In this edition of Frontier, we have two amazing young men who have given a year of their lives to serve in the Ivory Coast. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. They have battled malaria, sickness, and many other trials, but have continued to seek after God and serve His people. Check out their stories and what they have been up to this past year.
1) Share with us who you are and what you do.
DK: My name is Daniel Kim and I graduated from Rutgers University in May of 2014. Upon graduation, I worked at an outsourcing company as a salesman, and did pretty well for myself. I was relieved to have a job at all right after graduating, and considered myself extremely blessed. After working there for about 3 months, a series of “signs” and God’s voice led me to my decision to become a missionary.
JK: Hello, I’m Josh Kim and I’m a 2nd generation Korean-American born and raised in Jersey. Currently, I’m serving as a year-long missionary in Ivory Coast, Africa with my good friend, Daniel Kim. We’ve been serving with Abidjan International Ministry (AIM), a non-governmental organization part of Korean Abidjan Presbyterian Church (KAPC) here in Ivory Coast. We’ve been specifically helping out with one of AIM’s recent project known as Empowerment Center for Children and Youth (ECCY). ECCY’s goal is to empower Ivorian children and youth and their futures through nutritional, medical, educational, and social assistance. In this francophone country, learning English is considered really important in advancing in school and life so our main responsibility has been teaching English to our middle and high school ECCY students. Besides teaching, we’ve been doing bible studies and developing relationships with them.
2) How did you sense this call to go to missions?
DK: This was a painful, long, and confusing process for me. It started late 2013 when my roommate from college (Josh) told me he’s decided to go on missions for a year. Then, a few months later, I was offered a job upon graduation; something every senior longs to hear…
After accepting the offer, I had a dream. I dreamt it was my first day and I was suiting up and putting on my fancy tie and fancy shoes. I got into my car and got on the freeway. After arriving, instead of arriving at my workplace, I was at the airport; right in front of a private jet. I got on without knowing where it was going, and when I landed, I was in regular clothes and I was in sub-Saharan Africa as a missionary. I told this dream to Josh, expecting a “that’s so funny / crazy!” but instead got the reaction of “OMG, this is a sign, you have to come for the year with me…!” Of course I said, “Haha yeah right,” and brushed it off. For the next few months before graduating, without my permission, Josh was constantly contacting his aunt and uncle (Missionaries in Ivory Coast that we’d be working under) and kept trying to figure out if me coming with him was actually possible. Graduation came and I winded up taking the job just because, money. There’s nothing more attractive than a salary to a 22 year old college grad. Three months went by and work, even though I was doing well, started to be extremely unsatisfying. Night after night, I thought to myself, “Is this it? Did I win the game of life?” Then during one of my commutes back to the office, I got into a car accident by falling asleep at the wheel. I was going 65 on a 5 lane freeway at 2:00PM and hit the guardrail on the left side. I hit the railing and skid all the way to the right hazard lane. At that speed, at that time, with that many lanes, I should have been seriously hurt or hit another car. For some reason, there were no cars on the road at all, ZERO. And the damage to my car was minimal; just scratch on the left side of the car.
Now, I’m not saying God made me crash, but that crash scared the living soul out of me. This is when I thought, “Is this the life I want to live and be satisfied with?” After this, the path was laid out perfectly by Jesus. Josh then told me if I decided to go to missions with him, his aunt and uncle would financially support me during the entire year: $10,000. Then as I was praying to see whether I should quit my job or not, God’s answer was very clear to me. He told me I needed to be with Josh in Africa because first, Josh can’t do it alone or fully work for the kingdom of God throughout the year by himself. And second, I needed to go for myself.
JK: I remember in 2011, I was in the middle of a 6 year program at Rutgers University and Pastor Paek, the missionary here in Ivory Coast, was visiting the States. He suggested that I serve as a missionary after college. But I thought I had my future all figured out. I remember telling myself, “I don’t have time to go to Africa to serve as a missionary for a year. I’ve got my life waiting to get started after college.” But things did not go as I planned and God put some other plan into motion. That moment of my life was a difficult transition as I had to surrender what I wanted, and see what God wanted to do with my life. In the end, I finished college a year earlier than I should have, and I just felt like God wanted me to give the “extra” year to Him and His Kingdom more than anything else. At first, I questioned if I was making the right choice amidst other options like working or heading directly into seminary. But God reminded me of a prophetic prayer by someone of me teaching kids in Africa back in 2010 to confirm that I was making the right call by saying “yes”.
