A group of Korean families were looking for a temporary pastor to help them form a church in Manchester, England.
That was the word that spread from Manchester to a contact in London and back to Manchester, where Eun Ho Kim and MiJa Wi were approached this past January while still involved at Nazarene Theological College (NTC).
Eun Ho had been volunteering at NTC in maintenance while MiJa completed the last two years of her PhD research and writing. After her graduation in October 2017, they planned to move to the Philippines.
That was still about a year away, so they invited what they thought was a group of just two to three families to their apartment on campus. Car after car pulled into the parking lot, and soon they realized their small room was not large enough to accommodate what was actually 10 families. So they moved over to the chapel to discuss the group’s needs.
After prayerfully considering their story, Eun Ho and MiJa agreed to offer support while the new church plant found their direction.
“From the first meeting onwards, [Eun Ho] was very understanding of our situation,” said Joon Kim, a founding member. “He was very empathetic and that’s what we need. Within the church board, we agreed we would like to have him in a permanent basis.”
Formerly a pastor of a Korean church in Australia until 2015, Eun Ho says he has always had a pastor’s heart for Korean immigrants. He said goodbye to the church in Australia when he and MiJa were married and he joined her in Manchester while she completed her studies. But his calling did not waver.
While getting to know the city, he realized there were many Korean students at the University of Manchester, and he thought about starting a Bible study for them. But he believed he would not be in the country long enough to invest in starting a ministry, so he waited.
“When [this] church came, actually that all met together,” he said.
What started out as a temporary support to the families as they organized their church has turned into a permanent role as the newly organized church’s pastor couple. The couple have set aside their plans for the Philippines, and applied for – and received – residency visas to remain in the UK.
MiJa (far left in photo below), who was still in her final year as a PhD student with NTC, joined Eun Ho in supporting the congregation, including participating in the weekly ladies' Bible study.
“We have high expectations,” Joon said of the role of a pastor’s spouse. “Nobody will admit it, but we all do. She absolutely meets everything and beyond. As a couple, they do make a lot of sacrifices for us."
Yedam Korean Church was officially organized as a Nazarene church on the British Isles South District, and now worships in the NTC chapel on Sundays afternoons, followed by a community meal in the campus café.
On 8 October, the growing congregation, along with many people from other Nazarene churches in the city, came together to officially induct Eun Ho as the church's pastor.
The congregation is developing its vision for reaching out to the city of Manchester. They gave an offering to NTC’s hardship fund for students, and also are sending volunteers to help in the Friday night asylum seeker ministry at another Nazarene church in the city.
“[Eun Ho’s] full of energy,” Joon said. “He wants to do things the right way. He’s outward looking; he wants to go out and reach people, especially young people.”
“The congregation is very open and actually quite excited about it,” Eun Ho said. “It’s not looking toward a Korean church, being a good Korean community and having social meetings. I want them to be equipped by the word of God to serve the local community here, especially refugees and asylum seekers and the marginalized in the UK, since they live here. Even though they themselves are strangers, I still want to challenge them to serve others, especially those who are less privileged in the UK. That’s one vision.
“Second, especially for the students,” Eunho added. “We have several hundred [Korean] students in Manchester. We want to reach out to them so they can be growing in God’s word here while they are studying abroad. Wherever they go after they study, they can serve others.”
Sarah Jin is a recent graduate of the University of Manchester, and has lived in England longer (14 years) than she lived in Korea (7). However, attending the church with her family and playing the piano in worship keeps her in touch with her culture and heritage.
“I miss Korean culture,” she said. “When I come here, it reminds me of home.”
She and other youth stay after the Sunday meal to discuss the pastor’s sermon and what it means.
Since some families are mixed Korean- and English-speaking, services include translation of song lyrics, scripture and the sermon.
“It has a strong Korean flavor, yet we still want to be open to others,” Eunho said.
The congregation is also thankful to be able to use the chapel at NTC for their meetings. Joon said that its location, with garden spaces and away from a busy road, make it more family friendly than other locations they have tried, and “by far the best."
"We feel really safe here,” he said.