I remember when I was young a new cemetery was being constructed near our place. It looked so peaceful to me that I usually spend my afternoons there riding a bike. It wasn’t a popular choice for leisure either it creeps people out so I enjoyed my “alone time” there. I also remember that there were petitions back then against the construction. People just don’t want places of the dead near their homes. The water linings maybe infected by the dead’s substances and what not, the place will be crowded and various reasons why they didn’t want the graveyard there. I guess it just boiled down to two objections: fear and superstition.
There are certainly mixed emotions when you come to a graveyard. The thought that other people have gone ahead of us make us see our lives in a different glass. For some who believe that dead people’s soul wander the earth will be caught in fear and they just want to pass by it in a flash. For those whose loved ones have been buried there it was a place of remembrance.
Our flight was delayed for several hours the day we have to go home to the Philippines from South Korea during a Ten Days mission there last November 2015. To make up for the time, the lead pastor took us to Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Mapo-gu, Seoul. It was a site for foreign missionaries in Korea. Not probably a good place to end up with.
We started the tour watching a short film documentary about the history of the cemetery. It was already heart-wrenching from the beginning I could say. We continued to see the tombstones while a guide shared few explanations while walking. How would it feel to see your name written in one of those?
Next we came to a hall which showcased some of the writings and tools of the missionaries. There was also a walkway as if you are walking on waters while verses of the Bible were flashing. Another interesting site was a bowl where you put your hands on top and a reflection of verses will be flashed. It was funny when on my palm was the verse from Matthew 4:19 which says “I will make you fishers of men.” Surely wasn’t a sign from heaven.
We ended our cemetery tour and they gave us booklets as remembrance for our visit. We were able to go back to the Philippines safe and filled by the Holy Spirit. But all I know is the missions didn’t end there.
While we were in Seoul, the team has been telling me that I might be called for long term missions in Korea. I know that I’m called to be a fisher of men but I never had an inkling for long term missions. All I know is that I love Korea, I love the people, and I love watching Korea novela.
Few days after I went back to the Philippines, I’ve been praying for clarity and God’s plans in my life. One Sunday night after I attended church service, I asked God again for signs and confirmation. I was one not good with signs. But I was hoping against hope that in some ways, He would show me. I told God that if there’s just one missionary in Korea born on the same day as mine, I know I’m called for long term. It was rather a vague sign I know but I asked anyway. It was just that I’m so blessed while being there I even had my 29th birthday in South Korea. The Lord granted my best birthday ever! Going back to the story, I searched the internet for missionaries born on November 6. I couldn’t see anyone. I looked at the brochures given in the cemetery. No one. Then, someone, the Holy Spirit, I believe, prompted me to open my phone and browse the pictures I took. I only caught a few random tombstones in the cemetery not even knowing who they were. And then voila, November 6, 1889, Henry Dodge Appenzeller*, flashed on my screen when I zoomed out one of the pictures. I asked for a sign and yet I couldn’t believe it or rather not wanting to believe what I saw. I cried to the Lord if this was His answer.
Until now, I am still praying for Korea and for God’s plans in my life. All I know is that His will is good, pleasing and perfect. He will see through what He has started. It was also stupendous to know that Appenzeller died at 64. And on December 1, 2017 will be his 64th birthday. Who knows if that would be the day when God will call me clearly for whatever mission He has in store for me. Surely not to be buried in that cemetery but to continue the legacy of Appenzeller. I am not afraid of the thought that one day I will be buried there. And so I was someone called from the cemetery.
*Henry Dodge Appenzeller (Nov 6. 1889-Dec 1, 1953) was a Korean-born American missionary and President of Pai Chai School.