Why I Believe In Bethel Generations (Daniel Chae)

 
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Every single Sunday I always see some of the Youth kids and I wonder how many of them will become de-churched by the time they are seniors. I wonder how many of them will be hurt by Bethel and never come back. Bethel Generations has always put a heavy burden on my heart that the workers are indeed few and the harvest is plentiful. I feel like every time that I attempt to minister to the Youth, whether through teaching or becoming a mentor, I feel so exposed to the insecurities and shortcomings in my life. I stop and give up. I don’t like Bethel Generations because it exposes that resentment so much clearer. You can see me actively avoiding conversations on Sundays because I have been so used to the habit of falling into that “self-care” and the “my baggage, not yours” mentality. The phrase replays over and over in my mind: “If I don’t pray almost at all by myself, why should I ask about your prayer requests or give you my prayer requests?” Add a hundred more loud and excitable youth kids and I immediately grab my bass right after Omega service ends and disappear. They’re annoying. They remind me of me when I was loud and excitable and annoying.

But then, I greet my students who have become seniors and see the progress that God is making in their lives. They tell me that they look up to me and I continue to wonder why. Then I remember when I looked up to my Bible Study teachers and praise team leaders and hoped that one day, I could at least reflect a fraction of their love, their joy, their peace, their patience, their kindness, their goodness, their faithfulness, their gentleness, and their self-control. I didn’t worship them, nor did I believe that they were perfect. A lot of my teachers messed up in bad ways. But God still used them to impact my life. I feel both awkward and excited when I see the congregation altogether. I get to worship with both my former students and my mentors. I want to be the same impact that some of the older generation in our congregation today have been to me. I don’t like Generations because I feel like it exposes every inch of my heart. But I believe in Bethel Generations because when I expose who I am to those around me and those around me do the same, I see the impact that God is having within our community. All it takes is for me to take the first step and talk to them. God will do the rest. In the spirit of the renowned writer and mentor Paul himself: THEREFORE, brothers and sisters let us take heart and take a leap of faith together to become a Christ-centered community through Bethel Generations.

 

Growing Pains in Community (Jenny Han)

 
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Thrive retreat, for me, was meant to be an escape from reality, but I ended up being forced to face the reality of my identity within the church and within Christ. Over the years of my life as a Christian, I have heard several sermons on community, but what made Pastor Michael’s sermon on this subject so distinct was how he touched on the realness of what community looks like in the church and how it is experienced individually. His approach to the subject of community was simultaneously convicting and encouraging. He teaches that community begins at the center of our solitude with Christ – this opened my eyes to the fact that I have identified my sense of community solely based on how the church community made me feel accepted, included, and needed; and when these things were not met, I felt hurt, lonely, and isolated. Through this, resentment grew and my love for community slowly diminished. I blamed the community for not being the community I needed it to be and figured I needed to move on. 

Pastor Michael touched on the fact that pain in the church is real – it can truly hurt someone to the point where they leave. Often times, however, the pain experienced in the church is part of the growing pains of a church community and that reconciliation can happen, but “true reconciliation can happen when the offended person is ready to forgive.” – Wow, this statement was incredibly convicting for me because there are some people in my life that I have not reconciled with and I realized it is because I am not ready to forgive. I always thought I was the most forgiving person, always being the one to reach out to reconcile with others, but when I reflected on the purpose of why I was so “forgiving” – it was because I neededa sense of belonging and community. I relied and depended so much on the company of others and needed to be affirmed through their acceptance of me, that I am loved and wanted. What I really needed was to rely and depend on God’s love for me and through His love, then can I truly forgive and love others the way He has forgiven and loved me. I am far from reaching this point in my spiritual walk, but Pastor Michael’s message has also taught me to learn how to share my burdens with my community and I hope to be someone my community can rely on for support for when they need help carrying their burdens. 

 

Lessons Learned from the Thrive Retreat (Kristen Suk)

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What is the church to me? 

I could not 100 percent say it was for the community. Despite attending Bethel for nearly my entire life, I will have to admit that sometimes I found more solace with friends outside the church as opposed to those who I am supposed to call brothers and sisters in Christ. Regardless, I attended the retreat to escape the day-to-day and to learn what would be shared on the topic of community.

 We were asked, “Is Christ truly the center of your relationships, or was it based on preferences?” In my reflection, I saw preferences being a heavy influencer on my relationships with others, whether I expressed it or experienced from others. Often, the common after worship service topics were ones that I could not relate to, even if it was about Christ. I could barely connect with others and was only having surface level conversations. Over time, I lost patience. I chose not to participate in the community, and consequently, leave immediately following service’s conclusion every Sunday. Some may say I robbed myself of opportunities to connect with someone in church. Nonetheless, I saw it as saving time to be with others I already relate with. Why make the effort if it wasn’t working? As selfish as it is, I preferred to be with those I already know who care about who I am.

