The sign modestly reads “Grace Chapel.”
This sign, and the picture of it, encapsulate everything one needs to know about the ministry of our brothers and sisters in Christ at the Korean United Methodist Church of Bloomington, Indiana. This congregation, nestled on a small parcel of land directly across the street from Indiana University, isn’t about flashy services, grand architecture, or giant pipe organs. This church, under the leadership and vision of Pastor Daeki Kim, is all about reaching an age group that most of us are ill-equipped to serve or even relate to… those going to college.
Here is the unassuming Pastor Daeki now!
If the challenges of reaching these young men and women were not enough, they have the added focus of reaching international students. As you probably surmised from the sign, their specialty is reaching those from South Korea. But Pastor Daeki has dreams of having multi-national outreach and services involving students from all over the world!
Currently, the “year-round” members of this church (numbering less than 50) provide services to hundreds of students. The services offered are not just worship oriented, they include many educational, devotional, youth, and outreach programs. On Sunday many regular members attend an early service then move to their kitchen, where they prepare a traditional Korean meal for the students attending worship services later in the day. Think back to how appreciative you were of free food when you were in college, now imagine being in a country where you can’t easily find your version of “home-cooking.”
As you can guess, ministry, of this type is filled with difficulties. Please allow me to share some of their unique challenges:
- A very limited number of “giving units” support hundreds of temporary visitors (i.e. students).
- Pastor Daeki needs to teach his message in a very short amount of time.Existing students are graduating and new students are arriving each semester.
- Being that Pastor Daeki and a large number of his congregation are Korean, our language differences can present challenges.
- Greater than the language barrier; our cultural differences can be very pronounced.
- We Americans can be like “bulls in a china shop” (quite unintentionally) while the Korean people tend to be reserved and humble. (I’ll never forget the look on the Pastor’s face as I neglected to take off my shoes when entering his home. He was quick to hide it, and would never call attention to my rude behavior, but I quickly realized my error).
- And finally, did I mention these were college kids they’re ministering to?!
Here are some of their talented students now!
Pretty big list of challenges isn’t it? Would that be enough to discourage and scare you away from even attempting a ministry such as this? Most of us if being honest with ourselves would say, “No way, this isn’t for me!” But not Pastor Daeki, their church leadership teams, and their lay leaders. They stood up and said, “Here I am Lord!”
Here’s the wrinkle; here’s the need. This is the parsonage… the home… that Pastor Daeki, his beautiful wife, and their children live in…
Looks quaint from this recent Google street-view doesn’t it?
Well here is a shot of the conditions within…
Let that sink in a moment.
Out of respect for Pastor Daeki and his family, I’ll not show interior shots of the “livable” spaces. I’ll not show the evidence of rats and mice in the home. I’ll not show the cracking walls and the falling plaster. I’ll not show the single bedroom that the pastor, his wife, and his two very young children shared last winter because there wasn’t enough heat to warm the home.
What you do see in these pictures is mold, visible presence of standing water, and a foundation that you can quite literally see through.
These aren’t pictures from a third world country. These aren’t pictures from far off missionaries. This is Bloomington Indiana, USA… directly across the street from one of the most prestigious music schools in the world.
Thankfully before the cold weather arrived this year this came to our attention via the South East District’s amazing Superintendent, Beverley Perry. A team of volunteers descended upon this basement, killed the mold, painted every surface, fixed the furnace and heating ducts, and installed a new sump pit with a new pump.
These volunteers also stood up and said, “Here I am Lord!”
The repairs, while taking care of the immediate needs of health and warmth for the family, are just temporary in nature… they are a bandage. What this parsonage needs, and what this congregation cannot do on their own, is to be demolished and a new one put back in its place.
I can already see an argument forming in the minds of some to this idea (I say this because I myself thought it initially). Are you saying like I did, “Why not tear it down, fill in the hole, and pay the pastor a housing allowance?” or, “Why not just sell the property?” Or are you even thinking, “How did they let the home get in such disrepair?” This parsonage is not in this condition due to the competency level of their trustees, their leaders, or anyone else. The parsonage is in this condition because they were too busy doing the real ministry of Christ to worry about themselves.
Oh… did I forget to mention that Pastor Daeki awakes every morning… very early in the morning… walks across the alley, and leads a bible study? Did I mention that the family opens their home up to others? I probably don’t have to point out that most college students do not have a car on campus and this is particularly true for foreign students.
Pastor Daeki is not going anywhere.
Will you stand up and say, “Here I am Lord!”?