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May6WedIt was only when Peter Kim hit rock bottom that he was able to look up. What he saw changed his life. May 6, 2015 by Scott Hayes
It takes a man of humility to admit his mistakes. It takes another kind of man, a man of higher purpose, to turn from his mistakes and work toward the betterment of mankind.
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- Faith & Friends
Such a man is Lieutenant Peter Kim, co-pastor of the Salvation Army church in St. Albert, Alta., a city northwest of Edmonton.
Death on the Streets
Peter wasn't always a Christian. As a teen, he went through a troubled period that involved drugs and crime. Born in Seoul, South Korea, he was only 1½ years old when the family immigrated to Canada, settling in the Toronto area. He and his younger brother had a great childhood. But while his parents were hardworking people, the challenges they faced were too much for the marriage and they eventually divorced.
It was during his middle teens that life began to unravel.
“I ended up hanging with the wrong crowd,” he says. “I got into street life, getting into mischief at first and then into drugs and then selling. I lived on the street.”
Peter still has a scar on his face as a constant reminder of those misspent days. Some of his friends at the time got into even more trouble than he did, and some died.
When he had finally rock bottom, all he could do was look up.
“There came a point when I was 17, where I was homeless, had nothing in my pocket and no food in my stomach. I was lying on a park bench. I looked up at the stars ... they must have all been out there that night. There must be a God who could create all of this universe, I thought. How insignificant and how small I was compared to the universe and compared to God.”
He calls the moment his revelation.
“At that moment, I asked God to save me from the living hell that I was in.
“ 'I'll follow you for the rest of my life,' I said. At that point, something changed within me, a light shone in my heart. I went back home, went back to school and went back to church. God took a hold on my life and things started to change. Not too long after that, a pastor asked me to not just give my heart to Jesus but to give my mind and my body and my heart so that I could start living for Him.”
Peter enrolled in classes at the University of Toronto and even started teaching Sunday school.
“Things turned around for me.”
The dramatic revelation Peter had that night was indeed a turning point, but he was soon in trouble with the law again.
“I turned away from the church,” he admits. “I got caught up again with the wrong side of life and got into trouble.”
Eventually, he ended up getting The Salvation Army's help to satisfy some community service obligations. Being on that side of the church's programs showed him the way to the path he is on now.
“The corrections department at the Army helped me find a parole officer. It's ironic, but that's how I ended up becoming a Salvation Army pastor,” Peter says. “Now, I have the opportunity to give back to the community and do for others what The Salvation Army did for me.”
Indeed, he's taken that “pay it back” attitude to heart, trying to show others the same stars he saw so many years ago. Peter has worked with inmates at the Young Offenders' Centre and the Edmonton Institution for Women, taking them to seniors' homes to “share the good news of why Jesus came, and how His light can shine in the darkest life and darkest situation.
“When you see the stars at night, you realize God is real,” he says. “This wasn't an accident.”
Peter has also gone on mission trips to Albania, Hungary and several First Nations communities in Canada, helping people to deal with an array of serious social issues, including homelessness, human trafficking, crime and addictions.
Peter calls his story a miraculous testimony to the power of God, that He entered his life and saved him from the same fate as his friends on the street more than a quarter of a century ago. He remains thankful for receiving that gift, and holds that moment in his thoughts often.
Peter also appreciates how everything in his life, the bad and the good, led him to that moment.
“There were lots of opportunities for me to do worse, but God gave me an opportunity to do better,” he says. “I have the privilege now of being able to help others, of walking alongside them in their life stories, and seeing lives transformed and saved.”
Peter co-pastors the Salvation Army church in St. Albert with his wife, Grace.
“She's my amazing Grace,” he laughs.
“I approach ministry with the understanding that God is gracious,” Peter concludes. “I think about how I received grace, which is undeserved merit. I didn't deserve it but God saved me. It doesn't matter what you've done or the sins you've committed. God can save anybody.”
(Reprinted from St. Albert Gazette, December 20, 2014)
(Photo #1: Topher Seguin, St. Albert Gazette; Photo #2: Topher Seguin)