Jean Kim, “mother to the homeless”, was honored in a Zoom Meeting where all the participants celebrated: Jean’s Jubilee (50th year) of immigration to the United States, her Jubilee of Homeless Mission, her publication of 5 books, and her 85th birthday. The event was organized by her son, Sam, along with other family members.
Who is Jean Kim? Jean Kim wrote about her multi-faceted life in the book, Hope in the Color Purple. The book not only chronicles her struggles, but it also tells of her passionate community advocacy for the homeless. Jean was ordained as Presbyterian minister (the 2nd Korean woman ordained by the PCUSA), and she founded the ecumenical church of Mary Magdelene in Seattle, WA which also served as a community of support for homeless women.
The Jubilee event on September 12 was a wonderful community experience! The retrospective of Jean’s life and her many accomplishments was living proof of how tough problems can be overcome. Jean’s ability to bring people together formed the foundation for Jean’s work with homeless women. Jean acknowledged the special needs for homeless women to talk, learn, and have a community of support thereby creating a climate of strength, courage, and hope for the women Jean served. In Jean’s case, her personal challenges and insights about people living on the streets eventually led her to open Mary’s Place, a women’s shelter now located in Lynnwood. The spirit of community in the Zoom celebration was captured by the series of voices that shed light on Jean. Their words made it clear that Jean understands the true meaning of “partnership.” She teamed up with George Hurst of the Lynnwood City Council to create “little homes”, Dick Gibson, the Maplewood Church pastor, and Steve Woodard, a dean at the Edmonds Community College along with many others from all walks of life. Jean knows how to bring people together and inspire them to create something out of the ordinary.
Purple was a theme throughout the celebration. It seems that purple means something to Jean. In Jean’s book she references purple as the color of Lent and in that sense, it is about suffering. But for Jean, the color also represents power, hope, and healing. For the people who know Jean, the color represents Jean because Jean, like purple, has that unusual combination of warmth, love, joy, spirit, and power. Jean has that rare ability to lift up others, restore dignity to the marginalized, and honor the sacred.
Some of the moving words spoken about Jean included:
- George Hurst: “Jean does not take no for an answer.”
- Thelma Burgonio-Watson: Jean showed us that, “We are all under the same sky, walking the same earth…”
- Samuel Chung: “Her work transcends ethnic groups and people from all walks of life.”
- Marty Hartman: Executive Director of Mary’s Place: “Told the women of Seattle that they were worthy…she scooped them up.”
By Margaret Kulkin