Our life is a journey with many unexpected twists and sharp turns. Mostly though, we are caught up in the humdrum of the mundane and the ordinary, living our lives uneventfully. But, no matter what phase or stage in life we are now, whether we have a deep relationship with God, a lukewarm affiliation, or even a total disconnection, God is there, waiting and pursuing.
Our episode today presents Aaron Kim of Kairos Capital who has led a spectacular adventure of life as he discovers, moves away, and then, re-discovers God, and obeys His calling. A global citizen and a prodigal son, Aaron recounts the gripping stories of his life’s journey, his search for truth, and his daring spirit. Click now and hear how he faced God's relentless pursuit and gave in to his call to a purpose greater than he’d ever imagined.
Key Points From This Episode:
“At the most vulnerable time, the one thing that you reach out to is the very thing that you've been running away from the longest time."
“Though it may look impossible in the beginning, pursue the calling in your life and never give up. It's worthwhile and definitely rewarding.”
“It is all because of His grace that God pursues anyone.”
“I came to understand the importance of generosity and one aspect of generosity is to understand, this is not my money, that whole idea of stewardship.”
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Pursued by the Maker: A Global Citizen's Journey into the Heart of God by Aaron H. Kim
The Kingdom Investor Podcast on LinkedIn
About Aaron Kim
Aaron Kim is a born-again Christian, a husband, a father of four, and a modern-day renaissance man. A Korean born in Germany, Aaron is a polyglot who lived in more than 10 countries before the age of 30.
Growing up, Aaron was influenced by diverse cultures and international education spanning three continents learning several languages. He then started a career with the leading global financial institutions on Wall Street, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Two decades later, as a seasoned financial professional, Aaron set up Kairos Capital in Singapore as a response to God who relentlessly pursued him with a calling, Aaron's purpose in life is to finance the Great Commission.
Aaron earned a Tourism & Hospitality Management Degree from Klessheim Salzburg Austria. His bachelor’s degree in Finance was awarded by Hawaii Pacific University. He earned two MBA degrees from INSEAD, and Tsinghua University in Beijing China. Aaron enjoys interdisciplinary contemplation and writing and keeps himself fit with a spectrum of sports activities from triathlon to golf. Aaron and his family currently reside in Seoul, Korea.
ANNOUNCER: Imagine taking your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives, and leaving a godly legacy for generations to come. Get ideas and strategies to do just that when you listen to these personal stories from high-level Kingdom champions. The Kingdom Investor Podcast showcases business leaders who have moved from success to significance, sharing how they use worldly wealth for kingdom impact. Discover how they grew in generosity, impacted more lives, and built godly legacies. You'll find motivation, inspiration, and practical steps to grow as a Kingdom Investor.
Daniel White (DW): Hello, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. I'm your host Daniel White. Today we interview Aaron Kim. Aaron is a seasoned veteran in corporate finance and global markets working for prime industry leaders such as Merrill Lynch, and Paine Webber. Aaron is an author and a speaker and he also knows four languages. In 2008, Aaron followed God's call to found Kairos Capital.
If you have enjoyed the show, help us reach more listeners by sharing with your friends and writing a review. Thanks. And now without further ado, let's jump right into the show.
DW: Aaron Kim, welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. How are you doing today?
AK: Thank you very much for having me. I'm doing well. How are you?
DW: Great. Hey, I want you to tell our audience where you're coming to us from.
AK: Today, I'm tuning in from South Korea, the capital, Seoul. This is where I live and where I'm based.
DW: Excellent. Yeah. So I'm doing this show at 6 pm my time and what is it, 8 am, your time?
AK: Yeah. Thanks for making that arrangement. I know it's with all the time differences, not easy to schedule. So thank you for being flexible.
DW: Absolutely. Hey, would you tell us just a little bit about yourself? And you know, maybe give us a highlight from this week? Or maybe something interesting that you're working on right now?
AK: Sure. Yeah, I’m something considered a second-generation Korean born in Germany. I know that's a mouthful. Basically, my parents migrated to Germany when South Korea as a country was very, very poor, the early 70s. We were I think, ranking number two from the bottom of the GDP per capita. South Korea, as many Americans know, Americans were our allies, and we received US aid to get the economy going. Fast forward, South Korea today, it's one of the richest countries among the top 10. And that's, that's the product of what my parents' generation have achieved because they were sent to Germany as laborers because there were no other ways of earning US dollar reserves. So I'm that generation born overseas. And, you know, I eventually came back to Korea, to the country where my parents are from.
DW: Wow, yeah, that's really interesting. I'm excited to get into your story and unpack that a little bit more. But before we do, do you mind praying for our listeners?
