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Being Out in the Community
Empowering the
Korean American Church Community - Pt 1

Written by Hyepin Im

My effort in the last few months to develop a network of resources and partners to awaken and empower the Korean American churches in the area of economic development and governmental funding has been an exciting adventure and a great learning experience. I cannot lie and say that it has not had its tremendous challenges. However, in taking on this task of empowering the Korean American church community, I can relate to Thomas Aquinas's statement, "We manifest great energy when we are consumed by compassion." Although there has been no one specific organization that I volunteered for, in many ways, I feel that I have been volunteering for God or actually been volunteered by God. I can only conclude that this passion or compassion was God given.

Author Information

She works as a venture capitalist for Renaissance Capital Partners - an affiliation of FAME Renaissance (First AME Church) and Hancock Park Associates.

In her role, she has been responsible for managing the fund by generating potential new deals, reviewing, analyzing and presenting business opportunities.

A unique aspect of this fund is its goal of investing in businesses that foster economic development in impoverished areas.

In stating this effort, I knew that I had to find solutions to an impressive list of challenges including: overcoming the language barrier and finding simultaneous translation, providing on going technical assistance, identifying a credible training institution, charging minimal upfront fee, locating a conference site, obtaining sponsors, enlisting speakers, completing the database of participants, mailing the invitations, getting the commitment of an ongoing partner who could continue the work, getting support from leaders in the field such as CUED members, and finding an ongoing funding source to sustain the program.

In spite of these challenges, it has been amazing to see God at work, as He miraculously provided the right partners to come along and take on each challenge. Thus, this report is a culmination of my contact and interview with the various partners whom God has sent to accomplish this task. I have to state that after this experience, I can whole-heartedly agree with the saying, "When you have God on your side, who can defeat you." A list of the partners and their role is listed at the end of this report. (See Korean American Church Workshop Resources Synopsis below.)


A popular saying goes, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime." In my recent outreach work with the Korean American churches, I became increasingly burdened by the overwhelming calls from Korean American churches seeking assistance in obtaining governmental and corporate funding. I soon became tired of giving out half-hearted responses knowing that the referrals probably were not going to be sufficient to take them to the next step. I felt compassion for these churches and searched for a solution that had continued sustainability and infrastructure that would empower the Korean American churches to stand on their own in tapping into government and corporate resources. In essence, I wanted to do more than just "give a fish to eat." Thus, my journey for my volunteer effort started.

Hyepin  Im  
Professional Activites

Churches United for Economic Dev.
Executive Steering Committee Member
Mission is to be agents of social & economic change within the private and public sectors.

LAVA (L.A. Venture Association)
Networking forum in the v.c. field.

Korea Study Task Force
Invited Member
Purpose to understand Korea on its own terms

Sponsorship Professionals Association
Professional organization providing a forum of exchange among non-profit and private sector sponsorship

Korean Interfaith Collaborative
Purpose to organize the Korean American churches and community support

In the Korean immigrant community, churches play a vital role in helping Korean Americans survive and assimilate into American society. The Greater Los Angeles Area with over 600,000 Korean Americans residing in the area is the largest community of Koreans outside of Korea. With the large concentration of Korean Americans in one area, many organizations and associations have sprout open to service this large immigrant community including over 80 non-profit entities, 363 associations, 185 alumni associations and over 582 Korean faith based organizations. In addition, the community is supported by over 43 newspapers, 14 radio-broadcasting companies, 9 TV stations, and 5 magazines. Korean Americans have even managed to carve out a piece of the town called "Koreatown."

Yet in the midst of all these vibrant activities and organizations, I have come to observe that the Korean American church community in general is very unaware of the resources that are available to leverage their current social services and ministries. For the few who are somewhat aware, the language barrier and the wall of bureaucracy that exists between them and the resources are more than enough to discourage their pursuit. Thus my role in this effort has been to seek solutions to minimize the barriers and to raise the comfort level to encourage them on this challenging but rewarding path.

The remaining portion of this report provides a description of the various partners who have helped in my research ad have committed to being partners in this endeavor.

Through my contact with Mark Whitlock of FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the First AME Church, led by Pastor Cecil Murray, I first became aware of what the possibilities can be when a church, government and the corporate world work together for the greater good of society. This model and concept was a revolutionary discovery as I had long been influenced by the concept of "separation of church and state." I observed that First AME Church through their non-profit arm, FAME Renaissance, was able to provide so many more services to their congregation and community when they tapped into governmental and corporate resources. Today, First AME Church has a "ministry beyond the walls" which provides loan programs, job training and placement, transportation services, entrepreneurial training, legal clinic, a venture capital fund, housing, a school and much more. This model is a far cry from the level of services my parents were able to provide to their congregation members in their ministry. In observing this model, I became inspired to transfer this model to the Korean American churches.

One great resource for my own personal training in this arena has been through the Churches United for Economic Development (CUED). I first came into contact with CUED indirectly through work when Mark Whitlock asked me to join their meeting. When I went to the meeting and was asked to join as a Steering Committee Member, I felt that I was not qualified to even be there. The members are some of the leading pioneers in economic development and have been an excellent source for expanding my knowledge and
Hyepin  Im  
Background History

Prior to Renaissance Capital Partners, Hyepin, was the Sponsorship Manager for the new California Science Center, a three phase $265 million expansion and renovation of the California Museum of Science and Industry.

In her position, Hyepin was responsible for generating revenue for the Science Center by securing corporate sponsors for a variety of institutional assets.

support base. A short list of the membership includes FAME Renaissance, Wilshire United Methodist Church, Fuller Theological Seminary, Claremont Urban Leadership Institute, West Angeles Community Development Corporation (Crenshaw Christian Center), USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Vision LA and Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

CUED'S mission is is "to be agents of social transformation by serving members, promoting economic development, facilitating training and education, providing technical assistance and advocating for churches by engaging the private and public sectors." CUED defines itself as an "association of Christian churches and other organizations formed to carry out the vision and the mission by becoming churches' Chamber of Commerce and forming a banking collective. Every year, CUED has put on workshops to share its knowledge with other churches. This year, CUED worked in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Development (HUD) to cosponsor HUD's conference called "Creating Partnerships for Renewed Hope."

Since my introduction to CUED, I have been involved in CUED on several fronts including being a Steering Committee Member, recruiting new Steering Committee Members, and reaching out to the Korean American churches.

Click HERE to go to Part 2
Click HERE to go to Part 3 and HERE to go to Part 4

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