It has been a long journey for the newly appointed minister of Red Beach Methodist church, Rev Hui Young Han, who travelled here from South Korea, via Auckland city and several years in rural Morrinsville.
She took her first service at the Red Beach church on February 10.
Hui Young says she devoted herself to serving God at the age of 12 and studied theology at university, but that the “patriarchal and top down” structure in Korean churches mean that young women don’t have a strong voice and are mainly restricted to pastoral care and administrative work.
Her desire to become a minister meant leaving Korea and in 2000 she came to New Zealand to study English.
While her language skills grew, Hui Young says her heart was “full of tears” as she struggled to find a way to serve. While in Auckland, she took on a voluntary youth pastor role at a Korean migrant church.
Working in a multicultural context suited her, and with this in mind Hui Young studied at Laidlaw and Trinity colleges, to learn more about the Kiwi church.
Along the way she discovered a good fit with the Methodists, who she says place a high priority on justice and peace and protecting people at the margins of society.
“I have a passion and heart for these people too,” Hui Young says.
Marriage to Korean hairdresser Pierce, and the birth of their two children Ha Ram and Ye Rang followed, and the family moved to Morrinsville in 2015 so that Hui Young could take up a position as student supply minister.
Her work in the rural community involved a lot more funerals than baptisms and weddings, due to the ageing population, and Hui Young admits to feeling isolated as a young mother looking for families with children of a similar age.
“By the fourth year, I wanted to learn how to minister to younger generations too,” she says.
She says the appointment to Whangaparaoa Parish was an exciting step and that she has found the parishioners and the team she works with very supportive.
She is hoping that her role in Whangaparaoa will include officiating at weddings and baptisms, as well as funerals, but says it is always a privilege to serve the community.
“I will be getting to know the context of the parish and the wider community and see what needs there are and how the parish can meet those needs,” she says. “I want to provide space where the community can rest, be nourished and relate to one another. It will take time.”