3) What was it like saying “yes” to this call to go to Africa for a year?
DK: It was extremely relieving. Even my decision to take the job wasn’t truly satisfying but saying “yes” to go to Africa felt so good; mostly because I knew this was God’s plan.
JK: Throughout my life, I never could really describe that feeling when you experience the two extremes of excitement and doubt at once when you’re about to do something. But it was exactly that… these two extreme feelings constantly coming together. Saying “yes” was like confirming my heart’s desire of serving God and giving a year of my life to Him. I was excited for missions and everything about it. In a sense, it felt so right. But I was also so nervous with my situation and timing of the call (student loans, parents struggling financially, leaving family and friends, etc.) I thought to myself, “Maybe I can’t do this… there’s too much risk.”
But reading a quote by John Eldredge clarified what I was feeling: “ … deep desire mixed with deep fear and ambivalence … when you experience that, it means you’re so close to your calling. What you’re describing is something so deep in you that you desperately want it to be true and you’re afraid that it is not.” I realized that this feeling of excitement and doubt meant I was exactly where I should be. Walking into this deep desire of my heart with this call for missions felt risky and vulnerable… yet it felt like I was in the right place stepping into everything God had in store for me. And it’s just been a process of trusting God through it all in every moment even after I have initially said “yes”.
4) What has this past year looked like for you?
DK: Logistically, I’ve been learning French to communicate with the locals and I’ve been teaching English to young and older Ivorian kids and to Ivorian seminary students. But that description does not justify what this year has been for me. More than what I’ve been doing, it’s what God has been doing for me that’s been indescribable.
JK: Besides teaching and developing relationships with our students, we’ve been helping out the Korean Abidjan Presbyterian Church with anything they need and learning how they go about their missions operations.We also got to work with and meet different missionaries / pastors/ leaders from different places in the world who come here. Also, we’ve had the unique experience of attending Abidjan University here to learn French and meet people from all over the world.
Recently, ECCY has decided to host “Camp de Jeunesse 2015 (Youth Camp)” for all our students. It’ll be the first time a retreat will ever take place. This year’s theme is about the love of God. We want our kids / students to know and experience God as love and their identity in Christ as beloved. We’re hoping this year will be a huge success and that we can host this youth camp every summer. I’ve been given the huge honor and privilege of directing the first camp this year. So it’s been busy preparing and setting up everything. But we’re really excited for this camp coming up in the first week of July to worship and fellowship together and just see God transform the hearts of our students!
5) What have you learned the most while being away?
DK: I can’t point my finger at one specific thing, but my growth as a whole has to be the greatest thing I’d take away from here. I’ve spiritually matured during this one year more than I did in my last 23 and probably more than I would have in my next 23 years if I had not come to Africa for the year. Trusting in God was something I was never able to do, mainly because I believed in my own ability to conquer life and do what I needed to do. So surrendering to Him was an abstract idea to me, before this year, but now when I talk about surrender, it’s so simple. I love Him and He loves me more. Why should I trust anyone but Him? He’s already proven millennia’s worth of trust to His people and yet I still never trusted him.
JK: Cultivating Thankfulness. Here on the missions field in Africa, things go wrong or change last minute most of the time. It’s easy to complain and have that affect your entire attitude. But I learned that God wants us to rejoice and be thankful through it all – for us to influence the environment around us rather than having our circumstances dictate us.
Stewardship. I learned that God has been, is, and always be in the process of writing His story into your life. He can use anything from your past for His kingdom in the present moment (which I’ve experienced here few times already). And whatever He has placed in your life right now will be used for the future at any moment. I learned that it’s our responsibility to be good stewards to the things He’s placed in our lives at the moment.
Fight for Your Connection With Jesus. Because we’re serving a 1st generation Korean church, we’ve been attending worship services in Korean, which is really difficult for us spiritually. But through this process, I’ve relearned that it’s not about the message or the worship songs. It’s all about the value of His presence. It’s easy to settle and tell myself after a tiring Korean service that I’ve done my part in worshiping God for the week. But I’ve learned not to take our relationship with Jesus for granted. We must continually seek and desire for more of Jesus everyday because our relationship with Jesus isn’t just a once a week, two hour Sunday event. It’s an everyday thing. He deserves our all and our best.
