When most people think of a sacred space for spiritual transformation, McDonald’s is not typically what comes to mind. Yet, for Rev. Chan-U “Vincent” Kam, underneath the Golden Arches is where his mentor Wallace met him and guided him in his newly minted faith through Scripture and prayer.
Vincent had converted to Christianity after a high school friend shared his own newfound faith in Christ. This faith and life was so different from what Vincent knew, particularly in the context of where he lived in the Macau region of China.
His faith in God — whom he found “surprisingly wonderful” — continued to grow and he was baptized at the end of high school. While studying engineering in college, Vincent became involved with Cru, a global ministry that strives to help college students to know Christ. He credits that time as his “most fruitful days of spiritual growth.” His first year of college was replete with hardship and loneliness. Through Cru, he found support navigating college life. He also met his future wife, Linda. After graduation, his heart for service continued to drive him and he found a job working for the Red Cross in Macau as a social worker.
“The church isn’t just something out of the blue. No, we have a past, we have a history, we have a community.”
–Rev. Chan-U “Vincent” Kam
Vincent made the decision to enroll at China Evangelical Seminary (CES) in Taiwan to earn his Master of Divinity. There he became interested in the greater story of the church. He saw the beauty of God at work in and through the lives of ordinary people, around the world, throughout time. “The church isn’t just something out of the blue,” he says. “No, we have a past, we have a history, we have a community.” Church history, a subject that often has a dry reputation, became a source of joy and excitement for Vincent. Sharing the joy of the church’s history has become his passion and purpose.
Vincent became a pastor for a medium-sized congregation in Taipei. Throughout his ministry, he began dreaming of continuing his church history studies in America, something he considered impossible. After five years, Vincent forfeited further academic pursuits when it was time for ordination, which came with the expectation he would serve his congregation long-term. As he was ordained, he shifted his focus from academic studies to professional ministry.
A short time later, Vincent was introduced to a pastor in Canada who wanted to return home to Taiwan. The conversation evolved and eventually the pastor came to serve alongside Vincent. There was such excellent chemistry between this pastor and the congregation, Vincent was allowed the freedom to consider leaving. His dream of studying abroad was rekindled.
“As Martin Luther once said, ‘If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.’”
Vincent met with his adviser in Taiwan, Dr. William Liao, who had spent the summer at Concordia Seminary. With promises of a great library and faculty, Vincent’s interest was piqued. Thanks to a conveniently timed deadline extension, the application process that typically takes a year was completed in months. Looking back, Vincent is amused, but not surprised, at how so many things came together in such a short amount of time to make this hope a reality. As a student of church history, Vincent is familiar with the sometimes humorous and mysterious ways God works.
It was in August 2016 when Vincent, along with his wife and his son, William, stepped foot on American soil for the first time. Vincent was officially a Ph.D. student at Concordia Seminary. The family embraced life as members of the Seminary community. Promptly engaged in theological discussions and academic pursuits, Vincent appreciated the necessity of improving his English. New-found friends on campus helped the family settle in, and while the transition came with its challenges, including an entire day spent at a DMV office, Vincent soon found his stride in this new place. From furniture to friendship, God provided for the family’s transition into American life.
This spring, Vincent will complete his fifth year at Concordia Seminary. He has hopes of one day sharing his passion for church history at a seminary or university. While his next steps are still coming into focus for when he completes his Ph.D., Vincent is finding other means to share his enthusiasm and insights. Inspired by Martin Luther, who once said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write,” Vincent is hoping to affect readers half a world away with his personal blog titled, “Then and Now,” through which he communicates the beauty of church history to a primarily Chinese audience.
When he’s not studying, Vincent enjoys family time with Linda and their sons, William and Anthony, who was born after the family arrived in the United States. He soaks in his sons’ childhood. The family enjoys crazy dancing together, and playing Legos and Frisbee. Just like the story of the church, as Vincent looks back at his own story, he can see where God has been at work, even when the day-to-day feels unclear or limited. As a student of God’s faithfulness throughout time, Vincent has great hope for what is to come.
Abigail Miller is a St. Louis-based freelance writer.