FOR THE RECORD CORRECTION: About 60 people attend the Korean Baptist Mission. The number of church members was wrong in a story in Sunday’s Spokesman-Review. The correction was published Wednesday, January 18, 1995.
From the pulpit, they face their flocks every Sunday and preach about Jesus, Christianity and doing God’s will.
The reverends Daniel Kim, M.R. Kidwell and L.D. Williams work with the same Bible, teach from the same Southern Baptist doctrine, praise the same God.
But the Spokane ministers do their work in separate worlds.
Kidwell’s congregation at Dishman Baptist in the Spokane Valley is primarily white, working class.
Kim’s parishioners at the Korean Baptist Mission in Airway Heights are exclusively immigrants, most of them military wives new to this country.
Williams’ followers at Mt. Olive Baptist in the East Central neighborhood are a mixed ethnic group. Some lived on the fringes of society until the preacher brought them to his chapel.
Churches remain one of the most racially segregated places in the United States. Spokane is no different, even among Baptists, one of the most diverse denominations in the country.
Today, in memory of Baptist preacher and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, the three very different Southern Baptist congregations will come together.
Dishman Baptist and Mt. Olive Baptist have united for the past two years on the Sunday closest to Martin Luther King Day. This year, the Korean Baptist Mission will join them, and Kim will preach the sermon.
“I think God wants us to come together,” Kim said. “We can come together even though we worship different.
“The Bible is the same. Our belief is the same. Same God and same Spirit and same Jesus and same belief and same doctrine.”
The three preachers explain that different people are attracted to different forms of worship. And sometimes the difference is an ethnic one.
“We don’t agree on the same things in the way we worship,” Williams said. “We are Baptist because this is the way we serve the Lord. And the Catholic, he serves differently, but that don’t mean he’s wrong. Because he’s studying the same Bible I’m studying.
“I wouldn’t feel as free in a Catholic church as I feel in the Baptist church, because they don’t serve the Lord the way I do.”
Kim’s services are in Korean. He explains that most of his 100 to 120 church members would not attend services if they were not in their native language.
“We can worship effectively here,” he said of his church, which meets in a Sunday school room at the Airway Heights Baptist Church. “We have a custom barrier, a language barrier and a culture barrier. We have a certain systematic order. That way we have excellent worship.”
The congregations are also set apart from each other by the problems they face during the week.
The members of the Korean Mission are living in mixed race marriages, trying to raise children in a school system they doesn’t always understand.
They often suffer from stress and many are depressed, Kim said.
“They don’t know how to handle American life, or their husbands or their kids,” Kim said. “So they come to the Lord for help.”
Kidwell said the people who go to his church often face stereotypes and misunderstanding because of their faith. Many residents of the Northwest think of white Southern Baptists as rednecks.
“We’re probably misunderstood by lots of folks,” Kidwell said in his Oklahoma drawl. “Non-Baptists see the Bubba image. Other Baptists think we’re liberal.
“But the truth is Southern Baptist theology starts at conservative and goes to the right.”
Williams said he finds it harder being black in Spokane than being a Southern Baptist.
At Mount Olive, Williams said he constantly hears about racism directed at his followers, particularly young black men. As a minister, Williams said, he regularly meets with the schools or law enforcement to combat subtle racism in policies and practices.
“Our young men are made to feel inferior,” Williams said. “We don’t have any problems in our churches. We have problems in this city and in the system itself.”
By coming together today, Mount Olive and the Korean Mission are returning to their roots at Dishman Baptist.
The Valley church sponsored the Mount Olive congregation 19 years ago, when Williams founded his own church. The Dishman church provided meeting space, helped them tie into the Southern Baptist Convention and offered guidance.
Dishman Baptist did the same thing almost three years ago, when eight Korean immigrants living in Spokane wanted their own Baptist church.
Just like the congregations, the three ministers have roots in the same doctrine but are as different as their churches.
Williams is the elder statesman. He grew up the son of a Baptist minister in New Orleans. He left the South when he was 19 for seminary school. He has led congregations in Boise, Salt Lake City and Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
He walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the Selma March and the March on Washington during the civil-rights movement of the 1960s.
Establishing a national holiday for King was “one of the greatest things that happened in the United States,” Williams said.
King’s ideals were the true embodiment of Christianity, he said.
“Dr. King wasn’t interested in denomination. I’d say he was just a Christian,” Williams said. “Because actually, being a Baptist is not going to get you into heaven. What’s going to get you into heaven is having faith in the Lord and being a Christian.”
Williams came to Spokane to pastor another church and soon founded Mount Olive.
In addition to his work inside the sanctuary, he has a jail ministry and an outreach program. Many people in his congregation are people Williams met on the street.
“He (God) doesn’t want me to just preach from the pulpit,” Williams said. “He wants me to get out and demonstrate Christianity.”
Kim came to the United States with his parents and younger siblings in 1977. He converted from Buddhism to Christianity and began attending the San Jose Korean Baptist Church.
While working as a computer technician for Hewlett Packard, the church leaders asked him to become a deacon.
“Always in my mind it seemed like I was wasting my time” at Hewlett Packard, Kim said. “But in Korean custom, the oldest son has the responsibility. I had to take care of my mom and dad.”
He eventually attended seminary school for training as a preacher. He struggled for a year living in poverty, trying to start a church in Los Angeles before coming to Spokane.
Kidwell is also leading his first flock. He grew up in Oklahoma, near a town of 15,000 people with six Southern Baptist churches.
“Down there, we’re the big dog. Coming here means going from the majority to the minority,” he said. “We have to work a lot harder to get things done here than in the South.”
All three ministers are excited about reaching out to the community with today’s service. They hope the gathering will be an opportunity for conservative Christians to get their message out.
“Really, where else should this type of thing begin but with conservative Christians?” Kidwell asked. “I mean we preach grace, we ought to reflect it.”
ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: A sidebar appeared with this story under the headline “Service at 6 tonight.” The Dishman, Mount Olive and Korean Baptist churches will come together at 6 p.m. today at Dishman Baptist Church, N315 Argonne Road, for a service commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The public is welcome.