Flossmoor’s Korean Methodist church celebrates 40 years of faith, fellowship

  A recent service at Korean United Methodist 
  Church in Flossmoor.
(Danielle Maya Banks/H-F 
  Chronicle)
 
As a hallmark of Korean worship, each service at Flossmoor’s Korean United Methodist Church is followed by a meal. On a recent Sunday, member Song Kim explained that it is “Korean party food” that members line up for. The room is aromatic with the thickness of fried seafood, cooked noodles and kimchi – spicy fermented cabbage. 
 
The dining hall directly across from the sanctuary fills to capacity, as members trickle in from the church service. Tables at the center of the room hum with life, as family and friends chew on the pastor’s words and update one another on life’s recent happenings. To the right, a jagged line of church members inches towards the front of the room, where a universal scene unfolds: church ladies scoop generous servings of food out of heated tin pans, and onto paper plates.
 
Still, Kim says that as little as tea and snacks would suffice. Food is simply a mechanism through which Korean-Americans appreciate what truly bonds them: faith, food and their shared fate as immigrants.
 
“Most of us were born in Korea and immigrated here,” Kim says. ”We share having our own cultural background from Korea with the mix of the American culture. Plus, we share the same struggle of trying to assimilate into American society and raise children. All of our children are influenced by American culture.
 
“And then of course, we are all here based on our shared faith in Christ, but we also share our culture together. That is my favorite thing. This is why people drive as much as one hour to come to this church.”
 
As the room of about 75 people thins out, the children-of-immigrants that Kim speaks about gather in the hallway behind the dining hall that connects a series of recreational and multi-purpose rooms. They share the camaraderie of graduating from childhood to adolescence together. 
 
“I’ve been here for 10 years. I grew up with my friends here, I know that I can depend on them,” high school student Eddie Oh said.
 
“It feels more like a family than a church,” added his friend Peter Huang. 
 
This year, as Korean Methodist celebrates its 40th anniversary, many members reflect on what makes their church home special. Of the church’s 300 odd members, many come from all around the Chicagoland area for the spiritual and cultural oasis of home.
 
Suyeon Ji, producer for Korean Broadcasting Chicago, has been a member of Flossmoor’s Korean United Methodist Church for three of the five years she has spent in the UnitedStates. Ji said she feels as comfortable at Korean Methodist as she did at the church where she grew up in South Korea. It’s her involvement in the church that solidifies her sense of home. 
 
“I am serving here,” she says. “I am not just coming back and forth. I have responsibilities here. I’m serving for tech, so I make sure every sound is okay and it’s all set for the worship team and also for the service.”
 
For Ji, Pastor Yoon Ki Kim’s spiritual leadership has been a lightning rod, keeping her focused on what is important, even when the ins and outs of mortal life breed self-doubt.
 
“His sermon is always centered on the gospel. I think it’s really important to remember the Word in our daily life,” she says. “If we are only focusing on ourselves, we may think ‘I just did something wrong, so I’m a bad person.’ But that is not true.”
 
Pastor Kim’s devout focus on the Word is not unique to Korean Methodist. Instead, there is something more that makes the church a solid spiritual base for its members: shared culture.
 
“In the English speaking church I went to before, they had gatherings, but unlike Korean church, they don’t usually have bonding time after service. In most Korean churches, it’s a very common thing to have lunch together, and then have some bonding time,” Ji says.
 
“I think that’s what makes Korean communities stronger: food time. We aren’t just at the table, we all come to the food, and we are not eating food without talking. Very naturally, we share our lives: what we are going through and what God is doing in our lives.” 

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