PASTOR AARON & KRISTEN
Interviewed by : Na Hyun Kim &
Photographed by : Lukey
Location : Cafe de Cupping
For this month, we had the chance to spend a morning sippin’ on some joe with none other than Pastor Aaron, Kristen, and Reuel, a.k.a. the most endearing family you know.
During our conversation, Reuel was just doing what babies do, and these two doting parents kept apologizing for their son’s occasional outbursts. But honestly, how could we get annoyed when he has such a sweet face and when he’s so obviously loved? We wish you could've all been there to see the way this couple looked at their child and each other as they took turns answering. We felt loved just sitting next to them.
Stick around to hear about the low-key way Pastor Aaron scored a first date, a warm glimpse into their everyday married life, and some surprising news.
Note: By the time you finish reading, you may have a strong urge to get hitched next thing tomorrow.
Nana: How did you two meet?
Kristen: Where do I start [laughs]? A lot of people ask us this but every time I tell the story it’s different.
Sarah: From his version?
Kristen: Yeah, depending on who asks and who’s telling the story I think it’s a bit different. So for me, we met in 2013. It was when I found out I got accepted into PA school and my school told me that even though I’m accepted I didn’t have enough non-medical voluntary experience. So I called different places and at the time AYC (Asian Youth Center) was looking for someone who could volunteer one day for a basketball tournament, so they told me to come in, and it was there when I met him for the first time. On that day we sat next to each other and spent the whole day from 7 in the morning to 7 at night... and yeah, that’s how we first met.
Pastor Aaron: Yeah so we had a day together. And it could be awkward if you’re spending the time looking at each other. But for us, we were looking at the kids playing basketball. And I really liked how Kristen was cheering for the losing team and the kids who looked the ‘saddest’ on the court. She didn’t know basketball but she knew body language. She knew when the kids were down, and when the churches were feeling a little down and she was really trying to advocate for them. And I really liked that part of her. So after 12 hours we had dinner with the staff and I was trying to get her number then [laughs]. But as you know, many of our staff members and a lot of the volunteers were from Crystal, so...
Kristen: I didn’t know anybody from the tournament as I was an outsider who came in short term, but he knew everybody and I only knew this other unnie who was working with me at AYC. At the dinner, I was sitting right across from him and since I didn’t know anybody besides those two, I was looking at him as he was talking the most and looking at this other unnie, but from his end he thought I was looking at him a lot and [laughs] that I was into him.
Pastor Aaron: She did give me some very clear signs.
Kristen: No no… I keep telling him that’s not true!
Nana: I think you did it subconsciously.
Pastor Aaron: Nana, do you want cheesecake? Anything?
Kristen: I didn’t think much about it. I went back to my life, back to school, and the unnie called me and said ‘Hey, Pastor Aaron wanted you to call him because he wanted to ask you something.’ So I just assumed he wanted to give me another volunteer position so I called him and he was like ‘Yeah, I want to talk to you. Let’s meet up.’ So I just automatically assumed that I was going to meet up with him with this unnie so I agreed. And he was like ‘So what do you like to eat?’ So I said ‘I don’t know. Maybe we can go for some Thai food in the neighborhood’ and he comes to pick me up and we go to this Thai place in Astoria, where there are candles on the table and there was no unnie so It was just us two... And he tells me about how he grew up, his relationship with his grandma, and how he had this dog in his house... and he tells me all about his favorite TV shows, his upbringing, childhood memories.. and then I realized.. ‘Ohhhh this is a date!’ [Laughs] So yeah.. that became our first date.
Sarah: Do you have any advice for singles who are preparing for dating/marriage?
Pastor Aaron: I think the two of us were in a very similar season. We were both trying to grow in the Lord and I don’t think either of us were thinking of dating at the time. Because you know, that was also when I got into grad school and she got into grad school. A big part of it was just learning how to grow in whatever it was that the Lord wanted us to do. We just happened to meet while we were doing that. I know some people meet more intentionally. The Lord works in very funny ways too where people can meet in really interesting ways. But I think for us, we were just pursuing God and developing who we wanted to be for God. And I think we think we were attracted to that person in each other.
Sarah: How important do you think that is: not particularly looking for a potential husband or wife, but for a person that is pursuing God?
Kristen: I think it becomes important if you’re trying to live a life in that way. For me, I was a new Christian and I had so much fire in the beginning. I was very, very passionately falling in love with God at the time. That’s really all I thought about. How can I please God with my life? In the immaturity of my faith, I thought maybe it would be easier to dedicate my life if married a pastor [laughs]. I just thought about that even before I met him. So I quickly prayed saying God, I want to marry a pastor. And then I thought about it. Which pastors do I know? The only pastors I could think of were these harabugee (grandpa) pastors [laughs]. And I was a new Christian so I thought maybe young people don’t become pastors. I’d never met a single person my age who was a pastor. So I thought maybe that was a dumb prayer and just kind of forgot about it. But when I went to AYC, this unnie was calling him (Pastor Aaron) ‘Pastor.’ I was so shocked! Because he looked younger than I did! Even then, I wasn’t thinking about dating him, but he asked me out [laughs]. That’s how things started. I was looking back and thought how funny it is that I dated a pastor, we got married, and now we have a kid. I’m really enjoying my life with everything that’s happening. I’m really thankful in that sense. Because I am still pursuing God and I’m very oriented in that way, and so is he, we have a very same goal and direction. We’re always looking at the same place and we always go together. So it’s really easy for me to comply with our values, what the Lord says. In that way, I think it’s very important if you’re looking for that life.
