21Jan '17

God’s Goodness

January 21, 2017

by Cathy Cho

Galatians 5:22-23 - 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, GOODNESS, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When I look back at the different chapters of my life, especially as a military wife, I am reminded of God's GOODNESS and grace throughout.  Many of you know my husband Dave serves in the Navy.  To be honest, never in a million years, did I ever think that I’d marry someone in the military, nor did I want to.   I always thought I would live in Southern CA forever; get married and raise a family in LA.  Moving to San Diego from LA after we got married was devastating to me.  I know the cities are only 2 hours away from each other, but my family and friends; my whole life was in LA.  But God was good to me by first easing me into a move that was only two hours away, then further to Rhode Island, and then eventually half way around the world to Okinawa, Japan.  Obviously, God had other plans for me.  Romans 8: 28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This was the start of my deeper relationship and dependence with God, and how I experienced his goodness and grace more and more.  

After living in San Diego for a couple of years, we moved to Rhode Island.  There, the twins were born, and when they were 3 months, we moved back to San Diego.  Shortly after, Dave deployed on a ship for 4 months.  And then he was redeployed when the twins were one years old.  At the time, the thought of raising twin infants alone was unimaginable to me, but God was gracious.  He orchestrated it so that we could move back to CA, which meant that I had family and friends nearby to help me while Dave was deployed.  I was even able to find a live-in nanny to help me .  If we had to stay in Rhode Island, I would not have known anyone, and I literally would have been a single mom with no one to support me.   God provided so many people during this time to help me; many single friends stayed with me over the weekends, so I could have personal time.  During this time, I was struggling spiritually and was barely holding myself together as a single parent, but God was good.  I can’t say it was easy, but I managed, and God did not desert me or forsake me even when I was at my spiritual lowest.    

Even after experiencing God’s goodness in CA, I again forgot about it when we moved to Okinawa, Japan. I was like the Israelites, complaining in the wilderness.  How easily we forget when our circumstances get tough and when the comforts of life is taken away from us.  As soon as we arrived in Okinawa, Dave was off to another country for an assignment within a week.  So I was ALL alone with 3 year old twins in a foreign country, trying to buy a car, learning how to drive on the opposite of side of the road, and moving into our new home all by myself.  But, God proved to me there that ALL I needed was to trust in Him.  To rely on Him.  Not my family, not my friends and not even my husband but only God.  Again, He was good to me by bringing navy spouses that I never met to help me with the boys so I could get my driver's license; brought me groceries and helped me while Dave was gone every 2- 3 weeks out of the month.  God even provided a navy spouse who was Australian that spoke fluent Japanese to help me enroll the boys into a Japanese preschool because all the base schools and preschools were full.  This allowed me to get all my errands done, and even go to Bible Study to be spiritually fed while Dave was gone most of the time in Okinawa.  God brought so many good people in our lives even when I didn’t want to bother getting to know them because we were just going to leave after a few years.  God continued to prove to be good and gracious to us.  He provided for my needs physically and spiritually even when I doubted him.  

In every duty station we have been in whether it was San Diego, Okinawa, Korea, or Virginia, God has shown His goodness to me and my family.  He showed his goodness through the people he brought into our lives just when we needed them, the many experiences we had, or even the people we were able to minister to.  There was a purpose as to why we were in these specific duty stations.  In the beginning of each move, I kept wanting to just go home to CA; just counting the days to leave for CA, and not really making each day count.  But somewhere along the way, God showed me that it’s not about us missing CA and trying to return to CA, but to make the time count wherever we were at.  It became more about how can we serve God and be a light wherever we were stationed at. We weren't there just for Dave’s job, but also an opportunity to minister to those around us.  And honestly, there were many times I didn’t want to put in the effort to make new friends because I knew we were going to be leaving soon.  But, this was ALL the more easier as I remember God’s goodness to us over the years wherever we went.  Psalm 116:12 “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? “ It’s about God and not about us.  To point people to Christ and to use my gifts and talents to minister to people for God no matter how short our stay would be in a given place.  

Being in the military, we never really know where we will be or for how long.  We can plan all we want, but it’s the Lord that directs our path.  Dave has tried to retire twice now to stay in VA until the boys finished high school, but the Lord has other plans for our family.  It happened a bit quickly, but we will be moving this June.  Once we get official orders we will let you know where so stay tuned.  Though we are sad to leave VA since it's the longest we've ever lived anywhere and have made many great friends but we are also excited for the next chapter in our lives.  If you could  pray for us as we prepare to move and take care of all the logistics during this remaining time here in VA, it would be much appreciated.  Thank you for allowing us to call ABC “a church to call home”.  To us it was “home”.  

20Jan '17

The Fruit of Kindness' Sweet Taste

January 20, 2017

By John Park

Hosea 4:1

1 Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land.


Micah 6:8

8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


Colossians 3:12

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.


It’s one thing to be nice and another to be kind. There is a difference. “Niceness” may imply weakness or softness as we're told “Nice guys finish last.”

Kindness is far from that. Kindness stands at the intersection of compassion and conviction. Kindness is not merely being “nice,” nor is it the absence of any firm conviction and belief. If you go down the street of conviction in the opposite direction of kindness, you get rigidity and narrow-mindedness that make tactics our tongues turn aggressive and harsh towards people who may not share the same convictions as us. That is unkindness.

If you go down the street of compassion in the opposite direction, you get niceness without any courage, conviction and soul. Barry Corey writes in his book “Love Kindness:”

Niceness trims its sails to prevailing cultural wind and wanders aimlessly, standing for nothing and thereby falling for everything.

That too is unkindness. When the streets of compassion and conviction intersect, you arrive at kindness. Kindness is tenderhearted, merciful, fierce, strong, courageous and full of conviction all at the same time. God demonstrates this kind of kindness to His people. Such kindness is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ. And kindness is sweet when it grows on the tree of those who have the Holy Spirit inside them.

To “love kindness” as Micah 6:8 says is not merely to perform random acts of kindness, but it is to make kindness a way of life for it is the way of Christ. Kindness may be calling you to repent for going too far down in the opposite direction of compassion and conviction as it's God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Kindness may be calling you to enter into conversation and life with people who have a different perspective than you.

However, the fruit of kindness manifests itself in our lives when we reflect and honor Christ  and it opens doors for what we say about Him and the Gospel.

17Jan '17

Letting Small Things Go

January 17, 2017

By Chris Du

I identify myself with Christ, knowing and embracing the reality that I’m a sinner in need of grace. As a native New Yorker, it cannot be more real! I have the tendency to be critical, impatient and frustrated at small things in ways most do not see. When I first became a follower of Jesus, it bled much into how I ministered to and served with others.

Getting exposed to college ministry through Cru and Epic gave me a renewed foundation of what servant leadership really called for: to be bearers of patience with the Spirit’s leading, which Paul briefly shares as in Galatians 5. 

Ever since I started serving on ABC’s Worship Team, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by brothers and sisters who clearly have been gifted by God to glorify Him through music. When I was asked to lead our entire ministry a year-and-a-half ago, I was shocked yet grateful to be given this opportunity. But I would be lying if I said there was not any hesitation to saying ‘yes’ while knowing how impatient I could be. When I looked back and reflected on what God has shown me through our team, it went beyond others' gifts, talents, and passion -- it was their patience.

I remember leading worship one Sunday and came to service somewhat unprepared, which led to this immense self-pressure that grew every time I screwed up during practice or service. After service, I apologized to the whole team for not putting the work into creating the best product from the beginning and not being on cue when I should have been.

Linda Hwong (former keyboard), Ben Brooks (bass) and Carrson Morris (electric) approached me separately and all said something very similar: “We are not professionals who are putting on a performance, but we are ordinary people who want our service to be pure, genuine and worshipful to God.”

From that point on, I gained a deeper understanding of what it meant to let go of the small things along with a newfound appreciation of extending more grace to myself and also granting patience to others.

17Jan '17

Discovering Fruits of the Spirit While Living out the Great Commission in Northern Virginia

January 17, 2017

By Kee Kim

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Throughout the Bible, the evidence or product of our faith is often described as fruit. Jesus compares good and bad fruit. He takes away the branches without fruit and prunes those with fruit, so they can produce even more. And we’re reminded that only by abiding in him can there be much fruit.

Several years ago, I began wondering where that fruit was in my life, especially if I professed to know God and desired to make him known. Around that same time, I began reading a book by David Platt called Radical. My initial response was one of shame, seeing the disconnect between the lifestyle that the Bible calls us to versus what I saw in my own life. Then the anger crept in. I began wondering why I was not seeing “radical” fruit in myself or in others around me. This latter sentiment may have been my own arrogance and self-righteousness at work. While intrigued by Platt’s premise of fully embracing God and the Great Commission, I didn’t finish reading the book until many months later since it was easier to criticize the American church and its shortcomings than do anything about it.

A healthier consequence of reading Radical, however, was having to answer the two questions constantly replaying in my head… who is my neighbor and how do I better love people? I can’t remember if it was Platt or someone else who pointed me towards the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) during this search for fruit. But re-encountering God’s heart through this familiar parable helped me understand that who starts with opening my eyes to what’s nearby or in front of me. My neighbor could be whoever comes along and may be in need. The how started to make sense while looking closer into the Samaritan’s behavior.

The Samaritan stopped at a risk to himself. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbery was frequent, and some may have deceitfully posed as helpless victims to rob the unwary traveler. Yet, he stopped. This action was far from the “safe” option and was likely not convenient for his schedule or plans for that day. His decision also came at a personal cost, knowing he probably wouldn’t be repaid when he gave money to the innkeeper to care for a total stranger. Two denarii might be the financial equivalent of two days’ wages in that time. It’s hard enough for me to hand over $20 to a panhandling homeless person these days, but the Samaritan’s costly action made me wonder if I might need a fundamental perspective shift.

He used what he had: wine and oil, his own animal. God blesses me with a home, a functioning car, a job, hobbies, and community. Too often I use the excuse of needing to get better wine, better oil, or a better animal, in order to love others properly. But how am I using what God has already provided?

His response was immediate and filled with compassion. In sharp contrast, the two religious leaders did not live out what they probably taught. Since they were leaving Jerusalem, they would likely have been to the temple and would not have had to worry about becoming ceremonially unclean by helping a bloodied man. Yet, they stepped aside. I can find this attitude easily in my own life, after hearing a great sermon at church or reading an inspiring book about loving God and loving people.

So how did the good Samaritan story help me figure out whether or not I was producing fruit? There were myriad of options of who and how to love others, but ultimately I decided to begin by loving people who were already in my life, while doing things that came naturally. One example was though an ongoing interest in playing sports. Pruning my branches to grow abundant fruit meant I needed to take one step further and develop meaningful relationships with the people I met regularly for recreation. This involved opening up my life to neighbors in my townhome community, coworkers on my company softball team, and the guys with whom I play pickup basketball. These might seem like baby steps to some, but this new perspective on something I was already doing brought weekly opportunities to learn and live out kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

God has likely laid out uniquely-crafted opportunities before each of us – specific to your personality, life-stage, experience with hardships, socio-economic status, or geographic location – to love God and love others. Perhaps the platform for doing so is through our church’s upcoming partnership with a refugee resettlement agency. Or maybe God has provided a special desire for interacting with families at the Hanley Shelter playdates. Alternatively, it’s possible you understand how to love others best through packing meals for local elementary school children through the ongoing RKids2 effort. The Shop for Freedom, Operation Christmas Child, and From ABC with Love are other recent efforts at tangibly loving others. In the coming months, there will also be short-term mission trip opportunities to travel and see firsthand what God is doing in other parts of the world. One of the wonderful things about our ABC community is that so many of these “formal” efforts often spearheaded by the Missions Committee are actually inspired by individual interests that are shared with the larger church congregation.

