MatthewGrowing up in a small town, my environment was homogenous—everyone looked like me, thought like me, and worshipped like me. Serving at the Korean Church of Atlanta and studying at Candler challenged my theological worldview. I decided to spend a semester abroad in South Korea to continue broadening my newfound horizons, increase my cross-cultural experiences, and deepen my understanding of global Methodism, especially of the Korean Methodist Church.

Studying in South Korea was one of the most eye-opening and mind-broadening experiences of my life. My understanding of the world and Methodism was stretched by living and learning with people from different cultures. I attended class with pastors and district superintendents from Nigeria, Kenya, the Philippines, Myanmar, and more. But the most valuable takeaway was experiencing a small fragment of what it was like to be an immigrant, to not speak the language or understand the dominant culture, and to be viewed as different. As a result, I am more socially conscious and globally aware of the struggles of migrant and minority communities.

I also gained invaluable ministry experience while in Korea. I was an intern pastor at Kwanglim Methodist Church, the largest Methodist church in the world. I was even blessed with the opportunity to preach there one Sunday. Furthermore, I served as one of the pastors at the International Graduate Student Chapel on MTU’s campus. I was on a weekly rotation for preaching, presiding, organizing the flow of the service, and writing the calls to worship.

Cross-cultural experiences are invaluable for future leaders in the church. Cultural awareness is vital in this global church age to understanding the beliefs, values, and customs of multicultural congregations. Furthermore, as mission is emanating from the margins, seamlessly bridging cultural boundaries is necessary for communication and relationship building. I highly recommend any study abroad experience, but especially Candler’s exchange with Methodist Theological University in Seoul for anyone interested in growing personally, spiritually, and pastorally.