Pain in the Back.

Hello,
I need some healing prayers. I mentioned in my last post that sitting on the floor at mealtimes and all of the walking has been painful for me. While most of my body has adjusted, there is one part of my body that has simply decided to rebel. While celebrating Chuseok* with my housemate Ye Eun’s wonderful family, I noticed that my lower back was hurting a bit more than usual. I didn’t think much of it-I was spending a lot of time sitting on the floor between making, preparing, and eating food as well as socializing and visiting with various family members.

However, in the last two days the pain has worsened; I have had a very hard time doing anything-walking, sitting, standing, coughing, laughing, concentrating-you name it. I went to the doctor today (9/12) and they took some x-rays of my spine. Two of my vertebrae are pinching one of the discs so that it is bulging a bit. They gave me an injection and medicine, and the instructions that I am not allowed to sit. I am allowed to stand with one leg elevated (sort of like the “tree” yoga pose or Captain Morgan) and I am allowed to lie down. If the pain does not subside in the next 5 days, then I will need to have physical therapy three times a week.

This has delayed the start of my position at the Sae Um Children’s Center by a few days, which is quite frustrating. And, the medicine will make me sleepy. Good thing I’m not teaching or taking a class or anything. T.T (that’s my “not amused” face)

On the upside, the doctor’s visit AND the medicine only cost a whopping total of $20. That is a blessing. And, my site coordinators are pretty awesome and supportive, which is also a great blessing-even to the point of taking me to the doctor on their anniversary! And, on a test that we took today in my Korean class, I only missed two questions, giving me an 80%!

And, now I get to wonder around, standing like Captain Morgan. ARRRR me mateys! Just give me an eye patch, a parrot (though my mom has one that doesn’t like me) and a wooden leg named Smith and I’ll be good to go. (did anybody catch the Mary Poppins reference? Anyone???)

At any rate, please pray for healing. I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy not sitting, with things like meetings, baseball games, teaching, and classes on the horizon.

*post about Chuseok, with many pictures and thoughts, to come.

Culture Shock.

I am uncomfortable. My body aches from Fibromyalgia and jet lag. We walk most places, and we walk up hill to catch the bus. And the Korean custom to sit on mats on the floor for meals is painful. My body hurts a lot.

I am silenced. I enjoy talking. But because of the language barrier, I cannot express my thoughts, questions, or feelings. I cannot even introduce myself. Though Hyeyoung and Kurt translate, I am horribly dependent on them because I cannot speak Korean myself. I cannot speak directly to my new acquaintances.

I cannot listen. I enjoy this part of talking too. But because I do not know many of the words that my brothers and sisters are saying, I find myself drifting away, trying to guess or imagine what they may be saying, or trying to read a Korean label or sign nearby.

I cannot understand the signs and labels. Many of the signs are in Korean. While I am starting to read the letters and syllables, I do not know the meaning, therefore making reading nearly fruitless.

I am frustrated because I feel I have little to offer when people are offering so much, opening their hearts and homes.

And I am reminded that I am a YAV not to be comfortable. I am a YAV to serve a God greater than all of humanity, greater than anything human kind has created. I am serving a God of love, justice, peace, and mercy.

I rest at K-Dong, my home in Korea. I rest so that Fibromyalgia and jet lag might release their grips on my body.

I write in my journal and on my blog so that I might express myself. I write in my native tongue, coveted by many who wish to learn it.

I listen. I find peace in prayer, conversing with God, listening to his voice. I am at peace knowing that I am carefully placed, blessed, highly favored, positioned to prosper, and eternally His.

I study Korean so that I may hear. I study so that I may understand. I study so that I may speak.

I eat delicious food. I experience new flavors, and new styles of cooking.

I receive grace as I accept people’s hospitality. I receive grace as I enjoy the atmosphere, the people, and the food.

I laugh as my new housemates, acquaintances and I stumble through sentences, and play charades and word games to better understand each other.

