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Reflection and Encouragement from a First Year Wycliffe Student
By Yong-Sung Jonathan Kang
Oct 26, 2020
We invited Jonathan Kang, a first-year Wycliffe College MDiv student, to share his thoughts on what it is like to start seminary during a global pandemic, and to offer a word of encouragement to fellow students.
It feels disingenuous, and even presumptuous, to write to a community that I (as yet) only see through a glass, darkly. Literally, through a monitor in my basement. Nevertheless, if that dim perception is all that has been granted, then perhaps mine is not to reason why.
Pining for a distant place
My family and I moved to Canada for the first time this past August. We have three children, and my wife also started seminary this fall, in the clinical counselling program at Tyndale. A new country, a new city, a new neighbourhood, and new schools for all five of us, at the point in the pandemic when the early springtime invocations of sabbath and Jubilee had crumbled into the language of the wilderness and exile. Just like most, if not all, of you who started at Wycliffe with me this fall, I have yet to walk into the College building or to meet a fellow student in person. There is a word in German (there always is, or will be once one is compounded) for this sense of disconnected longing: fernweh, or farsickness, the pining for a distant place we do not yet know. We all have transitioned, in different ways, this fall semester, but our transitions are a “from” without a “to.”
But that is not the only thing we share. We also share a sense that isolation, sanction, frustration, affliction, and desolation are not the only words to describe the wilderness of COVID-19. After my wife and I had decided fumblingly (me) and prayerfully (her) to attend seminary full-time, we were led to Toronto unexpectedly. We visited during the first week of February, just before the travel restrictions began. Several months after I accepted at Wycliffe, I learned that I would not have been able to attend the U.S. seminaries I had considered, as student visas were no longer being issued. In the U.S. cities we considered, my children would have been able to attend school only sporadically, if at all, but here we are blessed to be able to send them to a small Christian school full-time.
God works in and through this plague
God works in and through this plague, as He has done through all of them; just as in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, when God sent a pestilence that led to David’s construction of an altar at the site of the future first temple (1 Chronicles 22:1). In Revelation 12, it is declared that God sent the woman “into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished” (Revelation 12:14, ESV). We are also in a “wilderness … prepared by God, in which [we are] to be nourished” (Revelation 12:6).
I know that I have been brought here and am being nourished, and I trust that we all do, have, and are, together. This transition, this “from” without a “to,” has both a “to” and a “for,” though we do not see it yet. I long for the day when we will look back at this fall semester of 2020 and echo the words of the poet Robert Hayden:
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV).