A look back at James’ teenage and young adult life reveals little to suggest that today’s James would have a passion “to see peoples’ lives being transformed by Jesus.” As a matter of fact it is because of his once wayward lifestyle that James finds himself with the utmost confidence in the Jesus who saves.
James’ parents emigrated from South Korea to Toronto four years before James was born. Nominal Buddhists, they knew nothing of the gospel that would have caused them to steer their growing family towards life in Christ. While James was yet a baby God quietly unfolded His plan to change this family forever. One night James’ mother had a dream. She saw a bright light and heard God say, “Raise James in a church.” Although she did not personally know the God who spoke to her, she was nonetheless clear it was God, and before long they were attending an Evangelical Korean Presbyterian Church.
When James was ten his mom came to faith and began praying in earnest for the rest of the family. His Dad eventually became a believer and served as a church elder. James grew up in Sunday School and Youth Group, but in his later teen years he succumbed to the lure of drugs and alcohol. Even so, he was headed for University. He was accepted for Pre-Optometry Studies at the University of Waterloo. He partied his way through first year, only to learn, not too surprisingly, that he would not be admitted to second year.
His life was a mess, but he didn’t know how to fix it. He had no school, no job, and was in debt to dangerous people. He didn’t even have a driver’s license. “Is this how life is supposed to be?”, he asked himself in the quietness of his heart. While alone in his apartment the Lord spoke to him. “The voice was so clear, I had no doubt it was God. God said one word: ‘Pray’. I got down on my knees, and I said, ‘I don’t know what to say’. Next I saw my sins flashing in my mind and it is was the first time I ever felt guilt. I had the sense they were being washed away. I felt forgiven, loved, and a tremendous sense of peace filled me. I was weeping. I have no idea how long this lasted. It felt like hours. Then I heard God say, ‘Everything is going to be ok.’”
“I decided I’d spend the rest of my life figuring out what had just happened to me so I went back to University, this time to pursue Religious Studies at U of W.” During what should have been a clarifying time for him, instead, the eclectic theology of one of his professors led him down the wrong path. “I got the idea that I could pick and choose between tenets of Buddhism and Christianity and create a hybrid religion for myself.” This was a mistake that made him feel emptier than ever, and all the while the despairing James was still firmly in the grip of drugs and alcohol.
One day, James and a friend in similar straits made their way to a coffee shop. Inside the building, a homeless man approached him and said, “God told me to tell you, you are running from God and He wants you to come back.” The man could tell James was high. He urged him to return the next day because he had more to tell him. This struck a chord, and a sober James was back the next day. This time he shared the gospel with James. “I knew I needed to be set free from addictions, and I was…and from that day on I followed hard after Jesus.’ I joined all the Christian groups on Campus, and I stuck with Crusade for Christ. They discipled me and I discovered an urgency to share my faith.” It was with his friends at Crusade that he began to discern his call to ministry.
While in Uni James worked a part-time job in a teashop in Waterloo. There he reconnected with Allie, also on staff and a student. When he knew her before, she was a Christian and he was not. Now, their acquaintance blossomed into a relationship, and just after graduation they were married.
With his BA in Religious Studies he began to look for ministry opportunities. He thought perhaps God wanted him to become a youth pastor, but nothing opened up. Somewhat bewildered, he ended up in factory work. In retrospect he understands that this was solid training for evangelism, and the seven years gave him ample opportunities to make good friends with whom he earned the right to share his faith.
James attended a prayer conference at Trinity EMC in Waterloo. The pastor came up to James and said that he sensed that the Lord wanted him to meet with him. Soon James and Allie made Trinity their church home. The Trinity Congregation gives prayer a high value. “It is in their DNA,” says James. “Every church has someone who is a prayer person, otherwise there would be no life. These people must be identified and assisted. Prayer is the language of faith.” And, “In churches where prayer is central, it is not unusual to see the prophetic gifts flourishing.” It was through the fulfillment of a vision of one of the church members that James became the next pastor of Trinity. He indicates he was not the most qualified or experienced applicant, but nevertheless he was chosen.
James describes himself as ‘an outdoor cat.’ “I used to think that ‘real ministry’ happened inside the church walls, and I felt like I didn’t fit. I’ve come to believe I am called to ministry outside the walls.”
In October of 2018, James took a sabbatical hoping to discover the calling he was discerning. While on a missions trip in Manila he met the National Director of E3 Partners Canada which is a church planting and disciple-making ministry that focuses on bringing simple and reproducing tools to the Body of Christ for evangelism and discipleship. This meeting started the ball rolling. Back home he met other missionaries with E3. In the fall of 2019, James and the congregation at Trinity said farewell, allowing James freedom to further explore his ‘outdoor cat’ calling. In Nov 2019 he went on a second missions trip, this time with E3. While there he ‘saw the rest of his life’, and knew this is what he wants to do with it. Someday James would love to relocate to the Philippines. He is extremely interested in ministry in the 10/40 window, but for now, the Park family is rooted in Canada. James has accepted and begun a part-time position at Wilmot Centre Church, as Pastor of Engage Ministries. It will be his mission to reach people outside the church walls.
James and Allie are parents of Eden, Lydia, Ezra and Junia. “Allie is a full-time disciple-maker of our children and my greatest source of encouragement and support.” James is a foodie who loves meaningful conversations around a dinner table. He enjoys softball and family camping.
James is available to help EMCC pastors develop and nurture the prayer ministry in their churches. “In some cases, it will require a DNA shift and mentorship”, says James. “We need to consider how to develop this and then form a strategy to get the church on board.”
For those interested in the ministry of E3, James is also excited to share this new endeavour. He brings a message of passion for the lost and shares these tools wherever he goes to minister. His vision is to see revival in people’s lives, in churches all across the country, and in places where Jesus is least known.
You can reach James using the contact info on the Enrich website.