AK: Sure. Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to tell your story through the lenses of my life. Father, hide me behind the Cross. And may the Cross speak for itself, what you have done in my life and what you're about to do. For all the people out there that are listening to this to this show. Just expand your presence in our lives in this in this conversation. We love you. We thank you. We pray in Jesus' mighty name. Amen.
DW: Amen. Thank you for that, Aaron. Aaron, would you share a little bit about your background, your story, and give us a little bit of a snapshot?
AK: Sure. Just before I do that, you asked me earlier, one of the highlights of my week. Every start of the year, my wife and I, we go into a long season of fasting and praying. This is something that we do. We've done over the last 15 years. We pray and fast sometimes, most of the time 21 days like a Daniel fast, but we extend that longer if it's necessary, and if there's a lot of things that we are contending for. Now, so bear in mind with that, my week has been lots of downloads, lots of interaction with the Lord. And so I was really looking forward to this session.
AK: So like I said, I'm born and raised in Germany. I had an international education spanning from South Korea, Germany, but then, you know, I went to college in Austria as well as in the US, ended up joining banking in New York with UBS. Back then it was called PaineWebber. And UBS eventually merged. And they sent me out to Hong Kong to work for the UBS wealth management as a guide to start the branches, launch UBS branches in South Korea. So I had a dual role, sort of like a task force, but also being a money manager. I was also raised as a Christian because when I was really like a little child, my parents couldn't raise me being very busy with my brother already. So they sent me out to Korea. And so I was raised by my grandmother who was this prayer warrior, Korean style, early morning prayer, prayer mountains and prayer walks type of lady. She had a great influence on me. And she basically laid the initial seed of faith in my life until I was brought back to Germany to join my family.
AK: And so in Germany, that part of my life wasn't very much. My parents are non-believers, or at least, they were not as devout as my grandmother. So, throughout my adolescent years, I wasn't really practicing Christian faith at all. I would say I was even maybe, like a product of a prodigal son. Someone who had actually wandered away, but eventually found God made us at a later stage in my life. Yeah and so my conversion story goes back to when I moved from New York to Hong Kong. So, I was discipled in Hong Kong by an international church called Solomon Porch. And there I started to actually take a greater interest in, in mission, and especially around emerging markets, frontiers, China being one of them, but also the neighboring Muslim countries in Asia, from all of the CIS countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, but also Malaysia, Indonesia. And obviously, I had several trips into China, because I lived in Hong Kong bordering Shenzhen. And so that gave me a good understanding of the contrast between a very well-developed Hong Kong, financial hub, but also the neighboring country, China, where people were living on a dollar under the poverty line, basically. And that stirred me up. That kind of got me really interested about is there a way to combine your vocational training as well as your missional aspirations?
DW: Right. Do you have a time where you really walked away from the faith or were you constantly growing throughout your career in your phase?
AK: Yeah. This is a very good question. Around, when I was 16, the diaspora for our churches throughout Europe, especially the Korean diaspora, they were thriving. They were doing really well. Mainly because of the influence that came from the US. Stateside, West Coast, a lot of the Korean diaspora churches say around California, LA, they had reached out to Europe. And they were doing short-term missions, summer camps and Bible schools over the summer. And so that kind of laid the seed for European Christians or Koreans to congregate. So I was part of that program. So I came to know the Lord, around 16. But as I said, between what my grandmother had done she was laying the seed, I came to know the Lord and got saved around 16. And then there was not much that helped me to grow within the framework of church.
AK: At one point, you know, something, it often happens in diaspora churches that, you know, you have changes in pastors and churches shut down. They can't financially sustain themselves which is a crazy way of saying it's a growth model of church multiplication, right? I had to go through that experience, that sort of pain, and which ended up, I was getting very disappointed. And so I walked away from, from faith, and I associated much of that to the Lord, to God. I couldn't understand a God that would allow this to happen.
AK: And on top of that, because my father was, so against me being part of an organized church, because he thought he was very secular, in a sense, you know, he was about education, he was about sports, you know. In my young days, you should focus on those things, rather than being in church all the time. So that had some conflict, and, to a lesser degree, some oppression at home. So that gave me another reason to see my earthly father being anti-faith. I couldn't have a healthy relationship with the Heavenly Father. And so I walked away at around 18 and stayed away, and pursued everything that I wanted to pursue and replacing God with various things, including extreme sports, right?
AK: So I was I loved surfing, so I designed my life around the ocean, from, you know, the west coast of France, down to Australia, or California, eventually ended up in Hawaii, trying to conquer, now the emphasis on try, to conquer the big waves. And, you know, just having a life that was completely away from God. Now that, that inner emptiness, right, that, that void that only God can fill that was never filled until I came back to the Lord. But you know, if you're wondering, if you're being a prodigal son, you're trying to fill that gap was something else. In my case, it was, it was surfing, because it had the spiritual aspects, you know, being out in the ocean, and, you know, trying to ride a wave, that's just something very magical. And so, but you know, you couldn't get enough, it would last only for so long until you had to get another dose. And so it became more like an addiction, rather than full peace and contentment that you get only from the Lord.
