Goodbye, Kearney

1,576 days, nearly half a decade, full of good and bad, my time in Kearney, Nebraska, at last came to an end. Believing this day would come much sooner, I continued to hint at my “leaving soon” for a couple of years to the point most of my friends did not take me seriously this time, like The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Prior to coming across the position of International Recruitment Specialist at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK), the term Nebraska had never exited my mouth. UNK offered to sponsor me for an H-1B visa during my grace period of Optional Practical Training Program, meaning I would have had to remove myself from the United States otherwise, and subsequently agreed to sponsor me for a green card (minus the medical fees). Although I believed this to be one of the primary reasons God sent me to such a foreign place, especially in the first half, I debated whether or not the green card was worth accepting the way my former boss and the few of his nepotic minions treated me. One time following a phone call with the boss, I became lightheaded in fury, knelt down, punched the floor, and rushed out of my office, impulsively thinking about quitting because I could not find any reason that justified my having to tolerate such disgusting evil. Here, my Christian colleague stopped me, put her hands on my chest and back, and prayed for me, which calmed me down. The adversity continued, but I learned to deal with it more efficiently each day, albeit the long-overdue firing of the boss, who really should have been imprisoned, did make this much easier.

When I initially submitted my resignation letter in June 2019 with the intention of moving on the following month, the new head of the office asked if I could continue to work for UNK remotely half-time until I found a concrete plan for my future. After praying about the matter, I took the offer, planning to explore different parts of the country to see where I would like to live next while working wherever I want; however, I ended up spending most of this golden opportunity still in Kearney, one of the reasons I decided to fully resign so that I feel more desperate and do not have any comfort holding me back. Even while working half-time, my workload remained the same, if not more, and I continued to do three or four colleagues’ jobs on top of my own while they took credit, not to mention I always worked well over my hours.

This pretty much sums up my last 4+ years in Nebraska!

Just this past week, God gave me back-to-back-to-back messages of confirmation and encouragement, which boosted my confidence to move on. The last Sunday of 2019, due to the major snowstorm that had just hit central Nebraska, my regular church closed; I barely made it to the location to find this out the hard way, after which I spotted a different church I had never attended that still held an 11:00 AM service. Here, the pastor emphasized, “God is the God of the promise. He is not the God of your timing,” which echoed in my heart, that God’s Word never fails and He will fulfill what He has promised me not when I want Him to but rather when He wills it. Throughout my time in Kearney, I learned a valuable lesson not to set my own timing, which led me to decide in my head I was leaving soon and sell much of my furniture over a year in advance and live in almost an empty two-bedroom apartment for the remainder. This same Sunday, the Korean church of my mother and father sent another message directly to me using a verse given to me as a child, Genesis 28:15: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Here, the pastor highlighted “wherever you go,” that wherever we decide to go, God will be with us; as he so beautifully expressed, “It is God who is with you and not you who are with God.” Even if Jacob had decided to go elsewhere, God still would have been with Jacob. As the pastor added, we need to move and take that first step for God to work in us; if we stay still and do not take any initiative, God cannot work. Lastly, in my final (24-hour) race of 2019 that carried into the new decade, I finished at 74.2 miles, 119.413 kilometers with which God reminded me He rescues me (119 is Korea’s equivalent of 911) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). How could I ever doubt God?

This was essentially my office once I began working remotely. I will miss you all too!

As lonely, stressful, and challenging as this journey has been, God continued to provide. Focusing only on the positives, my Father gave me a gift I had been begging Him for since childhood and used me to spread the gospel and even turn one student to Christ, I became a permanent resident as early and smoothly as I did due to the lack of international competition/demand in Nebraska, and I completed forty races that include a 102-miler, a 74.2-miler, a 50-miler, two 50K’s, two marathons, twenty-six half marathons, and seven 10K’s during my time here, which would have been highly unlikely elsewhere. Perhaps most thankfully, I found the perfect church for me, the senior pastor of which started the same Sunday I did and contributed significantly to the strengthening of my faith, and used much of my free time, often hours a day, thoroughly reading and studying the Bible. Towards the conclusion, I made many new faithful Christian friends that made this departure difficult, which I never saw coming. I deeply appreciated most residents here identified with Christianity and I never had to filter my faith to avoid hurting sensitive individuals who do not yet know Jesus.

