From The Pastor's Desk
“The best of all is, God is with us!”
- The Journal of John Wesley, ed., Percy Livingstone Parker, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press), 419
During this winter season, what is your favorite thing to do? Mine is having a cup of “Peppermint Mocha.” You can easily find it as a seasonal drink at any café. The reason why I really like Peppermint Mocha is that it is not only delicious, but it also reminds me of the one who is my center of life – Jesus Christ.
Let’s think about the main ingredients of a Peppermint Mocha. Espresso, chocolate, milk, peppermint. First of all, like Espresso, Jesus always wakes me up. When my Spirit is sleeping and I’m not able to find God’s presence or his love around me, Jesus always wakes my Spirit up. Also when I struggle with some problems, he always wakes me up. Then I can come back to the right path on which God leads me.
Secondly, like Chocolate, his love is so sweet. Since Jesus Christ loved us so much, he came to us. And his love has already prevailed in our midst. Also, we need to remember that as we spread his love by sharing what we have, serving others, and caring for one another, the sweetness of his love spreads out more and more to every corner of the world. Indeed, Jesus is love itself. So, once you taste his love, no one can make you stop.
Thirdly, like milk, Jesus nourishes us. As a mom feeds her baby, through his love, wisdom, guidance, teaching and words, Jesus nourishes us. We grow by his love in his grace and we grow up through faith in him.
Lastly, like peppermint, Jesus refreshes us. God created human beings from the dust of the ground, and he breathed life into each one of us, so we started breathing. Because of Jesus, you can be who you really are. When you have become weary, tired, or thirsty, his love makes you feel renewed or more energetic.
Likewise, Jesus reveals himself through every situation you encounter, every person you meet, and through everything that you can’t even imagine. I hope and pray this new year, you will find and experience Jesus in your midst in new and different ways. Happy New Year!
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
There is a novel, Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe. It is a story about a man shipwrecked on a desert island. After that, he had to lead a solitary life. Then he realized that he became a "thrown being" regardless of his will. All the other colleagues were all drowned, and only he was alive. He had no clothes to wear, but the climate was so hot that he did not need any clothes at all. And he had no weapon to defend himself, but there were no wild beasts attacking him like he saw when he went to Africa in the past.
Robinson had no one to talk to so he taught a parrot to talk. Even though he did not have the necessary materials and tools, he believed that God supplied the most basic things that he needed to live through a broken ship. Therefore, he finally learned a very valuable lesson, that he could find at least something to be thankful for even in the midst of a miserable situation.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a, Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” Actually, when he was writing this letter to the church at Thessalonica, he was struggling with great suffering. Then, what made him to be thankful in the midst of hardship?
First, Paul was not thankful for the richness associated with ‘material possessions.’ Secondly, he was not thankful for an easy life, rather he was thankful for having ‘a thorn in the flesh.’ Thirdly, he was not thankful for ‘being exalted.’ However, he was only thankful for knowing Christ in his life. He regarded everything as loss except gaining Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:8) Therefore, he could rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.
We may not able to live just like Robinson Crusoe or Paul, but at least we could learn something from their attitude of being thankful. As we wait for the coming of Jesus, I sincerely hope and pray that we remember the most important reason to be thankful that we have. It is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Since he came to us, we are able to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Pastor Ran Yoo
Title: It is that time again to ask God for help for our Parish and The United Methodist Church
Matthew 7:8-Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Pastor Ran and I want to say "Thanks" to you. Thanks for fully supporting us and baby Caleb. We really thank you for your love, kindness, generosity, help and everything you do for our ministry. Thanks for your faithful decision to maintain our parish ministry continually with us.
Even though we have only been here 2 years and 5 months, we have done and maintained many things for the parish and will have a fruitful ministry plan.
Things we have done:
Maintained the Parish Youth Group Meeting. Regularly, 5-15 youth have joined our program.
Maintained a monthly children’s program, Children Fun Sunday at Atlas UMC & Go Fish Program at Central UMC.
Maintained the Invitation & Homecoming Sunday to focus on inviting new people to SCF UMC and still have a plan to apply this event parish-wide as the church evangelical event.
Continued to introduce ourselves to the community and have participated in local church events.
Maintained many other mission projects in the community and the Wisconsin Annual Conference.
Maintained regular visitations to church & non-church members, once per month. Also, we are covering several emergency pastoral visitations. Anytime, the pastors are ready to visit our church members when they need our help.
Next year, our continuing priority is to be united among the three churches as one parish beyond financial obligations. For that, we will have planned 3-4 joint parish worship services, parish fundraising events for our next generation, parish missional work, parish bible study, parish youth retreat & mission trip and parish children’s ministry.
Our second priority is our revival, not only spiritually, but also increasing attendance numbers. Finding our lost sheep at each church and inviting new people to our church will increase our attendance. We have a plan to launch a Homecoming & Invitation Sunday at Central UMC next year for that purpose. I am so glad to share that we gotten more people and some increase of regular attendance last and this year in the churches.
Financially, we know we will definitely have financial problems next year too. We have a 2% increase in the parish budget, almost $3,000 compared with last year. This is not a tremendous jump compared with last year, but we are having a hard time solving this problem ourselves. If we don't receive a Conference Financial Supportive Grant ($7,650) and Central's apportionment deduction ($6,774), we will struggle to solve it.
However, remember that we are still surviving and also have some positive signals to solve this financial issue, specifically that SCF UMC decided to keep their commitment, even though we were changed from 4 to 3 churches in the parish and to extend it to us until next December and prepare a $1,200 emergency fund again to help the other churches, if they still struggle financially.
FROM THE PASTOR CONT…
Central UMC has kept the inancial stewardship program and Atlas has started a new fundraising event and all churches accepted the budget and have tried to overcome this difficulty with faith. Also, the D.S. and the conference may try to help us this year, not only spiritually, but also physically too.
In addition, as a leader of the church and as the pastors in the Upper St. Croix Parish, we have lots of holy responsibility regarding our financial situation so we decided to keep our general offering equally to the church to help cover next year’s parish budget increase, even though pastor Ran is now half time and we currently still have committed a lot to the churches. We would never shift this hardship to our congregation. We want to lead by example as the pastors of the parish.
Each church will have a Commitment & Celebration Sunday on November 11th. (The letter with the pledge card will be sent at the end of October)
Commitment and Stewardship is not merely about money. It is also about how we offer our whole lives to God and to the service of the church. We promise to serve the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. All five of these things are marks of discipleship. Your promise will help the church in managing and maintaining the 2019 church plans, which we have worked hard to budget for this coming year. However, if you are uncomfortable with giving after your prayer, please skip it until the next year. We honor and respect all your decisions.
Let's go the next step with a humble and faithful heart. I definitely promise that we are going to share and celebrate many fruitful ministerial joys with faithful friends and God here. Thanks be to God and thanks to all of you.
Blessings, Rev. Kook Ho Kim & Rev. Ran Yoo
The Special General Conference meeting in February of 2019, will be offered three options (The One Church Plan, The Connectional Conference Plan, The Traditional Plan) submitted by the Commission on A Way Forward to help direct the church in the coming years.
