TOGETHER: WE WITNESS
Conversation Partners Create Lasting Connections
Bethel International’s Conversation Partners ministry matches Korean-speaking individuals with an English-speaking partner for casual conversation to practice language skills. Partners develop relationships and learn about the other’s culture, experiences and traditions. Four of our members reflected on their experiences as part of this ministry and how their lives have been changed from being TOGETHER with people from a culture different than their own.
I’ve had two different Conversation Partners since the ministry started, and both have been rewarding beyond my expectations. My latest partner, Joungmin Lee, and I met weekly for more than two years until July 2019, when he and his family moved to Killeen, Texas, following the completion of his doctoral studies at OSU.
I learned so much from Joungmin and miss our conversations. We shared and compared personal development stories of our childhoods and family experiences growing up. He shared his music compositions with me and taught me music theory. I shared my knowledge of software development, American sports and our political system with him. I also reviewed and tried to help him with various applications and personal statements that he needed to submit for conferences and immigration documents.
My conversation partner is Myung-Ae Kim. She never attended Bethel International, but she had practiced Korean drumming at our church and asked Pastor Miran Lee to find her a conversation partner. We started seven years ago with meeting in a coffee shop and discussing American government. As we got to know each other and discovered that we both like hiking, we met weekly year-round to take an hour walk. We developed a pattern of reading Bible books or passages, and we would write our thoughts down and discuss as we walked. We would intersperse our feelings, cultural differences, what our church or choir was doing, people we needed to pray for and would sometimes talk through problems we were having. It was so interesting to see the differences the same passage gave us. She wanted to know more about American customs, and it was fun to hear about Korean customs, in return. It was an amazing experience, but sadly during COVID were unable to meet, and just recently, she called to let me know that she and her husband will be moving to Arizona to be closer to her two sons – sad for me, but so happy for her!
Initially, I wanted to be a Conversation Partner as a way of becoming better acquainted with members of the Korean congregation and to help them feel welcome. I quickly realized that the experiences I was having were enriching my life as I learned about my partners’ lives and heard stories about their culture.
Since 2011, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with five women. They’ve all been delightful and of various ages and stages in life. We usually met at a Panera Bread and over coffee would discuss various topics of interest. I became a sounding board for their concerns and a resource for questions about American culture. For one woman, I became a tutor to help her learn medical terminology as she studied to become a hospital chaplain. Another woman became pregnant and delivered her first child. In addition to prenatal discussions, we went flower shopping at a local garden center, and I gave advice on planting her front walkway. Another woman had brought her two school-aged children to live here for a year so they could go to school and improve their English. She wanted to improve her English skills so that she could communicate with their teachers and other parents. We enjoyed hiking in a metro park with her children. Two other women owned their own businesses and were interested in improving their English to communicate more effectively with their customers and employees. My current partner and I are on hiatus until it is safe to meet again. Being engaged as a conversation partner has been a blessing to me and a rewarding experience.
I volunteered for the ESL (English as a Second Language) class at Bethel International for 14 years. Students were from all parts of the world. Pastor Mike Pratt asked me to help organize a conversation partner group after the merger with the Korean Church. I worked on that for several years, matching native English speakers with Korean members. I also met with several different Koreans over those years.
Both of these endeavors led to making friends with many people and has been a big and enjoyable part of my relationship at Bethel International.