Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Taking one step at a time

Written by: on September 2, 2021

I immigrated to America when I was ten years old from Korea. I still vividly remember the fear and anxiety of learning English as my second language. I think growing up, understanding and learning numbers came much more naturally than language arts. I read a lot in Korean when I was young before I moved to America, but honestly, I never liked to read and write in English because it was much more difficult to understand and I found myself frustrated to read at a slower pace. Reading and writing was always a struggle because I was never good at it and never felt confident in English. I studied Engineering for my undergrad, and I think I only had to write two essays during my entire undergrad curriculum. I struggled as I went through M.Div study because every classwork was based on reading, writing, and critical thinking. I never had to dig deep with reading and writing because l was able to cruise through life with just my elementary reading and writing skills. As I struggled to read through the book “How to read a book” (I never imagined anyone ever wrote a book on the subject of reading a book and taking notes, and I wish I picked it up a lot earlier in life), I would classify myself as a beginner in learning to read like an analytical reader. Previously, I read and process a lot of information based on inspectional reading level. I tried applying the principles of finding key sentences, propositions, arguments, and solutions, but I found myself having a difficult time trying. It felt challenging, a little anxious, and uncomfortable trying to apply the analytical skills as I read.


I enjoyed reading through “the miniature guide to critical thinking” because it was a whole lot thinner, and it included more visual diagrams. I think my mind is more accustomed and attracted to seeing and analyzing diagrams and pictures. As I read through the first three books on the reading list, a question continued to pop up. My mind kept wondering how much of the emerging generation loves to read and write. I thought of my son Jayden who is ten years old, because he barely reads any physical paper book. He is watching, reading a lot of stuff, and learning through watching. I think it’s not just kids who are learning and absorbing information through the media. Everyone is more comfortable learning through YouTube tutorials. Personally speaking too, my brain is also becoming more comfortable reading less, thinking less, and just responding to more visual images. I pondered with many different emotions and thoughts as I read through “Steal like an artist.” First, I thought that it was a new form in communicating the author’s message. He was trying to communicate ten principles that will help the readers to be more creative. But instead of writing out all of his points and message in elaborate paragraphs, the author used black and white contrast filled with huge-sized fonts and lots of images. It felt more like a PowerPoint presentation in black and white, not so much of paragraphs of Words, but more of clear images to deliver the author’s main ideas. I reflected upon my lifestyle because it doesn’t involve communication through essays and paragraphs anymore. My entire life, other than the M.Div time, I didn’t have to struggle with grammar and critical writing. I feel much more comfortable communicating through short paragraphs and images. As I venture on the next two years, I believe the challenges of reading and writing at the next levels will push me to grow and overcome some of the fears and anxiety I still struggle with when it comes to reading and writing.

About the Author


Jonathan Lee

President of Streamside Ministry Lead Pastor of EM @ San Jose Korean Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA

9 responses to “Taking one step at a time”

  1. Michael Simmons says:

    Jonathan, Thank you for this candid insight to your journey with learning English. I resonate with the the desire for images rather than words. I’m curious, what is your relationship with metaphors? Do you use them when writing and/or speaking Korean? Do you use them when engaging English?

    • mm Jonathan Lee says:

      Hi Michael!
      I think over the years I am becoming more and more comfortable with using images and learning to use more metaphors in my communication and preaching. Also, the bicultural identity growth in me has been very interesting. I think I was much more comfortable with using Korean and being in more of a Korean culture when I was younger, but I find myself more and more comfortable using English and being in an American culture as I grow older. The main community I engage on a daily basis are Korean Americans and lots of contents always range from Korean culture to American to current global issues, but things are more communicated in English now.

  2. mm Eric Basye says:


    Yes, I too appreciate your candidness! I chuckled at your comment regarding someone actually writing a book on how to read a book! Humerous indeed, but as you said, also helpful.

    You raise to good observations about our current culture and style of learning. I was recently chatting with a friend who commented that what people desire for now are more clear, concise, and to the point summaries. Truth be told, as a blog writing who tries to keep this to no more than a page, I find that even one page is too long for many of my readers!

    I will be curious how you apply all that you are learning now (in regard to reading and writing) upon completion of the program.

    I can’t wait to chat with you in DC. Blessings.

    • mm Jonathan Lee says:

      Hi Eric!
      same here~ can’t wait to chat and hang in person in DC. This new journey is definitely a fearful challenge, but I shall take one step at a time~

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Jonathan, thanks for sharing your experience of coming to America and the challenges that came along with that. My story has some similarities as my parents came from Germany. Though I was born in the US, German was the first language in our home. Until I began public school, German was my first language and those early years proved a challenge for writing. I also agree with your tendency toward visuals. Someone recently commented on my messages and the inclusion of many visuals. I never planned to include visuals consciously. Using visuals just seemed natural to me. I believe the younger generations learn a lot through what is seen and in the context of relationships. What is the focus of your project? I would love to know your NPO and the direction you are taking. See you soon in D.C.

    • mm Jonathan Lee says:

      Hi Roy!
      Im sure you also wrestled through growing up bicultural between German and American culture. Every family has a distinct culture, food, and values that continue to run in the family. My NPO for now is “Highschool students who are growing up in Korean American immigrant churches need a stronger foundation of faith that is rooted in identity formation and leadership development.” The focus of my project is to come up with a practical youth discipleship curriculum that will bring leadership development and global perspective for Korean American youths growing up in an immigrant Korean church setting. The research direction and details still need to be developed more~ looking forward to meeting you in DC!

  4. Elmarie Parker says:

    Wow, Jonathan, thank you for sharing your journey of moving between cultures and languages and what this has meant for your reading and writing work. My first language was Afrikaans (it still rattles around in my brain from time to time) and my bi-lingual mom speaks and taught me British English. To this day I still stumble over some aspects of American English. Your reflections on the place of visual images in learning and communication today highlights one of the areas where I feel I need to further grow. I look forward to learning from you and Roy (who also mentioned how he uses visuals in communications).

    • mm Jonathan Lee says:

      Hi Elmarie!
      It’s always fascinating to me to hear about people’s cultural journey as they grew up. I guess the world is becoming more and more globalized in a way where we all share something common about learning to adapt to new cultures and surroundings in life. I think the need of combining thoughts and visual images will grow stronger as communication is transforming more and more into a visual communications. I am also glad and look forward to learning from this great community of leaders~

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Jonathan I am so humbled by your vulnerability. You invite us on to your holy ground…what an honor! As I have watched my sisters-in-law navigate North American culture as Koreans, I’ve observed similar struggles. One of the underlying points of The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking is the importance of self-awareness. Jonathan, you clearly have a self-awareness that is a huge asset to your own learning and as a leader. I know you will be a blessing to our group as we dig into conversations on what we hear in our readings.

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