By Donna Williamson
Loren Sutton, pastor of Airview Church of God, knows what it’s like to start a new church, which includes holding services in one’s home or wherever a meeting place can be found. This is what he did until the building for Airview Church of God was completed in June of 1968. So when Korean pastor Yuen Kim and his wife visited Sutton a few months ago and asked if they could hold services at Airview, Sutton and his church membership overwhelmingly approved.
According to Sutton, Kim is a member of the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA). He and his wife left Korea to come to the United States to serve as missionaries for Koreans already living in the states. Kim’s first church, which he pastored for approximately nine years, was in New York. Because of the growing number of Koreans in this area, the CMA sent him and his wife here to start a Korean church. Sutton says the CMA is part of a Christ-centered global movement, which is more than six million strong. “The CMA is more in the North and Northeast. They are a good group of people,” Sutton adds.
Kim and his wife Sung Baik (In Korea the wife doesn’t take the husband’s last name, even though they have been married for 30 years.) held church services in their home at first. However, they wanted to have the service in an actual church. Other churches in the area agreed to let them rent a room, but they wanted a church, not just a room. “They rode by our church, saw that it was small, and approached us about having their Sunday service here at Airview,” Sutton explained. “We met; our church board agreed and New Vision Church, the name of the Korean church, with Kim as its pastor started immediately.”
New Vision Church currently has its service on Sunday morning from 9-10:30 a.m. However, beginning in January, services will be from 12:30-2 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Airview’s service is at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. Kim also uses the church on Thursdays for Bible study. Morning prayer time is Monday-Friday from 5-6 a.m. and Saturday morning from 6-7 a.m..
Sutton says that Kim and his wife always attend Airview’s 11 a.m. service. “They understand my sermon because they can understand English much better than they can speak it,” Sutton said. “The language barrier is the only obstacle that we have encountered in our church partnership. None of us speak Korean and they speak little English.”
To simplify matters and make communication easier, Sutton says that Kim has told everyone to call him Peter and Baik has asked everyone to call her Esther. “They are the most humble, straight forward people I have ever been around,” Sutton said.
To help unite the cultures, Kim and his congregation have been invited to attend Airview’s holiday dinner. “Kim and his congregation will bring traditional Korean food,” Sutton said. “The two congregations will fellowship together.”
Sutton and his wife Elouise have been invited to the Kim’s home to share in their family Christmas dinner and to meet their two children who will be coming in from out of town. Sutton said, “I don’t see how it could be any better. They treat me like their pastor.”
Sutton knows that the Kim’s are here to stay and that their ministry will continue to grow. “Airview’s parsonage became empty and they will be moving into it in early December,” he said.
Another indicator that the Kim’s are here to stay is the new sign which has been erected beside the Airview Church of God sign. Translated from Korean, it says New Vision Church. Sutton explained, “They built a sign just like ours, identifying their church in their language. Korean people will drive by and see that sign and understand that they can attend Korean church and that they are welcome to stay for our service too.”
Airview Church of God/New Vision Church is located at the intersection of Old Opelika Road and Frederick Road.
According to Sutton, one of the best things about this partnership is that it allows Airview Church of God to have a multicultural ministry. “It’s a ministry for us,” he said. “I think this is of God. My life has been blessed to see it take off and get going.”