Archive for the ‘Reminders’ Category

Small fish

There was a noticeable shift in the air that first week of November, as people started to realize how much was sitting on their plate, thinking about their second memos (I spent way too much time on it for a pass/fail class…), what they might want to do this summer (…but it’s partly because I want to use the memo as a writing sample for summer job applications), and outlining for finals. Now that it’s December, with just a few days of classes left, there’s been another shift. People are back from their trips home for Thanksgiving, and it’s time to get cracking. There is much to do—too much to do—and every time I leave the library after a 3 or 4 or 5 hour study session, with my eyeballs tired and neck stiff, I wonder how it’s all going to turn out. Studying is tiresome, especially when there’s so little reward or feeling of accomplishment after putting in long hours.

But that’s school. Now to life and real learning…

It’s amazing how here in this part of New York City, I am just a small fish. I look around on campus and assume everyone around me is brilliant at what they do. It is both encouraging and humbling to meet other Christians in other programs at Columbia who are all so “ahead” in life and people at church whose academic pedigrees make Columbia seem like a safety school (a lot of lawyers from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, people in finance and consulting who went to H, Y, S, Princeton, UPenn-Wharton undergrad). They tend to marry or date people from other high-power backgrounds, so it’s just a little overwhelming for this little USC Trojan. I see a lot of international Asian students when I study at the other Columbia libraries who most likely not only come from wealthy families (like those at USC) but also are really smart (at least that’s what I assume when they’ve got their math and engineering books open). There are a decent number of international JD students from Asia who studied at top Ivies or liberal arts colleges in the States and have been all over Asia, Europe, and Australia. The LLM students have all been practicing law for several years in their home countries or abroad (abroad meaning not in their home country and not in the US), and many of them in corporate law, so they tend to dress in nice coats and wear nice shoes (especially the Europeans) and I hear foreign languages all the time as I walk around the law school. There will be two people speaking in Spanish in front of me and then when a non-Spanish-speaking friend comes around they’ll convert to perfect English. Or the guy I thought was a straight American in my JD class will start speaking in German to an LLM student. Or in class the white guy who went to Yale will be sitting next to a guy from China who went to college in China. And the guy from China will do better during his cold call than me.

At times, it’s nice to be around people who know how to work hard and get things done. People who know how to set goals and plan and structure their schedules and manage their time and be responsible. I have three Mormon classmates who are married and have kids and they’re really smart. I respect them a lot. People like them help me to man up. But sometimes, it’s strange being around people who don’t have strong connections to home. It’s strange being in a city so full of transplants and sojourners. There’s something cool about, for example, being a Korean citizen and having your parents in Korea, but going to high school in the States, college in an Ivy League, and living and working or studying for an advanced degree in another foreign country. But at the same time, I feel bad for them that they’ve spent so much time away from home that they don’t quite have a close-knitness to their parents and/or their siblings. The same for American citizens who have spent all their years since graduating high school away from home. There are a lot of over-independent people in Manhattan.

But then there are some people at the law school who came straight from undergrad and probably got into Columbia mostly because they were good at taking standardized tests. I have in mind a few kids—mostly Asian American—from UC schools who came straight from undergrad who seem so immature and silly. Despite their probably impressive academic ability, they seem overly casual, unrefined, immature, even laughable in terms of their character and personality. They don’t carry themselves like responsible, thoughtful adults. Instead, they approach law school like they did college—a big public CA college, at that: late night study sessions with an unhealthy dose of Facebooking, getting dinner delivered to the law school classroom they’ve camped out in, and the typical Asian American undergrad social quirks (obnoxiousness, hyperness, humor, binge drinking). There are a number of people in the law school in general that don’t strike me as very respectable…it’s sad that a lot of them are Asian Americans.

Life in Manhattan near the Upper West Side is so different from New Jersey just across the Hudson, the other boroughs, and even upper Manhattan just a mile or two north and east (Harlem, Washington Heights). Take care lest I forget…

Life in a new city

I’m finally in New York. I’m finally here. I already feel so used to living on my own, being in a new place. I already feel accustomed to a lot of things here, things that when I first arrived made me feel a little out of place. I have to remind myself that 2 weeks ago I was still working–my last week before flying out and moving out, and I was still up to my neck with things to do. Just over 1 week ago, I pulled an all-nighter the night before my flight packing and padding and taping and roping, frantically trying to finish it all as the sun started rising, and then it was time to go the airport. I didn’t even have a chance to sit down and reflect on how it would be the last time being at home for a while.

