Jezelyn moved from the Philippines to South Korea seeking a better life—and thought she had found one, falling in love and marrying a South Korean.

Migrant center comes alongside women in South Korea

Jezelyn moved from the Philippines to South Korea seeking a better life—and thought she had found one, falling in love and marrying a South Korean.

But then it all went wrong. Jezelyn’s husband passed away when she was six months pregnant, and her Korean in-laws couldn’t assume the obligations associated with a newborn, let alone a widowed daughter-in-law. They urged her to return to the Philippines, to her family there. But this would mean she would have to abandon her dream and lose Korean citizenship for her child.

That’s where Pastor Jones Galang came in. Galang works with migrants through the Osan Migrant Mission Center, a partner of RCA Global Mission. The center, a part of the Presbyterian Church of Korea’s ministry, provides extensive social services to migrant workers in Osan and the surrounding area.

“We have made much progress on immigrant issues,” says Galang, “and have lately been shifting our focus to married migrants, especially those who marry a Korean.”

Friends of Jezelyn who had received help from the center urged her to do the same. Galang, understanding the nuances of Korean family culture, knew that Jezelyn needed to demonstrate that she could support herself financially.

The center provided her with a place to stay until she gave birth. It then assisted in registering the baby as a Korean citizen and obtained a visa for Jezelyn so she could not only stay but legally work to support her child.

The help didn’t end there. With additional assistance from the center, Jezelyn found a job in a factory, and the center continues to provide daycare for the child. 

The result? Jezelyn is worshiping at the center’s Sunday services, and her in-laws are getting to know their new grandchild.

“The Bible gives strict warnings against taking advantage of poor and downtrodden people: ‘He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God,’” says Galang, citing Proverbs 14:31 (NIV). “God’s people are to help whoever is in need.”

The Osan Migrant Mission Center helps migrants with labor counseling and mediation of wage claims and other benefits, health and medical assistance, domestic violence prevention and advocacy, education related to cultural awareness and integration, strengthening workers’ associations, and coordination of social activities. It also hosts Bible studies and worship services.

According to Galang, nearly 1.5 million foreign nationals reside in Korea (as of September 2012). Almost two-thirds of these migrant workers are women (according to the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants). The number of those women who marry Koreans has increased more than 8 percent in the past year, to nearly 140,000.

“And most of them work in the lowest sort of jobs,” says Elizabeth Plotado, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, who is pastor at Livingstone Filipino Community Church, another ministry sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of Korea. 

Galang’s past work focused broadly on the Filipino migrant community in Korea. That’s been shifting recently, both narrowing its focus and broadening its constituency. On the one hand, there is Hanfil, an organization for Filipina migrants married to Koreans; on the other is Teresa, an organization for women migrant workers, regardless of country of origin. Assistance is also being offered to migrants from Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

“Let us continue the mission that God has entrusted to us,” says Galang. “Let us continue to work for peace and justice and to promote the welfare of all people. Following the words of Matthew 25:40, we serve God most when we serve others.”

Pray for the work of the Osan Migrant Mission Center, and for the vulnerable migrant workers it comes alongside.

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