And generations pass, as they have passed,
A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
The world belongs to those who come the last,
They will find hope and strength as we have done.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “A Shadow”
A couple of weeks ago I took the kids and a couple from our church Kongju to learn about the missionary heritage there. Kongju is a small town in Korea that is steeped in tradition. Most of the town looks like Korea did 30 to 40 years ago. We listened to a Korean woman tell stories about the missionaries who came to the area, built a school, and made a deep impression on the community there. We also visited the school which is beautifully situated on top of a hill.
We took a walk. It was a glorious autumn day. We went up a hill to find the grave stones to four of the missionaries. The site was beautifully surrounded by the forest around it and provided reflection on what he had seen, heard, and pieced together. It was a quiet, hidden place where people can come to remember the saints who have died. Why are there so few places that invite joy and sorrow at the same time? This space allowed for both.
We wandered the path towards the old missionary house. A three story building built in the 1900s must of been something to see for the Koreans. Their housing structures are so simple compared to what was built. The stones and memorial plates held Bible verses.
I wanted to a few pictures to capture the feast we have enjoyed. It is a feast of history, reflection, and redemption. “Stand here, this light is perfect,” they hear me say. They turn and pose accordingly. Tilting and grinning in what became a vertical theme.
Coming down I had to say something to the boys. “Shhhh”, I remind them. “This is not a place for wild romping”. This is a place to remember. A place to pray. A place to feast on the goodness of the promise of heaven. It is also a place to grieve.
We also visited an old Catholic church that afternoon. The beauty of the fall intermingled with the stillness of the sanctuary.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
I watched my son Aidan sit in the sanctuary and pray for a moment. I realize once again that God gives freely and abundantly to those who seek him.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
His presence that afternoon is a feast. The light cascading through the trees beams with His glory. The gentle rustle of the leaves sound as if He is brushing past them as He strolls hidden in front of our eyes. This place requires my attention. Artfully, and without effort, it demands it. I felt like the day had been built for me and those who participated. Built for us.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The shadows of the past gave light that afternoon. They told stories, created beauty, and ultimately, shared Jesus Christ, the living God.
The shadow’s the thing.
If I no longer see shadows as “dark marks,”
as do the newly sighted,
then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light.
They give the light distance;
they put it in its place.
They inform my eyes of my location here, here O Israel,
here in the world’s flawed sculpture,
here in the flickering shade of the nothingness
between me and the light.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek