Weave of the MasterDavid Kang’s journey from orphan to tailor, as he answered the call to “Suit My Army.”
The uniform of The Salvation Army, which became standardized in 1880, is the outward representation of a holy covenant made with God. We wear it to boldly proclaim that we are soldiers in supernatural warfare. As Mrs. Florence Booth, wife of Bramwell Booth, the second General of The Salvation Army, writes in her book “The Army Uniform,” “[It] was not designed merely to secure outward uniformity. The uniform, like every other distinguishable mark of The Salvation Army, was designed to be an expression of our great soul-saving purpose.”
David Kang not only embraces the vision of our uniform as a Salvationist himself, but 46 years ago, he also answered God’s call to “suit His Army.” Kang has skillfully sewn thousands of uniforms, including uniforms for 14 Generals, 15 territorial commanders, three Salvation Army bands, countless officers and soldiers.
Kang’s precision and skill as a tailor is more than a vocation—it’s a calling. Praying over every uniform he sews, David believes soldiers should wear God’s uniform proudly and beautifully, for they are representing Jesus Christ Himself.
One Soul in Seoul
It began in Seoul, South Korea, where Kang was born as an only child. His father worked in a prestigious position for the government. One of his earliest memories is of his father’s beautiful desk, with an official photo of his father standing by the South Korean flag.
Refusing to submit to North Korean demands, Kang’s parents were killed, leaving him orphaned at age two.
For one year, Kang’s grandmother raised him. An active child, one day at age three, he lost his grandmother in the busy, crowded streets of Seoul. A captain from a military compound found him and cared for him. But Kang was a little boy who loved to explore, and unfortunately, he always got lost. Once again, six months later, as he wandered and played in the crowds, he found himself separated from the man who took care of him. He was lost once again.
A New Community
In search of shelter, the four-year-old met a homeless community—boys, girls, men and women all living under a bridge. He was welcomed, loved and embraced as a member of their family. Kang slept in boxes, with no blankets, together with his new family. They knocked on people’s doors for food and then together shared what was gathered, as a community.
Kang spent one year on the streets with his adopted family. Even as a young child, he had a sense of right from wrong. He didn’t want to steal from others as he was instructed to do, and through his uncompromising standards, he displayed wisdom, integrity and honesty beyond his years. The leader of the homeless community sensed that there was greatness within him. “We cannot keep him,” the leader reluctantly declared. As much as they loved Kang, they took him to the police station, with the hope of a brighter future.
Kang’s grandmother had been looking for him, and they were reunited. However, his grandmother didn’t have the energy to keep up with the energetic six-year-old. She spoke with the government, and Kang was sent to The Salvation Army’s boys’ home. He never saw his grandmother again.
Kang lived at the boys’ home for ten years. The rules were strict, but he loved it there. For the first time, his eyes and ears were opened to the Word of God. Kang remembers the first biblical story he ever heard—Jonah. His eyes glistened at the excitement found in God’s Word.
An Unexpected Encounter
It wasn’t until age seven that Kang had his first encounter with God—one he could never forget. With many boys in the home, the bathroom was situated outside in the bush—a five to ten-minute walk from the residence. With no flashlights accessible, the boys were afraid to venture out at night—but on this particular night, Kang had to go.
In the most unexpected of places, in the most unexpected of ways, God met with Kang. Surrounded by consuming darkness, he saw a sheet as white as snow rising from the ground he stood on to the heights above his head. The appearance of bright light in the presence of complete darkness was unexplainable. He looked up, trying to glimpse the bright face before him and fearlessly hold onto the presence he saw near. Kang had seen illustrations of Jesus in Bibles at the boys’ home—it was “Exactly Him,” he says.
Thinking back to his time spent with his homeless family, Kang recognized that even then, he knew right from wrong without learning it from anyone. He sensed God was choosing him to do something of importance for His glory.
Due to the shortage of resources, residents of the boys’ home would often use the pages from donated Gideon’s Bibles as toilet paper. As Kang learned more about Jesus, he could not bear the thought of God’s Word being defiled in that way. Secretively, Kang burned two Bibles in a fire as an act of humble sacrifice to God to avoid having His Word misused. While the staff looked for those two Bibles, Kang sensed within Him a desire to honor God and obey Him with all His heart.
The Apricot Mountain
At ten years of age, Kang began to commune with God at a place that would become his mountain of prayer up to 18 years of age. He discovered a small mountain with lots of apricot trees close to the boys’ home. Under one tree, Kang sat and spoke with Jesus. “Why did you take my parents?” he asked. Though in that moment he never heard an answer, Kang sensed God was listening. He asked God to give him friends that would become like family. Never could he have imagined the extent to which God would answer that prayer!