My training in Kearney is complete. What is next? I do not have my life figured out yet, but I have confidence I am making the right decision to take this leap of faith moving forward, because God will be with me wherever I go.

Farewell, 2018

One more repetitious yet eventful year in Nebraska, a momentous one for sure, has sprinted to an end that prompts me to think, “Where has the time gone?” I thank the Lord for another year of good health and protection, as always.

Most significantly, after seventeen years in the United States, I have finally become a permanent resident, once again allowing me the freedom to leave the country and come back whenever I please and for the first time ever gifting me the flexibility to work wherever and for whichever employer in these fifty states I choose. Though culturally American for as long as I can remember, I felt my confidence rise with this green card that proves I earned my permanent place in America. My family and I have believed God brought me to Nebraska, name that had never exited my mouth prior to discovering my current position as an international recruitment specialist in the summer of 2015, primarily to provide me with this freedom in the smoothest and swiftest way possible for a reason I have yet to experience but am certain will soon enough; I am convinced His plan for my life requires my possession of this permanent resident status.

Following the monumental racing year that included a 102-mile finish in the Texas heat and humidity in 2017, I continued in 2018 actively fueling my passion for running by participating in eleven more races, comprising a 50K, eight half marathons, and two 10K’s, setting many personal bests along the way and surpassing 1,000 kilometers in race mileage since my first 5K race, as a sergeant in the Republic of Korea Army, on March 1, 2012. Just several weeks ago, I was accepted to run in the Chicago Marathon, my first and hopefully not last World Marathon Major, taking place on October 13, 2019, wherever I will be then.

For several years I had longed for a small spiritual group and friends who serve my Father, and a Texan youth pastor’s family’s arrival in the summer gave me an easy route to find these and become more involved in the church community.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” says King Solomon in Proverbs 19:21. Desperate to move to a bigger place with more global people of closer backgrounds, I have continued to set my own timing of when I will leave this tiny city of 33,000, which did not consist of returning to the same office in 2019. I ask every day, “When? How much longer?” I hope to be more grateful in my current situation, learn to live in the moment, and focus on following His will rather than my own desires and consequently glorifying His Name in 2019.

At Last (After 17 Years)

On July 2, 2018, I received in the mail the approval notice for my I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; I have officially become a permanent resident of the United States!

I was born in South Korea and began studying in North America in late 1999, at age ten. After nearly a couple of years in Vancouver, British Columbia, I moved to the US, in 2001. I spent much of my adolescence complaining about having to go to the Embassy of the United States in Seoul and change my visa status each time I moved to a new location as a typical foreigner when I grew up in America and felt culturally American. Only when I accepted my role as an international recruitment specialist for the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) just under three years ago did I see the value in having been through every possible step an international student could undergo, from F-1 to Optional Practical Training (OPT) to H-1B to, now, green card. I could educate and emotionally connect to many international students from Korea and other countries with my unique extensive global background.

While on OPT from 2014 to 2015, I was repeatedly misinformed my opportunity to be sponsored for a work visa had passed because I missed the deadline. Regardless, I continued to feel I would somehow find a way to remain in the US and was prompted to Google this subject myself, right after which I read I still had a chance to be sponsored by a university and/or research-based institution. I immediately went on HigherEdJobs and found my current job with UNK that had just been posted. Reading the description, I had confidence God would send me here, and I was soon hired, during the 60-day grace period of OPT. In June 2016, although no colleague really understood the green card process, I proactively contacted the university lawyer, which led to the eventual agreement of my office to sponsor me and pay my application fees. I do take pride, not in a boastful way, in that I earned my permanent place in America through merit rather than being freely handed the privilege. The new presidential administration did delay my application process many months with the addition of an interview and even kept me stuck in the country for a year while my travel document was pending. My medical exams, lasting one year, had only two weeks left until expiration by the time of the interview, which saved me hundreds of dollars; my medical insurance does not cover immigration-related fees.

Following my interview, the final step of this 17-year journey, on June 27, 2018, either a flying object or a dishonest person left a ding in my car, which I noticed upon return home. Satan always pokes at you with petty matters before something great happens, so I did not bother being upset over this issue. Less than a week later, I was notified of my status change to a permanent resident.

I thank Jesus, first and foremost; His timing is always perfect, whether we admit or not initially, and our job is to simply trust Him. I also would like to thank my employer, UNK, for allowing this to happen. Next, US citizenship!

Positive Ending, Positive Beginning

Times Square!

