Meet Jong-Deok Park
Home Country: South Korea
Home Church: Ganaan Somang Methodist Church, in Korea and Galilee United Methodist Church in Highland Park, Illinois
Degree Program: Master of Divinity
Why did you choose to come to the United States and study at Garrett-Evangelical?
In 2011, when I was in Turkey for ten months helping missionaries out as a volunteer and doing mission work, I decided to go abroad in order to learn what God is saying in a broader setting. As I prepared to apply to a school, I was willing to apply to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary because I was interested in Christian education, and my professors at university recommended Christian education as well as theology at Garrett-Evangelical. Moreover, it was appealing to me that the school is located in a place where I can meet diverse people and be present in a variety of cultural experiences.
What has it been like to be a part of the Garrett-Evangelical community?
As I came to Garrett-Evangelical and I participated in the community, I experienced many different worship services and learned that my thinking and perspective is different from others as I heard other students' voices in my classes. In addition, I was surprised that their ways of expressing their faith and love in God were different from mine. For example, when I was in Korea, my church members and I only focused on personal spiritual formation. However, I have met people who think differently and proclaim God's Good News beyond the personal. When I was involved in a special prayer meeting after the severe incident in Ferguson, Missouri, I realized that God not only works in our personal spiritual journey, but also embraces all people in society. Therefore, for me, the meaning of being a part of the Garrett-Evangelical community is not only to seek openness toward others' voices, as well as connectedness with them, but also to understand that God works for all people, by His grace, in personal and public places.
How has your time at Garrett-Evangelical formed you as a person and leader?
One of the things I am most grateful for as a student at Garrett-Evangelical is having great fellowship with my friends, students, and the faculty. When I first came here, I regarded myself as a foreigner or an alien because English is not my mother language. However, those who I met at the school welcomed me as a friend and encouraged me to work with them for the students and school. I was deeply moved and I participated in school activities with them. I realized that English was no longer a problem when meeting people and working together. Thanks to God’s leading in my spiritual journey and the encouragement of the generous people in the Garrett-Evangelical community, I have learned a lot about leadership as the Male Co-Chair of Student Council, and I have reflected life as a disciple of Jesus by sharing the love of God with others. I think that as a Christian and seminary student pursuing to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, it is most important to love God and our neighbors.