DW: Yeah, I've never thought about it that way. But it really, that is really true. How we really do search for things when we're not in the right relationship with God. We search for fulfillment from all kinds of different things. And I think you're the first one that said, you know, you tried to go out and conquer waves. That's really neat. So can you tell us a little bit about how that, really, God pursued you? And you eventually then came back into right relationship with Him? Can you talk about that?
AK: Yeah. So in hindsight, I tried to reconstruct this by writing a book about this whole process. I asked the bigger question of okay, why did God pursue me? Why did he, why was he so relentless in having me come back to him? Other than the relationship and, I mean, the bottom line is grace. He was all because of grace that He pursues anyone. But in particular, I felt that the Lord had a purpose for me. I'll give you an example. So I graduated from a university in Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University. And as a foreign student, you know, like everybody else, we wanted to stay in the US and work and I got the chance to work on Wall Street. So I was, you know, you try to work harder and you try to beat everybody else so you can stay longer in the States. That was my chief motivation. But then I realized, you know, I was so fixated on the career and during the grind, I lost more and more about my own personality and the character and the free spirit that I used to be. Not only that I was in a relationship with somebody, and that relationship has turned sour, pretty bad. You know, so it turned into a nasty breakup. And I had actually, I was so empty. You know, that I didn't know what to do with myself.
AK: All I had worked, everything I banked on, I believed in, my values, work, and the money that you were earning and the career that you are trying to forecast for yourself. But when you had an emotional breakdown, like I went through, you know, even the work side, I couldn't sustain the quality and the level of work that I needed to produce every day in and out. Not to mention the hours. So you know, I started making mistakes here and there, small ones, eventually, a small mistake led to a bigger mistake, which cost the company losses. And we were managing clients' money. So, you know, that was anything beyond that, you know, I would have been let go. But my boss sat me down. And he understood that I was going through a really tough time. And so, he gave me a proper warning. He kind of guarded me, he protected me. But he had a word, he said, you know, you can't afford to do this, you have to snap out of the situation.
AK: So that actually caused me a bigger turmoil. Because even the thing that I believed in, that I value so much was now at stake of losing everything. And so this is when I really had a mental breakdown. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. And it went on for many days. And so I cried out to the Lord. That's funny, right, because that's when you are at the most vulnerable time, the one thing that you reach out to is the very thing that you've been running away from the longest time, right. And so, the only words that came out of my mouth at that evening, was, you know, “God help me. If you're really out there, then just step in. I still believe in the God who can, who would, and now is the time where I can’t help myself.”
AK: And what happened was, I remember this, I was living in the Upper East Side, a cold winter day, the apartment was nearly destroyed, because I had a rage fit. And, and, you know, I felt an inner peace rising and growing. And as that was rising, somebody sort of put me to sleep. And I was able to sleep for hours till the next morning, and that hasn't happened in days.
AK: So I knew there was something supernatural that just happened. As if someone else was in the room. And that presence was the pure, pure peace. So the critical mind and the skeptic that you are, that I am, I repeated the same process. I say, if that was really you, you know, you could surely you could do this again, right? Surely you wouldn't ignore me this time. And that presence, you know, that was Jesus. He did it again. I didn't see anyone but I felt him being there. And so he started to not only put me to sleep, but he started to unwind and take away the sharp pain, that knife in my back he started to remove and started to heal. So, that went on for three consecutive days. And then on the fourth day, you know, I started to, actually, I need to tell you this, after the first day, I, sleeping in, I saw myself, all the heavy you know the tiredness, and all of that was gone. And I had this huge hunger, hunger for bagels, right? I knew I was on the right recovery track.
AK: And the people at the office started noticing that, you know, this guy, you know, something changed. And so, I did that for three days. I was on a recovery course. And then I said to the Lord, hey, if that was really you, then here's my last challenge to you. Why don't you take me back to church but don't expect me to go around New York and find the church for myself. You know, between all the denominations, and you know, the places that I don't know, all I knew was the workplace, and you know, my neighborhood. And so faithfully, even that request God fulfilled through some divine introductions, and I ended up finding myself on a track to recovery and back to the arms of God. And, yeah, and very soon after that, he launched me, he launched me in terms of my career but also in terms of relocation. I was assigned to move to Hong Kong. And so, you see how, you know, once he started to bring you back, he has a course sort of laid out for you, where he has in different phases. He knew that I was a very young Christian, that I needed to be discipled. I needed to be in a healthy community that is encouraging and supportive, sort of like building boundaries. And, you know, he had all of that prepared in Hong Kong, and all that he was waiting for was for a simple obedience and restoration of the relationship.
