Director of the Pyung An upper elementary program Amy Lee preaches about justice and God to a group of upper elementary kids. • Photo by Karina Mazhukhina
Director of the Pyung An upper elementary program Amy Lee preaches about justice and God to a group of upper elementary kids. • Photo by Karina Mazhukhina

Amy Lee stands in front of the bright green room, eagerly discussing the idea of justice and fairness in the community. Dozens of elementary school kids sit in their blue colored chairs, anxiously waiting for her next words.

After the service, a swarm of third, fourth, and fifth graders run up to hug and talk with Amy Lee. Even when she steps outside of the classroom, parents are not too far behind, showing the same love and respect as their children did inside.

“Amy definitely has the knowledge to lead, but she also has a certain way with the kids,” said Linda Jin, fourth grade teacher at Pyung An Presbyterian Church. “She interacts with them and draws them in to the point where even the quiet kids start participating.”

At 22, Amy Lee is the youngest director to ever serve Pyung An’s upper level elementary program. The role was passed down to Lee after her father moved on to lead the Church’s college program. She is in charge of several programs, ranging from children bible camps, a Christian dance program to help kids connect and appreciate their religion, and skits depicting different bible events and characters. Her latest mission is to use these programs to help build stronger and more connected families.

Over 300 Koreans attend Pyung An Presbyterian Church, but only a handful have managed to overcome the cultural and language barriers that exist between first and second generation Korean-Americans.

“In this generation, so many families are broken,” said Lee. “Parents and children don’t really connect in the Korean-American community. We’re all so busy, but these types of programs can really help parents and children find the time to connect.”

Amy Lee leads a small group session with some of the students from the upper elementary program. •  Photo by Karina Mazhukhina
Amy Lee leads a small group session with some of the students from the upper elementary program. • Photo by Karina Mazhukhina

Vacation Bible School, in particular, has sparked the Korean-American community’s interest, even affecting those far beyond Washington State. For one week every summer, Lee and a handful of youth volunteers divide the church into different stations, decide on one central biblical theme for each day, and have the youth perform a skit relating to that specific theme. Then, children rotate from station to station and discuss how the message in each skit can be applied to their own lives.

Parents of teenagers are invited to see what their kids are up to as well. Whether it’s discussing the reenactment skits or deeper messages in them—youth have a chance to engage and bond with their parents over the event.

“When they see their kids talking about Bible stories and connecting them to their own lives, they see how serious they are about God,” Lee said. It’s really shocking to them, and it’s a side of their child they have never seen before. They learn to treat their kids in a whole new way. Just as when the kids see their parents serving in the church and getting along with the younger generation, they see a whole new side of their parents.”

The program has been so successful at Pyung An Presbyterian Church that Koreans around the country have asked Lee to come and decorate their churches and setup biblical stations. Lee has helped eight churches, traveling as far as Texas and Colorado.

“We see a lot of churches come alive again,” said Andy Song, fifth grade teacher at Pyung An Church. Kids need to have a sense of belonging, and the church offers that.”

Lee and her family hope to start a family retreat to further help parents, daughters, brothers, grandmothers, and other family members connect on a deeper, spiritual level. The two to four day program would include family bonding, daily sermon, and different activities that strengthen family and Christ relationships.

“She’s a great leader,” said Priscilla, current sixth grader and one of Lee’s former students. “She was one of my favorite teachers.”

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