Whatever your background or gifts, I encourage you to examine ways to seek fruit together. It’s truly a beautiful sight to witness fruit blossoming in and through our ABC community, as we learn how to love God and love others together.

30Nov '15

Adopted as Daughters: My Story of Loss and Restoration

November 30, 2015

On November 13, our family celebrated the one-year anniversary of my wife Emily’s legal adoption of our three daughters, Shannon, Lindsay, and Audrey. She adopted them soon after we got married.

Why would a bright, successful thirty-something woman adopt a couple of teenage girls and a (then) 10-year-old? Did their biological mom choose to walk away from them? No, their loving mom, So Young, passed away almost three years ago, and Emily wanted to be a true mom to the girls, as much as she possibly could. Adoption was the logical and loving next step to take.

Beyond the paperwork, however, Emily has been so much to the girls, in every way a “real” mom. I often wonder at how we could be so blessed. It has surprised me how naturally Emily has eased into the parenting role, proving herself as responsible, attentive, hardworking, and loving as any highly experienced parent I’ve known. Surely it wasn’t just my decision to choose Emily that made all of this happen; God must be in it.

Celebrating the adoption is such an odd thing, though. Like so many other celebrations since So Young died, it is complicated by loss. It seems to underscore and highlight her passing, because without her absence, Emily wouldn’t be their mom. And without her absence, Emily wouldn’t be my wife. The list goes on and practically touches on every aspect of our life as a family.

And yet it was God’s will, as nonsensical as it seems. Why? Why would God take So Young away and give us Emily? For Emily’s sake, for her maturation? For mine? That might sound great, but at what cost? Why would God do such a thing?

The truth is that I don’t and might never know why. I am willing to accept that everything might not happen for reasons that we’ll understand on this side of heaven.

The only answer to life’s unanswerable questions is gratitude for the here and now. I know that I am where God wants me to be, and I’m grateful for it. I am indeed so blessed that I’m sometimes reluctant to say it. It seem so obvious to me, so clear and public and on display: Here is my life. Here are my girls. Here is my dear, sweet Emily. I am so grateful, and how could I not be?

I think of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is the greatest blessing, marred by the greatest loss. The response of the disciple is a gratitude that motivates everything in life.

This is how God works: I remember waking up my youngest in the early morning of February 28, 2013 and telling her that her mom had died and how we both cried for a long time and there was nothing to say to make it better except that Mommy is in heaven now. Still one word in some way makes it better today: Mom. In the last few months, Audrey has taken to calling Emily “Mom.” She also calls her “Em” for short, like the “M” in “mom,” which Audrey calls “the perfect nickname.”

Emily really is that for her. I couldn’t have made that up. It’s God’s beautiful but inexplicable way of bringing restoration. And a gratitude that motivates everything in life.

09Nov '15

Pastor JP: Transition Brings Faith, Opportunity

November 9, 2015

“How are things going at your church, JP? I’ve heard there have been a lot of changes.”

Yep, you’ve heard correctly. We’ve been going through a time of change and transition. How are things at your church?”

“JP, how are you holding up through all the changes?”

Thanks so much for asking. It’s been hard at times. I’m trusting in Jesus. How are you holding up?”

“JP, what’s going to happen with ________________?”

That’s a good question. Thank you for caring about our church. I’m not sure. We’re seeking the Lord’s will and praying for wisdom. Please pray along with me.”

From the move into a new facility to saying goodbye to staff members to seeking new staff members, it has been a season of change for ABC. On top of that, I know that many of you are going through your own set of changes and transitions that range from a new baby to a new job and everything in between.

I have a love/hate relationship with change. On one hand, I hate change. I like routine. I like consistency. I like familiarity. If you look at pictures of me through the years, my hairstyle has changed very little, except I just have less of it to work with now. My sense of fashion has changed very little in terms of colors and styles. I still go for darker tones (for the slimming effect!) and I was wearing plaid long before before plaid became so hipster!

