I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kyuboem Lee a few years ago while I was attending seminary. Dr. Lee is the general editor of the Journal of Urban Mission, adjunct professor and lecturer in Urban Mission at Biblical Seminary in Philadelphia. He has served for decades as an urban pastor.
Before I met Kyuboem, I would hear students already acquainted with him call him “Kyu.” I had never heard any more than that of his name, and had never seen his name in print. But with such a moniker, he already carried an air of mystery. To activate my imagination even further, his name was spoken in hushed and reverent tones.
“‘Q’ is on campus…”
To be fair, Kyuboem says with humility that the tone was likely neither hushed nor reverent, but rather full of his students’ “curses and diatribes;” however, I recall the former.
With only a name and his work in urban missions to go on, my overactive mind found it perfectly reasonable to conjure up a mysterious ‘alphabetically-lettered entity of inner-city cool’, aptly named … ‘Q’.
As a Black woman transplanted from Baltimore city, I was sure this ‘Q’ would be a ‘brotha.’
You see, American Black folk have a culture of nicknaming people, and nicknaming them oddly. At times it even seems that the odder the name, the greater the love. In my lifetime, I have known grown folk whose families still call them ‘Mookie’, ‘Boofus’, ‘Babe-boy’, ‘Dodo’ (yes, like the bird), and ‘Oodie’ … and that just scratches the surface. There were silly nicknames, there were descriptive ones, and there were names that were gained through hard times. ‘Q’ certainly had to be one of the latter.
By the time this ‘Q’ materialized to guest lecture in one of my classes, my mind had given him the status of legend. I met him and his lovely wife, and ‘Q’ surprised me by being … Korean.
‘Kyu,’ not ‘Q’.
As in … ‘Kyuboem.’
Naturally, I was reminded yet again of the precarious nature of quick assumptions, and I never spoke to anyone of my mental and cultural gymnastics … until now.
A wonderful thing happened as I got to know Kyu … I found that he is indeed a “brotha”, and one of the highest order; he is a ‘member of the household of faith’ – this man is my brother.
This week via Twitter, Kyu graciously commented on my recent post, Wishful Thinking: If I were Dennis Rodman:
You continue to find common threads between our peoples. For this I thank you. @kyuboem
Many social media comments make me smile, but few choke me up as this one did. In less than 140 characters, Kyu put his pastoral finger directly on my heart.
For many interested in human rights, be it in raising awareness, developing foreign policy, or in doing humanitarian work, the perspective is not limited to movements within single groups but in examining and anticipating how ‘cultures’ around the world function in an interconnected way. For those “within the household of faith” involved in this work, the connection should be even more profound since we are assured that the historical, spiritual and political circumstances of one member of the body of Christ affect the circumstances of us all.
I am currently sharpening my vision to see intersections, historical similarities and repetitive themes among all of our stories. I have worked in various capacities with international organizations for more than a decade, and though my interests have taken me on a variety of journeys God has never allowed me to wander far from a fascination with the theological, historical and sociological movements of the world. I remain a lover of cultures, and of the Creator’s covenants with them; I remain a lover of the global Body of Christ.
Gradually, as I have learned more about Christ I have found Him robust enough to hold and address my own cultures’ core concerns. I could focus my lens on the confines of my own neighborhood, my city, state, country, ethnicity, gender, or whatever identificational subset of which I happen to be a part. Marvelously though, God has built us with differing scopes of vision and burdens for different works.
There is an abyssal and robust framework of redemption called ‘the Bible’ that has grown out of the fathomless depths of our Creator. Once I leaned in there to lay down my own people’s concerns, I found that they were not the only ones it could hold. There was room for many more peoples groups and cultures (both broadly and narrowly defined) to discover hope and ultimate meaning in their strategic historical placement.
Learning and sharing about the global perspective of our own inter-connectedness, among other things, is the purpose for this blog, and all of the entries found here.