​Two of Jae Young Lee and Karen Spicher's children, Lomie and Aurie, with their grandfather, Hyung Gon Lee. "Hyung Gon Lee's life was strongly affected by Japan's colonization of Korea," wrote Spicher. "He went to elementary school in Japan where he experienced discrimination because he was Korean … Later, he worked as Farm Manager at the Mennonite Vocational School in Korea, one of the MCC-sponsored programs after the Korean War. This connection with Mennonites ended up greatly shaping his son's [Jae Young Lee] life path and mine, too." Photo by Karen Spicher.

By Karen Spicher
Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Jae Young Lee and Karen Spicher are Mennonite Mission Network mission associates in Namyangju, South Korea. Spicher serves as the communications coordinator for the Northeast Asia Regional Peace Building Institute (NARPI). Jae Young directs the Korea Peacebuilding Institute (KOPI) and provides leadership to NARPI. Lee, Spicher and their four children work and live in community with other families at Peace Building in Namyangju. For more information on their ministry, click here.

I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1979. When I was young, our family occasionally visited the Navajo Nation, and Mom and Dad helped with Vacation Bible School. I knew that the Navajo were a people with a beautiful culture, but I didn't know their history, or why they were living on a "reservation," or why they had to drive so far to get drinking water.

When I was 10 years old, our family moved to Central Pennsylvania, near where my parents were raised. I felt a strong connection to the land — especially on the farm where my mother grew up — and thought of it as our family's land. I learned in church that everything is God's, but still, I felt that God had given us this land to live on.

In elementary school, starting in fourth grade, I read stories written by European men who settled in the Americas — stories about "discovery" and the many difficulties that the early settlers faced. I learned about several different groups of Native Americans in descriptions written by White historians.

In university, I read perspectives from those who suffered because of colonization, genocide and slavery, in Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States. I knew deep down that these were important truths for me to know, but I didn't reflect deeply on how history shapes our current reality.

While still in university, I traveled to Guatemala for a semester of cross-cultural studies and witnessed the suffering of an Indigenous people whose land had been taken and who were forced to move to high mountain land, where farming is difficult. We also learned about the genocide of Indigenous people during the Guatemalan Civil War. I didn't make a strong connection between the history of displacement and genocide and the land where I grew up.

After university, I moved to south Texas, where I learned to love a new culture. I participated in antiracism training and started to understand the importance of following leadership and guidance from local people. I also failed at this many times. Through my connections with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), I learned about the "Return to the Earth" project (a program by Indigenous Americans that buries unidentified ancestral remains), as well as MCC's efforts for education about settler colonialism.

In 2007, I moved to Korea. I fell in love, got married and became an alien in a land far from home. I came to love our community here. When I started learning more about the history of Korea and the time of Japanese colonization, from 1910-1945, there was a moment that I was suddenly overcome with "what if" questions.

What if the Japanese Imperial Government was still in power in Korea?

What if Korean people all spoke Japanese now and couldn't remember the Korean language?

What if Korean culture was erased and looked down upon?

What if Korean people were forced to live on small reservations on the Korean peninsula?

What if Korean people became marginalized on their own land?

These questions were detestable and unimaginable; as they came to me, I felt my eyes opening in a new way. I could finally see the evil of colonization. It felt like healing from spiritual blindness.

I now realize that I live in a broken relationship with the people who first inhabited the land that is now called the Americas. Three ways that I commit to seek reconciliation with Indigenous sisters and brothers are: to repent for the sins of our nation, to listen with an open heart to Indigenous voices, and to teach our children truthfully about the past and present.

When we pull weeds from the garden, we try to get the roots, too. Colonization is a deep, ugly root of injustice in the U.S. and all over the world — one that we must not ignore. Anabaptist followers of Jesus around the world are working for peace and justice in many different areas. Whatever work for peace and justice you are called to do, I pray that you will also seek ways to uproot colonization.

