is the man on the tower, but, since he’s God, he doesn’t need the binoculars. He’s scanning the horizon, looking and seeing all things—seeing many evil things happening. And then, his eyes pause as he notices you—one who bears the name of Christ who is stuck outside the base, facing the bullets of the enemy. And God sees you trying your hardest to fight sin that is all over the place out there in the world. God sees that you are fully committed to him, as much as a sinful person can be, and so what God does is he strengthens you. And what is even greater, God leaves the base, walks across the minefield of broken relationships, walks past all the snipers, who aim to break our hearts, walks past the grenades of pain and pleasure, and meets you right where you are. Then, with arms wide open, God holds you, strengthens you, and leads you across the grenades, the snipers, and the minefields, all the while saying, “Follow me. Trust me.”

A general would be considered insane if he left the security of the base to go strengthen the private who was stuck outside the base. However, that is exactly what Jesus did…Jesus left the security of heaven to dwell with men so that he could strengthen those of us who are fully committed to him.

So, to the believer out there, be encouraged. When you face trials, it is because God is in the process of making you perfect, and he sees you where you’re at.

The second point I want you to understand is that it is not wise to mess with God. Or, in other terms, it is unwise to get into a game with God. Or, to put it another way, don’t start asking God where your strengthening is if you aren’t doing a thing in your life that shows your commitment to him.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Are you fully committed to him? Would you declare yours as a life of commitment to the Lord? Or, are you committed to him with some things, but with other things, you think you have it under control? Don’t start claming the blessings of obedience until you start to walk the path of obedience. That’s like expecting to get an A on your English Essay that you spent four minutes writing on the way to school in the bus, in pen, and on a napkin. It’s insane in English class; and it’s deadly with God.

For those of you who walk around here and wear the name of Christ on your shoulder, but you have no Christ in your heart, and have no active prayer life, you have no active time of Bible study, you have no desire to change, you have no desire to kill the sin that lives in you, and you live just like the world does when you leave this place, I would check your conversion. Remember what God said to Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I have some questions, and then I’ll wrap up this point: Do you hate your sin? Do you truly hate the fact that you don’t spend time with God? Do you have godly grief that you continue to struggle with masturbation or pornography or emotional adultery?

Remember, The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)

I became a Christian roughly eight years ago. And for the great majority of my Christian faith, I thought that true change was in me becoming a better hider. I really thought that the measure of my faith in Jesus was to trade outward, public sins for inward, private sins that were easier to hide from everyone.

I wonder how many of us are in the fatal flaw I found myself in. I would walk into church, put on my happy face, fake happiness for an hour, leave church, and go right back to my depraved ways. And yet, all the time, there I was, living an outward Christian life, but living an inward life that had no power of the Spirit in it, and I wondered where all the power was that I was supposed to feel, and why I wasn’t growing.

The point is this: How many of you are questioning God’s power but taking no course of action to get yourself into the river of blessing? God’s power is found in small baby steps of obedience. We start with baby steps, then we move on. And no parent is going to yell at a one-year-old baby, “Walk like a man!” No way! That father will explode with praise! And so will God—God is so delighted in our obedience.

Here’s our problem. In the same way that it would be silly for a baby to expect to wake up one morning a marathon runner, some of us expect God to completely fix us overnight…we expect to wake up one morning in complete freedom. We fail to realize that we must start, just as a baby did, with small, fumbling, silly, awkward, steps. That comes first. And oh, how God will bless you. But, so many of us take that first step and then we fall. The failure, men and women, is not in the falling. The failure is in failing to get back up and trying it again.

Do you want to be free? Do you want to be clean? Do you want to live a holy life? Then, quit being a defeatist. Quit thinking that once you fall, it’s over. Instead of that, rejoice in the grace of God that allows you to get back up and run the race again. The Christian life is one of continued attempts at obedience, and when you fail once, you get back up and you get it right the second time, the third time, the fourth time, the fifth time. Goodnight—come on—buck up teenager! Prepare your mind for action! Stand firm in God! Fight the good fight of faith! Run the race! Press on toward the goal! Live like conquerors!

Third part: Since God sees everything, you cannot hide your sins from God.

Now, if you have completely zoned out for the past 20 minutes because you see me every day, and you see this podium every day, and you see me waving my arms every day and walking around every day and therefore, you felt that it would be perfectly fine to not listen, that’s fine. All I ask is for you to focus in the next ten minutes, because I’m drawing this to a close. Give me ten minutes of your life, because this stuff is essential.

Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Again, God sees everything, which means you cannot hide your sins from God. Remember, God sees everything. I want that to land on you right now. He sees what you do when you are alone. He sees the sins that you try to hide, the sins that you are so ashamed of that if they became public, you would wonder if anyone would remain your friend. Well, here’s the truth. God sees those sins. It’s as if your entire life was on the 5 O’clock News, and God is a faithful watcher.

Romans 6:23 states, “The wages of sin is death.” At the physical level, we will all die because of the fact that we sin. Therefore, I love that Mr. Geist asks you to consider what you’ll be doing in 100 years. I hope you don’t trivialize that, chuckle at it, and leave the room without his words doing something to you. In 100 years, I think it’s safe to assume that all of us will be dead. Therefore, are you living this life to store up treasures in heaven, or do you live this life to get all you possibly can in this life, without even sniffing at where you’ll spend eternity?

The second thing that happens because of our sin is spiritual death. God becomes distorted in my vision. In fact, in my sin, I am telling God that I hate him. Do you ever look at your sin in that way? “God, I hate you.” If you don’t like the word “hate” because it doesn’t make you feel good, try this one…in our sin, we are telling God that he is “untrustworthy, unappreciated, useless, and unnecessary” in our lives. I hope that makes you feel a little bit better.

Now, imagine this situation. A new student comes to school. You befriend him, and when everyone else makes fun of him, you defend him. You pour your life into him to make sure that he feels accepted in this school. You two become best friends. Eventually, the other kids in your class start to like him too, and then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t hang out with you anymore. In fact, he avoids you, doesn’t sit near you at lunch, and never invites you to do anything with him. How would you feel?

As mad as you may be, and rightfully so, God has all the right to be furious at us. He is angry at us for our sins. He is angry that the creatures he created to worship and glorify him have turned away from him and place greater importance on having a boyfriend or girlfriend, or trying to get a boyfriend or girlfriend, or getting good grades, or getting into the right college, or sitting at the right table in lunch, or going out and doing the cool thing on Friday nights.

Romans 1:18-19 states, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” The serious problem in the universe isn’t the F you got in the first quarter of this year; the serious problem in the universe is that God is furious at how evil we are.

His wrath is nothing like what is visible on earth. The wrath of God is infinitely worse than having an angry and awful teacher; it is so much worse than having all your friends leave you; and it is worse than having a bad parent who criticizes everything you do. God’s wrath is eternal misery.

Remember Hebrews 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Everything will be uncovered. Everything will be laid bare before God’s eyes. And we must give an account. This is language of judgment day, when we will face God.

We will face God, and though we try to fit God into our gray world, where there are no absolutes and black-and-white reality is frowned upon, God can judge us in one of two ways…innocent or guilty. There is no other judgment.