Many of the bishops in the U.S. and our Wisconsin Annual Conference bishop, Hee-Soo Jung. have asked local churches in WI to support the "One Church Plan" because many of us believe and think it is the best plan among all three of them to go forward together as one body of Christ in The United Methodist Church.
Here are short summaries of the three plans. Please, read them carefully and pray for our denomination, our 6 Wisconsin delegates (3 Clergy & 3 Lay delegates) and 2 alternates who are going to vote as representatives of the Wisconsin Annual Conference at the 2019 Special General Conference, and our local churches, which will follow up on the decision from General Conference.
1. The One Church Plan
Reverse the church’s historic teaching in regard to human sexuality. Remove all references to homosexuality and to marriage as between a man and a woman. Let individuals, churches, and conferences decide for themselves what standards they wish to follow. Build in assurances that the convictions of traditionalists will be honored.
2. The Connectional Conference Plan
Divide into three separate branches of United Methodism and let each
Branch adopt their own Discipline, select their own bishops, adopt their own criteria for ordination and set its own standards for human sexuality. This option would necessitate several constitutional amendments.
3. The Traditional Plan
Keep the same Discipline statements regarding human sexuality as are in the Discipline currently. However, since bishops, conferences, boards of ministry and churches are presently in open defiance of the Discipline as it now stands, close the loopholes and tighten the accountability sections of the Discipline.
The 93 page booklet (https://unitingmethodists.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/finalreport_commissiononwayforward.pdf) that shows the entire decision procession of the Commission On A Way Forward is on the information desk and I put 4 links at the bottom that explain each plan in more detail.
If you have more questions about it, please feel free to contact your pastors.
(Summarize and Compare with 3 Plans)
(Explain about the One Church Plan)
(Explain about the Connectional Conference Plan)
(Explain about the Traditional Plan)
I have written a series of easily understandable articles for many months, continuing in the September newsletter, to explain Methodism through my ministerial experiences and theologies.
This month, I wrote a short article about Holy Communion based on Methodist theology. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism as it pertains to Holy Communion and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist.
Any questions and thoughts for the pastors about Methodism and the article are welcome!
Q) What Is the Meaning of Holy Communion in the United Methodist Church?
The second sacrament is Holy Communion. Where baptism represents the outward sign of an inward cleansing and initiates us into the body of Christ, Holy Communion is the continuous sacramental relationship with Christ through the table. Holy Communion, like baptism, is an "act of worship" and a means of grace. Through Holy Communion, we "open ourselves to the divine love that’s already there." It is an experience of God’s love, and for us, it is thanksgiving to God for what God has done for us. It is an act of worship, an act of participation, and an act of remembrance.
Through Holy Communion, we worship God with thanksgiving and participate in God’s family meal, across the ages and the world, as we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through the breaking of the bread, we remember Jesus’ body that was broken for us. Through the wine, we remember Jesus’ blood that was shed for us. In all, we remember Jesus’ death on the cross as the atonement of humankind.
Holy Communion is not only remembering that Jesus died for us, it is also remembering Christ died, was raised, and then ascended into heaven. We celebrate the victory of Jesus’ resurrection within the presence of Jesus. Finally, Holy Communion is the time to remember that Jesus will come again. The promise of Jesus’ coming gives us assurance and hope that sin and death will be defeated. Through Holy Communion, we have a foretaste of the final victory.
United Methodists consider the sacraments to be holy. Baptism and Holy Communion have great importance in terms of United Methodist theology and also in practical ministry.
Pastor Kook Ho
In continuation of the series of easily understandable articles I began in February to explain about Methodism through my ministerial experiences, below is August’s article. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist. I look forward to hearing any questions and thoughts about Methodism and the article!
Q) What Is the Meaning of Baptism in the United Methodist Church?
Baptism is not the end of our faith journey. It is the beginning of our commitment to a faithful life, to live out our faith in the world, and to build up the body of Christ in the community of faith. Baptism is our response with faith, dying of ourselves and rising with Jesus Christ in our hearts. Through baptism our sins are cleansed and we begin to live "in grace and holiness through which God brings us into closer relationship with Jesus Christ." Baptism is not sanctification: it is the beginning of sanctification.
We, as United Methodists, perform infant baptism. Infant baptism is based on the firm belief of United Methodists that in grace, "God prepares the way before we request, or even know that we need help." Through this "gracious covenant" sign, infants also enter into a new life in Christ, as children of God and members of the "body" of Christ. At the moment of baptism, the presence of the congregation is this "body" of Christ that takes the responsibility to nurture the infant with her or his parents [sponsor]. Infant baptism often causes the misunderstanding that they must be re-baptized. Baptism cannot be repeated. Although we are disobedient and defiant to God, God is always faithful and remains faithful when we are disobedient and defiant.
John Wesley (the Founder of United Methodism) believed in original sin and he believed that it is important to perform infant baptism to get rid of this original sin. Though infant baptism is not about the faith of the infant, but about the faith of the parents and community, it is still an initiation of new birth and acceptance of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Kook Ho
In February I began writing a series of articles in the monthly newsletter to help explain and make Methodism easier to understand through my ministerial experiences. July’s article is below. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist. Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about Methodism and/or this article. All feedback is welcome!
When I arrived at O’Hare International Airport in September 2011, I was amazed and surprised to see lots of various people and ethnic groups. I knew that O’Hare was a famous international airport, so there would be a lot of foreigners, but this situation continued outside of the airport. Asian, African-American, Anglo-American and Hispanic people all live together in the Chicago area. There are a lot of people living here and trying to pursue living together peacefully. In my nation of South Korea there is only one ethnic group: only Koreans. The vast melting pot in America is so amazing to me. I imagine that the Kingdom of God is like this, in that everyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity will be rejoicing together.
Jesus showed us what it meant to live in the Kingdom of God in this world. When Jesus wanted to bring his Kingdom into the corrupted tax system of Jerusalem, the first thing Jesus did was recruit Matthew, the tax collector, to invest his efforts to clean up the corruption of that society. The Kingdom of heaven is economically and socially egalitarian within man’s world (Matthew 20:1-16). The Kingdom of heaven is the mirror of justice. There is no classism, racism, or sexism.
The Kingdom of God is where God’s love, grace, and justice are fulfilled. Methodists believe that God’s reign will be fulfilled not only after our deaths, but also on this earth. The Kingdom of God has already come. The coming of Jesus Christ stands for the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ showed the hope of the Kingdom of God. Not only is Jesus Christ equal to God, he came to earth in the form of a perfect human. He was crucified on the cross to resolve the sins of humans. Also, the Kingdom of God is hope. We can receive hope through Jesus’ cross.
Personally, I had many chances to witness to patients before their death during my time as an intern chaplain. There were many different appearances before death, however I clearly remember one patient. The patient was in the last stage of cancer. Her doctor said to me that she did not have any hope of recovery. She never lost her smile, even though she was dying and in so much pain. She said to me, "I believe in heaven, so I have hope and I am not afraid of my physical death. My life was so good with Jesus." At that time, I recognized that death applied equally to all people, but people had such different experiences of death depending on their situation.
As Christians, we need to think about our death. It may be a time of fear and pain, but Jesus Christ overcame death and was resurrected. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can believe in eternal life.
Pastor Kook Ho
For June I am continuing the series of articles trying to explain Methodism in an easily understandable way, through my ministerial experiences. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist.
