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J.D. Kim didn’t see disability coming…
On a sunny day in Aspen, Colorado, 22-year-old J.D. went snowboarding with his friends. An aspiring sushi chef eager to pursue his dream and enjoy an adventurous life, J.D. couldn’t imagine what would happen next.
Going over a mogul J.D. crashed. “I knew it was bad,” he says. He heard a strange sound in his ears and found that he couldn’t get up. It was like the connection had been lost between his brain and his limbs. He called out to a friend to come help.
“He thought that I was making a horrible joke and it took me some time to actually convince him to really understand the gravity of the situation.”
Later at the hospital J.D. learned that he’d broken his spinal cord and C5 vertebra. Doctors told him he would be paralyzed from the shoulders down for the rest of his life.
“Please take my hand…”
J.D. planned how to kill himself—tipping his wheelchair down a flight of stairs would do the job, he thought. But at the top of the stairs, he found himself praying:
“Lord, you know I’ve gone to church since I was a child. I don’t know if I really believe the stories from the Bible. But if there is something you can do about my life… if you can still hear me, please take my hand.”
As he prayed, J.D. sensed Jesus with him, taking his hand.
“God took my hand and he never let it go. And it has been 18 years,” says J.D.
God has held J.D.’s hand and shown him how to live with faith and new hope.
Identity and Disability
Before his accident, J.D. struggled with his identity. Born in Korea, J.D. moved to America at age 13. He felt caught between two cultures—fitting well into neither.
“I had Korean American peers who spoke English and understood the American culture, but they didn’t speak Korean and had no experience of Korean culture. And immediately they began making fun of me. They called me ‘FOB’ [fresh off the boat].”
Even in the church J.D. found division between Korean and American cultures. He also couldn’t find a mentor to help him navigate his environment, so he spun into an identity crisis.
“I didn’t know how I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to live in this country,” says J.D.
Seeking to fit in with peers, J.D. distanced himself from faith, struggled in school, and began living according to what he recalls as a worldly pattern.
“And that’s actually when the snowboarding accident happened,” he says.
Finding Hope in Christ
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Not until Jesus took his hand after the accident did J.D. come to understand his unshakeable identify as a child of the most high God. “That is my true identity.” With his confidence in Christ, J.D. found his path ahead in life, full of hope and purpose. J.D. says:
“Although I used to live for my selfish desire, ambition, and pleasure, now I live for God, regardless of my condition, pain, and disability. Though I am disabled, God almighty who is more than able is with me; though I am in a wheelchair, the one who rides on the chariots of fire carries me; though the world defines me by my disability, the Father identifies me by what the Son did for me on the cross, through the Spirit.”
Today J.D. Kim is an ordained teaching elder from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and holds a PhD in systematic theology from the University of Aberdeen. He serves as Adjunct Professor of Theology and Assistant Director of the Doctor of Ministry KSP at Denver Seminary and as President of J.D. Kim Ministries.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”