Reflection on Growing Up Korean-American

From the time I was born, my parents, who immigrated from South Korea, spoke to me in Korean and my older sisters spoke to me in English. By the time I was almost 3, my language development was lagging and my parents decided it was best to use English around me so that I would at least be able to communicate with someone. As such I never became fluent in Korean, although I do know how to read phonetically from many Saturdays spent in Korean school, I really have very little to no comprehension of my ethnic language.

I grew up going to the Mid-Hudson United Methodist Church where the entire mass was held in Korean. We had English translation services over radio headsets but, to be honest, listening to the translation was just as frustrating for me as trying to understand the sermon in Korean. So rather than fight it, I would sit and ponder life’s questions during Pastor Cha’s sermon. Then, when it was time to sing, I would pick up the hymnal and sing along, without really understanding the words I was uttering. In short I was participating in spirit, but not necessarily in content.

When I look back on that time, I feel that even though I did not literally understand the sermons that I heard in Korean, I was somehow able to catch the gist of what was being taught. In as so much as I was able to refocus myself on life’s bigger questions, and meditate during the sermon, I truly believe that the seeds of spiritual growth were planted during this time. What was interesting about those years is that I always felt closest to God during Sunday mass, despite my inability to tell you what Pastor Cha’s sermon was about.

Now that I am a father to a wonderful toddler who sits, not so quietly, on parts of the Sunday service, occasionally yelling “YEAH” at the end of a hymn, I can appreciate the value of being part of a church–even if you really don’t understand the literal content. At face value, goodness is goodness, we will not be quizzed for comprehension, and I am thankful for my experiences and hope I can provide my daughter with all the spiritual growth I had by growing up as a member of the church.

This morning we celebrated the culmination of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at the Church of the Village. Many thanks to the members of our church for the special blog contributions during the month! Stay tuned for more special postings during the month of June to celebrate LGBT Pride.