Q) What Is Our Understanding (as Methodists) of Evil as It Exists in the World?
We believe God is perfectly good and all-powerful. God created the best of all possible universes (Genesis 1:31). However, humans fell down to sin and evil because they used their free will, given by God. Human disobedience to God leads to evil. The immoral human nature brings evil.
First, systematic evil causes social problems like unemployment, homelessness, crime, and the gap between the rich and poor. It is not only a personal problem, but also a national and global problem. When I was a missionary, I witnessed this systematic evil in the Chechen Republic in the south of Russia. The nation of Chechen had some wars with Russia. Even though the war was finished, many people still lived in poverty and suffering. Yet there were many millionaires who were oil tycoons and had political power in Russia. Their houses looked like palaces. They had security through terrorism. Many Chechen people called them the Modern Tsars. Due to this broken system, the majority of the Chechen people live in poverty. Also, many children, youth and young adults follow and fall down to extremist Islam ideas. One of the main reasons for this is the economic hardship and injustice experienced by so many in the Chechen republic. Clearly, systematic evil causes human suffering and misery in the Chechen republic and all over the world.
Second, evil is both an individual and collective action. According to Genesis, humans were created in the image of God. However, the image of God in humans was broken because of the disobedience of humankind. This means individual evil is rooted in human disobedience towards God. Human corruption causes selfishness, greed and maliciousness. Violence, murder, racism, and discrimination came from human corruption. Beyond human evil, there is collective evil like Islamic State (ISIS), the extremist Islamic terrorist group in the Middle East. This is news to us. Several years ago, they captured some American and Western European journalists and cut off their heads. They even uploaded a video of it on to YouTube. Many people could not repress their astonishment. Of course, the Islamic State is only a small minority of Islam, so we should never make the mistake of hasty generalizations about the religion of Islam, but it shows how extreme theology and groups can be evil in the world.
Even though we have some problems in the world, I believe we will overcome our problems with God’s grace. One of the most important things in the good news of Jesus Christ is that God gives us the power to overcome evil through God’s grace (Romans 8). Also, we need to be self-controlled and alert to the evil power that is around us. Jesus taught us to pray "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We should seek holiness and try to achieve Christian perfection as United Methodists and as Christians.
Beginning in February I prepared a series of easily understandable articles to explain Methodism through my ministerial experiences. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist.
- Q) What is the nature and mission of the church? What are its primary tasks today?
The origin of the word church is from the Greek, Ecclesia, which means ‘call out.’ The church is the place where people gather to worship and give thanks to God. It is also the place where those who are gathered accomplish the work of fulfilling the will of God. Paul defines the church in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This means that the church is not about the building, but the people of God who are summoned in the name of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Discipline offers an explanation of the mission and definition of the church: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world. The fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world is the vision Scripture holds before us.”
The mission of the church has been entrusted to us to be carried out though worship, edification of believers, and redemption of the world. I strongly believe that these are not just roles. The church does this naturally in the world through believers. We never stay only in the church or our houses, but also go into the world with the Gospel. The church from its beginning has existed for the world, yet it remains separate from the world. It has proclaimed the Word of God and made disciples. The church not only proclaims the Word of God, but also serves as the place where disciples of Jesus grow in faith, witness God’s works in fellow believers’ lives, and learn God’s attributes.
There is an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think it shows very well the primary work of the church today. For raising a child, we not only need a good church but we also need a good community. We do not stay only at church, for beyond the church we need to connect and serve our community through God’s love. Likewise, we need to make an effort to improve social justice in our world.
I prepared a series of easily understandable articles to continue February to explain about Methodism through my ministerial experiences. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist.
Q) What Is the Primary Characteristics of United Methodist Polity?
The superintendency of bishop and district superintendents is such a unique system in United Methodism and the United Methodist Church. The word "superintendency," derived from a Biblical word, episkopos, was applied by John Wesley.
General Superintendency and naturally the superintendency are used to indicate the district superintendent. In any case, "the term ‘superintendency’ indicates the oversight of the connection." The roles of bishop and district superintendent express very well the idea of superintendency. They have enormous responsibility during their term. As the administrator and the worker overseeing the connection with United Methodists, they have to seek an ideal balance between pressure from and asking from local churches and conferences.
The itinerancy is also a unique system in United Methodism. "Methodist began in England and America as a missionary cadre of preachers bound in connection with each other to spread the gospel and scriptural holiness over the lands." Method-ism’s starting point was missionary work at that time, so all preachers in United Methodism agreed to an itinerant system. Even though time has passed, still the presence of the itinerancy system is observed in the United Methodist Church. "Itinerancy is best suited to making sure the clergy leadership is available to as many local churches as possible." Through itinerancy, lots of small local churches receive stable clergy leadership. Not only small churches, but also many cross-cultural clergy persons receive merit from itinerancy. According to the Book of Discipline, the open itinerancy is defined that "means appointments are made with-out regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement."
This itinerancy shows strongly the connectionalism among three offices. The minister needs to agree to go to appointed places; the district superintendent has a duty to send each minister to local churches that ministers fit very well; and finally, the local church members have a duty to receive open itinerancy as their Sr. pastor. If they do not cooperate, the system of open itin-erancy will not exist and stay in United Methodism. The Book of Discipline explained connectionalism: "Integrally holding connec-tional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining." Going further, the Discipline says that worldwide connectionalism is our duty for mission working be-yond national and regional boundaries.
This connectionalism flows through all of United Methodism’s systems and workings. For example, the basic role of bishop as superintendent is to connect local churches and ministers. Beyond their local area, the Central Conference bishop’s role expands their works to mission locations. Likewise, open itinerancy shows very well United Methodist’s effort to overcome racial, ethnic, and gender minority problems in U.S. Going further, this open itinerancy helps the United Methodist Church to work together with various people in the world without prejudice. This connectionalism applies to United Methodist seminaries.
According to Wesley’s "Catholic Spirit" and the ecclesiola in ecclesia as one of UM’s character, they accepted various professors and students from different denominations. I think this policy can represent our denominational value, "Open hearts, open minds and open doors."
Pastor Kook Ho
In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us.– Romans 8:37
The 2018 Winter Olympics is now proceeding in my homeland, PyeongChang, South Korea. While I was watching the opening ceremony, I felt so sorry that I could not be there in person with my family. Anyway, whenever I watch the Olympic games, I feel so proud of all the athletes no matter the outcomes. I can’t imagine how hard they have trained for that moment!? Every moment, they might have fought with their limits in body, mind, and emotion for the game.
As I enjoy watching the Olympic games, I learned a lot of new things, especially from the Olympic Creed, Motto, and Symbol. First, The Olympic Creed is a quote by Baron de Coubertin: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part," just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." Secondly, The Olympic Motto consists of the Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The motto, introduced in 1924, is meant to spur the athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their abilities. Thirdly, The Olympic Symbol is five colored rings linked together. These rings represent the continents of North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. They also symbolize the uniting of athletes from all over the world to compete at the Olympic Games.
