This is the era of multiculturalism for 2 million people. If you look around, you can easily see neighbors with different skin colors and languages. However, Korean society's notion of multiculturalism is not keeping up with the changes of the times. To solve this problem, the Joongbooilbo has planned a ‘multi-culture story(다문화 스토리)’ that introduces multicultural neighbors living in various ways. ‘Multi-culture Story(다문화 스토리)’ aims to calmly capture the stories of multicultural people living around us and create changes in Korean society in the age of multiculturalism. -Ed-.
In front of a house in Namdong-gu, Incheon. When the reporters arrived, the interviewee greeted us with a bright smile. Upon entering the house under his guidance, his wife and eight children were huddled together in the living room. The family welcomed the unfamiliar reporters without any awkwardness. We only exchanged greetings, but there was a warm feeling from the consideration shown by the family. All the family members were dressed simply, and the furnishings were old, but the harmonious appearance full of love seemed richer than any other family. Ivan (40) and Jessica (36) Gallardo have been preaching the gospel for 13 years since they first set foot in Korea in 2010 for missionary work. The Gallardos, who are raising eight children, teaches that what is more important than money is to have faith in God and sincere belief. They say that people can find happiness even if they are not financially wealthy. Where do true happiness and faith come from? We talked with missionary couple Ivan and Jessica.
Q. What motivated you to convert to Catholicism?
Ivan: I was originally someone who believed that God didn't exist. My parents divorced when I was young. At that time, I thought, "If there was a God, he wouldn't have our family separated." My childhood was too tough. Then, one day when I was about 16 or 17 years old, I met a missionary by chance. He told me God loves me and will help me. When I heard that, I thought it was what a missionary, as is his wont, would say. How I was so curious. ‘what if the missionary said could be true? What if God really exists and will help me?’ Unbeknownst to me, I was heading toward the church. All my doubts were dispelled the moment I entered the church. I was able to notice the existence of God at once. It was a completely different experience than before.
Jessica: I went to church from a very young age. However, there was a decisive moment that made me love God even more. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was 12 years old. Fortunately, I made a full recovery, but the doctor said I would never be able to have children in the future. However, I married Ivan and we had a child. It was an unimaginable miracle. I thought it was all because God took care of us. And as you can see, we are currently raising 8 children.
Q. Why did you start missionary work?
Ivan: I was a banker in America. I made a lot of money and bought a house and a luxurious car. But on the other hand, there was something that was not filled. I always felt empty. A change was needed. I decided to become a missionary when I was 26 years old. It was the right age to start something new. Because I was young, I thought that even if I failed in a new challenge, I still have many opportunities to do new business. So I suggested that my wife try missionary work. Fortunately, Jessica agreed and we started a new life as missionaries.
Q. Is there a reason why you chose Korea as a mission field?
Ivan: Missionaries do not choose their own mission field. We are just going to the place the diocese ordained. So, when choosing a missionary country, a lottery is usually conducted. No matter which country comes out, I just have the willingness to go. I pulled a note from the draw basket with South Korea written on it. That's how my family came to Korea. At first, I had done missionary work in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do for 2years. After that, the Diocese of Incheon helped us to get a missionary visa, so we started living in Incheon.
Q. I am curious about the reaction of people around you when you say about your retirement from your job and missionary work abroad.
Ivan: When I said that I will quit my job as a banker, many people around me responded that they did not understand. They said they couldn't understand why I gave up a high salary and position. Some co-workers even thought I was out of my mind. Afterward, I explained why I will leave the company, and only then did the people around me congratulate me. Of course, there were people who didn't understand even if I explained it, but I didn't mind.
Q. You are raising eight children. Are there any practical difficulties?
Ivan: It is true that we are very poor economically. First of all, legally, missionaries in Korea cannot engage in economic activities other than missionary activities. In general, the parish provides some living expenses, albeit a small amount, to the missionaries. But I said I wouldn't accept it. Currently, we do all missionary work free of charge. Eating well and living well cannot be the goal of missions. The life of a pilgrim is simply to pursue living together with our neighbors. We live a poor but happy life.
Q. I can say you are rich by some measures because you have 8 children.
Ivan: I'm glad to hear that. In fact, many people worry about our family. I heard a lot of people asking if I would be able to raise children even though my circumstances were not that good. I fully understand why people around me send such words and gazes. Indeed, supporting eight children is not easy. But the existence of children is more precious than anything else. I feel true happiness when the whole family sits around and has dinner together.
Q. What kind of activities are you doing as a missionary?
Jessica: Our role is to spread the gospel. Everyone faces difficult moments in life. They may suddenly fall ill or lose their job and suffer life hardships. They may have trouble with their family or be bullied at school. We convey the word of God and comfort those who are having a painful and gloomy time. I pray for them so that they can persevere through pain without worrying too much or being sad. I wish all people have true faith in believing in God to overcome all suffering.
Q. What is true faith?
Ivan: It means the courage to fight without running away when a problem arises, and the mindset to not do bad things. We must have an attitude to solve problems with a positive thought that God will always help us. We must challenge ourselves to overcome difficulties, not avoid them.
Q. Christmas is coming soon. What if you pray for the people who are having a hard time?
Ivan: I think that even at this moment, many people are living with pain in the reality. The economy is getting harder and the infectious disease shows no sign of abating. Hundreds of young people who went to enjoy the festival ended their lives on the streets without warning. Korean society and citizens were deeply hurt. Also, Koreans are lonely. someone says this “Nobody loves me.” But that's not true. I hope they keep in mind that God is watching over them even at the moment when everyone turns away. People have to love themselves with true faith. I hope they never get sad or angry and live each day calmly. God will always be with you.
By Seyong Lee·Seungmin Kang
- [다문화人Story] "기적으로 낳은 8남매…가난해도 행복합니다" 美 출신 선교사 아이반·제시카 갈라르도 부부 다문화人Story다문화인 200만 시대다. 주위를 둘러보면 피부색도 언어도 다른 사람들을 쉽게 만날 수 있다. 하지만 우리 사회의 관념은 아직 변화를 따라가지 못하고 있다. 중부일보는 이에 대한 간극을 좁히고자 ‘다문화人Story’를 연재한다. ‘다문화人Story’는 다양한 모습으로 살아가는 다문화 이웃들의 이야기를 담담하게 소개하고 우리 사회의 변화를 함께 모색하고자 한다. -편집자 주-인천 남동구의 한 다세대 주택 앞. 취재진을 본 미국인 선교사 아이반 갈라르도(40) 씨는 환한 미소를 지었다. 안내를 받으며 들어선 집안에는 그