 Our discussion group shared experiences about when we felt the church had disappointed us, which led to concerns with bringing friends or family, who do not identify themselves as Christian, to church. Drawing from experiences with our church community, we had worries with how someone they meet would potentially hurt them and impact their view of the Christian church and in the long run, affect our relationship with them. Despite this, we must be aware that we are not perfect beings and thus, guaranteed to fail each other. However, the beauty in weakness opens an opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love and allow those who do not know Him to witness for themselves. 

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Pastor Michael, the guest-speaker for our Thrive Retreat, helped solidify the sentiment that some of has had into words. The church will disappoint. It is not perfect. Thus, everyone is at fault for contributing dysfunction to the community, including myself. But we learned the answer is the same response to many of our other questions in life and that is that we have to respond with Christ’s love and forgiveness. Even if we are wronged by those in the church, we would need to return with Christ in mind. Our individual response impacts the church community, and it will either build or tear down our sense of belonging. As ideal as it is, even if we know we should respond by individually choosing to meet unfamiliar people, making the effort for fostering inclusion, and forgoing preferences and differences for Christ centered relationships; to a greater degree, it is very difficult, complex, and exhausting. It is not completed in a day; it is built and practiced over time.

 While I did get to meet new people and speak with others I have not met for a while, I still floated to people I was familiar with. I am not sure if I can set aside my preferences for how I meet with others and to speak with the commonality of Christ in our lives when there is no other shared experiences. However, I cannot expect to have community with the church if I don’t know the people, much like I cannot expect to have a relationship with God if I don’t know him well enough. Maybe, despite the lack of shared interests, there is a chance to create a shared experience together in a different way with Christ. With the lessons learned, if I truly desire a Christ centered community and deepened sense of belonging, I know that I’ll need to be weary of the actions I choose. My actions, whether it’s choosing to grow in God’s Word in solitude or intentionally getting acquainted with someone to start a connection, will have an effect, however small it may seem, on the church community as a whole. 

Our Beautiful Priority (Charles Baik)

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Our annual Gospel Revolution was a spiritual feast that God used guest Pastor Tim Pak to feed us. Reflecting on his messages, I needed to unpack and daily remind myself of so many truths.

The sermons were based on the book of Colossians, at a time when the Christian church was battling syncretism, trying to combine Paul’s teachings with local Pagan and Jewish folk beliefs. The issue was not whether the church believed in Jesus, but the church allowed the non-Christian culture to infiltrate the church. The similarity to our post Christian America times is striking as our culture constantly infiltrates the hearts of the individual and collectively the church.

In light of this observation, we are challenged with the priority of Jesus above all else in our walk. Is Jesus Lord of our lives? Do we see Jesus as all sufficient? Pastor Tim reminded us that anything that is added to the gospel diminishes the gospel. An illustration would be that in our marriage, by loving someone other than your spouse, one is diminishing that marriage. In the form of an equation, it would be: “1) Jesus + something = nothing, 2) Jesus + nothing = everything”.

I wanted to believe that I am of the first equation but looking into my own life, the Spirit exposed me to all the “somethings” that I have in my life that are diminishing the gospel. Our culture’s values of comfort, convenience, entertainment, and social media, which may be blessings and a part of God’s common grace, many times compete with my affection for God, and in turn diminish God’s grace. 

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As for application of this truth in our lives, Pastor Tim talked about putting ourselves in the pathway of grace. The bible repeatedly states that God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). God is very clear in the Word about how we are to draw closer to God but many times we feed ourselves whatever junk we want and think we can draw closer to God. Pastor Tim used the illustration that due to his blindness, he has to be dropped off at the bus stop to be in the pathway of the bus route. In the same way, we need to be in the pathway of grace for God to work in our lives, but we often treat God’s grace by sitting in our living room, wanting God to come and pick us up. Pastor Tim pointed out that while it is true that we cannot earn God’s grace, we can certainly invite God’s grace into our lives.

Overall, the Gospel Revolution was a tremendous blessing. Pastor Justin Kim would always emphasize the importance of such events because if there is just one thing that is picked up that changes the trajectory of your life, it has eternal consequences and this event certainly was a testament to that truth.

Thrive Retreat (Edward Peak)

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“The Church is not a place to fulfill our superficial/social needs, it is to be a place of prayer, forgiving, and reconciling”.  

This is one of many quotes that I have written down from this year’s Young Adult Retreat. The topic this year was “Thrive” and the speaker was Pastor Michael Lee who presented a mistaken view of what many Christians think Community is.