Our problem is that we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. Therefore, each of us is destined for hell, because we are all guilty, including this preacher.

However, there is one way to be covered. There is hope. There is a way out. This wrathful God did not leave us without hope. In fact, God, in love, gave us the greatest gift imaginable. His name is Jesus. Let me tell you quickly what he did.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3:16 (Say this with me) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Oh high school student, hear me. You do not want to face God without covering. The only covering acceptable to God is Jesus Christ. God doesn’t care about your good deeds; he doesn’t care that you helped old ladies cross the street; he doesn’t care that you went to church every Sunday. The only thing that gives you access to God is his son, Jesus Christ, and his death for you.

Your role is simple: Believe and repent.

Romans 10:9-10 states, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Peter, in response to the question of what to do to be saved, states, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Oh, precious high school students, hear this. Don’t miss this golden opportunity in your life. God is calling you to faith in his Son. This is not a suicide mission where you give your life over to a ruthless dictator like Hitler. You give your life over to the God who made you, who knows you, who sees you for who you really are, and, despite that, still loves you with an everlasting love.

Invite Christ in while you are in the day of salvation, because a day will come when you won’t be able to switch sides.

Saying no to God’s free gift right now and trying to switch sides at Judgment Day is like turning down a free gift of extra credit at the beginning of a quarter, then going to the teacher to complain about your grade after the quarter is over, grades are in, and nothing can be done. Grades are one thing; eternity is far more important. Get right with God. Please don’t wait until it’s too late for you.

Let’s pray.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene:

· Several of you have commented to me that you would like to see pictures on this blog. It has been duly noted. However, my hope is that my prose paints the pictures well enough for you. If not, I’m sorry. But, I’ll consider posting pictures…at Christmas.

· I want to thank some people back in the States for their amazing advice…so, Undy, Stevens, Chip, and Berger…thanks…so stinking much. You guys are awesome!

· I also want to thank the individuals that gave generously…you know who you are, and I am indebted beyond words, and I hope that the letters I send you will suffice, but understand that I am so unbelievably grateful for your sacrifice.

· Thanks as well to former students who continually bombard my email to either tell me how they are doing, ask me how they can pray for me, or tell me how much they miss me. I miss you all as well, but you are still in incredible hands over there, and this school needs me. Moreover, I need this school. It is no accident that I am here this year.

· Market experiences are amazing here because of what I get to see. Every five days, vendors come to my neighborhood, set up tents, and hawk their goods. Vegetables, fruits, different kimchis, seafood, meats, puppies, silkworm larvae (yes, silkworm larvae—you did not misread that; no, I have not tried it), watches, clothes, candy, dried fruit, nuts, and assorted breads are available, among other things. I marvel every time I walk through market and I try to go every time it comes because it’s so stinking cool. The best thing I ever saw in market was at a butcher. In case filet mignon was not your cup of tea, or in case you really didn’t want a nice T-bone steak, or if getting a couple kilos of ground beef wasn’t in your budget, you could always settle for a nice companion at the dinner table. Indeed, available at the butcher store was a beautiful cow’s head. Prop some books on a chair, plop the cow’s head on them, and you too can spend a nice dinner eating with Bessie.

· I shouldn’t share what I’m about to share because if in my sharing, it goes away, then I’d be in big trouble. I absolutely love some of the English sayings I’ve seen here. I have my students keep journals of their spiritual walk while they’re at ICS, so that at the end of the year, they can look back at how they’ve grown, and for as long as I stay here, they can see the development of their Christian life. Most of the journals are simple notebooks, and some of the sayings on the covers are classic. Sadly, the journals are at school and I write this at home, so one day, I’ll write some of the sayings on the front covers of these journals to share them with you. The best ever saying happened today at lunch. It is custom for a group of people from ICS to go out to lunch after church. Considering that almost every meal I eat is cooked by me, for me, and then cleaned up after by me, I usually will go out any time somebody wants to eat out, especially if they want to eat at one of the myriad Korean, Chinese, or Thai restaurants.

There was a poem in English on the water decanter at our table. The decanter had eight flowers on it. (For those of you asking for the type of flower, go play in traffic—I am not about to lose my man card to learn the types of flowers.) The poem was classic. This is the poem:

Pain is a flower like that one
Like that one
Like that one
Like that one

My guess is that the decanter is from the 1960s, and to understand the meaning, cannabis or acid need to be involved.

· In one month (September), I preached as many times in Korea (3) as I had in the States in two years (3).

· I will be going to the Philippines this Spring Break on our School-Sponsored Missions Trip. I will be leading the spiritual side of things. More details to follow, but if you are inclined to pray for me, pray for the missions trip.

· I am going in this Thursday to take my driver’s test so that I can drive our school vans. This will enable me to be the head coach of the Boys’ Soccer Team. In ICS history, I believe that only two people have passed this test on their first attempt. This is rather daunting, especially since the truck I will be testing in is a stick shift. Prior to landing in Korea, I hadn’t driven a stick shift anything. So, in the past month, I have been going through crash courses in stick-shift driving. So, if you think about it, before you in the States go to bed on Wednesday night, pray that God’s power would be made perfect in my weakness, and that, if He wills, I will pass the test the first time. More importantly, pray that my resultant attitude—whether I pass or fail—will be glorifying to God.

· Finally, I don’t know if I’ll be able to update the blog next week, as I will be housing a visitor from the States. He is a friend of one of our female teachers, and since sleeping at her apartment is not an option and sleeping at one of our married couples’ apartments is not a preferred option, he will be staying with me. I’m looking forward to the company, and as Hebrews 13:2 states, perhaps I will be entertaining an angel.

· That’s all from here. If I don’t write next week, allow this to be my way of wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I live in a strange dynamic. Let me try to explain it to you. We have 29 people on staff here. 22 of them are females, leaving 7 males. Yes, that is a ratio of over three females to one male. Yes, that is an insane number.

Moreover, four of the men are married, and their wives are on staff here as well. In addition, several females are married. Of the single men, I’m the only one under the age of thirty. Of the ladies, in a span of six years younger to six years older than me, there are 12 single females.

Yes, that is a ratio of 12:1.


I know what some of you are thinking…wow! Go Zanger!


Not exactly. I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve had a problem since I’ve been here, and it’s simply this…I don’t have an unmarried guy to hang out with. Granted, a lot of that is my fault, simply because I have not put myself into situations where I would meet guys to hang out with.

Therefore, I’m left in a difficult situation. I spoke with some people before I left Chicago about not dating during my first year in Korea, for many reasons that I will not divulge here.

However, I face a challenge because principle often rubs up against reality, and that is where I’m stuck. I’m stuck in a war in my mind. And, much to my chagrin sometimes, principle wins out…usually against the swirling tide of expectations and my sin.

I’m not much of a poet, but poetry is one of the best ways for me to say what I need to say without sounding terribly cheesy. I sat down last year around Thanksgiving time to write a poem so I would have something to read at the Coffee House, a fundraiser for the Zambia Project at Wheaton Academy.