On the other hand, I love change. And that’s usually when looking back in hindsight, which is always 20/20 right? Change brings excitement and renewed energy. Change creates opportunity for creativity. Change allows new people to step in and step up with new ideas that yields new results. Change may be hard when you go through it, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day.

I believe we are turning the corner with all the changes that have been happening. This doesn’t mean the changes have totally ceased as change is always happening around us. The one constant about change is that change is constant. But at some point, we go from saying, “We’re in transition,” to accepting the changes and saying, “We’re moving forward!” I believe that point has come, and we have much to celebrate.

First and foremost, I celebrate the unchanging faithfulness of God. Change is always an opportunity to deepen our trust in God. There have been many moments during this past year when I was brought to my knees in humble dependence upon God. And He has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. At a recent elders meeting, Ken Collins shared this excerpt from a devotion that had touched his heart:

The delight that the sailor feels when, having been tossed about on the waves, he steps again upon the solid shore is the satisfaction of a Christian when, in all the changes of this distressing life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—‘I the LORD do not change.’ The stability that the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a solid hold is like that which the Christian’s hope provides him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change.’”

Second, I celebrate the resilience of our church family. You have been amazing. I see people bouncing back from all the changes with renewed focus, energy, and commitment. I see people stepping up and stepping into new roles. I see people loving, serving, praying, and simply doing life together with others.

Finally, I celebrate the direction that God is taking us in. This does not mean I know exactly what the destination will look like, because I don’t. But what I do celebrate is that God is the One who is leading us. He is moving within our midst and moving us to where He wants us to be, and perhaps more importantly, what He wants us to be. What has remained unchanged in my 10 years at ABC is the firm belief that God is in this. Whatever highs and lows, changes and transitions, we go through as a church, God is in this.

To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)

07Nov '15

Primetime in Motion

November 7, 2015

Deuteronomy 7:7-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

I feel like I have been at ABC a long time but have been a member for between a year and a year-and-a-half, it’s amazing how time flies. In March of this year, I became a leader of ABC’s young adult ministry Primetime.

What led me to become a leader? Being part of the community has made a big impact on my life and I really love and enjoy the company of the people there. I hesitated at first but I believe that God has given me gifts to lead, not so I can boast but it’s a way that I can serve and love on PT by helping out. At times I feel like God allows me to bless people indirectly, but it’s awesome to be a part of a community in faithfulness to God allow our changed lives in Christ to change lives that are desperately in need of Christ.

The most rewarding part of my new role is not necessarily about Primetime directly, but how much closer II have grown in my relationship with the other leaders. As we serve together we strive to support each other through the good times and rough ones as well. It has been a blessing to know those around me have the same heart to see people in PT grow and stubborn enough to keep asking and pursuing Christ for that. The four of us were already friends but I believe that we are becoming more of a family now and I hope that family environment can be seen and pursued after by all the Primetimers. Kingdom work brings people closer together.

The most challenging aspect for me is just being patient and faithful to God to hopefully see people grow and move by the Spirit. On a practical note, I have found it at times times difficult to juggle between my daily responsibilities and Primetime responsibilities. I hope to pursue excellence in everything I do and must be brutally honest with myself as to where I invest most of my time and where that time is needed. First and foremost, I need to remind myself to spend time with the one person that matters most in all of this, which is Christ. Without Him, I cannot do any of this.

So far, Primetime has adjusted and transitioned well and we are thankful to God for it. There is no replacing someone like Kenji who really loved on us and helpped lead this ministry. And I would be lying if I said we are not feeling any effects of that change. That said, it has been really good to see Primetimers still come out and support this ministry. It has been an even bigger blessing to see ABC rally and support us too with members opening up their homes, praying for us and always asking us how we’re doing.

