A New Career?
2012 was a bit of a year from hell for me. By God’s grace I got through and learned many lessons along the way.
I had decided to take the plunge and try out a new career option- teaching English in Korea. It meant leaving home and my dear wife behind for an 11 month period. I thought it would be good for me to “test the waters” as it were, and if things worked out I could then tell my wife to come and join me. I was told it would be near-impossible to get a job at my age (early 50’s) in Seoul, especially if I didn’t have an American accent! So when an agency that hadn’t contacted me for a while said there was a position for me to teach in northern Paju area, and they wanted to interview me, I saw this as a door opening for me.
I was duly accepted for the position as an English teacher in a middle school and miraculously managed to get the documents I needed form the three countries in which I have lived. Koreans like everything on paper and stamped and treble stamped (or “apostilled” as they call it).
I did not know what I was letting myself in for but decided to take the plunge after my wife said it was okay for me to go. My kids had either graduated from high school or were going to complete their education overseas. and my daughter said she would stop over in Seoul on her way to complete studied in Europe. I reasoned that , if I liked the job, my wife could join me and we could either stay for another year or go to another country;worst case-I would simply return home with a year’s teaching under my belt.
What I hadn’t counted on was the level of difficulty I would encounter. This comprised (in no particular order) the confused and confusing Korean education system, the dreadful weather (regularly minus 15 degrees celsius for winter temperatures), spiritual attack (I had decided to go to Korea to help plant an English-speaking church in Seoul, having met the pastor recently in my hone town in New Zealand). On top of that was the severe stress and loneliness of being far from home, and -until God sent me a lovely couple to befriend me at the latter part of my teaching contract-no real friends in Korea to share life with.
And I certainly didn’t anticipate ending up briefly in a Korean hospital with severe-looking doctors and nurses bombarding me with questions and sticking me under CT scanners, MRI machines and the like as they thought I had suffered a stroke. (A “specialist” of some description finally concluded he didn’t know what it was, but believed it to be Bells Palsy).
The year began so-so, with the usual novelty of being in a new country. I was told I would teach one half of each class of about 40 students-and the co-teacher would teach the other half. This would be for about 21 lessons a week. My co-teacher raised my blood pressure early on by informing me that I could create my own lessons and that I would not have to follow any text book. But he said he would not be present in my classes to help with translation or anything else-which I later learned was breaking certain rules in their own education system since a non-licensed teacher such as myself (I only had a TESOL certificate) should always have a KET (Korean English teacher) present whilst teaching.
The upside was that it gave me some liberty and creativity-options in that I could create my own lessons but the downside was that I was often subject to a lot of stress-the students were often very disrespectful and hard to control, and many could not understand me at all.
Bells Palsy Symptoms
One day in October I woke up feeling very fatigued and my eyes started to enlarge. In the afternoon my face felt numb. I went to the Korean doctor who had no idea what was going on and he prescribed asprin and something anti-allergic. The next day I was still feeling groggy and my right eye was still enlarged and the right side of my mouth was drooping down, making it difficult to eat or talk. I started to get very worried- I was alone in a foreign country experiencing what had all the hallmarks of a stroke!
I called my pastor friend who did speak English and he said he would take me to the hospital in Ilsan which had all the equipment to check out strokes.
