Korea is Kool

Quite a bit has happened in the past two weeks. I’ll try to share the abridged version in an effort to remain coherent and hold your attention.

I left Seattle on August 19th for Akron, Pennsylvania where I met up with roughly 80 other young adults from around the world who will also be spending their year volunteering with Mennonite Central Committee.

Departing from the Seattle airport
Departing from the Seattle airport

About two-thirds of us departed from the US and Canada to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East; and the other third came from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East to the US and Canada. We all gathered in Akron for one week of general MCC orientation before heading to our respective assignment locations.

I’ve never been thrust into a context with so many new people who are all so interesting and enjoyable to be around. It was like the first week of college/summer camp in super-drive. During our week at orientation our formal sessions involved learning about Mennonite Central Committee’s legacy, ways to cope with challenges on assignment, MCC policies, and what it means to serve and learn in the name of Christ. Informally, we learned how to play, eat, rest, and share space with people from other cultural backgrounds.

SALT Orientation7
Slacklining in the courtyard at orientation

One of the most significant things I was reminded of at orientation is that God’s story—God’s work of redemption and restoration—is not only deep, but it is also multifaceted. This multifaceted-ness was put on display in the multitude of diverse faces and stories I encountered. I am neither the center piece nor the singular hero in this story. I’m simply stepping into a long history of faithful servants—a cloud of witnesses—whose strength and zeal flow from the same Messianic center piece. As I often need to be reminded: if we want to go fast, go alone; if we want to go far, go together.

At the end of the week we all said goodbye to our newfound friends and headed to the airport to begin whatever unpredictable adventures lie ahead. After several hours of travel (like 25!), Mina (the other SALT volunteer serving in Korea) and I arrived in Korea. We plunged into our in-country orientation the following morning with a trip to the MCC office, a stop by the immigration office, and a visit to a local food festival. The week was filled with visits to iconic historical and cultural sites, well known food spots, frequently used stores and transit stops, MCC friends, and popular hangouts. Our bouncing about was interspersed with presentations and meetings about the historical trauma of the Korean peninsula, the ways MCC has been trying to contribute towards peace building here, and culturally distinct features of Korean society.

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. Home to the Kings of the Joseon dynasty.
Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. Home to the Kings of the Joseon dynasty.

At the end of the week, Mina, Jiwon (one of our MCC guides), and I traveled a few hours south to the Dandelion Community where Mina is staying for her SALT assignment. Dandelion is an intentional community of Christians who focus on education and farming in rural Korea. We were given a tour of the community, attended a prayer meeting, stayed the night, had breakfast, hung around to see Mina get started with her role in the community, and then Jiwon and I caught a bus back to Chuncheon.

The Dandelion Community
The Dandelion Community

Come Monday I will be settling into my assignment with the Korea Anabaptist Center. A few things are still up in the air, so I’m not completely certain what my role will entail. However, I’m excited about all the various things I’ve seen going on in MCC’s work here, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy whatever I get to jump into!

The past two weeks have been a fantastic start to what I hope will be a fantastic year. I’m fond of this place, I’m fond of these people, and I’m excited to join in what God is doing here!

Seoul7
Resting in a riverside park in Seoul after a day of exploring
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