A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES, COMING TO CANADA

Reverend Sang-Chul Lee's entire family history had been one of rootlessness. His grandfather fled with his family from Korea to Siberia. Lee's father had fled with his family from Siberia to China. Then Lee fled alone from China to Korea. Since then he has never seen his parents, sisters or brothers again. He wondered, in coming to Canada, if he was only repeating the same painful pattern of dislocation again.(6)

As a young boy who had left his parents in China, Lee had no idea that he was leaving them behind forever. He thought he would return in a few months. Later he came to Canada to do graduate work in Christian studies at first. He wondered if he would ever see his wife and children again. (7) Not long after he got on the plane to Canada, Lee felt desperately sad and lonely. He wondered how he would survive the next two years since he had no money for return visits to see his family on holidays, nor to bring his family to be with him.(8)

Learning the language was the next obstacle to overcome. Lee knew some English but wasn't used to using it all the time. Speaking English was still a chore. Writing was the most difficult of all.(9)

But loneliness was still the hardest thing to overcome. Lee was one of the first Korean immigrants to Canada. He had come to do graduate work in Christian studies. During his first days on campus he asked every Oriental man on campus if he was Korean. All were Chinese or Japanese. Finally he learned that there was one other Korean registered at the University of British Columbia. Lee became good friends with this man and his family, who, together with one other family, made up the entire Korean population in British Columbia in 1961.(10)

Lee's loneliness lessened a bit by the letters from his wife, which arrived faithfully each week. One time during the year, however, they stopped for three weeks. Everyday he rushed to the mailbox and everyday he was disappointed. Lee began to worry that something might be wrong back home. He wrote a concerned letter to his father-in-law. Replies from Lee's wife and her father came the same day: nothing horrible had happened, she was just having a hard time making ends meet. The situation put Lee in the depths of despair. He was tempted to quit his studies and return home to his family immediately.(11)

His fellow students, however, had noticed his down mood. When he explained his wife's situation they soon came up with a solution. At the next weekly chapel service, the students came to Lee with all the offerings that had been collected and told him to send them to his wife.(12)

Lee's stay in Canada studying was prolonged on several occasions, each time delaying reunion with his wife and family. Finally, in 1964 Lee was home again and his family greeted him with a warm welcome. His re-entry into the Korean church proved difficult. In partnership with a friend he started a Christian Academy, a place in Korea where people from all walks of life and from different political perspectives could meet and exchange opinions and build a new faith. But Lee's experiences in Canada had changed him and conflicts arose with his colleague.(13)

Just then an opportunity presented itself that would bring Lee back to Canada, this time with his wife and children. The town of Steveston near Vancouver had been a pioneer village for Japanese immigration and they needed a United Church pastor who was bilingual in Japanese and English. Reverend Lee was offered the position. He had learned Japanese during their occupation of Korea. This experience, however, made anxious about taking the job as pastor of a Japanese congregation(14).

Leaving his homeland, too, was a difficult decision, one that took Lee almost a year to make. Lee's wife was apprehensive about moving to another country. His friends were divided. Some criticized him for running away from Korea while its future hung in the balance. In the end the Lees decided to come to Canada, but only for three years.(15)

Thirty years later Reverend Lee admits that Canada is now his home. Looking back, he considers that coming to Canada was a sacrifice he had to make, to bury the past and its pain, in order to give his new family a future.(16)

Footnotes:
1,2,3,4,5,17,18,19
The 1998 Canadian and World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17
The Wanderer, by Sang-Chul Lee and Erich Weingartner
(Wood Lake Books, Winfield, 1989).


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