At the time, I was listening to Caedmon’s Call’s song, “I Can’t Lose You.” Derek Webb wrote the song, and one lyric really stood out: “And maybe I have the gift that everyone speaks so high of. Funny how nobody wants it.” That lyric is based on 1 Corinthians 7:7 and Paul’s discussion of the “gift” of singleness and the “gift” of marriage. Derek Webb was single at the time he wrote the verse.

I sat last year and pondered my singleness, just as I am now (and was last Sunday). I wrote the following poem on November 30, 2006, and I include it below. I wrote it because I was tired of trying to base my identity on whom I was with instead of whose I was, and so, it was more of a prayer poem, where I gave God my singleness, since He could do a better job with it than I could. So, to all my single brothers out there, enjoy…and know that I’m in the battle with you.

The Gift
Eric J. Zanger

What if I have the gift
That everyone tries to hide or lift
Above all else that we can be?
And it would be just fine for me
To be alone all of my life
And walk this world without a wife
If that would be your will.
But there are days, like a pill
I swallow this thing against my will.

“Not mine, but yours,” did my Lord say
And drops of blood he sweat that day.
And alone as alone could be,
He went and died, so I’d be free
Of all the things that people say,
And all the games that people play,
And all the looks of “what’s wrong with you?”
And after that, all they do
Is to ponder who’d be good for me.
What about Christy or Jess as Mrs. Z?

So the gift is mine, and mine to love
Because it’s a gift from God above.
Though if I get called into marriage,
It is a gift I won’t disparage.
That if being a husband is for me,
I will not escape the certainty
That God is still my greatest pleasure,
And of all I have, He’s my greatest treasure.

If being a good husband is my goal,
I better love Christ with all my soul.
For the gift I’ll have is not a wife,
But the gift I have is a new life.

I ask those of you out there who are my prayer warriors to pray that I would have wisdom on the dating front, and to ask me about it when I come home in December. I have a discipleship group where I get to meet with four guys and build them up in the faith, and we were talking about integrity and the damage men can do to society. I leave you with this, because this is why I need your prayers. I looked them in the eye, and said, “Men, I want you to know that I could ruin this school. I don’t say that with pride, but I say that with humility and dependence on God. Twelve single females are within my age range on staff, and if I really wanted to press it, I could create divisions in this school, create bitterness in this school, and destroy the lives of the female teachers in this school…and my life as well.”

I live in the tension of being friendly and not being too friendly. I live in the tension of not being a hermit and not spending too much time with one individual. I live in the tension of knowing that a stupid decision I make (and praise God I haven’t made one yet) could ruin the ministries of two people (or more).

Please don’t read into this that I’m miserable; if you do, please read the next two posts. In fact, I love the fact that God called me into this position, put such a call of responsibility into my life, and now, works it out in me.

Pray for me, but worry not, and fear not, and cry not, for the Great Refiner is, with fire, getting rid of the muck and the mire so that the gold that He’s forming in me can be seen for what it truly is—the wonderful grace of God.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

This week was rather eventful, but I wanted to start by thanking the people who wished me happy birthday, and especially those of you who mentioned the fact that you are praying for me. I am sustained by those prayers; I minister out of the power of those prayers; I teach Bible out of the Spirit-led insights which are sparked by those prayers; and I live and move and have my being because of the God that hears those prayers.

I am now 28 years old. I have been a Christian for eight of those years, and it is a good thing to say that over a quarter of my life has been spent in the greatest relationship I could ever have…a relationship to which no relationship on earth can compare, nor should it. Even if I were to get married, I know that that relationship is but an appetizer of the unblemished joy that will be mine when I see my savior face to face. I really hope that if you do not know Christ in that way, you would simply open the Bible to the Gospel of John, start reading, and let God meet you where you are.

I have gotten to the age where my birthday is just like any other day on my calendar, and so, if people forget it, it doesn’t phase me. I like that attitude because when an outpouring of celebration happens, it really catches me off guard.

I take you to 7:50 AM on Tuesday, which was October 23 in Korea. I was sitting in my room, getting notes together and firing up the projector. In the hallway, I heard a group of people singing “Happy Birthday,” and getting louder every second. I looked toward the door as roughly 20 people were pouring into my room and standing in the hallway, singing Happy Birthday to me. They finished, I thanked them, and then I had to turn around quickly to compose myself because I was about to lose it.

I’ve known these kids for two months. And there they were, standing in the hallway, singing “Happy Birthday” to me.

School started, and as custom, we had the announcements. Then, at the end, a bunch of the guys that I’ve had the privilege of mentoring decided to rap “Happy Birthday” over the loudspeaker. They got cut off, but the meaning was still there.

I looked out on my first period class after the announcements, mouthed “Thanks…for everything,” and then started to feel the lump in the throat happen. I stopped talking, and since we pray before every class, we moved to prayer. As I prayed, I thanked God for all the wonderful students that I get to teach every single day. I thanked Him for the joy of being able to enter into the lives of these kids, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to lead them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

The day went on, and each class sang to me; some kids brought cards and a doughnut cake, while others brought a tin of brownies. I went home with much exhilaration.

I recently heard a sermon on singleness, since, well, you know, I’m 28 and all and I still don’t have that helper suitable…and the wonderful thing that came out of that sermon is that I can still be a father in a spiritual sense. I can raise young men and young women who, after graduating International Christian School Pyongtaek, are loosed on a world that desperately needs young people to share the redemptive power of the gospel of Christ.

And so, imperfectly, I go forward to do just that. Single, married, whatever…my vision for my life is to leave this world in such a manner that when old Eric Zanger breathes his last and goes to glory, Satan doesn’t applaud because there’s a mob of kids who have been placed in my life who pick up the torch and keep going.

I love what I do. I wouldn’t trade what I do for all the tea in China…or all the kimchi in Korea.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This past week was Spiritual Emphasis Week. We invited a group called Station2 to come to our school to lead us in worship through song and through worship in the Word. There is something uniquely powerful about having a chapel every day with the same group or the same speaker every day.

Station2 is 2 people, named Dave and Travis, and they are a wonderful live band—they use looping techniques and through it, these two people sound like a full band. It’s quite an experience. Check out their website and their Myspace, and be blessed.

Anyway, much prayer went into this week; much fasting went into this week; and God answered big time. The Spirit was moving in an electric manner, and by Tuesday, when Travis talked about hiding sin, we watched as people were broken, sitting there weeping at the end of the chapel, asking God to come into their lives and cleanse them.

On Wednesday, it happened again, and then, as if all the walls that had been up fell in a great big boom, on Thursday, it started to explode. After chapel, I had the privilege of sitting and talking with four guys for about an hour and a half about Christ and how he cleanses sin and how he forgives even the hardest sinners.

Then, I had the pleasure of sitting with another guy for another hour or so, and heard about his life, and shared Christ with him, and God moved, and the brother looked at me, and asked to pray, and in my classroom, prayed to receive Christ in his heart.

I mention this not because I’m anything special. 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 states, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” I mention this because the vessel, or the one being used, is not who is important. It is the user, it is the message giver, it is God who is important in this equation. And I give Him all praise and glory and thanks that I got the opportunity to be here to watch all this happen.

