March 5, 2019│Nathan Peterson, Urbana Missions
Since leaving Korea to come to the U.S. when she was eight, Eunice Yo sometimes felt like her life was split. “Especially in America with racism and prejudice, a lot of Asian Americans don’t want to be Asian. We’re American,” she said.
Eunice reserved speaking in Korean for her personal life with a few friends and family. “My Christian adult life has largely been in English,” she said. “I’ve studied theology in English, read the Bible in English, prayed in English, sang worship songs in English.”
But then Eunice went to Urbana 12 and was invited to sing in Korean during one of the worship sessions.
“There was this awakening,” she said. “Korean is beautiful in a way that can’t be translated. It made me aware that Jesus exists not just in the American part of my Asian American identity. I can enter in and extrapolate from both my Korean and my American culture. It’s a gift. At Urbana, I felt loved and desired by Jesus in my Korean American ethnicity as he welcomed me to express my love and devotion to him.”
Eunice returned to Urbana in 2015, and the worship once again richly blessed her. “The 16,000 people in the stadium were all singing together,” she said. “There was a still moment when I stopped singing, and I just heard the people around me. I realized that the God I understand in my context is very much alive in the contexts of these other 16,000 people. I was in awe of the impossibility of me fathoming what that’s even like.”
Later during the week, Urbana participants were invited into a time of prayer for the global Church, and Eunice felt a strong conviction to pray for North Korea. She settled herself in front of the massive banner hanging down from the ceiling, surrounded by thousands of other Christians.
“I started praying in Korean for the first time,” she said. “I don’t even know where all these words came from. I know the basics of Korean but not to this level. I felt such a super intimate connection with God as those words flowed so naturally.”
God has continued to grow Eunice in her ethnic and cultural identity since then. During her time as an InterVarsity campus staff minister, she had many opportunities to lead worship and always tried to introduce a Korean song—as both an invitation to people of other ethnicities to experience God in a new way, and an encouragement to her fellow Korean Americans.