Since we at Living Water have not been able to get together in person and have fellowship with each other, the LW communications team is starting a new campaign called the People of Living Water. Through a series of interviews with members, we are hoping to bring us closer as a family by uncovering some fun facts about our church members, opening up the opportunity to reach out to members you may not have known well before, and encouraging intercessory prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How it Works
Starting with leaders, we will be asking for interviews with members of Living Water about their likes and dislikes, life lessons, passions, hopes for the future, prayer requests, etc. Interviewees can choose if their feature article should appear on the LWCRC website or just on the private email list. Although there is no obligation to participate, we highly encourage you to, as this is a great chance for the church family to get to know you and support you in any way that we can.
Introducing: Sarah Yeji Kim
Q: Can you briefly introduce yourself (name, age, and leadership position at Living Water)?
A: My legal name is Yeji Kim, and oftentimes I go by Sarah. I don’t know what people in Living Water call me; some call me Sarah, some call me Yeji. I’m turning 23–I mean, I turned 23… So I am already 23 (laughter). And I think my title is interim worship director. It’s confusing because, you know, things are different online. I’m just doing what needs to be done, and trying to do my best, serving in the capacity that I can. What I do is, we (leadership) have a weekly meeting, and then from selecting the songs to recording the songs and like, just anything that needs to be done. And I guess trying to represent, or try to be the voice for the praise team members.
Q: When and why did you start coming to Living Water?
A: So the very first church I visited was Ada Bible Church, because my youth pastor from Korea was at Calvin seminary and he took me there. But the second Sunday I came to Living Water. And ever since I’ve been at Living Water.
What I liked about it at first was, a lot of my OA’s were there and lots of international students were there, so I felt comfortable. I didn’t want to go to Korean church, because there’s so many Koreans already at school. And if I’m going to hang out with Koreans all the time, I’m like, why did I even come to the States, you know? So I didn’t want to attend like a Korean Korean church. I also didn’t want me to be viewed as that one girl from a Korean clique.
But at the same time, at the time [Living Water] was more recent from the time where it came out from the Korean church, you know? So I felt like it was, at least to me it was Korean enough but it wasn’t a Korean church. It’s very different now that our members’ age has a bigger spectrum and ethnicity has a way bigger spectrum. Even in leadership, because before it was like 90% of the leadership was Korean or Korean American, right? But now it’s not. But when I [first] started coming to Living Water, that was the case, you know, and the main reason [for choosing Living Water] was [for] social reasons.
But then the main reason was that it was a church plant. My home church in Korea, it’s more than 35 years old, I think. And I grew up there, but it wasn’t like I knew what was going on at church, on a structure level, you know, cause that was more the elders’ and pastor’s job.
So when I came [to Living Water], I liked the fact that it’s a church plant because I thought, Oh, I can be a part of a church that is growing. And I’ll be able to know what it takes for church to grow from a baby church, you know? And I thought it was a huge blessing to be a part of that growth of a church.
I also wanted to learn what it was like to be a baby church because… for this to make sense, I need to talk about why I came to the States. I came to the States because I wanted to be a missionary. So when I said yes to God, Okay, I will be a missionary–that’s another long story. But when I decided I was like, I can’t stay here (in Korea). So I came to the States to learn better, to serve better. So I came. The mission field that I want to go to is in the Philippines. There are two single female missionaries who have been ministering there for more than 30 years now. And what they do is church-plant, and because there are so many church plants there, I was thinking it would be helpful to understand church plants a little better. Being at a church plant would provide me with great experience in understanding what it’s like and how it, well, I want to say how it’s supposed to be, but like, how it may go or how it can be helped. You know, if I know what the struggles are, then I would know, Okay, this and this, and this would be needed. Not every church plant would be the same, but at least I would have some sort of idea, you know?
Q: Has Living Water helped with your idea of what a church plant needs?
A: I haven’t organized, okay this and this and this. But for now, I think I know the struggles of a small church plant without the most laid-out structure, compared to where I’m coming from. It’s more structured (Yeji’s church in Korea), so I struggled with [the lack of structure]. And maybe I’m still struggling with that a little bit. I came to an understanding now, after a few years that I’ve gone here, that it’s inevitable and we should work towards growth and maturity as a church. But at the same time, I think I’m learning to embrace the fact that it is how it is.
Q: Where do you call home?
A: I call Korea home because I grew up there. I was born there and I was there until the end of 2014; the first day of 2015 I flew here to the States. I’ve been going home every summer; this was actually the first summer that I didn’t go home. And my friends in the Philippines say that’s my second home because I’ve been going there since 2012 every year.