These three things remind me of the Christian life. Although each person is different, we all are called by God to work and live together for the kingdom of God and to be united as one body of Christ. Also the goal of the Christian life is not to be in first place but to finish well according to the guidance of God. There is no life without struggle, but in the midst of suffering our faith leads us to be swifter, higher, and stronger so that we can fight well with courage and finally overcome it. Our final goal of life is not a victory on earth, but we go for the everlasting victory in Christ Jesus. I hope you remember this as we live the season of Lent.
Pastor Ran Yoo
I have gotten some questions from church members about the uniqueness of the United Methodist Church's rules, theology, history, doctrine, etc. compared with other Christian denominations. I think that we know and recognize very well our identification as Christians but sometimes we don't know clearly understand our identification as Methodists. For this reason, I prepared a series of easily understandable articles to explain about Methodism through my ministerial experiences. I hope these articles will help you better understand Methodism and confirm and develop your faithful identification as a Methodist.
Q: What is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?
United Methodism follows a specific theological framework: Scripture, tradition, experience and reason. According to the Book of Discipline, which constitutes the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church, "The living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience and confirmed by reason." The importance of these four guidelines is that belief is ‘revealed, illuminated, vivified, and confirmed,’ which is the means of verifying and embracing our faith firmly.
For example, during my time of Clinical Pastoral Education, my supervisor asked me whether or not I would baptize a stillborn baby at the parents’ request. I answered, "Yes," based on what has been revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, vivified through my personal experience and confirmed by reason.
I remember Jesus visiting the house of Lazarus, who was dead. Jesus went to comfort the family of Lazarus and cried with them. According to these passages, love always came first over the law for Jesus Christ. In the disputes with the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the Sabbath, Jesus showed love first.
Following the example of Jesus, United Methodists provide baptism to stillborn babies. The tradition of United Methodism is to follow the love of Jesus instead of defining what is right or wrong based on the law. Love came first during my Clinical Pastoral Education experience.
I understand these four criteria to be a critical part of theological interpretation, each making significant contributions yet working together with Scripture as the primary way to witness in the United Methodist context. Through Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, we can maintain a healthy and creative tension between doctrine and reality.
Pastor Kook Ho
“Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” – Luke 1:38
“Let it be with me according to your word.” This was Mary’s response when the angel Gabriel came to her to foretell the birth of Jesus. Although being a mother of a child as a virgin was unexpected and unwelcome news to her, Mary obeyed God with this amazing confession of faith.
As we live our life, we always hope and dream of a perfect life without any frustration and challenges. Especially, as we face the new year, we may have many plans and goals hoping for a better year. However, as we already know, life does not go according to our will. Sometimes, we have to face unreasonable, unwelcome, unexpected, and unhappy situations. However, we could learn from Mary. For nothing will be impossible with God, Mary obeyed God with courage of faith, and she received the best blessing: being the mother of Jesus.
With this thought, a world-famous song, “Let it be” by the Beatles led me to have a great new insight. If you read the first verse of this song, it goes like this:
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be
Actually, this song was not written based on Mary’s story in Luke. While the Beatles were struggling with dissension, Paul McCartney dreamed about his mother, Mary McCartney saying “it will be all right, let it be” so he wrote about it in his music. But many fans tried to interpret “Mother Mary” as the virgin Mary. Anyway, considering the story of Mary in Luke, “Let it be” is good enough to remind us of Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel: “Let it be with me according to your word”
We are Christians – followers of Christ Jesus – when in times of trouble, we remember Mary’s words of wisdom: “Let it be with me according to your word” Then, our almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible, make it all right in God’s way and in God’s time. As we face the new year, I really want us to ask these questions to ourselves, “are we ready to say YES to God? Are we ready to follow and live according to God’s word?” I hope and pray that this year we are ready to say YES to God by remembering that nothing will be impossible with God.”
May God bless you and guide you in this new year! – Pastor Ran Yoo
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” - Romans 12:15 Dr. Richard C. Halverson (1916-1995), chaplain to the U.S. Senate, was credited in 1984 for a speech before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church: “In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next it moved to Europe where it became a culture, and, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.” While I was reading a news article, this quote struck my mind. And it made me think about what does our church look like? Does it look like fellowship or philosophy or institution or culture or enterprise?
I think this not only shows the regional differences, but also shows different understandings of the church today. Some people think church is one of social meetings, so they come to church to meet many people. Some people think church is a place, helping people to experience some milestones in life, such as baptism, confirmation, wedding, and funeral, so they want church to provide some service according to their needs. Some people think church is a volunteer agency, so they ask for some help from the church. Some people think church is a family home, so they grow in church and live within the church.
As one of the people who loves church, my sincere hope for our churches is to restore the former image of the church, which is of a fellowship of people centering on the living Christ. When church lost its first image, it became just a building for a particular function. However, as we sing “I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we are the church together,” the church is not a building but a people.
Then how can we restore our church to its original image – a fellowship of people centering on the living Christ? “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” As we live together following the love of Christ Jesus by sharing our moments of life, yes! Surely we can restore our first image.
As I look back at this year, I am so grateful to God for our 4 churches. Especially, since we had many funerals this year. Losing a loved one is very difficult, bringing lots of tears, but as one body of Christ, all congregations took care of the deceased’s family and were committed to working together for the funeral service. Furthermore, this year we added 4 new babies in our parish. All congregations welcomed our new brothers and sisters in Christ with love and smiling faces. In addition, countless joys and concerns were shared in the church during the year. On all such occasions, we rejoiced together and we wept together, and most importantly we prayed altogether.
It is such an honor to serve God together with you. It is such a joy to be the church together with you. My best reason for Thanksgiving this year is you, our church! Thank you for being my church family and being church together with me. Let us keep trying to do our best to rebuild our church to be a true fellowship of people centering on the living Christ together.
Blessings, Pastor Ran Yoo
It is the time to ask God for help for our Parish
Matthew 7:8-Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Pastor Ran and I want to say "Thanks" to you. Thanks for fully supporting us and baby Caleb. We really thank you for your love, kindness, generosity, help and everything you do for our ministry. Thanks for your faithful decision to maintain our parish ministry continually with us, even though we have some financial problems.
St. Croix folks, thanks for your dedication to sharing your benefit continually with our parish churches. Your continuing support has been a huge help to the Upper St. Croix Parish.
Even though, we have been here almost 1 year and 5 months, we have done many new things for the church and will have a fruitful ministry plan.
Things we have done:
We have started the Parish Youth Group. We are meeting regularly with 5-15 youth joining our program. We had the Parish Confirmation Class and have started a new monthly children’s program, Children’s Fun Sundays at Atlas UMC. We held the Invitation Sunday at SCF and have a plan to apply this event parish wide as the church evangelical event. We have started to introduce ourselves to the community and have participated in local church events. We have regular visitation to church & non-church members-regularly visiting 10 people, at a minimum of once a month and suggest pastoral visitation quarterly with some our church members who live in Minneapolis. Also, we are covering several emergency pastoral visitations. At any time, pastors are ready to visit our church members when they need our help.
Next year, our first priority is to be united among the four churches as the one parish beyond financial bondage. For that, we will have a new parish Ad Council meeting, 3-4 joint parish worship services, parish fundraising events for our next generation, parish missional work and parish children’s ministry.
