PUC students play games with young church members during a Kids Day they held at the Rohnert Park Korean Adventist Church.
It's Sabbath morning and Pastor Doh is not in the pulpit; a college student named Danny is in his place. Danny Chung, a sophomore religion and pre-medical student at Pacific Union College, is giving the sermon this morning on a topic he used in a recent Bible study: staying aware of how awesome and powerful God is when we come to him in prayer.
Pastor Doh asks Chung to preach once in a while, but more often Chung is busy leading the youth Sabbath school group at the church, Napa Korean Adventist Church in Napa, California. It's Chung's home church and he continued to attend when he went off to PUC, and now he juggles the task of finding topics that will resonate with both college-age and high-school-age members, who are joined together in one youth group of about 50 members.
Along with Chung, PUC students Paul Ong, Steven Chung, Brian Kim, and James Oh, several of whom also grew up in this church, provide the youth leadership for Sabbath school and social activities. One of the biggest reasons for doing so is tradition. "When we were in high school or junior high, we had PUC students who would come," Chung explains. "They were our role models and they really made our church fun... So it's kind of like following after them."
In addition, these students get a sense that they're contributing to their church. "Our church does need us to help," Chung says. "And all the high school kids kinda do look up to us."
In another direction, another group of Korean PUC students are fulfilling an almost identical mission. "I remember how awesome it was as an early high school student to have college students take an interest in me," says Sam Lee, a PUC senior who leads youth events for the Rohnert Park Korean Church.
At a table on the edge of the busy PUC Campus Center, seven students gather to talk about their youth leadership in Rohnert Park. They each have a role, ranging from coordinating vespers to leading praise music to creating a bulletin. They take turns presenting Sabbath messages and, though their emphasis was initially on the high-school-aged youth, they now provide programming for junior high and sometimes even elementary school children. On any given Sabbath morning, several cars will be filled with 15-20 PUC students headed to Rohnert Park to lead, help out, or attend.
Eugenia Kwon, a junior who started attending and now helps on the leadership team, points out that "it does become a ministry to [PUC] underclassmen as well." It's an extension of another program they're involved in through the Korean Adventist Student Association at PUC, a Big Brother/Big Sister program that pairs upperclassmen with incoming freshmen to help them adjust to college life socially and academically. "Korean culture is known for its emphasis on respect, especially respect towards your elders," Lee explains. "This enables us to develop a special bond between the young and the old in a 'mentorship' type system in which the older group looks after and guides the younger group."
The same effect applies at the church. "Having a strong collegiate presence in our small church provides the youth group with a solid group of mature and responsible mentors, much like KASA does for freshmen," Lee says. The result is that the youth see church more positively and know that the college students are invested in them. To Lee, the importance of what his team of classmates does deserves high recognition. "They are true lay leaders."
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