Lt. David Kim: There's a verse in Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 30: "Even youths can grow tired and weary. Young men stumble and fall, but those who wait for the Lord, will renew their strength. They'll soar on wings like eagles, will run and not be faint."
I'm a pastor's kid. My father's a pastor. My grandfather is a pastor. I'm third-generation. So when I was young, I wanted to be as far away from it as I could. I'll be my own person. I actually applied to West Point and the Naval Academy, but I got rejected because of my eyesight. My eyesight was pretty bad. I kind of reconnected with my faith in college. At that point, I knew I wanted to do something in full-time ministry, but I didn't want to be in a place where I'd been just interacting with people on Sundays.
When I was in seminary, there's a chaplain candidacy program. I had a chance to be with an infantry unit for a month. And I knew this is what I wanted to do. It is a unique opportunity to be very involved and very relevant. I think that's one of the things that a lot of people in ministry wrestle with is, "Am I getting through to the people that I'm speaking to? Am I making an impact?" I never have that question.
The chaplain is the one with the pulse on the troops, talking with these men and women, understanding where they're coming from and their perspective. It's our seat at the table that brings those voices to life for the commanding officer.
I've been married for around two years, so we're still newlyweds. We still wrestle with newlywed issues. I think one of the biggest challenges is work-life balance, especially in an operational tour where so much is asked of you in terms of your time. I always tell married couples, in your first two years, it is extremely important to prioritize your marriage because you're establishing a foundation for years to come.
What was taught to us in chaplain school is to always have hip-pocket sermons, something ready to go in your hip pocket that you can break it out and do a field service on the fly. We did a baptism in Afghanistan. The Seabees is a construction unit, so they have these front-end loaders with buckets in the front, and we got that filled up with water and immersed this guy. He wanted to take that step in his faith at that time. We made it happen.
The way I approach ministry is, I'm right there amongst them to show God's love, to show a spiritual presence. We call it incarnational ministry, and every single time I get a chance, I'm out trying to experience what they experience so that I have firsthand knowledge of exactly what they're talking about when they come in and do talk to me.
Yesterday was a battalion hike. They start off with 6 to 9 miles, and then it gets up to 12, 15, 18, 21 miles. It's a battalion exercise, so everyone does it. You go on this hike, and you have the same pack that they do. You have everything the same, except I don't carry a weapon. So you experience exactly what they experience. It's a huge part of establishing those relationships and building that credibility, which will pay dividends when things get rough for them, and they will. For them to have that relationship with a chaplain to turn to, that's golden. That's why I'm there.
My name is David Ton-Jin Kim. I'm a lieutenant, United States Navy Chaplain Corps.