Wedding Photos Luke&Shinhae-103

(The message below was written by a former ENoK volunteer about his marriage to a former NK refugee student at Empower House.)

It still feels a bit surreal that I am a married man. It’s already been ten months! My wife and I began dating early last year, but the journey to our wedding happened *so* *much* faster than we had imagined. We got to know each other through ENoK, after she enrolled in the Empower house program in 2014 and built our friendship – slowly but surely – on authentic conversations and squash workouts. I found that we have shared experiences and worldviews that made it easy to feel connected with each other. She came to be a close friend and confidant as I struggled with my identities, work, difficult life questions, and everything else. I admired her for the wise woman that she is, always giving fresh perspectives and positive energy.

Our wedding happened last November in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where I spent most of my childhood. We had a small wedding with family, mentors, and a few close friends. We planned the wedding in just two months! It was super hectic, but we pulled it off. (And also, thank goodness we made it happen last year just before the pandemic) My wife’s adoptive parents flew in from South Korea and blessed our union, which we were most grateful for. Several of our friends came from places as far as UAE and UK,, and many friends sent in beautiful letters and messages in lieu of attendance.

We’ve settled in and grown a lot as a couple after our wedding. A pandemic happened, followed by a lockdown, and then we were almost forced to spend so much time together in a confined space that is our studio apartment in Chicago. For some couples, it’s not the best thing in the world to lose individual space, but for us, it gave us a time to understand and love each other more deeply. We still go through the normal ups and downs of life as husband and wife, but after every challenge we feel more bonded and our commitment renewed – that’s how we know we’ve been made for each other. We’re happy to report that we’re living a fulfilling married life.

My wife recently graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary and myself from the University of Chicago. This season of graduation meant a lot to us especially because it was my wife’s first graduation, ever. Even though the ceremonies were virtual, it was a truly special moment. My wife is extremely grateful to everyone who has helped her to be here today. At McCormick, she found a community of international students she loves and now works as a program assistant to a professor there. I found my next job at the University of Chicago so we will be here in Chicago, for the foreseeable future.