Saturday, April 28, 2007

Isaac C. (former Chicago UBF)

Dear Noona Ruth C. From Isaac C.,

Well, seeing the good examples of my noonas in Christ, I will speak out as well. I've been watching this board for some time and have been reluctant to say anything, as my parents and my sister are still in UBF. But I hope and pray that when they see me speaking out, they won't think it's me attacking UBF, but just me sharing my experiences and thoughts, and perhaps longing for a kind of further reconciliation with them.

For those who may not know me, I'm the older brother of Daniel C. and Rebekah Kim, son of Missionaries Isaac and Rebecca C. Most of the second generation kids out there probably don't know me too well, since I haven't been around Chicago much for the last 8 or 9 years.

After leaving UBF about the same time Ruth did, I searched for a spiritual home, which I found in my junior year in college. It was a Korean American Presbyterian Church in Boston, which we affectionately called, "Brookline", after the town it was in (incidentally, the town is the birthplace of JFK). It was there that I found a community of believers that genuinely loved and cared for each other and showed the grace of God to one another, despite whatever warts or failings they had. They were mostly Korean, but there were also a good number of other Asians, as well as Caucasians and African Americans. It was here that I experienced incredible worship, received the deep love and grace of God (so much so that I fairly regularly wept silently in service), and where I began to learn how to pray as well as how to serve, to teach, and to lead. It was also there that I made a good number of very close friends and fellow travelers on the road of faith, friends I cherish deeply to this day. And it was there I met my wife, Laura. Laura and I have been married for about two and a half years now, and our love for one another just continues to grow deeper every day. We know that God has brought us together since we are such a good match for one another and he has blessed us so much through each other.

About 4 years ago, I heard God's call to go to seminary, and I enrolled at Princeton Seminary. I finished the M.Div. program this past year and am in the middle of my Th.M. degree here. I'm not quite sure what God had in mind in terms of specific career when he had me go to seminary. It may be to be a professor and teach in a college or seminary. Or it may be for full time ministry, or perhaps as a lay or part-time minister. I am currently leaning towards being a professor, so I'm in the midst of doing my Ph.D. applications. But I am still in the process of discerning God's will and we will see how he continues to lead.

I can't say that I'm as irenic as Ruth is about my feelings toward UBF. The passage of time and God's love and gracious healing has made me a lot less bitter and angry towards UBF than I used to be. But I would be lying if I said that I don't have a significant amount of anger left in me. I still remember vividly the high pressure environment and being arranged to be engaged to a girl in Korea when I was 12. When I refused, I remember not only being severely yelled at, but also how this girl and her parents were lied to by the leadership, that I had said no because I didn't like her, when in fact I refused because of the principle involved. I also remember how, after I had left UBF, a missionary from Chicago, someone I barely knew, called me up and yelled at me for 30 minutes. And whenever I returned to Chicago for breaks, I remember being called by others a bad influence on the second generation kids, and being labeled as proud, arrogant, evil, and even demon-possessed.

So I hope you understand why I think it will probably take many years for me to be completely healed of my anger towards UBF. But at the same time, I do acknowledge the good points of UBF. I am grateful that I had an understanding of the Bible and of the Christian faith from an early age. I am thankful that somehow I had developed a personal faith in the midst of all the craziness, anger, and frustration, even though that faith would only blossom after I had left. And I am thankful for the dedication and love (though it is occasionally misdirected) of my parents and many members of UBF, including the USA Reform movement members, like Missionary Mark Hong, some of whom I've got a chance to get to know over the years.

I'm not saying all second generation kids should strive to leave UBF. If you choose to stay, get to know those of like minds and work, in your own way, to bring about change and reform in UBF. I myself pray that God might be changing UBF in the months and years to come. But also know that leaving is definitely an option. If you can't stand it, go ahead and leave like I and others have, and find a church that will better nurture your faith. You will receive a good amount of persecution from your family and from others, but in the end, I'd say it's worth the struggle to leave if you feel you are being stifled and if UBF is holding you back in your walk with God. As Ruth said, your parents will eventually come to some understanding or acceptance, even if it takes a long time. Of course, this only applies to those who have the means to leave, basically those who are of college age or older. For those who are younger, I encourage you in the meanwhile to hold on, get to know Christian friends, read good Christian books, and even visit other churches or parachurch organizations, until you can get to the point where you can make your own decisions about your future.

I guess I'll close with this: A pastor I highly respect gave this sermon illustration. He and his wife have a daughter, and he said it's great that they teach her how to sing cute little songs or do a little dance. When guests come over, she comes out and does her little number, to everyone's delight. But he said that he would never want her to dance or to sing with the idea that she needs to earn his love that way, saying, "Daddy, is this good enough?" or "Will you love me now?" And in the same way, Christians can have a tendency to try to please God or earn his favor by doing their good works, by being "good enough" for God.

I think this kind of mentality is especially fostered in UBF, where applause and approval comes when you have more one-to-one's or bring more sheep to the worship service. During my whole time in UBF, I never heard that God's love for us is truly gracious and unconditional, like a father's love for his children (at least a good father's love), that I don't have to measure up or bring sheep or do whatever to earn his love, because he loved us even when we were still sinners. It was only later, outside of UBF, that the gospel truly became "good news" for me. So I pass this central truth of the good news of Jesus Christ on to my fellow second generation brothers and sisters: that the grace of God is deep, very deep. He gave everything, even his very self for us, before we had done anything for him. He loves us wherever we are in our lives, no matter how far or near we are, and nothing we can do or not do can make him love us any more or less.

Our service to God, our attempts to glorify him, shouldn't come out of a desire to avoid rebuke or punishment from our parents, from Missionary Samuel Lee, or anyone else. Nor should they come as the result of high pressure or a desire to "look good" before others. Instead, our desire to serve and honor God should come naturally out of the amazement and gratitude of one who's experienced the great grace and love of God. It is my hope and prayer that those who are reading this, both inside and outside UBF, will grasp more and more God's grace and love until that grace and love pours out of them like overflowing streams, to forgive, to touch, and to bless all those around them. I know that I myself can only overcome my bitterness and forgive as I more fully know that amazing love and grace.

in Christ,
Isaac C.