Q: What have you been doing in the Philippines?
A: So it started out as a vision trip for later medical mission trips from our church. And then after I decided, Oh, I think God is calling me to be a missionary, I’ve been going kind of by myself or with my mom or with another group, and really doing whatever they need me to do, from reorganizing the list of supporters to translating doctors or sermons. And later on, because I’ve been going there, you know, I know how and what to do, so if the volunteers there are busy I would step in as a little guide. And I’ve taught cello there. Anything and everything that I can do and they need me to do, so really not anything in particular.
Q: Do you have siblings?
A: I have one younger brother. He came to the States two and a half years ago, maybe. He did a year and a half of high school at a school that I graduated in North Carolina. And then he went to school in South Carolina for college, but then after his freshman year, so this year, he took a year off because he had to go to the army. He actually just went, on the 12th of October.
Q: What’s the one place you’d like to travel to when you have the chance?
A: So it was my first time visiting Europe last summer. But I think even before that it was Austria that I wanted to visit because… I mean, I never really think about like, where do I want to visit? I mean, sure, I enjoy traveling if I am there, but I’m not the most adventurous, love-to-travel person. I don’t mind it, but I wouldn’t save to visit some places, you know. If I have an opportunity, yeah, that would be great. But it’s not like I’m planning to travel somewhere.
But I think, since I was young, when people asked me, where do you want to visit? I think I’ve been saying Austria because there’s a lot of musicians and composers from there. So it’s kind of like, if you’re into classical music, you would want to visit there.
Q: I know you went to Calvin. What did you study there and what is one thing that you appreciate about your time there?
A: I studied nursing, and I graduated with a minor in music as well. What am I most thankful for from the time I had at Calvin? So, experience wise, when I was coming to the States from Korea I thought I gave up everything because–I only had a year left until my college entrance exam–if I were to stay in Korea, I had my cello there, I had my family there, I had my friends there. So when I was coming here, I was leaving my family, I was leaving my cello because it takes a whole another ticket to bring a cello here. And the stability.
So I thought I gave up everything, and for a semester, the first semester that I had in the States, I couldn’t touch or see a cello. And when I came to Calvin, I learned that they actually let students use their cellos or other instruments. So I was like, Oh, that’s great. And I looked at my options and I picked one. It was an expensive cello; I loved the sound of it, and I named it Dulce because it just sounded so soft and smooth. And from my second semester, I was like, okay, I think I can handle this major. So I added music as a major–later on I had to drop that to a minor because there’s no way I can finish nursing and music as a major in four years, but since I came to Calvin, I could get back on my cello, and who knew I could have my own recital! I did not expect myself to have a recital with my name on it, because it’s not like I was majoring in it, you know, and I never thought I would do a concerto piece on a stage, because like I said, it’s not like I’m a music major.
And that’s just to start, like, there’s so many things that I thought I gave up on when I came to the States. But God was like, no, there’s so many opportunities you can still have. And He just opened so many doors. So in my prayer letter that I sent out to some people in Korea, I said, I thought I gave up everything for God, but God had even more doors opened for me when I came here. And Calvin was the place where He did that. Like things that I never thought I would be able to have or do, it happened at Calvin.
That’s what I’m extremely thankful for, all the experiences that I had. I lived my life at Calvin, like I did everything I liked. I mean I studied, and my study wasn’t prioritized the most because I had so many other things that I loved to do, you know, from having my own recital to directing Rangeela, just experiences that I would never have imagined myself having unless I came to Calvin.
And on top of that, people that I met there. I’ve met so many people from all over the world and I think it really helped me broaden my perspective on people in general and in Christianity, because the variety of people and variety of characters that I was exposed to at Calvin! One of the things that I learned was that nobody’s perfect. I mean, that I knew, but it was a strong reminder that I got from Calvin, that it’s not mine to judge or correct people, like that’s God’s role, you know, because killing somebody and lying are both sin and lying may seem a lighter sin to us. But to God, it’s the same sin, you know? So I was, I think I was trained more to love despite what I see. I mean, by no means am I perfect at it, but I think now at least I know it’s not mine to judge. Like, all you need to do is love. And if it wasn’t for my friends that I met at Calvin and the diversity that I was exposed to, I don’t think I would have this idea as much as I do now.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to do nursing?
A: I never was a science student. I never liked science at all, and I was telling myself, I am not gonna go into the medical field, all my life. My dad is a doctor and for some reason, because of that, I didn’t want to be a doctor. So I think I find that interesting. My friends that are also children of doctors, they either want to be a doctor or they do not want to be a doctor, like absolutely do not. And I was on the “definitely not” side. And I was even more extreme because I didn’t want to do anything with the medical field.
