I’M STILL ALIVE

Sincerest apologies for such a delayed blog update! One would think that things would become more chill after the conclusion of the academic semester…. #nah #humbled #flexibility

Couple of personal highlights (before diving into ministry highlights):

  1. My driver’s license has been reinstated after being cleared through the DMV and several medical exams/forms! JON IS BACK ON THE ROAD!!!
  2. Passed the halfway point of my 1-year internship (June 27, 2017)! Can’t believe how fast time has flown…

Really though, to describe how the past 6 months have been, I’d like to use an analogy that I’ve shared in a debrief before:

My time here so far has been like a pre-heating oven… You go in, you get the oven started, yeah… okay. 100 degrees F… slowly getting there… 115…. 140… 175…. and things are slowly heating up and before you know it… *BEEP* … The pre-heating alarm goes off and your oven has successfully reached 350 degrees F.

AWWWWW YUS IT’S TIME TO BAKE SOME COOKIES! mmmmmmMMMMM

And as you open the oven… THERE IT IS – A sweeping inferno of heat hits your face and pushes you back in awe… The power…. the deliciousness that awaits…. You’re overwhelmed.

The inferno of heat is indeed, July School of Evangelism & Kids Camp, which has finally arrived. Lots of mixed emotions of excitement, anxiety, weariness… But I’m in eager anticipation to see what wondrous miracles and works from the Big-Man-Upstairs will unfold as the weeks go on for the rest of the month.

 

And yes, I’m kind of severely cramming this update in literally right before July School / Kids Camp starts up in about 2 hours LOL… Despite the timing, I still wanted to squeeze in (now or never, right? Haha) some ministry highlights from the past couple of months, as well as some prayer requests & ways that God has been working in my heart lately!

 

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

1) Young Adults Dinner-For-8 (D48)

Back in April, a handful of YAs opened up their homes to host a “Dinner For 8” (Ours ended up being a Dinner-For-10 or something to that extent) haha… Quite possibly the highlight of my time in the YA ministry thus far! It was so interesting to see diversity – regular OTR servants, adults from around town, UC students, International Students… It was quite the melting pot indeed, and really exemplified what community looks like!

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2) Baptism / Easter Service

He Is Risen! We celebrated Easter Sunday w/ the Infant Dedication of baby Zy’mira, and the Baptism of 3 brothers and sisters – John (Jaafar, a Syrian refugee), Veronica, and Deana (teen girls). Praise the Lord for their encouraging public declaration of faith! (:

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3) Teen Boy’s Retreat @ Chicago

At the end of May, the Living Water Church brothers took 5 teen boys on a road trip to Chicago! The central theme for the weekend was “What makes a man?” It was the first time visiting the big city for many of the boys! Granted, many of the boys were glued to their phones for the majority of the trip, but God was still able to use the small moments to really change the hearts and dynamics of their relationships. It was encouraging to at least see the boys connect with one another during free time, or during basketball games. Some of them even sang along in worship (which they very seldom do during regular Sunday service). Sure, there wasn’t a dramatic revival or anything of the sort (at least to the common human eye), but one cannot deny that God at least touched their hearts in some way that fits into the bigger picture of their journey with Christ. Our prayer is that the teens will look back on this weekend and remember how it really was God that spoke to them in the eating, walking, games, and discussion!

 

 

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Basketball with the boys. Yep, I got owned.

 

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Basketball with the boys. Yep, I got owned.

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Worship session with the boys!

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4) AMI Institute NYC – May 2017

*cue Hamilton soundtrack* – IN NEW YORK YOU CAN BE A NEW MAN~~~~

JUST YOU WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIITTTTT 

It wasn’t long after the Chicago Boy’s Trip before I hopped onto a plane to New York City! With this being my very first time in the concrete jungle, of course I couldn’t help but break out into super-awkward-tourist-mode taking in all the sights and sounds.

It’s not about “missions”… but about the mission… It’s not just “doing things” to help people. Sure, it’s great to provide finances, food, shelter, clean water, and all of these practical things to get a community going… But in the big picture of things, if the gospel isn’t shared with them… Quite frankly, they’re still hell-bound without knowing Jesus in their hearts.

Nowadays, modern evangelicals have a tendency to be afraid of sharing the gospel. I understand – I’m experiencing that same fear as well. Is the gospel going to be too *sensitive* for people?

God knows things that we don’t! And certainly, we must strive in faith to trust that He is using every single word, thought, and prayer in some unique way for His kingdom.

 

 

 

But how are we supposed to know for sure? Gotta give it a try anyway! No harm in doing so… We don’t share the gospel for people to accept us – We share the gospel for people to accept Jesus.

To those who have fear… Truly, the only way you can fail at evangelism, is simply by not sharing the gospel at all.

Sobering. Quite sobering, indeed…

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OTR Spring Missions Reunion!

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*tourist mode AHHHH TIMES SQUARE*

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Some hip shot at some hip coffee place in some hip city

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The 2016-2017 1-Year Intern Team!!!

 


 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
& PRAYER REQUESTS:

To be honest, the past month or so since AMI Institute has been incredibly rough… You’d think that I’d remain super refreshed or at least on some sort of “spiritual high” after such a wonderful conference… but the devil wasted no time in exposing my vulnerabilities, particularly so with community and relationships. It’s been a rocky season in terms of my relationships with the OTR community, probably because I’m constantly stuck comparing the people here to the people I know from back home.

