By: Ava Marcarelli
It’s summertime here in South Korea. School is still in session, as it will be until the end of July, and then I’ll be packing my over-sized bags and heading back home to America.
During my five months in Korea, I can say with confidence that the number one thing I’ve learned about is other people. I’ve been living in Ann Arbor, Michigan on and off for the past eight years now and I’ve been blessed with the wonderful Christian communities that exist in the area. Ninety-nine percent of the people I hang out with are Catholics who attend the same events and gatherings as me, they have fun at the same parties as me, they go to the same university as me, they work at the same places as me, they go to the same Churches as me—heck, they even live with me. My time in Korea has absolutely shown me what a blessing it is to have such a huge support group full of loving and caring people who totally understand you, your problems, and your ways of thinking. However, the rest of the world is not like that.
I always knew I was living in what we all call the “bubble”—a place where everyone thinks and believes all the same things as you, so you can go through most of your days with your beliefs mostly unchallenged. But in Korea, there’s no Domino’s Farms chapel where I can attend Mass every single day, no Perpetual Adoration chapel in which I can stop by to pray whenever I want, and no friends I’ll run into that will ask about my spiritual life. Even when I do go to church here, the whole Mass is in a language I barely understand, unless I’m willing to get on a five-hour bus ride to Seoul, the country’s capital. So, I’ve been struggling for five months not to give in to my inclinations toward apathy and indifference, which is all too easy to do. I’ve been too lazy and too preoccupied by other things. Even now, I still haven’t overcome this. But there’s one thing I know for sure: this is where Jesus wants me to be.
To make a long story short, Jesus opened the door for me to come here. It’s something I wanted but thought would never come to be, until it was laid out for me so perfectly that I couldn’t believe it was really happening for the longest time. Jesus wouldn’t bring me here and then abandon me; although I struggle and I’m imperfect in my pursuit of Him and I’m not always the best witness to those who don’t know Him, it hasn’t been all for nothing. I’ve met so many different people from many different countries—from Uzbekistan to Scotland to South Africa—and I’ve learned a lot from them. I can also see in them that they all have that same hole in their heart. These genuinely good people all just want to be happy and feel fulfilled. They’re looking for something more. Everyone’s chasing something, hoping it’ll fill them up—whether it’s partying, work, a hobby, travelling, another person—but those things never satisfy for long.
My time in Korea has shown me how much the rest of the world needs Jesus and the fulfillment He brings. We can’t stay in our bubble and keep His joy to ourselves. We can’t only stay comfortable and only spend time with the people who are easy to understand. We shouldn’t let the world and worldly things keep us from Jesus, but should instead bring Jesus to them through our kindness and selflessness that’s often hard to find in the rest of the world, drawing our Christian friends in to support us. You don’t need to stand on a soapbox and preach on the street; others will see the difference in you, even with your imperfections. You can show them that Christianity is not all that they think it is. Use this summer to branch out and show kindness to those who might be the hardest to understand. Deep down, everyone is looking for fulfillment that can only come from Jesus, and you might be the one who can introduce them to Him.
Jesus sometimes feels very far away, both during hard times and during times of apathy, so here’s a song for you: it’s called A Prayer (Clean Version) by Kings Kaleidoscope. I understand this song well since I’ve often felt this way throughout my relationship with Jesus—wondering where Jesus is and if it’s my fault that He seems so far away. So, take courage and know that He’s always pursuing you, even if you don’t feel it.