If you had asked me before going to OTR trip what I would like to learn from the trip, I would have answered “I want to learn how to serve and love the inner-city community.” And yes, we have learned many valuable lessons on inner city ministries and how to serve the people in the community. However, looking back, I think God really showed something much bigger than that. We saw God himself mightily working among the people and the people of faith who wholly committed to the calling and showed the radical love of Jesus Christ. I witnessed what truly fuels the ministry of this small yet powerful church: a humble, obedient, and bold faith that seeks God’s glory every day.
Humble Faith: No matter who I am
Pastor Johann, who planted the Living Water church is 1st generation Korean American. It’s an odd description of someone who serves in inner-city African American community. Yet with humility, he embraced the calling and has been serving the community for more than 15 years against language and cultural barriers. I also met many other volunteers from different churches as well. Some of them were much older than me and some at pretty high positions in corporate world, and yet during kids’ camp, we all got down and dirty for kids’ games and body worship for one purpose only: to love the kids with all our hearts. God showed us a great picture of God’s people laying down their pride and humbly serving together. I felt like God was saying to me “You are never too young, old, or even clumsy with words to serve me.” It was humbling to witness it.
Obedient Faith: Daily Faithfulness
This trip was a constant battle of two dreams (desires) in me: my desire to serve myself and God’s plan to exalt his name. The fear of people, the desire to be comfortable, and wanting to exalt my own name often clashed with the desire to glorify God only. During street evangelism, I had to fight my fear of getting rejected by people and trust in God’s heart for people again and again. During kids’ camp, I had to fight my physical exhaustion under the heat and tell myself again to give my all so that I can share the Gospel with one more kid at kid’s camp. It was not easy, but what motivated me to fight was seeing the obedient faith displayed by Pastor Johann and the OTR staff. As we spent time every morning praying that God’s name will be glorified and not our dreams, I could sense God’s delight over this church who were simply obeying to their calling daily. Since then, I kept asking this question to myself: am I fighting to be obedient to my daily calling with such passion?
Bold Faith: Trust in the Word of God
Only reason why we went out to street evangelism and did kids camp in a broken and poor community was because we believed in the power of the Word of God. Through the verses we shared with people and song lyrics we sang with kids, we believed that these words will bear fruit in their live at the right time. It was interesting because as I was sharing Gospel with kids and praying for them, God reminded me of all the times I attended Sunday schools and kids camp when I was little. God showed me that all the Bible stories and Gospel that I heard when I was young was bearing fruit in my life! I was so thankful for the Word of God, and it gave me such confidence to speak the Word more boldly with people.
So what? Choose this day whom you will serve
So what now? Even now as I reflect back the times I spent at OTR, I am often brought back to this one moment that became a turning point of the trip. It was the first day of the Kids’ Camp, and it rained all morning. Many were disappointed and prayed harder that it might not rain. However, I was more skeptical and actually fine with the rain because my body was tired. We got to the park, set up one tent, and gathered under it while rain was pouring down. We prayed that God would stop the rain so that we can have Kids’ camp. As I was praying, God was exposing what was in my heart: my lack of love for souls, full of my selfish desires, and lack of faith. That was honestly what was in my heart, and I started to feel ashamed as if God was telling me “Do you not care about the souls I love while you just care about yourself?” With my heart exposed, I had to repent of my heart and ask for new faith. Then God gave me boldness to share what was in my heart with everyone in the tent. After I confessed my heart before them, one of the leaders shared this verse from Joshua 24 “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
Yes. That was what I needed to hear. God is always 100% committed in saving souls and wants to empower his people to do his work. Then, it was the hardness of my heart that hindered his work. No matter what the circumstance looks like, all I need at any moment is the faith that God can work and my willingness to submit to his will.
The rain stopped after we prayed there, and we had kids camp with 20 kids who showed up. God is at work. Am I up for His work here in Chicago? I want to choose to serve God every day for his glory, so I pray: God, give me a greater faith: a humble, obedient, and bold faith. Amen.