Zion Kim was born and raised in Korea in a Christian home. Her parents were both physicians and deeply committed to their faith, but to Kim as a young girl, it was just another habit in their family life.  When Kim was 12, her parents’ faith commitment would uproot the family from their comfortable life, as her parents felt called to enter the mission field. The family moved to Hawaii, where Kim’s parents would be trained to work in their ultimate destination, Haiti. Kim was resistant, to say the least. “That is when the drastic change really started. I was by now turned off by my parents’ Christianity—especially with the move. They were so busy all the time, and it would become more demanding now and I resented that.”

Nonetheless, Kim and her sister were enrolled in Bible school and the Big Island became home. Despite her youthful angst, Kim could not deny her interest in what she saw around her, both at school and in their new community. “I saw people coming from all over the world, like us. But this was a place where people prayed for each other—even in bathrooms—and were joyful! They weren’t like my parents in my eyes. God used new people to show the freedom you can have in Jesus.” And while Kim didn’t realize it at the time, in hindsight she smiles. “God used that two-and-a-half years to reveal himself to me and my family, meeting us where we were lacking and bringing us together. He also used little miracles to show himself just to me.”

The iPod Miracle and Mission Field

How, exactly, did God reach down to an angry adolescent? Kim becomes giddy to recount the miracle. “Well, I lost my iPod. At that point that thing was my life—my music and my escape. I was obsessed with it. And somehow, I lost it at school. I searched everywhere, retracing my steps and beyond, over and over. By the time I got home, I was freaking out, melting down. The last thing I wanted to hear was my mom saying we should all sit down and pray about it as a family. But, of course, we did just that: my parents, my sister and I sat down at the table, and they started praying. I was hardly even listening. Then, my sister stopped us and said, ‘I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I just heard a voice in a strange Korean dialect say ‘it’s under the swing. It’s under the swing.’ I did think she was crazy; I had looked around the swings multiple times. But my parents believed her. My dad said, “let’s get a flashlight and go look.” Eye rolling but without alternatives, Kim’s father took her back to school in the dark of night. When he shined the light under the swings, there it was: the iPod in plain sight, undisturbed. Kim didn’t say a thing, but remembers thinking wow, maybe this God thing is real.” She adds, “It was as if He was saying you can’t deny Me now. My sister heard the voice, and I knew I had checked everywhere, including the swings. The miracle was undeniable to me. From then on, the path of little instances and moments began, as He slowly revealed himself to me. He knows how stubborn I am, so He did not force it, He eased himself into my heart. I always sat at the back in worship and slowly moved up a row at a time to become a part of the worship. I began to understand these people free in Christ, dancing, singing, and praising His name. And that’s how I met God.”

The iPod miracle brought deep healing and closeness to Kim and her family. Kim was baptized and saw God leading them as He covered them in a deep bond that would be needed as they prepared to move on to Haiti. The setting was challenging and unstable, but Kim loved the country and saw God in the details. “God did so many crazy things through us and the mission staff and us kids.” Her first-hand experience in Haiti continued to vividly reveal God’s identity and presence, as her parents and the missionary team ministered to the incredible lack endured by the Haitian people.

The Call to Calvin

With a growing spiritual mindset, Kim would follow her sister to Calvin three years later. “I wanted to go to a ‘big world’ school, and I wanted to be my own person—not ‘just a sister.’ But I knew God was telling me to go to Calvin. I got scholarships, all the doors were opening, He was guiding me toward it and if I’d learned anything, it was that my stubborn nature didn’t always pay off.”

Once the decision was made, the adventures Kim had seen were set aside for an entirely new one: pursuing a career path. Kim had always dreamed of working in advertising. Her passion for marketing made declaring a major an easy choice. Adding a data analytics minor appealed to her logical side, and she was ready to take full advantage of everything Calvin had to offer. She would find that the shift from mission field classrooms to college was not without its hurdles. “I struggled to handle many shifting priorities. Whether it was academics, internships, social life, or God, I gave no thought to the toll my overfilled schedule was taking on my mental health. I worked three jobs, was involved in dance, student clubs, so many activities, church—I hit rock bottom my junior year when Covid happened.

The Course Correction

Exhausted and overwhelmed, Kim’s positive attitude would rise to the surface, “In a way, it was helpful. It kind of forced a gap year and I was able to refresh my mind and spirit – I found balance, so that was a blessing.” She laughs at herself, “I was trying to prove how “extra” I was by outperforming everyone—kind of an identity crisis that the break helped me resolve.”

With a better balance and enthusiasm for her studies, Kim resumed, with many other students, classes and internships while also noting how the Calvin journey and the time the world stopped came together to grow her faith. “It was easy to see God in the mission field. In school, you have so many things requiring attention, God can fall into the closet. In my classes, I was able to come back to Him in a more intentional, intellectual way. Our professors challenged us in different ways. They presented hard questions and we discussed injustices. We were encouraged to answer what do you believe when you pray? Was I brainwashed as a missionary kid to believe in Jesus? What do you say when facing the many unbelievers in America? We heard; you better check yourself. Check your faith. How does it come across from a non-believer’s point of view? Not many universities would do that.”

Striking Out on the Next Winding Road

Kim thrived on those big conversations with professors and peers. “It was a huge part feeling God in my soul and learning what it meant to me, to be a Christian. I grew significantly in a different direction at Calvin. It made me think of ways to be that Christian in everyday life.” Graduating in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, Kim is thrilled to be applying the fruits of her labor in the workforce as a marketing consultant for a New York agency.

Kim’s happy confidence in what lies ahead remains rooted in her faith. “My parents are in the Dominican Republic. I haven’t been back to Korea since I was a kid. I’ll probably be going back and forth, but I’m excited to see how God will use me. I don’t know and that’s fine. What matters is that I am a Christian in the workforce and in society and I’m proud to be a follower of God living out the example of Christ in whatever I do. I hope to have my own business and continue to serve in the many ways I have learned along the way.”