it’s so hard to say goodbye – Obeying God’s Call, Part II

It’s official: I’m being appointed to Parker UMC in Kaneohe, HI beginning on July 1, 2017.  After the initial shock, I find myself grateful to serve and follow after my friend and colleague, Rev. Andrew Lee, as the next pastor of Parker.  Still, it’s so hard to say goodbye to the English Ministry of Christ UMC.  Why is it so hard for me to say farewell?  After thinking about this transition for the past few weeks, I have narrowed down the reasons to four main categories.  This blog is a snapshot into my internal dialogue as I have processed and lamented the eventual move away from my ministry appointment for the past five years.

Unfinished Business

I think there will always be “unfinished business” for every church and pastor at every re-appointment junction.  For me, I feel as though I am leaving in the middle of some exciting developments.

So what does this feel like, leaving CUMC with unfinished business?  It’s like working as a construction project manager and leaving right as the concrete is being poured into the foundation with nary a visible structure to show forth.  Or like a baker who starts a cake but bails before putting on the frosting.  Or maybe those analogies are superfluous and all we need to know about the reality of ministry and ministers is that there will always be a sense of unfinished business – and maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Like the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 3:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

So beloved CUMC, if I leave with unfinished business, let us hold onto the hope that God is not finished forming and molding us more and more into the likeness of His Son.  Thanks be to God.

Excitement and Momentum in ministry

So many exciting things have been happening at CUMC.  Let me bullet-point a few:

  • Our second round of the Alpha Course just began and it promises to be an exciting one.  I’m glad to know that the majority of attendees are non-CUMC folks, and the group makeup really serves the purpose of Alpha – to reach out to non-churchgoers and provide a safe space where deep faith questions can be explored.
  • The China summer team is set and ready to go in July.  We also had a prospective India Vision Trip set this October to visit Hyderabad to observe the ministry of Susannah and Sudheer Kandikatti, our missionary couple we are supporting.
  • The EM Council grew this year, meaning that we have new leadership on board and we are beginning to see more people committed to serving within our church body.
  • We just started online giving.  😂 😂 😂  OK, so that’s not really highlight-worthy but on that note, offering/tithes have gone up, attendance at Sunday worship has increased, and participation in midweek small groups is on the rise.  Thanks be to God.

Leaving behind the Korean immigrant church

Out of all the reasons I lament leaving, this one is probably the most fear-based.  I’ve never been a part of a non-Korean church, but in about two months, I am going to be pastoring one.  There are some things I’ll miss that some might file under the “not-a-big-deal” category:

  • eating Korean food on Sunday afternoons prepared by the Korean ahjummas (distinguished ladies)
  • taking home jars of kimchi or other side dishes prepared with love by these same ahjummas
  • having my kids grow up within Korean culture and language.

At the same time, I feel like the Korean church is my Great Barrier Reef and I’m Marlin.  I need to get over my fear of wading out into the deeper, unknown waters of non-Korean churches.  In finding Nemo, I’m actually finding myself (Sorry for going too far on that analogy!).

Relationships

By far, the number one reason why it will be hard to say goodbye will be the family ties that have been built over the past five years.

I did my first wedding and funeral as a pastor of this congregation.

All three of my kids were born here.

When I came here five years ago, I had spent my entire ministry career in youth and college ministry.  Therefore, I had zero experience working exclusively with an adult congregation but that fact did not stop the people of CUMC from embracing me – quirks, imperfections, and all.  It took a great measure of courage and faith on their part to follow my leadership.   And along the way, some lifelong friendships were born.

My final Sunday at CUMC will be June 4.  I anticipate a lot of tears to be shed that day but before that happens, I wish to say to the lovely people of CUMC English Ministry: thank you for your love and support.  Pastoring this congregation is one of my life’s joys and deepest honors, and it is also one of the main reasons why it will be hard to say goodbye on that day.

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