I am a YAV to be changed and moved. I am a YAV to learn from our brothers and sisters here in South Korea. I am a YAV to serve a God greater than anything you or I could ever imagine.

평화. Shalom.

 

Arrived!

Jordan and I arrived in Daejeon a little after midnight (Korea time) last night. After 24 hours of travel, we are a bit exhausted. I do believe the video below reflects a bit of that. haha.

Are you going to South Korea to teach English?

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that question.

And now I can say: yes, I will be. I will be working at the Sae Um Community Children’s Center (pronounced kind of like “say – oom”). The community center also happens to be a church. They run an after-school program with youth ages 8-14. I will be there several times a week, teaching English, leading games, and participating in other various activities.

I’ll still need to learn Korean. There is an emphasis on academic rigor, and I’ll need to have lesson plans prepared. I’ve been writing lesson plans off and on since high school when we ran a preschool out of our classroom (I taught about fire safety via a book about having a dragon over for tea). I just have to get back into the habit of writing them. Good news: I’ll be writing a lot of them next year!

In addition to my site placement, I’ll also join Jordan, my fellow South Korea-YAV, once a week, helping the homeless and hungry ministry at Saenaru Community Center, washing dishes and eventually helping to distribute food to guests.

For anyone interested in a countdown: 9 weeks until I head off to Korea! 6 weeks until my YAV year in New Orleans is finished. And, 3 weeks and 5 days until my birthday.

Peace!

~K

 

안녕하세요!

That means “hello” in Korean. I’m working on learning the alphabet and it is HARD! It has quite a few letters (19 consonants+21 vowels=40 letters) and I can recognize quite a few of the vowels and consonants already. It’s exciting. I can also spell my name. Which is pretty neat. And, I can almost say “My name is Kalyn” but I’m having a hard time with pronunciation. It’s crazy how a slight change of the shape of your mouth changes everything… Of course, I know this from my years of voice lessons and choir singing… But my gosh it’s hard!

So here are some details:

I will be living in Daejeon, South Korea, on Hannam University’s campus, in an old missionary village (it’s #35 on the map). Fun fact: one of the houses has been preserved just as the last missionary left it in 1994. His clothes, shoes, & books were left just the way he left them. The house my fellow YAVs and I will be living in has been renovated and modernized. Our site coordinators will live across the way from us. And, I’ll be safe. Why do I feel like I’ll be safe? Because our God is awesome. Because the PC (USA) isn’t going to send us into danger, nor will they leave us in danger. And, I have some awesome site coordinators who say the following:

Safety…. Usually, this is the most common concern you will run into when telling you friends and family that you are going to live in Korea for a year. They are afraid that North Korea might start a war and you might be caught in the middle of it. As there has been increased activity at a nuclear site in North Korea, that anxiety will grow leading up to a possible test of another nuclear bomb. Let me assure you that you are in more danger of being a victim of violence in a US city than you are in Korea. There is a growing consensus here in Korea that we understand North Korea is not actually interested in restarting open conflict. There already is a current state of war, as that state of war never ended with a peace treaty. Only an armistice (cease fire) was signed in 1953 by N. Korea and the US and other UN allies (S. Korea never signed it). More and more people recognize that N. Korea is not interested in committing suicide, which is what would happen if they re-ignited open conflict. Even the US military is closing down its bases next to the border with the North and opening up new bases to the South and the East. Nobody here believes N. Korea will actually attack anymore. This will likely be a move similar to the nuclear tests before and the saber rattling last year around this time. US Americans and others around the world got worried last year in April because of statements from N. Korea, while most Koreans recognized it as the same old song and dance. N. Korea will most likely use this coming nuclear test to gain more leverage in aid negotiations and to make the US pay attention to it. Currently, the US is involved in a decades long strategy of isolation and ignoring N. Korea hoping that it will be starved of attention and thus come around. N. Korea hopes to draw the attention of the US in other ways.

