When Young Lee arrived in America from Korea in December 1996, he was unsure of where he would establish roots. His wife, Soojung, joined him in America in 1998. There was one thing, though, that both were very sure of. They came to America because God had called them to share the message of Jesus to non-believers. That became a bigger challenge than either ever imagined.
Today Lee is Rev. Young Lee and he is the founding pastor of The Body of Christ Korean Church of the Nazarene. The congregation meets at Grace Church of the Nazarene on Trenton Road. Lee started the church in 2005.
From Korea to America did not happen overnight. In Korea there is a two-year mandatory military service requirement upon high school graduation. After Lee completed his two years in the Army, he began attending Korean Nazarene University to begin his path to ministry.
When he arrived in the U.S., he enrolled at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas to continue his education. From there he completed his divinity degree at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He is now in the second year of doctoral studies at NTS.
Some people might think these educational accomplishments are routine and just part of the path to ministry. It should be noted that with the exception of his time at Korean Nazarene, his academic achievements and degrees have been earned at English-speaking universities in America. His native language is Korean. English is still a challenge for him.
“I knew that going to America to study and prepare for the ministry would be hard. It has been very hard at times. Imagine an American student going to Korea and attending school where only Korean is spoken,” Lee said.
“When I arrived in America, I had to learn English too. It was very hard. I was lonely and missed my country and friends,” Soojung Lee said.
Before starting The Body of Christ Church in Clarksville, Rev. Lee served briefly in Memphis and became associate pastor of Madison Church of the Nazarene outside Nashville.
“While in Memphis I developed terrible allergies and was sick a lot. I said, ‘I don’t want to die in Memphis. We need to move.’ That is when I came to Madison,” said Young Lee.
“We like Clarksville. Many Koreans live here, but it is still hard to meet other Koreans and make friends, even after 10 years. Many Koreans are non-believers and those are the people God has called me to serve. Many Koreans in America are suspicious of Christianity and do not want anything to do with it.
“They don’t trust pastors and they don’t want anyone talking to them about God. Also, older Koreans carry hurt left from the Korean War and when the Japanese occupied Korea in World War II. They can’t let go of that hurt. Opening hearts can be tough,” Pastor Lee said.
Building a congregation and getting the message out to others has been hard, but the work effort has paid off. The church averages between 95 and 100 people at Sunday worship.
Helping Pastor and Mrs. Lee behind the scenes has been Rev. Steve Estep, pastor of Grace Church of the Nazarene.
“Young and Soojung were already here when I arrived as pastor. They and the congregation are a tremendous blessing and asset to Grace Church. It is always a positive experience when the two congregations come together on a project. Pastor Lee and I meet every Monday morning for prayer and then talk about what’s on our minds,” said Estep.
“When Steve was made pastor here, I didn’t know what he would be like. He welcomed us. He has become my mentor. The Grace congregation has provided and supported our congregation so much. Two years ago I wanted to resign. Steve knew of our struggles and asked me to stay,” said Pastor Lee. “And I am glad I did.”
“I went into depression years ago because of how much we were struggling here,” said Soojung Lee. “Coming to America was hard. Coming to Clarksville was hard. I did not know anybody. Pastor Steve, his family, and the Grace congregation helped me through a hard time.
“Like my husband, I want to reach non-believers too, but my ministry is helping others with depression. I recently received my certificate in Christian counseling and will continue my education so I can help people. That is what I know God is calling me to do.”
For Young and Soojung Lee there is work to be done in the fields of the Lord. Both are committed to reaching non-believers and helping people open their hearts.
--Republished with permission from The Leaf Chronicle