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 GodÊ¼s 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.