The conclusion of this post is that I will be moving to Chuncheon, South Korea in August for a year of volunteer service with the Korean Anabaptist Center. However, the timeline leading to this decision begins several months ago, so I will start there.
Until the end of last Summer I was set on attending seminary in Seattle for the next four years in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree. I had applied for financial aid, enrolled in classes, and even purchased textbooks for my first quarter. But three weeks before classes started I began to question this decision. I realized I was no longer certain I wanted to be a pastor or teach theology in the traditional sense, which was the reason I wanted to go to seminary to begin with. After weeks of talking with just about every mentor, professor, pastor, and friend whose voice I value, I made my decision. I met with the associate dean of the seminary three days before orientation and officially withdrew.
I knew my heart longed to be in another culture. This has been a hunger growing in my spirit since returning from a trip to Indonesia a year and a half ago. I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing this, but figured teaching English would open a number of opportunities and would fit my passion for learning and education. Originally I thought I’d teach at a public school in another country, but I just couldn’t dismiss my desire to be intentionally involved in the Church wherever I was teaching. I stumbled upon Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and after realizing “Mennonite” is not synonymous with “long beards, wooden wagons, and hand-made trousers”, I knew it was what I had been looking for. Skipping over the less interesting details about the application, we come to where I’m currently at, the preparation process!
I chose MCC because of its commitment to justice and compassion in an explicitly Christian manner, as well as its intentional involvement with the Church and other local organizations in the countries it serves in. I never want my faith to simply produce nice words or articulate theology. I want my faith to be the driving force behind actions of love, justice and service. This is why I have chosen to partner with MCC, because I want to live out my convictions about ecclesiology, education, and peace.
My assignment is in Chuncheon, South Korea, which is about 50 miles east of the huge capitol city of Seoul and about 40 miles from the northern boarder. I will be working with the Korean Anabaptist Center, which is an organization that provides resources, language training, and theological education programs to a network of churches.
When applying for the SALT program I did not have an unquenchable desire to be assigned to any specific country, although I did list Korea as my first preference. I do not doubt I would have found great joys and deep struggles in any culture. My interest in Korea grew out of a number of factors: the duties entailed in this assignment seemed like a great match for me, the glimpses of Korean culture my Korean-American pastors have shared have shaped me, hearing Kenneth Bae share about his compassion for the people of North Korea inspired me, and learning about the pain a divided peninsula has caused so many people since the Korean War resonated with something inside of me. While in Korea I hope to learn how to maintain hope and pursue reconciliation in light of challenging historical events, how to be more comfortable with the uncomfortable, how to thrive in a communal culture (unlike Seattle!), and how to experience God through a paradigm other than my own. If I can learn Korean while I’m there too, that will be fantastic! 환상적인!
In order to make this year in Korea possible I need your help. I need your prayers for such a major transition and for humility as a learner and guest in a foreign culture. My family, whose brother and son is leaving the country for a year, also needs your prayers. Lastly, if you are financially able to contribute to the funds I have to raise for this trip I’d ask that you consider partnering with me by making a donation (which is tax-deductible!) to my MCC Giving Registry or by mailing a check (with “Austin Headrick – SALT” in the memo) to: Mennonite Central Committee PO Box 500 Akron, PA 17501. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support. I’m very excited to share my experiences through this coming year with you! 평화와 축복!