I recently saw an interesting [VIDEO, shown below] on my Facebook news feed (a video which has received over 1 million views), of a Korean Adoptee searching for his birth parents. Being an adoptee myself, I was immediately intrigued and knew there had to be a story and person behind this video. So, being the nosey person that I am, I sent Brent a friend request and message, asking if I could share his video through my Twitter account. I then realized tweeting out a video wasn’t enough, and sharing more of his story to the world would hopefully give him an extra push towards finding his birth family.
I sincerely hope you enjoy reading Brent’s story as much as I did; that it will inspire you to greater things. And if nothing else, know that even in the midst of adversity, there can still be peace, love, and victory.
LOASW: Where were you born?
Brent: I was born on May 28, 1986 in Seoul, South Korea. My birth records say I was born at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital- Catholic Medical Center.
LOASW: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in Minnesota?
Brent: I grew up in Burnsville, MN. Other than my first 99 days in South Korea, I’ve lived in the Twin Cities my entire life. I absolutely love where I’m from and where I grew up!
LOASW: Describe your up-bringing in 3 words and why:
Brent: Blessed – I say this because I was SO blessed by God to have been adopted into the most loving and supportive family in the world!! I am who I am today because of my incredible family and I thank God every day for the gift they are to me. Loved – I arrived in the US on September 5, 1986. That day would forever change my life! Doug and Carol Silkey have shown me unconditional love since that first day! My upbringing can be defined by the word love as my parents showed me the love of a mother and father, and they taught me about the greatest love of all – the love of God through Jesus Christ. Surreal – As I reflect on my childhood and upbringing, it is surreal how everything went. My memories are filled with laughter, love, support, encouragement, adventure, faith, and joy! From special weekends on my grandparent’s farm to family trips to Disney, to going to MN sporting events, to eating dinner with my family every night, to incredible times watching movies in the family room – my childhood memories bring warm feelings and gratitude to my heart.
LOASW: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
Brent: I was called for jury duty the week of my wedding/honeymoon.
LOASW: Do you have a favorite food?
Brent: My favorite food is a Swiss meal called “raclette” which is like fondu with meats, special cheeses, all sorts of little pickled veggies, all over potatoes. You grill the meats on top of the grill, you take a small tray and fill it up with cheeses, prosciutto, and anything else you want (they go directly under the grill and melt while the meats cook), and you base-layer your plate with potatoes. The result is: potatoes covered with grilled meats smothered in fancy, melted cheeses and prosciutto…it’s unreal!
LOASW: Do you have any hobbies?
Brent: My main hobby is running marathons and ultras. I primarily run for two causes: 1) To find a cure for cancer (as both my parents are battling) and 2) Social Justice Causes (i.e. To end sex trafficking, build water wells, etc.). I also enjoy traveling. My favorite place is Maui, Hawaii.
LOASW: Have you always been a Christian, if no, what were the circumstances that brought you to Christ?
Brent: I grew up going to church every week. My parents were very active in serving our church and we never missed a Sunday. Although I was baptized as a baby, went to church every weekend, was confirmed as a 10th grader, and did everything I was supposed to do, my heart was pretty far from God. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, I just wanted to do my own thing. My freshman year of college was the year that changed EVERYTHING. My best friend, Micah MacDonald, invited me to his youth group at Cedar Valley Church. I had declined his invitation throughout high school, but at this point in my life all my buddies had moved away to go to college, I was desperately searching for my purpose in life, and I knew I needed to get right with God. Pastor Ryan Skoog spoke with a passion I had never heard before. He ended every message by giving people the opportunity to become a follower of Jesus Christ. One Wednesday night in the fall of 2004, I prayed to God to forgive my sins, to lead my life, and to become my Lord and Savior. My whole world changed. I found deep meaning and purpose. I found forgiveness for my past sins. I found compassion for those in need. I found hope for a great future following Jesus. I found true life!
LOASW: How has your Faith changed/evolved since then?
Brent: My faith has deepened since. We’ve been through some very difficult times like when my dad was diagnosed with cancer after they found an inoperable tumor that was wrapped around his trachea in 2008. In 2009, we found out my mom had the most advanced stage of a medically incurable cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Two days later we found my dad’s cancer had returned. (He was in remission for a short time between). My parents had back-to-back stem cell transplants in 2010. They’ve been through so much and through it all God has been present and faithful. Trials like these have strengthened and deepened our faith.
LOASW: Are you married, and if so, how did you meet your wife? Any kids?
Brent: I am very happily married to my best friend, Elizabeth. After becoming a Christian, I became a youth leader at my church and met a fellow youth leader named Elizabeth Millsaps. We met on August 28, 2005. I vividly remember that day. Elizabeth had been gone that summer leading a camp for missionary kids in Thailand. She shared about her experience that Sunday and I was captivated by her incredible faith in Jesus. God has blessed us with two wonderful daughters, Belle and Clara. They are such a JOY!
LOASW: When did you decide you wanted to work with youth/young people?
Brent: I went on my first mission trip in June of 2006. We left on 6/17/06 and little did I know, this trip would be the catalyst that would change the trajectory of my life. A few days before we left, my youth pastor asked if anyone on our team was adopted. I was the only person out of thirty-four of us! He said the missionary we were going to work with wanted me to share my adoption story with the students at the school assemblies. He said it is a powerful thing to hear someone’s story who went from being an orphan to becoming part of an amazing, loving family. He said this would be truly impactful for the kids in Costa Rica who had come from very difficult family backgrounds. The parallel was being a spiritual orphan and being adopted into God’s amazingly loving family! I was scared out of my mind; public speaking was my greatest fear in the world. But with God’s help, I was able to share my story with 1,500+kids/students in school assembly programs. Another defining experience happened on that trip: we were visiting a church in San Jose. Half of our team did a children’s church service and at the end of the service my friend Pastor Dave Skahen gave the children the opportunity to become followers of Jesus. There were 38 kids there. 35 raised their hands to respond to Jesus. I was so moved that I began to bawl. I had to excuse myself from the room and go into the bathroom because I was crying so hard. God used that moment to show me that there is nothing else on earth that I want to do more than share the love of Jesus with people and to give them the opportunity to follow Him.
LOASW: Did any of your own experiences as a teenager contribute to this decision?
Brent: I have always loved working with teenagers. In high school, I had the great opportunity to be part of Student Council. This prepared me to be a youth pastor SO well! Everyday we were planning activities for high schoolers to do, planning fun events, putting on assembly programs, and setting up for school dances. So much of the planning we did came in handy years later when I was a youth pastor – planning activities for students, planning fun events, putting on assemblies/services, and setting up for outreach events.
LOASW: Where was your first job as a Youth Pastor?
Brent: I was hired June 15, 2009 at Cedar Valley Church as the Student Discipleship Pastor. My primary role was to create thriving small groups for our middle school and high school ministries. On November 1, 2010, I became the Senior High Pastor and had the joy of working with high school students from schools all across the metro!
LOASW: What is the number one thing you want today’s youth to know?
Brent: I want them to know there is HOPE! I have been around so many people who don’t have hope in their lives. This is so sad to me! I have even had students who lost all hope and ended their lives. This is one of life’s most devastating tragedies. There is Hope and His name is Jesus. I want every student to know Him, to experience His amazing love, and to become part of the family.
LOASW: Why did you decide to move out of your role as a Youth Pastor?
Brent: There are many events that led to this decision. Here’s a short summary: The Chi Alpha Director (of the Great Plains Region), Mike Amiot, and I met in March of 2015. He shared with me about Chi Alpha and told me that they had been praying for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries to come to private universities in Minnesota. (I googled Chi Alpha University of St. Thomas and found a newsletter Mike had sent out asking his supporters to pray for us in 2006!). He shared a vision with me to see Chi Alpha come to all of the St. Paul colleges and universities. It sounded like a great vision. The problem was this idea of becoming a missionary. Missionaries have to (fund) raise a budget that covers their salary, their entire ministry budget, and special projects. My family had just purchased our first home and we just had Clara, our second daughter. This was the worst possible time to become a missionary. But the rest of that day, the only thing I could think about was St. Thomas. Literally. We ended our youth service that night in a time of prayer. I got down on my face before the Lord and still the only thing I could think about was St. Thomas. Then something crazy happened. God gave me a vision. The vision was of me on a particular part of the campus, with an open Bible in my hand, surrounded by college students. I was blown away by all of this. After a couple more weeks of praying, consulting mentors, and seeking counsel from close friends/family, we felt 99% sure this was God’s will for our family. I told the Lord I would go ALL IN for Chi Alpha if He would give me a final sign. On Friday, April 17, I was at a prayer meeting at our annual pastor’s conference. A friend stood up during that meeting and read Isaiah 41:9-10, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” It was as if God Himself was speaking directly to me. I burst into tears. I was in the front row of Emmanuel Christian Center’s main sanctuary. The District Superintendent (Head of the MN Assemblies of God) came over to me, put his arm around me, and asked what God was doing. I told him that God had just called us to become Chi Alpha missionaries. There was a twinkle in his eye as if he already knew. He prayed for me and my family, and the rest of that day was miraculous. We had seven pastors, churches, and friends that told us they wanted to support us as Chi Alpha missionaries. This was God’s provision after His confirmation of our call! Only God!
LOASW: You’ve been involved in several community events and causes, which one has made the biggest impact on you personally and why?
Brent: There are two: 1) Running for Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – The Boston Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon. We run to find a cure for blood cancers like Leukemia, lymphoma, and Myeloma. My mom is battling Multiple Myeloma and my dad is battling Lymphoma. I run to find a cure for cancer. 2) I also run for the Venture Expeditions Community. We use our greatest energies to meet the world’s greatest needs. 30 for Freedom is my second answer.
LOASW: What is 30 For Freedom?
Brent: For my 30th birthday (5.28.16), God put a dream on my heart to run 30 miles with 30 people to raise $30k to rescue people out of sex trafficking. Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of human trafficking. We set out to find 30 people to run, raise, and to help in the rescue effort with us. May 28, 2016 was a day I will always remember. We had runners in Minnesota, Iowa, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and Georgia running for 30 for Freedom. 47 people ran the 30 mile and 75 ran the 5k version. We ended up raising over $81,000! It was a total miracle and we are looking forward to an even bigger 30 for Freedom 2017! Our goal this year is to engage 1,000+ runners in a 5k, half marathon, and 30 mile run to raise $250,000 to rescue people out of the nightmare of sex trafficking, and to help them be holistically restored through our missions partners on the field. People can learn more at 30forfreedom.org . Runners can register for their race and they can additionally set up a fundraising page to help accomplish the vision to “end sex trafficking in our lifetime.” We’d love over 5k runners to raise a minimum of $250, every half marathoner to raise a minimum of $500, and every 30 mile runner to raise a minimum of $1,000. Last year the average amount raised for the 30 mile runners was well over $1,000!
LOASW: You recently started an online campaign to search for your mom/birth family. Has this always been something you’ve wanted to do, or was there a specific event that was the catalyst for your search?
