Archive for ‘Family’

January 2, 2013

The Unanswered Prayer

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My dad is the youngest of five siblings. With 20 years that separate him and his oldest brother, there comes a lot of family in between the two. Growing up, I knew I had a lot of cousins, nieces, and nephews in Korea that I never met or knew too well. Even to this day, I don’t know the exact number of relatives I have back in the motherland. So whenever I get the opportunity to talk to or meet one of these distant family members, the experience is always so foreign and awkward. We’ve lived the majority of our lives halfway across the world from each other, and yet, are somehow connected because of a familial bond.

This past spring I was again confronted with a similar situation. Seong-Sil (Sung-Shil, 성실) was my dad’s niece’s daughter, thereby making her my niece. With aspirations to study English and experience the States on a budget, she ventured out to Iowa to spend a year taking classes. She came to visit us in Connecticut this past May with her mom and cousin after her spring semester was over. Over the handful of Facebook and IM conversations we had beforehand, SS seemed to be a very bright and sociable girl. She proved to be no different in person. Immediately, I could tell that SS was someone with great ambition. She wasn’t afraid to go on an adventure, and would probably want to discover all of Manhattan alone if we let her. She valued family very much. When my aunt was sick and going through chemotherapy treatments, she offered to come back to Connecticut to help my parents with her. I find it amazing to believe that God created each and every single one of us in our own uniqueness, but then I meet a girl like SS and know that He really is that sovereign.

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While visiting us in CT, SS takes a walk around our neighborhood.

Earlier this evening, that same spunk and spirit went to be with the Lord again. Here on earth, her parents, brother, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, classmates, and church community mourn her loss. No one should ever have to leave everything behind at the ripe age of twenty, but that’s what God had in store for her.

Even as someone in full-time ministry, I find myself having a hard time seeing God’s sovereignty in all of this. SS had so much going for her and was so young, why take her away now? Without any seeming reason or foreseeable warning, she was gone in a moment’s notice. I can’t help but glance through her Facebook page and see all the posts on her wall of encouragements, well wishes, and prayers that she would awaken from her coma healthy. In all their earnest and genuine heart, so many of SS’ loved ones prayed diligently for her recovery. How would they now respond after hearing of her passing? Will her parents find healing after having to bury their own child? Did God really leave all those prayers unanswered?

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Gospel Connection: We can never comprehend God’s will in its entirety (Rom. 9:14-24). But what we do know is that everything is possible through prayer under the name of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-11; John 14:12-14; 1 John 5:13-15). SS’ friends’ prayers indeed were heard and answered. They prayed that she would awaken, and she was, to the joyful noise of the Savior’s Good News. They prayed for many blessings, and she was met with them in the form of her loving church body during her hour of greatest need. And they prayed that they would get to see her again, and because of what is promised in Scripture, they will on the day our Lord returns.

The only prayer God ever left unanswered was Jesus’ prayer in the garden at Gethsemane. The Father, in full confrontation of His Son’s anguish, chose not to remove that cup from him. Because Jesus’ prayer was rejected on the night of his death, we can now have our’s answered. It is through this very pain and loss do we, as fellow heirs, have a God who suffers with us. A God who answers us. And in the glorious victory of the Resurrection, we see hope for a world that is broken, but going to be restored to the way things should be. This post is dedicated to my loving niece, for giving your inadequate uncle such peace. We love you and miss you.

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Seong-Sil Park
Mar 13, 1992 – Jan 02, 2013

January 29, 2012

Love at First Sight

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My winter vacation is coming to a bittersweet end.  These past six weeks have been the most physically-draining, emotionally-taxing, yet spiritually-vibrant month-and-a-half of my life.  After all the retreats and related preparation, it’s funny to think that a new semester will be a “lighter load” than what I’ve just experienced.  But through the grace of God, I was able to spend the last couple days of my break with good food, great friends, and an amazing family.

I’m very close with much of my extended family on my mom’s side (my dad’s side is all in Korea, so I haven’t been able to see them in years).  Amongst the seven of our cousins and two in-laws, we call ourselves “Operation Super Pew.”  It’s our eldest cousin’s dream for all of us to attend the same church and occupy an entire pew to ourselves (which we’ve executed on a couple of occasions).  Three weeks ago, we added an addition to the Operation.  My cousin, Betty, and her husband, Kyung, gave birth to a beautiful daughter, and I had the privilege this past week to meet that little bundle of joy.