Our second priority is our revival not only spiritually, but also increasing member’s attendance. Finding our lost sheep at each church and inviting new people to our church will increase our attendance. Through worship, Bible Study, and adult education programs, I hope we will grow our faith spiritually. We will have more visitation time to find the lost sheep, but the pastors’ work for the revival has a limit. Praying for and giving some information to the lost sheep, or those who are interested in our church and Christianity would be helpful. We also encourage you to try to give the good news to your family, friends, and neighbors yourselves. We will have a time to invite new church members next year.
We know we will definitely have financial problems next year. I do not say "Maybe," I am saying "Definitely". We have a 2% increase in the parish budget, almost $3,000 compared to last year. This is not a tremendous jump compared with last year, but we are having a hard time solving this problem ourselves. If we don't receive a Conference financial support grant ($9,881) and Central's apportionment deduction ($5,718), we can't solve it.
However, remember that we are still surviving and also have some positive signals to solve this financial issue, specifically that SCF UMC decided to maintain their commitment and to extend it to us until next December and they will prepare a $1,200 emergency fund to help the other churches, if they have still financial struggle. Central has started the financial stewardship program and Atlas & Wolf Creek accepted the budget and have tried to overcome this difficulty with faith. Also, our conference may try to help us this year as well.
As a leader of the church and as the pastors in the Upper St. Croix Parish, we have lots of holy responsibility about our financial situation so we decided to increase our general offering $1,000 to the church to help cover next year’s parish budget increase, even though we currently have committed a lot to the church. We want to lead by example as the pastors of the parish, even though we will eat only lentil and beans-don't worry that Caleb will eat his favorite milk continually without limits 🙂
Also, each church will have a Commitment & Celebration Sunday at the end of November or early December. (The letter with the pledge card will be sent in middle of November) Commitment and Stewardship is not merely about money. It is also about how we offer our whole lives to God and to the service of the church. We promise to serve the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. All five of these things are marks of discipleship. Your promise will help the church in managing and maintaining the 2018 church plans, which we have worked hard to budget for this coming year. However, if you are uncomfortable with giving after your prayer, please skip it until the next year. We honor and respect your decision.
Jesus said, (Matthew 7:8) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
It is the time to ask God for help for our Parish. It is the time to seek the vision of the church for our next generation. It is the time to knock on the door to find the lost sheep and invite new members to the Parish.
Let's go the next step with a humble and faithful heart like the tax collector in Luke 18. I definitely promise that we are going to share and celebrate many fruitful ministerial joys with faithful friends and God here. Thanks be to God and thanks be to all of you.
Last week, we had a SPRC (The Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee) meeting at the parsonage. This time, we gathered together to prepare for the 2017 Charge Conference of the Upper St. Croix Parish, so it was quite a serious and important meeting. At the end of the meeting, we took time to look back on our past year. Pastor Kook Ho and I were a little bit nervous, because it felt like our ministry was being officially evaluated by church leaders. Thankfully we shared a lot of positive feedback about what we have been doing since we started in July of last year. We have a more active youth group, children’s ministry, visitations, and we have found vitality in our worship service. Also, each church clearly sees their own mission to go forward, and at the same time we all know how we work together for God’s vision as one parish.
I think this is just the first inning! We still have further to go. St. Croix Falls UMC got off to a fine start with their Invitation & Homecoming Sunday last week. During the last 2 months, we had worked hard to invite and re-invite our family, friends, and neighbors to the church, and God might be pleased with our efforts. This will not end as a one-time event of SCF UMC, but will be the churches’ life time goal, because we have the great commandment of Jesus, which is "Go and make disciples of all nations." Central UMC will start a stewardship program soon! We will study about being God’s good stewards through the campaign including discussion on the book and a sermon series, following God’s call for each one of us to be God’s great steward! Furthermore, we are planning to have a membership class for those who want to join us as an official member. Already, there are some candidates from Wolf Creek UMC and Atlas UMC, and we are looking for more people from other churches too. In addition to this, some more plans for God’s vision lie ahead of us.
As we all know, church is not a building, but a community. Church is a community of God’s people. We will try to do our best to make our church not to be remembered as one of the tall buildings in town, but to be a loving community for all. For this work, we need you! You can support the church through prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness! Currently, many churches, not only in America, but also in many countries are struggling with decreasing membership. Surely, our hope is not in the number of members, but the more that people join in, the better we can make things, so we can change the world with God’s love. God gave us God’s vision, and God already began working in us. As a church, let us joyfully join in God’s great work.
Pastor Ran Yoo
-Bible: And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 3:40)
-Title: What can we leave to our next generation as an inheritance?
Upper St. Croix parish had the 2017 VBS Camp in Burnett County Lake from Aug 8th to 10th. 26 children and youths and 8 teachers and volunteers participated in this year’s parish VBS. There was lots of joy, activities, meaningful crafts, Christian messages and delicious food. I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the teachers and volunteers including Kim Wheeler who is the director of VBS and the entire church family of Upper St. Croix Parish who supported this event through prayers and material.
You may remember that I had three important prayer requests, 1. safety, 2. spiritual growth 3 good weather for the VBS.
Because of your strong prayers, we never had any safety accidents during VBS. Also, many of our kids shared our worship with meaningful crafts, which connected to the main theme of giving some chance to grow their faith and think deeply about the Creation of God. I am convinced that they grew their faith spiritually in all parts of VBS. We had some heavy rain during the evening and night of the second day of VBS, but it didn't affect our evening programs and sleep so we finished very well our VBS following our original schedule.
As Christians, we have the duty to raise and nurture our next generation with faith like Jesus did in Luke 3. Unfortunately, almost all churches in America are losing some attendance of Sunday School kids, youths and young family in the church. Some church members may think that we don't have a hope for growing because we don't have many children and youths.
However, better late than never is also true. We still don't have many children and youths as compared with our past, but we have some positive signs last and this year like the parish youth group, Atlas Fun Sunday, parish VBS, Sunday School at each church, etc.
When I asked our confirmands on Confirmation Sunday this year in June, "Your role is to support the church not only spiritually but also physically, especially being presence continually," all of our confirmands promised that they would try to do it as continually as they can as official church members.
What is our role? What can we leave our next generation as their church family? Our role is to raise them to become strong, to nurture them to be filled with wisdom, and to lead them to the grace of God’s will upon them. Put Christian faith to them as the Christian inheritance.
In addition, we need to maintain and grow our church when they visit again with their children. It is our best Christian inheritance to our next generation. Keep maintaining their spiritual home as the Christian inheritance.
Again, thanks for your tremendous support and strong prayers for 2017 Parish VBS. Please, keep praying and supporting our next generation and let's work together to leave good Christian inheritances to them.
-Rev. Kookho Kim
It’s been a year since I began serving the Upper St. Croix Parish. When I first came to Chicago from Seoul, South Korea in 2012 to study Theology, I never imagined that I would be a pastor in the States and serve in Wisconsin. Also, last year in July, when I started ministry here, I never imagined that I would be a mother. As I look back at my years past, not many things happened as I had planned. I just walked through the doors that God led me toward and opened for me. Some doors were very easy and exciting to go through, but some were very hard and tough. However, since I trust in God and God’s plan, I just walk through following God’s guidance.
