Will I Ever Be One of Them?

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Deep in thought, sitting on an old chair in the cafeteria of Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., I was struggling to find my identity as a foreign M.Div. student in a school populated by so many people of Dutch descent.

As a Korean student, I was a head shorter than many of the other students. Somehow I found myself trying to act like a tall, handsome young Dutch guy. Yet no matter how hard I tried to speak and act like the other students, I didn’t become one of them. No matter what I tried, I would never be one of them.

When I became a senior in 2006, I faced a big challenge in my seminary training. I needed to find an internship placement—and I was the only Korean student looking for an internship.

I desperately wanted to be a "Reverend" in the Christian Reformed Church. Would my dream come true?

I was so afraid that no one would hire me as their intern that I was about to give up my internship experience. But my wife asked me to apply anyway. Bravely, I filled out four internship applications. I desperately wanted to be a “Reverend” in the Christian Reformed Church. Would my dream come true?

After each of the first three interviews, I strongly felt that they didn't want me at all. My last interview was with Trinity CRC in Anchorage, Alaska. It was the worst one. An elder from Trinity made me laugh a lot while I was drinking water, and I sprayed all the water from my mouth in front of him. What a disaster! I was sure I’d screwed it up. After my interviews, I certainly didn't expect any good news.

About a week later, when I opened the letter from Trinity CRC, I couldn't believe it. Yes, a miracle had happened. Trinity CRC had picked me as their intern pastor! My family and I were so excited! Once again I began to dream about becoming a pastor in the CRC.

On June 1, 2006, my family and I arrived in Anchorage. Pastor Al and his wife, Gwen, brought us to the church. As Gwen was showing us all the rooms in the church building, she said, “Now, your job is to fill these rooms.” I thought, Really? How?

I found out that Trinity CRC used to be a big church, but was not anymore. Like other Christian Reformed churches, Trinity had programs for girls and boys, but not many kids were coming to the programs. My daughter was the only one in the girls’ club when she joined in 2006. Trinity had some young people, but they were not active at all.

For the first few weeks I had no idea what to do. Even worse, my feeling of not belonging kicked in once again. What am I supposed to do? How can I fill these empty rooms? How can I bring people to Trinity? How can I start my youth ministry? Trinity gave me incredibly hard jobs to do. They asked me to start a ministry at a local high school through Young Life, and to start an after-school club at a local elementary school through Child Evangelism Fellowship. My first reaction was What?

I began to visit a local high school where I didn't know anyone. I also started an after-school Bible club with my own two kids at a local elementary school.

Amazing things began to happen as I continued to visit the high school. I had a great opportunity to meet many Asian young people, especially Hmong people. Eventually, many of them came to Trinity to participate in a Bible study with me. Last year, I sent a Hmong boy to South Korea as a summer missionary.

Great things also happened at the elementary after-school club. I made a big sandwich-board sign out of a refrigerator box and stood in front of the school to advertise the club. With Godʼs blessing, the club began growing every week. A year later, more than 35 children were attending the club every Monday. In 2008 I also added a second after-school club at another elementary school. The second club also grew—and now almost 65 children attend the clubs.

Through those after-school programs, neighborhood children began to attend the church’s Sunday school and boys’ and girls’ programs. Now my daughter is one of more than 50 girls who have registered for the church’s GEMS program, and regular weekly attendance is about 25-30. A similar number of boys attend Cadets.

Our vacation Bible school story is even more amazing. In 2007 I used our family van to bring our neighbors’ children to Trinity's summer VBS program. The following year we had to buy a 15-passenger van to bring the kids to the church. And in 2010 we needed to borrow an additional van from our sister church (Crosspoint CRC) to bring all the kids to the church.

Along the way, something also happened to Trinity's youth ministry. Trinity's ministry to youth has been growing, with people attending from many different ethnic backgrounds, including Asians, Native people, Hispanics, African Americans, Africans, and Caucasians. We now have around 20 young people who regularly coming to Trinity's weekly youth meeting.

During the school year, I usually see more than 150 children and young people every week. Some attend the church programs on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. It’s my hope that all my students will attend Trinity or find another church to worship in. But I strongly believe that the gospel has been planted in each person’s heart. And I am satisfied with that.

The best part of the story? I finally became Reverend Kim in 2008. Trinity CRC called me as its youth and outreach pastor. The Trinity family has become my family. I know I belong because of the love that God has poured out on me through my sweet home church, Trinity CRC.

I don't know where God will lead me in the future. Yet I will do my best to serve God's people. I know that God is the one who is continually working in my heart. He is my heavenly Father.

About the Author

Rev. James Kim is a pastor at Trinity CRC in Anchorage, Alaska.

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Comments

Coming from one who is not Dutch, who also adopted the CRC as family and home; Rev. Kim, as to the title of this article- you already are.

May God continue to fill your ministry and life with more blessings than you can ever imagine!

This is a joy to read. As a former CRWM missionary and an expat resident in Seoul I rejoice in the vibrancy of the Korean churches. It's great to read of a Korean missionary to North America who is part of the CRC. This is what mission is about; the whole body of Christ deploying its missionaries where their gifts can most effectively be used.

Hi James and friends in ministry, What a joy to read the story of God's work through and around you! As a student at the seminary from 2002-06 I peer-mentored Korean students, proof-reading their papers and getting to know them and their families as brothers and sisters in Christ. The horizon of the CRC sure is bright when God opens our eyes to the work of his Son.

I'm reminded of the Canons of Dort, II, art. 8, "It was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those... who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father;"
Even though the CRC can have a homogenous appearance in places, our confessions have always pointed us to (and into!) the world-wide work of God, reflecting Acts. 1:8.
An-young-HA-say-oh! (a common Korean greeting)

James, what an encouraging piece. I had the great opportunity to have a year-long internship at Trinity back in 2002-2003. It was a wonderful year with the church, but it was also a year of significant struggle for the community. We left wondering what God would do with this small church that found itself at a challenging transition point. How uplifting to see that God had big plans and that his work in your life has intersected in a powerful way with this community. Blessings to the people up in Anchorage. We do still miss you.
Ben and Kelly

You have had a struggle, though I was greatly encouraged that our Lord and Master has used you in this mighty work. I wish all success for the future.
Harry.

James, thank you for your encouraging article. I thank God for you, for Trinity Church, and for the way God is blessing so many children through your ministry. As you conclude your article, God is your heavenly Father--and ours. That makes us brothers and sisters. You do belong to us and we belong to you because we all belong to our Father in heaven. May God continue to bless your ministry. Rich Sytsma

A great reminder of what Heaven will be like, "from ever tribe and nation"

The question in the title of your article is answered!
You always were and you always will be one of us!

Hi,James! Ooops, Hi, Reverend Kim! What a moving story! You have done it with style. I know how difficult it is to be one of them! But I also know that all of them including you and your family belong to Our Father's household. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

Pastor Kim... My brother...
What a great love story of God, you and church... Your humble confession and faith make me cry.... I love you, my brother.^^ God is with you as he has been... I thank God....^^

God Bless you, James Kim!

What a wonderful story of the providence of God. Grace is truly amazing- thanks for sharing it .

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