Posted by: ywamsam | May 29, 2013

God has a wonderful plan for you! Sort of…

Wow. It’s been forever since I wrote on this blog. Just rereading the entries is bringing back so many memories and emotions. I should probably do this more often.

Well, the fact that I decided to actually write something after so many years of mostly unnoticed absence will tell you that I have something significant to write about. You’d be sorely mistaken. Well, I don’t really have any solid opinions or revelations to share but I want to jot down some thoughts that are captivating most of my attention right now.

I just came back from a short trip to Portland (BTW, Portland is amazing. I would seriously consider moving there in the future.) and visited my lovely friend Jessika who was in my mission trip to Haiti. During my visit to her house, I noticed a book with the title “God has a wonderful plan for your life” with the cover art of a man being stoned by a mob. I asked Jessika about the book. She told me it was a great book and gave a copy for me to read.

I started to read it a bit on the airplane ride back. I didn’t even finish the book but I’m already kind of shaken. From what I can tell, the book tries to debunk the popular ‘hook’ of Christian evangelism going around nowadays.

It basically goes something like this: “God has a wonderful plan for you! Believe in Jesus and He will bring to you life full and abundant! He’ll heal you and bless you and give you the happiness you always wanted!”

This sounds pretty good and maybe even biblical in some regard but the book points out that this is mostly misleading to most people. When people hear this kind of invitation, their general understanding is that God is going to make their life better in some tangible way. Let’s call this the ‘happy Gospel.’ He might not heal all your diseases and all your financial problems but in some shape or form believing in Jesus will improve your life now.

Right?

The book starts off by listing personal as well as biblical examples where the exact opposite proved to be true. The author mentions stories of a pastor being butchered by a member of his church during a counseling session. He tells a story of a beautiful young woman who loved Jesus who was struck by lightning and suffered terrible burns and blindness. He recited early church history where most of the original apostles were martyred in gruesome fashion for their faith.

What if believing in Jesus made your life worse? What if believing in Jesus made your family and friend hate you? What if being a Christian meant you couldn’t find a job to support your family? What if declaring that Jesus is your Lord meant certain death for you and your loved ones?

Intellectually, this certainly isn’t news to me. I knew that most of the apostles were martyred and that hundres of thousands of Christians are martyred around the globe every year. I guess it never struck me that faith in my little bubble of influence might also carry the same cost. I think living my confortable life has made me even believe that believing in Jesus does make your life better here. This is hard for me really digest because then the Gospel becomes a really hard sell. I mean, how do you tell your friend to do something that might make his life worse?

This is especially a ‘hinderance’ in the silicon valley where so many people live in such comfortable lives, myself among them. We make much more money than we need, enjoy the finest food and things this world can offer, and live for our upcoming vacation for our next great experience. When life is this good, who needs God? When people are already quite happy and content with life where they are, why do they need Jesus? This questions slaps the ‘happy Gospel’ in the face.

Fortunately, I don’t live in a society where being a Christian would mean terrible persecution. Sure, we might feel pressure from some liberal entities in our lives but we probably won’t face bodily harm. But what if I lived somewhere where being Christian could actually get you killed? How do I go around telling people about Jesus then?

I think what I’m trying to really understand here is what the Gospel really is, to grasp what the promise is despite what the cost might be. The Gospel doesn’t promise a more pleasant life. It promises righteousness by faith before a Holy God. The Gospel declares that all of mankind falls short of the standard of perfection upcoming judgement before the Creator. It tells of a loving God who provided a way for people to be rescued from this judgement at His personal great cost, his one and only Son. It promises that by believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will receive the righteousness of Jesus so that you may enjoy an eternity worshiping this wonderful and loving God. It warns that believing in Jesus might bring about persecution, pain, and even death but assures you that He is worth it.

All of this, I knew in my head but for some reason, this is currently rocking my world. I know I’ve missed huge chunks of theology and I might have painted an overtly pessimistic outlook of the Christian faith. If you’re especially concerned about what I’ve said here, please feel free to get in touch with me. This post wasn’t meant to be especially coherent or revolutionary. I just needed a place to write down these racing thoughts.

All in all, I’m at a place where I need to really sit down and consider what the Gospel means to me. I can’t really tell people about it if I don’t really understand it myself, now, can I? Hopefully I’ll follow up with an update to this post someday.

Posted by: ywamsam | April 14, 2011

e-mail newsletter

i just sent out my lat e-mail newsletter and i thought i’d post it here as well:

Hello dear family and friends,

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve come back from Haiti. I am so sorry that I did not write sooner. I’ve been trying to figure out what the heck just happened in the three months I spent in Haiti. I don’t think I have processed everything yet but I at least feel a bit more prepared to share about my experience.

