By Linda Yung
This summer, my oldest daughter Hana and I went to New Mexico to serve the Navajo Native Americans at a missions center run by a Korean missionary couple. We were joined by four other Korean-American churches from all over the United States–a mixture of youth, college students, and adults. I loved being around so many Koreans! We sang in Korean, heard messages in Korean, the youth called each other “oppa, unni” (older brother, older sister) and best of all, ate Korean food galore! We even had Korean military kimchi stew for dinner and burnt rice crackers for dessert.
While I was enjoying being among “my” people, embracing my Korean culture, I realized perhaps Hana was more Chinese than Korean. Although she enjoyed the Korean food, she didn’t speak the language and some of the Korean-American interactions of the youth were a bit unfamiliar. The funniest “lost in translation” moment was when the oppas were asked to escort the younger girls to their dorm because it was raining outside. She was completely puzzled and asked, “Why? They don’t even have umbrellas! Why do we need escorting?” One oppa’s reply was, “Because it’s muddy outside and it could be dangerous.” Another time, she asked me, “Mommy, do Korean girls not work very hard? They wouldn’t let me clean the big room because they said it’s too hard for girls.” I laughed at my daughter’s discovery of Korean culture–let the oppas take care of you.
I begin by talking about this clash of culture experience because this trip helped me to better understand our SJCAC church culture. During the four days of tutoring sessions with the Navajo children and youth, I was asked to lead the arts and craft time. When I asked God what craft I should teach, He told me, “Tell them that they are important. Tell them that they are a treasure.” Afterwards, I asked God what I should teach next and I had the following conversation with God:
Me: What should I teach today? More of showing them how they are loved?
God: How do you see them? What are the church people saying when they see the Navajo people?
Me: I guess how poor they are…70% unemployment, 70% alcoholism, less than 1% are Christians. Some kids live on reservations with no electricity and no running water. Many do not finish school or they are struggling with their school work.
God: If these were SJCAC kids, what would you teach them today? After “I am important. I am a treasure”…what’s the next message?
Me: If these were SJCAC kids, the next message is clear. “Now that you know who you are, look outside of yourself! Look beyond your needs! Who does God love? Who does God say is important? Who is God’s treasure?”
God: Teach them the same way. Give Me time to heal them and show them what I plan to do with them.
When my eyes shifted, I saw flashing before me all the different activities and prophetic acts that happens at our church among the children and youth:
- Mirrors hanging in Kids’ Church–kids going over to it during worship time to write words God gives them describing who they are
- Youth girls talking about writing God’s words of truth over them in their bathroom mirrors
- Our Arrows children declaring they are the arrows being sharpened for God’s Kingdom
- Children and youth laying hands over a gigantic world map being commissioned into the world
When my eyes shifted, I had the same expectation from God as I would have if I was teaching at SJCAC. On the last two days, God gave the same message to the Navajo children and youth. He ministered the same way.
Physically, I may be Korean in my language, mannerisms, and food culture, but spiritually, I also carry SJCAC’s church culture. Hana and I carried our SJCAC culture to New Mexico this summer…a culture of imparting God’s message of looking beyond ourselves and becoming His Kingdom children.