Turning to Faith
How did you come to St. Timothy?
I remember exactly that morning. Actually that weekend I was supposed to go out dancing with my friends and I think I told them on Saturday, “You know, I have this feeling: I need to go to church.” It just happened out of the blue. I was going through my second divorce, so things were really, really tough. It was like three years into my second divorce. Times were really, really hard, so I felt totally lost. For some reason that day, I said “This weekend, I don’t know what it is, I need to go to church.” My girlfriend said, “You’re crazy. You’re finally going crazy. And a Korean church? You’ve been divorced a couple of times, you know, you’re asking for it.” So I said, “I’m not going to a Korean church.” I got up that morning and I think it was January 26, something like that
It was pouring rain and I used to do yoga. I knew I didn’t want to miss my yoga class, so I went, got up at nine in the morning and I drove around my area. There were so many different churches with different names, like Baptist and Anglican and I didn’t know which was what. I went into one of the churches and I sat down. I’m looking at the time and the sermon wasn’t going to start until another hour. So I thought, “Oh, I’m going to miss my yoga class.” So I came out of that church and I called a friend, from Korea, who I drove to [St. Timothy] church once. I remember that it was an afternoon sermon. I called my friend from Korea and said, “How do I get to that church?” And my friend started crying because I said, “I’m going to go to church.”
He was totally shocked. And he said, “Rathburn”. So that’s all I remember. I got on the highway, finished my yoga class and rushed over here. As soon as I turned on Martin Grove, I felt like I was lost. In my mind, I said to God in a really arrogant way, “Okay, you really want me to hear you? Show me the way, cause I think I’m lost.” Because I came through Ravenscrest when I dropped him off, but this time I was coming through Martin Grove, so I knew I was lost. It was way past one o’clock so I knew I was totally lost. As soon as I came up the hill, I saw a small sign saying “St. Timothy Church.” I was so scared because the minute I actually prayed and said, “Show me the way, cause I’m totally lost”, the sign came up and I came into the church.
When I walked into the sanctuary, they were already singing. I think from the moment that I sat down, for the whole service, I cried. I cried and cried and cried and I don’t even know what I was crying for or why I was crying. It almost felt like I came home. That kind of feeling. I thought, “Nobody knows who I am. I don’t know anyone who’s here.” So I thought nobody would know that I even came. At the last hymn, I was going to leave. We were saying the last prayer, and as I got up to leave, someone behind me fainted. So everybody turned around to see who was fainting. My step uncle happened to see me. When they were doing a prayer and I was walking out, someone called my name. That’s how I came to this church. If he didn’t see me, if that lady didn’t faint behind me, I don’t know. I don’t what would have happened because I had no intentions of continuing to go to church. All I felt was that I needed to come to church. And from that day, here I am. It’s been 15 years, going on 16.
What happened from there on?
That day’s sermon was on Mark 1, about 귀신들린 사람이 시나고그로 들어오고 (A person who had been possessed by a ghost entered the synagogue), Jesus casted out the spirit. His sermon – I didn’t remember it that day, but later on, I was able to go back and listen to it again. That sermon said that being possessed is when many worldly things keep you from being with God. It could be your work, it could be your children, it could be many things that we think are important, but preoccupy us from being close to God. That was the sermon. If I look back, I think it was one of the questions [for this interview] asked “How has this church affected you?” I guess it was becoming free from all the possessed things that I had.
I used to think that was it. That was the goal of my life. I became free from that. My uncle, at that time, was very into the Friday Bible studies. I don’t know. I just heard about it a lot. And he invited me to the Bible study. Studies are far from me, the last thing I do is studying. But for some reason, I said, “Okay.” I do remember my first Bible study too. Rev. Kim was doing the Gospel of John, and he was talking about how we want to impress other people. So we never know who we really are. You meet somebody and you try to impress that person. Then you move on to impressing someone else.
He was talking about not knowing who you really are and you’re constantly seeking to be recognized by other people. He mentioned, “If you know why you live, you will know how to live.” That was such a big, big [moment]. I’m going, “What really? I need to ask that kind of question?” I had no idea why I was living or how to live naturally. That was really, really interesting and that is why I wanted to continue to come to church. I remember when he was talking about impressing other people and things like that, I thought, “I’m going to this church.” I’ve never been to or really attended church, but I thought, “Maybe church people can see through me.” They know I’m from the world and they can see right through me. I thought, “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s saying this.” Because that’s something I do.
Then during the break time I went to him and I said, “Do you know me?” And what was impressive is after the break he came on and he said, “You know, someone approached me during the break and said, do I know you?” And he said, it’s about him. He said, “How would I know?” And I thought, “Wow. I thought people at church are so pure and they’ve got this thing happening. But he, as a minister, is still searching and being that honest.” I thought, “I need to hear what he needs to say.” I wanted to know why I’m living. And I wanted to figure out how to live this life to the fullest. That was the beginning.
How have the sermons and Bible studies of this church shaped you?
At first it was hard to understand letting go and let God. I’m going, “What do you mean? Like, how do you do that?” That was one of the hardest things and all my life, I thought when I do something well, it was my doing. I never thought it was God’s help. I didn’t know that. I had no idea. So it was really, really hard for me to understand the actual Bible study, and allow what I’m learning to come to life. In that sense, Teesdale was the place where what I learned from the Bible studies came alive. Word became flesh (말씀이 육신이 된다). I think that experience happened a lot through serving.
