Korean Pastors Of English-Speaking Presbyterian Churches In Canada

By Kevin Lee, Minister of Vision and Direction, St. Andrew's, Calgary, Alberta

After almost eight years at Bridlewood in Scarborough, Ontario, I accepted a call to St. Andrew's, Calgary, in beautiful Alberta. In September of 2014, I decided to drive across the country to begin my new journey. Along the way, I dropped in on friends that I had met on a retreat to Florida in 2013 for Korean pastors ministering in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Here is a brief account of their ministry.

My first stop was in Kapuskasing, Ontario, where the Rev. James Byung-Yun Ko leads an ecumenical shared ministry – a two-point charge of St. John's Presbyterian and Kapuskasing United Church.

James, his wife, and two sons welcomed us with a wonderful Korean meal as we were the first out-of-town guests since their arrival in Kapuskasing two years before. I was delighted to see the pictures of familiar faces in the entrance area of the church at St. John's – names such as the Rev. Morley Mitchell, founding minister of Amberlea, the Rev. Dennis Cook, currently serving in the Presbytery of Pickering, and the Rev. Dr. David Sherbino, looking splendid as he always does!

I made my way from Kapuskasing, which I found cold already by mid-September, across northern Ontario towards Thunder Bay, and after a night's rest, I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where my wife and I met up with the Rev. Captain David Inseob Won and his wife. Inseob is a chaplain at the air force base there. Before entering the chaplaincy, Inseob served a large Korean congregation as the worship pastor under the Rev. Cheol Soon Park, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. David was born in Korea, is a graduate of Knox College, a guitarist, a husband, a father, a minister and a chaplain, and still young to boot!

After our breakfast together, Inseob's wife, Sosun, gave us a traveller's pack with snacks and drinks and a CD of the album called "Good News", which she recorded.

My next stop in Manitoba was Carberry, where I met with two pastors ministering in the Presbytery of Brandon.

First, I met with the Rev. Min-Ho Yoo, who ministers at Knox-Zion in Carberry. Min-Ho has been serving there for a number of years. With him lives his high school-age daughter, while his wife has returned to Korea to resume her teaching career in design at a university. His wife visits twice a year, in winter and during the summer months.

One of the most impressive and inspiring aspects of the Korean ministers serving across Canada has been their willingness to make sacrifices to serve. I am currently in a similar situation, having made the move to Calgary while my wife remains in Toronto with our youngest daughter who is finishing high school. I now know personally how hard this is, and my admiration goes even deeper, knowing that many of them are not from rural communities to begin with, and when you consider their isolation from their culture, food, and friends, you begin to realize the scope of the challenge they have willingly embraced.

My next visit was with the Rev. Jeanie Lee serving at Knox in Neepawa, Manitoba. We met to have lunch together in the brand new casino in Carberry. Jeanie (pictured here on the left, with my wife Hannah) served together with Inseob in a large Korean congregation for over a decade as the Pastor of Children's Ministry before entering Knox College to pursue ordained ministry. The charge in Neepawa was supported through Canada Ministries, and Jeanie has now completed her first appointment. Knox is now currently a self-sustaining congregation. One of the most interesting aspects of Jeanie's ministry is the bi-lingual services at Knox. There is a small but vibrant Korean immigrant population in Neepawa, many of whom have come to work in the local meat processing plant. The services are in both Korean and English and their potluck suppers have the prerequisite Kimchi and rice as the staple items! Jeanie has managed to buy a home in Neepawa, where her daughter and grandchild come to visit.

My next stop took me to the spectacular prairie lands of Saskatchewan. Some people say that the drive through Saskatchewan is boring as there is nothing to see. I cannot disagree more! I now know why it is called the land of the Big Skies. In Saskatchewan, I met with the Rev. Jonathan Kwon ministering in Swift Current at St. Andrew's. Jonathan is a graduate of Knox College, and during his studies he frequently visited this province with the intent to minister here. After his graduation, the sponsoring presbytery in Saskatchewan certified Jonathan, and a congregation in Grenfell called him. In five short years, Jonathan helped to grow the small struggling congregation into an 80-member going concern.