Brent: I want to start by saying how incredibly thankful to God I am for my family. My mom, dad, and brother are my family and I believe it was God’s amazing plan that brought all of us together! I am not searching for my birth family to fill any kind of void in my heart/life, but rather for a three-fold purpose: 1) To relieve her if any guilt she may have carried over the years. I am THANKFUL for the decision she made to have me and to give me the opportunity to be adopted into my family, the Silkeys. 2) To share with her about the love of Jesus Christ that changed my life. I want her to know how loved she is by me and by God! 3) To learn any important medical history as this potentially impacts my daughters. The catalyst for the video I created was news from my adoption agency that the search process was coming to a standstill due to the commonality of my birth mother’s name. It would be like trying to find “Amy Johnson” in America. I thought I could try to reach my birth mom through the power of social media. We have an English version and one that my friend Hanbit Lee translated into Korean subtitles.
LOASW: Searching for a birth family can sometimes be a strenuous and an emotional endeavor, how important is the support of your wife/family during this time?
Brent: I have one of the most supportive families in the world! I am thankful for them and their ongoing support in all of life’s endeavors. It means the world to have their support in this as well.
LOASW: Do you know anything specific about your birth mom/family?
Brent: My birth mom was 19 when I was born – which would have made her 18 in America. (When you are born, you are one in Korea). She was the eldest of three girls and lived with her father and his parents. Her parents were divorced. She dropped out of the second grade of middle school – likely to help provide income for her family by doing house cleaning. She met my birth father through mutual friends. They enjoyed camping and fell in love. They eventually broke up due to personality differences. Once she realized she was pregnant she had no way of contacting my birth father. She was scared, but courageously decided to have me. I was a full-term baby and it was decided to put me up for adoption so I could have a chance of a better life. I am thankful for her courage and for her decision.
LOASW: Have you thought about what you will say when you do meet them?
Brent: I want to give my birth family a great, big hug. I will thank them for being courageous and share about my life with them. I want to hear all about them as well!
LOASW: Do you want them to be an active part of your life going forward, or are you just looking for answers and closure?
Brent: It would be wonderful to have an ongoing relationship!
LOASW: Are you okay with the possibility of never finding your birth mom/family?
Brent: My trust is in God and in His plan. I know that no matter what happens, God is in control and I am at peace with whatever happens.
LOASW: Even though you are in the beginning stages of your search, what advice would you give others who are wanting to search for their own family?
Brent: Every person and every situation is different, but if you find the courage and desire to search, prepare yourself emotionally for it is a rollercoaster ride. Here are things that helped me prepare: 1) Prayer 2) Including family and friends along the journey 3) Reading books to help me better understand the time and culture of my adoption era/country 4) Keeping open communication with my family about the process 5) Being at peace no matter the outcome.
LOASW: You obviously have a passion for family, youth, and those in need. What advice would you give to others who feel the same, but aren’t quite sure how or where to get started?
Brent: I love this question! Sometimes we don’t start something because we don’t know if we will be able to actually make a difference. 1) Have the courage to start 2) Find a need in your community and meet it 3) Volunteer at an organization that does what you’re passionate about 4) Get connected with people who have a shared vision to make a change in the arena you care about. When I youth pastored, we wanted to serve our schools. We found out they had a need for volunteers to serve lunch to students all across the district. So we rolled up our sleeves, put on our aprons, and served lunch twice a week. Loved this experience so much! We are passionate about social justice and running, so when we heard of Venture Expeditions, we teamed up with them to make a difference through running and raising funds to make a change in our world. Find your passion, meet a need, start today!
LOASW: And last, but not least, what is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Brent: Philippians 4:13, “For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. This verse is powerful because the author has just stated that he’s found the secret! Whether he has an abundance or nothing, he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength! Paul’s secret is Jesus! I resonate with this verse as I have found that Jesus is my source and the One who leads my life.
If you would like to learn more about Brent, 30 for Freedom, or follow his journey to find his birth family, you can find him in the information listed below.
Brent Silkey |Director | University of St. Thomas Chi Alpha
mobile: (651) 226-1431 | email: email@example.com
Facebook/Twitter: @ustxa | Instagram: @ust_xa
* This interview may not be republished or used in any way, whether it be for personal or commercial use, without the expressed written permission of Mia Rhode.
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