He found solitude on that mountain and spent time there communicating with God. He loved to stay on there, sometimes spending one week at a time, only eating the fruit from the trees.
Reunited for a Purpose
While accompanying a friend to a hospital in Seoul, Kang, at the age of 11, recognized the community they walked through. Venturing down a dark tunnel, he found the homeless community who adopted him. They remembered Kang and were happy to see him! “Even if they did good or bad,” says Kang, “they were family.” He continued to visit the community and over the years, offered help in practical ways.
Kang had learned Judo, earning his black belt by age 17. The homeless community fought violently with knives, hurting both themselves and others. Kang began to train and educate this community of 70 people on how to protect themselves using the martial arts techniques he had acquired. He taught them to defend themselves wisely and skillfully, and their fighting decreased significantly. Kang also diligently worked to combine previously rival homeless communities into one community of 600 people, who grew to live in peace with one another. At 18 years of age, Kang became a peacemaker and was seen as a leader who was admired, respected and trusted.
Seeing the uneducated homeless children, Kang challenged the leadership to prioritize their education. He gathered their earned money and sent children in that community to school. He taught them how to save money and how to use it for good.
Story after story, time after time, God has used Kang’s heart for people, his leadership, relatability and kindness to reach others for His kingdom. Kang considered people from a variety of backgrounds his friends. “One is a very smart person, one is a very rich person, and one is a very poor person,” says Kang. Learning from the good of each of his friends, Kang admits to applying what he learns to his own life.
From Fashion to Brass
When Kang applied to study engineering at the age of 18, he was denied due his poor school education, so he considered the avenue of fashion design. He had no experience in that field but enrolled in a two-year fashion design program. The teaching failed to challenge him, so he approached the principal with a desire to study at an accelerated rate. In three months, Kang graduated from a two-year program, passing every required exam with a perfect score.
Kang applied for opportunities to work in fashion design in Seoul, but due to his lack of experience, no one accepted him. A friend from the boys’ home worked at a costume design store and introduced him to the management there. Even though he had only studied design, not sewing, he embraced the challenge and was hired. Three months after his hire, one of Kang’s teachers was in a car accident, so he took over his responsibilities without being financially compensated. The hours were long, and vacation days were not approved.
Kang found a new job at a Beauty Salon, where he cut and designed outfits for six months. The customers at the prior store loved Kang and considered him the best! They told the owner that they needed him back. The owner offered him a good salary, worthy of his time and skill—and Kang accepted.
After one more year of working at the costume design store, Kang enrolled in the military where he played euphonium and trombone in the band. He had learned to play brass instruments in The Salvation Army beginning at age 12. Kang taught martial arts to the soldiers once a week, but mainly worked for the General in the trusted role of conducting background searches on military leadership.
A New Season—A New Life
As his time with the military was ending, Kang became acquainted with Captain Irene Davis, a Canadian Salvation Army officer who worked as the secretary to the territorial commander in Korea from 1962 to 1974.
During his prayer time on the mountain, God clearly said, “Go talk to her.” So, in faith, Kang approached Captain Davis and asked if she would send a letter overseas to ask if they needed a tailor. Captain Davis didn’t know that Kang could sew, so Kang made his first Salvation Army uniform for her.
Seeing the skill and precision of his tailoring, Captain Davis wrote overseas. Receiving offers from both London and Canada, Kang decided on Canada, knowing his friend Captain Davis would return there one day. They joined in prayer at the holiness table and it was there that Kang promised God that he would work for Him—a prayer of complete surrender.
In 1973, at age 26, Kang left South Korea and moved to Canada to begin a new life.
He began to sew uniforms in 1974, working for The Salvation Army’s Canadian Territorial Headquarters for two years after which he created his own company— “K’s Custom Tailoring,” so Salvationists could receive a uniform, fitted to order.
People of high society in theater, television and business soon began to approach Kang for clothing and suit designs, but Kang was reminded that God had called him to suit His Army. Three times, in specific ways, God said to him: “Follow Me under My cross.” Kang declined financial gain and prestige and chose willingly to walk in the priceless will of God. For more than ten years, his clients have only been Salvationists.
Now with four successful children and five beautiful grandchildren, Kang, together with his wife Haeja Min, faithfully attends the Korean Community Church in Toronto, Canada. His mission remains steadfast—to suit God’s Army with uniforms worn with supernatural intention and visionary purpose. Day after day, he measures, cuts and sews, but his ministry extends beyond exceptional tailoring—his heart humbly serves His Savior, as he prays for every recipient of the uniform he designs.
May God bless David Kang and the soldiers he faithfully suits!
Captain Pamela Maynor and husband Keith are administrators for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, NJ. Her previous appointment was as editor at National Headquarters, during which she launched Peer, the magazine for Gen Z (peermag.org).