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Chung adapts to small-town living

Managing editor

It’s a long way from Seoul, Korea, to Marion County, Kansas.

And it has been an interesting journey for the Rev. Moon-Hee Chung, the newly-appointed pastor of Florence United Methodist and Aulne United Methodist churches.

Her calling began more than 30 years ago when she volunteered in a Korean orphanage.

Chung first came to the U.S. in 1970 when she attended Western Michigan University. There she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She returned to her native land and taught in a women’s university.

Through her church, she volunteered at an orphanage.

“God called me to help children who were abandoned by their families,” Chung said. “By helping them, they were helping me.”

She was particularly moved by the way Americans were willing to adopt Korean babies — even those with disabilities.

In 1981, she married Young-Gill.

Wanting to become a missionary, a United Methodist minister suggested that Chung and Young-Gill attend St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., and become ministers. In 1998, Chung returned to the U.S. and Young-Gill came for the first time to America.

They completed their studies in five years and were appointed as associate pastors of congregational care of First United Methodist Church, Manhattan in 2003.

Later Young-Gill became pastor at Alta Vista.

More changes were in store for the two ministers when Chung was assigned to two churches in Marion County. She assumed her duties July 1. Her husband also began his tenure with two churches in Chase County — United Methodist churches of Cottonwood Falls and Bazaar July 1. Chung will live in the parsonage in Florence and Young-Gill will live in Cottonwood Falls.

They plan to spend time together on Fridays.

Their travels to the farm belt have been enlightening.

“We thought Manhattan was small,” Chung said.

Their hometown of Seoul has a population of 48 million — Marion County has about 12,000 people.

“There are fields here with so many cows,” Chung said.

In Korea, each family owned one or two cows. The family cow would be sold to pay a child’s tuition for school.

Chung also was impressed with seeing a sheep ranch along U.S. 77.

“It was another sign to me,” she said, referring to the Biblical reference of the shepherd and his sheep.

Although this has been a change for Chung, she is excited about meeting people in her congregation and throughout the area, realizing people in smaller communities tend to be friendly and family-oriented.

“I met a neighbor in Florence who recently moved there from Wichita,” she said. “He said he already has talked with more people since he moved to Florence than he did the whole time he lived in Wichita.”

Chung also is an artist and sees people, animals, and places as colors.

She particularly sees an analogy regarding different colored cattle, hovering together in a field.

“We are all one in God,” Chung said. “Color doesn’t matter.”

Last modified July 9, 2009

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