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Into the Unknown

A Letter from Kurt Esslinger and Hyeyoung Lee, serving in Korea

Fall 2021

Write to Kurt Esslinger
Write to Hyeyoung Lee
Individuals: Give online to E200496 for Kurt Esslinger and Hyeyoung Lee’s sending and support
Congregations: Give to D507560 for Kurt Esslinger and Hyeyoung Lee’s sending and support
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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Dear friends,

Our family has a movie night every weekend. Each member of the family chooses what movie we want to watch. One weekend, Sahn, our eight-year-old son, chose Frozen 2, and we all enjoyed watching it. Ever since we watched the movie, our family has been singing the theme song, “Into the Unknown,” at some point every day. The song fits the situation we live in so well since we are not sure how things will pan out, and so many plans and schedules are being altered due to the pandemic.

The decision to reopen the YAV program this year in Korea after being closed for a year felt like walking into the unknown. I had numerous conversations with many people, including our partners here in Korea, about whether or not it was a good time for YAVs to serve in Korea. With the pandemic situation ongoing, we addressed many questions and conducted many discussions before making a final decision. What gave me the confidence to facilitate YAVs returning to Korea was that our Korean partners were willing to receive YAVs and welcomed uncertainty with grace.

The Korea and Scotland sites are the only two international sites operating this year. Grace Fulda and Kate Underwood are the two brave young adults who accepted the call to serve as YAVs in Korea for a year. Hosting YAVs during the pandemic requires us to take extra care and caution. For example, Grace and Kate served a mandatory two-week-long quarantine period upon arriving in Korea. We began their orientation as soon as they arrived with Korean language classes in the morning and virtual meetings with our partners in the afternoons. After leaving quarantine, all of us wore masks at all times, took our temperatures before entering any building or restaurant, and limited the number of people we met. We followed government guidelines on how to be cautious. This is definitely not the “normal” way to start the YAV year. However, while we may need to be extra cautious, learning and growing opportunities abound.

Sung Am Presbyterian Church in Seoul is hosting Kate and Grace in their guest house during the first half of their YAV year. Then, Kate and Grace will move to Late Spring Moon Ik-hwan alternative school in Gangjin, South of Korea. While in Seoul, they are working with children’s centers and the Reunification House on weekdays and participating in church activities on weekends. At the children’s center, Kate and Grace engage with a children’s after-school program where they are building relationships with the children and teachers by mutually learning from one another. At the Reunification House, they help scan and type the handwritten letters from overseas regarding the reunification movement, which will be archived on their website. They also help out with the yard work and have the opportunity to take an intensive Korean language course for a month to develop basic language skills for communicating with the people they work with. At the church, they are involved with the young adult’s group activities such as Bible study and book discussion. They are also invited to give the scripture reading in Korean during the Sunday worship. Church members are helping them with their reading and pronunciation.

This year there is also an opportunity for Kate and Grace to engage with an ecumenical young adult group of international workers in Korea to learn and grow together on the topic of contemporary Korean history. In this group, they will learn from Korean Christians who are actively involved in the peace and reunification movement and the democratization movement on various topics that will help them understand Korea’s context. This “pandemic time” has opened up a unique opportunity to engage with people overseas as well. During their quarantine period, Kate and Grace were invited to participate in the Presbyterian Peace Network for Korea (PPNK) virtual annual gathering where they introduced themselves and met other Presbyterians in the U.S. working for peace in Korea. During this meeting, we discussed how YAVs in Korea could also contribute to the work of PPNK during their stay.

From the decision-making process to actually having YAVs in Korea, we were dealing with many uncertainties. However, we are committed to walking into the unknown, trusting that we have a community that will guide us and walk alongside us. Unknown space can be frightening, but we have witnessed and continue to witness that it gives us more opportunities to be creative and helps us rely on each other to move forward. We are very grateful for our partners here in Korea, who have encouraged us to move forward and provide a welcoming space for YAVs. We are also thankful for our partners in the U.S. who reached out to us asking how we are doing and connecting with us to learn about the situation in Korea. I believe that as long as we are connected with each other and care for one another, walking into the unknown space is no longer intimidating and rather exciting because we also know that the Holy Spirit will guide us and walk with us.

Would you like to walk into the unknown with us? I hope your answer is YES.

Hyeyoung and Kurt

Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:

Dear partners in God’s mission,

I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.

God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.

How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it?  Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.

We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:

Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.

Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe:

Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.

Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.

In the light of hope,



Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16



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