All that being said, as your site coordinators, we have made contingency plans anyway, just in case the need arises, for what to do in the event that open conflict starts again. So, we will be ready if that happens to make sure you guys are all safe and out of harms way. We are in constant communication with our partners and watching the US Embassy in Korea’s alerts, so that if you are in actual danger, we can take the appropriate actions. The PC(USA) denomination will not place YAVs in regions of danger if our partners are telling us we will not be safe.

So. I feel safe. And I feel at peace about it. I pray that if it is something that is worrying you that you are blessed with abundant peace.

As for what I’ll be doing in Korea, I’ll be learning the language and I’ll be serving with churches and schools in the Daejeon area, most likely at an after-school program, forming relationships with my Korean neighbors, students, & friends. More specific details (like what the program focuses on i.e the arts orTraditional Korean Culture) about my work placement will follow at a later date!

Here’s what I need from you as my supporters: I need prayer for myself and each person I come in contact with. Pray for me as I finish my year in New Orleans, spending time loving my housemates and the city.

Also, as a Young Adult Volunteer, I am required to fund-raise support. The money I raise will be part of my income over the year I serve. It will provide health care, rent, food, transportation, and a stipend. I would ask that you prayerfully consider giving on my behalf.

My minimum fundraising requirement is $4000.

If you are one of my New Wilmington Presbyterian Church family, you can give money to the church with my name in the memo line of the check or on the envelope as a specified gift. Kay will process it from there. :)

To donate online, please follow the link here.

To donate via check:

Please make the check out to PC(USA) and write YAV Kalyn Stevwing and ECO # <<E210905>> on the check. Send it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Remittance Processing

P.O. Box 643700

Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

I thank you all for the support you’ve given this year and I thank you in advance for the support I know is to come.

Thank you!
K

Plans

I forget constantly that I do not know what God has planned. I forget constantly that I do not know what the future holds. Time and time again, I listen to God’s whisper, and take off at full speed, forgetting to keep listening to that whisper, and instead I do what I think the whisper should be saying. Every time, I end up knocked off of my feet and find myself sitting on the ground, completely confused at how I got there. I was following God’s call. Right?

YAV uses a process of mutual discernment to determine where an individual will serve. Through interviews first with the YAV staff (they’re awesome and stationed in Louisville, KY) and then through interviews with site coordinators (stationed through out the world) the individual, site coordinators, and the YAV staff determine where the potential YAV is best fitted to. Discernment Event is part of that process for young adults considering international service. It’s a weekend of prayer, emotion, decision-making, encouragement, friend-making, and community-building. It’s a time when the site coordinators, the YAV staff, and a group of Young Adults listen to what God is whispering.

For me last year’s YAV process went like this: I interviewed with Lydia and Richard (YAV staff), and it was determined that I would spend a year as a national YAV and discern if a second year internationally was for me. With international being out of the question for this year, I did not need to go to Discernment. I began interviewing with national sites, and that’s how I ended up in New Orleans. (This makes it sound really really easy. It’s not.)

I tell you all of that to say that I chose to ignore what Lydia, Richard and I discerned to be God’s call. I came to New Orleans and quickly decided that while YAV is great, the next step for me would be seminary. I applied and was so certain that I would get accepted. And when I got a letter at the beginning of February that let me know that I was not accepted, I was devastated. I felt so certain and I was so confident that this was the next step in God’s plan that I found myself sitting on the ground, wondering how I got there. I was listening to that whisper wasn’t I?

The day after I found out, I met with Layne (site coordinator in New Orleans) and we discussed my options. It was in that conversation that I realized that it had been a long time since I last listened to the whisper. I was making the decisions. I also realized that I wasn’t so sure how to listen for that whisper. My mind and heart were filled with feelings and voices telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve it, I wasn’t smart enough, and that I was wrong. Layne and I also realized that I only had a week to fill out the YAV application for a second year if I wanted to be considered for international placement. I filled it out, sent it in, and thought very little of it.

