In coordination with PROK mission co-workers in Hungary, a group from the Korean Presbyterian Church of Minnesota (part of PCUSA) recently came to Transcarpathia on a Vision Trip. One of the youth reflects on their time in the Hungarian region of Ukraine with the HRC’s Reformed Church in Transcarpathia.
My name is Elliot Kim (김은기) and I am currently a part of Timothy after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2016 and was a member of the 2017 Vision Trip team that traveled to Ukraine. I can’t say what the other members of the team were thinking before agreeing to go on the trip, but one of the main reasons that I decided to go was just to use my vacation time wisely after working full time for a whole year.
And I will be honest, I didn’t give that much thought to the people in Hungary-Ukraine nor did I really understand what issues there were and why we needed to go there in the first place. I think because I didn’t have a heart for the people in Hungary-Ukraine there were some frustrating times while preparing for the trip. Many times I thought to myself, “Why are we going to this Youth Camp that is already established?”, “Why are we only preparing to share things about Korea… don’t we need to share about Jesus?” and “Why is this called a vision trip and not just a regular mission trip?”. But with those concerns and little faith I had, I hesitantly packed my things and headed to the Youth Camp with nothing set in stone and barely being able say “Hello” in Hungarian.
We arrived at the camp full of 80 or so 13-16 year old teenagers with our not-so-well prepared Korean games and I thought to myself, “What did we get ourselves into? All these kids have smart phones, the latest clothing and latest shoes…are they even going to give us any attention?” Almost immediately the kids started to take interest in us and our activities. Before you knew it, the whole area was filled with kids playing gong-gi with their names spelled out in Korean.
What was surprising and almost comical was that they were also asking us to take pictures with them as well as asking for our autographs written on their arms as if we were celebrities. While I was very grateful for the kids and their open hearts and acceptance towards us one thought still lingered, “Are we here just to be entertainment for the kids?” I guess in my selfish desire, I wanted to create a bigger impact on these kids spiritually. To me, it wasn’t “worth” it to come all these way and pay hundreds of dollars just to be entertainment for these kids.
That night we were sharing our thoughts with our team members and it wasn’t until one of translators, Zsolt, spoke that I began to realize the reason why we are here. Zsolt explained that even though right now what we are doing might just seem like games, maybe in the future they will remember this time and be reminded of God. I suddenly realized the fault in my thinking. I realized that I had been focused on what I can do for these kids and not how God will use us and that what little we have prepared may not seem useful right now, but God can use it to make a big impact in the future.
I then started to think about my days in Youth Group. I don’t remember the sermons and I don’t remember what was discussed in small group back then. To be blunt, I can barely remember what the sermon was about two weeks ago. I do remember the laughter that was shared with my brothers and sisters at camp like these. I do remember the tears that were shed after experiencing God’s love from my brothers and sisters. I realized that these experiences were critical in my relationship with God and realized that all we had to do was create memories for these kids and God will be able to use the rest. Who knows? Maybe God can somehow use the faded autographs on their arms or foreign games that were played at camp to further this Kingdom.
There was both happiness and sadness at the end of the camp. One part of me was happy to leave and get rest. Another part of me was sad with all the missed opportunities to get to know the kids a little better. What if I had more courage to talk to that one kid sitting by himself on the bench? What if I spent more time loving these kids rather than complaining? I then started to think about the brothers and sisters at church. Why do I not have the same thoughts and feelings for those who I see every week? I think I now understand why this is called a Vision Trip and not just a mission trip. It is called a Vision Trip because hopefully at the end of the trip you can have a new vision for yourself and realize all your shortcomings. For me, I think I realized just how selfish I was and only thought about receiving and not giving. I think I realized that as a member of Christ’s Kingdom it isn’t about what can you do for me, but what can I do for your Kingdom?
Coming back home, I pray that the mindset I had at camp about showing love to our brothers and sisters is something I can continue to have and pray that I can be a useful tool for God whether I am at home or thousands of miles away.
Written by Elliot Kim