In the very beginning, I signed up for the Justice DTS hoping to fight against injustice around the world. I wanted to shut down brothels and bring sex traffickers to justice. I had a very specific view of injustice and a very specific idea of how to fight it. However, through this DTS I realized that the world isn’t so black and white and it isn’t so easy to bring about justice.

Our team arrived in Haiti filled with hopes of bringing about justice to the Haitian populace. Soon after arriving in Haiti, though, we realized that there are no easy solutions to Haiti’s problems. Personally, it really hit home for me when I was talking with a prostitute in a tent city. After hearing her story of choosing to go into prostitution because there simply were no alternatives, I realized that her home has become her brothel and her pimp’s name was poverty. I realized that I couldn’t just shut down a few brothels to rid Haiti of injustice. I realized that Haiti had to be brought out of poverty.

Haiti has sometimes been called the “NGO blackhole” as there has been so much foreign aid poured into it with so little improvement. We shortly realized that with so much corruption present in every level of authority ranging from government officials to pastors, no change can be made to the nation without first changing the leaders. So whenever possible, we tried our best to invest in the leaders in the local community. We spent a lot of time teaching them skills in areas ranging from leadership, English, and business. Oftentimes, they literally lived with us.

Through spending a lot of time with the locals, we also came to understand the dire need for a biblical foundation of faith among Haitians. Almost every Haitian we met said they know Jesus and love Him but when asked “why?” they would usually respond with something akin to the prosperity Gospel: “He gives me money,” or “He keeps me healthy.” For most Haitians, church has become a very routine aspect of their lives: they know all the songs, they know when to shout “alleluia!”, they know when to clap, etc.. Oftentimes this made for frustrating grounds for ministry. Haitians were more than willing to accept our gifts, songs, and drama but when it came to sharing a message, it often felt like the Haitians were brushing aside the message as something they already knew. It was hard to really communicate to them the need for a Savior rather than a personal genie. So whenever the opportunity was present we tried to share with them the biblical idea of who Jesus really is. We even hosted a week-long seminar where we taught biblical views on topics ranging from Father’s heart, Word of God, and sexual purity.

Though we invested much of our time and effort into producing long-term change, we also did a lot of work for short-term benefit. To name just a few, we spent a lot of time at orphanages to play with the children, we visited many tent cities to pray for the residents and to hand out food, we built a pump for a well at an orphanage, we started an international investigation into a possible pedophile who ran an orphanage. Though these ministries probably won’t change the nation, we felt that we still could not ignore those immediately around us who needed our help.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Haiti still remains in poverty. The reality is that to many of my friends I made in Haiti, poverty is still their daily reality. Because of this, I think I will eventually go back to Haiti. I have not quite recovered from this experience yet but once I have finished processing all that has happened, I am sure my heart for Haiti will beat again.

As said earlier, I started off on the trip looking to change Haiti. But as cliché as it sounds, it was Haiti that changed me. Through living amidst the daily craziness of life in Haiti, I became more flexible in my general attitude and more longsuffering in tough times. Also, I am now a lot more open to future opportunities abroad. Now that I have actually spent a decent amount of time in a really foreign country, I want to find out what other experiences and opportunities are out there.

My relationship with God has changed quite a bit through this experience as well. One huge thing God has begun to teach me through this time is how He loves me. Personally, it is really hard for me to understand and accept that He truly and unconditionally loves me. I knew this in my head because I heard it all the time but I realized that I still believed that some of it had to be conditional. I am starting to slowly understand what His unconditional love is like. Quite frankly, it is beyond understanding. I think this is going to be a long lesson.

This e-mail has grown quite long but it is still far too short to adequately describe my experience in Haiti. I would really love to talk to you more about Haiti and how it has changed me. (And I really do mean it.) Let’s schedule a time to skype, talk on the phone, or *gasp* meet in person!

I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for walking with me in this season of life through your financial and prayer support. God has truly blessed me with so many wonderful family and friends that I do not deserve.

Thank you.

PS: if you haven’t, you can check out these photos I posted on Facebook of my trip here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2439632&id=6416772&l=bb4fc565e9

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2442235&id=6416772&l=0ff5cc2d0a

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2447745&id=6416772&l=b23874e8c2

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2452389&id=6416772&l=15dbc94402

i’ll be writing more updates regarding Haiti in the future. so hang in there folks!

Posted by: ywamsam | March 23, 2011

post-haiti

Sorry this is coming so late. I wish I could say that I was processing and thinking super hard for the past week after the DTS but honestly, I was just being lazy and not doing anything. And it was great.

The DTS wrapped up nicely two Thursdays ago. We had a few days where the whole Justice DTS crew got together and debriefed together. We shared some God-stories from each of the outreach teams and we also took time to discuss what was going on in our heads after outreach in small groups. Honestly, though, the week was so crazy with trying to hang out with people before we all separated that I hardly felt “debriefed” when the week was over.