After hearing at a presbytery meeting that St. Andrew's in Swift Current was slated to close, Jonathan asked the presbytery to send him with only one year of stipend guaranteed. There are so many interesting, innovative, cutting edge, and yet simple ministries going on at St. Andrew's that are so very inspiring and encouraging. First, the church is gorgeous both inside and out. Overgrown trees and shrubs have been cleaned up, new audio-visual equipment and new instruments were added, all donated by individuals. New programs include drumming class…jazz dance class…ESL classes…Taekwondo class (Jonathan is a black belt)…Tagalog (Filipino) class…Kimchi ministry (makes lots of kimchi and shares it with everybody). The best thing about St. Andrew's ministry is its ministry to children. There is art and familiar images that kids like posted everywhere throughout the church. There are little children's stools located in the front of the sanctuary for the children's time! I was so inspired that I wanted to stay and become a member of St. Andrew's. Sadly, I must report that Jonathan has resigned as of March 8 to return to Korea. He will be missed!

My next stop was in Bassano, Alberta, where the Rev. Peter Seok Ho Baek is the minister of Knox in Bassano and in Gem. The unassuming building from the outside is absolutely stunning inside. Great care has gone into the building with all of the original glass and 100-year-old pews, but also with all of the modern touches like a brand-new kitchen that Peter and other volunteers have installed. Knox is truly a community church with vital youth and children's ministry in partnership with a Korean congregation in Calgary sending volunteers to run summer camps.

The church often hosts large memorial services for community members who were not part of the Knox family. To assist them, they recently added a video system to accommodate all of the attendees in the fellowship hall. Once again, repeating a familiar refrain, the church is filled with signs that children are not only present, but welcomed.

I wish I could have posted more pictures here but due to the space limitations, I have posted only a few. If you would like to see more pictures of my journey across western Canada, please visit my Facebook page. Search me as "pastormaclee" and visit my 2014 posts and you will see the posts from my visits with ministers across Canada.

On the list that I have, there are approximately 20 Korean pastors ministering in non-Korean-speaking congregations across Canada. Here are their names and churches and communities they serve:

  • Rev. Joshua Jin-Soo Kang, St. Andrew's, Amherstburg, Ontario.
  • Rev. James Byung-Yun Ko, St. John's, Kapuskasing, Ontario.
  • Rev. Justin K. W. Kim, St. Paul's, Woodstock, New Brunswick.
  • Rev. Dong Ha Kim, First Presbyterian, Brandon, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Sean Kim, St. Andrew's, Perth, Ontario.
  • Rev. Owen Eun-Ho Kim, Knox and Kinlough, Teeswater, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jin Woo Kim, Memorial, Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
  • Rev. Thomas Jin-Hyuk, University, Toronto, Ontario.
  • Rev. Caleb H. K. Kim, St. Andrew's and Knox, Fenelon Falls, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jacob Juhang Lee, Bethel, Ilderton, Ontario.
  • Rev. Jeanie Lee, Knox, Neepawa, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Tim Choi, Edmonton Urban Native Ministry, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Rev. John Jungwoo Paeng, Knox's (Galt), Cambridge, Ontario.
  • Rev. Yong Wan Joey Cho, Cedar Tree Ministries, Cowichan Grace, Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Rev. Chuck Moon, Tolmie Memorial, Port Elgin, Ontario.
  • Rev. Peter Seok Ho Baek, Knox, Bassano and Gem, Alberta.
  • Rev. Min-Ho Yoo, Knox-Zion, Carberry, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Kevin Kyu-In Lee, St. Andrew's, Calgary, Alberta.
  • Rev. David Inseob Won, Canadian Armed Forces, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Rev. Wally Hong, Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church, Niagara Falls, Ontario.
  • Rev. Joshua Kang, York Memorial, Toronto, Ontario.

March Prayer Request: Please pray for the safety and return of the Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario, who went missing January 31 during a humanitarian mission, and is facing charges in North Korea. He has made hundreds of trips to North Korea where he helps in oversight of a nursing home, a nursery, and an orphanage.