PASTOR MICHAEL YANG
Interviewed by : Na Hyun Kim
Photographed by : Daniel Lee
Location : Cafe De Cupping
This month’s spotlight is on Pastor Mike Yang, the 28-year-old, “totally single”, bowling enthusiast with a taste for expensive Peter Luger steak. Born in LA K-Town, he later moved to Staten Island where he developed a budding love for a certain Power Ranger. He rarely travels outside of Queens, so when you see him after returning from Cuba missions, please give him a warm hug and take him on a lovely interborough date. Read on for his open heart-to-heart about his powerful family testimony, the man who inspires him most, and his ideal cartoon character look.
Nana: Where did you grow up?
Mike: I grew up in Staten Island.
Nana: How long did you live there for?
Mike: I was actually born in LA. Came to NY when I was 2. I moved to Flushing when I was in the 10th grade.
Nana: How’d you guys go from the West Coast to all the way here?
Mike: My dad wanted to open up another business in NY. And we already had family here. My grandma’s family was here and they said we gotta come here. I’m not the only Staten Islander though. There’s Pastor Steve, and Sandy too, I think. Everyone thinks Staten Island is known for their dump, which [laughs] it was, but it’s not there anymore. It’s really nice there. My childhood was the best.
Nana: What would you do after school?
Mike: First, I had to watch Power Rangers. My favorite was the green but then he turned white. Anyways, 4:30 - I remember the time - 4:30 would be Power Rangers and then right after, it was Yu-Gi-Oh or something like that. After TV, I went outside and played with my friends. I had so many white friends, and it was really fun. When we moved here [to Queens], it was really hard because it was different. You wanna hear a funny thing? When I moved here, I went to Flushing High School, so I went from an all-white school to an all-black school. So the first day of school, I was like “What the heck is this? I’m gonna get jumped.”
Nana: Were you the only Asian there? Back in that time?
Mike: No, there was a good amount of Asians but I didn’t see them. Everyone was Black or Hispanic. It was like a sea of darkness. I was so scared for my life.
Nana: How’d you come to SooJung?
Mike: I came to SooJung back in ‘09. It’s been a good 8 years? Wow. I came through my brother. He came to SooJung one year before I did. In my old church, I was pretty involved but it just didn’t work out. I came here and something was different.
Nana: What’s your favorite church memory?
Mike: A prank that I pulled on Pastor Yung. He and I pranked each other a lot. I started it. I don’t how but it just happened. We were doing something at church once, and he asked if I could go pick up food. We ordered Chinese. I went and I ordered this ridiculously hot, hot Chinese food with peppers, and I doused it in hot sauce. When he bit into his food, he just knew right away. He dropped his fork, gave me that look, and I just started laughing. And ever since that moment, he made my life more miserable.
But that might not be my favorite church memory. I think my favorite would be when I was prayed for by the community at the time. When I first came to YG as a leader, the leaders all prayed for me and I remember feeling very like, there was a lot of burden that was lifted off. That was a really nice, powerful moment. I’d never experienced a bunch of people genuinely praying for me.
Nana: What’s the most memorable prayer that God ever answered?
Mike: My dad left us for another woman, and we decided, “Whatever with him. We don’t need him.” I wanted to move on so I dropped out of school, picked up a job, and started working. I was like 21. I told my mom to divorce. Actually, not just me, my whole mom’s side of the family encouraged her to divorce. But she, for some reason, didn’t.
One day, she asked if I could pray with her, for my dad to come back. Back then I was so angry at him, very bitter and I was like “Why? He left us.” I just wanted to support my mom, so I decided to pray with her. We did the Jericho Prayer. Joshua circled the city [of Jericho] seven times, and then on the seventh day, the walls of Jericho came down. So we did something like that around our block. After we did the Jericho Prayer for seven days, walking around our block silently in prayer, I didn’t get an answer right away, but two weeks after that, I got a phone call from my dad. Yeah, it was crazy. Because it was after years of no contact. I was so shocked. He called saying he had had a stroke. That’s how he was able to come back to our family. Now he’s the backbone of our family, a prayer warrior who supports us in prayer. It’s amazing.
