November is Adoption Awareness Month in the U.S. In the past 15 years, more than 260,000 children have come to the United States to join their families through international adoption. A Korean United Methodist church in Tennessee also has an annual event to celebrate children who are Korean. It is a day filled with fun and chances to learn more about the culture, and it is designed especially for families who have adopted children from Korea.
Jill Clemence: "The church was so warm and welcoming, loved our kids and us too."
Virginia Yang, Director of the Korean Adoption Family Ministry: "We realized there are so many families who adopted Korean kids. So we just want to be good friends with them and we organized this ministry."
For six years now, Virginia Yang and others from Nashville Korean United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, have hosted a Family Celebration to share native Korean culture with adopted children and their parents.
Church members demonstrate Korean games and painting techniques, and offer a chance to try on traditional Korean clothing and sample favorite foods.
Jon Stanley was born in Korea and adopted by a U.S. family. He never had much immersion in his native culture growing up. Jon and his wife want to embrace this experience with their 4-year-old adopted Korean daughter.
Jon Stanley, Adoptive Parent: "Now having adopted a child myself it's made me realize even more that, you know, being Korean is really part of my DNA, as is being adopted. And it's something I'm very proud of and something that we talk much more about as a family than my parents did."
Sun-sil Danner was also adopted and has an adopted daughter. The whole Danner family enjoys trying new foods and music.
Sun-sil Danner, Adoptive Parent: "They've done some tae kwon do. I'd just like them to just know a little bit of where I came from, and then too where...our daughter...came from."
Jill Clemence, whose two sons are Korean, says the church is filling a void for families who have no other way to connect with Korean culture.
Jill Clemence Adoptive Parent: "We've always wanted our kids to learn about their culture and heritage. But we get to learn about it, too."
Virginia Yang, Nashville Korean United Methodist Church: "The best thing they said, like, they had, like, good relationship and then friendship with us. And they were very impressed by our hospitality."
Jon Stanley: "One of the reasons why we felt more comfortable with this event is that we knew that it was affiliated with The United Methodist Church. And, you know, The United Methodist Church is one that we've belonged to since we were married. The United Methodist Church is really part of who we are."
Organizers encourage other churches to consider reaching out in this way, to touch families and build ties in their community.
Virginia Yang: "What makes the success for this event is to form a friendship, OK, that lasts like (a) lifetime."
One of the activities was to paint on a screen, which was placed around a wire frame to create a lampshade. Each family was able to take one home as a memento.
Nashville Korean United Methodist Church hosts other events during the year too, like Lunar New Year celebrations and Korean Thanksgiving. And the church assists families if they need translation help to correspond with contacts in Korea.
For more information, contact the church at 615-373-0880, www.nkumc.net.
This video was first posted on May 2, 2014.