Today, it was even more powerful. People were crying out for unbelieving parents, friends, and other family members. People were giving their life to Christ, and Christians were repenting of neglecting the call to share; repenting of living a false life; repenting of trying to live two lives. It was amazing. It made a 27-year-old man weep in the back. Not tears of sadness…no way! But tears of overwhelming joy. Revival is happening, and how sweet is it that I get to be the Bible teacher who gets to fan that flame!

I mentioned to another teacher that my life is finally starting to make sense. That all the sin and all the messing up I’ve done in my life is so that I can look into a teenager’s eye and say, with a clear conscience, “Brother, I’ve been there. I’ve struggled too. I’ve sinned just like you’ve sinned. However, the only difference is that I have a wonderful savior who has taken that sin and wiped it away, and now, I live in freedom.”

I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. I believe that God orchestrated everything that happened in making me leave Wheaton Academy and to come to, of all places, a small school in the middle of rice paddies in Korea so that I could be here to watch this. So that I could be here to be part of it. So I could be here so that God could use me to fan flames.

I am here because in the Great Physician’s insane asylum, this move to Korea is my therapy. This is my cleansing. This is my awakening to something so much bigger than what I thought was important. This is His freeing me from what I thought I needed to be happy. In short, I came to Korea to be a blessing; I now realize that I have been the one who has been blessed.

David Livingstone and Hudson Taylor both said, “I never made a sacrifice.” Each of those individuals were giants in the cause of global missions. Each of them faced much difficulty, much persecution, much sickness, and much loneliness. However, the joy of the Lord filled them so much that all of the bad stuff was erased by the love of the One who had called them and the One who had kept them.

Oh, how I long for the day to stride into a pulpit in America, or to tell anyone when I get back in December, that yes, it was hard; yes, it was lonely at times; yes, I missed some of the creature comforts; yes, I felt homesick; yes, I felt strange at times; and yes, in the eyes of some, what I’m doing is foolish. However, I have drawn so near to God, who is so completely satisfying; who is so amazing that He uses me to help people; who is so great so as to bring me around other teachers that I absolutely love; who is so good to me to bring me into the lives of teenagers who have taken me in and that I love to teach; who has given me an outlet for an unquenchable fire that I have for Him; and who has satisfied every need I’ve had since I’ve been here.

I never made a sacrifice.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

“All about Aj, Part II”

With the way that my blog works, you’re going to see this post first. I implore you to scroll down to the next one, which is written on the same day, and read that one first. Then, come back to this one.

If you ever visit Korea, make sure you look up when you’re walking down the street. In America, it seems like every retail establishment owns street-level property. For instance, in the strip mall down the street from me in Oak Brook, there is a Container Store, a Loehman’s, an Office Max, and a Borders. America is known for retail establishments that occupy land in a horizontal way, and if they are part of a building with more than one story, they own the entire building, or at least the first floor. This is not so with Korea.

For instance, at a major corner in Songtan, there’s a McDonald’s. Above the McDonalds is an office for something (I don’t know Korean quite yet.) Then, there’s a health clinic on the third floor. There’s a gym on the fourth floor. That’s as far as I went; I was interested in the gym. In the strip downtown, a Burger King graces the street level and a Chinese Restaurant has the second story.

It took me some time to realize that most of the good places to eat are in basements or on the second floor above another restaurant. So too is a hair salon I went to to get my first haircut.

The hair salon is called Miss Piggy’s. It’s called that after the Muppet who bears the same name, as there are several pictures of the stuffed pig in the hair salon.

I went on the recommendation of a couple of the female members of staff, and considering that Miss Piggy had done a good job with their hair, I decided I would go check it out.

I walk in and one ajumma is lying down on a bench, sleeping. In the back, there is a bed, which made me wonder if the hair salon also doubled as the pen in which this Miss Piggy lived.

Another woman comes out of a room that is off the main room, and says to me, in pretty good English, “would you like a haircut?”

Given the fact that I looked like a 70s retread, I said yes, and she sat me down.

While I was getting my haircut, the ajumma who was sleeping on the bench woke up and moved her act to the bed, which I thought was somewhat appropriate and really strange. Moreover, another ajumma came in, started talking with the woman who was cutting my hair, sat down, and started counting money. It didn’t take old Forrest Gump here to rifle back through my economics classes to realize that the woman doing the counting was probably the infamous Miss Piggy, and the woman cutting my hair was but a little Piggy who was working for the Big BossPiggy.

The three of us start talking, and I tell them that no, I don’t work for the Air Force; no, I’ve never been on base; no, I’m not a defense contractor; no, I’m not a special agent; and no, I’m not Jack Bauer. I tell them that I’m a teacher at an International Christian School, and that I teach Bible.

As the haircut drew to a close, the hairdresser gave me a massage that actually hurt more than it helped—it involved less massaging of tense shoulders and more pounding of the center of my back.

As I was set to go, BigBossMissPiggy took a once over of me, then looked at me, and as plain as day, said, “Hey, you’re pretty cute.”


BigBossMissPiggy probably was tipping the upper end of her 60s. I had never been hit on before by a woman, let alone one who is older than my mom.


She proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to come teach them English.


Here was the problem facing me: On one hand, I really liked the haircut, and considering my vanity, I wanted to be able to return to get my hair cut monthly, and I didn’t want to offend them by saying “no.” On the other hand, I started to get very nauseous at what “yes” might mean.


Not realizing what I was getting myself into, I said, “yes.”

She then told me, “Cutie, please write down your number.”

It was at this point that expediency took over. I wrote down the number and high-tailed it out of there, absolutely freaked out at what was happening.

Here’s what I imagine happened the next day, say, at bingo with her other friends…

“Ladies, do you see this? I just got the number of a 27 year old. Miss Piggy’s still got it!”

All ajumma hilarity aside, I really am thankful to be here. I really love the other staff, I love my church, and I love my kids. Yes, they are my kids. I feel like a father to 83 students that I get to spend time with every single day. I have found that obedience has brought such a tremendous blessing in my life.

Thank you for praying and for the emails of encouragement. I’ll be back in December, and for those of you around Chicago, I’d love to see you when I’m back.
Well, it’s been awhile. A long while. Nearly two months while. I know I’m in trouble when people that I live with in Korea are telling me they would like me to write. Most of them have shared the same experiences with me; y’all in the States haven’t. For that, I apologize, and ask for grace.

I’d like to start by introducing a Korean term called “ajumma.” Ajumma is a blanket term used for any older woman, especially one who is married. The range can be from 25 on up, with the major prerequisite being marriage. However, the term, when used among Koreans, conjures up an older lady.

Not in a way that mocks the culture, a couple of us have created a term of endearment when it comes to our older ladies here on the Korean peninsula: “The Aj.”

So, with that by way of introduction, were I to give this blog a title, this would be called, “All about Aj.” English teachers, marvel at my alliteration.

I need to spend some time writing about Sorak, which is where a bunch of teachers spent Labor Day weekend.

Dear Mr. Zanger,

You’re worse than us when it comes to meeting deadlines.


