Asian American Pastor Speaks Only English
Chicago native of Korean descent also knows no martial artsCategory: Church
HOUSTON – The employment of James Kim as youth pastor at Mt. Olive Baptist church here has resulted in some disappointment among church members, but not for the usual pastoral dissatisfaction reasons.
“When I saw that we had hired him, I was so excited,” said church treasurer Lilly Rudd. “I thought we could finally start an outreach to the Chinese and Filipino populations of Houston, but when he opened his mouth I noticed there was no accent at all – even his l’s and r’s were all pronounced right. That’s when I had to ask him if he even spoke Chinese at all. I was completely speechless when he told me he’d never even been outside the US.”
Kim’s great grandparents emigrated from Korea to Northern Illinois in the early 1920’s. Despite persistent ethnic misconceptions from new acquaintances throughout his life, Kim says that he actually knows very little about Asian cultures.
“Well, I went to high school on the north side of Chicago, I root for the Bears,” Kim said. “My dad’s an engineer, not a convenience store owner, and I don’t really know how to cook any special kinds of food.”
But while he may be completely comfortable in his fully Americanized skin, Kim’s ambivalence toward his heritage is causing some problems in his new position. Kurt Eisen, a longtime member of Mt. Olive Baptist who served on the search committee that ultimately hired Kim, says that he feels Kim misrepresented himself.
“We had a lot of good candidates for the job,” Eisen said. “It was a really close race between some really good guys, and the slightest considerations ended up making the difference. While we may not have discussed it directly with him, the committee talked a lot about how great it would be to start some karate outreach programs with the youth group and how it would be cool to do some Kabuki drama skits on Sundays. Now, it looks like none of that is gonna happen. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed.”
Kim seems unfazed by the nonplussed nature of his new employers.
“We’re talking about starting a basketball ministry to reach out to some of the poorer youth in the African American neighborhoods,” he said. “Then we were talking about some kind of Halo 3 party to draw the kids in, but we’ll have to talk about that, because I’m not very good at video games.”
As far as satiating the hunger of church leaders for some eastern flavor from their youth leader, Kim says that there are a few things that may stand him in better stead over time.
“I’ve had acupuncture a couple of times, and I really liked it,” he said. “Oh, plus, I took some violin lessons as a kid, and I’m a really bad driver, so I think I’ll be OK.”