With my green-card process, 16 years in the making, reaching the final stages, my lawyer and his assistant advised against my leaving the United States until my travel document is approved; therefore, I had to postpone my original plan to travel to Europe for a second consecutive December and closed out 2017 exploring New York City, New York, and Atlanta, Georgia, with family and friends. I find traveling an efficient way to free myself from the stresses of my lonely and unhealthy environment, living in the present of freedom. This decision also encouraged me to reflect on the past 365 days of roller-coaster rides.

Holiday markets

I try not to focus on the negative so that I do not blur out all the blessings I have been gifted with in 2017. Most memorably by a mile, I finally accomplished my ultimate athletic dream of covering the 100-mile distance, the pinnacle of ultrarunning, (plus two) in April. When I think about how long and consistently I and my close ones prayed for this former fantasy, the hundreds of dreams I had on competing and finishing, all the free time I sacrificed for training (even on business trips), and of course race days and what I had to endure to complete this ambitious goal, this once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment from over half a year ago still feels fresh and surreal.

The Starry Night at MoMA!

Central Park in the evening

One dishonest individual who made my life and the lives of my close colleagues miserable for years and really should have been imprisoned was finally removed from our workplace after bizarrely slow two years of investigation. I felt relieved, more than happy, to observe justice semi-served; however, now, I feel slightly embarrassed that I as a Christian never even attempted to go out of my way to love this enemy and severely disliked him as a person rather than hating Satan in him. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46-47)

A few days prior to my end-of-the-year domestic vacation, I received joyful news my Employment Authorization Document for the green card was approved, implying I should receive my green card soon and will finally feel and be free in America, where I grew up since 2001.

How could I, mere mortal, comprehend the plans of my Creator? However, confident my Father watches over me and only provides me with the best for me, I cannot wait to experience what the Author of my life has in store for me in 2018.

Learning to Be Content

For Thanksgiving 2017, I returned to Pickrell, Nebraska, for my second consecutive Wild Turkey Chase 13.1. As Nebraska rapidly reached freezing temperature in October, I assumed winter approached early this year and quickly registered for a half marathon to potentially conclude running for 2017. Nevertheless, when I felt the temperature gradually bounce back, I somehow put myself in position for back-to-back-to-back half marathons in just under four weeks.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I did not want to let any negative thoughts enter my head, tough task with my unhealthy work environment that affects me both mentally and physically. Being alone with no family or close friends anywhere near the Midwest makes this situation even more difficult to cope with. Each time an upsetting thought crept into my mind, I tried my best to empty my head and solely remain grateful for what I have rather than concentrating on what I lack.

The race temperature commenced in the upper 20s, and a female runner to my right called me crazy for wearing solely a T-shirt for the top; I replied to her, who had on three layers of clothes that included a thin jacket, “You are going to sweat a lot. You are crazy!” She after the finish thanked me for this warning, as she took off one layer and still experienced much sweating. I kept an easy pace halfway through, and many runners passed me. At the midpoint turnaround, my pace arbitrarily automatically picked up, and I landed three feet behind a runner who has completed an IRONMAN and became my inadvertent pacer for the majority of the second half. As I spotted his continuously looking down at his GPS watch and consistently running at a 9:05-per-mile pace, I figured I would safely collect a sub-2:00:00 finish as long as I stayed close to him. Multiple runners who had passed me in the first half began to slow down, and I passed about 20 of them in the second half. I did not look for my distance on my Garmin to avoid being caught up on “Am I there yet?” When the tall buildings towards the start became visible, I checked my GPS watch and was surprised to notice I had less than one mile to go. Because I knew based on the year before and the distance my Garmin gave me at the midpoint I would be running slightly over 13.1 miles, I to be certain to finish under two hours immediately substantially increased and maintained my speed, almost sprinting, for nearly a mile, shaving off five seconds per mile in the final stretch.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time ever in a race, I hit an immense negative split the second half of the course. Crossing the finish line full of energy and not even remotely out of breath in 1:58:20, third place in Age Group 20-29 and my second official sub-2:00:00 half marathon, I wondered if I could potentially run much faster than I believe I am physically able if I pushed myself harder to the point I have nothing left at the end. As I always do, I spent the next half an hour chatting and making friends with fellow runners. I aimed to give every runner a thumbs-up throughout the race, and I may have succeeded in doing so; I truly enjoy the aspect of strangers cheering one another on to accomplish our respective goals. The Wild Turkey Chase 13.1 probably wrapped up my most active race year to date, with one 102-miler and seven half marathons in nine months. I still feel fresh and would not mind running another race soon, but no upcoming running events near me offer a far-enough distance I prefer, likely due to the anticipated cold.

