Have you ever felt as though your life was a maze? You started with a destination in mind, but now you’re stuck somewhere in the middle, unsure of which path to take. You feel lost, maybe even disappointed, yet there remains within you a need to reach the goal.
Sometimes our callings are similar. Some people are called to do something specific. However, most of us are given small pieces of a puzzle, and we must do our best to put them together as we go.
The theme of this issue of Reflections is “Shine.” No matter how many times I tried to rewrite this article, nothing about it felt very “shiny.” The word “shine” reminds me of missionaries, pastors, or leaders of a ministry. At the very least, I think of the extraordinary people in my life who daily seem to move mountains in some way. Then I remembered that we are all called to shine the light of Jesus. I would like to share some insight into my life’s maze. I hope that by reading it someone will realize that shining doesn’t have to be extraordinary. Sometimes our light is best shown by a simple, daily commitment to faith and a willingness to act.
When I was seventeen, my life changed significantly, though I wouldn’t realize the extent of the changes coming until several years later. I was classically trained on the clarinet from the age of ten. I had just finished a rigorous audition season for various music conservatories across the US. From the day I first played my instrument, I had wanted to be an orchestral musician. As far as I could see, I was well on my way.
One evening as I was reading, I stumbled upon an article about the DPRK, or North Korea. The article addressed concentration camps built during the Korean War, several of which are still being used to imprison people who have upset the order within the Kim regime. I went on to read about the North Korean refugee crisis and other related issues. The only word that really describes what I felt next is “compelled.” In that moment, I was compelled to do everything in my power to make a difference for the North Korean people. I admit that I couldn’t have pointed to Korea on a map, nor could I have identified the language. But if you’ve ever felt compelled by the Spirit to do something, you’ll understand that none of those things were going to extinguish the fire that had been ignited within me.
The following months were full of many ups and downs. I had been accepted into several conservatories, but the need to study Korean persisted. To provide insight, most conservatories don’t offer studies outside of music. Learning anything else, much less a rare language like Korean, wasn’t an option at any of the schools I had chosen except for one.
God always has a plan! Jacobs School of Music is part of Indiana University (IU), which happens to house one of the most extensive language programs in the United Sates. I had already been accepted, but the scholarship I had received was small. I had received a better scholarship for a conservatory in New York. I prayed that if it was God’s will for me to attend IU that there would be a clear sign. The next day, IU emailed me to let me know that they had reconsidered my admission and that I would be able to attend the school for free.
I attended IU and graduated in 2017 with a BA in music and a minor in Korean. Throughout my studies, North Korea was not far from my heart. I worked with the non-profit organization Liberty in North Korea on several occasions and continued researching Korea on my own. After graduation, I decided to leave music to focus my energy on Korea.
If you’ve ever been an artist, you will understand how excruciating that decision was. Sometimes God requires us to give up things that define us so He can redefine us. I had finally come to a point in my maze where I had to choose left or right. I moved to a rural town in South Korea in 2018 to improve my language skills and prayerfully consider my next steps.
I am currently less than five hours away from the people I am desperate to reach, but God has not yet provided a way. I have been drawn to the cause of children with disabilities here, as they often go undiagnosed and have little support in school. As of now, I hope to continue my graduate studies in public affairs with the goal of raising awareness about these disabilities and pushing for change in special education policy. While I am excited about this endeavor, I admit that my heart aches for a clear path to the North Korean people.
I can’t say that everything will always make sense as you journey through your maze. I can, however, say with confidence that when you choose to pick up your cross daily, move forward in faith and love, and devote yourself to the cause of others, your light will shine as a beacon to those around you and spark a desire within them to do the same. Through each seemingly small, insignificant step, this chain reaction can change the world.
Written by: Emily Spaugh. She is from St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of Apostolic Pentecostal Church. She has a bachelor of arts in Clarinet Performance with a minor in Korean from Indiana University.