This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
People ask me all the time why I came to the United States. The real question for me was why did I leave home? When my wife came to the United States before me as a nurse, I was still in college. It was 1978. South Korea was a suffocating place politically. I was escaping from something.
I grew up in a Christian family environment. When I reached college, the teaching of my childhood church stopped explaining what I experienced in society. Yet I had experiences God moments, one might say that kept me searching. How do I reconcile the God that I had experienced with the reality of poverty and injustice of the world? That was the question that drove me to seminary, which is eventually where I became clearer about what I wanted to do in life.
Seminary was also the place where I became involved with a social justice movement that offered me potent challenges and much-needed correctives to my Christian faith. It helped me a great deal in clarifying my stance on Christianity, what I believe about God and what the church ought to be.
Thirty-two years since immigrating to the United States, I am now a full-time minister at the First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City. It is a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic congregation. The church started 140 years ago, but since the 1980s, it drew more immigrants. It is an English-language ministry and represents immigrants from Tonga, Samoa, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya and Korea.
It's ministry with and ministry by immigrants. Ethnic people are in leadership positions and are very involved. We recently celebrated a Polynesian luau. I can be myself as a Korean American. We also have an urban ministry helping out the homeless and low-income residents. These services include emergency food, shelter and helping people establish independence.
Church ought to be a sanctuary for everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class status and gender. It ought to be a place where we practice the unconditional love of God and forgiveness, and embrace all children of God in their uniqueness and diversity. Because of the kind of world we live in, the house of worship ought to stand in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the powerless and voiceless, the marginalized.
My hope is that we respect everyone as children of the Creator. No human being is illegal. I want to live in a world where everyone is honored and respected and given opportunities for a happy life. I support the DREAM Act and immigration reform wholeheartedly.
I came to the United States as an immigrant. I have tasted the immigrant experience. The aspirations or the reason for immigration reform is that all human beings are children of God. We have to transcend human-constructed barriers. I want to work toward a community where this happens. That's why I do not hesitate to raise my voice and support for humane immigration reform at the Relief, Respect and Reform rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.
Rev. EunSang Lee is with the First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City. He will join 1,100 civic and faith leaders to call for humane immigration reform in Washington, D.C., organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and Reform Immigration FOR America.