Inevitably, the time came for us to depart Kona, Hawaii. A few people actually left before Friday but most people left on Friday. As the inevitable drew near I became more and more anxious. I could not bear the thought of being separated from my outreach family who have been such a source of strength and encouragement for the past three months. Alas, try as I might, I could not stop time. In a blink of an eye, it was time for me to leave the YWAM campus for Kona airport. It was hard saying good-bye to my beloved outreach team. Really, really hard. Painful as it may be, time still moving and I was in Honolulu reunited with another family later that day.

I really thank God that I could stay in Honolulu for a few days before heading back to California. I believe God really worked on my issue of feeling loved and accepted through the DTS. Because of the love and acceptance I received from my outreach family, I could appreciate my real family even more. Because of the environment I grew up in, I think I had a hard time feeling accepted. I kind of knew my family loved me and cared for me but for some reason I still felt a bit distant from them. During this visit, though, I was really able to appreciate how much they really love and cared for me. So for the past few days, I’ve been just basking in the comfort and luxury of home.

I had a bit of time to reflect on the outreach as well. Like I said before, I wasn’t thinking super hard but I did think a little. There were a lot of things I am still trying to figure out and I think I’ll start to share about them in the next post. For now, I am in the middle of the Pacific Ocean flying to California. I have a few interviews coming up and a lot of things to take care of to get settled in. It will be a pretty hectic few days. It feels really weird to be going back to California after six months. Stay tuned for what God has in store for me in this next chapter of my life.

Posted by: ywamsam | March 5, 2011

Surreality

How do I start this? I wish I had a better way to start this post. It seems like a cop-out to simply state that I do not know how to start this post. I feel a real writer would actually come up with an adequate start instead of simply stating the fact that she is inept to do so. Alas, that is all I can say.

Disclaimer: I just finished watching King’s Speech on the airplane so please understand if the post seems extra dry. Also, if you have not, you need to watch the movie. Fantastic work of film. Probably one of my favorites already.

I am on the plane from Miami to LAX as I write this post. We left Haiti last afternoon and arrived in Miami in the evening. The entire process seemed surreal. (I suspect I will be using ‘surreal’ quite often in this post. Please bear with me.) We loaded up the luggage and filed into the all-too-familiar Ford truck that fateful day (which is currently called yesterday). We left the house and after a typical 30 minute drive through Port-au-Prince, we were at the airport. We got ripped off buying drinks and people hollered at us for a dollar; business as usual. We unloaded the truck, checked in our baggage, and walked through immigrations. Before you know it, we were in the waiting area for our flight to leave.

Even the waiting area seemed worlds apart from the reality that was only a brick wall away. People of all color were present in the waiting room; well-dressed, well-to-do men and women waiting patiently for their flight drinking their espresso. It seemed so surreal that only 15 minutes ago we were fighting off Haitians who tried to “help” us with our luggage to earn a buck. After a few hours of uneventful waiting, we boarded our plane. The plane wheeled over to the taxi area. After a few moment of the typical wait, the plane rapidly picked up speed. After it picked up enough velocity, it picked up altitude. Just like that, we were no longer in Haiti.

After an unbelievably brief flight, we descended into American airspace. Overwhelming sense of relief came over me as soon as I noticed the neat, well-lighted block grids of Miami. We safely landed into Miami international airport, and then we walked through the overwhelmingly sterile airport. We went through the usual international arrival process of the long lines of immigration and picked up our luggage. We called the hotel to request a pick-up. Shortly after, we were in our rooms getting ready to venture out and devour our first meal back in America. A friend and I settled on Subway in the plaza adjacent to the hotel for our first meal. We genuinely looked like retards as we stared at the fresh vegetables behind the transparent counter. I could not contain my excitement and joy as I cautiously named my meat, cheese, and vegetables of choice. We sat down, prayed the most sincere prayer of gratitude in my life, and proceeded to eat. My friend almost started to cry as she ate her chicken bacon ranch flatbread sandwich. Then I started to slowly realize that I am not in Haiti and noticed the simple things of America.

I noticed the empty parking lot next to the restaurant with clean, neat parking lines marking parking spaces which were thoroughly respected by patrons of various mega-chain stores. I noticed the lack of honking horns as cars drove by. I noticed that electricity was present but the obnoxious rattling of a generator was absent. I noticed the conversations carried out in English by fellow customers at Subway. I noticed that I was eating at a freaking Subway. I was not in Haiti anymore.

I did not think this moment would ever come but somehow I have made it through 79 days in Haiti. I distinctly remember our first full day in Haiti. I remember when the reality that I was in Haiti hit me like a ton of bricks sitting on a broken laz-e-boy chair. I remember trying desperately to figure out a perspective of time to make the stay in Haiti seem shortest. “Should I think of it in percents? I can think of every week as 10%. After bearing through a few more days, I will be ten percent through outreach already!” I could not bring myself to simply count the days. 79 was too high a number to count. I remember trying to concoct a brilliant plan to pull off an honorable discharge from the outreach. Perhaps I could break a leg or become infected with malaria. Of course, the damage could not permanent.