6) What has been the hardest? The most rewarding?
DK: Two things for me were particularly difficult to endure during this year. Loneliness and willingness. Loneliness I think is pretty self-explanatory; even though I was here with Josh, there was a serious lack of community and even a language barrier. Willingness was difficult to overcome because I had none of it. I wasn’t that willing to change, mostly because I honestly was kind of satisfied with whom I was. I was a Christian that went to church, prayed, and of course, believed in Christ as my Lord and Savior. Is there anything else I need to do…?
The most rewarding part was when that unwillingness to change and destroy my old self finally got dropped. After that point, God was so vivid in my life and so present. Praying became essential just like breathing, and trusting in Him became as comforting as hearing advice from my father. This was when my life changed and I knew I was truly born again.
JK: We’ve been immersed in two different cultures: Ivorian culture and 1st generation Korean culture. So the hardest thing has been the cultural and generational differences and the misunderstandings / difficulties that come with it. It’s been a learning process of putting aside our cultural values / mindset a lot of the times to honor the people and the cultures we are serving.
While it has been the hardest, culture has been also the most rewarding, learning from the two other cultures and broadening my perspective. Also, on the missions field, you get to see the two cultures integrate as Koreans and Ivorians put aside differences to worship or serve together. And then I’m reminded that this is a glimpse of what heaven will be like – people of all nations and cultures coming together to worship our King, Jesus. Only Jesus can remove all cultural and language barriers and differences for two different groups of people to come together for a purpose – His Kingdom.
7) What is your definition of revival? How has it changed since being in the Ivory Coast?
DK: My definition of revival was to bring back a passion or spark that you once had for God. This extremely simple definition changed so much while being in Ivory Coast. Revival for me now means leading someone who has lost their way back on the road that once brought true happiness and satisfaction to their soul. It isn’t about “spark” or “fire”. It’s about truth and being led to it instead of away from it.
JK: I believe revival is restoration and renewal at any and all levels when hearts are in a right relationship with God through surrender. As a result, there is a longing / desiring for more of God at any cost. Also, there’s an overflow of His presence that brings about lasting change in and around us and we experience and get to be a part of “heaven invading earth.”
Not that it has changed, but I think God has been trying to show me that revival in its simplest form is our hearts constantly saying “yes” to Him and desiring Him above all else. I believe Ivory Coast, and Africa as a continent, is on the brink of major development within the near future. Along with all the good that comes with it, I’ve also been able to see the effects of development as people in general are more consumed with a certain lifestyle, wealth, materialism, etc. and God gets pushed to the side. I believe God brought me here at this time to show me that revival is simply our hearts desiring God amidst all other things that the world has to offer us. Restoration and renewal take place when our hearts say “yes” for more of Him and only Him.
8) How can we partner with you and pray for you as your one year comes to a close?
DK: There is one big prayer request I have for everyone who partners up with me. The moment I go back home, there will be so much relief and happiness in my heart and I know from that point, it’s going to be an all-out war. The enemy knows my heart just like Christ does and I am too weak without Him to fight the enemy. Please pray that I’d remain faithful and that I wouldn’t fall easily to the enemy.
Another prayer request is for my professional future. I do not feel called to become a pastor, but I do feel called to become a leader in my community. Primarily, I want to be able to support myself and other missionaries in the future. I want God’s prosperity in my life to reflect His love for us and be a man of generosity and a man of faith in Christ. So please pray that God’s plan for my professional future is set and for me to remain faithful in Him.
JK: First, please pray for the country of Ivory Coast. The last civil war due to the presidential election in 2010 was horrific here. Even 5 years later, there is still lingering effects from that event on the people still. Please pray that this year’s upcoming presidential election in November will not lead to another civil war.
Please pray for our health! We’ve been really sick here before few months ago. It really make you not be able to do anything for a few weeks to a month. We’re at the final stretch with last few events coming up. We need to remain healthy to do everything in these last few months.
Please pray for all the missionaries here. They’ve all literally sacrificed their lives away for God and His Kingdom to serve here in this country. Pray that God will continually strengthen and provide for them.
Lastly, please pray for “ECCY Camp de Jeunesse 2015” upcoming in the first week of July! We’re hoping for 90 middle and high school Ivorian students to attend. And we’re praying that this is the start of revival for the youth!