I was driving down the road one evening through Little Saigon, a Vietnamese town adjacent to the Korea Town in Orange County, Southern California. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice out of my daughter’s mouth with an exclamation mark saying, “Look! There is a DongGran Moon!” My wife and I immediately launched a mission impossible to search for that DongGran Moon, spinning our necks around rapidly, along with our eyes, full of curiosity. Unfortunately we could not see anything like that DongGran Moon.
To help you understand the context of our conversation that night, let me give you a little hint. ‘DongGran’ means ‘round,’ and ‘Moon’ means ‘door’ in Korean pronunciation. We were, indeed, looking for a ‘round shaped door around us, and we couldn’t find one.
“Rebecca, I don’t see it anywhere.” I said to my daughter.
She finally said with a sigh, “Gosh, don’t you see that over there in the sky?” Then we saw the round shaped full Moon in the sky. She meant ‘the full Moon,’ and we were looking for a ‘round shaped door.’ My daughter was using her own language that she calls ‘Konglish,’ which means mixture of Korean and English. DongGran was Korean, and Moon was English in her description. It wasn’t even a rare case that we experienced that kind of bewilderment on our daily journey, which is full of surprise simply because of our language difference; that is only a part of our cultural issue.
‘Konglish’ is neither Korean nor English though it involves both Korean and English. It is a language that only Rebecca or her generation could speak and understand.
Rebecca is now a tween, a ten-year-old native Californian. She has been raised in a typical Korean American immigrant family setting, ever since she was born.
I came to the U.S when I was in my twenties, while my wife came much late in her thirties, and as you might imagine there is a cultural gap between the two of us, as well as with ourdaughter. In fact, there are three different cultures in our family with its three members. Of course, I understand the difference between the word ‘cultural gap’ and the word ‘generational gap,’ but in reality, the generational gap only adds more severity to the existing cultural gap or vice versa.
Rebecca belongs to ‘Digital Generation,’ and she already has to cope with ‘Overload’ a concept introduced by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in their book Born Digital (1). In this aspect, it might be safe to say that virtually every home struggles with cultural issues. It is either unavoidable or inescapable.
Dr. Oliver Phillips underpins this statement when he says, “These authors lend credence to the truism that there is no such thing as a cultureless people or person. To be human is to be immersed in an encounter that involves human nature and individual personality.”(2)
Throughout the history of the journey of my family, ever since my daughter was born, we have struggled with our cultural difference. I don’t think it is a unique phenomenon that only happens in our family. It is a common experience among most immigrant families, as far as I know. This is very interesting yet critical factor for the life of immigrant families, and without adequate understanding of this reality, it would be almost impossible to expect harmony among family members. Almost all immigrant families have experienced this issue, where there are two or more generations within any given family.
The reason why this is an important issue for our church is that our church is made of those families, and their issues inevitably become issues at our church, for such reasons as Dr. Oliver Phillips mentioned in his book How to Sponsor and Nurture an Ethnic Church, CQ (Cultural Intelligence) plays a critical role as we involve ourselves in multicultural ministries.
In that sense, it is imperative to pay attention to our CQ as a way of maintaining or upgrading the quality of our life that can only come with proper understanding and communication with each other.
As a Korean mission director, USA/CANADA I am bombarded with tons of challenging issues just because of cultural differences, while seeking expansion of the Kingdom. Sometimes it feels as if I am speaking Konglish where nobody, either an English-speaking party or Korean-speaking party, would understand what I try to say as I run as a liaison bridging the gap between Korean and American cultures. Even in the midst of that kind of challenge, I breath a sigh of relief from time to time when I am blessed with those people with high CQs. The Lord recently brought me a blessing of meeting one fine Korean pastors in our town. He is humble and sincere in his spirit yet passionate about the Kingdom of God and its ministry. He is a multi-talented man of God, and he was seeking a connection with the Church of the Nazarene, while he was already pastoring one baby church. Before he came to me, he had already met a Nazarene Anglo pastor who was open to his story. The Anglo pastor later came and asked me for help to better understand the Korean pastor and his plan. We got together and had an extensive conversation, sharing our dreams and vision. I was not a stranger to this type of setting, serving in this waysince I took over the position and responsibility as a mission director.
It was much easier to understand each other when everyone was really motivated to do something good for the Lord. To make a long story short, the Korean pastor and his congregation are already worshiping under the Nazarene roof now with about 35 members. Of course, it is not a done deal yet, and there are many steps that need to be taken before we give the final green light, but it is exciting to witness what is happening.
In this process, I have learned that the high CQs of both the Anglo and Korean pastors have been playing a significant role for this new project to unfold rather smoothly. Therefore, it has substantially reduced the amount of burden from my shoulders as I have been trying to go between them.
Yes, the multicultural issue is everywhere these days, as we move deep into the 21st Century in the U.S.A and CANADA, where the true sense of multicultural living conditions were formed and developed, perhaps under the divine providence.
If the world that we live in is multicultural everywhere, the final and lingering question to all of us would be this:
“Would you embrace the multicultural world and make a positive impact for the Kingdom of God, or would you rather reject the world en masse dwelling in your own cocoon cursing the phenomenal wave that only God could have brought to this contemporary world that you and I live in?”
(1) Born Digital, John Palfrey and Urs Gasser published by Basic Books, 2008, New York, NY. Pp 185-195
(2) How to Sponsor and Nurture an Ethnic Church, Oliver R. Phillips and Fletcher L. Tink, P 48