The Airbus A380 Team

Yes, I’ve been lazy. I’m also the Bible Department; I’ve been a little preoccupied.

One of the highlights of my trip to Sorak was our trip to Mt. Sorak National Park, where I was told that I must hike to the orange steps, walk up the orange steps, and therein get a breathtaking view of the Pacific and other mountains. The hike itself was grueling, and seven of us made it to the base of the orange steps.

According to Lonely Planet, “To reach the 873m summit, you have to climb up an 808-step staircase. It takes 45 minutes and is hard going but the reward is a spectacular view from the top.” I didn’t bring Lonely Planet with me, so I was unfamiliar with the severity of the staircase. Nor did I see the top, as a fog and rain had rolled in.

By the way, I am afraid of heights with such a passion that I got into the fetal position at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

So, we started ascending the stairs—led by two high school students, followed by two female teachers, followed by two male teachers, and I took up the rear, going as slow as a snail up the steps. There were three flights, then a place to rest. So, I went up the first flight…no problem! The second was at a much steeper angle, and…no problem! The third was tougher…the angle was fine; however, the stairs, which are see-through, are hanging over a cliff. I somehow made it up to the rest area, then died when I saw a) the angle of the next set of stairs and b) the cliff over which they would go.

The high schoolers were high tailing it up the next set of stairs, and the ladies were close behind. However, the guys had waited for me, and then I committed cardinal sin for anyone who is afraid of heights—I looked down. And, as quickly as I could, I became a rock hugger. I hugged that rock like it was a teddy bear. Plastic wrap had nothing on me. Knowing I would not reach the top without a helicopter or a sedative, I told the other guys to go on without me and that I would go down after I had composed myself.

They stayed to make sure I wouldn’t pass out and fall off the cliff, and I insured them that if I had to go down on my butt, I would make sure that I would get down. They went off, and I was left with myself and my thoughts.

Now, the same orange steps you use to climb to the top of Mt. Sorak are the same orange steps you climb to get off the top of Mt. Sorak, so as I’m sucking my thumb and trying to find my happy place, group after group of people are flying down the stairs, looking at me with great wonder, and going down the last three flights.

I finally got up the nerve to allow myself to go down, and as I looked up the stairs, I saw that nobody was coming, so I started to go down.

I went down as if I was 107 years old. Here I am, a 27-year-old man, white knuckling the rail, and going down, one step by one step, with my body as far away from the rail as possible. I’m sure I looked like an inverted “L”.

Anyway, as I am going down at a slower pace than I had gone up, I look behind me, and here comes an ajumma.


Now, this isn’t a 30 year old, just-happens-to-be-married ajumma. No, this is an older lady, with many wrinkles. I’m guessing she was in her mid 70s.


She is hauling down the steps, and the contrast couldn’t be greater. Here I am, going inch by inch, and she’s almost going down two steps at a time.

She gets to me, and, in one great move, moves to the left of me, and keeps going down at a breakneck pace.

I stop going; instead, my eyes lock with hers as she passes me. I’m looking for some consolation, for some “atta boy, just a few more left, you can do it.” Instead, she looks back at me, stops, laughs at me, and keeps going down the stairs.

I made it down the stairs, let out a huge sigh of relief that my feet were back on solid ground, and went and sat upon a rock to wait for my party to ascend, take pictures, eat lunch, and descend.

While I was on the rock, I had a view of the greenest valley I had ever seen. The darkness of the green, in contrast with the wispy clouds that rolled through, took my breath away.

At that moment, the humiliation in front of ajumma was assuaged by a God-given picture that was meant only for me.

When my compatriots came back to my position, I walked down the mountain with the group in total peace, for my mind had been totally cleared as I looked upon that sight.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another week has come, and another week has gone. However, the fun and games are somewhat over, as school begins on Wednesday. In case you were wondering, I am teaching five different classes and five different grades. I am the high school Bible teacher. Actually, I am the High School Bible Department. Therefore, if I wanted to complain to the department head about the curriculum, I need to go no further than the mirror.

It is truly amazing to me to ponder that four years ago, I was in the midst of teaching English as a Foreign Language in Prague. While there, God exploded what I thought I wanted to do with my life and instead, gave me a passion for teaching, high school students, and the Bible. And so, four years later, I’m no longer looking out my window and enjoying the views over the city of Prague; nor am I staring out my little room in the boarding house in West Chicago; but instead, I’m staring out of my apartment in Songtan, Korea, watching the reddish hue of the sunset sky.

Well, that wasn’t why I wanted to write, but it came to mind when I sat down.

One of the things that has struck me since I’ve been here is the community. I’ve involved myself in two organizations since I’ve arrived—International Christian School, which is where I teach, and Mission Baptist Church, which is where I attend church. What I have found at both is fantastic community—unparalleled by any other place I’ve lived.

For instance, when I arrived, my bags decided to hang out in Chicago. While it was funny for a few minutes, when the second day arrived, I was still wearing my cargo pants, my heaviest pair of shoes, a shirt, and I had my blazer.


I have moved via plane twice. Once, I moved in the middle of January. Therefore, it was less a spectacle when I got to security and took off several layers of clothing.

However, flying in July on a one-way ticket with several layers of clothing drew a suspicious eye…and several screenings.



If you ever visit me, attempt with all your life not to fly through Narita Airport in Tokyo. Let me walk you through what I had to do to get on my connecting flight.

Remember, I went through security in O’Hare. I went to the gate. If I was plotting something nefarious, I would have been caught in security. If I forgot my nefarious gadget, I would have had to leave the gate, get the nefarious gadget, go through security, be patted down, strip-searched, have the nefarious gadget found, and get sent to Club Gitmo because of my nefarious activity.


I really like the word nefarious. It’s right up there with rotund.


I then got on the plane, where it would be impossible to receive something from the outside.

We landed in Japan, where they ushered us out of the plane and straight to a security gate. I had to shed all the layers of clothing, hear people sighing behind me as I took 4 bins and 15 minutes to get everything off my person, go through the metal detector, have it beep, spend another minute taking more things off, and finally get through.


Anyway, the whole goal of this journal was to share about the hospitality of my administrator and his family. The second day, we all had breakfast, and they gave me a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to hold me over for that day.

The next day, the bags still hadn’t arrived, so they gave me more shorts, more t-shirts, and underwear.


Those of you who really know me know that I would never ever in a million years wear someone else’s underwear. I get wigged out if someone touches my food.

Well, never say never.

There’s an old saying, “Never judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” I would like to add the Zanger Corollary: “Never judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes…or walk 50 feet in their tidy whities.”


This man and his family have bent over backward to make me feel welcomed. It truly is a blessing to be under his wing.

The other thing that has blown me away is that I haven’t had a day yet (and we’re up to day 18 on the Korean peninsula) where all I’ve done is eaten alone. To put it positively, every day here, I’ve had a meal with a group of people, or one other person. That also is a blessing, especially since I’m living alone.

I guess that’s about all. I want to thank you all for reading this, for your prayers, and for your encouragement. Even though I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to respond to all of you, your prayers and encouragement mean more to me than you will ever know. Thanks so much.