Harsh Reality Brings Spiritual Growth
How did you overcome the struggles and challenges you faced?
I don’t know how I got through it all. Things got worse and worse to the point that not even only a few years ago, I was just praying every month to have enough money to pay my rent. It was a really, really difficult time. You come to church, and you think things are going to get better, but it didn’t, they were just getting worse and worse to the point where I let go of all the stores. We had to close down all the stores, I sold my home, and was just barely making it month by month. And that’s when you see the miracle of God. There was not a single month that I wasn’t able to pay rent. Something would happen. So unexpectedly, somebody will find me on Facebook and contact me or something. It’s just unbelievable how it all happened, but not a single month did I miss rent.
There were some amazing things that happened through my work. Great opportunities happened that I’m in a completely different place. When I came, I thought I had it all, then went to losing it all and understanding having nothing, but at the same time, having everything: I lived. I think coming through that journey, all I have is thankfulness. Even to this date, anything that happens, it’s just all unexpected. Of course I do the best I can, but things happen all the time that God always reminds me I’m with you. With that, what more do I need?
What pushed you to keep coming to church during that time?
I don’t know. Yeah so that can’t be me. It was not my agenda. Financially or later on time-wise, I shouldn’t be coming. I should be working. I should be making money. I need to feed my kids. But I don’t know. I don’t know. That was definitely the work of God. And if that were to happen again, would I do it again? I don’t know. I don’t know if it is in me to do it. When God calls, looking back now, it’s not an option. The lesson that I’ve learned and the words that came alive into my life by obeying, I would not trade it for anything else, that I know. I’m grateful for the church. I’m grateful for the word of God. This was a church that shaped me.
All the sermons that the Ministers provide and all the missions we’ve done together. I want to be real. I really want my faith to be real. Not for other people, not for how I look to other people, but real. Even though I want to look good, I want my faith to be real. I just want to be very authentic and I think the new journey is going to be like that.
If I didn’t come to church that morning, I don’t know, where would I be today? Who would I be? I have no idea. It’s a scary thought. And actually about two or three years prior to me coming to this church, I remember sitting by my backyard, I had a big swimming pool. I felt like this is the best I’ve ever lived. And the moment that I said that I heard it so loudly, is this it? Like you feel like you have everything. This was just before the divorce was happening. I felt like I had everything. I’m the top of the world. This is what I was living for. And the very moment that I recognized that I felt so empty. Then three years later I came to church. I was completely lost and I do feel like I’m found.
Learning to Serve
How did Teesdale begin, and how did you become involved?
There was an announcement that the church was looking for volunteers, and we were looking to open a food bank. I just thought time wise – I had my own business at that time, so I was fairly flexible. I thought that’s something that I can do. Now I’m coming to church, so I want to do good things. That’s how we’d actually begun. I remember the first food bank with Rev. Chung and Steven. We all went to the basement of a fairly big church downtown in Roncesvalles, I think. It was just a big hall just divided by the tables. There was a big row of tables. One side was there to serve, the other side was to receive. At that time I had my own business, but it was starting to struggle.
To a certain degree, on the outside – I had few locations – it may have looked like things were going well, but deep inside, it was probably getting more into deeper debt if anything. I remember thinking, I should be over on that side. Single mom with four kids, business struggling. Shouldn’t I be on that side receiving the food? But, God called and put me on this side to serve. That was actually a very, very huge, overwhelming encounter. So I said, well, he put me on the side to serve so I just serve. Times were tough for me to take that time off actually to be there and honest to God, I needed to pick up that food for my kids.
It was amazing how long we were able to serve. And that experience of Teesdale really taught me about a serving heart. It’s really not my doing. He calls you, you just follow. It really taught me to be humble, taught me to be authentic because the clients who came to receive were so real. When you hear their stories, they had some tough situations that happened in their life that they didn’t have an opportunity to recover from. So mentally, they were ill in many ways, but as they were, they were just so real. I went there to learn to be real like them.
What have you learned through that experience?
That experience taught me how egotistic I am, how controlling I am and to work with many different people. Having my own business, I would always think my ways are the right way. I just had that belief. By serving there, I learned all my ways are not always the right way and often together we came with far better ideas than I could have ever imagined. It taught me to be humble, taught me to listen, which I wasn’t good at. Of course you are given authority to a certain degree because you’re in charge of food where everybody wants this food. But you have to understand that you don’t own that food. You’re just there to serve. You’re just a middle person that is providing the food to the people in need.
I’m not the owner of the place where the food that was given because I did see that can happen. You feel like you are the owner of that place and the arrogance can kick in. I think the hardest thing for me was always to pray to help me to stay humble. I think my situation – maybe if I was well off, maybe it would have been harder for me to serve, but because my situation was no different than theirs, it gave me compassion. Compassion to people in need.
Table of Contents
- Community of the Word: 25 Years of St. Timothy Presbyterian Church
- Life and Ministry of Rev. In Kee Kim
- Early Years and Ministry
- Formation and Early Years of Living Stone (1992-1996)
- Amalgamation and North York Living Stone (1996-2000)
- Becoming St. Timothy (2001)
- Growing Roots and Growth (2001-2010)
- Maturation into Spiritual Community (2010-2020)
- Pandemic and What Comes Next (2020-Beyond)
- Hermeneutics and Approach to Scripture
- How the Community Shaped Them: Stories from Members
- Reflections from Rev. Jane Yoon
- The Message of St. Timothy
- Life and Ministry of Rev. In Kee Kim