Second Generation Korean American Missionaries Grow God’s Kingdom in Central Asia
By Sandra Brands
In the 18 months since E. and P. Kim* were commissioned as Global Ministries missionaries and assigned to serve three years in Central Asia, the couple’s confidence in God’s call has only deepened.
“Before we were commissioned, we only had an idea of what the mission field in Central Asia would be like,” said P. Kim. “We had our ideas and plans for Central Asia. Since being commissioned and moving here, we realize more fully that God is the one in control, and that He has His own ideas and plans.”
The Kims’ assignment is to help The United Methodist Church in Central Asia grow and stabilize, eventually becoming self-sufficient.
“Our greatest challenge is how to build a strong foundation for the local congregation in terms of both spiritual and material growth,” P. Kim said. “Most of the churches serve impoverished communities and are still struggling financially.”
They are making progress. Despite being an underground movement in many areas, United Methodism in Central Asia is growing, creating new worship spaces for new people in new places.
As co-directors of the UMC Mission Center of Central Asia in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Kims provide administrative, programming and financial support to 12 churches and Bible groups, support United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men’s groups, and train Sunday school teachers. A key part of their work is to help identify and train local leaders to strengthen local churches.
“Through indigenous local leadership, these churches serve as the main vehicle through which Christ is shared to others,” P. Kim said. “So long as these churches remain vibrant places where the love of Christ can be experienced, they will continue to grow in inviting others into a relationship with Christ.”
The church is growing, she said, through the ministry of young adults and youth. An annual Evangelistic Youth and Young Adult camp shares Christ with others. More than half of them have never heard the Gospel. At the end of the camp, many people commit themselves to God and to becoming members of United Methodist congregations.
“One of the remarkable testimonies of this camp is that there are already three individuals who are now in the process of becoming United Methodist pastors,” she said. “We are also encouraged to see new young adults enrolling every semester in our extension seminary of Moscow Theological Seminary.”
The Kims also support the local church’s mission outreach to the community, including monthly medical missions to the people in local villages through the Bishkek UMC Mission Center in Kyrgyzstan.
The couple lives with their two young children in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the largest city in Central Asia. P. Kim said the family has adjusted well to day-to-day life in a different culture. They still struggle with learning another language. Their daughter attends a local Russian school instead of an English-speaking school for children of missionaries, but it has still been difficult for her to develop friendships.
“One of the greatest challenges for us as parents is how to balance stewardship and pleasure,” P. Kim said. “In some ways, we want her to learn that as a family we can’t have the same standard of living as we used to and we need to make sacrifices. But, on the other hand, especially when she is struggling and feels sad, we want to splurge and cheer her up. It’s made even more difficult by the fact that the disparity between the poor and the rich is very severe here, and she has witnessed both ends of the spectrum.
“We use these experiences to teach her to be grateful and to be content with what she already has, instead of always wanting more.”
The small expatriate community in Central Asia means contact with other Americans is limited. The Kims are grateful for the Internet, which allows them to keep up with friends and family. They have even participated in an online worship service via Skype with the Abundant Life Community in San Diego, Calif. “The congregation was celebrating Missions Month and invited [my husband] to preach the Sunday sermon and [me to give] the children’s sermon.
“Even though it was through Skype, it was very encouraging for our family to worship with another church community in America,” she said. “We also felt honored to be able to share our mission story with the congregation.”
The Kims are the first second-generation Korean Americans to be commissioned as United Methodist missionaries. Their ties to other Korean United Methodists are strong.
“Our community affirmed us and celebrated our commissioning,” P. Kim said. “They also continue to support us through prayer and through The Advance. They have shared that our decision to uproot our family and move to Central Asia was inspiring and also a challenge for them to reconsider the importance of mission work.
“Being commissioned was a humbling and moving experience for us. We felt that it was not only God calling us to serve as missionaries but also felt affirmed of this calling by the presence of the Global Ministries’ board and staff, as well as our family and friends who were present at our commissioning service.”
Learn more about the work of the General Board of Global Ministries and opportunities to partner in mission with the global church.
Contact: Melissa Hinnen, public information officer, 212-870-3833, MHinnen@umcmission.org.
*The full names of some missionaries are withheld from publication for safety reasons.