The first night Pastor Michael spoke, he shared how divided the Church was before with the Jews and Gentiles.  During those times, the Gentiles were not allowed step within the complex of the house of worship and if they were caught, it was punishable by death.  This story was to provide context of how divided the community was back then and how much prejudice there was among the people that wanted to worship God. In modern times, we may not be driven by such extreme prejudice, but we are driven by preferences. These preferences may include what the dominant ethnicity of a Church, how “trendy” or “hipster” the building is, how many weekly social events there are, how many of your friends attend or even how one may like the preaching style of a pastor.  Not to say that those things are bad, but when these preferences start to disappoint you, one tends to forget that the cornerstone of a community is not on your preferences, but is in Christ.

For me personally, over the last few years, many of my friends that were in my 2012 graduating school year have left to either Northern California or different other cities. During this time, I thought that my community had gotten smaller, but I failed to realize that everybody at church is my community. My community is not only the friends that I hold dear and I came to realize that I was the one who was pushing others away.  During this retreat, I had deeper discussions with people that I have always just said hello or had surface level interactions and found that it was enjoyable, but most importantly Christ Centered.  It took more effort to be vulnerable then I was comfortable with, but I realized that having non-conflict/harmonious community is not a true one as that is superficial and easily broken down. So even though it is more difficult to talk with people that I do not normally do, at the end of the day I feel more refreshed spiritually knowing that I had meaningful interaction with other church members where the focus was not about sports or movie, but was about Christ.

God, My Delight (Virginia Kim)

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This phrase of delighting in the Lord has been on my mind since the first of the year.  It may seem trite, but my desire to delight in the Lord stems from the constant discontent I felt last year. To be honest, everything was lack luster. Things that once brought me to tears or belly aching joy were at best met with a “sigh” or a “meh.”  Very few things moved me and I could not pinpoint the cause.  Through Gospel Revolution and time reviewing my life, I was living a Jesus + something gospel.  Christ was at the periphery and I was at the center.  Whether it is wanting the applause of man or the longing for something more, I am sickened by looking elsewhere for what only God can provide. 

 Delight is defined as “a cause or source of great pleasure”.  What gives you great pleasure? What compels you to wake up early in the morning or drives you to do what you do? Love.  Either it’s Love for Jesus or love of Self.  This year’s Gospel Revolution theme “Beautiful Savior” and Pastor Tim’s preaching of the word through Colossians helped me to re-fix my gaze on Christ and His Work and make Jesus my Beautiful Prayer, Priority, and Proclamation.  Specifically, Pastor Tim Pak spoke of allowing the knowledge of God inform how I live, think, feel, and pray.  When we love someone, it should inform our actions. 

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 A silly illustration, but Justin doesn’t like it when my dirty clothes hang out of the hamper. Because I love Justin, I strive to place my laundry in the hamper completely. Seems silly, but love for someone or something should change me.  In the same way, loving and knowing God should inform how I live.

 God is not silent regarding who and what he loves. His word is clear and I desire in 2019 and in life that God would be my greatest delight. Indeed, for God to be my all in all.  Let’s gaze at Jesus and allow him to conform us more into HIs likeness as we see His beauty and delight ourselves in Him.  

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

United (Jeni Kim)

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I was so encouraged at the youth winter retreat for many reasons, but mostly because of the involvement and support of Bethel English Church. P. Dan and Helen attended as both family group (games/skit team) andsmall group (discussion group) leaders and brought their kids Abby and Isaac with them! P. Justin came as a small group leader for 12thgrade boys and Tabitha came along! And, of course, there were quite a few other retreat counselors from our Ardent, Thrive, and Covenant ministries. On Wednesday night, the parents were invited to come pray with/over their students. On Thursday night, volunteers from BEC came to cook a meal (which was also prepped by BEC volunteers the night before) for over 200 students and leaders! We had a delicious chicken teriyaki dinner and one BEC member even donated boba for dessert! These were such loving ways for BEC to show care for and commitment to the next generation and a practical way to live out the retreat theme: United.

About a year ago, the high school, junior high, and Korean-speaking youth group were all combined into one ministry and christened, “Bethel United.” This was a huge change as you can imagine, but the students, parents, and volunteers have grown to see the benefits of being together. At BEC, we have the same heart: to break down barriers between age groups and life stages, share life with each other, learn from one another, and grow together.

