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My Work at Hanshin University

April 3, 2014

I have been serving Hanshin University in South Korea as a missionary in residence since September 2013. Hanshin University is a liberal arts college that was founded in 1940 by the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. It was originally known as Chosun Theological Seminary and has since then developed into a general university that is now comprised of 8 colleges and 6 graduate schools with a total 5,800 students. Hanshin University prides itself in its tradition of remaining committed to the education for peace, justice, equality, and human freedom. Alumni have devoted their lives to the enhancement of Korean society and for the unification of the two Koreas for many years. As the University of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), Hanshin is now trying to open its doors to overseas schools and move toward a brighter future in adherence to the new vision of 2020,“Realizing Practical Intellect Together.”

The Graduate School of Theology has launched the Master of Theology program (Th.M. two years) in English with special emphasis on “Ecumenism and Social Transformation” for seminarians from other underdeveloped nations. Currently, 10 seminarians who come from six different Asian countries are studying for this program and are financially supported by the school. They will be completing the program in summer 2014. This program signifies great importance as it enables future seminarians to be Christian leaders in their home countries and provide contributions to the expansion of ecumenical network in Asia. This is another way of carrying out God’s mission in a current global context.

When I first arrived at Hanshin, I was assigned to teach courses for both undergraduate and graduate programs along with the additional task of counseling international students. I have taught classes such as: “Ecological Crisis and Eco Justice in Ministry” (graduate students) and “The Bible and its World” (undergraduate students). I am always happy to meet students every week on campus to lend an ear for their academic concerns as well as personal issues. I often exchange emails with students outside of the classroom for those who need additional support. One undergraduate student once approached me after class to inquire about important theological questions. He is currently majoring in theology and planning to pursue ministry. We often hold dinner conversations to discuss his future and pray together.

I was invited to be a member of the executive committee for the program of “Studies of Ecumenism and Social Transformation (SEST) at the Graduate School of Theology and started attending meetings on a regular basis. I reported what I have learned from the students in the classroom and joined discussions about the SEST program. I was asked to be a resource person as an advisor and counselor. I accepted the request and began aiding students by offering more office hours and appointments through emails. I have found that it is common for international seminarians to feel lonely, as they are separated from their homes and families. They experience difficulties in a foreign country, because they are confronted with a new culture and a language barrier. Most importantly, they seek to find someone who will listen to their spiritual needs. I spent hours with several students both inside and outside the classroom, listening to their stories and sharing concerns together with prayers.

When the WCC 10th assembly was held in Busan, Korea, last November, the school assigned me to take the international students to the WCC assembly as their field education. Two more exchange students from Canada and France joined the field education in Busan. As an advisor, I attended to the needs of the students for a week, checking their schedules and ensuring they had the best educational as well as spiritual experience as possible. The students valued the precious time given to them to learn about the ecumenical spirit of world Christianity. I introduced them to Cathy Nichols at the breakfast meeting and they shared their concerns and goals in the context of Global Ministries. After the field education in Busan, they submitted reflection papers regarding the trip. I enjoyed reading their work and found that it was a great opportunity of faith and theology for all of them.

I had participated in several meetings to prepare for the Studies of Ecuminism and Social Transformation (SEST) program during winter vacation. I helped oversee the process of recruiting new students for the SEST program 2014-2016. I have contacted my colleagues of Global Ministries in other countries and asked them to advertise the program. I was both delighted and surprised that a student from Ghana applied for the program though Phyllis Byrd, a missionary in Kenya. I was also contacted by several other students through Bruce Van Voorhis, a missionary in Hong Kong. The recruiting process is still ongoing and I continue to assist the school committee in interviewing applicants through Skype as well as phone calls. We are hoping to recruit 10 students from other underdeveloped countries.

The Spring semester has just begun. This semester, I am teaching “Contemporary Theology and Ethics” for Korean seminarians and “Theological Research and Writing” for international seminarians. In addition, I am advising two theses of students from India and Nepal. I have decided to dedicate Tuesday nights to stay on campus, in order to provide more guidance for the students. While the successes of my students are particularly important to me, I would also like to focus on the university’s efforts in forging a strong relationship between Hanshin and other UCC/DOC related seminaries and colleges in the USA this semester.

Daniel Lee serves with the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (PROK), South Korea. He serves as chaplain at Hanshin Graduate School.

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