Roberta Kim

Lay Missionary

Roberta in a garden

I was born in Seoul, Korea in 1968 and baptized in Catholic when I was 16. Before becoming a Columban lay missionary in 2004, I studied Chinese Language and Literature at University in Seoul. A chance encounter with a lay missionary whilst on my way to visit a friend in Uzbekistan inspired me to research more about the life of a missionary and ways I could put my faith into action and grow closer to God. I was overwhelmed by the woman’s story and was surprised to feel my heart beat a little faster when I was listening to her – it was a wonderful experience! I studied more about the catechism and missionary life at the Catholic Catechetical Institute in Seoul before graduating in 2000. After this I began working as a lay missionary and supported those living in remote parishes in the South and West of Korea.

Responding to my call from God, I joined the Columbans in 2003 and after some time for orientation, was sent to Japan on my first mission in March 2004. Ordained Columban, Fr. Bede Cleary, invited me to his parish in Wakayama, a Japanese prefecture in the Kansai region. For the next 11 years, I served the parish community by joining bible study sessions and visiting the homeless, supporting daycare centers and facilities specializing in the care for people with disabilities. Having a passion for ecology, I became involved with organic farming and the application of EM (Effective Microorganisms) in agriculture. I began offering rehabilitation to people with complex physical and mental health difficulties using horticultural therapy. This therapy allowed me to visit many different facilities where I was able to meet and serve the vulnerable and those who wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. During this time, I also dedicated much of my time campaigning for peace and maintaining Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. In 2015, I accepted a position to work back in Korea as a Lay Missionary Coordinator and worked for a total of 3 years until I took a sabbatical in 2019. I did my Family Therapy Masters course and took a Forest Interpretation Course which led me to further appreciate the awesomeness of each living creature in Korea.

I arrived in Britain in 2020 just at the start of the Covid pandemic. I was pleased to be able to do the Laudato Si’ Animator course and I’m trying to live a simple, ecological and sustainable lifestyle. Since the Covid restrictions were eased in the summer of 2021, I have been volunteering in various community gardens across Birmingham, serving vulnerable creatures and Mother Earth along with likeminded people which I love. I offer my life to build bridges between humans and nature. It’s great that I have the opportunity daily to live out the Gospel in a way that reveals the beauty and wonders of God’s creation.

In my missionary journey, I’ve found I am blessed with diverse creatures, and the more I realize the interconnectedness of creatures, the more I am overwhelmed by the fact that humans cannot live fully apart from nature.