Donor Stories

Kim and Yoo Encourage Fellow Alums To Support Their Alma Mater Soon After They Graduate

Rev. Ran Yoo (G-ETS 2016) and Rev. Kook Ho Kim (G-ETS 2015)
Rev. Ran Yoo (G-ETS 2016) and Rev. Kook Ho Kim (G-ETS 2015)

When Rev. Kook Ho Kim (G-ETS 2015) and Rev. Ran Yoo (G-ETS 2016) graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, they knew they wanted to support their alma mater right away. To begin with, they both received scholarships from Garrett-Evangelical and were grateful for the opportunity to attend seminary. Second, they wanted others to have that same opportunity.

“Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary was a meaningful place for me,” Kim said. “I met my wife there, and I had the opportunity to start my ordination journey there.”

“Because Garrett-Evangelical had a strong scholarship program, we were able to study there,” Yoo said. “By giving back, we want to give someone else this great opportunity.”

Soon after Kim graduated and Kim and Yoo married in 2015, they talked about their financial situation, including their offerings to the church and other donations. “We knew that seminaries do not have enough money, and seminarians don’t have enough money,” Kim said. “We wanted to help.” Although they had car payments and loans to pay on a pastors’ salaries, the two decided that they wanted to start donating monthly to Garrett-Evangelical.

“The amount was not important, we thought,” said Kim. “We decided to start giving and increase it as we go. It was hard, but we knew we just had to start.”

“Many people think they will donate when they have the money,” Yoo said. “But that time never comes. So, we decided to give what we could and just get started.”

Kim and Yoo both grew up and went to high school in Seoul, South Korea. While Kim’s nuclear family was not Christian, his grandmother was, and she took Kim to church until she passed away when Kim was seven. Kim stayed in the church and ultimately went to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, where he majored in German and Russian and continued to attend a Presbyterian church.

Kim interrupted his studies to serve in the Korean military for two years, a requirement for all Korean men. After his military service, Kim said he wanted to find a way to spend his life serving God. He found his answer. “God gave me a great opportunity to serve as a missionary in the south of Russia through my church,” he said.

While serving as a missionary, Kim met a Methodist missionary from the United States as well as a pastor from the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church. They both recommended that he apply to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary when he finished college.

Kim applied and was accepted, and six months after he graduated from university, he enrolled at Garrett-Evangelical.

Yoo grew up in a Christian home. She heard her call to ministry while in high school. At the time, she was struggling with an undiagnosed sickness and trying several unsuccessful medical treatments. “Nothing worked,” she said. “So, I prayed, and while I was praying, I encountered God.”

After her encounter, Yoo was determined to find a way to serve God. Both a professional counselor and her pastor suggested that she become a pastor. So, after graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, where she majored in theology. There, she decided she wanted to serve the local church.

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of opportunity for women clergy in the Korean church, Yoo said. One of her professors suggested she get her master’s degree in the United States and start her ordination process there.

Some of her friends from the Methodist Theological University were studying at Garrett-Evangelical and highly recommended it. “They liked that Garrett-Evangelical focused on both the academic areas and also the practical areas,” Yoo explained.

After she graduated from college in 2012, she enrolled at Garrett-Evangelical, a year after Kim.

As a member of the Korean Student Council, Kim helped new students adjust to life in the United States. He also led the Korean worship service at Howes Chapel where Yoo attended services. “Over time, we got close,” Yoo said. “We shared our vision with each other and found we had the same vision and same goals,” Kim said.

Both Kim and Yoo enjoyed their time at Garrett-Evangelical. Kim loved that Garrett-Evangelical focused on both the academic and the practical. He was also grateful for his scholarship and his job at the Office of Student Life at Garrett-Evangelical. Garrett-Evangelical helped Yoo gain a broader understanding of theology and the church, she said.

During his field education, Kim worked as a student pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in East Troy, Wisconsin. “That started my ordination journey in Wisconsin,” he said. After graduation, he served as an associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Kenosha for a year. The two married that same year.

When Yoo graduated the next year, she asked the Conference to appoint her to a church near Kim. The Bishop asked them to serve together in the Upper Saint Croix Parish in northwest Wisconsin near the border of Minnesota. They served as co-pastors to three churches there until 2019, when Kim became a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain and the pastor of Brodhead United Methodist Church in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Yoo became senior pastor at New Horizon United Methodist Church, located in nearby Orfordville. The couple now has two children, Caleb, 3, and Christine, 6 months.

The COVID 19 crisis caused both churches to close and shift their services online and on cable TV. Both congregations are elderly, but most people have access to the services, Kim said.

Kim and Yoo credit much of their success in ministry to Garrett-Evangelical, another reason why they feel so strongly about supporting their seminary. “We never took our education or scholarships for granted,” Yoo said. “Someone donated to the school because they believed that was one way to serve God and help others. We want to do the same thing.”