When my bishop appointed me to serve the Upper St. Croix Parish, I was so worried because there was nothing familiar for me. I did not even know where St. Croix Falls was. But I followed and obeyed God faithfully. Now, one year later, I have fallen in love with my four churches - Central, Atlas, St. Croix Falls, and Wolf Creek - and all the nice people. This is the reason why I have no choice but to love God and trust in God’s plan. Although I took my step without knowing where I was going, eventually God led me to be in the best place. Therefore I am expecting God’s work every single day in hope.
Sometimes, you may feel like you are walking in a dark tunnel without knowing where are you going or where it ends. However, as you keep going, trust in God and you will see the brightest light in the end, which God prepares for you. Don’t lose your hope and stay in faith. And remember, God never has given you up. God’s steadfast love is forever!
Pastor Ran Yoo
Pastor Ran and I sincerely want to say thank you to the congregation. Pastor Ran delivered "Caleb Yeonjun Kim" on Thursday, June 1, 2017. We went to the hospital for induced delivery because my baby's valley was small compared to other normal babies, so the doctor said that it was the best way to deliver the baby early and nurture the baby outside of the womb with dry milk and breast feeding. That's why we went to the hospital Wednesday evening. Ran had almost 24 hours of the painful process of natural delivery, but the baby was too large for Ran's small hip-bones to be delivered naturally. For this reason, the doctor decided to perform an emergency C-section.
We were both very scared and afraid because we never expected a C-section and heard from the doctor that Ran and the baby would be in danger during the surgery. Due to some medical issues there were some small dangerous situations for both of them during the surgery. However, they are doing well now and are becoming better and better.
When I saw her surgery in the operating room, I felt hopeless in front of the unexpected hardship, even though I am a pastor. However, God gave me peace through the support we received from some of the medical staff members. Your prayers and spiritual support made me strong enough to handle it with confidence, as a father.
To be honest, we felt all of your spiritual support when we were in the operating room. I am convinced that because of your prayers, our family could come back safely to the house sooner than we expected.
In American culture, people express their thankful hearts by saying "Thanks" with shaking hands or a hug, but in my Korean culture, people express their thankful hearts by greeting with a deep bow. The Kim family is sending a deep bow to all church members. Thank you all.
Pastor Kook Ho Kim
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." - Proverbs 9:10
Traditionally, the United Methodist Church celebrates Aldersgate Day on May 24 to commemorate the day in 1738 when John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, experienced assurance of his salvation. He had a Holy Spirit moment through his Aldersgate experience. While he was walking on Aldersgate Street, he listened as someone was reading Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, and this led him to experience his Holy Spirit moment. "While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Later, before John Wesley died, he said his last words that "The best of all is.. God is with us."
As I remember "Aldersgate Day" and the life of John Wesley, I hope and pray that all my parishioners including my soon to be born baby would have at least one unforgettable Holy Spirit moment so that they would know and confess that "the best of all is God is with us." During this time of being pregnant, I have prayed a lot for my first baby and thought about what kind of person this one would be. Millionaire? Celebrity? Smart person? Healthy person? It all sounds very tempting, but I truly want my child to be a man of God who loves God first and makes God a priority. Because I believe that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" as Proverbs 9:10 said, and "The best of all is.. God is with us."
Through a mentoring meeting, I came to know about the web site called "Father’s love letter." It has a love letter from God based on Bible verses and it is written in 100+ languages. I was very touched by each phrase of this letter, and it was another Holy Spirit moment for me. I read this letter over and over for my soul and for my baby’s soul. And I would like to share it with you all for your soul! I hope and pray that you also have a Holy Spirit moment through God’s love letter for you.
“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”” - John 20:29
René Magritte who is surrealist painter from Belgium is my favorite artist. Naturally, some of his paintings hang on the walls of our living room in the parsonage. Among his many paintings, there are two paintings I like the most: “This is not a pipe” and “Clairvoyance”
“This is not a Pipe” “Clairvoyance”
These two paintings helped me think about “Eyes of faith.” Are you familiar with that phrase? All human beings who are able to see gather 70-80% of outside information using their sight. Indeed, sight is the most powerful sense among our five senses. Therefore, a very famous proverb says that “Seeing is believing.” However, unlike our common thoughts, in many cases seeing is not believing. Look at the first painting of Rene’s, although we easily can think that this is a pipe when we see his painting, yet it says that it is not a pipe. This is because even if this object looks like a pipe and is not a real pipe, it is just a painting depicting a pipe.
Today, many people find it difficult to have a faith in God and they leave church, because they think believing in God is following unseen hope and it is in vain. Therefore, some people think if they can see a clear sign that Jesus Christ is real then they can believe. This reminds us of the story of Thomas in the Bible. Since he did not see the risen Christ Jesus, he did not believe the resurrection of Jesus.
However, Jesus did not rebuke Thomas’ doubting, but Jesus showed his hands and sides to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” At that moment, he was full of joy and he answered, “my Lord, my God.” Although Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus led him to believe and Thomas joined in on the pleasure of the resurrection. Jesus made Thomas believe in him by letting him have the eyes of faith.
I think, we can see what it looks like to have the eyes of faith from Rene’s second painting, “Clairvoyance.” While Rene is looking at an egg he is drawing a bird, not an egg. To see beyond what we can see now is what it means to have the eyes of faith. As a Christian, let us remember what Jesus said to doubting Thomas “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Faith leads us to see beyond what we cannot see. By having the eyes of faith, we can hope and finally see the risen Christ.
Bible Passage: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
I went to the Confirmation Retreat with three confirmands at Lake Lucerne UMC Camp in Neshkoro, WI. I was a little nervous and afraid before going to this retreat. One of the main reasons was because I had to leave my wife by herself. Her journey through pregnancy is going well, but I worry about if something unexpected were to happen to our baby during my absence because we don't have any family members in the U.S. My second worry was that I needed to spend one night and two days with three energetic and active boys, which included 8 hours riding in the car with them. I know our confirmands were worried about spending all that time together, too.
This retreat had a challenging schedule. There were four hours and ten minutes of driving one way from St. Croix Falls to Neshkoro, and I needed to drive on unfamiliar roads during the evening, even though we left the church immediately after school. Our group was one that came to the retreat from the northernmost point of Wisconsin so we missed one session of the retreat.
However, God has worked perfectly and prepared everything beyond our concerns and thoughts. Pastor Ran was at home safely with our baby without any problems. On Saturday, she also presided over a funeral, in God’s hands, of a matriarch of the church. Our confirmands and I spent a good time in the car during our 8 hour trip with peace, fun, and joy. We grew closer in our relationships through the playing of basketball. I got a basketball nickname “the Recycle Man” from our youth. (I hope it is not a bad nickname.) In addition, our confirmands had a great opportunity to meet new Methodist friends from other UM churches. Finally, they learned and studied about Methodist history, mission, hymns, and connectionism as the body of Christ.
During the season of Lent, I want to ask you to pray every day, specifically for our next generation in the parish. Ephesians 6:4 encourages us to bring our children up in training and instruction of the Lord. What is our Christian duty and what do we hand over as an inheritance for our next generation? The clear answer is to nurture them with love in the body of Christ and hand down a faithful legacy like our parents did.