AK: And once I said, yes, you know, he just made that happen. Now, it didn't come without challenges, or, you know, giving up some of the plans. Remember, I wanted to stay in New York as long as I could. But it meant now that I had to leave, I had to depart, you know, and I had to go to a brand new country I've never been to, and I had to start all over again. But it came with all of the promotions, you know, like the ex-pat package, and, you know, the promotion in terms of title. And so I was very well taken cared of, just to highlight how you know, how God orchestrates. When he's in the picture, things are, basically, all provided for you. And that marks, sort of my honeymoon season with God. The early, the young Christian days, where, you know, you pray, and he instantly answers. He wants to make sure that, you know, that I'm motivated, that I grow and become mature. And that I appreciate him, but also his church, his community. I was super lucky to end up in Hong Kong with a church that was, you know, thriving. It was still in the early stages. By the time I joined, I think that was about 30 people. My pastor, Samuel Song, he was Korean American from LA. So again, this relationship back to how I became a Christian in the first place, the connection back to the US and the West Coast. As a matter of fact, his wife was actually attending that church and that missions group who had sent out missionary, short-term missionaries to Europe. So and, you know, on the, his pastoral care, I was discipled. And I started growing. And yeah, and everything else is sort of like a history.
DW: So, would you share your vision for Kairos Capital, and maybe, maybe the Genesis story to that and how that all came about?
AK: Yeah. So about three years into my work at UBS Hong Kong, I was really influenced by being part of Solomon's Porch and the short-term missions that I had been exposed to. I started to go on short-term missions with different organizations to learn more and more about these places. So, and then there was a growing urge that, you know, I wanted to do more about with my life and pursue something that got me half for me and I didn't know whether there was a plan or there was a purpose. I couldn't really decide because there are conflicting messages even between denominations, right? So but it was a prayer. And like today I, then 15 years ago, I was on a 40-day liquid fast and I wanted to just find the answer to this. And I started praying. Concurrently, what was happening, I was asked to leave the company, because there was a change in management and my hiring manager retired so and so it was, it was the opportunity for me to do something else.
AK: So, what happened was, for a year, I was out of work, and I was trying to look for a job and kind of like on the side playing with the idea of starting my own business. But Hong Kong being very expensive, you know, after a year of paying full rent and everything else, you know, I started drawing up all of my cash flow. And it was starting really, really getting tough. At some point, 12 months into this, I was broke. But the only thing that God was telling me every time I prayed about my future, my current state, he said, you know, wait, stay in Hong Kong and wait. Now my visa in Hong Kong had run out. So every third month, I had to leave the country, go to a short-term mission, come back for another three months, right? Because I was tied to my rental agreement. So my rental agreement was a two-year agreement, maybe I had, like 18 months left of it. And so I had to do this a couple times, which gave me exposure to missions, right?
AK: And then so, and the money had drawn out and so I was up my last couple of dollars. I remember meeting a friend and having, my you know, my last lunch at a McDonald's. So, eating my last Big Mac meal. And then I didn't have the funds to pay me a subway ticket back home. So instead, I walked and while I was walking, I prayed. I had this final sort of like, season-ending prayers, that God, this has to end, this cannot continue. This is irresponsible. You know? I mean, mind you, you can't be in a financial distress if you have a fiduciary responsibility, and you want to get hired into another bank, and so on so forth.
There were a couple of things that was just not adding up. So what happened was, I came home, I took a nap. And my phone started to ring in the middle of the night. And this doesn't happen very often because, you know, I couldn't pay the bills. So, my phone would be shut off frequently. It's just that, you know, during that time, it worked for some reason. And I picked up the phone, and I had this person on the phone who was Korean calling me and says, hey, do you remember me and you know, I'm so and so. And then I recognize his voice. He used to be an ex-UBS client calling me. He was a Christian brother. And so he tracked me. My number had changed and you know, he had no ways to find me but he tracked me through the network of different Korean pastors.
AK: And so he found my number, he called me and he wanted to know what's going on. And so catch up. And the longer we spoke, I felt like, you know, there was something else that he wanted to discuss. And so I said, okay, you didn't just call me to say, hello, you know, an hour plus into the conversation. He said, actually, you know, hearing everything that you had gone through, and that you have this dream, he knew actually about my desire to start something like a Christian fund. And he said, okay, here's what happened to me just a couple of hours ago. So, he was in the US. He lives in New Jersey. He went running in the forest. And he had this compulsion to go back home, and to call contact me. But he didn't know whether this was him, or it was the Lord, so he kept running. And that unction started to grow and started to be more urgent. And so by the time he came home, and he wanted to he came into the house, the first thing that his wife tells him is, hey, I think you should call Aaron. You know, so there was this kind of confirmation, right? Both of them had the same sort of unction and download. So, they prayed and they started to contact me or find my contact. And in the discussion, they felt more and more that the Lord had given them a specific instruction. So over the phone, he's telling me this instruction, it says, “Aaron, if you really feel like the Lord wants you to start a company for Christian mission, then we want to be your financial backers. And so, we'll send you some funds, when you receive the funds, call me.” I said, okay. How, how often does that happen? And who talks like that, right? So I said, thank you very much. And I..
