Testimony by John Kim

If you want a really bad idea, here’s mine: dream, and then dare to chase it.

Fourteen years ago, an idea for what my life would be was formed and I began the chase. A few years later, that dream would be shattered to pieces. A lot of hard work and a couple of years later, the dream would be resuscitated. Another year after that, killed once again. Then revived again. My design life has been a roller coaster of a ride.

I have been designing for many years and I can honestly say that I’ve been blessed with what many would consider a successful career. I thank God every day for starting me on this road and where he is leading me today, but it would be a lie if I said my journey was easy. I always knew I was interested in the arts, but I grew up watching my mother, who had graduated top of her class from an esteemed university in Korea and went from one job to the next trying to make ends meet. It was through my experience watching my mother and seeing those failures that doubt crept in.  I didn’t have a clear idea if pursuing creativity was what I wanted or if God had destined me to walk this road. Amidst my doubts and confusion, a passion stirred inside me to pursue higher education in art and I began to trust that it was from Him.

I started attending PCC and waited on God to lead me. I took basic classes to learn fine art foundations and through it, experienced freedom in creativity. The more skills I practiced and acquired, the more I became secure with the knowledge that my interest in art was not a mere interest, but a gifting from God. I experienced great harmony in exercising my craft and enjoying the presence of God. My hunger for art grew each moment. I was content and confident I was where I belonged until one morning during prayer, God told me he was going to be taking me on another journey.

Not too long after hearing from God, my sister introduced me to a traditional animation school called LTU. Like most of us, I grew up watching cartoons, but I didn’t know if animation was what I wanted to do or if I had the passion for it. Upon praying, I decided to take a couple courses in character animation. It was an eye-opening experience. The professors were all top-industry animators and directors from networks such as WB and Walt Disney. It was one of the greatest moments in my life where I felt like I found my calling and God had answered my prayers. When God helped me to realize I wanted to become an animator, I was hungry to learn more. I heard about a school called AET for Design, Technology and Animation and decided to register. My courses were traditional animation, storyboards and computer design.

Everything was coming together. I had created my character animation and a strong traditional animation reel. I was ready and prepared. I watched my friends who majored in 3D animation get job offers by DreamWorks, Sony and other major game companies before they graduated and was jealous. I started to pray desperately for my opportunity. To my disbelief, the year I graduated from AET in 2002 was the exact year all of the major traditional animation companies began to close down and switch over to 3D animation. Companies no longer budgeted for traditional animation and the little jobs that existed were sent overseas. Traditional animation was rapidly disappearing and 3D animation was taking over. It couldn’t have gotten any worst for a fresh traditional animation graduate like me.

It was the worst time of my life. I had no job, no money, and could barely take care of myself while living in the garage of my friend’s parent’s house. And to make matters worst, my mother got diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. My life was in chaos and nothing made sense anymore. The confidence and guidance I felt from God had seemed like a dream haunted by the nightmares of reality. I felt hopeless and desperate for God’s help. My mentors encouraged me to continue to contend and pray for God to intervene in my crisis. I never prayed so desperately in my life.  Even though my world came crashing down, through my persistence in prayer, I was able to feel the presence of God that gave me hope. The challenge was clear – it wasn’t just about achieving a career as a designer, it was more importantly to trust that Christ was an integral part of that journey and that He had a plan from the beginning.

After two years of job hunting and rejections, I trusted in God again and took on any kind of freelance jobs I could find. No traditional animation jobs were available, so I had to teach myself web design, graphic design and 3D animation. I asked friends and their friends if they had any kind of design work. I took on any projects that were available from can food nutrition layouts to local business print ads. I did more free work than paid, working for church, friends and schools. To call this time a humbling experience was an understatement. My hardship after college felt like eternity. The stress caused me to develop anxiety disorder, insomnia and depression. I thank God for covering me with great friends and mentors. In my time of weakness, my friends prayed with me. I felt that their prayers were what kept my hope alive. In times of deep prayers and quiet times, God reassured me He was in control and that He would lift me up in His timing.

I never thought I would find my church community as a resource – but to my surprise, a woman named Jean, who attended my bible study, approached me. She had offered her home for our small group and I learned that she owned a small motion graphics studio. I was not familiar with motion graphics and it did not spark an interest. She came to me and shared that through her prayers, God spoke to her to help me. Jean knew my background was not in motion graphics and I was self-taught in basic 3D, but she gave me a job in her studio anyway. My position was not a designer. My job was to make 3D models for her designers, but it was still a prayer answered. I was offered an opportunity to work for a Christian company, I had an income and even though it wasn’t traditional animation, I was starting to love what I was doing. I felt like all the hours praying for my career was being answered and nothing was going to bring me down again.

Just less than a year after working for Jean, she broke the news that her studio was closing down due to the competitiveness of the industry. My mended heart broke into another million pieces. Just when I thought I found peace in my life, I had to start all over again. However, I remembered how God lead me out from my humble beginnings and brought me to this point. I decided to trust Him again and started to prepare myself for whatever was coming my way. In a matter of 3 months, I created a motion graphics reel and practiced possible interview questions a hundred times. Jean had many connections in the industry and found out that there was a freelance opportunity at E Entertainment. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a graphic design background and I barely managed to create my reel. I was scared and filled with doubt, but I remembered what God had said, it was his will for me and not mine. The interview ran over an hour and I don’t remember what I said, but they loved my reel and liked that I was a positive person. I was given the position right away. 

I prayed hard and worked hard to survive in the industry where one mistake can cost you your job and reputation. Through the intensive work environment and challenges, I was able to create a more impressive reel in a matter of a year. I connected with so many creative and talented people in the industry and I felt God was preparing me for something greater. God lead me and instructed me every step of the way and I was getting many job interviews and opportunities to work for amazing companies, firms and networks. I never imagined when I started that I would be placed to work in a multibillion-dollar company working on multimillion-dollar projects and winning design awards.

Success is great and something to be proud of, but I believe that it is not the ultimate goal. Careers can be long and difficult journeys – our challenges can come in our personal life, career, family, or even our faith – but what is important is focusing beyond our own desires and abilities. We need to have God’s desires and His abilities to take control. If we believe that He has designed us, then surely we must believe that He has a purpose for our life. We have to understand that it’s not just wanting an amazing career, but asking Him what He desires for our careers and the journey He wants to lead us on. It is crucial that we seek and pursue God’s destiny in our life – success is knowing that God brought me from nothing to something.  

Through my hardships, God lead me to build my talents, patience, integrity and character, all of which ultimately lead to a real relationship with Him. Along the way, trying to find myself as a designer in Christ continues to be the most rewarding thing I have ever pursued.

I dared to dream God’s dream for me and continue to watch in amazement where it takes me. The journey was not always an easy one nor will it be moving forward but I encourage you to let God lead your creative careers today. Focus on the dreams He has for you and trust Him as things happen – you won’t be disappointed.