A typical packet of rice cakes
Having set the motivation and scope of the project in my last post, I will now describe how it unfolded.
A typical exchange went like this:
1. I check my note to see where I needed to go to pick up where I left of the day before. I soon realised the importance of keeping a written record of my daily evangelism trips. When you are visiting hundreds of houses, you absolutely must have a way to keep track of them all.
2. I prayed to God to ask for His guidance, for wisdom to know what to day and how to say it, and for the Holy Spirit to just go on ahead of me and open the hearts of those who I was about to visit.
3. First, I would pay a visit to the little hut where the security personnel (often an elderly man) to explain what I was doing in the apartment buildings. This was a crucial step, as some people would often call the securities to report what they saw as unsolicited trespassing. It helped that I would give a packet of rice cake to the elderly man; they loved the stuff.
4. Finally. We are at the door. Check if they have any plate on the door to indicate they are a member of a church (this is a common thing in Korea); I only rang the bell of those who didn't go to church. (However, I always visited the ones who had a Roman Catholic membership plate.)
5. Ring the bell. Wait for a response, with a packet of rice cakes and church invitation leaflet in hand. They answer: "who is it?"
6. In as concise and rapid a manner as courtesy permits, quickly explain that you are a neighbour living in the same apartment complex (tell them exactly where I live, to defuse any doubts) and that you are "doing the rounds with some rice cakes." Smile as you wait. (Remember, they can see your face through the intercom)
7a. The responses to the above fall into three categories. The first will just outright say "sorry, not interested" and hang up. The second will say "okay, wait a moment" and proceed to open the door. The majority of the people, though, fall into the third and last category, and will ask questions. Why would someone go around handing out rice cakes? It's a fair question to ask. However, I quickly realised that I must not disclose this particular bit of information. Everyone just says "sorry, not interested" if you explain to them over the intercom that you are giving out rice cakes in order to tell people about Jesus. It's a no-brainer.
7b. When "explaining away" the reason for my rice-cake distribution, I quickly discovered a neat trick. I call it the "Ppalli ppalli" effect. It's quite amazing how effective this is. In Korea, almost everyone enters into a 'cooperative' mode if you invoke the "Ppalli ppalli" effect. Just tell them you are in a hurry. That is it. So in this context, you would explain to them that you have many households to cover in a limited amount of time, so would they please hurry up. (Incidentally, this is the diametrical opposite of how things are in the UK. Strangers who were until a minute ago willing to offer you help are often put off or even offended if you in any way suggest to them that they need to hurry up.)
8. Most of them who open the door will do so with a heavy dose of suspicion. However, when they see you with a packet of rice cakes, they often warm up and again ask "what is the occasion?"
9. First, gently thrust the rice cakes into their hands, as you explain to them again that you are just a neighbour living nearby. They will thank you for the rice cakes.
10. Ask them if they know the nearby Presbyterian church. Most non-Christians will say no, or they'll just have seen it on the way home etc. Next is the moment you have been waiting for. Look them in the eye, and tell them this: "It's so good to believe in Jesus!" At this point, they really won't know what to say/do.
11. Thank them for their time and say good-bye. Before closing the door, tell them: "Jesus is the Bread of Life." This works especially well in Korean (and remember, all this is being conducted in Korean) as the Korean bible verse actually says "rice cake" instead of "bread" in the "I am the bread of life" passage.
12. Write down the response in the note. Move on to the next household and go to step 4 until you run out of rice cakes.
The amazing thing is that the entire exchange typically lasts less than one minute. On a typical day, I would visit about thirty households, and a third of them would open up to receive the rice cakes.
Here is a three-minute segment where I visit three households. The first house just uses the intercom to say they can't come out. The second house is actually a believer, and the last one is Buddhist:
Father God, would you send a spirit of prayer and evangelism here, so that more people would rise up to tell their neighbours about Jesus!