Thanksgiving Day in America is approaching, and the Korean Community Church in Oxford is weeks ahead in celebrating. The Korean community celebrated Thanksgiving Day in September, not November. And there’s no turkey!
Kiyun Kim, a mechanical engineer and member of the Korean Community Church, said Koreans and Americans were invited to enjoy the Korean Thanksgiving no matter what their beliefs were.
“We just wanted them (visitors) to take part in the Korean Thanksgiving and traditions and experience our culture,” Kim said. “It is a little bit different than American Thanksgiving, we don’t eat turkey.”
Instead, members of the Oxford community were invited to a church service to worship and to participate in making rice cakes according to the church’s pastor, David Sung.
“We like introducing our culture and food to the community, and after church we made small rice cakes for everyone to enjoy on the Korean Thanksgiving to show people some of our favorite food from Korea,” Sung said.
Pastor David Sung, Korean Community Church pastor, has been preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ for 30 years, and recently moved to Oxford five months ago to reach the Korean community in Oxford, Tupelo, New Albany, and Holly Springs.
According to Sung, the church has an average of 50 or more members. On the day of the Korean Thanksgiving, the members introduced their style of worship service, language and food with visitors of all cultures from surrounding areas.
A typical worship service at the Korean Community Church begins with four praise and worship songs that are played by the church’s praise and worship band, made up of church members, with prayer in between the songs. The services start at 11 a.m. and last until 12:20 p.m.
“Because Oxford is a school town, there are always a lot of new Korean faces to reach out to about the Gospel, and the Thanksgiving Day was one of those times” Sung said.
Pastor Sung said it is important to reach out to the community and to the school since the Korean population can change from year to year because of exchanged students coming and leaving that are involved with the international studies program.
The University Of Mississippi Office Of International Students reports that there are 911 international students enrolled this semester. For the Korean community, Sung teaches a class for new members, including students, about the basics of Christianity every week.
“Sometimes they don’t know about God, or the Bible or prayer,” Sung said. “I start with teaching them about all of that, and I move on to teaching about how to reach other people and then I send them out to do so.”
For the Korean Community Church, there are about 30 Korean college students that benefit from the church outreach programs.
“Each year we have Korean exchanged students that leave Oxford and leave behind a lot of furniture,” Kiyun Kim said. “We store them in our extra rooms at church, and when new exchanged students arrive, no matter if they are part of the church, we help them out and give them furniture if they need it.”
Kim moved to America four years ago from Daejeon, South Korea. He came to America to experience the culture of the American people, but felt lonely when he first arrived.
“When I was studying mechanical engineering at Ole Miss, I got involved in the Korean Student Association (KSA) and they helped me get settled,” Kim said. “I also met American friends the longer I stayed here, and I gained friendships and support from.”
The Korean Community Church is not formally associated with KSA, but the church does outreach to some students in the organization. KSA was founded four years ago to help Korean students adjust to the American culture and socialization.
Woonjsik Jang, president of KSA, said Buddhism and Christianity are the two major religions in Korea. KSA does not make members join the church or any other religious organization, but members of KSA are told about the church.
“We just want to introduce and celebrate our culture, but we do not want to push anything on anyone,” Jang said.
Jang moved to America eight years ago to attend high school in Georgia, and he stayed in America to attend school at the University of Mississippi.
“As a foreign student, you come here thinking you know everything about the American culture,” Jang said. “Being a part of an association or community helps you out.”
The Korean Community Church likes to invite the community to all their special events like the Thanksgiving event such as Christmas and Easter programs. The church is located on 1111 Mimosa Drive, and has church services at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday and Bible studies at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Emily Newton is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at email@example.com.
Around the World in Oxford: a Korean Community Church Thanksgiving
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