It is too easy as I’m here alone to be zombie, to go about my day, go exploring, people watching, sightseeing, and at the end of the day zone out on my computer following all the hyperlinks and opening all those tabs to interesting things I want to read and learn about, especially about this new city I’m now a resident of. This I would not have had time to do just 2 weeks ago. That last week of July I was sleep deprived and my mind was running off deadlines and details. How many boxes do I need? How much stuff do I have, and what can I take with me and what should I just buy over there? What stores do they have over there and how do I get there? Do I need two taxis or just one from the airport for all my stuff? Is it better to spend a little more to sleep in Manhattan the night we land and not have to deal with a crazy taxi commute into the city in the morning or better to save money by sleeping near the airport? Better to take the bus (cheaper) or a taxi (faster)? Should I buy 7-day unlimited MetroCards for my whole family while they’re there for the week or just pay as we go? How much cash should I take with me and how much should I leave in my bank account? Which books should I take, which should I leave at home, and which should I just sell to make space? (This one was hard)

Despite all the planning, when the time came to go the airport, everything seemed to go wrong. Miscommunication and missed commitments made for a frantic dawn, and we weren’t sure exactly how to get around our mess. But somehow, everything worked out. We were there early for our gate, even with the hold-up at security. Once we were on the plane, I just slept, with nothing on my mind. Just slept. I don’t even remember taking off from LA.

New York was New York when we got there. The worker who acted disappointed even though I gave him $7 for barely doing anything to help us get our stuff to the curb. Hearing the chirp-chirp of the Chinese dispatcher’s walkie-talkie over the phone, trying to tell the driver where we were, with cars double-parking everywhere. The mass of foreign students near our hotel just hanging out, half-blocking the entrance. The taxi driver who cursed under his breath when we brought out all our luggage from the hotel, even though I reassured him that we had fit everything in the exact same car twice already. I tipped him 50% for eventually agreeing to take us and seemed nice about it in the end. The New York-ness of the day-to-day people: my superintendent, the contractors doing maintenance work in the building. This is hard to describe, but things like different ethnic first and last names (different from ethnic names in LA), the different accents and tones definitely made it seem like a new city. Hispanic in LA is different from Hispanic in NYC. And a lot more European diversity. Things like how as soon as you ask a local–like a porter or deli counter worker–to repeat something or if you don’t order the way they like, they seem so pissed but then when you understand them and go with their flow they seem fine again. More so to people they perceive as foreign, like my dad. It was eye-opening to see how people treated him versus me. It is humbling to consider how easy I have it because of his sacrifice.

And now I’m here, enjoying an apartment to myself before my roommates get here later this week. It is so nice to be able to finally relax, do whatever I want, not have any commitments. I don’t take this for granted at all, given what life was like not that long ago, talking to accounts payables and scheduling dispatch and counting payroll hours and tutoring kids and preparing for church. When people asked me if I was excited for NY, I would always say, yes but I have too much going on until I’m actually there. When I get there, then I’ll be excited. And now I’m actually here. And now I really am excited for all that’s up ahead. But I should always remind myself of all that it took to get to this point. Only by God’s grace. Take care lest I forget.

The last weekend before I left, we had a retreat with another church. I had to put moving prep on hold from Thursday night until Sunday evening basically (and I was leaving Monday morning!), but once we were there, it was such an encouraging time. Andrew and I think the kids began to see our heart as we enjoyed fellowship and good, deep conversation with people from the other church. Now that I’m gone, it seems that maybe they are changing. I really hope they continue to grow. My last sermon started with 2 Corinthians 5:9: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” As I read through 2 Corinthians before Sunday service, I began to see how deeply emotional the entire letter was. I began to feel those same emotions as I thought about the legacy I would leave. Would they continue to grow and mature without me? The entire day I felt my heart swell–as I played my last praise set, as I delivered my final instructions and encouragements, as I sang “I Offer My Life” for offering, as I stood before the KM and received recognition for my two years of service, as they sang and prayed for me, as I ate lunch. And I was done. I had passed the baton at work, and now I was released from my responsibilities from church.