Golden Corral

Following the event, I headed to Golden Corral in Lincoln for the Thanksgiving special buffet and celebrated the holiday alone. Words cannot describe the loneliness of where God has placed me to train me at the moment, but I also understand this adversity will soon pass and how abundantly He has blessed my life. As one of my church pastors said, “When we focus on what we lack, we lose perspective on what we have.” I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, while hundreds of millions of people around the world live in poverty. I drink clean water. I have a job and make a solid living. I rent my own apartment. I own a car. I have a laptop and a smartphone. I have health. I was blessed with a family who fears and passionately loves and serves Jesus. Most importantly, I have the privilege of calling the Creator of the universe my Father. I cannot count the amount of blessings I have been freely given by grace, and my every day should be Thanksgiving. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

One Year Down

First business card!

First business card!

A little over a year ago today, I joined full-time the staff of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) as an international recruitment specialist. Neither had I worked on a real-paying job nor recruited on any platform, major or minor. I felt nervous momentarily initially but then reminded myself even David did not count himself worthy to be anointed by God through Samuel, boosting my confidence; He decided to use me, and nothing can get in the way of His plans for me. I was merely delighted to finally have the opportunity to pour my workaholic and goal-driven energy into building my career from interning unpaid for two nonprofit organizations simultaneously for almost a year.

NAFSA 2016

God placed me in the Midwest, which had not once crossed my mind prior to my discovering this position availability on, for a reason. Believing this, I solely cared about pleasing Him, executing my tasks to the best of my ability regardless of results, and letting my neighbors see His work through me; I prayed I progress only by and in His will. Even though new to the recruiting world, from the first day, I knew step-by-step what I had to do in order to commence and move forward, pleasantly surprising many of my colleagues. Recruiting takes time to simply lay a foundation and additional time to begin receiving clients: students, in my case. I rapidly formed, reinstated, and renewed partnerships with numerous academic institutions and agencies in Korea, and I continued to expand my regions of specialty and covered also Nepal, India, Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, and the United States. In most universities I have visited, I became virtual friends with the representatives, many of whom send UNK students primarily to help me personally score points. In less than a year, I brought to campus 66 students, a combination of degree-seeking, visiting, exchange, language, and short-term, a transparent miracle especially for someone with no prior background in recruiting, and I have faith that number will only multiply each semester. Every time an individual comments on the constant positive outcomes I produce, I use the stage to glorify His name; I am just a hammer of my Carpenter.

The Kearney Hub

Upon arrival at UNK, I had no choice but to educate myself on Korean history. A vital and prideful past Korea shares with Kearney, Nebraska, had been virtually buried for almost a century until I unveiled the story. The Omaha World-Herald, along with local newspapers, published my interview and research paper on the topic, and from that exposure, I occasionally received requests to speak in various venues, requiring me to learn at a minimum the summary of the profound 5,000-year history of Korea, beginning Gojoseon, through the dynasties, to today.

Above all, He has been using me to rescue His lost sheep. In the first short-term program I directed, the Holy Spirit in me constantly made me say to one student what he needed to hear spiritually, resulting in his accepting Jesus towards the end of three weeks. Many neighbors were encouraged to rely more heavily on God by my faith. I half-jokingly told my close ones, “I’m not an international recruiter. I’m a Heaven recruiter.” I understood my purpose in Nebraska to be more than simply recruiting international students.

Presenting at the annual Family History Fair

In spite of all the positive, this journey has been the furthest thing from easy, and I am still fighting daily to overcome my current adversity. I face no struggle fulfilling and even shattering my occupation expectations; however, like in most of my hardships, my trouble stems from people. In the past few months, I dealt with enough to consider walking out of my job several times; if anyone is aware of how much remaining in America and ultimately becoming a permanent resident and then a citizen means to me, he or she would understand how much I must have gone through mentally for abandoning my work visa, relinquishing the green card process, and leaving the States to even enter my head. Loneliness outside work certainly has not helped. Nevertheless, I had faith He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, but when I am tempted, He will also provide a way out so that I can endure it, giving me courage, strength, and patience to stick around another day.

