In my first week as president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, I quickly realized that there are stories from the Central community that need to be heard—not heard just by me but by all who love and are committed to the seminary. To share those stories with you, I am “interviewing” students, alums, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters, and each week I am sharing an interview with you on this blog titled THIS IS CENTRAL. I look forward to getting to know this community, and I invite you to join me on the journey.
My interview today is with Dr. Samuel Park, who is the associate professor of practical theology and contextual ministry education at Central and serves as the director of the Korean Programs.
PD: Tell us a bit about your Central origin story. How did you come to be connected to Central and in what ways over the years have you served, led, and been part of the Central community?
SP: During the first six months of 2013, I had been silently waiting for God’s presence and guidance in my journey of finding the right vocation among several possible paths: serving as a seminary professor, a pastoral counselor, a church pastor, a chaplain in a hospital setting, or a missionary in a foreign country. When I started my prayers of spiritual discernment, I was desperate for God’s immediate help and intervention, but it never happened in the first few months. Although my soul was deeply agonized and distressed, I never complained about the uncertainty and instead trusted in God’s faithfulness. As I came to a deeper level of seeking God, my forlorn heart was calmer, and I could understand what it meant to be still and wait patiently for the Lord.
Those six months felt like forever, but that sense of being in the valley of endless shadow was broken when a call came from Central and ultimately from God. The valley was deep and dark but not very long. My shepherd led me to the table of a teaching and learning community, which was my first vocational choice. Even as I realized that the field on which I would work and lie down was not always green pastures beside quiet waters, I felt blessed with my overflowing cup at the table. Over the last seven years of being a part of Central’s full-time standing faculty, I have served as director of the Korean Missional Church Programs, overseeing ten local teaching sites, cooperating with more than fifty Korean professors, and teaching and learning with hundreds of students. Moreover, I have served as a member of the Academic Team, the Doctor of Ministry Committee, the Presidential Search Committee, and the Buttry Center Advisory Group, as well as other services.
PD: Share with me briefly your life’s journey and work. Where have you invested your gifts and energy in serving?
SP: Originally from South Korea, I was born in a Christian family that was blessed with four daughters before receiving their firstborn son through persistent prayers. That is why I was named after the biblical prophet Samuel whose name means praying for a son and dedicating him to God. My childhood dream was to become a pastor, which I realized after a long battle of prayers with God before entering a seminary.
After serving local churches for eight years in Seoul, Korea, I came to the United States to study pastoral counseling. Before accepting the position at Central, I taught pastoral care/counseling and practical theology courses at the Central-Dallas site and another seminary. While teaching in Dallas, I also served as a pastoral counselor in a counseling center. My clinical experiences include chaplaincy in a hospital setting in Miami, Florida; pastoral counselor-in-training in a pastoral center in Fort Worth, Texas; and postdoctoral residency at a counseling center, Dallas, Texas. I also founded a pastoral counseling center and served as its executive director for the Greater Dallas Korean community and beyond.
My main interest has always been in serving, ministering to, and educating people whether it would be in a church, counseling center, hospital, or seminary. I have invested my energy in listening to others’ stories and helping them through their personal, relational, spiritual, and/or educational journeys, while using my gifts of empathy, teaching, and administration to help them to grow. At Central, I have used my creative and entrepreneurial spirit to develop new sites, including an overseas location, and transform problems into beneficial circumstances by approaching them from new angles. I appreciate Central’s supporting my endeavors as the director of Korean Programs and allowing me to actualize my creative problem-solving skills to perform at my best.
PD: What are some of the things you love best about Central?
SP: I love the wide and flexible nest that Central provides to nurture future congregational, missional, societal, and ecological leaders. I also appreciate that Central is a theological institution that provides a hospitable space for students, faculty, and congregations who need biblical, theological, and prophetic leadership. In our politically, racially, religiously, and theologically divisive world, Central has the potential to embrace a wide range of students with open arms to facilitate a just and peaceful dialogue among many diverse views. In particular, Korean students and faculty that come from different denominations and theological backgrounds can appreciate these opportunities to experience diverse perspectives and participate in the discussion.
PD: What are your hopes and dreams for Central’s future?
SP: In its future, I envision that Central will become a seminary that hosts more students from various cultural, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds for the mission of Central through the means of internet-based education. In particular, I hope that Central will pay extra attention to theological education in the Global South, where many church leaders do not have the proper education to lead their congregations. As our global vision statement delineates, we need to develop an international version of educational programs and a global network through which we can deliver education. I’d like to help broaden the horizons of Central and cultivate a future where Central is the vehicle that will offer theological education for churches and their religious leaders in the Global South.