By Colleen Earp
M.Div. student, Richmond Campus
Despite our struggles adjusting to the 13 hour time difference, the East Asia trip has been going incredibly well! Our hosts have been generous with tea, coffee, and plenty of snacks and good meals to keep us going. More importantly, they have been patient with us as we learn through a language barrier–with the exception of “hello” and “thank you”, the only Korean speaker on our team is Dr. Chang. Still, we have been offered beautiful hospitality everywhere we go.
In Thursday, we visited Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary here in Seoul. While many faculty and students spoke at least some English, our lack of Korean became a bit more challenging when we attended a chapel service and an intro to Ethics lecture, both understandably entirely in Korean.
We were offered translation service through a headset for the worship service, but it was very difficult to hear the English over the hundreds of people singing and praying together in Korean. I was grateful for many years of musical training, which at least allowed me to hum along with the printed notes and participate in some way. My headset did not have an especially clear connection, but I could catch a few snippets here and there: violence, change, justice, peace… the service was dedicated to memorializing lives lost in the Gwangju Democratic Uprising on that same day in 1980. Even missing many of the words, the service made a powerful impression on all of us.
The lecture was a bit more challenging as there was not really an easy way to translate it for us without drastically affecting the students’ experience. The professor is fluent in four languages, and even though English is not one of them, he offered a few words or book titles during the course of his lecture: social responsibility, prophetic compassion, service, justice, action… it seems that despite the language barrier, much was able to be communicated.
It is so good to travel across the world and see a different place, only to find the things we share.