And then Lydia got in contact with me to schedule an interview and I realized that I needed to be somewhat prepared for such a thing. So, I went to the YAV website and looked at the different sites. I knew that six new sites were opening and so I took a look at each of the new sites and a few of the established sites as well. I decided that Zambia and Thailand were the international sites that I was interested in. Both are new sites and I thought “why not.” I also decided that New Orleans and Miami would be the national sites that I looked at. It was in reading through the descriptions of Zambia’s potential placements that I realized that I was listening to the whisper again. I was stepping in the right direction.

I interviewed with Lydia and shortly after she emailed me to say that I would be getting asked to Discernment Event but asking if I was sure that I wanted to interview with two brand new sites. Wouldn’t it be better to interview with a new one but also an established site? She was right, of course, and so I discerned (that word is ever so annoying sometimes but it is something that we never stop doing!) that I would still interview with Zambia and would interview with South Korea instead of Thailand. Shortly after, I received an email officially inviting me to Discernment Event, I accepted, provided the information for the flight to be booked, and set to enjoying New Orleans in the season of Carnival (Mardi Gras).

This past weekend I traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center for Discernment Event. I was nervous, excited, fearful, determined… There were many, many emotions and feelings all at once and I could barely contain them all. It was lovely (for me anyway) to discover that I had two roommates, Margaret and Colleen, who seemed as eager to exchange fears and hopes as I was. Colleen came with a bonus gift: her sister Lanita. We spoke of our excitement, our lives we currently lived, our fears, our desires, and much more. I made some friends that I hope to have for life. Colleen and I talked that first night about where we were hoping to serve; for me, Zambia was at the top of the list and for Colleen, New Orleans. I laughed as I explained how incredibly convenient it was that we were roommates and proceeded to tell her about my current YAV year throughout the rest of the weekend. I didn’t need to sell Colleen on it as she was sure she was called to New Orleans, but I like to think I helped a little. hehe. (She’s coming to New Orleans next year and I couldn’t be more excited for Colleen and for New Orleans. Margaret will be serving in Colombia and Lanita will be serving in Hollywood!)

So. Zambia. I was sure that’s where I was heading. After all, Zambia’s page was the one that convinced me that I was listening to God’s call. So surely that’s where I was going to go. Funny thing, I wasn’t listening very well. It wasn’t until my interview with South Korea’s site coordinators that I realized once again that I was only taking part of that persistent whisper into account.

When I interviewed with Layne last year, there was an instant connection. I remember that distinctly. The other site coordinators were awesome people and they had awesome sites. But there was something about Layne and the way we connected that gave me this feeling that I was going to New Orleans. And look where I’m sitting.

It wasn’t any different this year. I just wasn’t listening to the whisper and I was choosing not to pay attention to those gut feelings.

On Friday, I interviewed with Zambia’s site coordinator, Kari. Kari is great and she’s doing amazing things in Zambia like working to develop a Sunday School curriculum specifically created for Zambia. We didn’t really connect and I guessed then that I wasn’t going to Zambia. But I still really really wanted to go to Zambia and I was determined to tell God that I was going to Zambia. It’s really hard to let go of something you’ve convinced yourself of, even if it means telling God he’s wrong. (Though God was not at all wrong.)

On Saturday, I interviewed with South Korea’s site coordinators. Kurt and Hyeyoung started the interview by saying that I was clearly qualified to be there and that I didn’t need to impress them, that I just needed to be me. It instantly relaxed me and I was able to talk to them openly and honestly about my thoughts and fears. There was a connection I didn’t anticipate. And when our official interview ended, we continued talking about Korea and while I had shared with them during the interview my hopes for Zambia, I knew that I wouldn’t be going to Zambia. My gut told me that. But it is really hard to let go of something you’ve set your sights on. It’s hard to let go of something you were once so certain of.

Layne was outside in the lobby when I finished my interview with Kurt and Hyeyoung. It was a relief to find her there-I am an external processor. She asked how it went and I told her that I wouldn’t be upset if I ended up in Korea. She didn’t look too surprised. And then we talked about New Orleans and what was going on in New Orleans and of things that didn’t involve the discussions and letters and feelings that would occur that evening.

