Chris Ko and his Food Truck

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Chris Ko and the Simplicity Mission Food Truck

Chris Ko is someone in between – he was born into a Korean family and definitely has that legacy, but he is unmistakably American. Right now he is perched in Nyack, but that is between Boston and his desire to settle in New York City. He is clearly a devoted husband, father and family man, making sure his youngest son gets the best care possible for a cleft palate in Boston, but also a man with a brain that bubbles with ideas and a dynamic body that is constantly on the move. He is a careful observer of his surroundings,quiet and thoughtful, but he can give a sermon that sets a congregation on fire. He has an idea he wants to realize: a food truck that caters to the homeless.

Ko's family arrived in America in 1975 and settled in Flushing. His father became a pastor in a largely Korean church and his mother was a registered nurse. Ko was born in 1978 and was educated at the local public schools in a neighborhood that might be the most ethnically diverse in the entire United States. Despite his father's work, Ko was not particularly religious as an adolescent – he was in the middle of the diversity of Flushing and knew people from every religion and nationality and was open to everything, and was also perhaps a bit rebellious. After graduation, he spent a year at SUNY Binghamton, but it didn't seem the right time for college, so he left and joined the Army National Guard. Towards the end of his service, he was called up in response to 9/11. His unit did guard duty in lower Manhattan, sleeping in doorways and ATM's at night. Ko developed medical problems from breathing the foul air. Afterwards he developed a strong religious sense that sent him into an organization called Youth on a Mission. With them he did missionary and service work in China, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka after it was struck by a terrible tsunami. He also met the woman he would marry, a Korean who would help him improve his Korean just as he would help her with her English. Eventually he went back to school at the University of Nations in Hawaii, where he got a BA and later earned a Masters of Divinity at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Boston where he worked at a church. He then honed his skills at Mosaic Baptist Church in Crown Heights to get experience working in a multi-ethnic church under the tutelage of Stephen Stallard and settled in as a pastor at Calvary World Mission Church in Queens which is seeking to increase its diversity

On second thought, “settled” is probably not the right word to use for Ko. A year ago he got the idea for the food truck and has moved a long way toward making it happen. It would draw on his experience of cooking for large numbers of people in Youth on a Mission, and it would actualize his idea about giving the best to those in need. In a recent sermon at Mosaic Baptist Church, Ko gave commentary on the phrase “beggars can't be choosers.” In his radical vision of Christianity, which turns things upside down, it is precisely the “beggars” who should get first choice. Ko is also someone who is very attuned to the moment, contemporary trends and young people. It is his striking insight that the moment can be tied to the eternal teachings of Jesus Christ. Food trucks are hot now; Ko has no objection to being with it, but he doesn't stop there.

He has now formed a corporation, he is seeking to become a non-profit, and he is raising money and trying to figure out how to create a business model tied to a charitable model that will sustain his efforts. Mosaic Baptist Church is going to make regular contributions. To keep track of Ko's efforts go to www.simplcitymission.org and see what he is up to. Make a contribution, volunteer. There are obstacles along the way – like a vendor's license. There are matters large and small to be figured out. Would a for-profit truck be a good way to support a non-profit truck? Should the truck go everywhere in New York City or concentrate on one area? However, the main thing to keep in mind is that Ko will not always be in between. When he goes from one place to another, he eventually arrives.

UpdatesJonathan Judge