School + Church = A Friend in Jesus

Susan Kim (pictured in middle) is a vibrant South Korean woman who arrived in the Portland area last fall with her two children who were to be exchange students. It was Susan’s desire that they be educated in American culture and the ways of the West. She was hoping her kids would be placed in a Catholic or public school that was known for academic excellence.

When she learned that her children were accepted into Tualatin Valley Academy in Hillsboro, Ore., an Adventist school, she was rather dismayed. She was hoping there had been some mistake. She found out that the government places the kids and to appeal it would be a long process. She went ahead and enrolled the kids. She soon found that it was an exceptional place for her kids to be with outstanding academics, incredible character building and value systems that were in line with what she was hoping they would learn when they came to America.

Susan observed the kids at school learning about Jesus.  She observed them in Bible class and chapel, praying and singing about Jesus. She got to the point each day she would go and be part of the third grade class. She too was learning about American customs and English by being a part of her children’s lives day in and day out at Tualatin Valley Academy.

One day she asked some of the parents at Tualatin Valley Academy where they went to church. She started attending Sunset Christian Fellowship and became part of one of the Sabbath School classes coming faithfully week after week. She started asking some very difficult and challenging questions. Through that process friendships were formed. The members showed genuine care for her and her inviting them home for meals and fellowship. All this time she thought she was learning about American customs. What she didn’t realize was that she was learning about the love of Jesus. 

She came to church Easter Sabbath and attended what Sunset Christian Fellowship calls the “Flowering Cross Service.” The Flowering Cross Service sets up an old rugged, ratty looking cross in the church. Then Easter Sabbath morning everyone brings a handful of fresh flowers. They transform that ugly, ragged cross into something of beauty. The old rugged cross becomes a beautiful piece representing what Jesus Christ signifies in our lives—a beautiful expression of His grace. As Susan participated in the Flowering Cross Service and the communion that followed, she made a decision in her mind to give her heart to Jesus. 

She continued coming to church and asking those challenging questions. She continued learning in Mrs. Harwood's third grade class. She made a public stand for God and was baptized in June. The school and church together were there to help nurture Susan and her two children, not only into the customs of a new country, but also into the love of Jesus Christ.


A Conversation with Susan

Q: Susan, what did you hope to find when you came to America?
When I came to America with my kids I just expected them to learn English and experience the American culture. But while they were attending Tualatin Valley Academy Adventist School I found that they were learning more than education itself. They were learning morals, how to pray, and how to be dependent upon God. I admire that.

Q: How did you grow in your relationship with people, church, and God?
When I came to America I never expected that I would meet these wonderful people. But God has blessed me with these wonderful Adventists. The fact that I met these people is a blessing from God.

Q: Tell us about when you came to Sunset Christian Fellowship, what happened?
In South Korea churches are gorgeous with many decorations. But when I came to Sunset Christian Fellowship, it was a simple building. I was a little disappointed. But when I heard the preacher, I absolutely agreed with him. Because of his message that day I decided to come to Sunset Christian Fellowship the next Sabbath. The message was again intriguing so I decided I wanted to come again the next Sabbath and I could never stop coming.

Q: Tell us about the friends you made when you came to church.
They nicely greeted me, but why I kept going back is because they were not pushing me to believe in God. They just led me to God in a very kind and gentle way.

Q: Any final thoughts?
When the agency recommended Tualatin Valley Academy to us. I was really upset because I asked for a Catholic or non-mission school. At that point I had no choice. So I came and let my kids attend the school. The first month I was very skeptical and watched very closely what was going on. As the second month rolled around I started admiring the school. Now I thank the agency for sending us to Tualatin Valley Academy.

I never thought I would become a Christian. I have been very judgmental against Christianity. I heard when I was in South Korea that when you go to America you have to go to church. But I said I will never go to church or become a Christian. I don’t know what happened to me I was just led to believe in God. 

The church showed their welcoming kindness and let me be as I am. Their answers to my questions were logical and Bible based.

Now that I have been baptized and I have made a stand for God I will raise my kids as Adventists.

I am going back to South Korea for the summer and found out that there is an Adventist church in my neighborhood. I plan on coming back to America for the next few years so my kids can continue to attend Tualatin Valley Academy.