Lastly, I have an address to give those of you who want to send me letters, gift boxes :), etc.

Eric Zanger
International Christian School
P.O. Box 24
Pyongtaek 450-600
Republic of Korea

To my dear friends teaching and learning at Wheaton Academy, have a wonderful week of school.

To the rest of you, have great weeks.

See you next time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Well, I’m a day away from a week of in-services, curriculum planning, and other academic-related stuff. We begin August 22, and I cannot be more excited.

By the way, as school nears, my goal is to write at least once a week, usually on the weekend.

With all respect due him, I am going to steal an idea that Thomas Sowell has. Thomas Sowell is an economist, a historian, a columnist, and possibly one of the brightest minds operating today. When he cannot fill a column with the necessary words, he writes a column called “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene.”

· Let me preface the first point with, “Until you visit Korea, you will not understand.” Korea has a distinct smell. Now, I can’t describe it, but I just thought I’d tell you.

Dear Mr. Zanger,

I know what you mean.

Bob Zigler
I Can’t Describe the Taste of this Meat so I’ll Say it Tastes Like Chicken Club of America

· This week, I went to the bank to open a Korean checking account. Now, before you call me a linguistic genius, I went with a Korean-speaking person who actually set it up for me. I went solely because I needed to sign papers and look confused. However, I may want to go to the bank more often after going the first time, because at the bank is a scale that reads your height, weight, and gives you your BMI; a blood-pressure measurer; and a small convenience store. So, in fifteen minutes, you can get money, make sure you are physically fit (though the doctor is not included in the fun and games at the bank), and buy dinner. I love Korea.

· Driving in Korea is fun. Red lights are optional, but Koreans are very picky about turning left. They only turn left with the arrow. They will never turn left on an ordinary green light. There are few police officers trying to catch you speeding; instead, there are cameras that photograph you if you are speeding. Now, before you cry, “Big Brother is Watching You,” these cameras are few and far between. The primary way they make you go the speed limit is to place speed bumps everywhere. These aren’t the cute mini-bumps in parking lots; these are the send-you-into-orbit-so-fast-you-can’t-even-say-goodbye speed bumps.

· I went to the immigration office this week to become a legal alien. No story here, just passing on the info.

· The churches in Korea have neon crosses that glow at night. They are there to make them more identifiable. When I drove down the first night from the airport, we passed through Seoul. Seoul was a sea of neon crosses. However, none of that compares to La Sagrada Familia, the enormous church that is still being built in Barcelona. It is said to have a light on it that is visible in the Mediterranean.

· My high school principal said, as we were sitting on the beach staring out into the West Sea, “Korea is one of the few places where I could climb a mountain in the morning and be on the beach by the evening.”

· Yes, I was at the beach in Korea.

· And yes, it was awesome.

· See you next week.

· Be safe.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Day three is upon me. It is 2:45 PM here, which means that it is 12:45 AM in Chicago. Thankfully, I’m not jetlagged (which, after reading last night’s journal, I know that I was then…good luck reading that one). I’m still sans baggage and sans working phone.

Anyway, back to day one. I took a tour of my school, saw my room, saw the mess of my room, and I saw something that needed a quick remedy. So, in two days, my room is about 75% done, and for my former students, yes, I do have a podium, which means that I will have something to hit and make tons of noise with.

I’m pumped—I have a white board and a projector (thanks, Mr. Boyer!). I’ve already become 5% better as a teacher.

My room looks out on the parking lot, and beyond that are rice paddies. Beyond that is a highway, and beyond that is a city with 10+ story apartment buildings. So, in one glance out a window, I see hundreds of years of economic development.

The one thing that is driving me crazy & sweaty, which is not cool considering ALL my deodorant is in transit, is the lack of air conditioning. I am sitting at my computer with a fan about 2 inches behind my head at about full blast. For those of you who remember the old Maxell commercials with the studly guy in the leather coat and how his hair (and, if I recall correctly, every other appliance in the room) is blowing away from the power of the speakers…well imagine that in the opposite direction, because that’s me right now.

Another interesting thing is my bathroom. In my bathroom is the following: a toilet, a sink, and a shower.

Dear Eric,

No duh. Welcome to civilization.

Every Homeowner in America

Thanks. The bathroom, for lack of a better description, is in the shape of a trapezoid. Along the base, which is about 7 feet long, is the sink. Up one side, which is about 5 feet, is the toilet. Down the angle, which is about 7 feet, is the shower.


I haven’t done the calculation, but that’s a lot of stuff in a small area.


Small problem with the shower is that the head is located in a position that makes the installation of a rod and curtain impossible. Therefore, whenever I take a shower, I have to batten down the hatches and make sure that 1) My towel isn’t in the bathroom with me and 2) the toilet paper is stowed in an upright and locked position.


Things like this make me glad I live alone. A shower involves traveling between two rooms with severe nakedness. Not exactly the best way to get to know your roommate.


Anyway, after the shower, the bathroom is flooded for about 15 minutes. I’m glad I learned that now instead of the first day of school.

Yet another interesting thing: My neighbor came over to say hello in Korean and promptly invited himself in and, according to my administrator, who was there with me while this was going on, “saw what I did with the place.” The guy looked at my bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room. Upon exiting, my administrator told me that this was completely normal. He then reassured me and told me that I was in the safest part of an already safe city and that the man wasn’t surveying my apartment for things to borrow for a really long time.

By the way, my apartment is on the third floor of a building. The first floor is home to a beauty salon. The second floor is home to an open-very-late Internet Café, which I will frequent every once in awhile.

The final interesting thing is how they deliver food. I ordered, through our school secretary, pork fried rice.


Dear Eric,

You’ve had more sidebars than your allotment.


The American BAR Association & The United Press International & The Associated Press

Too bad! I’m in Korea now!

The secretary told me that this restaurant doesn’t make the greatest Korean food and that I shouldn’t judge all Korean food by this food. Upon eating this food, I can’t wait until I get better Korean food, because this food was amazing. I can’t fathom how it gets better.


The food gets delivered by a guy in a scooter. By the way, in Korea, there is no tipping. No tips to cabs, deliverymen, etc. They don’t believe in tips here.

My lunch, which was $4.50, included soup, fried rice, a bowl of sauce for the fried rice, kimchi, and some other vegetables. What’s fascinating is that all of these things came in individually-wrapped plastic bowls and plates. I also had a metal spoon as part of the grouping. After I finished my meal, I was told to leave all the plates outside because the same guy would come back and get the plates for reuse later.

Apparently, they do not believe in Styrofoam in Korea.

Yesterday, I spent some time and money at the E-Mart, which is on par with Wal-Mart or Target in America. While there, I saw an aisle of 20 kg bags of rice (44 lb). I was blown away, so I had to take a picture of it.

Bad choice.

In about 30 seconds, I was approached by someone, who admonished me in Korean, but made sure to say, in English, “no picture.” I believe the Korean went something like this: “You ninny! You should know better than to bring a camera into a store and take pictures. I bet you’re not even an American. You’re probably with one of the competitors, trying to take pictures of our pricing scheme, but dressed in an American costume. But, just to make sure…no picture…you ninny.”

