Now I no longer expected that the fragments of information I'd collected throughout my childhood would neatly snap together to form some definitive cultural identity. Instead, I discovered that welding irregular pieces and edges together often created beautiful patterns.
-Vickie Nam, Yell-Oh Girls
I attended an interdenominational conference with a grant provided by The Krista Foundation called AADVENT (Asian American Discipleship for Vocational Empowerment, Nurture and Transformation), a five-year project sponsored by McCormick Theological Seminary. The primary purpose is for young adult Asian-Americans to explore their call into ministry. What I found in the past two years attending this conference was a wonderful body of Asian-American Christians that are engaged within their church and community and actively involved in a spiritual learning process. In attending the most recent AADVENT conference, I stumbled upon an interesting and shocking realization about the Asian-American community within the church. A huge roadblock to the process of discovering our calls into ministry has been that a lot of young Asian Americans do not necessarily know how to define that relatively new term, "Asian American" in which "we" and "they" are classified.
I recognized this one day when a group of eighty or so conference participants loaded into buses to visit an African- American church in the south side of Chicago with the motto "Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian." During this tour, they described their various ministries which developed relationships between their African and Christian heritage, such as an African ministry which promotes, educates, and advocates for issues concerning Africans, or their Caribbean Connection, educating North American members about the many aspects of customs, religion, and cuisine practiced in the Caribbean. There came a point in our discussions when one of the pastors asked us, "What does it mean for you to be Asian-American?" The question was followed by silence in the room. Now I know that a major cultural rule within the Asian-American community is to only speak when you're asked. However, the silence seemed deeper than that. What did it mean?
I will be the first to admit that I have struggled with my own identity and understanding about what it means to be "Korean" and "American" and I can still provide no definitive answer about how the two come together in a clear picture. My guess is that lot of us there had never thought about this simple question, or simply did not know. Furthermore, as a Korean-American, I did not feel comfortable in speaking for say, a Chinese American, where although experiences are similar we do not even share a common traditional language. I suspect others felt similarly.
Linda Pak, Krista Colleague class of 2005, is currently pursuing a Master's in Architecture at the Knowlton School of Architecture, located on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus. Along with her studies Linda works as a graduate teaching assistant. A native to Ogden, Utah, where her parents immigrated from South Korea 30 years ago, Linda enjoys the mountains and hiking, visiting new places, the art of dance, singing and of course, architecture.