 

 

 Related

 

 

Mennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyLiteracy in Congohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4656/Mennonite-women-in-Congo-spread-the-gospel-through-literacyMennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Service illuminates good in the worldService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4655/Service-illuminates-good-in-the-worldService illuminates good in the worldGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Anchorage, Alaska
Service is a new adventure at 61 degrees northService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4654/Service-is-a-new-adventure-at-61-degrees-northService is a new adventure at 61 degrees northGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Anchorage, Alaska
Understanding the world through the lens of MississippiService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4653/Understanding-the-world-through-the-lens-of-MississippiUnderstanding the world through the lens of MississippiGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Jackson, Mississippi
A big tree has fallen in South Africa, nation mournsArchbishop Desmond Tutuhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4647/A-big-tree-has-fallen-in-South-Africa-nation-mournsA big tree has fallen in South Africa, nation mournsGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
The roots of colonization are buried deepSOUTH KOREAhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4648/The-roots-of-colonization-are-buried-deepThe roots of colonization are buried deepGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Namyangju
Photographs through the lenses of Toba Qom womenARGENTINAhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4643/Photographs-through-the-lenses-of-Toba-Qom-womenPhotographs through the lenses of Toba Qom womenGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Castelli, Argentine Chaco
Mission-wary to Missionary: Witness as with-nessPODCASThttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4639/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Witness-as-with-nessMission-wary to Missionary: Witness as with-nessGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Unless a Grain of Wheat chronicles relationship-building in AfricaBOOK REVIEWhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4635/Unless-a-Grain-of-Wheat-chronicles-relationship-building-in-AfricaUnless a Grain of Wheat chronicles relationship-building in AfricaGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Breaking borders to build God’s kingdomSOOPhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4633/Breaking-borders-to-build-Gods-kingdomBreaking borders to build God’s kingdomGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Texas
Mission-wary to Missionary: Mistakes were madePODCASThttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4629/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Mistakes-were-madeMission-wary to Missionary: Mistakes were madeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mission-wary to Missionary: Where do we start?PODCASThttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4627/Mission-wary-to-Missionary-Where-do-we-startMission-wary to Missionary: Where do we start?GP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Life-long mission journeys through mountaintop experiences and valleysEnd of term reflectionshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4625/Life-long-mission-journeys-through-mountaintop-experiences-and-valleysLife-long mission journeys through mountaintop experiences and valleysGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Liverpool
Eight-year-old builds church in CongoChild-like faithhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4623/Eight-year-old-builds-church-in-CongoEight-year-old builds church in CongoGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Kalonda
Expatriate women and house workers helped dismantle Mennonite segregation in CongoLynda's Reflectionshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4612/Expatriate-women-and-house-workers-helped-dismantle-Mennonite-segregation-in-CongoExpatriate women and house workers helped dismantle Mennonite segregation in CongoGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Kikwit

 

 

https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4648/The-roots-of-colonization-are-buried-deep

Karen Spicher serves as the communications coordinator for Northeast Asia Regional Peace Building Institute (NARPI).



 

 

Mennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4656/Mennonite-women-in-Congo-spread-the-gospel-through-literacyMennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyLiteracy in Congo
Service illuminates good in the worldhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4655/Service-illuminates-good-in-the-worldService illuminates good in the worldService Adventure
Service is a new adventure at 61 degrees northhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4654/Service-is-a-new-adventure-at-61-degrees-northService is a new adventure at 61 degrees northService Adventure
Understanding the world through the lens of Mississippihttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4653/Understanding-the-world-through-the-lens-of-MississippiUnderstanding the world through the lens of MississippiService Adventure
Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4651/Anabaptists-begin-online-French-language-theological-education-in-2021Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021French-language anabaptism
Mission Network moves into the neighborhood in Paris, Francehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4652/Mission-Network-moves-into-the-neighborhood-in-Paris-FranceMission Network moves into the neighborhood in Paris, FranceVideo