Camarillo United Methodist Church Welcomes New Pastor, Rev. Dr. Elbert Kim
Born in Korea but having grown up in Hawaii, I have come to love every aspect of God’s multifaceted handiwork in the lives of all people. Like many immigrant families, my parents worked hard while I tried to stay out of trouble. Church (Christ UMC) was always an important part of my formative life. My family went to church every Sunday, and sometimes multiple times on a given day. Growing up in Hawaii has its joys and frustration. Many people see it as a paradise, a great place to vacation. But growing up on the islands as a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get off the rock! Needless to say, I choose a school that was as far as I could imagine when it came time to go off to college.
I attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a 12-hour flight from Honolulu airport. Of course, there were no direct flights back then, so add in the layover, and I enjoyed spending a full day traveling. I was young and precarious, and I felt free from being bound at home. (We might come to experience what this feels like in the coming weeks/months). I studied engineering and fully enjoyed the college experience. So much so, that during my first year, I completely “forgot” to go to church! Until one early morning, I awoke with a deep sinking feeling of emptiness in my gut. Something was missing and I knew what it was. It was Sunday morning, so I got dressed and walked the neighborhood in search of a church. I found First UMC of East Liberty, a large stone cathedral building but not many people inside. I went in and sat down, and almost instantly I felt like I’ve come home. That feeling of returning to God and being part of a faith community will never be forgotten and is the reason I’m in ministry, to call upon others to experience that as well.
It was during my college years I came to fully understand my calling into ministry. While I enjoyed my engineering studies very much, what I looked forward to each week was teaching Sunday School, and leading ministries at the church. I loved engaging in youth ministries and organizing programs that excited others about church. So in my senior year, I wrote a letter home to my parents and said, “You know that $100K education you sent me to be an engineer? Well, … I’m going to seminary….” My mother was elated at the first news; my father needed some time. But the moment I returned home and saw my father, he looked at me and said, “I knew.” That was the affirmation I needed to solidify my calling.
I received my Master of Divinity from Claremont School of Theology and my doctorates from Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C. During my 20+ years of ordained ministry, I’ve served churches in Woodland Hills KUMC, Laguna Hills KM, Fullerton First UMC, San Diego First UMC and La Mesa First UMC. My passion in ministry is teaching and leading various studies that open the eyes of people, whether a long-time faithful churchgoer or the newly inquiring seeker. There is a joy that comes when you see the Spirit enlighten a person’s to faith as they come to know the breadth and depth of God’s love and amazing work throughout history in the world. My hope for each individual is to grow in discipleship, experience the unbounded love of God and have it ignite a reconciling love for others. That type of faith reveals itself in the work we do as a community in worship, fellowship, and in service to a world that is desperate to know that they are accepted and loved by the God who is the source of life.
Along with the local church that partner with me in ministry is my family that provides joy and peace each day. My wife, Grace, has been serving by my side for the past 24 years. She is a high school teacher in chemistry and mathematics. We met while I was in college and has since been my greatest encourager in ministry. We have two boys, one that had his first year at Brown University cut short this year, and another who will be looking into starting his high school year come Fall 2020. We are a close-knit family that loves to do everything together, whether it’s traveling on vacation or simply lounging at home binging on Netflix. I enjoy going out with my boys to the park to throw football or having one-on-one “dates” with each of my family members. I lose all track of time when I go to the gym to exercise. I put in my earbuds and listen to music, a sermon, an audiobook, or simply let my mind wander as I think about new possibilities for ministry.
My spiritual life centers around prayer. My mother is a prayer fanatic. She goes to pray every day at church at the wee hours in the morning as part of the Korean custom. During my high school year, she would wake me at 4 AM so that I could join her for Morning Prayer Services. I’ve had my share of times falling asleep in the pews! But that practice has become ingrained in me now where I seek prayer as my source of strength and guidance. I depend on God’s Spirit in everything I do as a person and in ministry. And I know that my next journey in serving Camarillo will be led by the prayers of all those around me. I’m encouraged and excited to see what God has in store for us all.