First Time In South Korea – Photo Blog – Global English Ministries

Before I moved to Korea, I didn’t know exactly where and how I would be serving here. During my interview, I got asked a range of questions, and a good number of them were about leading music. I even was asked if I would feel comfortable leading music for 1,000 people! Well, I have had a chance now to lead the worship music a couple of times now: one time, it was for Global Family Worship in the Korean congregation, where there were 800-1,000 people! But I want to describe what my English congregation looks like.

I serve the Global English Ministries [GEM] congregation, which falls under the Global Department of the Korean congregation, Global Mission Church. It is a congregation of approximately 400 English-speaking people, who may be native Korean (often “2nd generation”), ‘ex-pats’ from Australia, Canada, etc. and some ministers and missionaries, as well as the youth group. It is largely made up of people around my age, but there are healthy children’s and youth ministries as well. There are two services each Sunday, 10am and 2pm, and a youth service at 12pm. We have some Bible studies and discipleship meetings and various other ministries, such as visiting the orphanage or building relationships with North Korean refugees.

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Pastoral Ministry

pN

Children’s sermon, article in church magazine,
and sermon for Mongolian congregation

In my church office, pastors get called by their nickname: for instance, Pastor Josh becomes P.J. Mine is “p.N.” One of the main tasks of being a pastor here means preaching sermons. Besides sermons for the English congregation, I have had the opportunity to preach for the children’s ministry, youth ministry, and Mongolian ministry. I’ve also had the chance to share part of my testimony by writing an article for the church magazine. I am also currently leading my second Bible study and I’ve done 3 Friday night worship/prayer times so far.

Youth Worship

For the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to lead worship on Sundays for the youth group in my English congregation (how’s that for qualifiers?). It has been a joyous and daunting opportunity. The youth worship team is very competent and hard-working and the music on Sundays sounds great. It is such a rewarding experience to worship God and then have God use your worship to facilitate more worship for fellow believers.

Thankfully, I do not have to lead every Sunday, because the youth pastor Joshua Suh – while doing the preaching and leading for the youth group – also leads worship on certain occasions as well. In fact, before I came along, he had been doing all the worship leading and preaching himself! Three weeks ago (I think) I got to lead half of the worship times at the annual youth retreat [more on that later]. I am thankful and so glad to be doing this and investing this particular talent.

leading

Leading is hard work

Even this, though, the Lord has used to sanctify and temper my mettle. Pastor Josh gets to pick the songs, since he knows the youth group and the songs they know. This means that sometimes the learning curve for me is steep. Learning a new praise song is not hard: learning it well enough to lead confidently and in time with the rest of a band is hard. It is a great situation because like just about everything in Korea, everyone knows that I am leading not out of sheer personal merit but because of my position. So I have humble myself to receive grace, to work hard to learn and lead, and to be transparent. Thankfully, again, the Lord has blessed and most Sundays the worship time is beautiful. I have really become more in touch with expressing my feelings towards God and being together with others: I am far more willing to sing out and tear up in the midst of praise.

But some days, things fall apart. Our first worship time for the youth retreat was one of those times. We were introducing a couple of new songs to the youth group, and there were 2 or 3 songs that were entirely new to me. Well, we got on stage and limped through the first one but in the second song, the wheels came off. The keyboard wasn’t giving us a pulse to keep time, the lead guitar forgot his intro riff, and I didn’t put my capo on my guitar [we had decided to change the key at practice a few days ago but that change was not made on the chord charts] so I was in the wrong key! Eventually I stopped playing and let the bass give me the right key to sing. The song was the new “The Way” from Tim Hughes and co. and so if you listen to the song, you’ll know the melody line is not your usual, paced praise tune and the chorus kicks up notably. So, just imagine tires screeching in a parking garage and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it sounded like. After that set, I was the most ashamed I’d ever been in my life – my first distinct failure since being in South Korea. The guest speaker got up to speak and I just prayed and processed and persuaded myself not to walk out of the worship hall and to the nearest bus stop for the airport. It was that bad. When the guest speaker ended, it was decided that we wouldn’t do the ending song we had planned, ostensibly because of time constraints. I felt very responsible for letting the youth team down, the youth group and all the adults there down, including the other pastors.

I could say more, but in that moment, I felt and experienced being completely melted down as all my impurities of pride, selfishness, etc. rose to the surface of my conscious. I had to forgive myself and feel exposed, vulnerable. Everyone now knew I was completely mortal and fallible as a worship leader. But, I am pretty sure that led us to more accurate intimacy for the duration of the retreat and so that picture you see up there of me confidently leading is only after the Lord has His way with me in front of everyone. It is experiences like these that I could never have sought or contrived myself but which the Lord has brought me to in order to make me more and more capably His servant.

Update – 7/22/2015

Here’s a rundown of some things I have been doing lately:

– recently started giving English tutoring to a young boy from the Chinese congregation; he is very smart and knows the English alphabet and a lot of English words but his mom wants to help him speak English and so I have been focusing on English syntax – how to make your own sentences! This is actually a great ministry opportunity as well. They are a homeschool family, so on top of the fact that many families raising young children are a little isolated from regular society, I get to build relationships with these people I might not otherwise even see through tutoring. Plus, I now get to fulfill the stereotype of a young American in Korea: I do “teach English.”

– recently started leading the youth worship for the Sunday services. This is an exciting opportunity to do regular worship leading. This past Sunday was a little difficult: I learned on Wednesday that 3 of the 5 songs we were singing on Sunday were entirely new to me! And I would be out of the country Thursday and Friday, doing my visa run to Japan! This role will be very challenging but rewarding as well.

– last Thursday I went on my second visa run to Fukuoka, Japan. This is Hakata Station:

It was rainy the whole day, which meant that the summer weather didn't get a chance to assert its heat.
It was rainy the whole day, which meant that the summer weather didn’t get a chance to assert its heat.

It was nice and relaxing – I got coffee on Friday and the barista gave me a tip on a good ramen restaurant that required adventuring two more subway stations away for lunch! Then, my flight got delayed out of Japan and so I had the adventure of landing in Incheon, Korea at midnight and paying a lot of money for the taxi-driver to take me home because the airport buses stop running at 10:45pm!

– I am also finishing up on August 1 the Bible study that I got to do for the past couple of months. We studied 2 Timothy and though 50% of the people who started the Bible study didn’t complete it, I think its been good to get some of my theology out there and discover more about the gospel. It has been good to dialogue and verbally process through 2 Timothy – I have formulated and re-formulated some things that I never would have just by myself.

– This Sunday I will be giving my third sermon so far. I will be preaching on Genesis 17-18:15, where the Lord confirms the Abrahamic covenant with circumcision and then ch. 18, the Lord shows up! I hope that I can prepare a sermon true to God’s word. This Sunday Paul and our senior pastor are gone on trips, so I will be preaching 3 services, including the youth. I am praying that I can carry the right tone for the different audiences.

I am so thankful for all these different experiences! Thanks for your love and attention!