“Come and see” (John 1:46);
How Deacon Isaiah Discovered Orthodoxy
An Interview with Rev. Dn. Isaiah Kim
By Evagelos Sotiropoulos
February 2, 2015
You recently began serving our Holy Metropolis and the Church of St. Nicholas in Toronto as a Deacon; can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your family?
Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation and gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios for his paternal blessings and for giving me the precious opportunity to grow in my Church life within the Holy Metropolis of Toronto and while serving at St. Nicholas, notwithstanding my lack of ability.
I came to Canada from South Korea in April 2014 to reunite with my family members who have been studying here since 2010. In addition to my duties as a deacon, I am currently working as an educational counselor at a private high school in Toronto for mainly Korean-Canadian students. Before coming here, I taught computer science and worked as a guidance counselor at a high school in Korea for more than 10 years; at the same time, I served at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seoul on Sundays and major feast days.
My wife, Justine, and I were married in the Orthodox Church about twenty years ago; together we have two sons, Joseph and Moses. Justine is currently studying to become an early childhood educator and our children attend high school in Toronto. Each of us was baptized at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seoul where we attended the Divine Liturgy.
I also want to give humble thanks to St. Nicholas, whose intercessions for me and my family have guided us closer to the Church and salvation in Christ, from Korea to Canada.
What was it that initially attracted you to Christ and to the Orthodox Church in particular?
Up until the present hour, I have continuously lived between two ways: one of life and one of death. On the one hand I yearn to live a full spiritual life, but on the other hand I want to follow the desire of the flesh in the world: greed, lust, pride and so on. These weaknesses in my life led me to sincerely long for salvation in Christ since all things that I did and do without a purpose towards Christ could not and do not bear good fruits. My life experiences and sense of weakness in the world then and now draw me to Christ beyond human understanding. Moreover, the older I get, the more I feel my own inadequacies in the world and understand that I am unable to accomplish anything without Christ.
As the ark of Salvation and the body of Christ, the Orthodox Church is central to my life. The confession of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church offers me the hope for salvation in Christ and serves as a signpost for my life in the world. This is most assuredly true while partaking in Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church which attracts me – and all partakers – to God’s love and to a brotherhood (κοινωνία) in Christ.
When and what was the process that you went through before being baptized?
I was baptized in the Orthodox Church when I was a first-year university student almost thirty years ago. Before then, I was attending a Presbyterian parish in my hometown on Sundays because, like most Christians in Korea, I was raised in a Protestant family. When I entered university, however, I began to question the numerous schisms among Protestant denominations, and wanted to learn about the prototype of the Church from the beginning of Christendom.
In order to find the original Church delivering the true and unaltered Gospel of Christ, I was first attracted to Roman Catholicism and attended Sunday Mass as a catechumen in my hometown. Even while acknowledging that Catholicism has a form of Apostolic succession, as I learned more, I could not accept some of its teachings. Then, by chance – or maybe providence – I discovered the existence of the Orthodox Church in Korea by reading an article about it in a Catholic encyclopedia.
Thereafter, I visited the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seoul and soon came to be more familiar with Orthodoxy. When I learned the faith of the Orthodox Church from then-Fr. Sotirios (the present Metropolitan of Pisidia), I enthusiastically and unreservedly accepted Orthodoxy as the continuation of the original ancient church in my heart and was eventually baptized by Fr. Sotirios.
When were you ordained and can you tell us about your decision to become a Deacon?
I was ordained as a deacon in 1995 by the then Metropolitan of New Zealand and Exarch of Korea under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, His Eminence Dionysios, of blessed memory. Since graduating from high school, I eagerly hoped to become a servant of God to perform church services and missionary work (διακονία) among my countrymen since I was convinced that it was God’s calling for me.
As I became an adult, I began to seek after eternal truth and a life worth living because I did not want to have regrets at the end of my life here on earth. Thus, initially, I was interested in philosophy to learn the truth about human life; but, after some years I desired to learn theology and the life in Christ in order to serve the Church and to positively answer God’s calling.
After being ordained, I travelled to Greece to learn theology and expand my knowledge of Church life. Unfortunately, due to my father’s sudden and serious illness, I could not finish my studies at the University of Athens and returned to Korea to serve there and care for my father until his repose in the Lord.
Now, if God permits it, I wish to resume my theological studies so as to become a more faithful and knowledgeable servant of Christ. With this education, I hope to deliver the good news of the Holy Gospel among people seeking salvation in Christ and to help them come to the true Church, including undertaking missionary work among the Korean and Far East Asian Diaspora communities in Canada.
If there are one or two things about Orthodoxy that you would want to share with your fellow countrymen in Korea – or even those outside of the Church here in Canada – what would they be?
Firstly, I want to share the hope of salvation by God’s love. Although I am weak and unworthy, I place in Christ the hope of my salvation by His mercy. I have been learning through the Church to bravely hope in Christ in spite of my weakness and unworthiness and to not abandon myself to despair in the world. I want to distribute this daring hope of resurrection in Christ by delivering the Holy Gospel to those estranged from the Church and suffering from a spirit of darkness.
Secondly, I want to share the Church life to live in peace and in brotherhood with my countrymen in Korea and here in Canada as well. Without prejudice or discrimination, all people can listen to the Holy Gospel in the Church and to pray for His great mercy. All Christians consist of one body of Christ by participating in the Church. The mystery of Holy Communion enables us not only to participate in the Divine nature, but also to share peace, love and brotherhood with one another in our daily life. I yearn to deliver this message of peace and eternal life in Christ to my countrymen who do not know Orthodoxy yet, in order for them to come to the Church and participate in the Divine nature through the mystery of Holy Communion.
To do this, I wish to become a kernel of wheat for the Korean Orthodox Community in Canada as well as in Korea under the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrosios.
“I am small, insignificant, but the Lord is at my side, Your right arm guides me where I go” (from The Akathist Hymn).