Q: Why is that?
A: Well, I can’t pinpoint it. When I was in Korea, I never, never thought I would do nursing, because nurses in Korea are, well, let’s say nurses in the States are treated better than nurses in Korea. I think it’s better now, but at least before, it’s like, nurses work under the doctors. Here, it’s more like, yes, we do know the final say is whatever the doctor says, but we are constantly told they can’t do their job without us. It’s more like working with [than under].
I’m not the most interested in being second. Like, I mean, if I want to, I can be a great supporter, but if you’re telling me like, you’re working for me… [If I were to work] in the medical field, I would have gone for doctor, not somebody to work under them, you know, so I was like nuh-uh; and medical school, I thought I would do fine if I go to medical school, but I wasn’t sure if I could get into medical school. I wasn’t sure if I could get the entrance.
But when I was searching and praying about what to study in college in senior year of my high school, at that point I already knew I wanted to be a missionary, and I was already in the States. So before, when I was coming to States, I thought, Oh, to be a missionary, I need to study theology or philosophy. That’s what I thought initially. And that’s part of the reason why I came to the States because, I’m sure there are great programs in Korea for theology and philosophy and stuff. But when you say, “I study philosophy or theology” in Korea, because of some people that go into that major or that field, [people think it’s] because of their lower score in their entrance exam for college. My dad’s first reaction to my statement, I want to be a missionary, was, Don’t you dare try to run away from studying. I was so mad. I was like, that’s not my point. It’s not like I’m trying to not study hard. And in fact, I thought I would have to study even harder because what I’m trying to do is directly related to people’s souls. And some people would hear the Gospel from me for the first time, like who knows. And not that what other people think about what I study matters, but I thought, you know, like if that’s the reputation that it has [in Korea], there should be a reason. And if it’s not the best, like I should really learn better, because, like I said, it’s directly related to the eternal lives of other people. So with that thought, I came to the States, maybe America being founded upon Christianity, you know, it wouldn’t be bad. I mean, turns out some things are not [founded in Christianity], you know, but, there are great schools, so I was like, okay, I’ll come study theology and philosophy.
At that time, my mom wasn’t that great of a supporter. Like she was kinda doubtful if I really meant it or not when I said I want to do missions, because her younger sister who used to be like that, so passionate about missions and like all that stuff is now not even a Sunday Christian. So my mom was afraid. But when I had to make a decision for college and my major and stuff, by then, she was more of a good supporter. So when she said, You need your own major or field of study to really help people, and then you can study the Bible… At that time, I thought, Oh, I can’t study something else and then go to seminary. But because my mom was more on the supporting side when she was saying that, I was like, okay, because even before she was saying that, she was telling me, You will need your field of study, even if you want to do missions. But I thought, you know, my mom was telling me that just to, just for me to have a backup plan for if and when I changed my mind. So I really didn’t like the idea, but when, in my senior year, when we were praying about the major, my mom asked me, Oh, what about nursing?
And if it was me, I should have said no, cause you know, I never wanted to be in the medical field or be a nurse, but at that time I was like, Hmm… And I think that itself was the Holy Spirit working because if it was pure me, I would have said no. So I thought about it and it just made sense. My dad was very happy to pay for the tuition when he heard me say, maybe nursing. And I thought, you know, maybe if I can help people with their physical needs, just, you know, nonpharmacological treatments that can help them or [advise them] like, this is a situation where you need to see the doctor, if I can help them in that sense, they would be more willing to listen to what I have to say. That’s why I thought, yes, in the end, the Holy Spirit needs to work in their hearts, but I need to do my best at what I can bring and what I can do to spread the gospel so that the Holy Spirit can work. So I thought it would be a great way for me to approach people and have their hearts open, have their ears open to what I have to say or tell them. So that’s how I got into nursing, with seminary afterwards in mind.
Q: Are you still thinking of going to seminary?
A: Yes, actually. I’m trying to get a green card because I want to go to seminary. Like, I don’t care if I get a green card or not, because it’s not like I came to live here; I didn’t come here because I wanted to have a life in America. I came here to learn to serve better. But with a student visa, I can’t work as a nurse, and with a work visa where I can work as a nurse, I can’t study. So to lift that restriction I need a green card, because with the green card I can study as much as I want and work as much as I want.
So yeah, I think I’m starting the process, hopefully in November. That’s going to take some time but after that I’m thinking I’ll do seminary, and who knows when God’s going to send me back to the Philippines, but we’ll see.
Q: What’s your go-to boba order and/or coffee order?
