To Shine Like a City on a Hill

by Hana J. Shin

Hana-Shin-600x700-72dpiIt was summer 2004 when I was seriously considering an offer to continue teaching English to a rambunctious cohort of junior high teens in southern China, or to return to the U.S. and start a doctoral program in clinical psychology at Fuller Seminary in southern California. Seven years later, I look back and am humbled that the journey not only spanned the distance between southern China and Pasadena, but also ended up including opportunities in Indonesia, Mexico, Kenya, and Thailand.

Prior to Fuller, my undergraduate studies focused on disparities of mental health care among communities of color in the U.S. As I learned of the multitude of injustices and broken systems that contributed to inequities in this country, the doors to the world blew open to reveal the disparities hauntingly prevalent across and within nations. I came to Fuller to be a part of the Headington Program in the School of Psychology, a research lab focusing on stress, trauma, and spirituality among humanitarian aid workers internationally and locally. Through these years of study, while continuing cross-cultural and clinical training within the diversity of Los Angeles, I also pursued international experiences through my local church, nongovernmental organizations, and opportunities through Fuller. Serving at various international gatherings of expatriate workers, including an international conference with a team of Fuller School of Psychology students, I experienced the celebratory joys, grief in loss and struggle, and confusion in faith and meaning among expatriate and local ministry workers from all over the world.

Cross-cultural collaboration also opened the door for me to pursue clinical research that was being done within communities by local organizations, namely the opportunity to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, and collaborate with Fuller alum Dr. Gladys Mwiti for my dissertation on the effects of trauma after the Kenya post-election violence in 2008. Through ministry opportunities outside of Fuller, I also learned firsthand about the individual and collective effects of war trauma and challenges between programs and communities in refugee camps on the border of Thailand and Burma.

We dedicate much of our clinical training at Fuller to the integration of psychology and theology. When I consider it within the context of my life journey, which started even before I was born by my parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Korea, I know for certain that integration comes alive when worldviews collide, and together, we grapple with what it means to shine like “a city on a hill.” I think back and hear the sound of integration in the resolute voice of a 13-year-old Chinese student I encountered that summer in 2004 before I came to Fuller. She told me that her chosen English name was “‘Never.’ Because I never give up,” and she later made a decision to pursue a relationship with Christ. From China to Kenya, Indonesia to the U.S., Thailand to Burma, the voice of Never reminds me that, when it comes to embodying faith within the complexities of humanity and culture, we cannot afford to ever give up.

Hana J. Shin is a PhD student in clinical psychology working with Assistant Professor of Psychology Cynthia Eriksson in the Headington Program.

This article was published in Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2011, “Where In the World Are We? Reflections on Fuller’s Expanding Global Reach.”