I guess you could call me a romantic.  I enjoy chick flicks and Korean dramas, and am decently aware of all the cliches and “events” that couples do for each other.  But even in my affinity for the cheesy and tacky, I never really believed in “love at first sight.”  We’re familiar with the scene in movies where the male protagonist walks into a bar, and standing across the room is his female counterpart, whom he falls head-over-heels for at initial glance.  Given my objective nature and accounting background, there are too many factors to consider and a number of intangibles that are being overlooked for LAFS to be possible.  But then I met my niece, Evangeline… and all that went out the window.

For being only three weeks old, she was the most expressive and most innocent person I’ve ever met in my life.  My Facebook photos don’t serve justice to how many of the beautiful faces she was capable of in the fleeting moments that I was able to hold her.  My cousin told me she probably doesn’t even know what faces she’s making or which emotions are connected to certain expressions, but I like to think she does.  Why?  Looking at that picture (above), seeing her smile, and knowing she’s happy … there’s no other feeling quite like it.

Gospel Connection:  As I held Evangeline for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel how much love I had for her.  There was something within me that convicted me to pray for her the moment I was told that she was conceived.  There is something within me that makes me miss her a great deal already.  And there will always be something within me that will look out for her best interests.  And yet, how much more did, does, and will God forever love us, His children!  Before our conception, to this very day, and in the many years to come, God manifested His complete and genuine love for us in the Son, Jesus Christ.  I like to call it the “cosmic love at first sight.”

As I held Evangeline, I couldn’t help but think, “I would give up everything for this child.  I would die for this kid.”  In that moment, I was able to catch a glimpse of the sacrifice that God made for His children.  But just as quickly as that moment came, it was surpassed by the reality that any sacrifice that I could make for her had it’s limits.  As I’m sure my cousins would share the same sentiment of unconditional love for their new daughter, whatever sacrifice they make for her would be conditional.  If we as human beings chose to give up our lives for the sake of a loved one, at best, that would only temporarily alleviate discomfort or prolong that person’s life for a couple more years.  But to fully understand the Gospel and the implications of the Cross, we must come to grips with exactly what was being lost, and what was being gained.  The everlasting, all-loving, and all-powerful God of the universe decided to incarnate Himself in the person of Jesus, so that through His death, sinners like us could have life.  So while my or my cousins’ decision to sacrifice everything for Evangeline samples that love, the complete expression of it is something we may never fully understand.

But the Gospel never stops there.  In the picture of the Resurrection, we are given that new life.  Jesus provides for us the answer in which we don’t have to make that sacrifice ever again.  We are no longer ruled by the limitations of human will and the slavery of sin, but given eternal life under the blood of Christ.  I praise the Lord for my sake, my family’s sake, certainly Evangeline’s sake, and hopefully for your’s, that this is the assurance that we can place our hopes in.

November 6, 2011

3 Korean guys, 2 rakes, and a leaf-blower

Whenever I come home to Connecticut, my stay seems to be categorized into certain roles that I am to play for my family.  The following is a list of such roles:

    • English translator – my mom will save a bunch of letters/notices that she got in the mail from banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, car dealership, etc. since the last time I was home, and ask me to translate what they mean.  Essentially, she wants to know if the aforementioned entities are trying to bill her any random charges because she doesn’t fluently read English.  Most often than not, it’ll be spam mail or standard notices of obscure procedures the consumer doesn’t have to worry about.  You would think that my brother would be able to do this, but his response is always, “Ask Nameun when he gets home.”
    • Garlic peeler – self-explanatory, especially if you come from a Asian-/Korean-American household.  For some reason, there’s always garlic to peel when I come home.
    • Baker – I follow after my mom in that I have a huge sweet tooth.  She always stocks up on box-brand brownie, cake, and/or bread mixes in the house, so I can make them for the family whenever I come home.  It doesn’t take much to read instructions off a box or pre-heat an oven, but for some reason, “it always tastes better made by my hands” (her exact words, translated literally from Korean).
    • Cashier – being small-business owners, my parents will always take the opportunity now to station me at the store to have me close.  I don’t mind it so much anymore.  It gives them a couple hours off their regular 12-hour daily shifts, and me an opportunity to catch up on reading or watch TV (something I don’t have at school or even at home anymore).
    • Cheap manual labor – this one is seasonal.  If it’s the summer, this role manifests itself as Lawn Mower.  If it’s the winter, Snow Shoveler.  If it’s the spring, (because we live in New England) a combination of any of the two just mentioned.  And like today, if it’s the fall, Leaf Blower/Raker.

