Church Offers Taekwondo Ministry to Neighborhood
By Adelaide Chen
Oakland’s ReGeneration Church is popular with college students and singles for its rock n’ roll sermons and acceptance of all denominations.
But lately, another program is becoming popular among families who live in the area but who are not officially part of the church — martial arts.
Known as the Taekwondo Ministry, the Korean martial arts class brings the gospel to youth as early as the age of five.
Pastor Albert Lee said he was looking for a creative way to reach out to the local youth–some foster children, some who don’t have male role models at home. But mostly, he wanted something constructive and disciplined that would keep kids out of trouble.
Students begin each class with a prayer. To move to the next level in Taekwondo, they are required to memorize Bible verses along with words of Korean and martial art forms.
For beginners, the first memory verse is Ephesians 6:1. It starts with: Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Lee believes none of the parents who do not practice Christianity would balk at their kids learning the Bible verse.
Both Lee and Kevin Kenny, a church elder, have black belts. So they started instructing a small group in the auditorium across the street three years ago. Initially, only ten percent of the students came from outside the church.
“When we first started at that time I felt it was a failure. Now it’s flip-flopped,” Lee said. Today 90 percent of the students come from the neighborhood and very few attend services at all. Lee says he thinks it’s great.
Bun Pa Lim brings his children Alex, 10, and Ashley, 8, four times a week — for taekwondo as well as another combination class in judo and jujitsu taught by other instructors. During a demonstration, Ashley expertly threw a kid off her back and unto the floor.
“It’s cool,” Lim said of his daughter’s martial arts skills. He has a red-belt. But he has a broader appreciation for the class. “Just to get the kids altogether,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Students from the Taekwondo Ministry have also competed with other schools. In early October, the church covered hotel and entrance fees to compete in the California Jr. Taekwondo Championship where the participants are under 18 years of age. For some kids, it was a rare chance to leave their neighborhood and see southern California.
Grandmaster Yeong Kyu Han, whose organization runs the competition, said the youth in ReGeneration church stood out because of their great attitude. The students learned this from both martial arts and religion.
He said among the mostly for-profit schools that competed there were three Christian martial arts schools where the pastors serve as instructors. For-profit schools are more focused on the group and less on the business aspect, he said. And because they’re not receiving income, they’re teaching from the heart.
Taekwondo Ministry instructor and ReGeneration Church elder Kevin Kenny said of for-profit schools, “their goal is to get them to black belt as quick as they can. We keep the kids here as long as we can to influence them for good and for the gospel of Christ.”
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