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Investing in One Another

Only recently did the Children’s Ministry celebrate the promotions of their kids from one grade to the next. Now, another member of the family is moving on to another stage in life. I meet Tae Ko on his last Sunday as a volunteer in Early Childhood Ministries. In the fall, he goes on to med school on the east coast—a big next step in a journey he’s been on for quite a while.

When I sit down with Tae, the air is bittersweet as he reflects fondly on the close of such a meaningful time here at Lake. He found the church almost three years ago, saying that he was drawn in because, “it was very open, worship was very free, and the messages were not so much ‘you should do this, you should do that,’ but more like inviting you into a conversation with God.” Tae began attending the church in October 2014 and began volunteering very soon after that. In December, only two months into his time at Lake, he says there was an announcement made in the service about a need for volunteers in the Children’s Ministry. “There was a need,” he says, “and I felt like it was something I could learn, if not do.” He got in touch with Pastor Melinda Manus right away, and by January was serving in Early Childhood ministries. He’s invested two and a half years of service into that ministry and those kids since.

“It’s crazy. Today we got a younger sister of one of [my former kids],” he says, reflecting on how he’s seen kids grow up and go through the program over his time here.

Tae tells me how the Children’s Ministry can often be seen as a “daycare—taking care of children and all that stuff.” But he stresses how it’s so much more than that: “If you think about it, you’re nurturing them and starting them on a journey with God, so it’s really important.” He’s spent a good amount of time helping shape these kids, but he himself has been changed, too. “I just have a different perspective on children now. I’ve learned to deal with a totally different population. Kids have their own method of communication and understanding information. I’ve really learned how to conduct myself, because children are like sponges—they pick up on everything. It’s really made me aware of the things I say and the things I do.”

I ask him what compelled him to jump into volunteering in the first place, and he tells me how important he felt serving was to being a part of the church. “I knew I wanted to get plugged in,” he says. He tells me about how his life experiences showed him the importance of joining a community through service. Tae volunteered at his previous church before Lake and volunteers in other areas of the local community as well. “I grew up in New Zealand, and then I came to the United States. I left all my friends behind. I was seventeen. I was far removed from everyone here. Everyone already had their groups, and I was just kinda thrown in. Volunteering for me was one of the ways to get plugged into the community.” He goes on to tell me how much his experience in the ministry did indeed enrich his time at Lake. His path to med school wasn’t always easy and put him through some difficult seasons, but the support that he received from the folks he worked with was a big boost. “People in the children’s ministry—Amy, Lisa, Melinda, and the parents, too,” he says. “They come in and check in on me every once in a while. They’d come in and say ‘hey, how are you doing?’ Pat and Macall Horan just gave me a batch of cookies the other week. That stuff keeps you going.”

As Tae gets ready to move in the fall, I can tell from our conversation that he’ll soon be investing in another community, ready and willing to serve. He goes to med school feeling he is pursuing God’s call to serve others, even mentioning medical missions as a future possibility. He goes from Lake having invested a great deal in the ministry. As he goes, he invites others to consider whether they ought to volunteer. “We need people who can mentor the children. It’s very important who teaches them and what you can show them through your actions.”

“If they have a heart for children,” he says of anyone discerning, “there’s always room for volunteers and always a need there.”