 I can see how the thought of serving or even just speaking with teenagers can be intimidating. However, even though the outward struggles of teens may seem very different from when we were their age (social media, gender issues, etc.), the inward struggles are very much the same (acceptance/belonging, identity, etc.). I am an only child and was neither a believer nor plugged into any community during my high school years. I felt alone, misguided, rootless, and made some very bad decisions for myself. After I encountered and accepted Christ as my Savior, I wanted to do everything possible to prevent youths from ever having to feel the way I felt in high school. I want them to know the Savior who loves and leads us and I realized I could be a vessel to carry that message and help guide them through those tough years. Sure, I can’t keep up with the slang and they still tease me that I’m old-fashioned, but I just do my best to listen with an open heart when they share their lives with me, continue to point them to Jesus, and share my own experience of who God is and how he has sustained me. That kind of connection is no more intimidating than connecting with people my own age…plus, it keeps me young!

A Look Into 2019 and Beyond (Robert Hoang)

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What are my new year resolutions? How do I hope to grow and change this year? What am I looking forward to most?

For the last 40 years, I’ve been chasing dreams and trying to make a name for myself. I bought into all the empty promises this world is selling and lost myself. Last year was particularly a tough season, but the lessons learned during this difficult time helped me realize this journey really isn’t about becoming someone. Rather it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t me, so that I can become who I was made to be from the beginning.

Realizing this was huge for me, but I still struggle daily to find the courage necessary to continue doing what I’m called to do; and to share the good news of Jesus. It feels like I’m constantly being attacked. I’ve had business deals taken away form me because of how “loud” I am about my savior. I’ve been called a business liability because the world doesn’t like what I have to say. Friends think I’m crazy because I believe there is nothing like His amazing love and that everything without Jesus is nothing; but I can’t stop and won’t stop.

I’ve been given freedom and an incredible gift and must to share the truth. My hope for this year is that as I’m being tested, it will become easier and easier for me to find courage in His promise. I hope to live my life in a way that looks less like this world and more like Jesus. I want to stand with the less fortunate, listen to voices unheard, and recognize potential where others see despair and hopelessness. I hope to find the wisdom and humility to see the world as it is and the courage to imagine the world as it could be.

This unshakeable courage isn’t going to develop over a new year’s resolution and without hard work. I have to remember that I can’t chase the trophy without realizing it’s the reps in the gym that’s the real goal. I need to put in the hard work and mediate on his law and love what He commands. 

I used to believe that the meaning to life is to give life a meaning. Now I trust in his purpose for me and know that no matter my success or failure, it’s all the same in his eyes. I look forward to going deeper and surrendering all my plans to Jesus. 

My Resolutions (Nick Ahn)

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For the new year of 2019, I would like to become more aware of the actions and thoughts I have and asking God in prayer first before anything. I realize in the previous year, I didn’t look to God first when problems or situations came up and thought that I could do it without God. I am making a resolution to seek more dependence on God instead of independence.

Another New Year’s resolution I have is to actively seek opportunities to live a healthier, more fruitful life this year. I constantly waited for God to come to me and believed that blessings would just end up on my doorstep. However, I plan on making a considerable effort to seek the better treasures God has in store for me. I am striving to be more active by exercising so that I can have more energy and a positive attitude with my family, friends, and God. I’ve realized for a while that my parents are very supportive of me and even though I have messed up numerous times, they are still loving and patient with me. I want to change myself in these areas so that I don’t have to cause my parents to worry about me as much. 

This new year, I would also like for my friendships to grow and deepen. I want my friendships to have lasting value in my life. My friends, Joey and Justine, have also made a resolution this year to spend more time with me and develop our friendship. I believe that God wanted me to hear their resolutions and to know that He has a plan for me, showing that He cares even in my weaknesses and lowest points. In the same way my friends made their resolutions, I would like to reciprocate by spending more quality time with my other friends. This resolution is difficult for me because I am not the type to initiate events or meeting up with people. Nevertheless, I will depend on God to help me spend time with people and have true fellowship.

Pastor Bryan Kim spoke in his message from Luke 11:9 and how we should ask, seek, and knock. I’ve heard many sermons on this passage but this passage at the beginning of the new year convicted me to come up with these resolutions for 2019.

Bethel United (Eliot Moon)

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Our winter retreat is one of, if not the biggest, events across our Jr. high and Sr. high ministries. Bethel United, the youth group, hosts this annual retreat so that students can retreat from the world and spend four days fully immersed in God’s word. Through this time, they are equipped and empowered to live out and share the good news when they return to their homes.

 I’ve had the privilege of serving at eight of Bethel’s youth retreats, but the 2018 winter retreat was my favorite. “Why?” you may ask. The answer is because we were UNITED.

 “22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one”.

 I was encouraged to see that members of Bethel, regardless of age, came together in UNITY to worship and serve at this retreat. Thank you to Pastor Justin, Pastor Dan, and all EM members for serving as small group and family group leaders. Thank you to Intern Sam for serving with media. Thank you to Pastor Tim, Deacon Harold, Deacon Tim, and all EM members who served behind the scenes in preparing dinner for us.