DW: How long had it been since you got to talk?
AK: We haven't talked, minimum a year. It could have been could be longer. So yes, just to emphasize, that was a random call out of the blue and in the same conversation, he's offering me money, right? So if that's not a Nigerian scam, I don't know what it is. So I said, okay, I was polite, I acknowledged it, and we, you know, we hung up and then, in my mind the whole day is, is this real? Is this really happening? And on the other hand, so that's excitement, right? That's anticipation, excitement, you know, waiting period. On the other hand, there is this conversation in my mind. Are you kidding me? No way, this is going to happen, right? That's the skeptic in me, and the two kinds of people are having this conversation, right? And for the next three days, I have no appointment, and nothing else to do but to sit there to pray and to really, like, dive into the Bible. I was just reading chapters after chapters after chapters. And I was just doing that. And occasionally, I would go to the bank and check on the funds. And no, sure, nothing had arrived.
AK: Three days passed, on the fourth day, on the fourth day in the morning, I mean, HSBC, because I used to avoid HSBC because, you know, I owed them money, right, credit card was maxed out and whatnot, mess, it was a financial mess. And so I was standing at the teller and when it was my turn, the lady kind of looked at the screen, looked, and looked up again, and just kind of verify, and then she looked at again, and then she said, okay, you're gonna have to stand, stand to the side. And then, you know, the manager, the branch manager started coming down, and he grabbed me and said, hi, Mr. Kim, we would like to invite you to come upstairs to the VIP section, you know, you shouldn't be standing in this line anymore. If there's anything you know, always come up, I'll come up to this VIP, private bank section. I said,”I couldn't believe what was happening.” So when I checked the figure, a six-figure US dollars had come in from the US and so the, you know, that gentleman kept his promise.
AK: Here's the thing. He was just simply being obedient, right? You know, he didn't delay his obedience, he was quick to obey. And so I called him and I said, okay, the funds are here. So what do we do now? And he said to me, Aaron, actually there are four distinct instructions that you have to follow. Number one, start your company. Number two, pay yourself a salary. Number three, if you like, go back to school, get yourself another degree. So I went for an MBA. And then number four, he said, get rid of your debt, right? And don't make, don't try to make a living off the money that I gave you by investing or buying an apartment, you know, just obey, learn to obey first, right? And so what happened was, this gentleman was not only being faithful and quick to obey, but you know, he had actually, through the three days, he had actually been praying and receiving instructions of how to go about these funds.
AK: Just to say there's this real heart of stewardship, this understanding, a deep awareness that even the funds that he is owning, he's not really the owner. He's just a caretaker. And so he asked how to spend the money and by passing it on to me, you know, he gave me those instructions. With that, you know, with that initial miracle seed money, Kairos Capital was born. In Kairos Capital, obviously God's, Kairos stands for God's time versus chronos. Chronos is man's time, the sequential time. But Kairos is far more than just God's time. It's actually the inflection point where, you know, third heaven, and first heaven penetrate. And you know, you have this open heaven sort of concept where, you know, there is encounters with the spiritual realm with God himself. And he then fulfills whatever plans he has.
AK: That's the, that's the interpretation of the company's name. And with that, we decided to start up a Christian fund management house that eventually donates funds into global missions. So, in terms of the two mandates that Jesus gave us to preach to the ends of the world, right, but also, on the other hand, make disciples. So, Kairos Capital started, basically, with a laptop and a smile. That's how it all started and 15 years into it, I'm still working with the same attitude. And God has sent me through various challenging times. I frame that as the desert, school of desert where pruning is one aspect, but also he's teaching me to be more like His Son. And, basically, today like looking back, when I'm just about to launch a new website. I realized so much has changed since the inception of Kairos. And some of the things that I can be most proud of, is the distinct eye coin. failing forward, like in the concept of falling forward, you know, how, how many times can you fail by yet you are making, you're inching forward every time.
AK: So, you know, the initial idea to start a global macro fund didn't work out because the company was born during the global financial crisis. So a lot of my high-net-worth individual clients couldn't give me the seed money in terms of managing the funds. But instead, God had sent me through a whole different discipline of finance which was corporate finance. And so I started helping a lot of companies with raising the capital, because they were in dire times because of the global finance. So say a factory needed a bridge loan, or they needed extension of their production line, and so on and so forth. I started like raising small funds, and then eventually getting into more and more complex deals.
