A Broken Heart in Korea

We were on top of a mountain, out of breath and chilled to the bone, overlooking the city of Seoul. We faced every direction from the south of Seoul, to the north where there is corruption and people captive. We prayed: for the truth to penetrate the young generation, for a reconciled nation, and for those who do not know the living word.

For weeks I had been preparing for this moment, excited to be standing on divided land, praying truth, and bringing in healing for the nation. I was there for Korea, but God was there for me. In this moment and many others throughout our week in Korea, I broke.

The most important lesson I learned was this: there is flesh crying and there is spirit crying.

On our last full day, it was my birthday. Jesus gave me the best gift I could ever get: the opportunity to serve the poor. Since my early teens I dreamed of a life devoted to living with and serving the poor communities of the world. I always pictured myself in a bustling Indian city, like Kolkata, lifting the dying of the streets and helping them to die with dignity and comfort. In the center of Seoul, a glimpse of this dream materialized in the natural, but I was too consumed with myself to fully receive the blessing.


예수 사랑하심은

거룩하신 말일세

yeh-soo sah-rahng-hah-sheem-eun

guh-rook-ha-shin mal-eel-she

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the bible tells me so…



We all stood in the dining room singing out the simple lyrics. I tried singing, then simply mouthing the English words, but I ended up just standing there with a quivering lip, fighting back the elephant tears trying to tip over my eyelids. When my dear friend leaned over and said to me, “Stella, you’re going to do great,” the flood gates opened, and I silently blubbered as the song went on…for we are weak, but he is strong.

I would love to say I was purely grieving for the nation and its people, but I was thinking of my own life, feeling that I was failing and dreading the next few steps. God was looking down, but I was looking ahead, feeling alone and inadequate and thinking woe is me. My flesh was crying.


Two weeks later, I was craving kimchi and missing the beautiful culture and language of Korea, so I started watching a Korean drama.

Korea’s work culture is strong. Not in the sense of a corporate community, but in the idea that hard work is mandatory. They work long hours that wear down their well being. In this Korean drama, one character worked three part-time jobs, went to school, and dealt with complicated family issues, but there was someone who wanted to love her and take care of her. The sous chef was smitten with her, baking her snacks, giving her cups of cool water, and always making sure she got on her bus to get home at the end of the night. She liked him, but she felt defeated, telling him, “Don’t be nice to me. When I think that someone likes me, it makes me weak and I cannot afford to be weak.”

Like Jesus, I wept. Initially I thought it was an overload of empathy or this character, but I went for a walk and the Lord began to talk. He revealed to me that this was spirit crying. My spirit was mourning my own belief that everything was my responsibility, that I don’t deserve to be taken care of, and that I must always work to support myself.

My heart was broken, not just for myself, but for all those who feel that they are not enough or that they are not worthy. My spirit knew the truth, but my heart was not quite aligning with the truth. The dissonance resulted in tears, that God collected and keeps for the day he will use them to water the truth being birthed in my heart.


“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15.


Broken hearts are seen as something to be avoided, but without the breaking, we cannot let Jesus come to fill the cracks. Our world is fractured in so many ways, and we respond in both spirit and flesh. No matter the reason for the breaking, whether it is a divided nation or a divided identity, God will always come to comfort and fill us up with the Truth.