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ALUMNI STORIES2000sI Never Thought I’d Be a PastorKevin Kusunoki ’08 sits down with DragonTales and recalls his High School days and a surprise calling to the church.“I was very average. I told my Mom, you just gotta expect this is what I am. I’m a B student,” quips Kevin Kusunoki ’08. In high school, Kevin was a social butterfly and a good kid who was heavily involved with after-school activities. He was part of HKIS’s High School Christian Club FISH (Fellowship Is Shared Here), which still exists today, though the meeting space, Kevin was happy to hear, is no longer the cramped “closet”, as they affectionately (we hope) called it.
These days, Kevin exceeds expectations in his career, playing down his semi-rock star status as the Pastor of Young Adult Ministry at Island Evangelical Community Church (known to parishioners as Island ECC), one of the largest English-speaking churches in Hong Kong. He leads a ministry called Shift, specifically for this demographic, and his powerful, thought-provoking sermons hit home for these 20- and 30-somethings living and working in Hong Kong. His vision is to help people in this major stage of transition in their life. “Young adults are at a stage where we have to make decisions like where to work, what job to take, what person to date – and these have far-reaching effects. [I’m] trying to help people not only make good decisions, but utilize this stage of life to really be mobilized for the Gospel.” Above Kevin as Senior Class President with Senate member in the High School Plaza. Left Kevin in his 4th grade yearbook photo. Right Delivering an inspiring sermon from the pulpit at Island ECC. Kevin also sees that certain cultures in Hong Kong need to shift – work-life balance and mental health are aspects of Hong Kong life and culture that he says are not healthy even from a secular point of view. “And how much can the Gospel speak into those cultures? I think a lot. So that’s my hope.”
When reflecting on what former classmates would make of his career path, he pauses. “I think my alumni friends are kind of shocked. It’s not common to have an alum from HKIS go into ministry,” Kusunoki says. When asked about the school’s mission statement around being “grounded in the Christian faith and respectful of the spiritual lives of all”, Kevin looks back on his journey through Middle and High School. “I think there was enough space for someone like me who was interested in spiritual life to flourish in it. It wasn’t pushed, so I don’t think my friends would say we went to a Christian school. They would say we went to HKIS, an international school.” ““His vision is to help people in this major stage of transition in their life.”Kevin with his Boys Varsity Tennis teammates in front of the rock in the High School plaza in 2005.Get in touch with Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SpiritualityIs HKIS a Christian School?Last month, members of the HKIS community (employees, parents, students, and alumni) gathered for a full-day conference to explore and have positive conversations about what it means to be grounded in the Christian faith and respectful of the spiritual lives of all.This powerful and compelling statement about the school’s Christian identity is drawn from its mission statement and rooted in the school’s founding history. Prospective parents and teachers often cite the school’s Christian ethos as a reason for selecting the school. But, is HKIS a Christian school? Does this manifest in the daily lives of HKIS students?
These were questions raised and discussed at the inaugural GIFTS conference on November 20, organized by Jason Weber ‘97, the school’s religious education coordinator. GIFTS represents the topics discussed at the conference: Grounding, Identity, Fellowship, Theology, and Spirituality. HKIS is “Grounded in the Christian faith,” but is that the same as being a “Christian school”? What are the nuances around this? What does it mean to be grounded in something? Is faith built through relationships or through curriculum? Should we celebrate Halloween? What is meditation and is this a Christian practice? How do we operate in a pluralistic society? Top Opening plenary session with Tim Chen ‘92, Ron Roukema, Mike Kersten, Ann Cha, Leo Zen, Lillian (Wu) Yang ‘00, Juan Lucas Umali ‘22. Above HKIS students Elanna Mak ‘22, Annalise Mak ‘24, Celeste Belin ‘22 spoke passionately about defending their faith and keeping a strong faith foundation. Past Parent Garland Cheng created prayer spaces for conference participants to spend a quiet moment to pray for their children, the HKIS administration, or for Hong Kong. In the weeks leading up to the conference, Garland gathered written prayers for HKIS from alumni, past, and current parents and had those prayers scrolling across a large screen TV. What a blessing to our school! “HKIS is “grounded in the Christian faith,” but is that the same as being a “Christian school”? What are the nuances around this?One of the main features of the conference was the opening plenary session, moderated by Tim Chen ‘92. Participants including Dr. Roukema, teachers, parents, alumni, and students took questions from the audience and spoke frankly on difficult topics related to the school’s mission. The shared passion for learning and serving each other in community shined through the rich dialogue. The result was a true HKIS experience – minds dedicated to inquiry and hearts dedicated to compassion.
Nancy Ho, former Religion Teacher in the Middle School, gave participants a taste of what it was like to be a Middle School student! Everyone walked away with a clear story from Adam to Jesus.