I can’t think of much more to write. Email me and hopefully, I’ll be at school on Monday…which is your Sunday night, and I’ll respond.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I really don’t know where to begin. I’ve seen so much in a share under 24 hours that I know I cannot do justice to all the things I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

I guess the best is to back up a month and take you with me to Mississippi. While I was there, a presenter gave us a model for how to leave well (not live well, but leave well). The same presenter gave us a snapshot of what it is like to go from one culture to another culture, and how there are several stages that one goes through—the honeymoon stage where everything is good and all is well; the fight stage where I really wish Korea was more like America; the flight stage where I basically want to fly home to have Chick-fil-A or Chipotle because this kimchi is making me crazy or I spend 14 hours of my day on Facebook talking to my American friends; and the fit stage, where as best as a foreigner can, I am able to join in the new culture and enjoy it.


By the way, I live by an Air Force Base. The plane overhead just reminded me.

One thing that is cool about having an Air Force base nearby is that there are more English words on packaging than I was hoping for—which makes it feel more like Prague than getting dropped in a “we don’t speak English and we frown on those that do” culture. By the way, if I had the entrepreneurial drive, a good director, and insanity, I might take a page out of Bear Grylls’ hat (he of Man vs. Wild fame on Discovery) and do a show for the Travel Channel where I skydive/get dropped from a helicopter/hang glide/etc. into a foreign culture and I have to find an English-speaking person. I’d call it Man vs. Culture and it would last about four minutes because one of two things would happen. First, I’d probably get sued for stealing everything from Man vs. Wild. If I didn’t, I’d go on the first excursion and I’d find an English-speaking person in about four minutes. My show would almost be as lame as a season of 24 where all they do is let Jack Bauer do what he wants to do…and they’d have to call the show 10. Better yet, it’d be called 1.

The bad thing about living by an Air Force base is the occasional flyby of an F-16 at about 5000 ft. Still, even that is pretty cool.


Anyway, I’m in the Honeymoon stage.

Let me back up 24 hours, which is about the time yesterday that I realized that zero bags that I checked to go to Seoul got to Seoul. Apparently, they hadn’t gone to orientation to learn how to leave well, so my bags will be getting to me tomorrow. Thankfully, I have good people here who have donated stuff to the single guy cause and I no longer smell, and, better for me, I’m no longer wearing what I was wearing on the plane.

By the way, the plane rides over were flat-out naughty. I flew Business class to Tokyo and then got a bump up to First Class to Seoul. Flying has now been ruined, because I have experienced the best.

I’m exhausted, so I’ll pick up tomorrow. Peace out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

(From now on, all times will be those of the country I’m staying in. Right now, it’s Japan. 4:24 PM in Japan=2:24 AM in Chicago)

Greetings from Japan. I don’t have tremendous cultural musings about the new country I’m in because it would be claptrap about their airport, which doesn’t do Japan justice. So, I’ll spare you that nonsense.

I do have some people to thank for the sweet trip I had on my way out here. The first is Rick Coopman, who gave me a companion pass that allowed me to fly from O’Hare to Tokyo for super cheap. The second are my parents, who kept their calm as I, like a maniac, made last-minute packing decisions. Sometimes, my procrastination mystifies myself, and I cannot fathom what it does to them.

Anyway, I have a little over an hour to try to stay awake so that I can board my flight to get me to Seoul.

Peace out.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Today is a day of very sad endings and very happy beginnings.

On Thursday, we had a PFO talent show, where a good friend and I did a version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” We called it “Who is the first grade teacher?”

That night, an advisor and a home-office employee sang a song called “Little Girl.” While I’m not little, and while you may debate that, I know for a fact I am not a girl. However, the song hit me right between the eyes. The chorus is as follows: “You can travel the great wide open, if you gotta go. When you get there, the words might be spoken. You can travel the great wide open, if you’re all alone. But if you leave me, my heart might be broken.”

One of the verses is, “You can slip through the back door of life, hoping that no one will forget you’re alive. Whatever you may see can bring you back to me.”

Needless to say, as I’ve listened to that song more and more, the tears always seem to surface. It’s tough to go.

Moreover, that night, the kids sang a song and the chorus was, “Here’s goodbye, here’s so long, I must go and follow love.” These are children the age of my niece who are leaving it all behind to go abroad to serve God. Dry eyes were few and far between that night.

Last night was our big gala dinner and goodbye ceremony, and as the night went on, it became tougher and tougher not to lose it, because the bonds that I formed with some people over the past twelve days were so unbelievably deep. After the dinner, I penned a poem called “An Ode to PFO” (PFO is an acronym for Pre-Field Orientation). I include it below with the hopes that if you don’t get everything, you’ll at least get the gist of why it was tough to go:

An Ode to PFO
July 6, 2007
Eric J. Zanger
Written the night before Pre-Field Orientation finished,
after shedding tears at the ceremony earlier on in the day.

Oh the places we’ll go, oh the places we’ll go,
And so we came hungry to PFO.
And while the first line could have been said by a moose,
Our teachers were better than one Dr. Seuss.

We had Libby and Susan and Joe and Dave,
And Tammy and Mark, oh how very brave
He had to be to jump from a plane,
And now he has a tree as the bane
Of his existence. But better by far
Is the story of Libby having to hit the bar
For water, though she bowed and flailed,
And if it were me, I would have bailed.

But there was learning to do, and that’s what we did,
And we learned about a third culture kid.
And about the RAFT we must build to leave right
And to not let our anger linger over a night.

We learned about E’s and I’s and P’s and J’s
Until our brains were a foggy haze.
We learned about passion and purity and doing what’s right,
We realized that if we’re going to make it, we better fight
The good fight of faith, yeah that’s what we’ll do,
And God will equip us for that battle too.
And so, brace up now, we’ve got a world to reach,
And all this happens because we can teach.

“I love PFO, but I hate it too,”
Became the refrain of some people who
Made great friends here and hate to leave,
We’re now like our students; we know we must grieve.

So goodbye Sonic and Memphis and the Fellowship Hall.
Goodbye meals and advisors and playing basketball.
Goodbye PAC and the pews as our seat,
They were even our bed when we really were beat.

Goodbye SBEC, you were such a great host,
But I think what we’ll really miss most
Are the people who in twelve days
Were able to join in one holy gaze
At our king and redeemer and the perfect one.
To our LORD, Jesus Christ, God’s only son.

So goodbye, my dear friends, I’ll miss you so bad.
This was the greatest dorm I’ve ever had.
So as you go out on your way,
I have one last thing I must say:

Wherever you go, whatever you do,
Whatever Satan throws at you,
And when you think you’re at the height of your woe,
Embrace the love that never lets go.

Lean on Christ—He’s all you need!
Embrace His love and daily feed
On the Word, then go and claim
The world for God, in Jesus’ name.

I read the poem aloud in front of everyone earlier today. Again, the goodbyes and the realization that I will probably never see any of these people again until glory shook me. I cry now just thinking about it.