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As we move forward with Bethel Generations and incorporating the “family style” of worship, I believe our students began to see the importance of learning from the older church members. Through this retreat, our 7th-12th grade students were taught the impact our EM congregation could have by helping them grow in their faith through studying the word together, faith-based conversations, praying together, and being served.

In my own upbringing, I saw the importance of learning from the older generation at my previous church. The impact the English congregation had on my faith as a youth student was so powerful. From the EM, I had multiple mentors and teachers I could look up to. I felt like I had older brothers and sisters I could learn from in the faith.

What drives me to serve in the youth ministry now is simply the fact that God could use my experiences and redemption story to impact the life of even at least one student and help lead him/her to Jesus. Though I’m lacking in many areas, I want to share how God loved me even at my worst, and that our God is worth following.

Planning for His Plan (Sora Kim)

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I am a planner by nature. As a child, I would line up my Barbie dolls and dress them and do their hair in an assembly line; as a teen, I meticulously wrote down all my school assignments and extracurricular activities in my planner, color coded together with my books and highlighted according to priority; and as an adult, I have calculated each step of my studies and career in order to accomplish and obtain certain set targets and objectives. I have a 5-year plan, a 10-year plan, set time limits and markers for when I want to achieve each coming life goal, and a calendar that includes everything from lunch plans with girlfriends to friends’ kid’s birthdays. 

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As much as I planned, I never set New Year’s resolutions. I figured that there was no need for resolutions for the year given that I had already planned out every future step that I should take. I mean, did I really need another To Do List or list of goals when my life was already so planned, designed, and manufactured? No. But what I failed to realize in those plans was that I never planned for God; what God desired of me, for me, and to do with me. It was only a few years ago when I attended a conference where one of the speakers shared about setting resolutions for each year with God—a list of items or topics to pray over for the year. That was 2017—the year that I prayed to Be Uncomfortable, and that I would seek His glory over my comfort. God most assuredly answered that prayer for that year. I was stretched and pulled, and it was souncomfortable. (I wouldn’t recommend praying for it unless you really want it to happen). This past year in 2018, my prayer was to Love Others. And oh my, did God answer my prayers again, by growing me to love those with His love for us, when our capacity for love fails. 

Now, as I begin 2019, I start the year with renewed requests before Him: that I would be Humble, have a heart of Gratitude, and Trustin His provision, because as much and as mightily as I may plan my steps and my life, His will, timing, and way will stand. So for this year, I am planning on His plan, for He will reveal them to me each in His perfect time, for “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV.

Happy New Year, Bethel English Church!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Amy Kim)

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I thought this retreat was gonna be like any other retreat. To be very honest, at first I was more worried about the decorations and if there was enough space for everyone to sleep. Not once, while we were getting ready for this retreat, did I think to myself “OMG I WANNA BE BLESSED.” 

The past two years of my life have been dreadful and very tough. If I could explain in one word, I felt like I was drowning. Every single day I struggled with my identity, my insecurities, my anxieties, and even my reason to live. I couldn’t understand why God gave me all this suffering in my life and I was constantly blaming Him for everything that was going on. This made me feel so guilty and it felt like there was no way out, not a single answer to my questions, and no light at the end of the tunnel.

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This getaway we had the privilege of having Pastor Will Chung speak for us. I’ve always loved his sermons, and they have always been an encouragement for me when I was going through hard times. Although I knew Pastor Will, he didn’t know who I was. And despite that, God somehow used him to talk to me. 

During our second service, God’s Word addressed how we are fearfully and wonderfully made, how we are fearfully set apart, and how our days are numbered by God. The sermon felt so heavy in my heart because I couldn’t let go of my insecurities. I couldn’t truly believe that I was really fearfully and wonderfully made by Him, and that He was in control of my life when it felt like my life was a mess. As the service was ending, we had a moment for prayer, and as I stood there, I couldn’t pray or try to explain to God what was going on in my head. The only words that came out of my mouth were “I’m tired, Lord. I can’t do this.” Suddenly I felt a hand upon my head, and Pastor Will started praying for me, and his prayer broke me because he put into words the overwhelming truths that I myself couldn’t express. That’s when I saw how much God truly loves and knows me. I witnessed how He is capable of using someone who doesn’t know my story, who doesn’t know what I’m going through, who doesn’t even know my name, to pray the exact prayer that I needed. 

I would love to tell you guys that I’m fully healed and that now I’m closer to God than ever, but I’m not. I still struggle, still have my anxieties, still have insecurities, but after this getaway I know where to begin: God. 

