I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners. In this post you will hear from Heesung Hwang who will be commissioned as a provisional deacon this June at Annual Conference. Here are Heesung’s words:
My journey to ministry and theological study started from the conversation with my father when I was at the age of fourteen. He used to give me a ride to my school every morning and we shared lots of stories and thoughts. It was such enjoyable moments for both of us. One day, he talked about what he wanted to do in his life. He said he had wanted to set up an organization in order to help orphans because he also faced and experienced the misery of the Korean War and wanted to do something to improve the society as well as his own life.
However, it just did not happen in his weary life. In that morning, he said, “But I still want to do something for lonely children. Although I cannot afford to build an organization or an orphanage, I am about to start donating a small amount of money every month whether it is 5 dollars or 10 dollars.” Those statements just struck me. I said to my father as I got out of the car, “Dad, I will do it. If you don’t make it happen in your life, I will do it.”
Many years from then, at the age of twenty, I became a Christian, not just a church goer, and started to ask real questions about my true identity as a Christian and the future in its view. While attending a dawn prayer meeting, I was able to realize God calling me to a deeper level of ministry and study.
It was like a guiding light that the message came to my mind. It was Isaiah 61:1 that says “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
Then I responded to God with the same statement that I did to my father, “Yes, I will do it.”
From all the experiences learning and teaching in the field of Christian education for more than ten years by now, both in Korea and in the USA, my desire to study religious education to build up a healthy children and family ministry became clearer and stronger. It did so especially while I have been serving in a Korean Immigrant Church in the United States.
I realized that there are some unique and critical problems in children and their families in the immigrant community. Since they are living in between cultures and languages, the rising generation is constantly struggling from identity-crisis, culture shocks, lack of communication/conversation in family relationship, low self-esteem, and so on. On top of those issues, they also have some general issues that other children/youth might universally go through, such as poverty, family-abuse, racial discrimination, and divorce of parents. In the midst of chaos of cultural, racial, religious differences as well as language issues, I have seen so many children and youth fall into a gray-zone that no one cares or no one can dare to care.
This is the point that I felt the need to study about building family-oriented community supporting them to transform the society for their sake. Although the trigger is from my unique experience in the Korean-American immigrant church, I believe it is quite a general issue and crisis for all children and youth in this troubling world. I believe that teaching them with the heart of Christ and putting the seed of hope in them for the future is what the Christian community should do first.
I’m in my Ph.D. program in Christian Education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL. At the completion of my doctoral degree, I want to be a theologian who finds creative ways to guide religious people to learn how to live as a holistic healthy being. Then eventually, I hope to build an education institute on the foundation of Christian faith and child advocacy.
In addition, I also have a call for mission work, especially for North Korea. Since my mother tongue is Korean and they are like my brothers and sisters, it is an urgent calling for me to serve the North Korean children and women. As we all know they are one of the most vulnerable and oppressed people in the world. It is also in my prayers to build a school in North Korea one day when Korea is once again a reunified nation.