My dad told me to come home early from church today (a.k.a. no ritual golfing after service) to help clean the leaves that had accumulated on our lawn.  When my dad, brother and I get to working this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the work dynamic that took place.  I got outside first, grabbed a rake, and started “priming” the lawn to make it easier for either my dad or brother to blow.  My dad automatically goes for the blower first, most likely because he doesn’t trust either of his sons to carry out “Operation Clean Leaves” as was planned out in his head.  My brother stumbles out later, grabs the other rake and begins working on the front lawn (where the leaves are most visible to third parties, not worrying about the side or back lawns, because people driving by our house/guests can’t see those areas).

Eventually, my dad calls for us to stop whatever we thought was the most efficient way to go about raking the leaves, to help him execute “Operation Clean Leaves” as he devised.  More for the reason of not wanting to hear him nag, the Cho sons relent to his dictatorship.  After about an hour or so, the work gets done fairly efficiently, and we’re all pretty content with our productivity.  I know that if I wasn’t home, it would have taken them a lot longer to finish the job than desired.

Gospel Connection: The initial GC that I crafted in my head revolved around something like “teamwork” and how each member of the body of the Church plays a different role. But here’s the revised GC after reflecting on this episode a little more.

I don’t get to spend too much quality time with my family.  Given that I’m fairly reserved in my emotions and affection towards them to begin with, I’m almost rarely home for too long because of the responsibilities I have in Boston/at GCTS.  Although not very much affection was expressed in words during the course of our leaf-cleaning activity, it was still quality time nonetheless.  I know my dad appreciated my help, the time we were able to spend together, and having done so without a begrudging attitude.  Honor your mother and father.  Sometimes, it just looks different for some people.

September 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bro.

As someone going into ministry, I consider a lot of people “dear brothers in Christ”:  many of my peers, nearly all my mentors, and the tens of students I encounter on a week-in and week-out basis.  However, I only have one blood-brother and today is his 25th birthday.  This post is dedicated to him.

Above is a picture of us during our childhood.  As you can probably tell, I am the one on the left.  Fittingly so, my brother posted this picture up on his Facebook with a caption that read, “I still bother him to this day.”

My brother and I are the only two children in our household, so growing up we were practically joined at the hip.  As the picture may connote of our relationship, he did bother me very much as a kid.  We fought a good amount.  However, we also got along better than most other siblings.  Some memorable moments of our childhood (in no particular order):

  1. During my first encounter at a swimming pool, I decided to play “big boy” and jump into 5 feet deep water.  Mind you, I was only used to playing in the urine-infested kiddie pool, had absolutely no idea how to swim and was probably only about 2 feet tall.  The only thing I remember is seeing blue, aspirating bubbles, feeling utter panic, then being rescued shortly after.  My brother had seen my act of courageous stupidity from the other side of the pool and ran over as fast as he could.  Ironically, I would become a lifeguard some 15 years later.
  2. In Korea, I used to get bullied a lot (I think?).  Maybe it was because I was way too cute for the other children or because I had a head three times the size proportionate to my body.  One day at the playground, kids decided to take fuzzy/spiky pine cone things and throw them at me.  In my wailing cry for help, my brother rushed over and threw his body over me until they stopped (I don’t actually remember this story, but my brother insists that it happened, so I’ll take his word for it… being it’s his birthday and all).
  3. My brother was invited to a birthday party when he was about 6 or 7 years old.  Being a spoiled 4 or 5 year old, I begged and cried to my mom to let me tag along.  She helplessly relented.  The party venue was this cool ceramic shop where they let kids paint sculptures of their favorite cartoon characters.  My brother picked out this awesome mini-statue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo.  Likewise, I picked a face-mask piece of Leonardo, which I still have it to this day.  A couple days after the party, I broke Michelangelo while playing with him.

