For today’s post, I interviewed Sue Park-Hur, and her daughter, L, age 12. Sue lives with her husband, Hyun, and three kids: G, age 14; L, age 12; and Y, age 4. Sue and Hyun live in Los Angeles County, California. Together, they have started ReconciliAsian, a ministry committed to sharing the Anabaptist peace witness and teaching skills for peaceful conflict resolution in a Korean context. The Hurs also serve as the pastors of Mountain View Mennonite Church in Upland, Calif. I met the Hur family during the four and a half years that we lived in California. I was blown away by their willingness to follow God’s call on their lives, no matter how unclear the way ahead might seem.
This post is part of a week-long series on parenting in honor of my daughter’s second birthday this week.
The Femonite: When we were in California, before we were parents, I always admired the ways that you all seemed to parent in community, with other people. Obviously you all were always in charge and the parents, but you also were really open to letting other people take care of your children and be involved in their lives. Would you say this is true?
Sue: I think the kids were really shaped by having grown up in this community, which was also where we did church. It’s interesting because now we’re talking about moving and try to figure out where we do. They’ve been to some of these nicer townhouses in Los Angeles, and they’ll say, “The house is nice, but we don’t know who lives next to us.” Hyun and I realized, “Oh, they really have a sense of what it means to live in community and are comfortable with that.” That’s unknowingly become how they understand housing and family. It’s more than just your nuclear unit and a place to live.
For the first four years of their lives, G and L were in Korea. I really loved raising them there. I wondered how people in America would do this. In Korea, the way they do ministry is grueling and Hyun [who was pastoring] was barely home. But in Korea, I could go to church and people volunteered to take the kids and play with them. That would help me to get things done for the classes I taught. I thought, “Wow, if I didn’t have that kind of community in rearing kids, it would have been really, really difficult.” Coming back and living here [in the United States] was really difficult. Even though I had parents, they weren’t close enough proximity-wise to help much, and Hyun was burned out from ministry and couldn’t help that much, so I felt kind of at a loss trying to work and have kids and raise them.
TF: What would you describe as some of the biggest joys and challenges of motherhood for you thus far?
Sue: One of the biggest joys is when I see them really showing love and respect for each other. When we see that our children are becoming their own independent person, and when we realize that they can be respectful and understand both cultures that they are a part of. As they grow and I see the gifts that I’m discovering in them, that’s a joy of parenting. Recognizing how God wired them and what their gifts and joys are.
For instance, L loves to cook and her nose is in a cookbook. That’s how she unwinds and that’s her little niche. And it’s great and we can help her to get ingredients or pots and pans. This is her love language. When she’s bored, this is what she does. She looks at recipes and blogs and finds other people who are into that as well and helping her along the way. And G went to Korea this summer because he’s a gifted musician, and he went to music camp there so that he can connect with other kids who are very talented. He’s always holding a guitar and that’s how he unwinds.
L: Yeah, and whenhe’s really mad he plays the cello.
Sue: Some of the things that I think are challenging… When they get into fights and they have conflicts, it’s really hard because we do all these conflict transformation workshops as part of our ministry, and then it’s sometimes hard to realize that at home we don’t all have these skills. There’s this assumption that your kids will know certain things just because you do them, and that’s not always true.
I also think trying to be really present with kids is hard. There is a constant interruption from ministry: phone calls, e-mails, texts. They interrupt our time together, and they often seem very urgent. And parenting is harder with technology. It’s great that we can be more flexible. But just because you are home, you might not be “fully home.” You’re physically there, but you’re mentally elsewhere. So being mindful of having time with the kids when they are here is really hard.
TF: L, you were almost eight-years-old already when your little brother, Y, was born. What do you remember about that time? How did having a little brother change your life?
Lynn: We’ve loved Yul since he came home. Unfortunately we could not visit him at the hospital, because there was a huge flu thing going around and we weren’t allowed to go in. But when he came home. G and I were very curious. We looked at him. We would drop our backpacks and just come in and stare at him.
When Y was born, it was a sense of responsibility I didn’t have before. G was the older one and I thought that I would be the youngest one for the rest of my life. But I didn’t really have that nervousness that my parents would have to focus on him too much. Even if they did, I knew that he had to have that focus, so I wasn’t mad or anything. Is.
Sue: We have a preschooler, preteen and teenager in the house at the same time. It’s crazy!
