I spent this Fourth of July morning looking for one of my hearing aids that had suddenly gone missing. A good two hours of GPS tracking was to no avail. Then my two daughters, who are currently staying at home, joined the search with the metal detector they got me for Father’s Day last year. Worn out and still without a hearing aid, I came back to my office and said a prayer to collect myself. When I opened my eyes, voilà, the misplaced hearing aid dropped out of the blue! With a brief thrill of locating it, I felt silly and funny to use so much time and energy in search of something that has been with me all along. But what can I say? It’s happening more often nowadays.
One change that has happened to me since the outbreak of the coronavirus is that I’m getting better at staying put. Initially, the lockdown felt unbearable because I’m the kind of person who likes to stay on top of things, especially when it comes to ministry. Not doing anything and not going anywhere was a real challenge. But struggle eventually turned into a newfound grace of spiritual discipline and self-control, and now I am thankful that I could take some time to step back. Our ministry staff began to step up to keep the church moving forward, and I’m amazed by the fruits of their efforts. From our weekly food sharing program to church reopening preparations and the ’40-Day Nehemiah Prayer Relay’, from online worship services to Children, Youth, and English Ministries – we’ve continued to live as a church. Complaints and murmurings were nowhere to be heard, while beautiful acts of serving and sharing blossomed, further bringing out our thankful hearts.
Changes at home have been another reason to be thankful personally. My wife and I were used to living alone in our empty nest before my expecting daughter and son-in-law came to stay with us at the height of the pandemic. My younger daughter has joined us since last week, all the way from L.A. The first several days were happy days, but soon afterward, sharing space with grown-up children had its own challenges. While contemplating how to push them out, I realized that it has been so long since we last lived together as a family. Having my kids around the dining table was not an everyday privilege – not since they left home for college. I’m thankful for this gift of family time, resumed due to the coronavirus.
One of the great blessings of the 40-Day Nehemiah Prayer Relay has been reading each ‘Prayer of the Day,’ written by members of our English and Korean-speaking congregation, including children and youth. I notice the signs of grace in times of dislocation: We as a family and a church are rediscovering how much we need and love one another, all the while going through the hard times together. The pandemic has been a testing ground of our faith, but God will see us through. Just as Job confessed through his trials, we will emerge as gold, with our faith tested and renewed.
The coronavirus crisis has brought us closer together. It has pushed us to take a new step forward for our neighbors affected by the pandemic, and in the process, it has pushed us to provide most of our church contents in both Korean and English. Now our English Ministry and Youth Group members – as well as our growing children – can have better access and more opportunity to partake in church-wide efforts. Praise the Lord.
There was an initial concern if our finances could keep up with the prolonged food sharing program. But seeing the need of our neighbors, we decided to seek the channels of external support in the best ways we can. We are currently reaching out to civil society organizations and retailers who could partner with us, preferably in the long run. The old saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” rings true in my ears nowadays.
In the Epistles to the Romans, Apostle Paul writes, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (5:3-4). All in all, I am thankful that this testimony feels so close to our hearts, at this time more than ever.