Sarah: I know dating and marriage are completely different, so what are some lessons that God taught either of you together or individually? And maybe how it’s helped you guys grow together as a couple?
Pastor Aaron: You know when I thought we were gonna get married, I was thinking that we’d do bible study at home everyday for hours [everyone laughs]. Because you know, she wanted to grow and I did too. How would we do this everyday? We’re a couple that does normal things and in everything we do, we try to see God in our life… We’re just learning to laugh about things. Like even this morning, Reuel dropped this really heavy thing on Kristen’s foot. You know as a husband, a classic book would say you have to care for her. But I just started laughing [everyone laughs]. Like. Really. Loud.
Kristen: He was very entertained. I was upset.
Pastor Aaron: I think that’s an example of a lesson that we learned among other things. We can enjoy the things in marriage whether they are things to enjoy or if they can feel painful, we can laugh about it together. That’s something we’re learning. We have a long way to go.
Kristen: I think marriage really makes you grow. You know how the Bible says when you’re married, you guys are one? In that sense, I feel like when I’m weak, when I’m in a really bad season, I think no matter what he does or where he is, it gets reflected onto him in whatever way. So that helps me to stay on track because I’m also responsible for his spiritual health. And this also helps me to examine myself more through what he’s going through, how he responds. So I think I grew a lot more in this relationship because we see each other more, we give input to each other, we’re always there together. Whatever I’m going through, he’s always there. I’m more conscious about what I’m going through.
Sarah: So now you guys are parents. How have your mindsets changed now that you transitioned from just the two of you to bringing a child who is dependent on you?
Pastor Aaron: [Reuel starts to cry] That. Haha I think that’s what I’ve been learning and growing from, you know? It says that God watches us every moment of our life. I kind of have to watch Reuel every moment. After we had Reuel, I think in about three months, I quit the full time job I had at the time. I can’t call it a sacrifice because I love what I did that for. But I thought that I had the pursuit in a vocational sense and I was grateful to be working in the field that I enjoyed, loved, and cared for. And I think just learning sacrifice in that sense and that constant love and care. So if I ever feel like I’m not so loving, whether it's myself or others, I picture my love for Reuel and it helps me to overcome areas where I feel short in loving. I’d ask ‘Would I do that for Reuel?’ and then I would look at another person or situation. I think I grew in that way.
Kristen: He’s been through a lot. He’s been peed on, pooped on, was bitten.
Sarah: [Laughs] That’s sacrifice.
Kristen: And all that drooling and vomit...
Nana/Sarah: What would you say is your biggest dream for Reuel is right now? Do you have any dreams for Reuel that God’s putting in your heart?
Kristen: I would really love our kid to grow up loving God early on. Especially since I met God in my mid to late twenties. So I was thinking how awesome would it be if I met God earlier in my childhood. So that’s what I want Reuel to have. I don’t really care what occupation he has. He can have any job that would make him happy. But yeah, I just wish that he would grow up knowing God through myself and my husband. I never really thought much about it.
Pastor Aaron: Yeah... We wanted Reuel to grow up in a loving community and we believe that’s happening now already. People have been so loving and supporting. We just hope that continues. We’ve been trying to be intentional about that recently. In about two weeks, we’re going to be moving.
Nana & Sarah: What?? Where?
Pastor Aaron: We’re moving in with Pastor David and Sung, and their to-be Deborah. And with Pastor Yung. We always wanted Reuel to have spiritual leaders and examples and friends and family-to-be together... And we love Sunday so much we want to do it everyday.
Nana: So everyone is moving out at once or at the same time?
Kristen: We recently found this house, the landlord is really great and really nice. It’s going to happen at the end of this month.
Nana: It’s an adventure.
Kristen: Yeah, I also think it’s very good for Reuel to have a sister in the house. So I’m happy for him.
Nana: What’s your most endearing quirk about each other?
Pastor Aaron: When Kristen gets really happy, she kind of wiggles [smiles]. Like wiggling a tail. Like side to side, it’s very, very cute.
Kristen: Omg, I’m so embarrassed.
Pastor Aaron: As a husband, knowing that you can make her happy like that. Yeah, very, very cute quirk.
Nana & Sarah: Awwww.
Kristen: I like making fun of him and he has this thing about his shoe collection.
Sarah: How many pairs of shoes does he have?
Kristen: A lot. He loves collecting his sneakers, he loves his shoes. So I always look at that and make fun of him and tell him it’s takes up too much space in the house and to get rid of it. But I love seeing that to be honest, that childlike side of him. Because I see so much of the mature side of him when we were first dating and I just like seeing that.
Pastor Aaron: It’s hard for me to let go of certain things. And I think one day - and I’ve been saying it for the last three years - I’m going to sell all of them away.
Kristen: He’s been saying this for the last three years and he hasn’t sold a single pair of shoes. Sometimes I intentionally step on his shoes to see his reaction [laughs].
Nana: You guys have any traditions for the holidays coming up or like a weekly thing?
Kristen: Every Saturday morning, we like going to this bagel place in Floral Park. We love that bagel place, they’re always so fluffy and warm.
Nana: What is the place called?
Kristen: Hand Rolled Bagels.
Nana: Bagel Saturdays~
Sarah: Wow, that’s a long way just to go get bagels.
Kristen: It’s only a 10 minute drive. We usually don’t tell anyone about this place...
Sarah: [Laughs] Sorry everyone that reads this is going to know about it.