No matter how hard it was, time still moved on. Slowly but surely, we reached ten percent, then twenty, then thirty, and then forty. Then we moved to Port-au-Prince. Fifty percent. Sixty percent. Seventy percent. We moved to Jacmel. Eighty percent. Ninety percent. We came back to Port-au-Prince. After a week, it was time to leave and the completion percentage was three digits.

So that’s where we stand, friends. The surreality of America is all around me. I am still not sure how I feel about all this. Currently, I am just so relieved to be back in America. I am afraid that if I am not careful I will simply over-indulge in my comforts to make up for lost time. After a week, or a month, or a year, perhaps I will be able to process all these emotions. But for now, I am back in America and I think it feels good.

Thank you for all your prayers.

 

Posted by: ywamsam | March 1, 2011

The next step

Outreach is almost over. I’ve been saying that for the last few posts now but I really mean it this time. It’s probably going to be over by the time you read this post. (For those of you who read my blog only when I guilt trip you into reading it (you know who you are), outreach would have been over for a while now. It’s OK. I still love you.) Sorry that was quite a long digression. I will try to refrain from them as much as possible. I know how annoying digressions are when you’re looking for a solid juicy blog. Isn’t that the most annoying thing ever? Anyway, I digress. Aw, crap. Anyway, yeah, outreach is almost over.

With the end of outreach being so near come waves of emotions. The two main emotions currently are sadness and fear. I am in much sorrow when I think of the quickly approaching end of the DTS when I will have to say farewell to my beloved teammates. Thinking about it makes me want to cry already. I have truly been blessed with absolutely wonderful teammates and I will miss them dearly. (Don’t get the wrong idea, Melina. Your face still smells like butt.) I cannot imagine the first morning when I wake up and there aren’t 13 other people roaming around the house. I suppose all good things must come to an end. (If you just agreed to what I said, shame on you. God doesn’t end. Tsk tsk.) Sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I’m just full of irrelevant jokes. Maybe it’s my defense mechanism.

I am also fearful of my future. To clarify, I am afraid of making the wrong choice regarding my future. Currently, I am considering two main options. First option, return to Korea. Second option, stay in California and get a job. If I return to Korea I will probably have to serve at the Korean army unless a miracle happens. Throughout the DTS and the outreach, God has put Korea on my heart through various people and events. I am not sure why He did but I feel like He did. Returning to California is a much safer and logical option. I could probably get a job as an engineer. I could get paid and pay off my loans. Maybe even support missionaries. I was pretty set on Korea until yesterday when I got an e-mail from a recruiter from Google. It was not even a request for an interview but it was amazing how quickly I started considering staying in California to work for Google.

Being part of YWAM gave me a whole new perspective on life. The American dream that I worked hard for seemed so dull and mundane. Adventures on the mission field seemed so much more attractive compared to the weekly cycle of the Bay area life. I didn’t know I was so adventurous until I got to Haiti. I realized that there is so much more to discover in life than the next pay raise. I felt like going to Korea was a way to continue this ridiculous adventure. I have no idea why I should go to Korea to very possibly serve in the Korean army for two years but I did not care. I think I wanted to go there even more because of the uncertainty.

The conservative side of me is crying all the while for me to be more rational. I should get a job at least to pay off my loans and taxes. Then I can consider doing all the crazy stuff I want to do. I was trying pretty hard to just ignore my rational side but the Google e-mail got the better of me. Now, I am just not sure. It sounds so nice to be able to get a job, pay off my loans, have some cash in my back account, and flush toilet paper down the toilet all day.

What’s interesting is that I feel like God is giving me complete freedom in this decision. You would think the freedom of choice would make it easier but actually it is making it very difficult for me. Some call it the paralysis of choice. If I knew exactly what God wanted me to do, life would be so much easier! Curse this free will! (Just kidding, God. I very much appreciate Your gift of free will.) But yeah, on one hand, I have reckless, irrational adventure while on the other I have logical, responsible certainty.

So I am praying about what I should do like a mad man. God is continuing to remind me of His love and grace in this time of decision but I still have this terrible mindset that I will choose wrong and forever fall away from God’s plan. I genuinely believe it would be right to choose either course. And that makes the decisions all the more difficult. Please pray for God’s wisdom and peace as I walk through this time of monumental decision.

Meanwhile, here are the near-future plans I know for sure:
3/4 – leave Haiti for Kona
3/11 – leave Kona for Honolulu
3/23 – leave Honolulu for SFO

For those of you I’ll see soon…. I will see you soon?

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