TERAJI: Deaconess finds her calling

TERAJI: Deaconess finds her calling

One of South Valley’s most accomplished women is Deaconess
Katherine Kim. She recently was the Oct. 3 keynote speaker at
Gilroy United Methodist Church, where she highlighted her efforts
for the United Methodist Church locally and worldwide.
One of South Valley’s most accomplished women is Deaconess Katherine Kim.

She recently was the Oct. 3 keynote speaker at Gilroy United Methodist Church, where she highlighted her efforts for the United Methodist Church locally and worldwide. Kim first came from South Korea 47 years ago as a student to study pharmacy at the University of Washington.

Kim lives in Morgan Hill and serves as a women’s division director for the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, as well as a General Conference delegate for Northern California and Nevada. She votes on what gets included in policies made at the general level of the United Methodist Church at large.

“With $50 in my pocket and language difficulties, the student life at UW was a scary and courageous time in my life,” she recalled.

“It has been a long journey. I believe God had some purpose in my life after all the suffering and agony I went through. I learned a lot about human suffering from difficult experiences.”

After enjoying a long career as a pharmacist and raising a family, the day came to retire. Kim was at loose ends.

“After I retired from 36 years as a pharmacist, I needed to keep doing something with purpose. The United Methodist Women provided me with opportunities for training and helped me to pursue the career of deaconess.”

The United Methodist Church defines a deaconess as a community of laywomen who have been commissioned by the church to work full-time carrying out deeds of mercy and compassion. They serve in the areas of homelessness, domestic violence, child advocacy and care, health care, nursing, disaster relief, mental health, teaching, environmental issues and social justice.

Based in Morgan Hill, Kim says being a deaconess is her second profession. It is also her sacred calling in life and a way to give back for all that she has received.

“With the help of God, I have prospered here in America,” she said. “It is my turn to help others who need help.”

As a part of her work, Kim is the director of senior ministry at the Korean United Methodist Church of the Santa Clara Valley. Older adults meet once a week at the San Jose church in the “Kor-sage” Senior Program for Bible study, meditation, special lectures, counseling, singing, line-dancing, Korean drum dancing with a hot meal included.

I have a special interest in the group because this year I began serving on the Beulah Older Adult Grant Committee, which partially funds the program in order to benefit senior citizens. This week I am assessing the Korean church’s request to begin a second program for younger seniors in 2011, which will be called the Silver Ministry.

Kim explained to me the deaconess of today cherish their history as going back to the time of St. Paul, when a woman named Phoebe was first mentioned as a deaconess in the New Testament Bible verse of Romans 16:1. The United Methodist deaconess movement began in 1888 when a request for recognition of the Office of Deaconess was granted by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

On one of her mission trips to Cambodia, Kim visited a place called the Dump Site, where approximately 10,000 families make a living on what is essentially a garbage dump. Kim worked with a Methodist missionary who runs a program for children from the site, teaching them self-sufficient vocational skills.

“We are dedicated to alleviating suffering and eradicating causes of injustice,” Kim explained of her mission work with women’s division.

When Kim heard members of the Gilroy United Methodist Church were collecting blankets for the needy, she brought two big bags of blankets to donate when she arrived to give her talk. As I opened the bags, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Hand crocheted blankets of all different sizes spilled out across the table in a rainbow of red, yellow, blue, green, and purple.

Bernadette Barrera, migrant education recruiter for the Gilroy Unified School District, joined with Pastor Eric Cho and his Gilroy United Methodist Church team to organize donations of blankets, bedding, furniture, and clothing. They delivered them Oct. 7. to the city’s migrant population.

When Kim returns from an AIDS prevention conference in Texas, she e-mailed stating she wants to donate more of her time and resources to the Gilroy needy.

“I saw that you have a wish list … and I would like to bring something when I get back home,” she wrote. “Also when you have a soup kitchen or similar work, please let me know. I would like to participate.”

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