Mission Connections Letter Update #1

The following is the copy of the letter sent to Mission Connections that includes a few announcements:

Grace and peace to you by the power of the Holy Spirit,

Hyeyoung and I are growing in our excitement about our coming move to Daejeon, Korea to restart the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) site there. We have already visited several congregations interested in joining us as partners in our work and as companions on our journey. It seems every conversation we have ends up building more energy for the coming ministry. Hey, are you interested in joining in that buildup of energy? Then keep reading on!

In case this letter is your first introduction to us as mission co-workers, I’ll start with an overview of our placement and what some of the work will look like. Hyeyoung and I will go to Korea to fulfill a call as YAV site coordinators. We will primarily be responsible for the site based at Hannam University in Daejeon, Korea (South), and for the experience of the U.S. young adults coming to volunteer with us for a year at a time. We will make sure their experience as YAVs relates to the new Critical Global Issues (CGIs) for Presbyterian World Mission: Addressing the root causes of poverty; Sharing the Gospel of Jesus the Christ; and Working for reconciliation in regions of conflict. We will provide them with a year of programming helping them to learn about Korean culture, history, and context. This will include mentorship and spiritual direction with a particular emphasis on discernment and who God is calling them to be as leaders in our Church in this time of an increasingly connected global community. Our hope is that by the end of each year the YAVs have learned from Koreans about working toward each of the above mentioned CGIs, have been stretched beyond their usual comfort zones, and have become more aware of themselves as faith leaders.

We will also spend a part of our job exploring relationships with several of the denominations in Korea so as to become a more helpful partner with Koreans as members in the global community. Hyeyoung and I both had the experience of having to develop relationships with people completely different from us. Hyeyoung spent one year living in the Philippines learning English, and then she came to McCormick Seminary in Chicago to study Divinity. I studied abroad in Scotland for one year, and then became a YAV myself in England after graduating college. For one year in seminary, I then studied at Hanshin University in Seoul, Korea. Through these experiences, we both learned that in order to maintain healthy relationships across the boundaries of difference, you have to get to know the people who are different from you on their own terms, the way they express themselves, and the values they uphold. We hope to use these skills in building new relationships with other denominations in Korea, while also helping the American YAVs develop these skills for themselves.

Kurt with the President of Hannam University and chapel staff, as well as Richard Williams and Mienda Uriarte.

Kurt with the President of Hannam University and chapel staff, as well as Richard Williams and Mienda Uriarte.

I recently took the opportunity on a previously scheduled trip to Korea to visit our site at Daejeon and meet the chaplains at Hannam University as well as to visit the various centers where we will be sending the YAVs to volunteer. I also happened to meet up there with two of our PC(USA) bosses, Richard Williams (Director of the YAV Program) and Mienda Uriarte (Asia Region Coordinator). I was immediately struck every time we visited another office or group of people by the consistent hospitality shown by all our hosts. As soon as we entered another office, we were offered tea and one time we had coffee. It reminded me of visits to homes in Scotland and England, also countries with long standing hospitality cultures. It also reminded me of visiting homes in The South in the USA, only without the iced tea. Hyeyoung and I are having more conversations about how we are going to need to intentionally work on the hospitality we practice in our home and increase it to the standards of Koreans! Perhaps we can even add some kind of Chicago twist to our “Korean hospitality.” Again, I have a growing excitement for the work that our YAVs will get to participate in with these various children centers. They will get to lead games and community activities for underprivileged children whose parents cannot afford the usual after-school institutions where more wealthy Korean children go to learn extra lessons. They will also do some English Language teaching, and two of these centers will also give YAVs the opportunity to teach some music and instrument lessons. The children at these centers will also be more than happy to help each YAV learn more of the Korean language as well! The YAV experience always hopes to live into the mutual transformation of both the people at the sites wherein we work and us as YAVs and mission co-workers.

from left: Bennet, Eric, Quantisha, Kurt, and Molly.

from left: Bennet, Eric, Quantisha, Kurt, and Molly.

Since returning from that trip to Korea, I participated in the YAV Discernment Event in Louisville, KY where all prospective international YAVs came to meet both national and international site coordinators, interview for sites they are interested in, and then receive placements at the end of the week. I interviewed many amazing young adults who have already become leaders in our faith community. I would have liked to take them all to Korea, but alas, we have limits. However, I did leave with a set of four amazing soon-to-be YAVs, and I hope you will hear their names more often: Eric Gleason, Quantisha Mason, Bennet Alldredge, and Molly DeWitt. I do not think I could be more excited about an assembled group of young adults. Many amazing stories will be coming from them throughout 2013 and 2014.

Finally, I would also like to share about the newest member of the mission co-worker community that we welcomed into the world. Sahn Esslinger Lee was born on March 7th at 7 lbs. and 11oz. He will be a joy and a gift as we raise him in Daejeon, Korea, and he gets to learn about his mother’s culture in the early years of his life. Please pray for all of us as we become a bigger family and move off to Korea at the end of May!

Sahn Esslinger Lee

Sahn Esslinger Lee

May you all also be blessed during this Easter Tide. May Jesus’ spirit of service unto all our neighbors fill us with the energy and the power to change the world.


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2 Responses to Mission Connections Letter Update #1

  1. Dorothy Gleason says:

    Hello Kurt,

    Congratulations on your new bundle of joy. Many thanks that you have a blog on your family and the upcoming trip to South Korea. I do not have Facebook, so this is how I am kept up to date with information. Our family has a copy of a picture of all of you whom are going to South Korea. We are praying daily for a Blessed, safe trip. This will be the first time Eric will be away from us for any length of time, besides college, which is only an hours ride away. Eric’s passion is putting God first and serving him. I only know that I witness the spirit of God working through Eric as he puts others first and how obedient he is. God Bless the children that are going to South Korea.
    Dorothy Gleason

    • Dorothy, thank you for checking in on our blog!
      Also, thank you for your wonderful son. I am very excited that the process worked out in matching him with our site. I know that he will be a very valuable addition to our community of young adults. We hope you get to see many more pictures of everyone!

      Also, every now and then we will hope to feature blog reflections by everyone, in case Eric does not set up a blog himself (although we are certainly going to encourage him to!).

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