Korean pastor called from retirement to plant church

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Pictured Above: Pastor Jongha Park baptizing a member of the Woori congregation. 

MELBOURNE–Pastor Jongha Park planned to retire, but God had other plans.

He had been in ministry since 1996, serving as pastor at a Baptist church in Daytona Beach and for 20 years as pastor of Korean Open Door Baptist Church in Oviedo. At 70 years of age in 2019, he retired from full-time ministry, and he and his wife, Younghee, planned on doing mission work in other countries. But as the impacts of COVID took shape, their plans to serve were interrupted. During this time of uncertainty, God called Pastor Park back into ministry.

Throughout the winter of 2019, a small group of Korean Baptists were meeting at a local park in Melbourne, praying for God’s direction on forming a new church. Although there were already two Baptist churches in the vicinity, the group felt led to plant a new church in their community. Through a shared connection with a local Korean intercultural mission and Pastor Park’s wife, the group reached out to Pastor Park to ask if he would consider pastoring the new congregation.

Pastor Park and his wife Youngshee.

“We were going to be doing short-term missions, but COVID interrupted our plans. So, when the group called me and my wife, I felt that it might be God calling me to do this new mission,” recalled Park.

Pastor Park and his wife met with the group to discuss the possibility of formalizing the meetings and creating a new church. Park said he had two conditions that had to be met before he would consider pastoring the new church.

“The church had to be Southern Baptist, and it had to be mission-oriented,” he said. “They accepted the conditions and Woori Korean Baptist Church was started.”

In April 2021, Park reached out to Brevard Baptist Association and put the wheels in motion for establishing the church and finding a location.

“The then-administrator from the Brevard Association knew that Bowe Gardens Baptist Church in Melbourne had some available space on its campus,” said Park. “So he introduced me to the pastor at Bowe Gardens. After the members of Woori went to see the space, we all decided to start the church there.”

Bowe Garden Baptist Church
Pastor Mitchel Dubolsky and his wife, Ashley, in front of the Bowe Gardens church sign.

“From the time I talked to Brevard Association in April to the time we had our first service at Bowe Gardens in May 2021 was only two weeks,” recalled Park.

Sharing space with Bowe Gardens has enabled Woori to have its own service times and enact a ministry plan that is both service-oriented and missional. Park said the church, which has grown from 10 members at its inception to more than 30, has a senior service on Tuesdays which includes Korean food and Korean dance lessons, a Wednesday Bible study, and a worship service on Sunday. The church is also planning a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in February 2023.

Although Woori is a Korean Baptist church that conducts bilingual services, Park said the desire of the congregation is to reach the larger community and not just Koreans.

“Woori is a Korean word that translates to ‘we’ or, ‘together,’ so when we started the church, we agreed that we want to be intercultural and be a church that is open for everybody – I don’t have a special group in my mind that we want to reach.”

Being located at Bowe Gardens Baptist Church has created an opportunity to embrace that multiculturalism – the two congregations have come together for an outdoor picnic in November, partnered on Operation Christmas Child and are planning more fellowships in the future.

Joint fellowship between Woori and Bowe Garden Baptist Church members.

Pastor Mitchel Dubolsky went to Bowe Gardens in August 2022, having formerly served as senior pastor at King Street Baptist Church in Cocoa. When he got to Bowe Gardens, he learned about Woori and the past relationship that existed between the two congregations. He said that although the churches are separate congregations sharing a physical location, he believes the two congregations will come together more and more as time progresses.

“I am excited to be able to partner with them and serve together with them for the glory of God. Not every church is in the unique position that we are in, so I’ve encouraged our congregation to continue to look beyond cultures and appearances and understand that we are all believers in Christ,” said Dubolsky. “This will enable us to accomplish so much more … working hand in hand with Woori toward reaching more people.”

Pastor Park said that by working to reach the entire community for the gospel, they have been able to engage the local university and, as a result, five Korean students are now attending Woori. He also believes that his congregation’s dedication to growing the church will have eternal impact.

“All the church members are working very hard for the Lord and His work. I am so pleased to work with my congregation.”

Woori’s first anniversary.

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