Dordt College News

Shim takes his work to Korea

December 2, 2013

Somewhat surprisingly, even to himself, Theology Professor Jay Shim's teaching has broadened far beyond his Dordt classroom.

For the second summer in a row, Shim and several of Dordt’s Korean students have been teaching fifth and sixth grade students in Korea about how their faith relates to every part of their lives. He has also been consulting with Christian schools and educators in Korea.

“Many Koreans are very committed Christians,” says Shim, “but their faith is very spiritual, a private relationship with God.”

Shim and his students are helping Korean children see that a bigger faith and a comprehensive Christian worldview can make a difference in their lives.

“Korean society is very competitive, even for children,” Shim says. He explains that for most Koreans, the pathway to a happy life is getting into a prestigious school, which, in turn, paves the way to success in life.

“But many children know they will never get into such a school and so spend much of their life suffering from a lack of self-esteem.” Shim tries to help them see that salvation means much more than what happens after they die and that the world is not simply an evil place they’re passing through. He introduces them to a Creator God who reconciles and restores all things to himself and calls them to participate in that work.

Proclaiming Christian Education, the short book Shim penned to teach these concepts to young children, is opening up a world of hope for these children, Shim believes. They begin to feel that they have value and that they have important work to do in a world that God loves.

The opportunity to work with Korean children began five years ago when Dr. Shim gave a presentation on Christian worldview and education to university professors in Korea for IAPCHE, the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education. Christian education has not been widely emphasized or developed because of the tendency to privatize faith in Korea. Global connections and organizations like IAPCHE have helped spark interest by some educators to understand what Christian education would look like and what difference it could make.

Shim’s contact, following his IAPCHE presentations, was an education professor at Ewha Women’s University and principal at Ewha Elementary School, Dr. Kim. Ewha Women’s University was originally established by American missionaries but today is a prestigious, nominally Christian institution with an education faculty as large as Dordt’s entire faculty. Ewha Elementary School was established by the university and employs six Dordt College graduates, some American and some Korean.

Intrigued by Shim’s presentation, Kim asked him to write something that would help her and her students understand what salvation means for the way students think and live. Shim recently revised the original article he wrote for her into the Proclaiming Christian Education book and also wrote a teacher’s guide to accompany it. It is now being used at Ewha, and also at a second school, Sammul.

Although born in Korea, Shim was educated in the United States.

“My Korean is not smooth, and I realized I needed help to make it understandable for Korean children,” he says. So he began training willing Korean students attending Dordt to help him with the book and to teach young students in Korea.
Those sessions became valuable mentoring sessions. As they worked through the material, it became clear to Shim that many of the college students also did not understand the breadth of a Reformed faith.

“In the process of this training many had a spiritual renewal themselves,” says Shim. They came to better understand what they were learning in the Biblical Foundations class at Dordt and began to see that salvation doesn’t just have to do with later, but with their lives today.

“Some, who were here as exchange students for one year, have decided to stay for a four-year degree.”

As others in Korea heard about the curriculum being used in the two schools, one church asked Shim to lead a three-day camp for children of the church. In the summer of 2012, Shim and several Dordt students led a camp called “My Story in God’s Story” for 110 elementary students, using the Proclaiming Christian Education text. This past summer they led a camp at another church for 75 students. And they have been invited to lead a third next summer.

Shim’s book uses the “Creation, Fall, Redemption” theme, and draws heavily on Dordt’s educational statements to give a framework for talking about living as Christians in today’s world. He tries to stress “why” questions: Why do you study? Why do you want to be an engineer? What is the point of happiness? Such questions help them think more concretely about “living for the glory of God”; it helps them understand how and why what they learn is important for their lives as Christians; it helps them see that they’re saved—reconciled and restored—to make a difference in a world over which God is sovereign.

Shim’s work with Korean students has had an impact on what he does at Dordt.

“I don’t want to just teach theology in an abstract way,” he says. “I want to explain what God is doing in real life. I want students to see how Christian thinking and knowledge have concrete implications.”

Checking it out

After interacting with Dr. Jay Shim in Korea, several Korean educators wanted to know what material teachers use in their teaching, who trains teachers to teach from out of a Christian framework, and how to teach such subjects as mathematics, biology, physical education from a Christian point of view.

Last January six elementary school teachers and eight students from Korea visited Sioux Center to see what Reformed Christian education might look like. They stayed with families who are part of the Christian school community, visiting local Christian schools and meeting with Dordt education faculty. A second group of teachers and students plan to visit again this coming January.


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