TF: Sue, you touched on some of the challenges of pastoring and parenting together, but L, I wonder if you could reflect on that, too. What has it been like to be a pastor’s kid? I don’t know if you know this, but I was a pastor’s kid, too. My mom became a pastor when I was 12 though, so I can remember a time when I wasn’t in that role.
L: I don’t what it’s not like to be a pastor’s kid. I think when I was younger – like in 1st grade – I didn’t really understand what my parents were doing, so I didn’t really care and wasn’t really bothered with it. Now, I understood what they are doing and sometimes I don’t want them to do it. It used to be that they would be gone and I was scared when they would leave. Now I’m used to it, but it’s just sometimes sad to have them gone again.
Sometimes if there are a lot of guests around – which is a lot – I don’t get my space and my parents don’t get their space, so that’s another reason we fight. We live in a pretty small house, so we’re always together if we’re in the house, and we can get mad at each other or blow up. Our ways to unwind are really important. For G, it’s basketball or music. For me, I bake or I read. We all need our things to calm down.
Sue: I think L has had a unique experience. Her only experience was a house church [Sue and Hun served as pastors of Church for Others, an Anabaptist house church congregation in Temple City]. With the house church, we had to share our home all day on the weekends. That was stressful.
L: But I really loved the fact that we were basically family. It was hard for us to leave that church. We had been there for four years and then we moved to a different church. At the new church, there are no children. And at Church for Others, half of the church was children.
Sue: It’s been hard for the kids to move. From a house church to a church with a building. One of the struggles for us is that Hyun and I are 1.5 generation immigrants, and we’re also first generation Mennonites. For both of us, we’re not going to be completely immersed in Anabaptist values, because we come from a different background. But we want our kids to have an Anabaptist experience. This is what they are going to consider normal.
Sometimes we wonder, do we have them go to another church where there’s a viable youth group, but the church is not Mennonite? Or do they come to our church which is Anabaptist, but doesn’t have youth? How do you raise Korean-Mennonites in this kind of setting and still continue to talk about certain values?
TF: Yeah, in many ways I realize that you all are blending so many different cultures or influences. You’ve got South Korean culture, Korean-American contexts, Anabaptism, and other things. How do all these things hold together? And, you know, in a place like Los Angeles, this kind of blending of cultures is becoming much more normal.
Sue: One of the great things is that the last couple of weeks, Hyun and I have been asked to come present to several different organizations of Korean parents, who gather for Korean cultural purposes. They gather because they want to pass on their culture to kids. These parents have heard that Hyun is doing this conflict transformation, and they want him to come do a presentation. That’s been a neat new opening for us. We hadn’t thought about this. Parents are realizing that this retributive discipline with their kids isn’t working, and they are really excited about thinking about restorative justice models for parenting.
L: I don’t think I should even really be counted as second generation. I don’t know Korean. I can understand Korean, but I can’t speak it. My dad is first generation. He has a different perspective on things. You have to emphasize respect. He might be offended by certain things that we think are normal. My mom is more Americanized, but she still knows Korean. But us, we have a different view on things.
TF: Sue, I know this is a big question, but I wonder, when you think about your kids eventually going off to do things on their own, is there one thing that you hope they’ll remember? Any sort of key nugget or memory that you really hope they carry with them?
Sue: Our kids know that we are not financially secure. In a way, we don’t know how much we can secure a certain future for them and or help them with college, etc. It’s the reality, but it’s also painful at times. As I was thinking about this conversation with you, I was thinking about the treasures that we could give to our kids, and I think it’s really the people that we’ve been able to meet. We might not be rich or influential in a circle of powerful people, but we have been around incredible people: in Mennonite circles, with Hyun’s connections with North Korea, and in other spaces, too. Even though our house is small, we have hosted countless people who are amazing workers for God’s Kingdom. I think that’s all we could do. That’s the gift we were able to give to our kids thus far.
I hope they will be able to take away the treasure of the people who have come through our home and we have hosted. That’s their heritage and that’s the gift they have received from their parents. In the future, when they see a book or faces, they might recognize them and say, “Oh, I know that person. They were at our house. ”
Our hope also, of course, is that they would find their own way of engaging in God’s kingdom. They see one model from their parents, and hopefully that we’ve given our all to do what we’re called to do, and they’ve come alongside that crazy ride. They don’t have to build a peace center or be the successor of ReconciliAsian, but I hope that they would seriously engage in Kingdom work in the way that they’re called to do. And that they would do it courageously and boldly, trusting God.