As I get to know the Central Baptist Theological Seminary community, I want you to hear some of the amazing stories that I am hearing. To share those stories with you, I am “interviewing” students, alums, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters and sharing an interview on my blog, THIS IS CENTRAL. I invite you to join me on the journey of meeting members of our Central community.
Today’s interview is with Kwangsup Shin, a professor at Central Seminary.
Kwangsup, tell us a bit about your Central origin story. How did you come to be connected to Central and to teach on its faculty?
In 2013 I completed my Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago area, and I was working for a Korean-American church as a full-time pastor. In late fall of the same year, I unexpectedly was contacted by the Korean program at Central Seminary, about which I knew nothing, including anyone who was a part of the program, asking if I could teach M.Div. courses. Starting in the spring semester of 2014, I served as an adjunct faculty member, teaching the Christian Witness course in Wisconsin and St. Louis as a kind of “break” from endless church ministries. This was the beginning of my relationship with Central.
I believe that the center of my life is not my vision or my plan, but it is the Triune God, and that I am called and sent for the mission of God. I have always tried to remember and admit that everything in my life begins with God. My prayer for the future was not about a specific position I longed for, such as a professor or a senior pastor, but rather was a prayer that I could move at any time if God would naturally lead my family to a place where God wanted to lead us. My ministry in the Korean-American church had entered the tenth year, which I had served since 2006. In 2015 my wife and I began praying for God’s new direction more seriously.
Suddenly, in the summer of the same year, I received an offer as a full-time professor from Central. My wife and I prayed and recognized it as God's guidance. I am also very happy and grateful that I was able to move beautifully and naturally with blessings and encouragement from the church where I had enjoyed a good relationship and standing for a long time.
Tell us about your life’s journey.
I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, in my mother's and maternal grandmother's faith. I learned God’s word-centered and worship-oriented life of faith in a Presbyterian church in my hometown and began to experience more vividly what it meant to follow Jesus through evangelism and discipleship in a college student missions organization. God has consistently given me opportunities to nurture someone through discipleship training for almost twenty years since college (looking back on those years, I think it was an undeserved grace given to me).
After training and ministry as a short-term missionary in the Philippines, I graduated from college and began the M.Div. program at the Presbyterian Seminary in South Korea, and met my wife, Katie. I completed my M.Div. and began working as a young adult pastor and in 2004 went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to study missiology at Calvin Seminary. That year our first child, Michelle, was born! While studying the Th.M. program under the direction of Ruth Tucker, my mission history professor, I wrote a thesis about the early ministry of Samuel A. Maffett (1864-1939), an American missionary in Korea. I received a lot of encouragement, comfort, and instruction from professor Tucker, who understood and cared about international students, and her influence was a valuable driving force that helped me settle well into my American life.
In 2006 we moved to Chicago to study for a doctoral program, and the following year our son, Joshua, was born! Until we moved to Kansas in 2015, I had experienced full-time immigrant church ministry. A great benefit of coming to Central has been the opportunity to cultivate a broader global perspective by meeting professors and fellow students from diverse cultures and theological backgrounds.
My wife, Katie, is my loving friend and support, and our two lovely kids are now in the tenth and eighth grades. I am grateful that my children are growing well in a Korean immigrant family as they go back and forth between Korean and American culture every day. We have lived in Overland Park, Kansas, and we are all family trip lovers.
What do you believe are Central’s best gift and greatest strengths?
The Korean Program? When I think of Central over the past five years, a picture of people from various racial and cultural backgrounds gathering together and participating in God's mission is drawn. Also, from my experiences with Central, words like “tolerance,” “encouragement,” “prayer and concern for social justice,” “innovative,” “global,” “celebration,” “cooperation” come to mind. I think that the people, culture, and atmosphere we have built together are great gifts and strengths of Central.
What is bringing you joy in this hard season of COVID? What hobbies, activities, adventures, family connections are keeping you healthy?
Since this pandemic, my children and I have been studying and working at home, so it is the first time in the family history that the whole family continues to be together twenty-four hours a day, for several months, and it will probably be difficult to experience again in the future. So, these are hard times, but we want to thank God.
Since the pandemic, I have been walking a trail with my wife every day and that keeps me healthy and joyful. When I finish my work, we go to the trail willingly, walk, talk, and sweat, and I feel peace and joy in my body and mind. We try to have “Hiking Thursday” with my kids once a week. It is also fun to ride a bike sometimes.
As a family we put together two 1,000-piece puzzles and hung them on the wall. It is also fun for the family to play musical instruments and sing songs together. On weekends, we enjoy watching Korean movies and dramas together (for fun and also for my kids to study Korean). I enjoy and am thankful for “5 minutes of family prayer time.” When the alarm goes off every evening at a set time, it is time to pause what everyone has been doing and gather together in the living room to sing, give thanks, and pray for each other, for friends, and for the world. We pray that God's grace and mercy will come to all people around the world suffering from Covid-19.