Another analogy: Let’s say I’ve been used to eating “fruits” in San Diego, but here in Cincinnati, I’m learning how to eat vegetables…. In the end, they’re both still good for you, but in very different (and sometimes similar!) ways. Sure, I can’t really change or tailor the community to my personal desires, but I can certainly change the way that I respond (quite a familiar theme…).

And amazingly, I think even through the struggles of depression, loneliness, bitterness, and frustration…. God really is strengthening my character – Not that I’m being transformed into a desensitized soul or anything of the sort… but rather, He is helping me to understand that I still do have a lot to be thankful for. Considering my track record of sins, it’d make sense that I’d deserve nothing… But it really does make His grace all the more sweeter.

With that being said, here are 3 prayer requests as I head into July School / Kids Camp with all the visiting AMI Missionaries!

  1. UNITY – CAN’T HAVE COMMUNITY WITHOUT UNITY! The devil loves to feed into our selfishness and tear us apart from the inside…. Please pray for unity among the OTR members in addition to all the missionaries! Living and serving in close quarters for the next 2.5 weeks will certainly spark many *interesting* scenarios… but again, we hope that we can remember that we are all on the same side, serving the same God!
  2. ANXIETY (personal one) – I’m overseeing a lot of the July School logistics during the actual conference itself… Of course, with me being so hard on myself all the time, it can feel easy to bear an unusual amount of pressure on my shoulders… All eyes are on me… Jon, don’t screw this up please… But inevitably, mistakes may or may not happen… but there’s grace! Pray that I can have a free heart to worship during the next few weeks – That anxiety or fear may not hinder me from holding on to His peace that He provides in His refuge.
  3. The OTR COMMUNITY – Pray that many hearts would be open and touched by the gospel during Street EV time and Kids Camp!

 

Thank you once again for supporting me in prayer and finances! I really should update more frequently ;_____; …. Cheers to a fantastic, fun-filled July School/Kids Camp!!! Big update for that coming err…. well, who knows at this point? Haha

 

Blessings,

Jon

Posted in OTR 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“That Was LIVE”

Back at it again with another update on my OTR endeavors!

Here’s the thing, folks: writing these blog posts has made me realize one very important thing about myself…

I AM A SLOTH 

(Madeline, if you’re reading this… I hope you’re happy -___-“)

Sloth sloth

Mmmmmmm basking in all my glory as a sloth…

So much has unfolded in the month of April by now! Baptisms… Easter Service… Kids Club winding to an end… UC Alpha Course starting up… and so much more!

But by nature of being a sloth, those particular updates will have to wait indefinitely *cricket noises*

Because of course, how could I forget about our JAM-packed (pun-intended.. you’ll see later on if you missed it) SPRING MISSION WEEK ayyyyyyy.

Some highly esteemed philosopher out there in the world who’s probably dead by now once stated, “A picture is worth a thousand words”

For this post, I’ll try my best to let the pictures do more of the talking 😛

*Spoiler alert – I think I did most of the talking…. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

Enjoy the ride, folks!


Sunday Worship (3/26)

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Visiting missionaries worshiping together with the OTR family – Preparing our hearts in worship for mission week!

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Worship leaders Isaac, Elaine, and Esther (hiding behind a music stand) leading our congregation~

Interestingly enough, the one Sunday service when the visiting missionaries came to worship with us just happened to be my most difficult Sunday service to date. Was it the worship? Nope. Leading the congregation in announcements, memory verses, and prayer? Nope. Certainly, something must have happened with the kids in the Sunday school classroom during lesson time! Hahahahaha guess again.

Just when I thought I was in the clear when the kids get to meal time after Sunday School… and aggression breaks out between two of the 8-11 y.o. boys in the middle of dinner. I must have spent a good 20-30 minutes restraining one of the boys lighting a fuse while the other boy was sitting in his chair laughing and instigating a fight that most likely he couldn’t have won (Whyyyy do kids start fights they know they can’t win? *___*”).

The pressure was on. So many eyes were on me and the boy in restraint. He kept shouting, “LET GO OF ME!!!” and I kept praying, “Lord… Please have mercy… Soften his heart…”. For a brief moment, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him go, and to *nobody’s* surprise, he chased after the other boy and landed a punch on him.

Both of the boys were immediately escorted out of church, and I couldn’t help but stand there in the middle of the fellowship hall feeling utterly defeated… Tears abruptly broke out and I had to escape into one of the classrooms just to cry out to God:

What just happened….?”

I did the best that I could do for the boys at the time. Sure, I could have found ways to handle it better in hindsight, but God really had to reassure me in that moment that no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot control everything. The boy wasn’t the only person I had to let go of – I had to let go of my pride and leave the rest in God’s hands, and trust that this was surely a part of His perfect plan…

And praise be to God that the boys are doing a tad bit better now as they continue in Sunday School with us. The aggression is still hovering around the boys, but I’m praying that showing them God’s love in discipline and patience is somehow breaking through to their hearts…


Labor Work (3/27-3/28)

For a couple of days, the brothers spent a couple of hours doing manual labor work in the Sycamore house yard (At this point, I’m realizing that I probably should have done a before/after picture… oh well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). To put it into perspective, let’s just say that after digging through a bunch of stones, old dirt, weeds, and bricks, I discovered that the yard actually has a path to walk on! I dunno – I felt like this was symbolic of the path that God paves for us as we labor for His kingdom. It’s a messy process, but He is cleaning our hearts and making some sort of way for us!