There are many things here that stir my heart and make me pray. But there are also many things that make my heart comfortable. I hope that God will continue to keep me humble and mindful of deeper things rather than worthless things. Writing this has been good for my soul. Going back to all that has happened and all that I’ve learned has been refreshing. To all that God will do in and through me here in New York City…

Truly the young one

The first session for Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods with Prof. and Pastor Ben Shin was yesterday. I felt tired, waking up at 6:15 to be at class by 8. But then as the class went around for introductions, I found out some people drove from Thousand Oaks, Rancho Cucamonga, and even San Luis Obispo to attend class. My drive was weaksauce compared to theirs. Then, the introductions kept coming: married with two kids, married (and brought his wife to class), married (and her husband is attending another Talbot class just down the hall with their 9-month-old), an ex-Navy pilot and FedEx pilot who moved to the area from Tennessee (whom I just found out is actually Jake’s friend’s dad…small world), the occasional single person straight from college, an economist for The Gas Company, more married with children, a man who’s been married for 45 years and has 7 grandchildren, and a bunch of 1st gen Koreans.

The last thing we did in the afternoon was find the correct interpretation for Matthew 18:20. The verse that everyone uses for prayer meetings, fellowships, coffeehouse gatherings: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” After establishing that the context was church discipline, Prof. Shin told us a story from his second year of ministry. He had started a Bible study on Friday nights, and he was surprised to see the college kids coming to Bible study dressed so nicely. But they would all bounce right after the Bible study. One day, curious, he followed them after Bible study and found out they went to some club in Hollywood. He noticed one of these guys hung around a lot of the girls in the church. When he confronted him about his suspicious behavior, he straight up told him to his face, “My goal is to rob every girl in this church of her virginity” and something along the lines of, what are you going to do, stop me? To which he said, yes. So he confronted him again, this time with another leader in the church, and he was still unrepentant. Taking Matthew 18:15-20 to heart, the promise that Jesus would have his back through the discipline process, he decided to tell the whole church. It was an incredibly difficult decision for him, because there was a catch: the guy was the son of an elder, and kicking out the elder’s son wasn’t going to go over well with the senior leadership. So he prepared in advance a letter of resignation which he kept in his pocket as he called out the guy at the end of service, listing his sins and warning the congregation about him. When one of the KM pastors came up to him after hearing about it, he gave him his letter of resignation, but to his surprise, he ripped it up and said, “You do not have to resign. Today we kicked out his father for the same reason.” This, of course, took him completely by surprise because he had known nothing about it.

He returned to his office to find a line of dozens of people from the ministry outside his door. And person after person came forward to repent of their own sins. When I heard this chills ran through my body…not just because of how crazy the story was and how God used the courage of the church leaders to bring people to repentance, but the fact that he talked about it so matter-of-factly. This was just the second year of ministry, he said. And the way he said it, I knew that he probably faced so many more intense issues just like that. I couldn’t imagine being a leader in the midst of that kind of sinfulness within the church.  We were all motionless in our seats, no more rustling to pack up our laptops and books to go home. What a powerful testimony of God’s grace in a very messed up church. I couldn’t imagine myself having to handle a situation like that. I have much to learn…

After class ended and most of us filed out, I introduced myself and talked to the guy who drove from San Luis Obispo at 3 am to get to campus. He’s 34 years old, married for 10, and an Army chaplain (the Army was doing drills in San Luis Obispo; that’s why he was there) and has served at a Korean church in LA for 6 years. He knows Korean, English, and Spanish (and has a total cholo English accent because when he first came to the States, there were so many Hispanics around him that his first language in America was Spanish!), and that would have been inspiration enough for me. But even just his introduction was gripping…the next day he was resigning from his leadership position at church because it was getting too difficult for him. An overtime job in part-time disguise, getting home at 1 or 2 am, which was straining his marriage, then being told by senior staff that he had to choose either the church or his marriage. And they were suggesting to him that he couldn’t keep attending the church if he stepped down from leadership. It was very sad to hear. But to hear his heart for the lost sheep in the Army was so incredibly humbling. The church thinks he’s copping out and taking the easy route by working in the Army and getting a salary, but he told me about how desperate these men are for God, how not even 10 minutes after meeting them for the first time and sharing the gospel with them, they are in tears and asking how they can be saved. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. I have much to learn…

I read a blog post recently that talked about how pastors can get depressed. The beginning is about Charles Spurgeon and an event that happened at his church that caused him to become very depressed. Many believers just don’t know the burdens of being a pastor…

I have a lot of work to do, with law school apps and a part-time job and unpaid internship and school. There is no time to waste. Got to be faithful with each day and be diligent with my responsibilities. Because I don’t see my friends as often as I did in college anymore, I wish they would write more in their blogs. There is so much we can share with one another, about what we have been learning and where we’re headed and what goals we have for the future. Is it because we are beginning to enjoy privacy and distance now that we are getting older or because we don’t feel like setting aside the time? Are we actually too busy to write or are we too unmotivated to write? Or maybe it’s because the post-grad life is starting to wear us down and we have nothing worth writing about anymore? I hope not. Whatever the case, I’ll keep writing…thank You Lord for the soul stirring.

