The Perkins community doesn’t just feel like family for JaeJun “Daniel” Cho. Family ties led him to the Perkins campus, and now, one of his siblings is a fellow Perkins student.
Cho, a second-year M.Div. student, grew up in South Korea, the son of two pastors in the Korean Methodist Church (KMC). Having heard about Perkins since he was a child, coming here was a dream come true.
“My father wanted to study at Perkins 30 years ago, but Perkins was not freely open to international students at the time,” he said. When Cho applied to three U.S. theological schools, Perkins was the first to notify him of its acceptance. That sealed the deal.
“Thankfully, I was accepted to three schools, with good financial aid offers, but Perkins was the first school which recognized my possibility, so I could not make Perkins disappointed,” he said.
Now, another member of his family is here too. His younger sister, Eunbyul “Stella” Cho arrived in Dallas just a few weeks ago and is working on an M.Div. at Perkins as well.
“My sister and I are really grateful to Perkins School of Theology for giving us an opportunity to study at Perkins,” he said. “We believe that God rewarded us for my parents’ ministry and sacrifice through Perkins.”
Answering a Call
Cho says it was his father’s example that inspired him to answer the call to ministry.
“My father helped others in need, such as the poor and the sick,” he said. “Thanks to my him, my house was always full of people when we were eating, and they became my family. In South Korea, family means eating together.”
Life as a pastor’s son, however, wasn’t always easy. His family never had much money. They often took in people in their home who needed medical attention. When his father’s good works drew the attention of a few large, wealthy churches, they tried to recruit him as pastor. But his father declined.
“To be honest, I wanted my father to accept their requests because I was tired of being poor,” Cho said. “He was a pastor, but I was not. However, he replied that while there are many people that wish to go to big churches with many members, there are very few who wish to go to hard and difficult ones, and thus, he could not leave his community.”
Over time, Cho said, he realized the wisdom of his father’s choices and how they gave him true happiness.
“I learned real ministry and real love from him,” Cho said.
Cho’s ultimate goal is to become a preacher who can reach people of all ages.
“I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ should be delivered to everyone in the world,” he said. “In order for the gospel to speak to people’s hearts, preachers have to be able to easily deliver the gospel to people, no matter who they are, no matter how old they are, and no matter how they are educated.”
Cho definitely has learned to speak to younger people. As a youth minister in the KMC, he is currently creating a series of lively, engaging online worship videos for preschool-aged children.
“Usually, female Sunday school teachers lead praise with dance,” he said. “However, I wanted to break the mold, so I danced, praising God. Thankfully, the children really love this.”
(The videos are in Korean, but the spirit and enthusiasm come through clearly; check one out here.)
Life at Perkins
At Perkins, Hebrew Bible is a key area of academic interest for Cho.
“The Hebrew Bible is a foundation of Christianity; when we read the Hebrew Bible carefully, it could enrich our Christian faith,” he said. “Also, I realized that Korean Christians are unwilling to read the Hebrew Bible because the Hebrew Bible is difficult to understand. They are struggling with law in the Old Testament. Thus, I decided to study the Hebrew Bible to teach Korean Christians easily.”
On the extracurricular side, Cho has enjoyed participating in Ministry Dallas – which gave him his first glimpse of Dallas when he arrived last fall – and now serves as Vice President of the Perkins Student Association. He has also enjoyed the monthly events sponsored by the Financial Literacy Program at Perkins.
“Each month, Jean Nixon prepared wonderful guest speakers to teach students how to use and save money wisely,” he said. “Thanks to this program, I could learn financial literacy skills. I even earned a $500 gift card as a reward because I attended 10 events out of 10!”
Cho says he particularly appreciates the diversity of the Perkins community. South Korea is a homogeneous society, he notes, and Koreans don’t have much experience in welcoming foreigners who are culturally and ethnically different. Refugees from Yemen and North Korea have fled to Korea in recent years, which has created fear and hostility among many Koreans.
“One of my classmates asked me how I feel from being a majority in Korea to a minority in the United States,” he said. “I was so glad because I got out of a homogenous community and I feel the dynamism of this diverse community at Perkins. As a member of a global village, I am learning how to communicate, understand, and love others who are different from me at Perkins!”
For his personal spiritual practice, Cho maintains a rigorous routine. He follows the worship schedule of the Korean Methodist Church, attending daily morning devotions at 5:30 a.m., and Wednesday and Friday evening worship services. He also practices contemplative prayer three times daily, at morning, noon and afternoon. (He once shared his tips from his contemplative prayer practice with the Perkins community at a Community Hour at Perkins (C.H.A.P.)) He tries to read through the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, once a year.
Cho also begins each day reciting his favorite Bible passage, in Hebrew: Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ,” he said, citing Romans 10:17. “Confessing God’s uniqueness (oneness) is the heart of Christianity. And Jesus commanded ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, which is the first and greatest commandment.’ When we truly love God, we can truly love ourselves. When we truly love ourselves, we can truly love our neighbors.”