Global Leaders Scholarship Program and World Leaders Camp

I have not the slightest clue how much longer I will be with UNK. If my environment turns healthier, I will likely stay longer than if not, but I have already experienced countless times God always guides and directs my path. If He tells me to stay, even if I try with all in my power to leave, I will stay. If He tells me to move on, no matter how much I might like to linger, I will be carried over to my next destination. Until then, I will continue to work on appreciating what I have rather than complaining about what I lack. How could I not be grateful for a job that lets me travel to Korea twice a year and stay with my family while working, an answer to years of my mother’s prayers? I acknowledge His plans far exceed my plans, and nothing will proceed by my will but only His.

5,000-Year-Old Diamond

Gojoseon, the first official kingdom of Korea, is most commonly believed to have been founded in 2,333 BC by Dangun Wanggeom, who is depicted as the grandson of Hwanin, the “Lord of Heaven.” A legend says his mother turned from a bear into a woman after surviving a hundred days on garlic and mugwort without sunlight. Gojoseon covered all of Korea and much of Liaoning, China, and Manchuria. With the fall of Gojoseon emerged the Three Kingdoms of Korea: Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje, established in 37 BC, 57 BC, and 18 BC, respectively. Silla and Baekje were located in South Korea and Goguryeo in North Korea of today. The three kingdoms, covering the entire Korean peninsula in addition to China and Russia, were significantly influenced by China and its culture and continued to battle one another for dominance over the nation of Korea. Goguryeo and Baekje took over most of the era, stopping multiple Chinese invasions along the way. However, Silla steadily rose in power and eventually overthrew the other two kingdoms, giving birth to the Unified Silla in 668 AD. This new dynasty lasted 267 years prior to King Gyeongsun’s submission to Goryeo in 935; a warlord by the name of Taejo Wang Geon defeated his rival and became ruler of the succeeding Goryeo Dynasty, from where the name “Korea” derives. This era introduced legitimate laws and a civil service system, and, with the impact of China, Buddhism became Korea’s predominant religion. In the thirteenth century, the Mongol Empire invaded Goryeo six times and overruled Goryeo for approximately eighty years, but Goryeo regained independence in 1350.

Baekje vs. Silla

Baekje vs. Silla

General Yi Seong-gye, or King Taejo, conquered Goryeo and became king, beginning the Joseon Dynasty in 1392. The king moved the capital to Hanseong, the present-day Seoul. Joseon held the entire Korean peninsula, but because Korea carried the impact of China and its culture, Koreans mainly remained Buddhists and abided by the teachings of Confucianism until missionaries from Europe came over and spread Christianity. In 1443, King Sejong created Hangul, the Korean alphabet; previously, Koreans wrote in modified Chinese characters, still taught in Korean schools today. Japan invaded Korea between 1592 and 1598; Admiral Yi Sun-sin, although killed at the end of the war, led Korea and pushed away the force of Japan. In the 1620s and 1630s, the Manchu Qing Dynasty invaded Joseon numerous times.

To this day, Korea, excluding North Korea of today, has never been the instigator of any battle. This 5,000-year history of Korea’s constantly being invaded yet preserving independence and the country’s own identity proves the persistence and pride of Korean ancestors. After Japan triumphed in both the First Sino-Japanese War from 1894 to 1895 and the Russo-Japanese War from 1904 to 1905 for control over Korea, the Japanese invasion of Korea became inevitable; Japan annexed Korea from 1910 to 1945. During this time, Koreans were banned from speaking Korean or even learning about Korea, and Korean history became deliberately distorted. Whatever Koreans did had to be under the Japanese flag, and tens of thousands of Korean women were used as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers. The regime tortured or even murdered courageous Koreans who retaliated.

Prior to the intrusion, as Japan’s seizing Korea became apparent, many Korean families who lost hope immigrated to other parts of the world for a chance to lead greater lives and opportunities. Simultaneously, patriotic Korean men moved to mostly nearby countries to prepare a rebellion against and bring independence back to Korea from Japan. A handful immigrated to Kearney, Nebraska, to receive education and military training. This group of Korean nationalists worked as houseboys in exchange for room and board. In 1908, Yong-man Park, a renowned name in the Korean independence movement, enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while studying political and military science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. On a farm roughly a mile west of the Buffalo County Courthouse in Kearney, Park established The Young Korean Military School in June 1909, four years after the foundation of the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney. This military school offered courses in English, Korean, history, and agriculture and military training to nationalistic Koreans willing to fight for the preservation of their roots. Hastings College, where Park went to school temporarily, lent him additional twenty acres of farm on which to train his student-soldiers.