AK: And nowadays, my business model is basically, most of my clients in Asia and predominantly in South Korea, the institutional side that invests into alternative investments, say anything from infrastructure, real estate, airplanes, transportation, or hedge funds, private equity funds, so we become the liaison, the company that helped them originate, source or drive ideas. And we then go in partnership with them, and we help them to implement their investment plans. So we're a typical middleman function. I've done that for the last 15 years, and with a degree of success, enough to keep me going and to keep me hungry. And this year is the first time where we are actually now applying to, we're going to become the fund management, meaning based on our track record and the experience we have, we're raising funds to invest into different real estate projects, real estate or other infrastructure projects.
DW: Gotcha. So how does the mission side of things work? How does the missions side of things and how are you funding missions and kind of what criteria are you looking for and kind of paint that picture for u a little bit.
AK: Sure, I need to give you a disclaimer first. We only applied for our foundation license in Switzerland end of last year. So that means, we haven't been able to give into missions up to that point. We're only starting up this. And there's a practicality of this, it took a long time for us to be even at a point where we can actually freely give, but more so it wasn't about just giving, you know, the net profit of your company. And we didn't want it to have this donor-host sort of relationship. But something, something much more important happened. Because I'm a volunteer at Crown Financial Ministry in the US for Asia. And through the work that I've done there, I came to understand the importance of generosity. And one aspect of generosity is basically to eventually understand, hey, this is not my money, right, that whole idea of stewardship.
AK: And so this year, we decided to transfer actually my shares in the company of Kairos Capital into the foundation once it's approved. So that, you know, the work outlives me and outlives anyone, and then it has this sustainability aspect, and I just become a caretaker, steward of these funds. The foundation has two goals. Basically, it's to bring the gospel to the ends of the world and, and to make disciples. And that means, you know, we are focused in the 10-40 window, but primarily, in areas where the penetration of the gospel is very challenging because of because it's a communist country. And, you know, speaking of North Korea, China, that's all very close to where I'm based. But also to the Middle East and Islamic countries in Asia because, you know, everything started out of Singapore. So, Singapore being the capital hub of Southeast Asia. That's the vision. And so, you know, if all goes well, you know, this may be the year where we actually be able to do this.
DW: So, I want to talk a little bit now that we've kind of heard the overall story, I want to kind of drill down a little bit on some questions. So one of the things I wrote down is that God seemed to work a lot through your relationship with money, and really kind of changing and rewriting that relationship. Can you maybe talk a little bit about some of the highlights in that journey? And kind of, I guess, maybe, from the beginning, what did that look like? What did your relationship with money look like? And, kind of, now, what does it look like?
AK: That's an excellent question. Having started your career in banking, you know, you have these very particular traits that you begin to absorb, right? So when it comes to investment, you know, you believe it's a finite game, it's a zero-sum game, you know, you become overly rational. And, to some degree, it's all justified, right? But if you look at the whole industry as such, you know, it's supposed to create added value, but I find within the system, it's very challenging, because too much money or too many companies are chasing after a handful of a few deals and, and then they have to be also numerated, they have to be lucrative, right? They have to be big, or, you know, they have to have certain traits, less risk, but much more upsides. So it's, it's a lot of the deals, a lot of investments are being left out because creativity isn't really part of the whole concept.
AK: Now, so coming from that sort of industry, I had a very skewed, not healthy sort of relationship when it comes to money. Money has to be hoarded, money is mine. Money means power. Money means influence. And it's sort of like a dichotomy between the spiritual growth wasn't part with money. Understanding that, yeah, you can have a very wholesome Christian life but then there's a divide, okay? Once you pay the 10%, tithing into the church, the 90% is mine. That attitude. And also, it's a power game in the financial industry, how much money means that you have that much of power. Through my journey, and through the growth, what I learned is to be a service provider that kind of brings creativity and added value by not competing. I mean, I can't compete with the big boys on an eye-to-eye level.
AK: So I have to always circumvent a situation in my favor, using creativity, understanding the needs of the, my client side, and, you know, and through that, you know, get a cut or a service fee for myself. And so that dynamic helped me a lot to position myself within the niche. Not to mention South Korea, obviously, there's a language barrier, right, so a lot of Korean speak English, but it surely is not true for the majority. So, and also being from Europe, and with the base in Singapore and the US background, you know, I was covering a lot of the relationship and that work, you know, is not normal, within this part of the world. Now, the other thing is, you know, just recently, beginning of the year, I was given two scriptures, that, you know, I need to paraphrase. But basically, you know, as if God was giving me a directive for the year. See yourself less than the other people and serve them for you to become a blessing to them.