And of course, it was great bonding time with the brothers! It was a humbling reminder that the behind-the-scenes of missionary work isn’t always as “glorious” as we’d imagine it to be with straight evangelism and whatnot… But nonetheless, we labor not by sight, but by faith. Who knows what this yard will be used for in the future?

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“Look down, look down… don’t look them in the eye… Somethingsomething 24601”


Teen Boys Hangout (3/27)

Monday night, the missionary brothers spent time with the teen boys while the sisters went out with the teen girls. Our night consisted of dinner, a brief discussion based on a powerful testimony shared by our brother, Chris Koo (shout out if you’re reading this!), and glowing mini-golf. It was pretty neat seeing so many of the boys coming together and bringing out their own friends! We had quite a bit of newcomers invited by some of our regulars, and it seemed like they had a pretty neat time. We’re hoping we can facilitate more opportunities for the boys to invite more of their friends out in the future!

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Mini-golf is all fun and games until you hit the “impossible hole” that wrecks your score…

 

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OTR Teen Boys post-Mini Golfing!


UC Outreach & Edge House Dinner (3/27-3/29)

Is there more to life?

That was the name of the game for UC Outreach that week.

1000 flyers.

40 Lipton Tea Bags

9 Missionaries.

3 Days of Outreach.

1 Night.

This was essentially our campaign for our Alpha Course – an 8 week course (which we just started up 3 weeks ago) that creates a safe space for people of all spiritual backgrounds to ask questions and investigate the many facets of Christianity.

For our outreach, we prepared flyers, a “Proxe” (Interactive display board), surveys with questions like “What makes you happy?” and What is the purpose of life?, aaaaaaaand sweet tea (hence, the ridiculously excessive amount of 40 tea bags… Turns out we only needed like… 12? We retty much let Elaine down here… hahaha)

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Preparing the Proxe board for UC Outreach!

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How many brothers does it take to brew sweet tea? because we straight up failed LOL – Jabez with the face of defeat, and Chris with the face of denial…

This wasn’t your typical southern-style sweet tea… If anything, the mysterious concoction tasted more like honey (also a big no-no – Use. SUGAR. ONLY *___O”trying to merge with the black tea, but not quite getting there…

It was a progression of:

Hmm… Sweet tea… BREW IT…

Hmm… No sugar? Honey..? DO IT…

Hmm… 20 Tea Bags and God-knows-how-much-honey/sugar-we-put-in-that-pot…? SCREW IT add more!!!

Hmm… What on Earth does this taste like now…? BLEW IT.

But alas, in the midst of failure and some shame… There was much grace… and laughter ^___^”. Honestly turned out to be one of my fondest memories of the week!

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Selfie before splitting up for surveys & flyers!

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Our really really really ridiculously good looking Proxe Board @ the end of our outreach! Loving the responses!

After 3 days of flyering and tabling around campus, we ended up having some pretty meaningful discussions with all kinds of students! I was astonished by how honest some people were, especially in answering “no” to living a purposeful life. It reminded me of how college is such a pivotal time for everyone – people discover their purpose through different means – faith, relationships, success, etc… It was a reminder that I, too, was in the same position back when I studied at UCSD – struggling to find an unfailing purpose to live for…

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Full house at the Edge House Alpha Dinner! 😀

Our UC Outreach concluded with our Wednesday night Edge House dinner, where one visiting missionary, Youn Lee, shared her testimony of finding purpose in her life in the midst of a strenuous working life. We had some pretty nice discussions based on her testimony, and it was so encouraging to see how open people were in talking about spirituality… We saw familiar faces from past outreach events, and met newcomers – a good mix of US natives & internationals!

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Sure, we may have had only 10-15 UC students come out from the tons of flyers that we passed out, but we are still very thankful to God! Numbers aren’t everything… and who knows what massive things God can do through the few that came out. Jesus started out with 12 disciples… and look what has become of his ministry today?

Big things have small beginnings! We can only pray and hope that all the other hundreds of students were touched by God in some way to consider purpose beyond the things that we see in this world on a day-to-day basis…

And to my fellow readers out there, I also want to challenge you with the same question: What makes a purposeful life for you? Are you currently living one…? Why or why not?


Spring JAM (3/30-3/31)

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Spring JAM – “A New Heart” – God gives us new hearts through Jesus!

Spring JAM (Jesus And Me)… Does the pun make sense now…? (insert sloth joke here). Two days of spectacular fun with the OTR kids! We had about 40+ kids come out to our church for each day! The kids were engaged in bible storytelling, crafts, games, and dancing for the first part of the afternoons. I was assigned to bible story telling, so I wasn’t able to get a peek at what the other stations were like… But I heard nothing but good things from everyone!

And time after time, I am reminded… Kids really love obnoxiously exaggerated acting haha. I advise you to consider it if you’re struggling with keeping the attention of the children you’re working with!

But the most amazing part about Spring JAM? The kids were ridiculously well-behaved!!!