Park met South Korea’s eventual first president, Syngman Rhee, in imprisonment, fighting for political reform. Park accepted an editor position for the Korean National Association in San Francisco, California, and asked Rhee to take over the military school. Rhee was pessimistic about Korea’s chances of escaping the Japanese colony and abandoned the school, which led to the school’s closing in 1915. Park was murdered on October 17th, 1928, in Tianjin, China. Henry Chung, another protagonist of this journey, attended Kearney High School and graduated from the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney in 1914 with a degree in political science. He briefly partook in Park’s military school but primarily focused on academics. Ironically, he served as ambassador to Japan under Rhee’s presidency. Chur-hoo Park, a cum laude student out of the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney, taught at Chosun Christian College upon his return to Seoul, South Korea. Ilhan New, the most respected businessman in Korea to date, immigrated to Kearney in 1904 at the age of nine from Pyongyang, North Korea. He enrolled in Park’s military school in 1909 and learned the history and mentality of Korean ancestors. He established La Choy Food Products in 1922 and the Yuhan Corporation in 1926 under the belief “only healthy citizens can seek sovereignty.” The latter company became the first to work for the benefit of all Korean citizens rather than its own.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” said William Faulkner. These ancestors may be gone physically, but their influence lives on. The freedom in which South Koreans live testifies to this; we breathe and taste independence because of the unconditional sacrifice of our ancestors for our future. Will we take pride and keep their legacy in the present or push this pivotal chapter back into a dusty past?

The Turnaround

To reflect on my 2015 in detail would require an anthology rather than a simple blog post; however, I feel obligated to leave even a brief summary of the year, an emotional roller coaster ride to say the least.

In spite of my belief Jesus had a plan for me in the United States upon my graduation from Emory University in May 2014, the longevity of my struggle of finding a company or an institution willing to sponsor me with H1B to legally work in the country appeared more than the maturity of my faith at the point could handle. For the first half of 2015, I grew more and more irritable by day; my complaining to my Father, especially at night when emotions are heightened, became louder and louder. When I acknowledged this, I felt the need to desperately travel to a nature-driven destination where praising God could come to me more naturally and easily, which turned out to be the turning point of this adversity. At peace and in awe of His creation of magnificent Iceland, I repented of all I had expressed to Him in frustration over the previous several months and opened my heart to what He wanted in my life instead of what my human heart desired. My Father within days of my turnaround presented me with a global entrepreneurial position, consisting of all I sought and hoped to do upon college graduation, in the Midwest. This reminded me, “Always be grateful for what I have. His plans are greater than mine. He is timeless; His time and my time do not always match.”

Presenting to Korean high-school students on UNK

With the first half of my 2015 off aside from the two nonprofit internships for which I worked thirty hours a week on average, I, goal-oriented workaholic, needed to find a new arduous objective to overcome so that I would stop thinking I was wasting my time while most of my classmates had already begun graduate school or full-time occupations. The goal became physical, and I constantly challenged myself in long-distance running, what I despised more than any other activity until roughly four years ago, to see how far my body and mental toughness could push. This led to my running a 15K, half marathon, marathon, 50K, and 50-miler, all in 2015, which would have been unlikely to accomplish with a full-time job. (Let’s not forget all the required training for these grueling events.) Through these races, especially the 50-miler, I experienced God in ways I could not have imagined, and I have no regrets in my body having suffered various hardships and even injuries along the journey.

As grateful as I have been to God for my creative comeback story of 2015 He wrote, I firmly believe the author of my life has greater plans for me for 2016. I am honored to be starring in the 2016 Book of Jake Kim as the protagonist, and I cannot wait to witness firsthand how the story of the titular character unfolds.

Long Road to Call Home

My first time setting foot in Nebraska for my new duty as an international recruiter, I was struck by a variety of unfamiliar incidents, both positive and negative, since my arrival on September 14, 2015. As much as I tried to focus solely on executing my new position to the best of my ability and changing the face of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) among Asian students, I also had to take time and be patient to be acclimated and call Nebraska my new “home.”

