The following interview is from a series I did as part of another project, GTHR.
From time to time we like to highlight community builders. These individuals captivate us. They draw us out. They invite us into a fuller way of being. They are relentless seekers of a simpler, more integrated, transparent, participatory version of ekklesia. One that reminds us of our beginnings and reunites us with our divine calling to be vessels of redemption for a world desperately out of order.
Their lives tell stories that beg to be shared. And we’re excited to introduce them to you, in their own words.
This week we’d like to introduce you to Ruthie Kim. Ruthie is the founder and Director of Because Justice Matters, a San Francisco based organization reaching women who experience exploitation and isolation.
In one sentence, what is your purpose, or reason to be?
Love God and love people.
How did you come to be where you are right now?
I moved to San Francisco when I was 18 to work with YWAM, a Christian ministry working in an intense and needy part of SF. It was initially a short term plan, but I fell in love with the City (and eventually my husband!) and found a place where I could really focus my passion for reaching broken and hurting people.
What big decisions along the way have brought you to the here and now? The ones where courage conquered fear.
Wow, there’s been a few! Moving from a small village in the UK to San Francisco’s Tenderloin at the age of 18, has to be up there as one of the most terrifying steps along the way! I was completely unprepared for what I stepped into, but I have seen God’s faithfulness again and again in the big and small things.
When did you realize you wanted to be in ministry? Any interesting moments as a child?
I visited Paris with my school when I was about 13. I remember looking at the Eiffel Tower and Paris skyline at night and bursting into tears. My friends were having fun and goofing around and I was so embarrassed.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that God was giving me a heart for cities, and that at that moment I was emotionally and spiritually feeling God’s heart for Paris.
I’ve had a few moments like that throughout my life, both here in SF and in other cities around the world I’ve visited. When I was 16 I knew I was called into full-time ministry after attending a youth camp and hearing a pastor from Los Angeles share. Again I felt connected to cities and I knew God had something for me here in the US.
What’s your process these days for fostering community, relationships, and generosity (both within the community and abroad)?
At Because Justice Matters community is one of our core values.
We really believe in helping our women and girls build community among themselves through small groups, and help them see that they are leaders within their community.
It’s incredible to watch two women, both who may be struggling with addiction or homelessness, come alongside each other and build a deep friendship. We’re all about creating a safe and healing space, and seeing what God does!
And when you’re not doing any of the above, where can we find you?
I’m a mum of two young boys so I’m doing really normal family stuff! Lots of park visits, ice cream, and play dates! I’m also a big fan of being by the ocean, so whether it’s taking my boys to the beach or walking our dog, I find it a really refreshing place to be.
Down time and work/life balance: How does this vibe with you? How do you make it all work?
I really believe in living from a whole and integrated place. So rather than see my work separate from my family or the rest of my life, I like to think I am one person moving between different spheres and doing my best to be completely me, be present, and keep Jesus central to it all. That being said, I’m a big believer in boundaries, sleep, and celebration! Somehow it seems to all pan out!
Most difficult situation to date?
Biggest triumph / accomplishment?
My answer is pretty much the same for both of these. Building our women’s center, The Well, was pretty much the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in ministry. I worked with an amazing contractor, but we were designing and renovating a space from the floor up! I had never been involved in anything like it. I had to learn really fast about city codes, IKEA cabinets, and color palettes!! It was completely out of my comfort zone and took every moment of my time for about 6 months. That being said, I am still in awe of our space almost two years later! I love that I got to be part of creating it and making our dream a reality.
What would you tell your five year-ago self?
The best is yet to come!
I feel like as we get older it can feel like your most energetic or visionary years are behind you. Especially after a couple of kids and a lot of sleepless nights! But, I don’t believe that. God has something new for us every day and it’s all part of an exciting adventure that we get to walk in with Him.
Who do you look to for inspiration? Or, who madly lights you up and makes you want to chase down your dreams?
My husband. I’m sorry if that sounds cheesy but no one makes me feel like I can fly like he does. He always believes in me and always pushes me to do what I’m afraid of. I love him for that.
Future plans? What dreams are in the pipeline?
Seeing the lives of women and girls in San Francisco transformed. It’s what we’re about at Because Justice Matters and everything we do is because we believe in them, their value, and their destiny.
What three pieces of practical advice would you share with someone who wants to create, shape, and inspire a community of their own?
1. Think long term. Building community is about relationships and those take time. We need to be willing to learn, listen and stick around for the long haul.
2. It’s not all about you. Meaning, invest in others. Find other people who have similar visions and dreams and pour everything you learn along the way into them. Mentor people and then push them past where you yourself have been.
3. Weather the storm. It will definitely be challenging and painful at times, but if you stick it out you’ll see some really amazing fruit.
Any favorite methods, tools, or technology you’ve found to be essential?
Believe the best. A few years ago one of my leaders encouraged me to think this way and it’s changed my outlook on so many things.
If we always approach people believing the best, we position our hearts towards love and seeing them as God does.
A personal mantra?
Celebrate everything. I really believe that one of the greatest tools we have to fight hopelessness or discouragement is celebration.
Our family has intentionally built a culture of celebration, whether it’s birthdays, graduations, holidays or just because it’s Friday! We go all out and remind ourselves that there is so much in life to celebrate and be thankful for!
Where can we find you and your community online?