EDITOR’S NOTE: Photojournalist Tyler Malone of Nashville, Tenn., did a photo essay of pastor Peter Oh in Juneau, Alaska, last fall. The following story provides context for Malone’s photos. Malone is on the Web at www.rtylermalone.com.
JUNEAU, Alaska (BP) — Believing that God was stirring him to reach unchurched fellow Koreans, Peter Oh relocated his family from the largest city in Alaska three years ago to plant a Korean church in the state’s capital, Juneau.
Oh and his wife Jong –- with their teenage son, pre-teen son and toddler daughter — moved from an established Korean Baptist church in Anchorage and relocated to Juneau “totally on faith,” said Mike Procter, executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention.
Oh said he “noticed God was calling me to go Juneau” about two years after learning from a fellow church member in Anchorage that the Korean church in Juneau had closed.
“That broke my heart.”
Procter said that Oh, who was in Anchorage about three years, “has done a tremendous job developing a Korean congregation” in Juneau, which meets on Sunday afternoons in the building of Emmanuel Baptist Church.
“He has a high sense of calling,” Procter said of Oh, “and he’s got a commitment to that calling of God.”
Oh, as pastor of Juneau Korean Church, reaches into the city’s Korean population in practical ways, such as visiting fellow Koreans in their businesses on Saturdays, carrying gifts of traditional Korean food, a CD recording of a sermon and the church’s most recent bulletin.
Juneau is “one of those places you can only reach by boat or plane,” Procter said. It’s the only state capital in the United States not accessible by road. “The cost of living is very high,” Procter said. And because the city is not only the state’s political center but also home to the University of Alaska Southeast, “There are a lot of high academic expectations,” with “Christianity constantly being challenged intellectually and philosophically.”
Despite such challenges, Procter said, “Pastor Oh’s church is growing.” To reach out to the community, some of whom are second-generation Americans, Procter said Oh is teaching classes in Korean culture and Korean as a second language.
“Our church started out with only three families,” Oh said — 17 people from among about 70 Koreans in Juneau. “Now I have a relationship with about 40 of the 70 Koreans in Juneau.”
Oh recounted, “At first when me and my wife visited Korean [workers in local] restaurants they did not welcome us. But we still kept trying to have an open mind for them. We kept that up for two years every week and gifted them with Korean food. And now they open up their mind for us and welcome us.” Oh said five Korean business owners have joined his church, which has about 25 attending weekly.
Procter said that Oh “is impacting all of the Korean population. They all may not be coming to church, but he is having an influence on all of them because of his consistency and because of his ministry to them outside of the local church.”
Compiled by Tim Tune, a writer in Fort Worth, Texas, with reporting by photojournalist Tyler Malone of Nashville, Tenn., and Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).