The bright, warm lights inside the Han’s home stood out in stark contrast to the deepening evening. Jerome and I chatted while Grace finished setting the table and introduced each item on the table to me—rice, pork belly, dumplings, gyeranjjim (Korean-style steamed eggs), and doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew). Jerome gestured to the carrot cake at the end of the table and said, “She even baked for you! She doesn’t even bake for me!”
I heard about the Hans before I ever met them because we share a close mutual friend. When I met them for the first time earlier this year, I noticed Grace’s black platform sandals and Jerome’s tortoise shell glasses. “How effortlessly cool,” I thought.
Both Jerome and Grace have roots in the Capital Region; Grace moved to the area when she was four, and Jerome moved here when he was in high school. They met at the Korean church, and reconnected when they both moved back to the area for graduate school after leaving for college. It was no surprise from the spread Grace prepared, that they’re gourmets, otherwise known as foodies; they love exploring and trying new foods and palettes. They also like listening to podcasts (some also food-related) and watching television shows together.
The Hans lived in New York City after getting married in 2018. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grace was a staff attorney at a nonprofit, but wanted a more creative vocation. Jerome was also considering a change of pace. So, when Grace’s dad called and asked if they would come back to the Capital Region to help with the family grocer in Troy, they accepted and packed their apartment. “It’s like a pair of familiar jeans,” said Jerome about the Capital Region.
Still, the sense of loss was acute. Ultimately, they decided they were going to live out their lives faithfully, especially amidst uncertainty and waiting. A part of that was looking for a new church to call home, which led them to Engage.
When I asked they were most excited about at Engage, they both agreed it was the community. “This area is home to us,” said Grace, “at Engage we found a group of people that cares about the area—growing up, there were so many friends who didn’t like it here, or who moved away.” As they continue to grow with Engage, they want each person to feel cared for and welcomed. This includes inviting newcomers at church to their home because they know how it feels to be new—first in Brooklyn, and then at Engage.
Belly stuffed and heart full, I reflected on our conversations. I know that the Hans take a stake in each person’s story—they don’t shy away from vulnerable and difficult topics. They listen with attentiveness and are gentle and affirming. Earlier, I mentioned that my first impression of the Hans was that they are effortlessly cool. Now, I wonder if some of that charm is the confidence that they have in Jesus as they live their lives with their hands and hearts open.