by Grace Lee • Director of Diversity
“Do I really need to graduate? Can’t you just fail me in a few classes?” This was a question I jokingly asked a staff member at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy during my senior year. The truth is I was scared of leaving the four walls of ELCA that gave me so much security and comfort growing up in Christian education. Facing peer pressure and the fear of becoming a different person in college created doubt that I wouldn’t succeed on a college campus. It’s funny how God works because my biggest fear leaving high school became my biggest strength.
After graduating from ELCA in 2008, I attended Georgia State University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy. As a commuter student coming from a single-parent household, I had two jobs, working at my family’s hotel and being a tour guide for undergraduate admissions. I loved serving as an ambassador to the President’s Office at my university and helped address student’s concerns as Vice President of Student Government Association. People ask me if my proudest moment at GSU was becoming Homecoming Queen and I say, “no.” Being true to myself and keeping my integrity as a Christian is my greatest achievement from my college experience.
I did not realize it until I graduated college, but ELCA played an instrumental part in understanding who I am in Christ and not finding my worth through my friends or the world. It was through Coach Harris’ encouragement, inspiration from Coach Allen, or Mr. McClure telling me in Bible class, “Be in the world, but not of it.” Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God gave me the confidence to be different, to be the one drinking orange juice at a party when everyone else was drinking alcohol.
This confidence gave me a passion to work in higher education at Georgia State, serving international students and helping students apply to college. Fear struck again when the Director of National Scholarships in the Honors College said, “I think you’re the perfect candidate for the Fulbright scholarship program.” I started the process to apply for the prestigious scholarship funded by the U.S. State Department to teach English in South Korea. Just a few months before the deadline, I became intimidated. My doubt loudly yelled, “You are not qualified for this scholarship. It’s embarrassing to apply for something you won’t get so give up before you try.” So I never hit submit on a dream I wanted to pursue.
The following year, my fear was replaced with unrelenting faith and I told myself, “Grace, give this application process 110%. If you don’t receive the scholarship, you at least know you’ve given your very best through the process.” Twelve drafts of essay revisions, reassured confidence, and eleven months later, I received the news I was going to be a cultural ambassador to the United States helping to promote mutual understanding between the United States and South Korea. Besides giving my life to Christ, this was the happiest moment of my life.
I lived 7,000 miles away from home to challenge my thinking of “Who I am is more important than what I do.” It would’ve been very easy for me to continue working at GSU. I found worth through my job title and reputation. But God was calling me out into the waters, to find him in the middle of a new country, new job, and new environment.
Teaching English in South Korea as a Fulbright scholar led me to ELCA. Immediately upon my return to the United States, I taught preschool through the Early Learning Academy. Now, I have the privilege of promoting cultural diversity at ELCA as the Director of Diversity but also improving the lives of children at Korean orphanages through Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission.
From Jamaica working with the local community on ELCA’s mission trips to serving orphans in South Korea, my foundation of understanding Kingdom Education and what it means to be a Christ follower was deeply rooted walking the walls of this school. Every day, I am excited to come here because of the people, from listening to Diversity Council students share about their weekend, to exchanging laughs and hugs with colleagues who have become friends. It’s hard to be frustrated with life when you have Wednesday morning devotions with all staff, just singing together as one voice, giving praise to God for his blessings and for being our Heavenly Father. Every day reminds me there is a greater purpose to our lives than ourselves. Being here is more than a job; it’s a calling to show love to every single person we come in contact with because Christ loved us first.
As I’ve recently entered my 30s, I have two prayers: to pursue God and to adopt; another dream he’s placed on my heart for several years. I have no idea what the future holds but with all God has done, through the beautiful seasons and storms, I will embrace the unknown. Although I faced doubt leaving high school and fear while applying for the Fulbright scholarship, I have confidence for what lies ahead because He holds my future and directs my path.
Grace Lee started her journey at ELCA as an 8th grade student until she graduated her senior year, class of 2008. Receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy from Georgia State University, she worked in Undergraduate Admissions for six years as a student tour guide and Admissions Counselor. After teaching English in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she started working at ELCA in 2016. Since then, she’s taught pre-school, middle school English, and now serves as our Director of Diversity. In this role, she is the coordinator of our student and staff Diversity Councils and helps build cultural diversity through events, professional development, and classroom activities. In her spare time, she loves hiking in north Georgia mountains and getting lost in time with nature photography.