There are countless stories I could tell you about our childhood.  But they all follow a basic pattern: whatever he did, I followed.  We dressed the same.  I played flute in elementary school because he did (I mean… what kind of 4th grade boy would voluntarily play flute??).  I looked forward to the times during the school day when his friends would call me “Lil’ Cho.”  I played volleyball in high school ’cause of him.  You name it, I followed.

Although we’ve grown apart a little, and now people actually think I am the older brother (kekeke), we still remain close.  We’ve had our arguments and blow-outs in the past, but he’s always remained loyal and was there to my rescue.  I’ve also witnessed him serving in an integral part for our English Ministry and Youth Group back home over the past year, and it’s been one of the exclusive reasons to why I fell in love with our home church again.  I look forward to the days where we can serve together in the name of Jesus.

Friends come and go, but blood will always run through your veins.

Gospel Connection: How precious still is the blood Christ?

September 21, 2011

The Connecticut Confederates

In my previous entry I shared about why I stopped blogging back in high school/college.  This entry will articulate one of the reasons why I decided to get back into it.  Enjoy!

A couple days ago, I stumbled upon a particular blog that had me hooked from the get-go.  For sake of anonymity, let’s call this blogger PA.  Why did PA have me hooked to his blog?  Much like myself, he is involved in ministry, but is far along his life-path than I am along mine.  He is married, has five children, and is the senior pastor of a growing church.  With solely those 3 qualifications/characteristics right there, you can already tell that he would have a plethora of stories to tell… and he does.  Since day one, I’ve been glued to my screen reading countless stories (mainly about his family) that are both hysterical and horrifying.

My parents asked me on a number of occasions during my childhood and teenage years how many kids I wanted when I had a family of my own.

Without hesitation, I would reply: Six.

Their reaction: [short pause] Good luck finding a wife.

Why did I (or do I still?) want six kids?  Initially, it was because I had been caught up in volleyball fever during my high-school-heyday.  For those of you who’ve never played or seen organized volleyball, there are six players on each side of the court.  Essentially, I wanted to be able to breed and grow my own volleyball team- as if there was gonna be a professional league of family volleyball teams in the distant future, I wanted my kids to dominate said league.  I would name my team, “The Connecticut Confederates.”  Why you ask?  Three reasons:

  1. I’m from Connecticut and we’ve never had our own professional sports team.  (We’ve always had a baseball-identity crisis sandwiched between the Yankees and Red Sox, and we share the Patriots with five other states… I don’t know about you, but I hated sharing as a kid).
  2. Confederates would be an ironic mascot to represent a team from Connecticut.  God has a sense of humor, why can’t I?
  3. I was always a fan of alliteration.

Having decided to go into full-time ministry 1.5 years ago, I began to lose hope in this dream of mine.  I’ve heard it say that it takes a net worth of over $1 million to raise one child during the course of his/her life.  Let’s face it, it’s not like I’m going to be bringing in the big bucks here either on the path I’m headed.  So I convinced myself to be “realistic” and settled for the hope of having just three children. (Note: this is not to minimize the joy of having just one or two children. My argument here is not “more children = more happiness and/or value.” Please don’t be offended if you are the proud parent of one or two children!)

Then I read PA’s blog.  Given my circumstances, I may be at a very similar position to where he was at the age of 23.  Now, he’s the proud father of five beautiful children.  Lord willing, I could still have six children.  Maybe all I have is one.  What if my future wife and I cannot bear our own children?  What if I continue my ministry solo?  The Apostle Paul was celibate and actually encouraged Christians to remain single (1 Cor. 7)**.  The point is, I don’t know what my life will look like in the next 10, 20, or 50 years.  The only constant I know I will have is Jesus himself.

**This is a less common spiritual gift, so for those of you worrying about whether or not you are called to it, you’re probably not (seeing as how you’re worrying about it).  So you can stop sweating bullets now.

Gospel Connection: The Lord provides.  No matter what.  As if the Cross wasn’t enough, I am faced with countless blessings intruding my every day.