Every person who follows Jesus has a story of how they met Him. It may be dramatic or mundane or stretched out over a period, but it's always transformative and we are never the same. I'm so grateful for Yoon-Seo sharing her story with us. Thank you for your giving and prayers that make this work possible.
" I did not grow up in the church but I always had Christian friends around me. They were always joyful and confident in every situation. Looking them, I thought it would be great to become a Christian someday. Thanks to those Christian friends around me, I joined a prayer meeting and a bible study during my freshman year. I really liked going there because people there were really kind and I felt purified after praying and studying bible. Even though I did not have any personal relationship with God, I considered myself Christian for two years. Then I decided to come to Cornell as an exchange student. Unlike other students who are really excited to study abroad, I had a lot of worries before coming here. “When if I get lost?” “When if I could not make any friends?” “When if I get sick?” Because of these worries, I had bad dreams every day before coming here.
When I arrived in Ithaca, it was even worse. I felt completely alone. I knew no one in here and it was hard to talk to my family and friends because of the time difference. Furthermore, since everything in US was much more expensive than things in Korea, I felt guilty whenever I used money. However, I never told my mother about these negative feelings because I did not want her to worry about me. I just cried alone in a dark room in Ithaca. I needed someone to rely on. Then I got an email about InterVarsity's Asian American Chapter from Cindy. I really enjoyed going to AAIV because everyone was nice and I felt calm whenever I go there. I participated in all groups in AAIV such as the large group, the small group, and the village. However, I was really challenged by those meetings. I have never questioned about God before coming to AAIV.
My image of God was disrupted through discussions I had in those groups. I started doubting my faith and I could not consider myself as a Christian anymore. Then I heard about NYCUP in the large group. The biggest reason why I decided to go there was the scholarship. Since I had financial problems, I thought it would be a good way to spend my spring break without using much money. Also, I heard from some people that NYCUP changed their lives, so I went to NYCUP with excitements. However, it was more intense than I thought. I was really tired throughout whole process. The bible studies in the morning were boring especially because I could not fully understand the English. I did not want to feed homeless people because I thought they were dirty, full of anger, and drunk. I thought they became homeless because they did not do their best in their lives. However, when I approached them and had conversation with them, I realized that they were human, just like me.
I have never thought they could get married, do make up, or keep a dog. Furthermore, I have never imagined them believing God. Surprisingly, three homeless people who I talked to were Christians. They said they are thankful for God and they were praying for God to give them strength. How could homeless people be grateful to God even though they are in the worst situation? While having conversation with them, I thought maybe Jesus is alive. However, there were also some homeless people who discouraged me. I met one man in Chinatown and he was looking for some food in the trashcan. I introduced myself to him and gave a sandwich to him but he did not even look at me. I could not understand his behavior and I told this story to Jonathan. He said that the man is like me.
What? I am not homeless! I had no idea what he was talking about. Jonathan said, the foods in the trashcan are like the joy I am looking for in this world such as money, fame or friendship. However, Jesus is willing to give eternal joy to me and I am refusing it. It made me think a lot about myself. On the last day, I was super tired and just wanted to go home. The bible study was boring like other days and Jonathan told us to write our own Psalm. We had about five hours to write poems but at first, I did not know what to do. So I just wandered around the church for a while and I show Reyna writing her poem. I told her that I don’t know how to start and she said I can always ask Jonathan. So I talked to him. “Jonathan, I don’t know how to write my Psalm.”
He responded, “Did you read Psalm 88? What did you think about it?” “I think David is really angry at God.” “You can express your anger like David to God because he understands.”
So I sat down and started writing my poem. Since I did not expect to share my poem, I was really honest in my poem. I wrote all the angers I had to God throughout my life. Then the time to share the poems came. Many friends shared their poems but I did not raise my hand, and even though Jonathan asked me to share it, I said “No.” Then we heard a speech from one lady and the NYCUP was over. But I did not want it to end like that. I remembered praying in my small group that I would like to meet Jesus in NYCUP. I felt I would regret not sharing my poem in the NYCUP. So I went to Jonathan and said I want to share my poem to him, only him. But he shouted to everyone in the room that “Yoon Seo wants to share her poem!” I was embarrassed and said “No.” He said, “Why not?” “Because I feel unsafe to be vulnerable. I think they are going to judge me.”
“No," he said, "They will still love you even after you share your poem. I guarantee.”
“Do you wanna try?” So I stood in front of friends but I could not read my poem because I was already crying. So I asked Jonathan to read my poem and he stood next to me and read it for me.
It was my first time to share all my struggles to people and also it was my first time to cry in front of other people. After sharing the poem, I could still feel their love me and some of them were crying for me. Jonathan said, “They are the ambassadors of Jesus. If you see them, it means you saw Jesus.” Then Jonathan asked me to repeat after his prayer. He spoke in English, and I repeated in Korean. I cried a lot when I said, “I have a father. He is the greatest king in heaven.”
After praying, we started a special prayer. Jonathan asked me to close my eyes and imagine myself back where I felt the most alone. It was a dark room. Then he asked me, “Where is Jesus?” I said, “He is next to me.”
“What does he say to you?” “He says it’s okay to cry.”
“Anything else?” “He says don’t care about what other people are saying. And he says I love you.” “What do you want to say to him?” “I am sorry and I love you, too.” I was no longer alone and I felt my heart was full of love of our God. All my brothers and sisters hugged me and said “Happy birthday! You are born again in Jesus Christ.” And Jonathan said, “This is how it looks like when people come back to Jesus.”
Thank you for making ministry like this possible and please pray for Yoon-Seo and all those she will meet when she goes back to Korea. Hallelujah and amen!
If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved in NYCUP, click here!