A team of Korean American leaders in ministry are aiming to “reclaim” and share the story of a Korean American pastor who they believe modeled the faith through his life and death.
Called “A Triple Immigrant: Rev. Kye Yong Kim’s Spiritual Legacy,” the project will spotlight the life of Kye Yong Kim, the founding pastor of Young Nak Presbyterian Church (YNPC) in Los Angeles, who is also known for passing away during his last trip to North Korea.
The project is being spearheaded by a committee including Paul Yang, the senior pastor of Pilgrim Church in New Jersey and the project committee chair; Michael Lee, the senior pastor of Young Nak Celebration Church (YNCC) and the vice chair of the committee; Kwang Ja Park, the former director of education at YNPC; and Young Lee Hertig, the executive director of the Innovative Space for Asian American Christianity (ISAAC) and the project director.
“I was so influenced by his leadership and character, that even today I sometimes ask myself, ‘If Rev. Kim was in my position, what would he do?’” Yang, who previously served at Young Nak as its first English ministry pastor when Kim was the senior pastor, said at a project launching meeting hosted by YNCC on May 19. YNCC is the independent English congregation that emerged from YNPC.
“I really want to share his legacy with as many people as possible, and writing a book would be the best way,” Yang added.
Indeed, the aim of the project is to interview those who have had firsthand interactions and relationships with Kim, and publish a book that highlights aspects of Kim’s life, character, and impact, as well as lessons from his life that ministers could apply in today’s context.
The idea came about from a student named Jonathan Hong who participated in an ISAAC summer internship, said Hertig at the launching meeting, which was attended mostly by members of YNCC.
Hong, who is also a member of YNCC, was placed as an intern at West Angeles Church of God in Christ through ISAAC. During the internship, the leaders at West Angeles shared the history of the church. After that experience, Hong expressed to Hertig that he wished such resources on the history of his own church were also available. Though there are resources available in the Young Nak library, all of them are in Korean, Hertig said.
“As part of the younger generation, I think I can speak for a majority of my generation when I say that we long to learn from people who are living by faith,” Hong, whose grandfather Soon Kun Hong was a founding elder of YNPC, said during the internship.
“Hearing about the lives of people who have come before us, who have prayed for the future faith of the Church, and who have lived the faith that the Bible teaches, would not only encourage us as believers in this world but challenge us to remember the faithfulness of God,” he said.
Documenting and disseminating Kim’s story will not only allow the members of Young Nak to gain a deeper understanding of their church roots, but will also provide Korean Americans in ministry an opportunity to learn from someone who has come before and lived out his faith from a similar ministry context, according to Hertig, who added that she hopes this resource will be made available in seminaries as well.
Kim as a person has lived a life that could serve as exemplary for any Christian, she and the other project committee members said. He had “foresight” and was “inclusive,” as Hertig put it, to hire a woman on a pastoral role at that time, and to initiate an English-speaking ministry at a Korean immigrant church. He was “a trailblazer,” and someone who gave his life living out his faith, she added.
“It’s time to reclaim this amazing, inspiring founder’s story and transmit it to the younger generation,” said Hertig. “They have a yearning to know.”
“This is not just about the past, but also about the present and the future,” she added.
The project committee aims to have the book published in 2018.