The Rev. SUNG IL LEE is a United Methodist missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries serving as a lecturer and academic advisor in theology and ministry at the Methodist Lay Training Center, Nausori, Fiji Islands.
The center is part of the overall program of the Methodist Church in Fiji to develop a pool of lay leaders to undertake different ministry and missional emphases. The program complements Global Ministries’ leadership development focus.
The Methodist Church in Fiji is an important partner of The United Methodist Church. Almost two-thirds of Fijians are Methodists, as Methodism has left a deep imprint in the cultural, religious and social norms of Fijian society. The links between Global Ministries and the Methodist Church in Fiji were strengthened with the placement of missionaries at the Davuilevu Theological College in Nausori, Fiji, and the recruitment of a Fijian youth for the Global Mission Fellows program. With the recent departure of missionaries who were teaching at the Davuilevu Theological College, the Methodist Church in Fiji submitted a request for Global Ministries to replace them, but for one of the new missionaries to be assigned to the Methodist Lay Training Center. Currently, the center awards a diploma in lay ministry, but a goal is to offer a bachelor’s degree.
Rev. Lee’s career has blended pastoral work with missions and missiological education. With a passion for missions, he is energized by the opportunity to motivate others in missional vision. He has taught and ministered around the world, most recently in Dominica, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Senegal, Ukraine, and India and, earlier in his career, the Philippines and Myanmar. His global exposure has allowed him to develop a strong network of partners in mission and broadened his perspective of teaching in different cultural contexts.
“I have found,” Rev. Lee said, “that the true calling is to enjoy intimate fellowship with the Lord, who called me into fellowship with God. In this sense, my ministry and missionary call is to help people I meet and serve to have the living, personal and intimate fellowship I enjoy in the Lord.”
“As an ordained pastor,” he continued, “I believe that Christ has given pastors to his church for equipping of the saints unto the work of ministry, unto the upbuilding of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). Thus, I will help members stand on the promise of the word of God, experience the presence of God, and walk with the Lord in their daily lives.”
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Rev. Lee grew up in a Methodist family and, since childhood, had a vision of becoming a missionary. He earned a Bachelor of Theology degree from Methodist Theological Seminary, Seoul, 1983, and a Master of Theology, The Graduate School of Methodist Theological Seminary, Seoul, 1986. He was ordained as a full member of the South Annual Conference, Korean Methodist Church, in 1986.
“I knew the importance of the disciples who transform the world,” Rev. Lee said. He served Korean churches for 13 years as an ordained pastor, military and hospital chaplain, and missionary to the Philippines.
He then earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary, Manila, Philippines, 1994; Master of Sacred Theology, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, 1998; and Doctor of Missiology, E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary, Willmore, Kentucky, 2007.
Still determined to become a Global Ministries missionary, Rev. Lee recalled, “I could not quench the burning desire given me by the Lord to stand again on the mission field. I served the Lord and his flocks as an immigrant pastor, in a bicultural family ministry and as a seminary lecturer.”
Prior to his present assignment, Rev. Lee was the pastor of three New Jersey congregations: Bethany United Methodist Church, Wayne (2004-08); Livingston Korean UMC, Livingston (2008-13); and Appenzeller Memorial Nairi UMC, Woodland Park (2013-19). He took a sabbath year as a nonresidential and itinerant missionary, traveling to nine seminaries in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Nepal, where he taught missiology and evangelism, Bible study and preaching to pastors and lay leaders.
Rev. Lee’s wife, the Rev. Jungae Lee, is the pastor of Livingston Korean UMC. They are the parents of two adult children, Wooju and Peace.