I cried so much on the inside…

“NANI!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

*Roughly translated to: “WHY CAN’T YOU BE LIKE THIS AT KIDS CLUB OR ON SUNDAYS!?!?!? T_______T”*

But who am I to complain? It was awesome seeing our kids worship together and fully participate in the activities, let alone even just show up during spring break when they could be hanging out at the park or at home instead! It was also really cool seeing some of the teenagers serving as role models/assistant line leaders for the kids!

I’m telling you… The kids may not know it, but there is definitely something that God is doing in their hearts to bring them back to church… It’s not just the friends, or food, or time to kill… Spring JAM really showed me that there is a genuine hunger for God that is coming about in the children’s hearts…

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Spring JAM crew! Couldn’t have done it without each and every single person (=


Refugee Children’s Visit (4/1)

A few of us had an opportunity to spend time with some of the Syrian refugee families that OTR LWC has been reaching out to lately. Aghhhh!!!!! My heart melted so much as we spent time with the children! They were super stoked with story-telling (I’m telling you… They thrive on obnoxiously exaggerated acting), praise dance time, and crafts… But really, they were just stoked to see new company!

These were perhaps the happiest children I have ever had the privilege of seeing in my entire life. And it’s amazing considering the hardships that their families have to go through with their circumstances as refugees. They may not fully know the implications of the gospel for their lives, but it’s encouraging to see that they hold hope for something… Praying that they will one day discover that their hope rests in nothing but the blood of Jesus

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Aaaaaaaand that just about concludes the major events from Spring Mission Week! Here are a couple more pictures to close out this month’s update (:

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Spring Mission Team praying during our final debrief – *Shhhh* I was praying too!

I can’t get enough of this goofball haha. Admittedly, I think Jonah is the manifestation of the inner child inside of me that I’ve always wanted to express without being judged…. ^___^”

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Hi Hanvit, here’s a jar to contain your melting heart, kthx.

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Big, strong men need their beauty rest too, you know!

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A thrilling game of “Fish Bowl” on our last night with the visiting missionaries!

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Before Jon’s waterworks show… Thank you SO much for serving with us in March, JCA!!!

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Kairos represent (Missing P. Jason tho…)

Some other dead philosopher also stated, “Home is where the heart is” … As much as I’ve made OTR my home in these past 4 months, it felt really nice to have a piece of home-home (Kairos!!!) with me for a week ^___^ (Where my home-home-homies in SGV at!? Mom & Dad… Aunt Janie… Uncle Marty… Mom & Dad…  Gennie… I know you’re reading this… Special shout out to y’all though ^___^”)

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You said it, Chris! Peace out! Until July 2017 for Summer Missions!


PRAYER REQUESTS:

Brief prayer requests as of now:

  1. Alpha Course – We are 2 weeks into our Alpha course with the UC students! Pray that God may continue to open their hearts and be at the center of our discussions and fellowship!
  2. Sunday School – Pray for more children to regularly come out to our Sunday School! It’s great that we have kids visiting for events like Spring JAM, but we really want to build relationships with more kids in the community!
  3. Pastor Johann & Sister Grace – From 4/24 to 5/18, our flagship captains, PJ and SG are embarking on a mission trip to China to share the gospel with churches and communities that they have been previously connected to. Please pray for their health, safety, and diligence in sharing the gospel and God’s love in their ministry (:
  4. Personal Prayer Request – For me to not dwell in my past and/or failures as they come up, but to really take God’s grace to heart and to keep moving forward in thankfulness rather than condemnation (Feel free to message/e-mail me if you need me to elaborate – running out of space for this update haha)

And in summation, as the OTR kids would say…

Yo, that was LIVE.

No, really though!

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That was live.

*Mic drop*

Peace & Blessings,

Jon

Posted in OTR 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Against All Odds

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MMMMMMMMM

Hi folks! Still alive and thriving on Graeter’s Ice Cream with my best friends 😀 (I dare you to guess how many times I’ve had Graeter’s since the start of my internship)

Might wanna grab a cup of tea or coffee and get real comfortable now – This is a lengthy update… but bear in mind that this is still only a taste of the countless experiences I’ve had this past month.

But for your convenience, feel free to skim through the headings and read about what sticks out to you.

Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!



Personal Shenanigans

Guess I haven’t been doing so hot with *bimonthly updates* (was I busy… or just lazy? Heh. I’ll leave you to guess #imonlyhuman)… but I definitely wanted to squeeze in an update before our March Mission Week starts up!

*sigh* And of course I’d choose the last possible minute to write an update (*big hint if you’re still guessing between busy/lazy*), but truth be told, I’ve actually been feeling very tired and restless these past few weeks. Whether it’s from the sheer exhaustion from ministry, fighting against a severe stomach virus for several days, or from anxious thoughts for the near & distant future, this struggle has been going strong since my arrival in OTR.

Strangely, God has been teaching me how to pray very specifically through this particular struggle. One night, I actually prayed that I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night at 4am, as per my usual routine. To my dismay, I still woke up at 4am……. but this time around I couldn’t fall back asleep in the midst of the tossing and turning. So I guessssssss I technically woke up at the end of the night since my day pretty much began at that point.

Somewhere in that moment, I’m pretty sure God was laughing at me.