AK: So what that means, literally, in a business context, as and there are many opportunities in 2023, that is coming my way, but, you know, uniquely, it's sort of like a, a create some part of my work is structuring a deal. So, you know, where do you get the investment? What sort of loans do you bring in, what sort of game do you place over this deal? And then how do you share the profits among different parties? And so, in that concept, I'm sort of like a designer. So in the design phase, make sure that you cover all stakeholder interests, instead of just maximizing the shareholders' value but looking after different aspects that are also equally important. Yeah, so I'm beginning to see my role more as a, as somebody who, who, like a, like a deacon in a church, you know, you serve the congregation. And through the service and excellence within the service, you gain more and more influence.
DW: Yeah, that's good. That's good. So and then the second question I had was relating to really following God's calling, even when it doesn't make sense logically to us. And how sometimes it can be a desert experience like you were talking about? And can you maybe talk to that point a little bit?
AK: Yeah. So once I discovered that God had actually a plan for me, there was an exuberance, an excitement, following what God wanted me to do. But you know, there's, and then you know, that, if that purpose was one thing, you know, you start to influence that by your own interpretation and begin to make mistakes and, you know, any, any hardship or any desert experience is born out of your own mistakes as well. But, you know, overall, you know, God's in control over your life, and he's taking you through a season where he's actually stripping you. And you know, and he's creating that independency, independency to money so that you can fully and 100% trust God Himself.
AK: So He Himself becomes the reward and that takes the center stage instead of like, success, career or money. So that's one of the key lessons that I learned but honestly, after studying out of Singapore, we had, my wife and I, we were just newly married, we're early in our 30s. And after getting married, we looked into our finances, and we had about three months of runway time. And, you know, so once we hit that three months' mark, you know, that came with a lot of anxiety as you can imagine. But then, you know, I've continued, and then, you know, God had various ways to take care of you, to ensure you that he's in the picture. But what's really challenging is...
DW: Do you have any examples of that?
AK: For instance, you know, I have four kids, every time one of our kids were born or was born, I was, I was a lot on the pressure, worrying about, you know, the things that the baby needs, diapers, baby powder, and, you know, and then some. And, you know, I remember, clearly, my wife told me the very good news that I'm becoming a dad. And then, when I heard the message, I was at the bother. And then, you know, I was so focused on how am I going to make a living, and completely absorbed in this anxiety, I was letting my head down, and I was walking home, my wife saw me from the balcony. And she knew that I was in, you know, that I was in trouble. But actually what was happening, I was actually, because I was so nervous. First time there, not having the finances, I was actually praying. And through it all, you know, that one voice penetrated through all the thickness of anxiety and nervousness and fear, was God's voice saying, I got you, there's nothing, nothing that you have to worry about, everything will be provided.
AK: So, 10 years, actually, 11 years later, I did the math, and I calculated all of the diapers that we had for four kids, over 35,000 diapers, right? All of them were provided, all of them came from somewhere, right? And I can't make the claim, I cannot make the claim that it was me. You know, therefore it has to be God. And it's true, for telephone bills, for the rent, and you know, everything else that we needed. And I think this is necessary for, A, for us to see the real threat from the dependency to money versus, you know, having a sound healthy relationship and reliance on God. Once that's established, I think God's gonna lift you up. He’s gonna restore you. And that's his promise, right? But he needs you to go through this and through it all, not to give up. But trust that God is going to bring you out of that desert, cross over the Jordan River and then go into your own promised land.
DW: So, do you have maybe a story about really God changing your heart around money?
AK: Yes, absolutely. What are some of the key lessons that we learned about being generous was when God was challenging us to give money to somebody else who was in dire need, that we, and even we didn't have enough money, but to trust God and to bank on him, and his faithfulness, while giving away our last sort of like savings, or whatever, those moments were, A. very eerie; B. very rewarding. So I'll give you one example. I know this gentleman. He's a seasoned businessman. But you know, we have we haven't been talking to engineers three plus years. And we had some income to some, some funds and my wife, and she's not in finance. She's a full-time mom, she asked me, hey, she wants to play the US stock market 2021, third quarter. And I'm like, okay, that doesn't make sense. But let's do it anyway. You know, let's see what happens. And it wasn't just betting because, you know, I felt that was something a conviction in her voice and we started praying and we felt comfortable. So I entrusted her with some, a little portion like, say, 2000 US dollars. And she had a huge rally in her portfolio because the market was helping her. And she had picked the right sort of US specs, stocks. And so she closed out, let's say, she made $2000 into $10,000 in the span of four months, and then accident, and then the market collapsed. At that point in time, at that point in time, $10,000, right? We're thinking, hey, this is great, right? So this could be a vacation or this could be a donation, whatever, we didn't know what's going to happen.