Family Camping Trip (Steve Park)

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Camping has meant many things. Being older and a parent I know it from many perspectives. Once little, I remember a sense of adventure and freedom to test the laws of nature. As a young adult, I found an escape from the rigors of life. Then we had children and it all became too much. Instead of escape, camping with a baby exposed a whole new layer of reality. It wasn’t long before we traded in our tents for condos and resorts. I remember thinking that we were maturing and this was the natural progression of life. We were content.

As we settled into this phase of our life, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the past camping trips and how I wanted that experience for my children. I always imagined spending intimate moments in nature with my children. But we were so set in our ways, I couldn’t see how to bring it out of the past. Then last year, after a 10-year hiatus, with a group of our old friends, we decided to camp. I guess we were all feeling a little guilty that we were not providing our children the basics of childhood memories. As excited and committed as we were, memories of why we left camping in the first place kept creeping back into our minds. Leading up to it, we had a lot of anxiety and we were thinking of many plan B’s. But we had others that counted on us and we could not back out. As we arrived and saw the excitement in our children as they ran around with curious energy, and despite what we were going to have to endure, we realized we made the right decision. Friends arrived that we haven’t seen for a long time and it was like old times. Camping has a way of bringing us back to when times were simple.

Although we have become comfortable with camping, as the days neared for the Bethel campout, a little hesitation set in again. Camping with the church was a little different. It was way bigger and the thought of spending multiple days with folks you know only from the few hours on Sunday takes a little courage and commitment. But slowly, as we help each other build tents and set up camp, we get excited at the prospect of creating a little village. It moves quickly and before you know it, we are in our new home with our new neighbors. Soon the kids are rolling in dirt, collecting pebbles, and eventually find their way to each other. As they share this experience, you can see the friendships forging and I’m inspired by how simple it is. The parents look adoringly from afar and soon start forging their own friendships. It gives me a chance to talk over what kind of stakes we use on our tent, the logo on someone’s hat, the type of sandals we wear, and other topics that don’t matter. They are of the moment and it brings us closer. I think the spirit of camping is not only connecting with nature but just as important, with each other.

With camping comes a lot of work, especially with kids. We are consumed with the chore of keeping them alive. Looking at it from the outside, it doesn’t appear to be a vacation for the parents. But through it all, we find peace.

Since our comeback to camping, we have been on a few others. Every trip has its own challenges. I believe that sometimes through these challenges we are reminded of things that are important in our lives. This year’s Church camping trip was no exception. I guess God decided the challenge of organizing a 50+ person camping trip just wasn’t enough. We were tested with our patience, our perseverance, our willingness to compromise, and our capacity to support each other. Out of it, we have new friends, renewed friendships, and great memories of the time we stuck it out. Maybe it’s the Kimchi-jjigae and all the Korean faces, but the Bethel Church camp makes me think of my youth and camping with my parents. I can’t help but think of them and all that they did to create childhood memories for us.

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Camping & God’s Perfect Plan (David & Ann Park)

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Family Camping Trip? Honestly, I wasn’t sure my wife would agree to go camping and wasn’t sure if my kids were really ready for it. I also haven’t gone camping in 15 years and on top of that, I didn’t have any camping gear. After using Pastor Dan’s wise words of “it’s only 30 minutes away so if the kids can’t handle it, you can always go back home,” I was able to convince my wife (Ann) to commit.

To our surprise, our kids Ellie (5 years old) and Elijah (4 years old) loved it. As Elijah put it: “We found nature!” We quickly realized that with the chaos of life, we have never taken them camping and didn’t know how much they would enjoy it. They ran around in the dirt, collected rocks, made new friends and even ate some s’mores.

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As much as we enjoyed watching our kids having fun, my wife and I enjoyed the fellowship even more. We had been going to Bethel for several months but only knew a couple families through House Church. When we arrived at the camping trip we felt welcomed immediately and got to know so many families. The amazing food definitely added to the fellowship as well!

As the days past, we were reminded that everything is in God’s perfect plan. It wasn’t a coincidence that we came to Bethel when we did and it wasn’t a coincidence that we went on the family camping trip. It was in His perfect plan and it was a great reminder to just trust in Him. We are already looking forward to next year’s trip.

Camping & Community (Jamie Chon)

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My family and I had the pleasure of participating in Bethel EM's second annual San Onofre camping trip and we had a blast!  We basked in the sun's rays while sitting on the ocean shore, ate until our bellies were past full, and enjoyed good company around the campfire.  As I enjoyed my time with my family and friends I was constantly reminded of and appreciative of our community and their gracious acts of service that made the event possible.  As busy as our day to day lives are with our families it was nice to fellowship with our church community and be reminded of the importance of doing life together.  Looking forward to keeping it going!