There has been a lot of growing pains in being a leader learning the ins and outs of leadership. Though I want to know all the answers, my dependence on God when it comes to Primetime is crucial. I have had to surrender it all to God on a daily basis. I was ignorant with respect to how much Kenji did every week and it has been a challenge to learn things quickly and make sure that logistically everything runs smoothly every week for Primetime. I am not Kenji and I am not pursuing to be him, but God has given me gifts to hopefully be effective for His Kingdom. Even when I am not effective, he graciously puts people in my life that can be effective in Primetime.

For the church: pray that Primetime continues to be a Gospel centered ministry setting our foundation in Christ and loving each other. Even more than just knowing the Gospel, please pray that we as a ministry start to put hands and feet to the knowledge of the good news of Jesus. We have created this great environment but we cannot hoard it to ourselves. Pray that we are challenged and to step outside of our comfort zones to impact the communities that God has put us in whether that be families, friends, work or other connections. Specifically pray that God continues to use us in supporting our outreach to the ESLIM program and pray for more opportunities for PT to serve.

23Oct '15

Change: Always a Constant

October 23, 2015

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NASB).

These are familiar verses to many, popularized by Pete Seeger in the late 1950’s in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (“To everything there is a season”). For me, the passage resonates on many levels. The autumn air has brought with it first frosts and brilliant foliage colors. Recently, my beloved hit a milestone birthday – honestly, any time we can mark another birthday is cause for celebration!

Our church family moved into its current facility after years of being mobile, beginning in Vienna, then migrating out to Centreville and now in Chantilly. Our children’s ministry director and family pursued their calling in Costa Rica. College students we have known for years left to pursue missions overseas. And our associate pastor and his family took the initiative to plant a new community church. All this has made me pause and reflect on what God is doing in my own life. What will the next chapter or season look like?

Change is the only true constant. Our responses and attitudes toward the winds of change is all that we can control. That’s what I’ve heard through 20-plus years of my career. It’s a good perspective to have in all aspects of life.

I’m used to change. I’m used to uprooting every two or three years. Growing up I learned that “home” was not the structure, but where my family resided. In my profession where I may spend half the time on the road, I have learned to limit my material belongings to a carry-on and personal bag. So I never expected that the church-planting project that was the impetus for such excitement and spiritual growth in me would become a fond memory.

Back then we were challenged to daily walk by faith as we never knew what lay around the corner or who God would bring to our community, and how He would weave this tapestry of multi-ethnicity. We didn’t know what the final picture would look like. We only imagined it would be beautiful and wonderful, a micro-portrayal of heaven’s glory. I suppose all that is no different today. I still walk by faith daily and I still can’t forecast how my day will go or whom I will run into.

But I somehow managed to plant roots without realizing it. When did I become the tree firmly planted by the streams? Really, the more important question is this: am I one who yields her fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither, and in whatever I do, am prospering? (Psalm 1:3, NASB)

At Ambassador (yeah, I’m one of the few who still associates the ABC acronym as “American Born Chinese” as well as hangs onto good old NASB) we’ve been pruned a few times. We have gone through significant leadership shifts. In those days, the song that played in my head went more like this: “Should I stay or should I go?” In case you’re wondering, that’s circa 1982 by The Clash. Well, I’m still plugged in. The fruit has been sweet. Perhaps not what I would have pictured, but then, I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). I’m merely the clay and not the Master Potter.

Today, I’m at a cross roads again. It’s natural and I ask if it is time to continue letting my roots deepen, or is it time to be pruned and grafted elsewhere?.  I still don’t know how I will answer that question but I am encouraged by the prophet, Jeremiah.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water. That extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NASB).

Meanwhile Phil Wickham’s “This is Amazing Grace” is playing in the background. “Who brings our chaos back into order? Who makes the orphan a son and daughter? The King of Glory, the King above all kings.”  Who, indeed?

He has made everything appropriate in its time, who set eternity in our hearts although we may not yet understand the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NASB)

12Jul '15

Forging Christian Friendships

July 12, 2015

Meaningful friendships share something in common. Would it be sensible to approach another person and simply ask, “Can we be friends?” and expect the depth and constancy of true friendship? No. What is friendship without common ground? Through our relationship with Christ, we have the greatest common ground, the greatest bond and the greatest example of sacrificial and honest friendship. As we engage and dig deep into one another’s lives as friends, we are free to be vulnerable and honest with one another. In other words, we are liberated to be great friends.

