How does a church with a membership of only 85 people build a new church worth $2.75 million in two years for a cost of just $1.5 million? It could only be done by prayer for God’s blessings, hard work, the generosity of people around the world, and the faithful leadership of Andrew Kim, Anchorage Korean Church pastor.
It was not uncommon to walk into the Alaska Conference office early in the morning and find Andrew on his knees at the front of the conference room praying. This room had been the temporary chapel for the Korean congregation for several years. More than once, Andrew had studied with potential members who had quit coming because they said the building was too far from where they lived, and it looked like an office, not a church. This broke Andrew's heart. So each morning he prayed, “Lord, we need a church in the center of town so people will come to church.”
One day, Andrew was driving through the Midtown area of Anchorage and was surprised to see a newly placed “For Sale” sign on a prime piece of undeveloped property in the middle of a multi-unit residential area. He immediately contacted the real-estate agent and found out that the asking price was approximately one-half the price he expected to have to pay. After contacting the conference office, Andrew immediately agreed to the $195,000 price. By the end of the day, he had the necessary paperwork completed to seal the deal. That "For Sale" sign stood for only one day!
The foundation was laid two years ago, and the church was completed just one year later. Each weekend, approximately 30 Korean volunteers gathered on the work site. Not all the volunteers were Adventist members. The Anchorage Korean community has been watching the progress with interest, because Andrew has volunteered the use of the facility for public functions within the Korean community. The opening ceremony included recognition of the role of local Korean leaders in the success of the building project.
Korean church members have raised funds in some unusual ways. Each summer, Andrew and his wife, Audrey, and other church members have conducted Alaskan tours with the proceeds of these tours going to support the building project. The tours included a presentation of the dreams and needs of the Korean church in Anchorage. Often the presentation of the needs resulted in more donations to the building project than the proceeds of the tour fees. The new church has eight motel-style guest rooms, which will continue to be used to house guests visiting Alaska.
In order to save dollars, Andrew traveled to Korea and purchased pews, flooring, wall paneling, and ceiling tiles at a savings of 60 percent, including the cost of shipping! When the fire department added the requirement of installing a sprinkler system in the facility, a member came forward and offered to pay the $55,000 price tag. Donations have come from the North American Adventist Korean community. The outstanding mortgage on the project is only about $600,000 on an equity value of an estimated $2.75 million!
Andrew spent the first 27 years of his life in Seoul, Korea. He earned a B.S. degree in material science engineering, which he used in a business producing dental appliances. He is currently completing a master's degree from Andrews University. While in Georgia, where he lived before coming to Alaska, he planted a new church that grew into a large congregation.
When the Kims moved from Georgia to Alaska in 1999, they were not employed full-time as a pastoral couple. To supplement his stipend pay, Andrew ran a dental appliance lab. But even with his part-time pastor's salary, he continued his drive to grow congregations. Andrew did not receive a full-time pastor's salary until 2004.
Audrey Kim struggled for more than a year with the move to Alaska. She admits that she did not like living in Alaska and really wanted to return to Georgia. Audrey wrote her story in a book written in Korean, titled I Love Alaska. The proceeds from her book have been donated to the church building project. More than $60,000 has been donated by those touched by Audrey’s story! This is much more than the revenue from the book.
At the urging of others, Audrey has contracted with someone to translate the book into English. She has been encouraged to write a second book describing the “rest of the story.” Audrey has also obtained her realtor’s license and has dedicated her commissions to the building project.
The Anchorage Korean Adventist Church now faces two challenges. First, they want to quickly pay off the mortgage. Second, they wish to fill the 200 seats each Sabbath. Under the leadership of their humble pastor, there is no doubt their determination to be God’s light to the Korean community will continue to be blessed.