Korean professor repaying 'debt of the gospel' at Chinese university
Most people pursue grad school because they want something more—but Joseph Kang came to Briercrest College and Seminary six years ago to give something back.
After completing his PhD in mechanical automation at a Korean university several years ago, God issued Kang a challenge: how would Kang use his PhD to glorify Him?
After three years of prayer, Kang knew the Lord wanted him to serve the lost with it.
“I knew that the Lord gave me lots of things freely until now, and that I also have to live a ‘freely giving life’ (Matthew 10:8) and it is a truly valuable life,” Kang, whose first language is Korean, wrote in an email. “I realized that Korean Christians had a debt of the gospel because Korea first received gospel from missionaries from other countries about 100 years ago, and had been remarkably blessed spiritually and economically. I felt I had to go to other country to pay the debt with all I received.”
In 1999, Dr. Kang and his family moved to China to teach at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, a foreign university where he knew he’d be able to share his faith. But after five years, he was exhausted—the struggle to lead effectively among his colleagues, who were very different from him, had drained him. He desperately wanted to study leadership from a biblical perspective. So he began to search.
Kang’s best friend, Jae Seong Lee, who studied at Briercrest’s seminary from 2001 to 2005, told Kang that Briercrest was “the best place in the world.” Kang learned that they had a respected leadership program—so in 2004, he packed up his family for a study sabbatical in Canada.
Thinking about his education in retrospect, Kang wrote, “The leadership program of Briercrest was so helpful to me because the curriculum was focused on leadership in the Christian organization. First, while I was in Briercrest, I was recharged and grew spiritually and emotionally. I really needed to be restored because I was so exhausted from the last five years’ struggles. Next, I could see the leadership role with a new viewpoint.”
Dr. David Guretzki, the dean of the seminary, remembers Kang as “a fantastic student.”
He graduated with honours in 2006 as his class’ valedictorian, and Guretzki is still struck by Kang’s character and passion.
“He’s one of the most humble people you’ll meet,” Guretzki said. “So committed to the Gospel … He moved his family just to be a disciple-maker. To me, that embodies what he’s about.”
Over the past 11 years, Kang has served as the chair of YUST’s engineering department, a director in the financial and coordination office, and as vice-president. He is also the secretary-general in the Pan Asia & Africa Universities Association, which, he says, “has a vision to spread the gospel and love of Christ to the world through university education.”
Currently, Kang is a professor at YUST, teaching both engineering and engineering. Every day, he repays his debt to the missionaries who went to Korea by talking with his students—in spite of the potential risks associated with evangelism in China.
YUST is a foreign-run university, and like Kang, many of its staff members are believers.
“Most students are gradually introduced to Chri.t by the professors and their lives are newly changed by Him,” Kang wrote, omitting the s in Christ for email security reasons. “The Kingdom of G.d is expanding!”
“I tend to be ‘friends’ at first,” he explained. “I spent much time with them, we played games and soccer, ate together, and talked about life. They had pure hearts. I loved them. Sometimes we had a retreat to talk about life stories, sing songs, and dance together.
“Gradually, they also liked me, even though I was a Christian. One day some students questioned me, ‘Why did you come here, giving up your comfortable life in your country?’ I answered, ‘It was because of Christ.’ If they wanted to know more about Christ, I invited them to my house for dinner and introduced Him.
“For three years, I have regularly met five students every week to train them spiritually,” he continued. “They are minority nations in this country and they are so important because there is few Christian in their nations. For example, one guy came from Tibet. He has never heard about Ch.ist and was so difficult to believe in Him in the beginning of YUST life. He … considered a god as a superstition. Through several relationships and experiences, his faith in Him was gradually grown and was firmed. Now he confesses that he will go back to his hometown for serving his nations with the good news while working as a teacher after graduation. I believe that he will be a great leader for his nation in the future.”
Through his friendship, Kang has inspired one if his students to follow in his footsteps at Briercrest. Chunyu Nam will begin studying at our seminary as soon as she obtains a visa. She has been inspired by what she calls Professor Kang’s “life attitude.”
Nam, whose first language is Mandarin, wrote in an email: “The reason why I chose to study in Briercrest is that the goal of it attract me a lot. Living Christ-centred life that is also my goal; I hope I can follow Jesus Christ in whole my life. Professor Kang’s attitude told me that study in Briercrest will be a good training time for me.
“Usually professors at YUST ask students’ plans about their future when they are freshmen and pray about it for them. In my advisor’s case, he just told me to pray to God and he will pray, too. Whatever we do is not that important; the most important thing is that we are in God’s hand.”