Let’s also reflect on the fact that Christianity is the only belief where relationships are eternal. At the next service, take notice of your believing brothers and sisters. Imagine how much more we would pursue worship, community and servant hood with one another knowing our friendship is eternal through Christ. With eternity in mind, would not our perspective on forging deeper Christian friendships be transformed?

Many of my closest friendships have been forged during my 12 years at ABC. My dear brother James Gage and I have shared life through trials, joys, laughter, prayers and burdens through dozens of small group meetings or just catching up over Friday lunches. With candor and counsel, we can share and respond to each other with our needs. I truly feel blessed and touched by His Grace and to be able to share this eternal friendship with James.

I have also been blessed to forge friendships with Tongil Lee and Chris Du. Each of these two brothers had initially sought me out to mentor them. Yet in getting to know them, I have been encouraged and spurred by their walk in the Lord. Though I am old enough to be their uncle, they each have challenged me to reflect and build my own faith and constancy in Christ. Certainly Christian friendship is not limited by, but rather thrives on varied life experience and perspectives.

Spiritual friendship is needed by all of us. To seek and forge Christian friendship is to embrace Christ’s very own friendship and sacrificial love for us.    

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

07Jul '15

Reaching Out: Difficult But Necessary

July 7, 2015

My work as a social worker and a counselor for more than seven years has helped me to understand a thing or two about relationships, especially after numerous hours of counseling dysfunctional marriages and families. Becoming a Navy spouse has also helped me learn a lot about relationships. I cannot say that I am an expert on relationships but I can share some insights from my experiences over the years.

First: relationships – whether dating, marriage, family or friendships – take work and effort in order to keep them strong and intimate. My husband David and I were apart more than together in our first year of marriage. Three months after our twins Ajay and Brad were born (now both 11 years old), my husband was deployed on back-to-back tours in the Persian Gulf on a ship. Through that, David and I learned we need to put in the effort to communicate with one another often despite our lack of energy and time. Along with deployments, another thing about military life is that we had to move often. In our 13 years of marriage, we have moved six times within the U.S. and also overseas. I had only lived in California before marriage, so moving and adjusting to a brand new place every two years was hard to say the least. I also had difficulty in making new friends and getting to know them each time we moved.

Each time however, God was gracious and placed some amazing people in my life wherever we moved. But as hard as it was to constantly make new friends and build those relationships, it was even harder to say goodbye only after a year or two. I know many military spouses would agree with me on this. Many times, I told myself that I would not get to know anyone or get close to anyone because we would have to move again. It would have been easier to not have made friends and spared myself the hurt of separation, but I am so grateful that I took the time and effort to do so. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for these people that God had sovereignly placed in my life. I feel that this is important in the church as well. Sometimes, it’s so easy to take how we see each other every week for granted and be complacent about our relationships. But we need to continue to work hard and build relationships in the church as long as it is called today.

Second: relationships are about doing life together and investing in others. As a social worker and counselor, I used to think that building and maintaining a relationship was all about effective communication. I still believe that but now also believe it is about experiencing life together, especially in this fast-paced and transient society. We have a completely different culture and society today than what I grew up in. People do not have time for an hour-long counseling session or other long conversation. If they do, it might occur via a FaceTime or other conference call. I know for some ladies, this is hard to get used to because they enjoy the one-on-one time together. That said, I think it is great that we can still directly communicate with each other in less traditional ways through social media and technology. Doing life together is about connections with one another through the day or week in whatever way is feasible.

People are busy and on-the-move, so we need to be creative with our time. If you cannot go out for coffee due to the kids’ schedules, then invite them over to the house for coffee. Some of the younger ladies just want to hang out and do life together. Some of them also want to know what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom or what marriage is like. They don’t mind hanging out and chatting while you prep dinner, walk the dog or take care of the kids. This is what I believe organic mentoring is: sharing life experiences, helping ladies through life and coming along side of them. This is a perfect opportunity for more mature ladies to mentor and invest in younger ladies as instructed in Titus 2:3-4: to train the younger ladies to love their husbands and their children through living and sharing life together.

