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June 18th 2011
Published: June 19th 2011
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It's strange how one's seemingly disjointed summer can come together in inexplicable ways. First of all, hello from New York. Yes, although at the start of the summer I thought my next post-Korea move would take me to a summer mission internship on the coast of South Carolina, I found out about a week into my stay in Korea that I'd been reassigned to New York. I'm taking part in a mission internship program (Students in Mission) sponsored by the South Carolina United Methodist Conference. You sign up, they select you, they send you some place. Because of one of the SC sites fell through, they picked up a new site in New York where the SC Methodist campus ministries have held an annual summer mission trip for the last few years, and I got reassigned. So, here I am.

Yet, I believe that plans change for a reason. Even within my short time here, my experiences in the city have overlapped in odd ways with my experiences in Seoul--and that's not just because I take the subway to work every day. Nor just because I'm working with social justice issues. But, anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.

What am I doing here, you might ask? I'm spending most of my time working with the United Methodist Seminar Program, which is a long-standing educational program sponsored by the United Methodist Women and the General Board of Global Ministries. This site gives a pretty good overview of the program, though it mostly covers the Washington, DC, program (the other city in which the program is run). Essentially, the program creates tailored educational and experiential seminars for visiting groups (usually youth groups, UMW groups, college groups, seminarians--the list goes on, and is quite varied, often including folks neither involved in the United Methodist Church nor, sometimes, in the Christian church at all) around issues of social justice, looking at the problems both from a local point-of-view (i.e., New York City) and also at larger levels (from various regions of the country, to the whole nation, to a global scale). For example, when I visited with the Methodist Student Network (USC's Methodist campus ministry), we learned a lot about issues of poverty. We had speakers who came and spoke with us about these issues (usually from local NGOs and churches), and then we also had site visits to various local NGOs, churches, etc., who were working with the issue. For instance, my group met with Rev. Earl Kooperkamp from St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Harlem as well as Jeff Flowers from City at Peace (now known as The Possibility Project), a program that helps at-risk kids find a voice through creative means (collectively writing, producing, and performing a musical). One of the other interns this summer came on a Seminar last spring that dealt with the issue of human trafficking. And, most recently, we hosted a group from the Dakotas Conference of the UMC that focused on the media, in which we discussed issues of race, gender, age, class, etc., as they were portrayed and connected to media. This Seminar included speakers from various groups in the city as well as a site visit to a program that, similar to The Possibility Project, helps youth find a voice through the creative powers of filmmaking. (Hopefully I'll be able to dig up the links to these organizations for you in a future post.) Anyway, my job with the Seminar Program is mostly curriculum planning, research, and some other behind-the-scenes assistance, though fortunately, I was able to be a part of the Seminar that took place with the youth from the Dakotas this last week.

My other work consists of helping the pastor at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church for about one day a week. (The folks at the Students in Mission program who set up my assignment arranged with Rev. Hayes and his wife (from Metropolitan) for me to stay with them in a spare room in their parsonage. So, I'm quite grateful to them for their hospitality, and they've been great!) I'll also be attending church there and possibly some of the other meetings and whatever else Rev. Hayes might need--or I might want to experience.

So, anyway, at this point this might seem a jumble to you--in what possible ways could this connect with my previous month in Seoul? Well, the UM Seminar Program offices are in a building owned by the United Methodist Women that's set up right across from the UN Building. In fact, in that same building, space is rented out to other big-name folks who want to make their cases to the UN, such as Amnesty International. And right down the road is a big UNICEF office. And so on and so forth. And much of the work that's done in the other offices in our building (even the other Methodist ones) has to do with doing work with the UN. Hence why we've set up house at a place where I can see the UN building out of my window every day. So, my supervisor, Jay, took me around on my first day to meet others in the building, and when I met the chaplain of the building (who does a lot of stuff but most noticeably oversees the ecumenical chapel on the first floor), I found out that the UN would be holding the 2011 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) while I am in New York. It took me a few minutes, but then I remembered--my supervisor at the Korea Women's Hotline was putting together and submitting something for CEDAW. In fact, KWHL was one of the NGOs that helped compile a "shadow report" that will be submitted with the official report given by the Korean representative to the UN, offering information about the rights of women in Korea at this point. Unfortunately, I'll have to leave NYC before Korea goes up to bat at CEDAW, but I've already been promised passes to some of the other countries' reports in a few weeks. Weird and cool incidence of serendipity.

Along with this, I also just realized that the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival that so inspired the work I did finding films for the KWHL festival (my main work while in Korea) will be held in NYC this week, so I'm already figuring out a film or two that I can go to (and report back to my former supervisor about). Way cool.

And beyond that, I've gotten some leads and nods from coworkers about my research and time in Korea (the UMC/UMW has a pretty strong presence in Korea, and many connections), all of which might help me both in the present and the future.

Needless to say, this seems like it will be a fruitful few weeks for me, both professionally and personally. On the fun side of things, I've already been to Koreatown and Chinatown, dropped by the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Times Square, and so on, saw Wicked for free (thanks to some extra tickets the Dakota folks had), went to Tom Stoppard's Arcadia this afternoon (thanks to some student rush tickets--for once it pays to be a grad student), went to the Museum Mile Festival... I'm sure there's more, but I've forgotten at this point. Luckily, I've been to New York a couple times before, so I don't have to do all the tourist stuff, but it's nice to be around all of these cool things--and taking part in some of them.

All right, well, I'm getting sleepy (office job=getting up at decent hours) and have to be well rested for church tomorrow! Looking forward to updating you on some of my adventures as they continue! Be well, and peace from the Northeast!


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