After graduating from college Min Lee, a young Korean American, wanted to go to Korea to help kids learn English for a year. This was an adventure, since he had never been away from home. Min Lee says, “I had a difficult but amazing time in Korea. It was a growing experience for me.”
Min Lee was often homesick, despite being within his own ethnic group. He felt lost in a different world. “I was very fortunate, though, because I met many loving people who shared their time, resources and love to make sure I was happy,” he adds.
This one-year experience led Min Lee to begin inviting Korean international students to his parents’ house every major holiday. He fed them Korean food within a Korean atmosphere to help them feel at home. After awhile he began to see this as a ministry, so he decided to involve his home church, the Minneapolis Korean Church.
A wider opportunity
In 2014 the church formed a committee to prepare for A Night Back in Korea, an event geared to minister to Korean international students at the University of Minnesota. The university is located near the church and has more than 500 Korean international students. Min Lee created a Facebook event page inviting people to come. Even though it snowed on the day of the event, 29 students showed up! The church family was able to maintain a relationship with only one of the students who attended, and that student has since graduated and gone back to Korea.
However, the 2014 event helped members realize the ministry opportunities. And something else happened; there was a bonding in the church community that allowed for teamwork.
Full to overflowing
In 2015 a new committee was formed to plan another event. Min Lee again made a Facebook event page. However, one week prior to the event date, the Facebook page had to be closed because more than 50 people had confirmed their plans to attend and every day more showed the desire to join. The organizing committee soon realized the church building might be too small to hold all who wanted to attend.
As church members worked together to prepare for the event, they gained the friendship of four non-member volunteers who dedicated their time and energy as well. Two of these volunteers came from the Korean community and the others were international Korean students. There was a way for everyone to help, from providing rides for students to donating money for supplies.
On Nov. 14, exactly 40 non-member students gathered in the church and enjoyed A Night Back in Korea. Jungmin Na, a student from the University of Minnesota who participated, says, “These few hours went by so fast. I was totally amazed by the nice atmosphere here.”
This ministry to the students has opened opportunities for church collaboration with the Korean community in Minneapolis. Young Kim, who pastors the Korean Church, says, “We think it was successful; we saw what good teamwork can do for the church of God and for the community we live in.”
This time the church was better prepared to follow up and build relationships with the students who attended. Three weeks later the church hosted another dinner and nine people with no connection to the church showed up. “We think we formed an even deeper relationship with those who came to the small dinner,” adds Pastor Kim.
The church is continuously praying for the students and developing authentic relationships. “We are showing genuine friendship and deeper care. We are trying to follow the Jesus method as stated in Ministry of Healing, p. 143,” concludes Pastor Kim.