Published June 19, 2007
Volume 15, Number 6

From Engineer to Spiritual Leader, Second Career is Andrew Rhee’s True Calling

By Barbara Lewis

Andrew Rhee developed an interest in electrical engineering as a junior high school student growing up in Korea.  It was an interest that stayed with him through his family’s emigration to the United States, his admission to college and to his first position at Boeing Corporation.

“My father was a minister who came to America alone while serving with the Christian Children’s Fund,” Rhee remembers.  “After spending some time here, he decided to bring the rest of the family here to live. I was in ninth grade and entered Roosevelt High School in Chicago.  After high school, I went to the University of Illinois’ Chicago Circle campus as an electrical engineering major and then transferred to the main campus in Urbana Champaign where I received my degree in 1981.”

His first job with The Boeing Company took Rhee to Seattle, where he met his wife, Jinsoo, at Seattle Korean Presbyterian Church. They were married in 1983 and he continued to work as a senior engineer in the military and commercial divisions at Boeing for the next ten years. 

“While I was still single, I felt a call from God to enter the ministry, but I didn’t act on it for a long time,” Pastor Rhee says. “It wasn’t possible to make a change because soon we had a home and three daughters to support.”

After ten years, the decision was made to accept the call and begin a new life.  “It was hard to give up the lifestyle,” he reflects, “but I quit my job and was accepted at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) in San Anselmo.  We experienced so much of God’s blessings when we were at the seminary.”

Pastor Rhee found his studies at seminary challenging as they taught him many different perspectives for studying and interpreting the Bible, but he says that the experience solidified his faith.

After he completed his Master of Divinity at SFTS, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary to study further. “During my time at Princeton, I served an English-speaking congregation in Garden City, Long Island and stayed at that church after my studies at Princeton were completed.  In my denomination, a minister must receive a call from a church or other ministry like teaching or hospital work, in order to be ordained.  In 1995, when I was called to continue serving at the Garden City church, I was ordained and my family joined me there.”

Pastor Rhee served in Garden City for five years until he and his family decided to return to California.  After a brief time serving a church in Alameda and then taking a break from the ministry for about a year, Pastor Rhee received a call from his old friend at San Francisco Theological Seminary, Pastor Myung Sub Lee.  Pastor Lee is senior pastor at Tri-Valley Presbyterian Church in Pleasanton, now located in Hacienda at 5925 W. Las Positas Blvd. Suite 200, on the corner of Willow Road.

Rhee joined the Tri-Valley Presbyterian Church ministry staff in 2002 as English Ministry (EM) pastor. Of the two hundred parishioners who attend the church, the English Ministry serves 20 families who attend the EM service. 

Rhee’s duties include preaching and leading the church’s English language Sunday service as well as leading small Bible-study groups and counseling.  “The ministry is like any other job in many ways,” he says.  “In business or industry, when you’re dealing with a certain project, you bring your input to it in order to see certain results.  My ministry is the same.  The outcome depends upon the quality and quantity of what I put into it.  In my job, I believe that God is the one who works it and I will follow him in it,” he smiles.

“In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, ‘Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory.’ I believe that all jobs are about serving God because when we’re serving other people, we are serving Him.”

“Also, being a boss in any workplace, one has to demonstrate leadership and set an example,” he continues. “The ministry is the very same.  We have to present ourselves as role models because our congregation is looking to us for guidance.  Each parishioner is a resource and it is my job to help develop that resource in a spiritual way.”

“I have a special love for the second generation Korean Americans,” Rhee continues.  “My congregation knows both cultures and have the same wishes for their children as most American families. Education is very important to them and many are here because of Pleasanton’s excellent school system.

“Religious training is important, of course, but many become part of our congregation because they want to preserve the Korean culture for their children.  Attending a Korean church helps them do that.  They want to pay attention to their spiritual life, but they also want to pass along their faith heritage to their children.

“I serve Korean Americans with a variety of backgrounds and some carry emotional scars because of their experiences as part of a minority population.  Some have assimilated very easily into the American way of life and, for some, it has been difficult. When they are here, though, there are no language or cultural barriers.

“We are open to everyone, not just people of Korean descent,” Rhee adds quickly.  “We don’t want to segregate ourselves, but intend to be part of the community.  Our neighbors in Hacienda have been welcoming and the school across the street (Thomas Hart Middle School) is allowing our Sunday School children to meet there during our remodeling phase.

“Our congregation loves the building and the location in the heart of Pleasanton where many members can have easy access for participation in church services and other ministries. They are enthusiastically involved in raising funds for our remodeling project with special events to which we invite the entire community. We are very proud of our new home and invite anyone who would like to join us here on Sunday morning.”
More information about Tri-Valley Presbyterian Church is available at www.trivalleycross.com, www.PleasantonKorean.com or (925) 227-0880.


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