P. Johann remarked, “What if God just wants to talk to you at 4am?”

“Ugh… Could He have picked a better time? …… Err… I… guess there’s no better time than God’s timing *sigh*”

Somewhere in that moment, I’m pretty sure God was laughing at me… again.

Nonetheless, I was encouraged to pray more specifically over my sleep (details… details…) – Sleep has been kinda improving… but I’m sure that God is trying to show me something in the midst of these struggles… Whether the revelation comes soon, later, or even never, I really do have to trust that God has a specific reason in His will as to why things are happening in this particular way.

On one hand, this sentiment comforts me in the sense that God has it all covered under his control. On the other hand, the devil is tempting me to believe that God is just ignoring my prayers and struggles.


Interestingly enough, this sentiment coincided with my completion of the book of Genesis in my daily devotions. The last several chapters of the book detail the life of Joseph.

*honest spoilers below for those who have yet to read Genesis*

To briefly summarize for those who aren’t familiar, Joseph went through quite the roller-coaster ride! He was favored by his father, Jacob, and had the astonishing ability to interpret dreams (…How wonderful would it be to understand the meaning behind my random dreams of Taco Bell……). Life was pretty sweet for this guy! (Bueno!)

… Except his brothers straight up hated him out of jealousy and wanted to kill him (I mean, who can blame you when your brother dreams that you’ll be bowing down before him?)(No bueno…)

However, one brother was kind enough to convince the others that killing was no bueno. *whew* Safe and sound… (More buenos!)

… So they threw Joseph into a pit, who eventually got sold off to slavery. (Zero buenos…)

But the King’s Guard bought him off and eventually Joseph found favor with him and was left in charge of the house! (Throw more buenos at him!!)

… But not for long since the Guard’s wife framed him after Joseph (faithfully) refused to sleep with her. Off to prison for Joseph! (Negative buenos…)

Prison Guards dream. Joseph interprets. Guards amazed. Pharoah dreams; Pharoah frustrated that no one interprets dream. Guards recommend Joseph. Joseph interprets. Pharoah happy. Pharoah trust Joseph. Joseph has authority in Egypt (All the buenos!).

And in an interesting turn of events, Joseph’s brothers find themselves traveling to Egypt in need of food. Egypt harvested an abundance of food (thanks to Joseph’s  dream warning of an impending famine). Lo and behold, they bow before Joseph in a mix of gratitude and desperation, just as Joseph’s original dream illustrated.

TL;DR – God had Joseph’s back the entire time.

*disclaimer: My abridged re-telling of Joseph’s story is by no means a sufficient alternative to the Word. Read the Bible and be blessed (: *

It was ridiculously easy for me to jump to the assumption that God had abandoned me in my times of sleeplessness, loneliness, insecurities, and miscellaneous failures.

But life is inevitably filled with ups and downs, just as Joseph had experienced.

Sure, I’ve had my fair share of “downs” (and then some)… But I dare not discount the wonderful blessings that have come about if it actually weren’t for the hardships – Deeper relationships with the OTR staff & members through vulnerability, deeper intimacy with God that I don’t think I could have easily developed any other way (to my human knowledge, at least), learning (first hand) how to discipline and love children… And ultimately, being slowly (but surely) healed in my insecurities and understanding my identity as a child of God; His “glorious inheritance”. It has undoubtedly been a very painful process, and I still have a long way to go quite frankly. Truthfully, there’s nothing really that pretty about the remolding process in the Refiner’s Fire…

“But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold”

– Job 23:10

Remembering that God knows everything that I’m going through; remembering that God has a purpose for everything and everyone; remembering that God trusts me enough to “test” me… and remembering that God treasures His people as “gold”… It’s no wonder Paul rejoiced in his suffering… Oh yeah, he definitely suffered (2 Corinthians 11 outlines a pretty comprehensive list of the difficulties he went through).

I can’t imagine how any other thing in the world could sustain my hope for the future with everything that I’ve been experiencing…. It doesn’t really make sense by thinking with human wisdom, but somehow… Just somehow by God’s wisdom, it’s a hope that is able to stand against all odds.

 

Still going strong!

 


 

Ministry Updates

1) Kids Club/Sunday School:

 

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Teacher Trixie joining in on a game of “Go Fish!” with my Rothenberg Small Group (: (And for the record, I absolutely destroyed everyone in Go Fish)

We’re approaching the end of the semester for the Cincinnati Public Schools. We have just about a month left (~4 sessions at each elementary school) with these kids before they hit summer! Although the difficulty in working with the kids hasn’t changed, it has honestly been very rewarding! We’ve been building relationships with a lot of the kids through our time spent at Kids Club, in addition to home visitations that we’ve been making on a weekly basis!

It’s interesting – In a previous post, I wondered where exactly these kids were coming from in their homes and schools. Home visitations gave us the perfect opportunity to discover just that.

To cover some highlights… Many children come from homes with broken marriages. Some kids don’t even get to spend quality time with their parents since one parent might be working double shifts while the other doesn’t even have legal custody. Many kids are in the middle of/finishing testing season, and are in danger of repeating their current grade.

Bullying has also been a consistent trend among most of the kids we’ve talked to. Several have consequently gotten suspended and/or expelled (even the victims who try to defend themselves, as per the school system’s Zero Tolerance Policy). As much as we want to encourage the kids to show grace to others in the face of bullying, I can understand how difficult it must be to resist fighting back… “An eye for an eye” as many in their society would encourage (including their own parents!). It’s definitely an area that we want to continue in praying over the kids.