AK: But I found in my heart, the Lord was talking, my heart was saying, that fund that is not for you. I have somebody else reserved for that. So hold on, and I will tell you who that is going to be. Sure enough, a week later, I get this random call from a friend I haven't seen in a while telling me of a situation of a gentleman who needs the fund immediately because he is in a dire situation. And so for us to let go, and to trust that God's gonna, A. take care of us, and then, B. is going to bless the gentleman. That was challenging in the beginning. But once we did, and, again, the difference, the subtle difference is between quick obedience and delayed obedience, because delayed obedience is not obedience. And we did that and that gentleman recovered from all of the situation. And, we have built an incredible relationship, and he is becoming one of the most important clients in my businesses.
AK: So just to tell you that story. I mean, for various reasons, I have to leave out a lot of chunk of information here and there because of confidentiality. But you get the drift, right? So God was teaching us to be generous. There's an economic system, a principle that runs on the God system. And it's the opposite. I don't like to use the word irrational but that's essentially what it is. It's spiritual. It's intangible. But it's a system that's even bigger, even more dominant as soon as we give them leeway, and to allow it to work through our daily life.
DW: So do you have any verses or passages that really speak to this or that you use a lot when you're talking about this?
AK: Yeah, I'm sorry, I, I know these verses, but I can't cite them in English. So I paraphrase, right? So for instance, "the Lord owns a thousand cattles on the hill" clearly defines who is the owner. He is the creator, and therefore he owns all things. And he's an affluent, very wealthy God. And he loves sharing that wealth with people that he wants to entrust the funds. So look at that, you know, the comparison. Parables of the three servants of the Lord. The master is going on a trip and he leaves them with certain talents, one, three, and five. Those stories sort of like, it's a continuation of the richness of our God, who wants to influence, wants to step into this world, but he's looking for worthy partners. And, isn't life, isn't business, life and investment, all about finding worthy partners, even as somebody on the buy side, like as a venture capital or private equity, looking into businesses, finding that founder or finding that this is that they want to invest has the same merits or similar merits to what the Lord is actually looking for in us. You know, he wants to find the guys that are trained, that went through his school of desert. And then they know they carry the heart of Jesus, right? He sees that in them.
DW: Yeah, that's good. Before we enter the lightning round, is there anything else that you want to share with our audience?
AK: Yeah, maybe just an aspect that, you know, I put my stories and some more about, you know, in a book, because I really wanted to reach the people that are sitting on the fences, Christians that have not subscribed, that there is a purpose and calling in life. You know, and that's pursuing a calling may come with some cost. But that cost is completely rewarded to you later on through restoration. And it's absolutely necessary and this is something that it's getting more and more, becoming more and more important in the world and in Christian faith, because you know, there's a cost to discipleship. So my book is called "Pursued By The Maker: A Global Citizen's Journey Into the Heart of God".
DW: Oh, wow. That's good. I look forward to getting it. So let's jump into the mentor minute. So who is the most influential person that you know and how have they impacted you?
AK: There are several, I can think of. Pastor Sam, Sam Song is one of them from Solomon's Porch in Hong Kong. His influence, the discipleship obviously rubbed off a lot in my current life. But also various people that have shaped me in the industry. And in the field, I can think of Chuck Bentley from Crown Financials. His leadership through Crown but also the Christian Economic Forum. That is also a platform where I think it's really helpful to be among like-minded people that have gone through different challenging times. There are so many. One I think I really like to mention is a YWAM missionary based out of Hong Kong, his name is Godwin. Godwin is a dear friend of mine. He single-handedly helped me believe, to think outside the tangible reality that there's a spiritual world and you know, and money is subordinate to that realm.
DW: All right, and then what is the greatest lesson in leadership that you've learned?
AK: Yeah. Humility, persistence, resilience. And then again, persistence, resilience, and it goes on. Never give up. And it's, you know, pursue the calling in your life, because it's worthwhile though it may be something that looks impossible in the beginning. But as you do, it's definitely rewarding. And care about the things that the Lord cares.
DW: All right, Aaron, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom and your story with us. Is there anything that we can be praying for you and your family?
AK: Yeah, I think 2023 could be a very promising year, but not for me not to lose sight of grace. I am here. I'm doing what I'm doing, because of his grace, and nothing else. And with that, you know, that God would steer me gently out of the school of desert and carries me into the promised land.
DW: All right, let's pray right now.
AK: Thank you.
DW: God, I thank you and praise you for this episode, for Aaron and his family and for all that they're doing for your Kingdom. Lord, I thank you for His faithfulness to follow your call, to obey your calling. Lord, I pray that you would watch over him, that you would guide him, that you would continue to give him direction and instruction in all things. God, we thank you for our listeners and for their pursuit of you and I pray that we would take what we've learned here and to grow in our faith, and really use money and influence, and wealth for Your Kingdom. In Christ's name, I pray. Amen.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
ANNNOUNCER: What if you could take your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives in your community and around the world, creating a godly legacy for generations to come?
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