Personal History of Korean American Ministry (part 2)

Where did I leave off (see part 1)?  Oh yeah, my ungodly teen years (that was the late 70s and early 80s.  I didn’t mean to get into my personal life, though that might be interesting, I just wanted to outline Korean American Ministry through my personal experience not as a scholarly study.

late 60s – early 70s > the first Korean churches in large metropolitan areas begin to be established.  I came to the US in 1971 when I was 7 years old.  This was a time when Koreans really appreciated meeting each other.  If you met a Korean on the street, it was  like meeting your lost brother.

mid-late 70s > Korean churches multiply, often by splitting, the first wave of primarily English-speaking youth emerge.  Korean churches begin to look for English speaking youth workers.  I don’t remember how many youth pastors served at my church, but it seemed that every six months or so, there was a new youth pastor.  We even had a Caucasian JDSN once.  Korean churches begin to experience tension between reaching out to English-speaking Korean youth and trying to preserve the Korean language and culture. The first-generation made a lot of mistakes in how they handled this situation, yet I must give them some credit for trying to organize events for the young people. In 1978 (or was it 1979?), my father and other pastors in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania organized the first SFC (Student For Christ) conference.  I think there were about 500 people (teenagers, college students, etc) who attended.  I think it was the first big youth retreat of its kind in the East Coast (I’m not sure about this, but it was the first one I ever been to that large). For that time, it was large.  The SFC Conference was kinda crazy. Most of the kids were there for not-so-godly reasons. It was a chance to meet people.  At night, some people prayed, some partied, some played poker.  However, it was at this first SFC that I received Christ as my Savior and Lord.  I responded to an altar call.  I’m not sure if I was moved merely by emotion, but God used that experience to plant something in my heart.  However, I do not bank my assurance based upon that response. For a few weeks I tried to be “holy” – read the Bible, pray a lot, and tried not to watch too much TV. That was about the extent of my understanding of sanctification. This lasted for a few weeks but then school started and it was like nothing had happened.  All I wanted to do was fit into the crowd in high school. 

During my childhood and teenage years, I saw in my parents and many other grown ups a living faith that I respected. However, I felt like I lived in two different worlds: the church world and the school world; the Korean world and the American world; the spiritual world and the secular world.

early – mid 80s > The bigger Korean churches have established Youth Ministries and begin to move into Campus ministry (College Ministry).  Retreats are the central focus of these ministries.  Most of the youth and college leaders are 1st generation or 1.5 generations.  There were hardly any 2nd generation or English-only youth leaders. Two of the most popular speakers for youth were 1st generation pastors who spoke English well. Rev. David Sangbok Kim from Maryland and Rev. Mark Hongsoo Kim from Chicago.  These two were the keynote speakers at the first SFC Conference and many other conferences and retreats.  There were some 1.5 generation youth pastors that started to emerge during this time in the early 80s – Victor Kim (Chicago), Ron Chu (Pittsburgh and New Jersey).  I’m sure there were others, but these two are the ones I know well.  They were two of the pioneers of English-speaking ministry in the Korean American Church.

mid-late 80s > My life was transformed in 1985 during the first semester of my senior year in college. It will take me a long time to write about this so I’ll stop here, until part 3.

 Thanks for reading….


4 Responses to Personal History of Korean American Ministry (part 2)

  1. David Park says:

    Enjoying the personal story. Keep it up.

  2. Sam says:

    Thanks Billy. Seems like memory lane for me. Billy, what I realize is that your history (much like my KA ministry) is very East Coast-Midwest Centric. Most of the Califnornians I meet don’t know anything about SFC, Alpha-Omega, KACERS, etc.

  3. Billy Park says:

    Sam, that’s an excellent point. California is far ahead of the game when it comes to immigrant history and church history because of the high concentration of Korean and Korean churches. Each area of the country is very different as well as the influence of nearby seminaries. The impact of seminaries upon KA English speaking ministries is huge since most youth and EM pastors, until recently, were seminarians or straight out of seminary.

  4. paulmkim says:

    can’t wait till part 3; after that, a prequel! seriously, this is a good outline for a book;

    yeah, i remember talking to californians like joshua from hana church about alpha omega; but it was the highlight of my own youth experience in chicago;

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