Saturday afternoon was torture. We all knew that at about 4:30 all of the site coordinators would gather with the YAV staff and our “fates” would be decided. Also known as, discernment would happen and God’s calling would be listened to. That evening, after worship, we were all handed letters inviting us to serve at different sites. Colleen and I ran off to sit at the bottom of the really long chute/slide that we had ridden that morning; a secluded, quiet space (though most of Ferncliff proved to be just that) with a lot of room for tears and screams that would happen as we opened our letters by the light of my iPhone. We laughed, cried, and hugged, talking about what next year is going to hold for us. We are going where we are being called-right where that whisper has been inviting us to go.

Colleen is coming to New Orleans. I’m going to South Korea for a year. I’ve already started learning the Korean alphabet and once I’m in Korea, I get to take a class to learn to speak Korean. I get to spend my year in a beautiful country, serving with schools and churches in the Daejeon area. I am unbelievably excited. I’m nervous and I’m thrilled.

I’m going to Korea. I’m going to serve alongside brothers and sisters in South Korea. I think perhaps if I say it or type it enough it might seem real to me.

Just as I’ve been reminded so many times by so many other carefully placed people: I am blessed, highly favored and positioned to prosper. God has a plan, and I am carefully placed. I just have to keep listening to that whisper.

Coexisting within the Body of Christ to Coexist within the World

Earlier this month, a couple of my housemates and I had the privilege to attend Montreat’s annual College Conference. It’s a Thursday-Sunday morning conference targeted at young adults in college. Lucky for us NOLA YAVs, there were a few extra spots in a group from Baton Rouge that needed filled, and three of us had the opportunity to go.

The conference’s theme was “At the Well.” The worship services focused on Jesus and the woman at the well and what that pericope can teach us about interfaith dialogue. The keynotes discussed the idea of interfaith dialogue and how amazing it is when interfaith groups work together to help their neighbors. There were examples of faith communities forming a wall around a mosque Muslims could worship after 9/11 and stories about sitting shiva.  I assure you, I believe that interfaith dialogue and cooperation certainly needs to happen if we ever want to achieve “world peace” and care for our neighbors. However, at a conference about interfaith dialogue, there was ONE Muslim woman that spoke to the group of college students. Where were the other faith traditions? It is a topic that does indeed puzzle me. But there’s one that puzzles me more.

How can we talk about coexisting and working with other faiths when we don’t tolerate, dialogue or interact with other Christians? I recently spoke to a pastor who admitted that neither his church nor the other couple of churches within a few blocks interact with each other. They just don’t have time and they do things differently and have a different mission(my words, not his).

Even when churches work together the politics and power struggles keep churches from connecting in a manner that is foundational for the church.

I think it goes deeper than that though. Even within a church building the community is separated and not working together toward feeding His sheep. In secular culture, we are frequently told that we’re individuals, that we should focus on ourselves, we’re all snowflakes, unique, and we all fall to the ground separately, apart from each other. I read an article today from Relevant Magazine that elaborates on this idea. You can read it here. We’re so focused on being individuals that we forget that we’re individuals making up the Body of Christ.

Yes, while it’s important that I develop my faith and my being, it’s also important for me to recognize that I am part of a larger community. I am part of a church community, and that church is part of the church universal, the Body of Christ that includes not only people I like, but people that I disagree with, argue with, desire to be as far away from as possible…

My point is that we shouldn’t let our differences divert us from the task at hand: feeding Christ’s sheep. That’s really what that conference that I mentioned at the beginning was about. Just because we believe, look, speak, learn, think, worship differently does not mean we cannot work together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow; fight for justice where there is injustice.

While we’re working on coexisting with those of different faiths, perhaps we can work to coexist within ourselves, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s live in peace together whether Christian, Taoist, or Islamic. Let’s strive toward peace together whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Jewish.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

K