Korean-American youth finds fellowship

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jun 30, 2014 5:52 PM
HERNDON, Va. (BP) -- Fellowship time combined with worship, field trips, praise music and talent shows awaited 150 Korean youth who joined their parents at the 33rd annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America held in Herndon, Va.

A high-energy youth program led more than 20 years by Dr. Jey Kim, senior pastor of First Virginia Baptist Church of Springfield, Va. drew fourth graders through high-school age students and their parents. They worshipped and fellowshipped while younger children had their own day of camp activities.

For 18-year-old Amelia Oh, of Cherry Hill Baptist of Beavercreek, Ohio, it was a special time where she could visit with old friends, and she felt like she could be herself. In Ohio, the teenager lives in a mostly Caucasian community and is one of four Koreans in her senior class of 600. But she says she feels blessed to be in the minority because it makes her feel unique.

"People will sometimes say to me, 'Oh, you're different,'" she said with a laugh during the June 23-25 event. "They want to get to know me because I'm Korean. Better for me."

Oh, who has attended the program six times, says she always enjoys being with all the other "PKs" (pastors' kids) because it makes her realize she's not alone living in some "sub-divided universe."

"We live in our own little world. We're not 100 percent American, but we're not 100 percent Korean. We're Korean-American. We even have our own "Konglish" jokes," she said. Oh described "Konglish" as a game kids play by asking a question in English and answering it in Korean. For example, she asks, "Who's a celebrity that likes to carry luggage?" Answer: Actor Jim Carrey. Jim means luggage (as its pronounced not spelled) in Korean.

While games like these are light-hearted, bridging two different cultures can present challenges to these young second-generation Koreans. Oh says she doesn't relate fully to her cousins in Korea or to her American friends, unless they are Korean-American.

"Coming here is so relaxing because we don't have to put up any walls and we can just be ourselves," Oh said, noting she has made close friends through the years at the annual event. Friends keep up with one another through social media and using a small group chat room.

Sam Aum, who has joined the program for five years, spoke and led a question-and-answer seminar during an evening youth service. Aum, 29, youth pastor of Hanuri Korean Baptist Church of Carrollton, Texas, responded to questions kids texted to him. Questions ranged from practical issues that teens may face to the spiritual. For example, one teen asked, "Why did God create man if He knew man would sin against him?"

On the closing night of the council's meeting, the youth and all other age groups presented their parents and other messengers with a "Broadway show type" celebration. Four students shared testimonies and eight college-bound students received $500 scholarships from the council's fund for pastors' children.

Sung Eun Choi, pastor of First Baptist Church, of Tacoma, Wash., said he always looks forward to the children's finale. Choi and his wife Sujin brought their children Crystal, 13, and Noah, 9. They joined other families in closing prayer with their children.

Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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