Recently, a group of young adults gathered in Goshen, Indiana to spend a weekend delving into the topic of identity as Asian Anabaptists. We wanted to have a candor conversation about the struggle of owning the Anabaptist faith and Korean cultural identity that has been passed down to us. How do we receive this unusual mix of identities as a gift?
When it was time for our first dinner together, what was brought to the table was a tentative understanding of our identities. We prepared a Korean dinner with the ingredients that were available- lettuce and radish harvested from Indiana soil, meat for our Korean barbeque specially cut from a local Amish butcher. The host took out a small jar of her mother’s homemade soy bean paste fermented and sent from Korea. She shared her precious stash to make a pungent tofu soy bean soup for the special guests.
When she took out a jar of kimchi, I asked if it was homemade. The host laughed and said it was store bought. We were trying to make do with what we had, and what resulted was a holy feast. It was amusing, confusing and inevitably sacred.
While each person had brought their own idea of identity and self, the community that everyone sought after in mind was actualized through this smoky and aromatic meal together. As we ate, we went around and shared our favorite comfort food from childhood. We didn’t need to explain what we shared- ddukpokki, sujaebi, sulungtang. Collective sounds of agreement and hunger followed every answer. Many of us had the longing of a motherland even though some of us were born in the United States, and we seemed to live vicariously through this meal together.
Korean barbeque with Amish meat, served at an interracial couple’s house in Indiana, the thirteen of us looking for a connection in our identities as it laid right beneath our eyes. We found ourselves at the table and took in every moment as a gift.
-reprinted from The Mennonite June 2019