(Mentoring is something that Women’s Winistry is very passionate about. If you are interested, please contact the leadership team for Women’s Ministry.)

Third: relationships are about connections with one another. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines a relationship as “the way in which two or more people or things are connected.” When I first came to ABC, I fell in love with the people but it was hard to get to know the ladies. I started to connect with some of the ladies and suggested we hang out. It started with a couple of us hanging out after church to do nails, then crochet, or just have lunch. To my surprise, the ladies loved getting together with each other but did not think to do this with other women. They just thought the women were too busy with their families and didn’t want to bother them. So I prayed to the Lord about what I could do for Him in Virginia and how He could use me here.

Then last year, Rose asked me if I would be willing to help run events for Women’s Ministry to get the women together and to connect with one another. I did not want the commitment but I decided if this is what the Lord wants me to do while I’m in Virginia, then I was willing. At first, I thought how am I glorifying God with just planning events? I first thought event planning was “frivolous” and not very “spiritual,” but I realized that it was a necessary means for women to get together, connect with one another and build relationships. It’s been great to see women enjoy themselves at these monthly events and meet other ladies that they normally would not otherwise at church. Planning these events have been really fun for me but also a way for me to give back to ABC and to the Lord.

Fourth: relationships are risky. At our women’s retreat this last February, speaker Tracie Nall spoke about how we can remove our masks and hidden identities, then put on the identity that God has given us – that we are a Child of God and that we are Loved. It is important in a relationship and also in the church to remove our masks and hidden identities that we are not willing to let down for whatever reasons. It’s too hard to get to know someone when we are not who we are or who God made us to be. We need to be open and real with each other or the relationship isn’t authentic. There are a lot of hurt and depressed people in the church that feel they cannot be real for fear of judgement. There are also misconceptions over what they are “supposed” to be like as a Christian.

However, we all know that people are not perfect and neither are Christians. That’s why we need Christ, His forgiveness and His grace. We are all in the same boat. No one is better than another person. Some people may perceive that but we need to remove those misconceptions in the church. If people can’t be real at church, where can they find help? After almost three years in Virginia, I have gotten to know some people and I had no idea some of the hurts and pains they are going through because they look happy, well-adjusted and secure on the outside. And the only reason I knew was because I had gotten to know them and started to build a relationship with them. We as a church and as individuals need to convey the message that it is okay to be yourself and it is safe to share with one another without fear of judgment.

How does building relationships affect the church? It’s like breaking down one barrier at a time. I’m not saying that we need to get to know EVERYONE or build relationships with EVERYONE at the church. I am saying we should start with one individual at a time and hopefully cause a domino effect. At our last make up retreat seminar with Tracie Nall, we talked about what the women’s ministry could do? Well, first of all, we need to start with ourselves. We need to make that first move and not wait for someone else to reach out to someone. 

Sometimes, friendships form and just happens which is so great. Other times, you really need to be intentional and seek people out. Since moving to the East Coast, it has been so easy to not go out and just stay home instead because the weather is so bad and unpredictable. In my second year here, I made more of an effort to be more intentional to meet people, ask them out or invite them over. If not, I would have just been happy to be at home, stay warm and watch my Korean dramas. But I know that is not what the Lord wants. He wants me to give of myself for the sake of the church and His people.

Will you join me and pray for God to impress people in your heart that you can minister to or reach out to in the church? Will you pray for someone you can mentor or can mentor you? And lastly will you pray for an obedient and willing heart?

“It’s about our hearts, our time, our talents, and our treasures. We are to be generous, willing to share, and rich in good deeds for the glory of God” – Proverbs 31 ministries.

This is my prayer not only for the ladies of ABC but for the body of Christ at ABC.