Central had a marvelous day of celebration in the new 21st Century Learning Center on May 13. About 350 people gathered to witness the Commencement ceremony for 36 of the 58 graduates who completed their diploma and degree programs this year.
In addition to those who were on campus for the celebration, this year – for the first time in the seminary’s history – the event was livestreamed for those who could not be in Kansas City in person. Anyone from Central’s global community could join in the celebration by logging in from their own computer or tablet.
One of the highlights of the Commencement ceremony were the awards presented to outstanding graduates. The C. R. McBride and Katherine Willard Eddy Award for Excellence in Ministry was given this year to two women and two men – one of each for the English and Korean programs.
EyeRei Yoo, who graduated with a master of divinity degree, was one of the Korean program recipients. Her story is of particular interest. From 2003-2014 she devoted her life as a Korean missionary to the Thai diaspora before she came to Kansas to attend seminary. She helped to plant churches in the northeast area of Thailand, having learned the Thai language in Chiang Mai while working with Korean missionaries.
Realizing she needed more training, she attended the School of Frontier Mission of Youth with a Mission and was then called to spread the Gospel to the unreached people of Isaan in northeast Thailand.
“90 % of the diaspora of the Thai people in Korea are Issan,” said EyeRei. “The official language is Thai for Issan, but I was shocked to learn that mostly they spoke old Lao. I needed to learn Lao and more about their culture, since it was very different from Thai culture. The place where I worked is located near the Mekong river faced the border of Laos, and naturally I had many opportunities to work my mission with the Lao people.”
“In retrospect, I now understand why I needed to learn Lao, as well as Thai. God was preparing me for what was to come.” While taking Dr. Kwangsup Shin’s ministry dynamics class at Central, Yoo learned she could not complete her required internship with a Korean church. She researched and discovered a Lao church in Kansas. Former Central student and pastor of the church, the Rev. Theodore “Ted” Khongmaly, was pleased to discover she could speak Thai and Lao and agreed to be her mentor.
“We met every Sunday morning for 10 weeks to study the Bible. I also play the piano and was able to accompany the hymn singing. Sometimes Pastor Ted let me preach.”
Most people in the church were first generation refugees from Laos. EyeRei found she could relate well to them because they were not so far removed from the culture of their life in Laos. She was soon accepted into the community and felt loved by them.
EyeRei Yoo continues to play a significant role in the church by visiting, doing mission work, leading Bible study, preaching once a month, and leading a gospel choir. Upon the completion of her internship, the church called her to be an associate pastor.
“Learning about missional church thru Central gave me the freedom to have a broad vision for my ministry. In addition, President Marshall’s encouraging message was significant to me as a woman who feels called by God to minister. Her support gives me strength to minister with boldness. Rev. Ted is also supporting me as I prepare for ordination. I intend to devote the rest of my life to the mission field. As long as I am able and the opportunities are presented to me, I want to keep planting churches and working for the salvation of the diaspora of Thailand and Laos in the world.”