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Combining Church & Entrepreneurship In A Vision For World Change: Meet Pastor Lawrence Yoo

Pastor Lawrence Yoo’s vision for changing the world combines community service and entrepreneurship, and he has used this model in his own life.

Yoo is the lead pastor of a Baptist church in the Triangle and the co-owner of a pan-Asian restaurant that provides living-wage jobs to refugees. Yoo is the son of Korean immigrants who owned a number of different businesses during his childhood, and that experience helped pave the way for his own entrepreneurial ambitions. His parents were also regular church-goers, but it took Yoo awhile to feel comfortable in that space and develop his own faith.

He now leads Waypoint Church, a congregation that focuses on bringing together diverse communities. Host Frank Stasio talks to Yoo about his life story, founding a new church, and his vision for how his congregation can apply their entrepreneurial ambition to community service.

Interview Highlights

Yoo on why he stopped going to church in middle school:

I just hated going to Korean church because the language was so difficult. I spoke Korean at more of a young-child level. My Korean's only been with my parents. So I spoke like a child would speak to their parents. I didn't understand the liturgical language. I didn't understand the big words. It's preaching terminology, so it was just boring to me.

It was always this unconditional, self-sacrificing love. [My parents] showed me the beginning stages of what ultimately I saw in Jesus. - Lawrence Yoo

On realizing the larger message of the Christian faith:

We went on this retreat, and that's the first time in my life where I actually heard this idea that a relationship with God was not about earning it. It's not about being good enough. It's not about looking a certain way. It wasn't about fitting in a certain way … It was about being pursued. Being known, being loved and having purpose … And it was just so incredible to me. That just absolutely changed my life at that point.

On the business model behind Sushioki, which provides living-wage, flexible jobs to refugees:

It's a model that works. We have low overhead costs overall — other than staffing … At a certain amount of production, a certain amount of business, we're going to make a large profit, even with paying people so well. So we believe in an excellent product. We believe in people who say they’ll go support people who are doing this. If that's the case, then we think there's profit enough for everybody.

Amanda Magnus grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Baltimore. She became interested in radio after an elective course in the NYU journalism department. She got her start at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but she knew public radio was for her when she interned at WNYC. She later moved to Madison, where she worked at Wisconsin Public Radio for six years. In her time there, she helped create an afternoon drive news magazine show, called Central Time. She also produced several series, including one on Native American life in Wisconsin. She spends her free time running, hiking, and roller skating. She also loves scary movies.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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