Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

We went to a small Korean Church in Minnesota.  According to Bruce, this was one of two Korean churches in the state (Google says there now at least 8).  As you might expect in the state of Minnesota, our Korean church didn’t have the largest congregation, but I would say it’s safe to estimate that we did have at least a couple hundred people, children included.    A decent percentage of that population consisted of my family (8 people, including my grandmother), my aunt’s family (herself, my uncle, and three kids), and Bruce’s family (his mom, dad, him and his 2 brothers – no relation, but close enough).  So while we probably couldn’t stage a coup de etat of the church on our own, we were pretty visible and probably had a decent amount of influence at the church.  My sisters seem to be pretty involved during their high school years, but they pretty much stopped going to our church, or any church after they graduated from high school.

Since my sisters have stopped going to church for years now, it is always very entertaining to see how uncomfortable they are when they’re home for the holidays and my parents beg them to go to church.  I understand that part of their discomfort stems from my parents introducing them to a bunch of people that my sisters don’t know (they had all moved out and stopped going to church before my parents and I moved to San diego), and it probably doesn’t help the matter that I usually don’t go with (to deflect attention, I suppose).  I know it probably sounds ironic that I attend church regularly but I sit out Christmas service at my parents’ church, but I really can do without my parents’ friends telling me how much weight I’ve gained since high school and how chubby my face has gotten (complete with visual illustration).  So my sisters go, they sit through it, they meet some people that they barely remember / never met before, and head home to ask my why I’m not forced to go (and that everyone asks about me so my parents have to spin a lie about why I’m not there).

The meals at Christmas time are also really amusing because not only have my sisters stopped going to church, but they’ve also stopped praying on a regular basis so when my dad asks someone to pray for the entire table, there’s a lot of awkward silence and finger pointing.  My sisters tend to volunteer me every time this happens, and I’m never especially happy to be handed this “honorable” duty.  As I’ve gotten older, and have become more comfortable with interacting with my much older sisters (between 8-15 years older), I’ve tried to turn the tables on them when they’ve forced me to pray out loud in front of the whole family.  I can’t say that it’s stopped them from pressuring me, but at least I feel like I do achieve a small victory now in the process.

When my sisters force me to pray, I try to make the most uncomfortable scene that I can.  I tend to stand up, I raise my hands over everyone, and I try to speak like a charismatic tele-evangelist.  I pray for my sisters’ disobedient sinful souls, and I try to draw the prayer out for as long as I can.  If I can stay in character, I’ll try to perform an exorcism, but usually there’s a lot of laughing at that point.  I’m sure my christian friends don’t approve of this method.  They’d probably recommend that I take the prayer seriously so I may help my sisters remember the importance and power of prayer, and I think that is a valid argument, but I’m just not wired that way, and humiliating my sisters is just so irresistible.

A few months ago, my sister was in town, and since I was her ride to the airport, she had to go to church with me, since I had to play guitar that day.  It actually wasn’t too uncomfortable for her to be there.  I’m guessing it probably helped that everyone in my church speaks English and no one wears a suit.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad she didn’t accuse me of forcing her to go and that she didn’t complain about the service afterwards.  I’m to get all my family back in to church so we can return to old days but in a way it was some sort of a small victory for me.  I’m in no way trying to be the family evangelist, but it would be nice if we could finally get to a place where my sisters were finally comfortable with going to church with my parents once a year and I wasn’t forced to pray at every family dinner.