Nana: Did you always want to become a pastor?
Mike: No, I studied Accounting. I was very detailed and I loved sitting in a chair at a desk doing the same routine things over and over. I’m actually really good at it.
Nana: Did you struggle with thinking: “God, I don’t want to be a pastor. Can I just do this instead?”
Mike: I guess I could share my calling I guess. Like, why I decided.
So I was all set to take the CPA exam and in my last semester of college, when I was like applying for internships and regular jobs, all of a sudden this question popped up into my head: “Can you see yourself sitting behind a desk for the rest of your life?” You know, I really thought about that and I said, “I don’t think so.” I asked God what I’m supposed to be doing, “Why now? I’m already delayed. What else am I supposed to be doing?”
And then it hit me. The answer was so simple you know? Just do what I’d been always doing, what made me really happy, which was, at the time, being with the youth group guys. Actually being with them, serving them, and leading them, it was something that made me happy. I really, really enjoyed being with them, hanging out with them, and watching them grow, you know? Was I called to ministry? That’s why I began to pray and I talked to a lot of people. There was confirmation after confirmation.
And another thing I realized was that it’s not about the destination. With God, it’s about the journey. It’s the process. God was able to work in my process.
Nana: What is the hardest part of serving?
Mike: There’s so much work and [so many] responsibilities. If I’m not right, the ministry is not right. God is entrusting me with his people and that’s a serious thing. I think all leadership is like that too, not just for pastors.
Nana: What is the most blessing part of serving?
Mike: The most blessing part would be the opportunity to just serve in this body. That I can do more for the body is really awesome. And I’m so appreciative of all the staff. They are all so awesome. We all work together and take care of each other.
Nana: Who would you say is your greatest inspiration?
Mike: I don’t want to say this but it has to be Pastor Yung. I’ll never admit this to his face but seriously he’s someone who I super appreciate. I really believe he is used by God. Through him, God was able to save me from my naïve things. He taught me 90% of what I know. He is someone I always look up to as a mentor. He taught me what it means to sacrifice and I really believe that without him I wouldn’t be here in this position today. Okay, that’s enough about him.
Nana: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Mike: Ahh... I really, really hate slow drivers.
Nana: Yeah because you get road rage right?
Mike: Yeah, slow or bad drivers. I mean right now my road rage has gotten so much better. When I first started driving, before I took my faith seriously, I was So bad. I would curse, I would tailgate, I would honk, I would do everything that I could to let them know that they were a bad driver.
Nana: If you were a cartoon character, what would be your one outfit?
Mike: I would wear a Bugs Bunny outfit? Like the full - yeah I would wear that. Because I loved watching Looney Tunes.
Nana: That’s a classic! So your cartoon character would be an imitation of another cartoon character [laughs].
Nana: Are you excited for Cuba?
Mike: Yeah. We finished packing today. It’s gonna be my first time going to Cuba. Really really excited and looking forward to serving there
Nana: What’s your role there?
Mike: I’m doing pretty much everything... but mainly logistics. I’m pretty good at that. Pastor David and I work really well together. We complement each other. He has some gifts that I don’t have, I have some gifts that he doesn’t have.
Nana: What are you most excited about?
Mike: Just to see like the country.
Nana: You guys are so lucky. It’s tough to actually go there.
Mike: We won’t be so lucky when we’re dealing with the humidity. It’s gonna be so humid.
Nana: And there’s the communists.
Mike: Yeah, it’s a communist country. So we always have to watch out. We gotta be like spies in a way. When we get to the airport, we gotta pretend like we’re not in the same group, because not everyone is going with a religious visa. So we can’t get caught..
But I know God will be faithful. So nothing will happen.
Nana: We all wish you the best.
Mike: Thank you.
Na Hyun Kim, a.k.a. Nana, is sort of a writer and very much a watermelon junkie. Make her day by dropping comments about how ‘Brooklyn’ she looks. Legally, her first name is ‘Na’ and middle name ‘Hyun’, so she’s pretty irked whenever she sees ‘Ms. Na Kim’ on her boarding ticket.