Churches are called to meet more than the spiritual needs of the communities they inhabit, according to Hyepin Im, founder and president of Faith and Community Empowerment (www.facela.org). “Jesus’ ministry was always holistic. Faith communities—whether they acknowledge it or not—are holistic ministries. They end up having to meet physical, mental, and emotional needs along with spiritual needs. If we’re in holistic ministries anyway, we might as well do it as best as possible,” Im said.
Born to parents in ministry, Im witnessed firsthand the struggle to provide much-needed services to Korean immigrants. These struggles profoundly shaped Im as she sought to find a better way for the Asian-American community to have access to services, resources, and connections for development and advancement.
She was greatly inspired by First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, an historically Black congregation in Los Angeles. First AME Church had created a nonprofit focused on implementing social justice and community enrichment projects through various strategic partnerships. This model not only enabled Black churches to impact their communities, but brought them recognition as active stakeholders and decision-makers in community development.
“Unfortunately, I find that our good works are not being lifted up, recognized, or embraced because we don’t have a know-how to package them in a way for the world to see them,” Im said. “We are not shining our light into rooms and places where our works can be seen.”
In 2001, Im applied the First AME model in an Asian-American community context and founded Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE), formerly Korean Churches for Community Development. Since its founding, FACE has brought together religious and secular organizations to facilitate programs on affordable housing, youth leadership, mental health, financial literacy, and homeownership. FACE has connected more than 3,300 churches, empowering them in ways that exponentially increase their impact.
Last April, FACE hosted an ethnically-diverse interfaith prayer breakfast to mark the 25th anniversary of the L.A. Riots and bring healing and reconciliation in the community. Also last year, FACE and the City of Los Angeles partnered to create API JOBS, which provides employment resources for Asian Pacific-Islander communities.
Im desires for churches to impact communities long term and in ways that are recognized and embraced. By doing so, churches become active stakeholders and decision-makers with a voice in their local communities.