Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is Your Ministry?

I haven't met someone over the age of 50 with more zeal than my mother in a long time. They don't make women like my mom anymore--she's half old school pulsed together with some crazy breed of Scarlett-O-punk that i'm sure was always inside her, wayyy backbackback before she had us.

But last Monday night, something happened. I had a collision with my God-fearing past, that in the form of the renowned Pastor Kim Moon Hoon who is on the North American leg of a world tour string of church revivals. I first saw Pastor Kim on the Korean Christian television network because my mom and her friends in Seoul watch his sermons online. He gives 8 separate services (1-8 bu yehbeh) every Sunday at his famous Pusan Vineyard Church, just to give you an idea of the size (or super pickiness?) of his congregation. My mom began emailing him and one night when we were watching his sermon on her huge computer screen, he gave us a shout-out! We screamed and died with laughter. Once in a blue moon when i decide to crash in my mom's bedroom, i'll fall asleep to the sounds of his super-excited voice and my mom's chuckling. It's captivating!--this fiery white-haired man with this oh-you-calm-down level of excitement and comedianesque charisma. That must be his secret to winning men over to God, by cracking them up with Christ and bowling them over with the Bible. Man, i am such a sucker for funny people. But...*whispering* I'm sure God is secretly LOLtastic.

How annoying does this sound, but suddenly i want to be a better person. I'm caught off guard by this abrupt--and frankly, disconcerting--recognition of the searing meaninglessness of Sundays sans church and not guilt, but rather the somethingmissingness of the "God-on-the-backburner (still-warm-but-not-hot!)" lifestyle. It used to feel like a few rumbling pebbles and now it's in my face like a train. Why do things always creep up on my like that??? ie. age. =( everything for me is done panic-attack style.

During the packed revival, Astrid got bored and began picking at my peeling skin and my mind began to wander as i fanned myself with a bulletin (why are Korean revivals always hot as hell and brimstone?) until my mom suddenly poked me and stifled laughter. Pastor Kim mentioned in an aside that one of the congregation warned him not wear a sparkly and tacky tie since this is America and we frown on most Korean fashion. duh, my mom. After it was over, the three of us went to meet him and shake his hand and he was friggin flanked by bodyguard-like men and pastors of major metro ATL churches and people taking pictures of him like he's some kind of celeb. But as soon as he learned who we were, his face lit up and it was like he forgot everyone else in the room. I thought, "wow, my mom is so mayjah."

And then, it happened. A few pastors started whispering and giving us strange looks. Here is this woman and two wild-looking girls hogging up Pastor Kim's attention! How dare they be so impetuous! Next thing i know, an elder or pastor interrupts my mother asking very loudly in front of the crowd, "where is the father? Where is the head of this household?" as if a woman has no right conversing with high-ranking men of the church. She paused and turned to him, locked eyes, and turned away to continue speaking with Pastor Kim about his schedule for the week and who is coordinating his free-time activities during the day. I thought, "wow, my mom is so courageous."

We went home that night grinning, feeling a little bit lighter.

The next morning, the pastor called my mom from his hotel declaring he had to phone his secretary in Korea to get Grace Park's telephone number because he was so desperate to climb out of this stifling web of meetings and church-related activities his Atlanta coordinators had spun him into. "I want to see Atlanta, but they won't even show me Stone Mountain or Coca Cola!" My mom and i picked him up from his hotel and my horribly directionless clueless butt was assigned the duty of Tour Director of Downtown Atlanta!!! o.m.g. i was calling for directions left and right! But i diddit!! I translated every single little blurb in the Coca Cola Museum, taste tested every single Coca Cola product soft drink with him til i was peeing coke every five minutes, and showed him Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, Underground ATL, and the Ga Aquarium. It was like win a date with a disciple and the three of us laughed all day.

But then, he began to animatedly voice his chagrin towards the church leaders and pastors in general. He said it in a joking manner, of course, but it only thinly veiled his annoyance. He vented about how after his message, other ministers took the stage to passive-aggressively press for a large offering by fallaciously asserting that, "Pastor Kim says that we are generous with your offering and God will bless you." He was taken aback and annoyed. "Money has a way of souring ministry," he said. The night before, he was invited to an elder's home where his wife had prepared an elaborate dinner and had been eagerly awaiting his arrival. But upon learning Pastor Kim's plans, the other denomination leaders called the elder to inform him that it would be quite unnecessary and that 16 other elders and pastors had scheduled for a dinner with the Pastor. (to Pastor Kim's unawares.) So the disappointed elder went to the restaurant anyway, in hopes of at least sharing one meal with Pastor Kim and do you know what happened at the end of the meal? every single elder and pastor got up and left one after the other, stiffing the elder with the bill. 16+ well-known elders and pastors of Atlanta who all ordered an endless supply of kalbi which they sacked up and took home because there was so much left over. This is what's wrong with Korean churches in America today.

He felt uncomfortable eating with Atlanta church leaders after that night. He didn't mind going to see their churches and denomination headquarters and all that--let's face it, pointless--stuff, but after it was over, he'd be dumped off at his hotel to do nothing until another church member decided they needed to have coffee with him, or hold another awkwardly tense dinner (where who's gonna fork the bill is like a game of hierarchy or how quickly you can sneak out), or introduce him to some important church figure. None of his hosts had mapped out a schedule for him in between services and while his nights were obviously booked his days were squandered.

To cut a longer story (relatively) short, he called us again the following day just to hang out and Astrid and i took him to Pappadeux's because we knew he had not yet tried Southern style cookin with the fried alligator, the po boys, the fried catfish, the hushpuppies, the coleslaw. Afterwards, it was off to Stone Mountain. Did you know that a 6-ft tall man can stand inside the mouth of the general's horse? factoid. Another pastor tagged along with us to Stone Mountain because...well, i don't know why. While we were in the lift, this other pastor asked my mom, "to what Korean church do you regularly offer your tithe?" my mom scoffed, "ha! i tithe to where the Spirit leads me to tithe." when asked what on earf she meant, she spilled all these factoids about Adrian Hong and his covert operations and political work, all of which fall under the unconventional umbrella of ministry. "he is not a pastor, nor does he lead a church, but he has done far more explosive work than i have seen most Korean churches even attempt in my 28 years in the States." when asked "what is your ministry?" my mother sort of glanced at me and my sister with this funny twinkle in her eye and revealed with panache, "Our ministry has always been to be the servants to God's servants. We can't do much, except open our home, entertain, feed, and laugh with them so they can have rest." And then she beamed and jokingly topped it off with, "we're sort of the Mary Magdalene department of the church."


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