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The Hiroshima Harvest (Justin Chou)

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The Greatest Commandment says to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. These words are simple to understand but the question remains, how do we love a God who does not present Himself in a physically tangible way? By loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Our neighbor is not always near to us, often they are on the other side of the world. 

Short term missions work is a time for God to open our eyes to the vision He has for our life and His ministry. It often blesses the missionaries more so than the locals. We pray for God to help us find the lost however it ends up being a time for God to work in our own lives. 

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In Japan, I witnessed a place where the gospel has not flourished and there is much work to be done. Statistics describe a country where less than 1% of the population knows Jesus. All is not lost however and amidst the spiritual darkness of Japan, there exists light which shines through it all. In visiting three small chapels of Hiroshima, there is a feeling of peace and rest. 

Our team was blessed to meet with the pastors who spoke about their strategy to spread the gospel in Hiroshima. They praised our missionary, Jessica Lee and how amongst many missionaries, she sits at the top. In meeting these three men, you sense their duty to the gospel and their unrelenting purpose to shine God’s light. 

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We also attended two services: Asaminami Bilingual Church (ABC) and Koyo Chapel, the latter whose congregation primarily held attendees well into retirement years. You see, in the wake of post-World War II a small revival took place between 1945-1960. This is the last generation where the gospel has been fruitful. They diligently took notes during P. Justin’s sermon and without words you knew they were devoted followers of Jesus. Many sisters in Jessica’s English class even tearfully shared their prayers for their descendants to know Christ. 

During our week we were also fortunate to visit and volunteer at a farm recently purchased by the Staddon family. Their call is to work and rehabilitate Hikikomori, a population of social recluses caused by Japan’s intense societal pressure. Never in my life did I expect to live out the words of Jesus, and during our day there, I reflected on his words. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2) Clearing the farm was exhausting labor but to see the healthy soil at the bottom was well worth the effort. 

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My time in Japan was an eye-opening experience. God showed me a country where there is great need for the gospel message. My encouragement is to pray for the lost in Japan to be found, for our own hearts to be broken for them. Only through Christ’s love can the harvest be tilled and only through Christ can we find salvation. 

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Hiroshima (Daniel Won)

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The last time I went to Japan was six years ago right after I graduated from college. As all first-time tourists routinely do, I visited all of the main attractions, ate typical Japanese cuisines, and enjoyed what the country of Japan could provide me. Fast forward to 2018. I joined the Japan House church, not overly thinking about the possibility of actually flying out to Japan for missions, but thankfully, Bethel English Church provided that ample opportunity for me to go back to Japan for the second time not as a tourist, but as someone who can provide for the country I fell in love with the foundation to expand the Kingdom of God. I’ve never been on an oversees mission trip. I was excited yet anxious about my interactions with the locals. I didn’t know what to expect. 

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As we flew into Hiroshima without any flight hiccups, I felt a sense of peace and comfort in a foreign country that I’ve only set afoot for the second time. I knew the Japanese people were one, if not, the nicest people in the world—hard working, polite and very respectful. I thought I knew the customs and courtesies of greeting, but boy was I wrong. Jessica, our missionary, told us shaking hands and hugging were a foreign concept. As Americans, we immensely struggled with that concept throughout the week. We all resisted the urge to shake hands or give hugs to those we met, rather giving a slight bow. I, with others, sometimes reached out their hands only to receive unsatisfying shakes or awkward hugs, only to find so much joy and laughter from it. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of this whole missions trip was showing the love Christ has allowed me to give to the people of Hiroshima. We went to two of Jessica’s English classes to help her students to speak English with native speakers. Small exercises triggered deep conversations about their families that they loved talking about so much. The English classes truly set a foundation and tone throughout the week as we routinely saw the same individuals over again in Younghae’s award winning Calligraphy class and Sunday’s church services. We were able to continually build a relationship and show the love of Christ every day. 

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We also worked tirelessly at the “Big Morning” farm to support Art and Darcy’s unconditional love for those stricken by Hikikimori. The Hikikimori people are those that are stricken with a deep sense of depression and hopelessness. This population in Japan is growing and it has become a major crisis affecting mostly young men. At the “Big Morning” farm, we cleared the path for a large vegetable garden by stripping away large amounts of heavy tarp, picking up an endless amount of tile and spikes and fought through harsh conditions of rain and mud. It was back-breaking work, but the results were priceless. We helped set the path for individuals suffering from Hikikimori to rehabilitate and find hope through Christ. 

From talking with the students in Jessica’s English class to working hard in the mud and rain to help build a sustainable “Big Morning” Hikikimori farm to helping assist in a Calligraphy class to visiting local churches was by far the most rewarding and joyful experiences I’ve ever had. Even through a thick language barrier, it was so easy to love, laugh and build a foundation for the people of Hiroshima. Christ truly showed us what it’s like to love those without the ability to speak their language. They spoke as much English they knew but our hearts became so full. They loved talking about their families, but at the same time, they were so invested in our very own lives. Indeed, it is so easy to love those who are easily lovable. Christ has set a strong foundation in Hiroshima and we are so excited to see the seeds grow.  

