Rev. Sarah Hae Kyung Roelofs was appointed by the Christian Reformed Church’s Board of Trustees to direct its Chaplaincy and Care ministry. She will start in April 2017.
At age 32, Roelofs is well traveled. She has a breadth and depth of experience that impressed trustees, even though she initially resisted God’s call to ministry.
Born in South Korea and raised in the CRC in Pella, Iowa, Roelofs graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, preparing to be a teacher. She went to Calvin Theological Seminary, intending to be a better teacher. “Through seminary I continued to wrestle with that calling [to ministry],” she said. Once she embraced the calling and found relief, she discovered what chaplaincy was about and it all fit. “I wanted to sit with people and hear their story, help them cope. Before I started my last year at seminary, I was feeling like God and I were kind of on the same page.”
But then life got hard, she said. She told the trustees that she became pregnant, and she was not married at the time. “It felt like my world was crashing, that one bad mistake would maybe prohibit me from ever serving the church.” So she met with professors she trusted and felt the calling not to disappear but to repent and ask forgiveness. “This is part of my story, but it’s not where it ends.”
She married Justin Roelofs and moved to Minnesota right after her graduation so she could start her chaplaincy training. “It was the hardest year of my life,” she said. “My husband joined the army and he was deployed to Iraq; [our] daughter was 14 months old, and then I found out I was pregnant with our second child,” she said. “Through all that, God’s call to chaplaincy was so strong that I could not deny that this was where he was calling me to be.”
In addition to working in hospital chaplaincy in Indiana and Colorado, Roelofs is a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, a position she will give up to take on this new job. She is also Board Certified with the Association of Professional Chaplains.
Roelofs told trustees that her strengths for this role are her passion for ministry and her chaplaincy skills. She admitted that the one thing she is nervous about is knowing how to work binationally. “There are unique things about Canadian church. It’s a large country with really different challenges on the west coast, here, in the north, and in the east. How I want to address them is listening,” she said. She added, “I’m great at saying ‘I don’t know this.’”
She is excited to be in leadership in the Christian Reformed Church. “I loved the Journey 2020 videos,” she said. “I cried. That’s what I want our churches to be and I want to be a catalyst to actualize that.”
Roelofs succeeds Rev. Ron Klimp, who has served as the Director of Chaplaincy and Care Ministries since January 2010.
Chaplains are pastors who usually serve in specialized settings such as prisons, hospitals, counseling centers, and on military installations, bringing the gospel as the minister to people’s physical and emotional needs.