The commitment and the dedication of David Hoonjin Chai, APCE’s 2013 Educator of the Year, for development of leadership in Asian American congregations is legendary. For the past 20 years, David has been a pioneer in the field of Christian education for the Asian American churches, especially for the Korean American congregations. He has created numerous programs for youth, college students, young adults, and lay leaders for the purpose of developing and empowering leadership among both the first and second generations of Korean Americans for the important work of the ministry. Among many of his accomplishments is the establishment of Young Adult Leadership Coalition, Korean American Student Empowerment, National Korean Presbyterian Youth Council, Roots and Wings (Taiwanese young adult conference), Filipino American Young Adult Conference Ministry, Educational Ministry Team, and the Confluence Institute (resourcing for church leadership).
As a visionary, David recognized early on the great need and the vital importance of Christian education in the survival and the growth of Korean American immigrant churches in the U.S. In this effort, he has created many programs and conferences to develop young leaders and train lay leaders as well as served on many committees and organizations to promote leadership development. In addition, he is a founding pastor of Korean Community Presbyterian Church and Korean Presbyterian Church of Rockville. He has been a member of APCE since 1994 (hasn’t missed a single Annual Event since then) and has been a workshop leader 11 times. Seeing the great benefits of APCE for the educational ministry of the church, he has invited many educators and Sunday school leaders from Korean American churches to participate in the APCE Annual Event to be connected to the larger body of Christ; to be enriched by the keynotes and workshops; to be empowered by the renewing of the spirit; and to be sustained by the network of educators. Furthermore, he advocated for APCE to have multicultural representatives to serve on the cabinet to promote multiculturalism and the diversity in the community of faith.
While serving as an associate for Asian American Leadership at the General Assembly (1994-2010), he also served as the moderator, vice moderator, and executive secretary of Council of Overseas Korean Churches on Education and Ministry; moderator and board member of National Council of Churches (NCC), and board member of Pacific Asian American Canadian Christian Education (PAACCE). In addition, David established Educational Ministry Team (EMT; 1994-2011) that sought to provide workshops and seminars to equip Sunday school teachers and lay leaders. Under EMT, two significant teacher training resources were published—Ways To Be A Good Teacher and Ways To Be A Better Teacher — which have been used widely throughout the U.S. In 2011, EMT transformed into Confluence Institute (2011-present), a non-profit organization that seeks to provide resources for leadership development in the field of Christian education; training for teachers and lay leaders; models of multicultural liturgy for worship leaders.
As someone who has worked closely with him for the past 30 years—as a youth, a Sunday school teacher, and a Christian educator—I can attest to David’s great passion for leadership development and deep commitment to the educational ministry as mission of the church. He also possesses a keen sense for recognizing the gifts of teaching and preaching in others and encouraging them to answer the call to ministry. I am one of many who he has supported and mentored to become a Christian educator to lead the next generation of church leaders.
Grace Jo Suh lives in Bowling Green, KY, where she is a member of First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. She is a volunteer educator and treasurer for a local Korean church; is national coordinator for the Confluence Institute (formally Educational Ministry Team), an Asian American educational ministry leadership and consulting group; and has written several articles for the Advocate. She is a former member of the APCE Cabinet