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Jesse’s last Sunday Service w/ some of our 8-11 boys! This picture does not do our actual class justice…. heh.

Even as the semester comes to an end soon, we hope to continue building our relationships with the kids as we spend time with them over the summer… And we hope that one day we may see complete restoration in these families! Hope may seem lost in the world’s eyes, but once more in God’s eyes, it’s a hope against all odds.

Prayer Request: Please pray for the kids’ relationships with one another. With bullying so rampant, we really want to see kids (and even ourselves) learn how to love one another!

2) UC Outreach:

 

God has been opening big doors for us to reach out to the international student community (ELS students) as of lately! We’ve built steady relationships with a couple of Saudi Arabian students, which have given us a handle into the rest of the ELS community.

The pictures above were from a birthday party hosted by one of the ELS students! I wanna say there were about 40-50 students (which is about 30-40% of the entire ELS student body – Yeah… This guy is p o p u l a r! I mean, it’s hard to dislike such a friendly guy with a smile on his face 24/7! What amazed me even more was how tight-knit and diverse the community was! Cultures were meshed together and you could see Saudi Arabian students playing a competitive game of ping pong with Japanese students! At one point, we were singing Happy Birthday in English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese (Wish I took a video of that… *sigh* I’m still pretty terrible with documenting memories here – Another area of prayer, perhaps? :3 )

I’m very thankful for how we’ve been able to connect so well with the international students lately – They really want to make more American friends! A huge barrier exists between international and American students all across the nation (I’ve seen this trend in UCSD and am making an assumption that this is also valid for other universities). I don’t think it’s a mere coinkidink that God has been facilitating these bonds in such a convenient way…

We’re on our way to starting up an “Alpha Course,” an introductory course to faith beginning with the question: Is there more to life than this? Our hope is to create a safe atmosphere for seekers to ask questions about faith. So far, we have a couple of students interested! However many we may be able to reach out to, big things can have small beginnings!

Prayer Request: Pray that we can connect with more UC students and have them come out to our Alpha Course!

3) Drama Ministry:

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First rehearsal! The beginning of what we hope to be a very fruitful ministry!

Drama Ministry has officially begun! We are currently starting out with 3 girls and 1 boy for our first *production* set to premiere in late April (I mean, it’s only a 5 minute Sunday school skit, but hey! Big. Things. Have. Small. Beginnings!).

Trixie and I didn’t quite know what to expect for our first rehearsal, but it went pleasantly well! (: At first, the teens were opposed to writing their own skit, but 30 minutes later they ended up churning out a pretty gnarly skit! The idea is to give them ownership of the script – to weave their own voices and experiences into a more natural, relevant script.

The teens seemed to have a pretty good time with it! Script writing, check. Actual rehearsals…. We’ll see how that goes 😛 3 more rehearsals until *showtime*!

Prayer Request: Please pray for unity among the teens and teachers as we rehearse!

4) Miscellaneous Ministries:

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Moments before the tower was knocked down by Little Deandre ;___;

I’m absolutely clueless when it comes to babysitting kids while the moms practice for Praise Dance or participate in Women’s Bible Study…. But I’ve found that simply bringing myself down to their level; to their world of imagination (whatever that may entail for a baby), playing along with them really helps with 1) connecting with the kids and 2) preventing them from tearing each other apart ^___^”.

“Oh, you think that‘s a lego tower…? We can make it bigger bwahahahaha” (Evidence shown above – Read it and weep folks!)

“Oh, you think you can sing How Far I’ll Go from Moana? Let me introduce you to my little friend, Jasmine (my guitar – I guess I can’t really stop you from judging me for naming inanimate objects)”

Kids bring out a strange, competitive side of me… But is there really much competition between a 2 year old and a 22 year old to begin with? Pathetic, Jon… Pathetic.

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Worship Practice BTS at 12am… Q__Q

Worship Leader Isaac has been kind enough to allow me to sit in on worship practices for sound and backup guitar. It’s been pretty neat seeing the hours of prayer and practice that go into the 20 minutes of worship on Sundays. While I don’t foresee myself actually playing on stage for a long time (Somebody’s gotta be the Sound Boy… or Girl – We don’t discriminate here :P), it’s been really refreshing being able to feel like I’m an actual part of the worship team (I mean, I guess I am… Can’t have worship without sound!).

