I first visited the Westminster Seminary California campus in 1984. As a former engineer and businessman, I was embarking on a new journey into ministry, guided by God’s grace.
I remember one of the first chapel messages I heard, one week into my first semester. I had just failed a quiz in Dr. Frame’s Christian Mind class. Disappointed, I had wept in my car for a while, thinking that I had come to the wrong place. For eighteen years of schooling, I had been a top student – and now, having received the lowest score of my life, I considered dropping out. But Dr. Adams exhorted us: “Fellow students! Do not be dismayed by poor test scores! And do not be too proud of high scores. Rather, do your best in everything, for everything happens according to God’s providence. Remember: you are following a curriculum He has planned for you.” I believe this sermon was preached for me. It kept me from leaving WSC, so that over the next four years I not only learned Reformed doctrines but came to embrace them. I came to cherish the name “Westminster” as not only the title of my alma mater, but also of the Reformed standards that summarize all biblical teaching.
After graduation in 1988, I was ordained by the Southern California Presbytery in the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC). I planted New Life Korean Presbyterian Church in southern Orange County. In sixteen years of pastoring there, I worked hard to apply my Westminster training in my preaching and teaching. Each week I preached nine times – twice on Lord’s Day, and once daily in sunrise services during the week – and I led Bible studies on Wednesdays and Fridays. I repeatedly taught the Reformed creeds and doctrines: we covered the Westminster Shorter Catechism six times, the Larger Catechism once, the Westminster Confession of Faith twice, and the Heidelberg Catechism twice. Over time, with God’s blessing, New Life grew steadily. She has owned a building and has sent six students to WSC, including my son Samuel Yuhan and my niece Kony Kim. From the outset of my ministry, God graciously gave me a gift for teaching the gospel and a mind for going abroad to assist missionaries.
I resigned from my senior pastor position in order to become more involved in cross-cultural missions. My wife Grace and I came to Cambodia last year. Cambodia’s state religion is Buddhism, but there are no official barriers to preaching the Gospel. Here I serve as a missionary sent by the KAPC and as vice director of Pastoral Education at the International Theological College and Seminary, Cambodia (ITCS). Several other WSC graduates also serve this school: Revs. Ezra Kim (M.Div., 1987) and Kenneth Cho (M.Div., 1987) are full-time professors, and visiting professors include Revs. James Kim (M.Div., 1990), Bong Sung Moon (M.A.R., 2004), and Daniel Kim (M.A.R., 1988). Since the school has limited funds – which it devotes to fully covering tuition, room and board for every single student – these men must gather financial resources to enable them to travel and stay here.
ITCS opened in September 2008, aspiring to be the epicenter of Reformed Christianity in Asia. We began with nineteen students. Now, by God’s grace, thirty-three are enrolled: eight at the master’s level and twenty-five at the college level. These students represent five nationalities: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, and Cambodian.
Additionally, over seventy [students] are enrolled in our Pastoral Education course, designed for local Cambodian pastors who have had no ministry-related training. Following Pol Pot’s mass executions of educated people including believers in 1975, for forty years no seminary or church leadership existed to educate pastors in Cambodia. Now, pastors enrolled in Pastoral Education gather four times annually for intensive one- or two-week training sessions. Our school covers transportation costs as well as tuition, room and board. The course has attracted a flood of applicants, but our budget allows us to accept only one-fourth of them.
Grace and I are happy to serve our Lord as self-supporting missionaries in Cambodia, despite having left our four children and five grandchildren in the United States (we miss them so much), hot weather (much hotter than Southern California), and health concerns due to inadequate sanitation (Grace suffered from typhoid during our first month here). We thank God for granting us the privilege, even in our mid-sixties, of preparing Cambodia’s future leaders for God’s kingdom work. And we give thanks for WSC, which equipped me with Reformed doctrine and prepared me to teach with humility and confidence, as my seminary professors did. In the spirit of Luke 17:7-10, I count myself blessed to be chosen as the Lord’s “unworthy servant.”
As a token of appreciation for WSC – and in the name of my late mother, whose resilient faith exemplified all that WSC stands for – in 2002 my siblings and I established the You Kye-Soon Memorial Scholarship, which grants partial tuition coverage for one WSC student per year. We hope this fund enables many future leaders to learn and preach the Gospel boldly, as we have been blessed to do.