It's been 12 years since the Rev. Joseph Kim served as an Ethnic Young Adult intern with the General Board of Church and Society, but the experience continues to have an impact.
"The internship honestly changed my life," he said. "It gave me tangible examples of people who lived out their faith outside of parish ministry. You don't have to be a pastor to live out your faith."
Kim was studying English and political science at the University of Michigan with plans of being a social justice lawyer when he interned for eight weeks with the General Board of Church and Society. Representing the Asian-American caucus, Kim learned how his ethnicity affected how he had grown up and his faith. Most days of the week, he worked for the Justice and Advocacy Commission at the National Council of Churches.
The internship helped shape his faith as it opened Kim's eyes to the world and taught him his faith could play a pivotal role in his striving for social justice.
"It framed everything for me about my faith," he said.
A mission trip to the Dominican Republic while in high school sparked Kim's passion for social justice. While there, he witnessed a young boy die from HIV/AIDS. "That stuck with me," he said. "I couldn't understand how the child could die from a preventable disease."
Kim said he came home "struggling and wrestling with God" about what he had seen. Finally, he said God answered his prayer but challenged him to do something. That's when Kim felt called to work on issues of children's rights.
Following college, Kim served as the program and administrative assistant for Church and Society's United Nations office in New York. He later was the director of children's rights advocacy in the Washington office. There he worked on policies to combat human trafficking and education reform.
In 2013, Kim discerned a call to ordained ministry.
"I saw on my heart God's call to heal my church," he said. "I realized God was calling me to be in the communities where people work, pray and live."
Kim attended Princeton Theological Seminary. He now serves as the associate pastor at Bothell United Methodist Church in Washington. There he works with the congregation to tackle issues such as homelessness, poverty and economic justice.
Erin Edgemon is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, March–April , 2016 .