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Construction Projects w/ Pastor Johann (I promise that I helped LOL)

Lastly, from time to time we’ll have random construction projects around the church (or in one of the ministry houses) led by Pastor Johann. Would you believe me if I said we had to set up all that scaffolding shown above just to repair the lights on the cross? Twice? (There was an unfortunate mis-wiring the first time around… sad). Believe it. If you think about it though, it’s worth the effort! The cross stands for everything in our faith! (Hmmmm there’s a sermon somewhere in this… *bookmarks for future reference*)

It’s dirty work getting everything set up and installed, but it has undeniably been a wonderful opportunity bonding with the brothers throughout the process (:


 

Prayer Requests

We are starting our March Mission Week on Sunday! We have missionaries visiting from our sister churches in San Diego and New York helping out in some big events that we have going on… Please pray for the following:

  1. UC Outreach – As mentioned above, we are hoping to hit the ground running with the Alpha Course. Please pray that we can get connected with UC students (ELS in particular) who are interested in exploring faith as we reach out on Mon-Wed and wrap up with our introductory dinner on Wed night.
  2. Spring JAM (Jesus And Me) – We are hosting a “Kids Camp” for our Kids Club/Sunday School children on Thurs and Fri afternoon. There will be crafts, games, music, Bible lessons, and skits! Please pray that our kids can come to Spring JAM and have a fun, blessed time!
  3. Safety and Salvation of People during Campus/Street EV
  4. Chinese Scholar’s Dinner & Refugee Children Visitation: As we continue to reach out to the international population in Cincinnati, please pray for us to build relationships and take opportunities to share the gospel with them!
  5. WEATHER. WEATHER. WEATHER. The forecast predicts several days of rain, which can be a hindrance to our outdoor events (campus outreach, inviting kids to Spring JAM, etc.). Please pray that God can clear the weather for us and provide favorable conditions for us to commence with our ministry!
  6. Unity: We have 12 missionaries visiting from San Diego, New York, and Atlanta! With more bodies to help out in the ministry, it can provide more opportunities for the devil to create division and conflict. Please pray that we may experience unity as one body, serving under the same God, for the same commission.

 

Major props if you read through the entire update! I honestly do not blame you if this was challenging to get through… haha *___*”. It’s a nice reminder for me to be more intentional in the timing of my updates…

 

If I had to summarize this post for the truly busy and/or lazy out there:

TL;DR – God Is Good.

Peace and Blessings,

Jon

 

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And Still You Know Me…

“Nothing is hidden from your sight
Wherever I go, you find me
You know every detail of my life
You are God, and you don’t miss a thing

– From Bethel Music’s “You Know Me

You know the bone-chilling moment you get when you realize how relevant the lyrics of a song are to your life (which, BTDubs – link included above)? Chills on par with the chills I got from watching Star Wars: Rogue One in theaters a while back??? (Albeit, an unusual comparison…)

To be frank with you, I don’t think I’ve felt this kind of sensation since my angsty teenage years in middle school (Throwback to Linkin Park’s Numb, anyone? Ha. Ha. Ha…… #cringe). To clarify, I’m not talking about the teenage angst (Does quarter-life angst even exist?), but rather the sensation of having a song speak so deeply into my heart (even #more #cringe when you realize how much I over-dramatized my middle school life… To be fair though… It was kind of a big deal to me back then… Who can blame said angsty teenage Jonathan?)

¿Por qué, Juan? ¿Que Paso!? 

(Roughly translated to NANI!?!?!? Which… well…. I think you get the point by now. Friendly reminder that I am the farthest thing from being a linguistics professional).

Well to start, our beloved 1.5 year OTR intern, Alice (see below), just finished her internship last Saturday and returned safely to California. Praise the Lord for her faithfulness to the ministry and for her safe return home!

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Thank you for everything, Alice! (: Good luck with everything in California!!!

But as she began her departure, I couldn’t help but start to feel unusually burdened…

“Welp, it looks like you have some pretty big shoes to fill, Jon…”

… A friendly reminder that I am perhaps, my own worst enemy. What on Earth are you talking about, Jon!? Nobody else is putting this expectation on me but myself. As an extension of my struggles aforementioned in my previous post, I am still having a terrible time subconsciously comparing myself to others. It makes sense, considering that this has actually been an insecurity that stems back to the good ol’ angsty teenage years (are you starting to notice a trend here?). But it has honestly been insane how much the devil has been striving to bring these insecurities back to the surface and drive so many other lies into my heart during my time here…

This is, undoubtedly, spiritual warfare.

It’s no lie that Alice has done an outstanding job in her time here as an intern… But isn’t it rather unfair for me to compare myself as a starting intern to someone who has spent a considerable amount of time here? Duh, Jon… It’s a no-brainer! 

Sin is very hard to defeat. It’s no wonder we needed God himself to intervene on our behalf to defeat sin… The victory has already been won by Jesus Christ, and the devil already knows this… But I’ve come to understand that the devil will do whatever it takes to cloud my judgment and steer me away from God…

And sometimes, I admit that it is very tempting to believe that God simply picked me up from San Diego with his almighty fingers and dropped me off in the 12-foot pool that is Cincinnati, Ohio. See you later, Jon! Sink or Swim, suckaaa!!!

People have reminded me however, that God had a very specific reason for bringing me here. It’s not in his nature to abandon His people. It may seem that way at times… but who’s to say that God always has to work visibly in the extraordinary moments? He is working in the ordinary moments too – orchestrating circumstances and opportunities for our own good and for His glory…

I’m not here to walk in Alice’s shoes… or anybody else’s shoes for that matter. I am here to walk in Jon’s shoes. I am here to be faithful to the portion of the “wall” that God has assigned me to build (as inspired by Nehemiah 3). No matter how big or small my role is here, we’re all working toward the same goal, for the same God.

In light of these particular struggles, Psalm 139 came to mind (in conjunction with the song above)

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

God didn’t just drop me off in Cincinnati to spite and humiliate me. There isn’t a single aspect of my life – past, present, or future – that is out of God’s sight. He knows my struggles… but doesn’t want to just leave me in darkness.