Reflections from the KCM senior interview

KCM has senior banquet at the end of every school year. Last year was the first time I went. I’m not sure why I didn’t go sophomore year (two years ago), because I had a great time last year. I really enjoyed the senior interviews, because I didn’t really know any of the seniors very well, so hearing them reminisce about their past four years and make predictions about the future was really cool. And now college is over, and I will find myself on that video screen as they were, answering some of the same questions they did.

As I read the interview questions ahead of time and thought of things I could say, I thought about how awkward the interview could be for someone who wasn’t that close to their class or to KCM. Maybe even a bit of an agony and inconvenience. I remember listening to one senior last year during our semesterly outing to Koreatown Galleria during finals who told me how he felt a little out of place even as a senior, how he wasn’t like the popular people. I don’t remember what I said as consolation. I know it wasn’t enough, though, because he told me the following week at banquet after I greeted him that he didn’t feel very close to his fellow senior class and felt strange sitting at the table with all of them. It showed in his interview. It must have only compounded whatever feelings he had that night to hear the entire hall erupt with laughter or adoration over other people in his class but not for anything he said or shared.

I thank God for such a gracious and welcoming class, for opening their arms to me in love and allowing me to enjoy these past three years with them. Because of them, I have memories to share and jokes to make and secrets to reveal (nothing crazy haha), all because of their love. And I know that their love toward me and one another was rooted in their love for God and God’s love for them.

I don’t want to take for granted this wonderful feeling of feeling included, because I remember those times, in my life and in others, when it wasn’t a given. Sometimes there is great loneliness where you least expect it. May my heart be sensitive to those who may feel it and may I have compassion for them and be able to show kindness to them.

It’s always good to hear good things more than once

The speaker at KCM Chapel on Sunday mentioned the story of how Christianity came to Korea. It was good to hear the story again of Robert Jermain Thomas, dramatized in his narrative voice. Afterwards, my brother and I were like, “Who’s this Sam Moffett guy? I thought it was Underwood!” We asked our dad, and he said, yeah, Horace Underwood was the first Presbyterian missionary (actually the other Horace, Horace Allen, who was a medical missionary, arrived in Korea a year before Underwood did, in 1884). Underwood founded a Christian college which eventually became today’s Yonsei University in Seoul.

Back in July, I wrote about the beginnings of Christianity in Korea, how I shared it with the congregation during service while covering Romans 10. It’s always good reading old entries. May it bless you, the reader (I wonder who you are), if you haven’t read it yet.

More reminders of mortality

Gunman killed 10 in Alabama before killing himself

17-year-old German student killed 15 people

3 dead, 1 wounded in Texas apparent murder-suicide

And, a little closer to home…

Suspect shot by police near USC at 8:30 pm

All 4 suspects now in custody at midnight

Reminders of mortality

Suspect charged in pastor’s shooting

Son is arrested in Torrance father’s stabbing

Son is arrested in Torrance father’s stabbing

From staff and news services

A Torrance man was stabbed to death in the unincorporated area near Carson, and his 25-year-old son was arrested early Thursday in connection with the crime.

Eun Kim was arrested just after midnight, accused of attacking his father, Yeun Kim, 52, around 10 p.m. Wednesday at a home in the 800 block of West 232nd Street, said Sheriff’s Deputy Aura Sierra.

Deputies responded to the location regarding a family disturbance call and found Yeun Kim lying unresponsive on the couch, Sierra said.

Detectives believe the victim and his son “had been involved in a physical altercation in the home prior to the deputies’ arrival,” Sierra said.

Yeun Kim was pronounced dead at the scene.

A knife believed to be used during the fight was recovered inside the home and son Eun Kim was subsequently arrested, she said.

Eun Kim was booked for murder and was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

The first story has been on the national news. The second, I don’t think too many people know about, but I know about it from my dad. Though the article does not mention it, the man who was stabbed to death by his son was a pastor. In fact, my dad had met, talked, and laughed with him the day before he died. He pastored a small church in Torrance, and his son had had a history of mental problems and instability since high school. An argument turned violent, and now he is gone.

You just never know when you will be called to leave this earth.