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Looking at life through a new lens

On the last day of a Christian retreat, a speaker instructs the attendees to begin practicing meditation to reflect on God’s revelations and wisdom.

“Everybody, close your eyes and listen.”

Trust in me.

In that moment, all of the pressure finally subsided.

After returning from his Mexicali trip during spring break of 2019, senior Ryan Kim recalls waking up the next day with pressure in his head, sharp pains in his ears and a slow decline in his hearing. Initially, Kim did not feel that the symptoms were serious but as his hearing and pressure worsened, he checked into his doctor’s office two months later where he received prescribed antibiotics to treat a suspected infection. Kim’s symptoms persisted, leading him to the following checkup where his doctors discovered his eardrums were swollen and his adenoids were enlarged by 300 percent, blocking 90 percent of his eustachian tubes.

His doctors informed him that there was a possibility that he could have cancer. As a precautionary measure, Kim was prescribed steroids once a day for two weeks in hopes of alleviating the pain and minimizing the size of his eardrums and adenoids. Kim’s hearing slightly improved, but doctors found no improvement in his condition and proceeded to carry out cancer treatment procedures.

“I really was thinking I was going to die. It was death put in front of me, and it was a perspective that I’ve never encountered before,” Kim said. “It was a prolonged feeling of [being] physically weak and mentally drained — just everything.”

Along with his close friends, Kim shared his prognosis with varsity wrestling coach Darrell Sebastian, informing him that he would be unable to participate in summer camp. Kim — who joined varsity wrestling his freshman year and is currently the varsity captain — lost 10 pounds during his antibiotic treatment. Although he was advised to abstain from strenuous activity, Kim often taught others and shadow wrestled, a drill in which one wrestles with oneself to develop speed.

“The shock on their faces was too hard for me. Wrestling is a very big part of my life, and it was very heartbreaking to think about not wrestling. I found wrestling as something that I can express myself with, and something that I am naturally good at,” Kim said.

Kim took a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to test for cancer two days before he would attend the annual Mount Hermon Summer Conference retreat in Santa Cruz County with his church, Evergreen Baptist Church San Gabriel Valley.
“Waiting every second increased my strength and my faith and my trust in God because of the trial that was set forth in front of me,” Kim said. “Going through anything, I can see that everything that happens is in God’s plan, and I see that everyday.”

Kim attends church every Friday for youth group and Sunday for church service but experienced a brief period when he drifted apart from his church. However, he recalls attending a worship night at his church on a whim where the church advisers prayed for everyone to find a sense of community. At Mount Hermon, Kim fondly remembers one speaker sharing that a church is not a history book of perfect people but a hospital for broken people.

“This was exactly one of God’s perfectly-timed things because it was at a time where I didn’t feel the need to go to church,” Kim said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much about having that as a community. To go to church is to actively seek community whether or not the messages are applicable.”

Kim expected to receive the MRI results during his stay, which strengthened his faith. Three nights into the retreat, Kim delivered his testimony to why he became a Christian to his cabin mates, accrediting his extenuating prognosis as a main factor.

“It was nerve-wracking because they were all listening to me. We were crying for hours after that. The support I had made me feel so much better,” Kim said.

After Kim shared his testimony, one of his cabin mates revealed that Kim was the reason why he returned every year. Four years ago, Kim was the first person he saw off the bus and welcomed him with a big smile.

“He said, ‘You have no idea how much of an impact you had on my life.’ To share what has happened to me with others, I’ve learned how much of an inspiration I can be to others through my testimony,” Kim said. “Everything was right in place, and that’s what really got me through the summer.”

On the last day of the retreat, a speaker asked everybody to close their eyes during a meditation to focus on what God was telling everybody. Kim concentrated deeply, wanting to feel anything other than the pressure in his head.

Trust in me.

In a time when his hearing had been steadily declining, His words spoke louder than ever before.

“Ten years into the future, the only thing that I’ll hear is ‘trust in me.’ Everything has shaped me into the person I am and the maturity I have. My whole life is in His hands,” Kim said. “I know that everything is in His plan, and everything’s going to work out. You have security because you have God, and that’s a big thing that’s always kept with me. He continues to teach me something everyday.”

The MRI scan results returned negative for cancer, and Kim went to Children’s Hospital of Orange County to undergo surgery to remove his enlarged adenoids and drain the fluids in his ears. He was put on bedrest for one week and has not experienced any related medical issues since.

Upon reflecting on his journey of patience and faith, Kim began vlogging and uploading his daily adventures onto YouTube channel, Ryan Kim, this September to document his life and project his testimony onto a larger platform in hopes of spreading God’s message. He vlogs in an unscripted and lively style, often recording impromptu moments with his friends. Kim began sharing a Bible verse for his closing segment titled Verse of the Day after his church adviser told him that as long as he reaches one person, he will make a difference.

“Having the verse of the day is really an important part of my vlogs because I’m able to share that part of my story to others and for those who watch it. I was really praying that people would watch it. It’s amazing to see how God has blessed me to tell my story,” Kim said. “I don’t care about subscriptions or likes. I care that people will be changed.”

Taking the lessons he learned during Mount Hermon and church service, Kim became more involved with the community by joining Interact and LIFT, being more active in class cabinet and returning to boy scouts after three years of absence, in which he intends to finish his Eagle Project. Likewise, Kim has committed more effort in his academics by improving his study habits and consistently earning higher test scores. Moreover, Kim’s main vlogging goal is to feature each student of the senior class of 2020 in his vlogs by the end of the school year.

“I want to be able to look back and see how much fun I had at Walnut. It would be amazing for seniors to look back and see how much we’ve grown as a class,” Kim said.

Kim dedicates every video, every hour spent editing and every second spent filming to his sister, alumnus ‘18 Ashley Kim, who attends the University of California Berkeley. Ryan posts weekly vlogs so that she can stay updated with his life. Recently, Ryan dedicated his ninth video to a surprise party he organized for Ashley.

“I do it all for her. This is my way of telling my family or showing my friends and family what’s happening and who I am,” Ryan said. “I had three nightmares thinking that the party wasn’t going to work. But, I did it all for that look on her face. This whole vlogging thing has made us closer, and we’ll continue to grow closer. I’m really excited that she can see what I’m doing, which is something we weren’t able to do last year.”

From surprising chemistry teacher Garrett Lim with Blue Man Group tickets to shopping with his friends, Megan and Angela, for Wacky Wednesday to having his friends adorn his Nissan with Spider-Man, Stitch and Pac-Man paintings, Ryan has captured his newfound appreciation of community into his vlogs.

“Coming into this year was pretty scary. I looked back at this tweet that I made, and I said I was not excited for this year. I was afraid of not having a community and looking back to see how much that has changed, I’m having so much fun. Now, I have all of my best friends all together. We always hang out, and it’s exhilarating. I have so much support now, and there’s so much genuine love going around,” Ryan said.

Although the doctors are still unsure as to why Ryan experienced swelling in his ears, Ryan adamantly believes God set forth this trial to instill in him a stronger appreciation of life and to take every day as it comes.

“There’s so much beauty that you can find in the little things — every second that you can get to appreciate what you have, what you’re doing right now, the people you’re with, the love that you have, the people that you’re around,” Ryan said. “If you find them, you’ll find life so much more of an adventure. And that’s really the goal: to take life as an adventure.”

By Sherman Wu, Print editor-in-chief
Photo by Ian Lee