In addition to spending countless hours and days on assembling furniture and settling in, I desperately sought the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to renew my expired driver’s license from Georgia into one from Nebraska. A female clerk at the DMV insisted I must retake every driver’s test as if I had never driven; whenever I tried to explain she was misinformed, she condescendingly cut me off in front of strangers in line behind me. I came back the next morning, prepared for both written and road tests having reviewed possible questions for seven hours, and proved she indeed had her “facts” mixed; I only took a written test on which I missed one question to earn a temporary copy of a Nebraska license. On Saturday of the same week, I bought a 2016 Honda Accord at Honda of Lincoln. My first car, I promised to take care of her like my “girlfriend.” However, on my way back to Kearney with her an hour after purchase, I ran into two consecutive near-severe accidents. A clumsy lady perpendicular to my right shoulder swerved her car into my lane without any warning, forcing me to veer from my own lane away from her and towards rumble strips to keep her from destroying my brand new car. An inch away from a major crash, I honked at her twice, first out of fear and second inexplicable rage, and her careless expression as if nothing had happened riled me up even more. Thirty minutes following, a truck driver turned on his left indicator and immediately invaded my lane as well, and with my right shoulder lined up on his truck tail likely in his blind spot, I abruptly hit the brake from driving roughly eighty miles per hour; fortunately, I saw no car behind me. I was praying and singing worship songs during these close calls, and His angels protected me.

I ordered so much food, and this benevolent couple sneakily paid for me!

I ordered so much food, and this benevolent couple sneakily paid for me!

Aware of my running history, my colleagues suggested I try a popular lengthy bike trail that connects to campus. I felt peaceful on the course until I ran past an immense wild snake; I saw no warning sign of the wildlife, and upon encounter, I jumped higher than Michael Jordan ever did in his prime. I quickly noticed the benevolent nature of Nebraskans. Many volunteered to help and embrace strangers with an angelic smile and open arms. After my first week of work, I went to the renowned Gourmet House Japanese Cuisine. Waiting for five minutes to be seated, I conversed with a couple and a man, who suggested to me what to order. As the couple walked out following dinner, the girlfriend asked if I enjoyed my meal. Once the two exited, a waiter tapped me from behind and whispered, “The couple paid for you.” Unaccustomed to people buying me food, I did not know how to respond but sprint to the two. Hearing I had just moved, the couple wanted me to “enjoy [my] experience in Nebraska.” The next evening at Ruby Tuesday, another couple came from behind and handed a five-dollar-discount coupon to me. “Nebraskans are spoiling me!” I jokingly reacted.

In the midst of this extraordinary impression of Nebraskans, I also had an entertaining experience with perhaps the most psychotic individual to ever come across my life. A coworker introduced me to a shy and socially awkward kid who had just graduated from UNK, and after kindly greeting him with a smile, I completely forgot about him. A week later, he arbitrarily looked me up on Facebook, stalked all of my recent posts, wrote a deranged status about me—including my name and position at UNK, where I worked, and my family background—and insulted me via message, crying he does not want to be associated with me and telling me not to add him on the social medium. I had apparently offended him with my God-praising statuses, as he passionately despises Him and Christians. I had to look at some photos of the lunatic and our mutual friends to even vaguely recall him, and how he knew about my family hilariously perplexes me. Nonetheless, one cannot try to understand or rationalize a psychopath, so I simply laughed, especially since the keyboard warrior would never have the guts to even pretend to acknowledge me in person.

I prioritize my job over every other matter but my Father. After over ten crucial meetings the first week of work, I finally received my school email address this Thursday. I straightaway contacted tens of both partner and potential-partner institutions, some of which responded and forwarded my email to superiors of their schools by the next morning. On Friday, while resuming this task, a UNK technician suddenly changed my email address because he had accidentally given me an address owned by another person. I went into panic mode, but thankfully, one call from my boss to the technician resolved the problem. I have also been facing a barrage of issues with Wells Fargo since my registration with the bank, forcing me to visit its nearest location and contact customer service easily over ten times for a minimum of seven hours just to be misled thirty times since my arrival.

The first several weeks in the Midwest certainly felt like a roller-coaster ride. I was welcomed by repeated unprecedented episodes, including being approached by an excited bold girl who described me as “really cute” and wanted my number. Though mostly joyful and content, I still do not feel entirely settled, especially with some of the aforesaid recent unnecessary and discomforting occurrences. Still green to the region, I trust my Father, who brought me here, has plans for me and will lead me to the path of His will.