Greetings to you in the name of Jesus the Christ. Fall weather has come upon us here in Korean, which means the rainy season, changma, is over. This year was unfortunately more dry than usual so farmers in both South and North Korea took a hit to their crops. They could use your thoughts and prayers as the harvest time will come without as much produce as hoped.
As for our Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) site, this change in seasons also means the arrival of a new set of YAVs. This year we have received more than we had hoped, and it is the first time the Korea YAV site has ever worked with five YAVs. This means we have added two brand new volunteer placements as we have created relationships with two new children’s centers. Will, Linda, Alexis, Alyson, and Emily have finished their two-week on-site orientation with us, and they are now into their regular schedule of Korean language class in the morning and volunteering in the afternoon. Please pray for them as they continue trying to adapt to life in a new land with a new language.
One concern that seems to be a theme for this group of YAVs in particular revolves around discernment. They all participated in the week that we call the Discernment Event back in April where prospective YAVs interview several YAV sites, then rank them, then the site coordinators rank the YAVs, and we sort out placements with the rankings. We always emphasize that even though they probably received a placement at the end of the week, their work of discerning God’s will for them would continue. Some of them, when receiving Korea as their placement, were not sure it was want God truly wanted and considered asking for a different site. Eventually they signed their placement letters and prepared to move to Korea. Their discerning continued.
They all five arrived in Korea, and we read from the Book of Genesis together: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you….’” (Gen 12:1). Then the questions came, “What if we misunderstood God? Is this REALLY where I am meant to be?” They lamented that Abram seemed to have received an easily discernable voice telling him to do this specific thing so that there was little room for debate. For us, however, this tends to be where the rubber meets the road in terms of discerning what we believe to be God’s call. We have done all this work to try to have a sense of what we think God is calling us to do, or perhaps more properly, who God is calling us to be as members of our global community, but what if in the end we are still betrayed by our human imperfection and have discerned incorrectly?
We try to bring them some comfort in what might seem like an uncomfortable truth, that most likely as humans, we will likely never be able to discern God’s will with 100% accuracy, especially with decisions where there are several good options to discern between! I am reminded of a quote from Susan B. Anthony when she was persuading a group of women not to repudiate an unorthodox book of theology, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.” If I am honest, when I look back on my YAV year, I am not 100% sure that I chose the best option when I went to the Time for God program in England. When I let my mind wander too far I often wonder if there may have been a better choice. However, at this point as my life has brought me this far, that distinction matters very little. Perhaps I would not have come down the road that brought me to Korea had I gone to a different YAV site!
We encourage our YAVs to be open to re-assessment of decisions they have made, courses they have taken, and things they believe about God’s will. This is especially because, if we end up discerning incorrectly and others are harmed by our interpretation, we do no one any service, especially God, by sticking to the faith that we were 100% correct even when the fruits of our decision suggest otherwise. We also encourage them to be confident enough in our community discernment process that whatever level of certainty they feel about the decision that brought them to Korea, they are now committed to figuring out what God’s presence is here, what God is doing here, and what Koreans are doing to help God cultivate God’s Commonwealth.
Throughout their year we help them to discern where the Spirit is present in the children’s centers, how Christ meets them in the eyes of guests at the Saenaru meals ministry, and who God is calling them to become in light of these new relationships.
You, as Presbyterians in the US, are also a part of these relationships for us. Your financial support, your prayers, and your messages of care keep us going and connecting these US young adults to the presence of God in Korea. If you are also interested in joining our journey and learning about what Koreans are doing to fight poverty and build relationships of reconciliation in the midst of conflict, please contact us and donate whatever you are able. Together we can better discern God’s will for us in this global community.