History: Korean Student Paints Pictures in Kitchener Sanatorium

This year, as we celebrate Emmanuel’s eightieth anniversary, we will be posting monthly articles on the history of the College.

March 12, 2020

Emmanuel Bible College is known for influencing and building up the church around the world through the brave efforts of its missionary students, alumni, staff, and faculty. The sacrificial service of people such as Edna Pridham, who lost her life on the mission field, has cemented the school’s reputation as a missions-focused institution and has inspired generations of students. It is important to recognize, however, that the influence has gone in the other direction as well; over the years, the College has been shaped and edified by people from other countries who have joined the school community.

One such student is the remarkable Byong Duk Kim, better known to English speakers as Stephen Kim, from Korea. In the early 1950s his homeland was torn apart by the war there, and for a time he lived in the territory belonging to the North. He later attended Seoul National University, in the South, and at some point began corresponding with Emmanuel Bible College. He wanted to study at the College, and the school’s faculty and missionary society agreed to sponsor him.[1]

After his arrival, Kim was found to have tuberculosis and was sent to the Freeport Sanatorium for treatment. During his fifteen-month confinement there, he showed himself to be a talented artist by completing about thirty oil paintings. The College does not own any of his original artwork, but several pieces have been preserved in black-and-white copies. Included below is one of his drawings.[2]

Kim recovered from the illness and achieved his goal of studying at Emmanuel, where he was cherished by students and faculty. He graduated in 1958.

During his time in Canada, Kim was warmly welcomed by Emmanuel principal L. Lyness Wark and his family. Without knowing him, Lyness and his wife, Helen, made the brave choice to have him live there as he did his studies. The Warks’ two young daughters greatly enjoyed spending time with Kim and listening to him tell stories about his eventful life. To thank the family for their kindness and hospitality, he gave them several of his original oil paintings. One of the Wark daughters continues to display a painting by Kim in her home.

Having been cared for in a time of serious illness, Kim later took an opportunity to assist the Canadian medical system. In the summer of 1958, he and Thomas Dow, a student at Emmanuel and later the College’s president, found summer jobs working with Mennonite Central Committee in several hospitals in Winnepeg, Manitoba. They lived with a local family and enjoyed their time together, occasionally sharing a favourite dessert of Kim’s: ice cream on cantaloupe. Kim then opened a new chapter in his life, moving to the United States and finding a spouse.

Though his time at Emmanuel was relatively short, his influence has proven to be enduring. Members of the school community continue to talk about his perseverance and the remarkable use of his God-given artistic talent. He serves as an encouraging example how God can enrich the College, and the church more broadly, through cross-cultural ministry activity and an uncompromising commitment to God’s mission in the world.

The featured image shows Stephen Kim painting at the Freeport Sanatorium. We would like to thank Gloria Taliotis and Dr. Thomas Dow for sharing memories and information. 

[1] “Missions Project,” Pilot (1955): 25.

[2] “Ships Officers,” Pilot (1957): 7.