Praying for our children every day during Lent will be a meaningful step towards the nurturing of our next generation in faith. Again, thanks for the prayers and support for our parish confirmation class. Your prayers and support made our trip overflowing with the grace of God.
"One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." – Matthew 4:4 (NRSV)
There are many signs around us letting us know spring is coming!! The season of Lent is coming to us, too. Lent is a forty day journey, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). When we look at church history, people have observed this season of Lent in various ways, and in A.D. 352 the Council of Nicea decided it was to be 40 days long.
The number "40" appeared many times in the Bible, such as Moses’ 40 days of fasting at Mount Sinai, the Israelites’ 40 years living in the wilderness, the 40 days of temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness. We understand the meaning of 40 as the period of suffering and renewal based on the Bible. Furthermore, Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with the joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of reflection and penance for 40 days. According to the Bible, traditionally when people have committed sins they repented in sackcloth and ash, so the church tradition has followed that action through the imposition of ash to remember and understand the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
For this year, as we begin the season of Lent, I would like to encourage you all to join in reading the New Testament. I made a New Testament reading schedule (continued on the next page), so if you begin reading the New Testament according to this schedule you can finish reading it by Holy Saturday. You may not begin or finish it by the Easter season, but that is ok. Through the reading of the whole New Testament, our goal is to realize God’s amazing grace, love, and plan for each one of us.
As you start reading, you may have various pitfalls and temptations that may make you stop in the practice. However, I am sure you will find out how every word of God makes you truly alive. I will pray for you and also join together in this great journey to take one more step in faith. Let’s all celebrate the most memorable Easter together!
Matthew - Mt
Mark - Mk
Luke - Lk
John - Jn
Acts of the Apostles - Acts
Romans - Ro
1 Corinthians - 1 Co
2 Corinthians - 2 Co
Galatians - Gal
Ephesians - Eph
Philippians - Php
Colossians - Col
1 Thessalonians - 1 Th
2 Thessalonians - 2 Th
1 Timothy - 1 Ti
2 Timothy - 2 Ti
Titus - T t
Philemon - Phi
Hebrews - Heb
James - Jam
1 Peter - 1 Pe
2 Peter - 2 Pe
1 John - 1 Jn
2 John - 2 Jn
3 John - 3 Jn
Jude - Ju
Revelation - Rev
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” – Hebrews 12:1
I feel like Christmas and New Year’s Day were just a few days ago, but I am already writing a Newsletter article for February. The time has gone so fast. Personally, last year was very special because I graduated from Seminary, I was commissioned as a provisional elder, and I began a ministry at Upper St. Croix Parish as a co-pastor with my husband, Kookho. God blessed us to serve amazing churches with so many faithful people in beautiful towns. But, this year will be more special and exciting for both of us as we welcome an addition to the family. Yes! Now I am 5 months pregnant!! It’s a new blessing from God, and I believe this baby has already received many blessings with many people’s prayers and blessings.
For this Newsletter, I would like to introduce Korea’s New Year’s Day! The first day of the Lunar New Year is called “Seollal”, and is the biggest festival in Korea; it is on January 28 this year. We have 3 days of the Lunar New Year holiday including a day before and after. During that time, all the family gathers together to celebrate. During that time, we have a memorial service for our ancestors, and we make deep bows to parents and the elders of the family. We also share our traditional festival food and play traditional games together. Specifically, the main food of “Seollal” is “Tteokguk” which is rice-cake soup, prepared with slices of rice cake, beef, eggs, and some vegetables.
Korea uses the ancient East Asian age reckoning system that has been implemented for thousands of years. Newborns start at the age of one year, and on New Year's Day one year is added to the person's age. So, everyone adds one more year together on New Year’s Day. Culturally we consider that as we eat “Tteokguk”, we can add one more year. Therefore, many children try to eat “Tteokguk” as much as they can, hoping they become an adult sooner.
It has been five years since I came to the United States, but I have not had a chance to visit South Korea during “Seollal” more recently. However, I always remember it, cooking and eating traditional food, especially “Tteokguk” to remind me of my New Year’s resolutions which is difficult to keep for more than 3 days. So, on “Seollal”, as Kookho and I eat “Tteokguk” together, we will make our New Year’s resolutions again and try to keep it. If you don’t carry out your New Year’s resolutions, it’s not too late! You always have a second chance in Christ Jesus. How about making it again? Especially for this year, how about adding some resolutions to help your faith grow? Remember God is always with you whatever you do and wherever you go. I also pray and support your New Year’s resolution in the love of Christ Jesus.
Blessings, Pastor Ran
"The boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and favor with the Lord and with men." (1 Samuel 2:26)
This year Christmas was meaningful for me because it was my first Christmas with my wife as the co-pastors at USCP. I will never forget my first Christmas services at USCP. I am so glad to be here and to meet you.
As you know, I started my Christian journey in South Korea with my grandmother when I was young. However, I didn't have the experience of decorating a Christmas tree even though I have been a Christian for a long time. When I shared this information with people, almost all of them questioned why I didn't like to do Christmas decorations at home. There are several reasons, but the main reason is the difference in cultural background between Korea and the U.S.
Christianity has affected every part of the U.S. For this reason, Christmas in the U.S. is not only a meaningful religious day, but also a cultural holiday regardless of religions. However, there was almost no Christianity 150 years ago in Korea.
Christianity spread in earnest to Korea through missionaries after 1884. Many missionaries came from the U.S. They did not build just the church buildings, but also the schools, hospitals, and orphanages in Korea. God has worked and showed God's blessings through the missionaries and prepared Korean Christian leaders. As the result, Korean Christianity has developed rapidly.
Korean Christian members were only around 100 (estimate) at 1884. However, the numbers are now 13,750,000 according to the 2015 Korean Census. It is almost 30% of the population in South Korea.
However, there are also 22% Buddhists and 45% Atheists, which are based on Confucianism. My grandmother was the only Christian among my family members. My Grandfather strongly followed old Korean tradition based on Confucianism, so I couldn't have much of a Christmas mood at home. I could feel the mood of Christmas only at the church. For my family, Christmas was one of the holidays when people didn't work or go the school. For this reason, the Christmas decorations still don't work for me at home. But Pastor Ran was born and raised in a faithful Christian family, so Christmas decorations are a natural thing for her. It was an interesting thing that we were born and raised in the same city (Seoul) and we are the same ethnic as Korean, yet we have totally different family backgrounds and cultures.
This year, we decorated a small Christmas tree at home. (My friend gifted a small tree for us and we bought some decorations from the "Old Fashioned Christmas Coffee, Crafts and Bake Sale" at Atlas UMC). It was the first time I decorated my Christmas tree at home, and it was a small challenge for me. It was a small change in my life, but I hope to make my new Christian life, tradition, and future with Pastor Ran and you in God continually at USCP.
I hope and pray that our Christian journey in 2017 will grow continually in the Lord and will be in favor with people beyond our limitations and backgrounds like the boy, Samuel, did in 1 Samuel chapter 2.
