Distinguished Alumni: Christian Y. OH
Published by Calvin Seminary
CHRISTIAN Y. OH
Christian Y. Oh, born and raised in a devout Christian family in South Korea at the end of the Korean War, grew up attending church Bible schools and other church activities—marking special childhood memories. He received a BA in Theology/Philosophy in Seoul, South Korea in 1980 at Chongshin University.
Upon immigrating to the United States to further his studies, he pursued and received his MDiv from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1987 and subsequently completed all his course work in 1991 for his Th.M. After 30 years in ministry, he completed his Doctorate of Intercultural Studies— with a focus on the Syncretism in the Korean Church—from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana in 2016.
In February of 1988, Christian was ordained at East Paris Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and commissioned as a church planter to the Troy area of greater Detroit. By the Lord’s grace, he planted Han-Bit Korean Christian Reformed Church where he has served for the past 30 years.
A well-known leader among Korean churches in the CRCNA, Christian, aside from his own parish ministry, has concurrently served denominational ministries in various ways. He has served as an ethnic advisor for Synod, a member of the study committee group for health and renewal of smaller churches as well as a member of the homosexual study committee, and for six years each he has been an implementation team member for Sustaining Congregational Excellence (SCE), a member of the Board of Trustees at Calvin Seminary, and a denominational board member. Because of his experience and years of immigrant ministry and continued work with the CRC and Calvin, he has found tremendous joy in being called to serve as a translator for Calvin Seminary presidents and faculty in the U.S. and South Korea. Since 2008, he has been a teaching instructor for KIM (Korean Institute for Ministry) alongside Calvin faculty for those who come from other denominations through Article 8 of the CRCNA Church Order and its Supplements.
To this year’s graduates, Rev. Oh advises: “Be convicted about Divine calling. Stick to the basic essence and principles of His Words and ministries. Pursue His mission, not your own missions, to avoid all manner of manmade competition. In parish ministry, while your relationship with God is paramount, so your personal relationship with others is as well”.
Dennis Hoekstra was born in 1930 and was baptized by Rev. Leonard Verduin in the Corsica, South Dakota Christian Reformed Church. His loving, Christian farm family experienced desperate poverty due to a worldwide depression and five years of droughts, dust storms, and hordes of grasshoppers. He attended one- and two-room multi-grade rural schools and dropped out of high school after six weeks into the ninth grade.
As the youngest of five children, he managed his father’s farm until enlisting in the Air Force during the Korean War, at which time he publicly professed his faith as a follower of Jesus.
While in the Air Force, he discovered new academic abilities, took the GED test, and enrolled at Calvin College in 1954. Two years later, Dennis married Jeni Plooy.
To increase his capacity for kingdom service, Dennis took many additional college courses, meeting the requirements to attend Calvin Seminary and receive a high school-level teacher certification. He taught introductory Latin at Calvin College from his senior year through his studies at Calvin Seminary, from which he graduated in 1961.
Dennis received his doctorate degree in education through a joint program with Union Theological Seminary and Columbia Teachers College in 1963. In addition to his part- time employment as a tutor at Union Seminary, he and Jeni also worked part time at Manhattan Christian Reformed Church where Dennis had a 15-minute weekly Gospel program on a black radio station, and also led a youth group at the church.
After a year of Fulbright Scholarship work at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, he returned to Calvin College as a professor to initiate a joint program between the Bible and Education departments to prepare church leaders and Christian school teachers.
Through God’s providence and his variety of experiences, Dennis discovered untapped potential that could only be maximized by becoming available wherever new opportunities for Christian service became accessible. This resulted in a variety of leadership opportunities: director of the Calvin College January interim, founder of the Baxter Community Center, president of Trinity Christian College, co-founder of Roseland Christian Ministry Center, first full-time director of the Barnabas Foundation, and in retirement a volunteer co-founder of both Partners Worldwide and Timothy Leadership Training Institute.
Today, Dennis and Jeni—ages 87 and 85 respectively—are still involved in volunteer work after 24 years. For Dennis, what made these somewhat unorthodox career opportunities possible was the blessing that Jeni was as an eager participant, encourager, and tremendous help. She was able to build a productive career of her own wherever the Lord brought them to, helping others stay focused on building God’s kingdom.
“My word to the graduates is to do your expected preaching, teaching, and pastoral work well. But don’t neglect always finding new ways for you to lead the members of your church and communities to see new areas where God is at work, and then by example lead your people to show up to help. I believe the biblical Gospel requires it, your community and world depend on it, at least some of your congregation members expect you to do so, and a surprising number of them will find personal growth and increased energy and capacity for kingdom ministry which can be mobilized only if you help them as their servant leader to become personally involved to release this much-needed potential.”
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