Abigail Reed serves with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK)
Abigail’s appointment with Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, Week of Compassion, and special gifts.
Name: Abigail Reed
Serving with: PROK at Yeonggang Shema Christian School
Describe the mission of our partner where you serve.
The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), is an ecumenical reformed denomination in South Korea founded on the beliefs surrounding ‘JPIC’ – Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. The PROK is a progressive denomination within South Korea bearing witness to a number of peace and justice concerns within the Church, in Korean society and on the Korean Peninsula, and globally.
What is your role in their mission?
Through the PROK, I primarily work at Yeonggang Shema Christian School; an alternative elementary and middle school that strives to provide students with a global vision through practicing love and consideration for others that resembles that of Jesus. Here, I teach speaking classes and oversee most of the English programming such as spelling bees, English musicals, and more. Secondarily, I support the English ministry programs at Yeonggang Church through assisting in English bible studies and teaching English classes at the daycare center.
What led you to want to serve?
It wasn’t until very recently that I knew for sure I wanted to pursue work that was based around community care, both through support and giving back. Growing up in a supportive, mission-based church community allowed me opportunities to form my own perspective on faith and the world around me. However, with this being said, by the time I entered college I had so many questions relating to God and how the world worked that it made me feel like an imposter when I called myself a Christian.
Towards the end of university, I had decided that my theology was strongly based around the concept that God is love; a love that is all-encompassing and never ending. I became more comfortable with the uncertainty that is Christianity and was able to see for myself that there is no single definition of what a Christian should be/ look like. Yet despite this, I did not believe my faith was strong enough to work for a religious organization at that time.
After exploring other volunteer opportunities, I decided to re-evaluate my doubts. I realized Global Ministries was an organization founded on core values that aligned similarly to mine, and that it would allow me to explore my relationship with God on my own terms while practicing the act of service which I base my faith on. I wished to serve so that I could continue learning from, and sharing with, others through my actions rather than just my words.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
John 15: 12-13 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
James 2: 14-18 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.
What are some of the challenges facing the people where you serve or our partner?
As a teacher, one of the most noticeable challenges in South Korea is the rigorous school curriculum and pressure it places on students. Starting at a young age, a majority of students attend extra classes at hagwons and start to learn an instrument, as well as a second or third language. While it is not a requirement to take these extra classes outside of school, it is almost necessary in order for students to stay on the same track as their peers. This pressure of being able to succeed is especially high for those living in rural cities where parents look to their children as someone who will hopefully get into a college in a bigger city and then get a well paying job that will help support the family.
Currently, young adults in Korea are struggling to obtain job security due to the limited number of opportunities available and high unemployment rates. Thus, as students near the end of their high school education, the pressure that they have felt for the years prior increases. In Korea, the exam to enter college is considered one of the “most stressful exams in the world” and for almost every student, their future “depends mainly on these scores: from college to work, income, relationships” and more.
This pressure to be successful academically has heavily affected the mental health of youth within Korean society. As of a few month ago, the suicide rate in South Korea, “continues to rise, staying the highest among developed nations.” According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD), it has been considered one of the highest since 2003.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
Every Thursday, the students have worship for a class period. During this time the students are given the opportunity to lift their voices to praise God and list any prayer concerns they may have. The week prior to Thanksgiving, one of the church pastors shared a message about acknowledging, and then using, our individual gifts from God. Some of the students went to the front of the sanctuary and shared things they were good at – playing the piano, singing, writing stories, etc. When asked how they can use these gifts, many of them responded with “Uh.. I don’t know.”
At a young age, and even as a young adult, it’s hard to identify what our strengths are, and even harder to know how to use them. A lot of the gifts the students mentioned were ones that involved connecting with other people. Almost all gifts from God can be used to build a connection with the people around us. Through making these connections, we are then able to share the love that Jesus has shown us all along. We are able to use our strengths to spread God’s message and good will to each other.
Which books have influenced your understanding of your country of service, work, or theology (choose 3-6):
- Human Acts by Han Kang
- The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
- Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo
- Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It written by Robert D. Lupton
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism written by Jemar Tisby
Which films that have influenced your understanding of your country of service, work, or theology (choose 2-4):
- Mr. Sunshine (미스터 선샤인 ) – drama
- 1987: When the Day Comes – film
- May 18 (화려한 휴가 ) – film
- Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – film
This paragraph was taken directly from my recommendation letter from Global Ministries