Happy New Year in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Kookho Kim
“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the
right way I will show the salvation of God.”-Psalm 50:23
I can’t believe that this week is Thanksgiving. A year has passed in the blink of an eye. I still vividly remember our first day at the Upper St. Croix Parish having a joint service at Atlas UMC. Summer turned to autumn, though it is unexpectedly long this year, autumn is almost done. Time flies so fast. According to the church calendar, this week is the last week of the Christian year. After Thanksgiving Day, we will begin the new season, the season of Advent. Advent can be understood as a season of waiting. During the four weeks before Christmas, we are waiting for Jesus’ coming as we light four candles: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. As I live in the season of Thanksgiving and waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ, I would like to share all the blessings that I received from God this year with you. I hope and pray that you may have personal devotion time and you are counting your many blessings and naming them one by one in front of God.
First of all, I graduated from seminary. For the last four years, I survived as an international student at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. Secondly, I passed my Board of Ordained Ministry interview, so I was commissioned as a provisional elder in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. Thirdly, I was appointed to the Upper St. Croix Parish, which has four beautiful churches, with my husband as co-pastor. Especially, for me, it is my first appointment as a provisional elder, and I am so lucky to start my very first ministry with generous and faithful congregations. Fourthly, as pastor, I have had the chance to preside over two baptisms for new life and over two funerals by celebrating their lived life. Fifthly, I have started a confirmation class and a parish youth group with my passionate co-pastor Kookho. Every week we have a chance to spend our time with our church’s hope and future- the youth! They go to different churches, different schools, and they live different places, but as one body of Christ and one parish, they are learning and growing together by sharing the love of Christ Jesus. Sixthly, through a lot of visitations, I have had a chance to share the good news and love of God with family and friends of the church. Seventhly, although each of the four churches are small and located in rural area, as one parish and one body of Christ, we have hosted various amazing events. As the United Methodist Church, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Through hosting a film screening, “Church of Felons”, we have supported the people who are struggling with issues of addiction, give them hope for second chance, and raise awareness with many people in our community. Furthermore, through hosting a Free Thanksgiving dinner, we are able to share our grateful hearts and love of Christ with the community of people by serving delicious food.
Surely, I have a lot more to share, but I will stop here. I just hope and pray that our Upper St. Croix Parish: Central, Atlas, St. Croix Falls, and Wolf Creek UMC will extend this community of faith by loving and serving one another in Christ Jesus. As we count the blessings that we received this year, we pray together and wait for Jesus’ coming in great hope and expectation.
Pastor Ran and I want to say "Thanks" to you.
Thanks for fully supporting us, two full time pastors. We really thank you for your love, kindness, generosity, help and everything you do for our ministry. Thanks for your faithful decision to maintain our parish ministry continually with us, even though we have some of financial problems. St. Croix folks, thanks for your dedication to share your benefit with our parish churches. Your continuing support has been a huge help to us.
Even though, we have only been here almost 4 months, we have done many new things for the church and will have a fruitful ministry plan. What we have done:
- Started the Parish Youth Group Meeting. Regularly 10-20 youth have joined our program.
- Started the Parish Confirmation Class.
- Started the regular visitation to church & non-church members-We regularly visit 12 people, twice a month.
- Started the fixed office hours, for all local churches, especially Atlas & Wolf Creek UMC.
- Started to introduce ourselves to the community and have participated in local church events.
Next year, our first priority is to be united among the four churches as the one parish beyond financial bondage. For it, we will have a new parish Ad Council meeting, parish joint worship services, parish fundraising events for our next generation, parish missional work and parish children's ministry. Our youth have bonded through the parish youth group meeting. Next year is our turn.
Our second priority is our revival, not only spiritually, but also increasing attending members. Finding our lost sheep at each church and inviting new people to our church will increase our attendance.
Through worship, Bible study, and adult education programs, I hope we will grow our faith spiritually. We will have visitation time more and more to find our lost sheep, but the pastors work has a limitation for the revival. Praying for and giving some information to the lost sheep or those who are interested in our church and Christianity would be helpful. We also encourage you to try to give the good news to your family, friends, and neighbors yourselves. We will have the time to invite new church members next year.
Yes. We know we will definitely have financial problems next year. I do not say "Maybe", I am saying "Definitely". We have a 27% increasing parish budget, almost $38,000 to compared to last year. This is a tremendous jump beyond our expectation. It looks out of our hands and as if we are losing control.
However, we also have some positive signals to help solve this issue. SCF UMC decided to increase their commitment and to extend it to us through next December. Central has started the Financial Stewardship program and Atlas & Wolf Creek accepted the budget and have tried to overcome this difficulty with faith. Also, our conference may help us if we stand with the serious hardship.
As a leader of the church, I never preach and ask you to offer more and more because our parish faces a serious financial problem. Firstly, we will lead by example as the pastors of the parish, even though we will eat only lentil and beans 🙂
Jesus said, (Matthew 7:8) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
It is the time to ask God for help for our Parish. It is the time to seek the vison of the church for our next generation. It is the time to knock on the door for finding the lost sheep and inviting new members to the Parish.
Let's go the next step with a humble and faithful heart like the tax collector in Luke 18. I definitely promise that we are going to share and celebrate many fruitful ministerial joys with faithful friends and God here. Thanks be to God and thanks be to all of you.
Blessings, Pastor Kookho
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31a
Today is the last day of my vacation, and I am at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska. Pastor Kookho and I visited Alaska as a honeymoon trip. Although it has been one year and eight months since we got married, we still consider this trip as our honeymoon. This is because Alaska was my long time dream place for a honeymoon. Now, our nine day honeymoon travel is done and it is time to go back home.
For the last nine days, I have experienced a lot of things, especially I have been enjoying nature’s beauty. Actually, when we planned this trip, we were expecting to see glacier covered mountains, Eskimos, Igloos, and bears and moose everywhere. However, it is fall here in Alaska, so we saw a bunch of yellows leaves everywhere instead of snow-clad mountains. There was nothing really different from the scenery of Evanston, IL where Kookho and I spent 4 years before we came to Wisconsin.
On the third day of our trip, we visited “Exit Glacier National Park” to see an actual iceberg. Although we saw them while we were taking a glacier cruise, it was too far, so we wanted to see them close up. This was a part of the reason behind our Alaska trip. I was so excited and nervous, and I was fully ready to face the cold weather. While we were heading to edge of glacier, there were many signs indicating particular numbers. 1926, 1951, 1961… 2005, and 2010. I was wondering about the meaning of those numbers. When I arrived at the last point, I have finally figured out what they mean. That was the location of the edge of glacier of the year.
We were totally freaked out. There was a huge gap between the 2005 and 2010 markers, and there was an even wider gap between 2010 and the current edge of the glacier. Unfortunately, I could witness the melting speed is increasing. This is the reason why the scenery of Alaska is completely different from what I expected. Basically the iceberg looks blue because of its density from longtime compression. However, it is gradually losing its original color and melting too quickly. This rapid melting has effects on the sea level and the living environment of humans and animals.
According to Genesis, when God created and saw everything that he had made, it was good. However, I think it is no longer good enough. Protecting and conserving God’s whole creation is our responsibility and duty as human beings. Especially as members of the United Methodist Church, based on our social principles and creed, we address that God has granted us stewardship of creation, so we should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect of the natural world. This is not only because they are very useful to us, but also they are God’s creation. From now on, we should care about environmental issue and start one little action for it. Remember, from small beginnings came great things! As Christians, we should make everything look very good again, just as it did in the beginning.