Called to Counsel

Eunjee Lee is the name on her Korean passport, but most friends of the 25-year-old student at Union Presbyterian Seminary know her as Stellar Lee. Two years ago, Lee left her home in Korea to enroll in the M.Div. program at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She chose Union, in part, because one of her university professors in Korea recommended the school, citing its distinguished 200-year history. She feels God is calling her to a ministry of pastoral care and counseling.

Lee’s spiritual journey began in high school during a bout of severe depression. She had not grown up in the church and didn’t believe in God.

“My uncle was a pastor,” she says. “He tried to help me get over my condition. I began going to church. I prayed. I read the Bible.”

Ultimately, she adds, “I found a reason to live.”

Out of her struggle emerged a strong sense of call to ministry. “I have compassion for people who have illness like I did,” she says. “I’m really happy when I listen to other people, when they try to open up about their problems and I try to help them.”

Lee has taken an introduction to pastoral care course at UPSem and is considering doing a yearlong residency in Clinical Pastoral Education after she graduates in 2015. Ten years from now, you may find her working as a chaplain or enrolled in a doctoral program in preparation for teaching. She’s ready to go wherever God’s call takes her, whether that means returning to Korea or remaining in the United States.

In the meantime, a pastoral internship at Richmond Korean Presbyterian Church, where she is director of children’s ministries, is helping her apply what she is learning in the classroom to the realities of leading a congregation.

“What I’m learning in class supports what I’m doing in the church,” she says. In a Bible course, for example, one of the requirements was to study a Scripture passage and write a sermon based on the passage that would be relevant to her church setting. Theology courses have challenged her to apply Christian doctrine to the real questions people in the pews are asking about life and faith.

It’s not easy being a single woman at a small school far from home, Lee admits. She and another Korean student are prayer partners. She has joined a “dinner group”—five students who take turns cooking for each other. She stays connected to home by watching Korean TV on her laptop.

By reaching out, Lee says, “I try to make community for myself.”