The autumn at the Ecumenical Office of the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of South Korea has been a very busy time for me.
Following the National Assembly, I began taking the Hangul and Korean language classes at the Green Language school here in Seoul, along with another international worker from Germany, Annika Schmegner and others. To say the least, this was not an easy undertaking! I have never done very well learning a new language in a classroom setting. After the first course and learning phonetics and a very limited vocabulary, I shifted gears and took a private lesson course twice a week in the afternoon which went much better for me as I had time to ask questions, more immediate attention and converses with an instructor one on one.
During the month of November, I was approached by SongHee who is with the PCK (Presbyterian Church of Korea) and asked me if I would participate in a video project in their campaign for the equality of women, which I immediately agreed to. They needed the voice of an American male, and I already knew one of the members involved from my time at Columbia Theological Seminary, so they came to me and I immediately agreed to help. A few days later, I met the group down the street in a studio and was presented with a sheet with appalling quotes of a misogynistic nature when I sat down in front of the camera. They recorded my thoughts and reactions on camera over the better half of an hour. I gained a new perspective of what women of the church were enduring everywhere, as I knew this was an issue in the United States, as well. A few weeks later, I met with SongHee again, this time in a coffee shop, and I edited and refined the English translation for subtitles so that the video could reach a wider audience.
Around the same time, I received my first large scale assignment. Yangmuri Presbyterian Church, in the city of Haenam, on the southern coast, is in need of English-speaking teachers for their new ministry. Sungkook Park, my supervisor, asked if he could send me for a few months in the beginning of 2020 and I told them that I would go. The following week I met with a few of the church leaders that I would be working for and any nervousness that I had instantly vanished as they were a very friendly group and offered to help me to continue to learn Korean. This coming weekend I am taking a train down for the weekend to visit for the first time and learn more about what I will be doing before I move in January. I will still be back in Seoul periodically which I am grateful for. I love this city.
On a closing note, I will be flying home to Atlanta over Christmas to visit my family and especially my father, who has been in the hospital since October. We were very worried at first and not sure that he would pull through but has been steadily improving. I wish you all the best this Christmas season and may the Love of the Trinity be with you all.
Thomas Smith IV serves with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK). His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.