I did my best to hold it together as he took me in to the hospital. After being sent from one department to the other, and having a urine test, liver function test, kidney function, glucose and cholesterol tests-all of which read as “normal’, I was given an EEG. This showed my heart rate was normal. A CT scan revealed there had been no brain hemorrhages. The doctor said he was 90% certain it was Bells Palsy (he said it was actually a virus attack on the brain which “was quite common”) but that if I wanted to be 100 % sure it was not a stroke I should have an MRI . This is, of course, very expensive and I would have to pay for it because it was not covered by my teachers’ subsidized medical insurance. My pastor friend thought it would be a good idea so I bit the bullet and had it done,. (Funnily enough I felt God told me it was not a stroke and that everything would come right as I was lying on the hospital bed. This is known as a rhema– a God-breathed spoken word to my spirit. A full description of what God said and how this helped me get through this event will be detailed in an ebook I am writing)
Prayer Based on the Word of God not the Situation
So after a rather scary time lying under a cylindrical piece of machinery (Was it the MRI or CT scan, I forget which?) that made throbbing noises I was informed it was not a stroke and could leave the hospital. I decided that I was going to agree with the Word of God which said that I was healed. I told my pastor friend to tell the tiny prayer group of the small English-speaking church I was attending at the time that I was not sick, but healed (based on 1 Pet 2:24 and other scriptures).. I knew enough about the Bible and spiritual truth that if I had a fighting chance of getting back on my feet I would need to associate only with positive people and if I asked people to pray I wanted them to pray in faith, based on the Word of God, not my situation.
And I would need all the faith I could summon. I went to some rehabilitation sessions. The first one I went to the nurse massaged my face and asked me to say A,E,I,O,U, P,B,F loud and slowly. I could barely say “P” and “B”, a problem which continued when I returned to teaching my students at a middle school in a few short weeks. The nurse said mild exercise was OK and to avoid cold water and cold wind. As we were entering the freezing Korean winter season this was not going to be easy.
I went to a few rehab sessions at the hospital but did not enjoy the gizmo the Korean doctor was using to presumably stimulate nerves and movement on the left side of my face. I decided I was going to quit the sessions and rely entirely on my faith and the Word of God for my recovery.
I forced myself to go back to school because Koreans expect you to come to work sick. They do not seem to get sick pay and one of the common complaints of western teachers is having to put up with sneezing, coughing Korean co-teachers who refuse to do the sensible thing and take time off at home. An American teacher friend of mine got pneumonia one winter and rang in sick and was reprimanded by his Korean co-teacher because, he was told, student parents were wanting to see him (totally ignoring his comment that he could barely speak!).
My co-teacher was quite sympathetic but did feel the need to let me know that once I exhausted the sick days within my contract there was the definite scenario awaiting me that the school would cancel my contract and send me home. There was a point I reached in the ensuing deep, miserable mid-winter of Seoul when I wished that I would be able to get on a plane but my wife and friends advised me to stick it out. After prayer, I decided to stay and I felt as well God would give me some kind of testimony through it all.
“Talk to the Seventh Cranial Nerve”
God also sent me encouragement from strong Christian prayer partners in New Zealand, and one of them, Paul, told me to “talk to the seventh cranial nerve”, as he had had Bells Palsy some years back, and he had been advised to do this by his Christian pastor and God had healed him. Apparently this nerve controls the functions in my face that were not functioning.
This boosted my confidence in the words and intimations I had received from God. So in the first week I returned to work, although I could not say”P and “B:” (which coincidentally are hard for Koreans to pronounce too!) and my right eyebrow was higher than the left still, I continued to speak Isaiah 54:3-5 and other healing scriptures over myself and spoke to the seventh cranial nerve (I never knew I had such a nerve!) commanding it to work properly like Jesus spoke to the fig tree in Mark 11. Within a few weeks my left eye started to blink again and the paralysis left my face. I had been healed from the palsy!
Give attention to the Word
One of the most helpful books I read ,apart from the Bible itself, was Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. I recommend it for those suffering from this disease, whether you are a Christian or not, as Joyce covers the most essential element in anyone facing a challenge like this- we need to think about what we think about. Wrong thinking can lead you into a pit and right thinking, based on God’s Word, can lead you out of the pit into victory.
I did have other struggles I battled through in Korea, which I cover in my e-book, but I was on my way out of the dark place into the uplands of God’s healing, grace and mercy. There are some natural things you can do to help if you suffer a similar attack , such as take magnesium supplements,and do exercise, but in the main I discovered that God is faithful and that if we FOCUS exclusively on the Word and take Gods Word like medicine we will see results. Proverbs 4: 20-22 says :
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
22 For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh
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