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Heavenbound (Barnaby Lin)

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For some reason, reflecting on life and God always takes a minimum of a two hour car ride and a beautiful getaway. Yet, what the BEC Congregational Retreat reminded me of was that planned excursion or not, we all have a destination. Pastor Dave set the tone of the retreat by prompting us of Jesus' return: a promise of something greater than what we have in front of us. In the past four years of my graduate education in clinical psychology, I found it convenient to bury myself in school and work. I thought to myself that my time and effort was dedicated to an honorable pursuit. In reflection, I realized that my devotion served to quell my own anxieties and insecurities about being a good person. Being heaven-bound however, meant not just a well-organized presentation of my life, but the offering of my life.

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To that end, Pastor Dave encouraged us to relearn stillness before God. While so many things in the world compete for our attention, we must remember that God is our refuge and strength. That whatever trials and sufferings we face, we can turn to our Father, whose love never fails. Despite this, I know I tend to trust the things of this world to find peace and solace, only to remain restless and yearning. Allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and be my heart's mirror feels uncomfortable and even painful.  Nevertheless, I need the Spirit to search my priorities and reveal God's heart to me. The Christian life is not merely a religious practice, but an alignment of hearts. So my prayer is that we reflect not just during special occasions, but daily upon God's calling on our lives. Remembering that this place is not our home, that we would be heaven-bound.

Hiroshima (Brittany Byun)

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During my 4 years of college God revealed how weak and broken I am and how much greater His grace and sovereignty are in comparison. I had always wanted to go on short term missions with my church or campus ministry—and even signed up twice before, but the timing never worked out. A few months ago, God placed this Japan mission trip on my heart and here I am so blessed to go!

Right now, I am taking a gap year before grad school and while I am sometimes disappointed that I am not already in school, I know God is still leading me well. God is faithful beyond words and He has given me this time for good rest and has so graciously opened a door for me to help our missionary contact (Jessica Lee) fulfill the Great Commission in Hiroshima.

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Today, our team of 6 will be going to Hiroshima, Japan to share the gospel. Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world, yet its people are widely unfamiliar with the gospel message. It is the 2nd largest unreached population group in the world. Less than 2% of the Japanese population is Christian today.

Despite these discouraging numbers, I know that God’s triumph is sure. Isaiah 25:3 says, “Therefore strong nations will declare your glory; ruthless nations will fear you.”I like this verse because Isaiah declares God’s sovereignty and grace and proclaims that all nations will turn to God. The triumph is sure because God is the one doing it all. “In that day the people will proclaim, This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings! (Isaiah 25:9)”In all of our lacking, He abounds more than we know. He is all we need. This has been my prayer as I try to prepare my heart for Japan. Nothing done for the cause of advancing God’s kingdom is done vain, so I THANK YOU, Bethel English Church for sending and supporting our team! 

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Changing the Pace (David Jigu Kim)

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My life is busy and it doesn’t seem to slow down. My mentality in life was to work hard and not complain even when I’m exhausted.  As of now, I work in the hospitality industry, working long hours and hoping it’s all going to pay off. I think if I put in the time, work hard, and dream big, I’ll be that much closer to living up to my goals and expectations. 

I thought fixing my attitude and growing thicker skin would help me reach my goals and ambitions. But everyone gets burned out and needs time to recover. When I was at the Young Adults’ retreat a few months ago, I told myself I’m on vacation. But little did I know that God was going to rock me. I forgot what it meant to truly rest and to enjoy living in the moment rather than being so fixated on the future. 

I think about Psalms 62:5-7, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation my fortress; I shall not be shaken on God rests my salvation and my glory my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

This verse speaks to me because in the craziness of life, in times of stillness… our Lord speaks volumes. He reminds me that He is my rock, my salvation, my fortress and nothing can shake that up, not even the busyness of life. In this time of rest, I’m beginning to learn how to rest in Him and to put my trust in him. 

1 Peter 5:7, “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

When I struggle with my personal life, whether it be my shortcomings as a follower of Christ, not getting the job opportunities, or losing close relationships with people I love… I find myself unable to understand what is going on and why it is happening.  I don’t understand why these things are happening in my life. But at the retreat, I learned that you don’t always have to understand. Instead, I learned to place my rest and trust in His occurrence. Jesus doesn’t always provide details, but he promises that our struggles will be addressed. So here I wait in silence for his still voice, trusting that he is my refuge.