A: I love boba. Let’s see, if I go to Ding Tea I do their signature, the tiger thing, I don’t even know what. It used to be taro, but when Ding Tea came to Grand Rapids… you know, that black sugar thing. I love Ding Tea because of the chewy bubbles, I think their bubbles are the best. But for my Starbucks order, I usually get white chocolate mocha frappuccino with extra ice without caffeine.
Q: What are your top two love languages?
A: The first one is definitely physical touch, and that I think that’s receiving. And my giving, I think is gifts and words of affirmation. Words of affirmation, I think, goes both ways. Like I love getting cards and I love writing cards too. When I write cards, it’s not just a few words, like I take time to pick what card, you know, cause like every card has different messages, and then I buy that and then I think through what I want to say. It’s not just a note to me, you know?
Yeah, that and gifts. I think freshman year, I caught myself spending half my budget on gifts, or almost half; that’s when I realized, Oh, I love giving gifts. I don’t know if I would say words of affirmation or gifts, because I consider the cards to be a gift. So maybe my giving is gifts with words of affirmation. And maybe that’s the case for receiving too, I don’t know. I think both are very similar.
Q: What do you do for work right now?
A: I work at Valley View Care Center. It’s a skilled nursing long-term care facility. It’s basically a nursing home, but with a lot of med passes (administering medicine to patients) and a lot of treatments. The reason I went into geriatrics is that I wanted to build relationships with who I’m taking care of. I don’t want to go to a hospital and see people for three days and bye, you know. Because of COVID it’s a lot different because residents are going crazy because they’re locked down. Cause they’re, you know, a more vulnerable group and their families couldn’t visit. Now they’re opening up a little more, but because the families can’t visit, the relationships that I thought I would be able to build with the family members of my residents are not there.
So hopefully that’ll change sometime. It’s a lot different than what I thought, but I still love the fact that they are at a stage where the impact could be huge. I love that there’s a chance for me to show them, you matter. And you are loved. It is very, very, very hard to do that when I have like at minimum 17, 18 residents to give meds to, but at least I’m there.
Q: How have you been finding rest lately?
A: I’ve been sleeping a lot lately since I started working. I enjoy it, but it is draining because having a conversation with an elderly person, sometimes with dementia or confusion, can be very hard. I’m not saying everybody’s that way, but it’s different from having just a conversation with a friend in your age group. It’s very emotionally draining to be caring because in your social life you would pour love and be poured, but there it’s more like pouring, pouring, pouring, So I think that’s why I’ve been sleeping a lot, and yeah, I’m hoping it is resting my body.
Q: On the flipside, what have you been working hard at?
A: I’m still at a stage where like, I need to get used to a post grad life, I would say. So I guess, I haven’t been like working on a specific character of mine, but learning how to be an adult out of college, out of my parents’ umbrella or financial help. But a great reminder that is affecting me a lot is, the reminder that I got this past summer, that no matter how much I worry, if it’s God’s plan, that is gonna work. “Don’t worry about anything” is easier said than done, but yeah, that’s one thing.
Q: Do you have any prayer requests for yourself or your family, or other people in your life?
A: There are a lot of prayer requests, so just to pick a few. My NCLEX (board exam for nurses) is scheduled on November 13th. I’m still working under my temporary license that Michigan gave out to new grads because of COVID because they were short on hands. So my board is on November 13th and it’s way harder than I thought it was to work and study because I need so much sleep and rest. So for that, and for me to be filled with the Holy spirit and God’s love from reading the Word, because I’m at a position where I’m constantly giving love, giving care. So I will need that abundant overflowing love that comes from God, because other love is great, but it wouldn’t be enough for me to give from on a daily basis. And lastly, for this new position I am stepping into, you know, as this interim worship director; for God’s guidance and to be a humble leader that can serve rather than pulling people my way. And for our praise team; Living Water people and other people are going through different changes, and so for leadership to be able to adjust to people’s needs and stuff. And for peace of mind and that assurance of God’s victory and guidance in everything that we do.
Thanks so much to Sarah Yeji Kim for giving her valuable time to share her thoughts and experiences with us! If anything resonated with you, reach out to Yeji and send her some love, and include her and her family in your prayers.
Who should we interview next? Let us know who you would like to see featured by submitting a comment down below, emailing us at email@example.com, or commenting on one of Living Water’s Instagram or Facebook posts.
[…] Sarah Yeji Kim is a recent Calvin University graduate currently serving as the Interim Worship Director at Living Water. Check out her interview to learn more about her story: https://livingwatercrc.org/meet-sarah-yeji-kim-people-of-living-water/ […]