by Elsie Walker
Jisun Nam grew up in South Korea as a latchkey kid. Her parents were very busy and Nam and her sister would be home alone after school, day after day. However, her parents were not only physically absent, but spiritually and emotionally absent, too. Nam lived near a church and a Sunday School teacher invited she and her sister to come there after school. At the church, Nam found that someone was always there for her. She discovered the impact that church can have on a child and how that impact can carry on from generation to generation. A seed of interest in ministering to children and families grew. Nam would find herself going into a field that had been closed to some women and brings her to where she is today: the new associate minister at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, where she serves in family ministry.
“While in my high school years, I volunteered for the Sunday School as a kindergarten teacher and organized an after-school program with other teachers in the Sunday school to care for the latchkey children,” Nam shared. She noted how they not only helped children with their homework, played with them, and provided snacks, but involved them in worshipping, praying and meditating on God’s word. This experience made her want to pursue a career in children’s ministry and she majored in Christian Education and minored in Child Studies at Seoul Women’s University.
In 2003, she heard from an old sixth grade classmate, Kenneth Jung, who had emigrated to New York during high school and was back in South Korea for a visit. That reconnection led to marriage, with Nam emigrating to the United States. As she took a break from school and they raised a family, Nam served as the Sunday School Director at the church they attended. While she had the heart for it, she did not see herself going into ordained ministry as she saw pastors as having to meet a certain standard that she wasn’t sure she could meet. Also, the church she attended in South Korea was a denomination that did not believe women could be ministers. Nam would hear the words of her former pastor in her ear talking against women in the ministry. When her youngest child was three, Nam went back to school for Early Childhood studies.
Meanwhile, her family was attending a Methodist church (a different denomination than the church she attended in South Korea). The Methodist feeling toward women in ministry was more encouraging. The senior pastor at the church saw her gifts and encouraged Nam to study to become an ordained minister,
Still, Nam looked for signs. First, to be able to study for the ministry, she would need a full scholarship. She prayed to God that if He wanted her to be a minister, then she would get a full scholarship. Nam applied and got a full scholarship to Drew University, where she graduated with a Master’s in Divinity. There was also an ordination process to go through. Nam prayed to God again, if it really was the path for her, she would pass the ordination process successfully; she did.
Also, her student pastor/assistant pastor assignment had strengthened the sign. Nam was assigned to serve with a United Methodist female pastor. That pastor showed her “how female pastors are working for God and God’s children.”
Nam has served in a few churches in New Jersey and in July joined the Trinity United Methodist team. where she serves (ages infant – 21) in family ministry.
“Ministry is prayer and presence,” said Nam. It is not just about the programs the church offers. With that in mind, she noted that she has been calling families in the parish letting them know, “today our team prayed for your children, for your family” She said she has been thrilled at the response she has received.
On the personal side, Nam and her husband have three children: Neri (16), Nicholas (14), and Irene (11). Nam noted that she is a coffee lover and relaxes by walking with the family dog, a three and a half month hold beagle /terrier mix named Snooper. Nam noted that he is a “trouble maker”, but she loves him.
When asked about her favorite part of being a minister, Nam shared, “A pastor is to reflect God’s nature of listening to people and seeing them with loving eyes. I really love to sit with people and listen to them.”