LASIK eye surgery is successful 99% of the time. Joon Cho (’14) was among the 1% who have complications.
Cho went in for the surgery during his third year at Simon Fraser University, where he was studying criminology. But because of the side-effects of the surgery, his cornea filled with haziness and everything blurred together. These symptoms got devastatingly worse every day as his vision rapidly deteriorated.
He developed glaucoma as a side-effect, and had three recovery surgeries to try and correct things. “I’m still getting treatment today,” says Cho.
Cho was raised in a Christian family, but hadn’t really sought God all that seriously in his life. But as his eyesight became worse, he found himself desperately crying out to God in a way he never had before.
“I was in agony and in the most difficult time. I felt like I was hitting the bottom of my life. I was desperately seeking for Gods help,” says Cho.
After three years of repeated treatments and surgeries, he gained partial recovery of his sight.
A Change In Pursuit
It was during this time of difficulty that Cho’s passions changed. He no longer cared for criminology the way he did before. Instead, he decided to dedicate his life to God’s work by ministering to others.
He dropped out of his program and enrolled at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, where he earned his Bachelor of Pastoral Theology, then later his Master of Divinity at Trinity Western.
“I never expected I’d become a pastor,” Cho says of his younger days, “but I realized working for God is the most meaningful thing I can do.”
Cho spent a lot of time praying for God’s guidance in this new season. More than anything, he wanted to go somewhere that needed a pastor. He found his calling in places that needed the most help.
“There are fifty-three First Nations communities on Vancouver Island,” says Cho, “forty of those have no pastor and no church. When I heard that, God gave me a vision to reach out to those communities.”
For ten years, Cho had been a youth pastor at churches in Vancouver. In that time, he brought many youth to work at an outreach program in the First Nations community, and his heart for that community grew. It was there he learned about a church in Nanaimo that had been around for 60 years but could not afford any onsite pastors.
Ministering in Nanaimo
In 2016, Cho moved his family to Vancouver Island and took over pastoral duties at Nanaimo Native Victory Church. He was excited to work on building connections with the people on the island. But it was not an easy process. When he and his family first arrived at the church, rarely did anybody show up for Sunday service.
“It was almost like church planting, but with a stale reputation” says Cho. “This church had been here for 60 years, but it had no pastors. No one cared for this church for many years.”
For the first two months in the summer, they ran a VBS program that cared for local kids, and they had some success there. But it took a lot of time and effort to get the church functioning.
“The first year, no one really showed up. We had a really hard time with manpower. The second year, all these issues popped up. We had $20,000 in debt at the beginning of 2017,” says Cho. “Thankfully, by the grace of God, all those debts were waived and paid back in the same year of June. That September, 2017, we averaged forty people on a Sunday service. By Christmas service in December, more than eighty showed up.”
Ministering to Children
In 2018, the church was able to save enough funds to hire a children’s pastor and a youth pastor. Today, the children and youth ministry is growing, with over a hundred kids coming to their summer programs.
“We realized the children’s ministry is really important,” says Cho. “For adults—even for myself—it’s hard to change. But for kids, there is lots of potential to be changed, transformed, and influenced. If we’ll focus on children’s ministry, maybe ten years later when these kids grow up they can become Christian leaders. I believe this is the time when true transformation can happen within the First Nations communities.”
Cho says that they plan to start up a Christian school. He is excited that through this school, they’ll be better equipped to look after and minister to children on a daily basis.
God Works All Things Together
Although Cho wishes he didn’t have to have complications with his vision, he is thankful for the opportunity to empathize with others who are suffering and facing uncertainty. And through this experience, he was able to connect with God in a way he never had before and grow in his calling as a minister of the gospel.
“For Christians, we don’t live for the money or something else in this world, but for God’s glory,” says Cho. “Over the last three years, I have received lots of grace while working for God’s glory. I really wish that all Trinity Western alumni—especially our Christian fellows—will experience God’s care, His grace, and His guidance in their lives as I have.”
Although it hasn’t been easy, and there are many more uncertainties in the road ahead, Cho is excited to be able to be a pastor to this community in this exciting new season.
“I’m here because someone has to do this job. I’m willing to stay here as long as God needs me here,” says Cho with a big smile.