Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reflections: The Value of Friendship

The end of the year is closing in, and as the new year approaches I have been reflecting on the events of the past twelve months. So much has changed in such a short period of time, and I thought it would be helpful to me, and maybe interesting to you to collect a few of the significant lessons that the Lord has taught me over the past year here on my blog.

In the beginning of March I moved from Chicago to South Korea. I had been invited to visit Juhyang Community Church in January and while I was there they offered me the opportunity to return and help them begin an English ministry. In addition to serving at the church, opportunities opened for me to serve with a campus group and a missionary training school. I had few expectations about what my experience in Chuncheon would be like, but God wanted to use my time there to teach me a valuable lesson that I didn't expect.

Within a couple of months in Chuncheon I was experiencing some significant culture-shock. I had attempted to set my expectations low, but there were many experiences that left me feeling jaded. During the first three months in Chuncheon I had spent my time exclusively with Koreans--many of whom had little or no English ability. My Korean was getting much better, but the lack of a shared language often led to miscommunication and misunderstanding. I felt like the rug was being pulled out from under my feet. Many times God uses hardship and suffering to get us to reflect on what is really valuable.

At the end of June I went on a three week long trip to Japan and the USA. Just before leaving for the trip a couple of visitors attended the English worship service at Juhyang Community Church. They were Pastor Eric Beck and Pastor James Lee of Harvest Time Community Church. After the service we went out to eat jjajangmyeon. I learned from them that there was already an English language international church being planted in Chuncheon, and they already had a well established core of people. It occurred to me that rather than I could much more fruitful partnered together with what they were already doing than I had been on my own. Henry Blackaby's maxim comes to mind; if you want to experience God, discover where God is working and join Him.

Eric and I post shabu-shabu. Nice haircut 'eh.
After returning in July I began attending Harvest Time and participating in their outreach to international students at Kangwon National University. It turns out that we had both been partnered with different people from the same organization doing virtually the same thing--like ships passing in the night. I started to spend a lot of time together with Eric. In addition to the time spent together in prayer and outreach, I found that he had a heart with a great passion for the Lord, and we leaned on each other as each of us sought to serve the Lord in Chuncheon. We also ate a lot of great food, watched movies, played board games and screen golf.

One thing that I hadn't considered before going to Chuncheon was just how much a strong friendship could affect the whole of my ministry in a place. I found that a lot of the things that I had been struggling with were suddenly much easier to bear. My bitterness and disappointment were replaced with joy and excitement. I feel that God even helped our friendship to be contagious. There is a great community at Harvest Time and it only seemed to get better week to week! I am so grateful for the time I got to spend there, because the Holy Spirit is so clearly at work in that community of believers.

Sometimes it takes a life experience for us to understand the Bible better--I had never had such a strong and encouraging friendship with another guy since coming to faith in Christ. The first thing that comes to mind is Jonathan and David--God knit our hearts together with a common vision and passion in a very short time. It was extremely difficult to leave Chuncheon in spite of the excitement I had about the opportunity God had given me to begin support raising to go to Japan with Converge Worldwide.

Even Iron Man is better with a friend.
God doesn't want us to serve him alone. We are better together than we are individually. The body is made up of many different parts and we need each other. I understand much better why Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two. I am really grateful for the friendship I found with Eric Beck in Chuncheon. God used him to minister to me and help me to realize how much I needed community and fellowship with the body of Christ--it moved beyond a conceptual understanding to a real experience.

I would appreciate it if you would pray for Eric as he faithfully serves with Harvest Time International Church as the Outreach Pastor! He holds weekly Bible studies for international students at Kangwon National University and Hallym University. He is also responsible for weekly bible studies and men's fellowship at Harvest Time. Eric, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Clara live in Chuncheon by faith. He has a home in Joplin Missouri that he has been trying to sell from a distance. Please pray that they would find a buyer for their home as this would help them greatly with their finances.

Eric serves bi-vocationally and his wife Elizabeth works full time as an English teacher. Their time is very precious, but they give it away so generously. Pray that God would bless them and their family during this Christmas season!

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