My first week of school in Korea, I was introduced to two boys who quickly became my favorite class. They are Korean age 12, actually age 10 and they are the most intelligent children I have met. Kevin,studied in Canada and his English is great. He is super sarcastic and a lot of fun to banter with. The other boy, David, is also fluent and has an extensive vocabulary. He pulls words that make me feel inferior to him. He is so incredibly bright and honestly, I wonder how much more I could be teaching him.
David, the boy I once labelled as my favorite student is now what I consider punishment for all the teenage mood swings I had as a child. Sorry mom! Really, I’m sorry!! If I knew then I would be paying for it the way I am now I would have tried harder to think before I spoke.
I can’t blame David for his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior. It’s not his fault. There are many things I can blame though. Adolescent hormone changes, the pressures of Korean culture or his super strict and crazy obsessive, possibly bi-polar mother to name a few.
I show up to work every Tuesday and Thursday not knowing which David I will get. The one who laughs with me and is so eager to learn (and by learn I mean show me up and prove he is much smarter than I am) or the boy who will bring me to tears as I cry out to the Lord praying for David’s heart. I pray for David often. On his off days, he has yelled at me and told me I was a bad teacher for playing a game in class. He has written to me telling me to never talk to him again. He gives me the silent treatment and stares at the paper for 40 minutes while I try to get him to say something. I feel so bad for the other child in the class with me. Kevin is so great and is so patient through David’s tantrums. I’m really proud of how mature he is at such a young age.
At 10 years old, David has a huge bald patch in the back of his head. I would like to tell you it is genetic, but that is far from the truth. The truth is, it is caused by the mounting stress he faces as each day passes. While the other children in Korea are outside playing on their winter, spring and summer breaks, David is sitting behind a computer screen completing an online internet course his mother is forcing him to do because there is no break from studying. Before he can eat breakfast, David has to read first. He gets an insane amount of homework from the Hagwon and I’m sure from his elementary school and his mother makes him write extra essays. David has told my Korean co-teacher he hates his mother and father and thinks his grandfather is “disgusting.”
Last week, Kevin was late to class and David and I were alone. He went from smiling and laughing with me to giving me the silent treatment yet again. I soon realized the bald spot I once thought was being caused by the stress of studying was actually being self inflicted as I saw David twirl and pull out his own hair. I desperately tried to connect with him, console him with my words and nothing worked.
David never lets me hug him, he has made it perfectly clear he doesn’t like when people touch him but I decided to try again. I was fully prepared to have him yell at me, hit me or push me away but instead as I grabbed his hand, he immediately responded by rubbing my hand and letting me know he felt safe. He didn’t speak a word but we sat for 15 minutes and I just held his hand and tried my best to show him I care.
David is the only thing on my mind lately as I try to find ways to show him every moment how much I care about him. I pray for David continually and I am sharing his story with you to ask that you pray for David as well. With suicide being the leading cause of death in Korea for those under 40, my heart breaks every day for David. I fear that is the path he is headed down if something doesn’t change. In my experience so far, Korea seems to brush these things under the rug and they don’t try to deal with them. I’ve tried to explain to David there is more to life than what he is experiencing right now but he can’t see it yet. I’ve tried to share the gospel with David to which his 10 year old brain responds saying “I don’t feel like debating religion with you right now.” I realize now the only thing I can do is keep loving on David every chance I get and praying for his heart. Will you please join me in praying for my precious David.