But, as I was leaving this morning, there was something fantastic going on. Roughly 1,000 miles north, a man stood waiting, poised at the front of a church. His bride walked down, and a relationship that I have had the pleasure to watch was taken to the next level. Brother Markus Berger, I wish you the best. It was a pleasure to be your next door neighbor, your brother in Christ, and your friend. I count it all joy. May you and Anjali have the greatest marriage imaginable—may you mirror Christ, and may she be the church. I love you both. Congratulations!

To the rest of you, I’m back in Chicago, and I’m leaving in three weeks. Be close to your cell phones.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If you have never worshipped in a Southern Baptist Church, I recommend you do so before you die. I’ve come to realize that I’m a Southern Baptist preacher stuck in a little northern body. The preacher today flat-out brought it.


The interesting thing about church and preaching is that I firmly believe that if you cannot get excited about preaching the Word of God, you have no business being in the pulpit. You cannot influence people if your passion is dead; you cannot try to win people to Christ if you cannot get up just a little bit of fervor within yourself. I’ll now get off my soapbox.


Week two begins tomorrow for me, and more practical things will be discussed. Just in case you thought this was all fun and games down here in Mississippi, I get to write a 2-4 page report to turn in to my school administrator.

Now, for the fun and games.

I’m sleeping in a science classroom with two other guys. Every day this week, I’ve come in after they are asleep. Science classrooms are notorious for having no lamps—I don’t envision some of my science teachers sitting by a lamp as they investigate a Petri dish. Instead, I see them with overwhelming, blinding florescent lights overhead. Therefore, according to my expectations of a science classroom, my room fits the bill.

There is one small problem—when they go to bed and they turn off the lights, I’m at a loss for what to do when I need to get in and walk to my bed. I would never turn on the lights, because I know how ticked I would be, and I think that both of them, despite my toughness, would whip my butt if they decided to throw down. So, I’m left with one of two options: 1) Stand by the door and wait four years for my eyes to adjust or 2) Figure it out with my toes and shins.

I’ll give you time to think about which one I did the first night.

Anyway, after the first night, I came up with a new strategy: I slide across the floor in a modified bear crawl, but I become a blind bear. Roughly every two feet, I flail my arms and legs like a maniac to see if I can find my bed. As I sit there like a fool in the middle of a science classroom doing this, I can just imagine someone with night vision goggles sitting there, watching me, and splitting a gut.

However, it does beat bashing my toe into the suitcase.

It is amazing to ponder that I will be in Korea in a month.

Be safe.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

As much as can be crammed in a week, I think the people here have done a wonderful job doing so. I had a t-shirt that my sister gave me once that states, “My brain is tired.” I’ve been perpetually brain-tired since about Wednesday, so I need to hunt that shirt down and wear it proudly.

It has been such a joy to be here this past week. I’ve been living with a tension of “I’m leaving…so I’m so excited…but I’m so sad.” It was refreshing to hear that this contradiction of thought is perfectly normal.

Moreover, I met some of the people that are teaching at my school in Pyongtaek, and I’ve had the vast majority of my concerns taken care of. There is only one other newbie heading over there with me, so we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit.

I went to the Memphis Redbirds game tonight. They are an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, which made me a little bit wary of being excited about going. For those of you baseball fans, I had an opportunity to watch CENTER FIELDER Rick Ankiel (formerly the worst-greatest-pitcher-to-be-if-that-makes-sense-and-you-can-read-through-all-the-hypens) draw the collar at a stellar 0-4.

The presenters here have all spent time on the missions field doing the same thing I’m about to do, and the stories they tell are phenomenal. The advance of the gospel has been breathtaking, and their stories are hilarious to a point of drawing tears. Buckle up, as this will be a great ride.

We are sleeping and living in a high school roughly the size of the main building at Wheaton Academy. We are living in the classrooms, which is a pretty interesting thing to begin with.

Thankfully, the showers are not typical of the high school setting, where 15 guys end up in the same room, try not to look down, and get in and out of there in about .8 seconds. Instead, there are three stalls. The first has a broken showerhead, so we’re down to two shower stalls.

I walked in the first day to take a shower, and in an exhausted daze, stepped into the second stall. I pressed the button to get the shower to go, and to my absolute horror, almost fell out of the shower as freezing cold water came down on me.


I might not have “fallen,” but instead of spending a second more in the stall, I jumped out.


This posed a small problem, as one does not take showers in clothes.


So I jumped back in.


Small problem when I jumped back in—the water was about 8 billion degrees. I felt like a cartoon animal running across piping hot sand, and with each step, yelling, “hot, hot, hot,” only to dive into the coldest ocean ever (“brrrrr, cold, cold, cold”) and then run back across the same piping hot sand.

The theme of the week was “adapting to new cultures.” I learned to adapt. And the water got cooler as well, which is nice.

I’m back home July 7. I’d love to see you and say goodbye before I go.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Greetings from the Southern Baptist Educational Center, or SBEC, or “spbeck,” if you’re trying to say it under your breath. Considering I’m neither Baptist nor southern, I wonder how I can possibly learn something. But, I press on.

I flew in to Nashville on Saturday and spent time with a college roommate at his new home. I went off to Prague and he got married. Who knows what will happen now that I’m going to Korea? His wife was as gracious as gracious can be, and he was pretty good as well. Paul Allen and Christy, thank you for everything.

I also spent time at the church that I loved so much when I lived there. It’s been wonderful to watch from afar as this church moved from an auto garage with 20 members to a middle school and now, to a property and a building that holds its 500+ members.

Anyway, I drove to Memphis today and now I write from a balcony in Southaven, Mississippi. I’m really looking forward to the next 12 days. Lots of learning, lots of growth, and lots of fun.

Now on to something completely different.

I left Wheaton Academy for good on Friday, and yet, I leave a piece of my heart there. To the students, other teachers, and administrators, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for letting me be your teacher, thanks for allowing me to work with such wonderful people, and thanks for letting me work for such wonderful people.

To the parents: Thanks for allowing me to teach your children. I hope that I built up your son or daughter and stirred up a passion for God.

Goodbye to all of you.

Well I’m off…I’m fixing to learn somethin’.

Maybe I’m a southerner after all…

Saturday, May 26, 2007

And here we go again…stay tuned, as this will be the great Asian journal, detailing my life away from the United States.

Never in a million years did I think I would ever leave Wheaton Academy, but there is a reason why I am not sovereign.

People have been asking me how it’s been. Well, to put it bluntly, it’s been…tough. Extremely tough. One of the great joys of teaching at WA is that we are allowed to invest our lives in our students. The toughest part of leaving is leaving the students and the other laborers in Christ.

I’ve been doing alright, but as I was talking to a good friend of mine on Monday night, I said, “It’s as though I’ve been in denial for the past two months and now, it’s starting to dawn on me that I’m leaving.” I went the next day to the Senior (and teacher) goodbye chapel and I lost it. The flood of emotions that I had dammed up erupted and I couldn’t help (or stop) crying.

To my students—I will miss you terribly. Please know that. If I don’t cry in your class, it doesn’t mean that I’m not hurting.

Well, this is happening. Tomorrow, I renew my passport and sign a two-year contract.

God is good.

God is very good.