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Brashinger: New Frankfort minister stresses reconciliation

The Rev. Ken Roh

The Rev. Ken Roh

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Updated: September 26, 2013 6:13AM



Ken Roh, 41, the new pastor at Frankfort United Methodist Church, is eager to get to know people in the Lincoln-Way area.

Roh, his wife, Hannah, and their children — Sammy, 12, Sophia, 9, Lizzie, 8, and Shane, 5 — recently relocated to Frankfort from Homewood where Roh was the English ministry pastor for the Korean United Methodist Church in South Suburban Chicago for the past eight years.

“My family really wanted to be in the community where we’re serving,” he said.

Roh, open and candid about the spiritual journey that led to his ministry, said “personal ambitions” kept him from becoming a minister for years before he realized it was his true life path. He said his struggles were further complicated by his desire, as a Korean-American, to fulfill his family’s cultural expectations.

“There’s a saying in the Korean community that a good Korean grows up to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” Roh said. “I tried my darnedest to live up to that expectation, but God had other plans for my life.”

He was raised in the United Methodist faith in Dayton, Ohio, where his family settled shortly after immigrating to the United States from Korea when Roh was 11.

Roh became a member of the Army Reserve in high school to help with college costs, he said, and in 1991 he was unexpectedly mobilized during his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati.

Once he returned to the university, Roh said he struggled with the “deeper questions of life” and found that a welcoming and nurturing Methodist community in Cincinnati was there to help him.

“At that point, the trajectory for my life was determined,” he said, although he still “had no desire to become a minister.

“I wanted to be successful in life in order to be able to take care of my (family),” he said.

Roh tried working at brokerage firms in Ohio, but his “deep, kind of abiding, sense of restlessness” told him he was not being fulfilled. His mentors at the church kept encouraging him to pursue the ministry.

By 2001, married and with an infant son, Roh was ready to enter the seminary. His first day, Sept. 11, was an unexpected and “rude awakening” when America came under the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Roh said he seemed to see the world for the first time and asked himself and others, “Why is this happening?”

“The events that day set the tone for my theological journey,” he said.

In his studies at the seminary and in the years that followed, Roh found that his calling came out of the ministry of reconciliation.

He believes his acceptance of everyone — because “God loves the entire world”— makes him a good fit for Frankfort United, where he will continue the work of the congregation.

Roh said that as a new minister, it’s “not so much what I will bring to the congregation” but rather continuing “the things that God has already been doing in this community.”

His “come-as-you-are message” is intended for everyone, he said, even those who experience the “complexities and messiness” of modern lives.

“They will be welcomed in this church,” Roh said. “They will be heard. They will be nurtured.”

Frankfort United Methodist Church will hold an open house Sept. 8. For more information, visit www.frankfort-umc.org.



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