May We Find Strength
Lydia Yang serves with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK).
In the grand scheme of things, a year is just not enough time. It took me several months to feel fully settled in my placement. I only recently began feeling comfortable in my weekly “routine” of an ever-changing schedule and multitude of special events. The past couple of months have been busy; filled with meeting new people, starting work in other placements, building relationships, and learning.
One of the most notable events was the 106th PROK General Assembly in September. In compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s General Assembly took place among four churches in the city of Cheongju, with delegates gathering together as one assembly online. I was assigned to help at one of the church stations, where I experienced the complexities of church polity and the work that is being done and must be done to move the church forward. This particular PROK General Assembly was historical as Rev. Eun Kyung Lee was installed as, not only the first female Moderator of PROK, but also, the first female Moderator of a Protestant denomination in Korea. It was a special moment filled with much tension and excitement, and I am grateful to have witnessed such an event. As the church continues to adapt and re-adapt to the shifts the COVID-19 pandemic brings, I pray and hope that this election of the first female Moderator will become a step towards a brighter and healthier church and society.
A joy in my placement with PROK is in the community of mission co-workers I have been so openly welcomed to. At the PROK general office, I work with two mission co-workers from Japan and Canada who have become an important support system. Through these two mission co-workers, I was invited to join the Monday Night Group, a group of international ecumenical co-workers in Korea. This group was first formed in the ’70s in response to the human rights abuses and crackdowns on democratization movements during the South Korean military dictatorships. Although today the group has shifted into more of a community of mission co-workers to connect and check-in once a month, it is still a group that gathers in support and encouragement for one another. In addition to the Monday Night Group, several young adult mission co-workers of other denominations and programs and I have formed a small group meeting once a week to learn Korean history and culture together. Many of us in the group are new or have only some experience learning about Korean history, so having this open and safe space to learn and ask questions has been important. Together we visited Seodaemun Prison History Hall, a prison built in 1908 during the Japanese occupation to imprison Korean independence activists and then later used by the Korean government during the military dictatorship period to hold pro-democracy activists. Most recently, we made an excursion to Cheorwon, a small county north of Seoul along the DMZ that was split into two after the Korean War, to learn of the lasting effects of the War as well as the work towards peace and peaceful reconciliation of the two Koreas.
As I am nearing the end of my first year as a Global Missions Intern, it is unsettling how fast the year went by. Lately, I have found myself trying to sum up how much I have changed, learned, and grown so far, but it hasn’t been easy to simply quantify this experience. The things I have experienced and learned so far have brought me much joy, comfort, excitement, and in the same way, much sadness, anger, and frustration. There have been many ups and downs, but I am learning a bit more about myself and the world through it all. By having opportunities to visit historical sites, I am able to witness and learn how the present culture in Korea came to be and how specific events in history have evolved Korean society into what it is today.
Throughout my experience, I have gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of history and of those who have worked and fought for a better world. For as long as the pandemic and the many issues in our world continue to shift our lives in both good and bad ways, I pray that we may find strength to persist and move towards good.
Lydia Yang serves with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK). Her appointment is made possible by gifts to the Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, and your special gifts.