The darkness is being exposed to His light, and it’s an incredibly painful process…

But out of the furnace of the Refiner’s Fire, He is certainly making me anew.

Yeah, it’s incredibly difficult to be here. But you know what?

There’s no other place I’d rather be.


Other Updates:

 

Chinese Scholar’s Dinner

Once a month, OTR LWC hosts a dinner feast for visiting Chinese scholars at the University of Cincinnati. It was an awesome time getting to meet so many scholars from different regions of China! We had a fun time with food, icebreakers, hymns, and with Sister Grace sharing the gospel to close out the night. It was encouraging to see so many of the scholars being so receptive to the message. Whether or not they were convicted on that particular night, we are sure that God has started to stir up something in their hearts; that even in the midst of great academic endeavors, surely there must be something of greater value that extends beyond our careers and academia…

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I gained 5 pounds in just 1 month of being here. This is why… *__*”

 

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Chinese Scholar Dinner @ Vinehouse!

 

*Yeah… That’s it LOL. Will probably have more updates for UC, Kids Club, and Sunday School by the end of the month! Stay tuned~~*



Prayer Requests:

1. Brother Stone & Sister Sunhee Chung

The Chung family lived as my downstairs neighbor in the house that I’m currently staying in. As long-time natives of OTR longgg before I came here, the Chungs are beloved members of our OTR LWC network. They were here for about a month in order to renew their green card/visa to return to China for their missionary work. They were such a JOY (no pun intended… cause, well… one of twins is named Joy… Heh). They recently left on February 10th… I’m gonna miss being greeted by the twins’ every morning after devotions …. ): … But nonetheless, we’re thrilled that they will be resuming their missionary work in China. Please pray for their safe travels and that God may bring about many blessings in their ministry!

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The Chung Family! I… can’t tell which twin is which in this picture *__*”


2. Alice Na:

As mentioned above, Alice is now making her transition back home in California. As of now, she is currently searching for a nursing job (particularly in an inner city hospital). Please pray that God will provide her with a job soon, and that the rest of her transition may go smoothly! (:

3. Drama Ministry

OTR Living Water Church is starting up a “Drama Ministry” for the teenage boys & girls to participate in writing, acting, singing, and/or dancing for special skit performances throughout the year! The ministry will be led by Trixie and I (awkward *frozen* snapshot of our latest performance below yaaaay). The ministry is still in the beginning stages of planning logistics and signing people up, so please pray that God may provide us with discernment for proceeding forward with the ministry! We’re excited to see how God will use this ministry to build up disciples in the OTR community!

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“JONATHAN ISAAC MENDEZ – Y U NO CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!? ):<” – Mama Trixie

4. UC Edgehouse Lunch

Last particular prayer request here – I am currently preparing a brief gospel presentation for our monthly Edgehouse Lunch at UC next Tuesday, 2/21. This is the first time that I’m doing something of this nature… so please pray that I may be able to receive God’s wisdom and guidance as I prepare a presentation on the topic of evil/suffering in the world!

 


 

Thanks again for tuning in, y’all! Until next time,

 

Juan (:

 

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Wholehearted Pursuit

This past Friday marked the 1-month milestone for my mission trip here in OTR… To echo back to a previous post…

“NAAAAAAANI!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

(Roughly translated to “REALLY NOW!? ‘CAUSE-IT-FEELS-LIKE-I’VE-BEEN-HERE-FOREVER-ALREADY” – I’m still not an expert in Japanese linguistics, but I’d like to think it still captures the essence of my shock…)

I suppose this “cry” of disbelief is a sure sign that I’ve made myself well at home here in OTR! With all that has unfolded in the past month, it honestly feels like I’ve been here for waaaaaaaay longer than a month. I’d believe you a little more if you told me I already spent 6 months here or something to that degree.

I want to say I’ve been adjusting pretty well to the rhythm of things here (Plot twist: there isn’t a rhythm) ….. Okay…. Things have been pretty unpredictable here. The children are unpredictable (more on this in just a moment~). Day-to-day plans & tasks outside of the usual scheduled things are unpredictable (As in a, *when P. Johann asks if you’re a “handy” person after morning devotions, be prepared to drop your personal Friday plans for all-day construction projects*-type of unpredictable). Even the weather here… Of all the things that could be predictable… still remains somewhat unpredictable (When Google may have slightly overestimated the 50 degree forecast that really felt more like 20 degrees that one time… Yeah, no big deal… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

The spontaneity is certainly something that won’t change here, but I’m thankful that I’m learning to be flexible. Bottom line is, the time I spend here in OTR is not my own. Sure, having some sort of plan/structure as a baseline is nice to have, but who am I to place limits on God’s ultimate plan; a plan far greater than anything I could possibly imagine?

With that being said, here are some highlights in how God has been moving in some of the ministries in OTR:


All Nations Fellowship – UC Outreach

We spent the past couple of weeks flyering on campus for our *Chinese New Year* lunch that was held this past Tuesday. It’s strange… I used to dread flyering back at UCSD (Granted, I only actually flyered like… 3 times total… Wonder why I didn’t do it more often.. ^____^”), but I felt pretty relaxed flyering at UC. I honestly don’t know what happened –

  • Maybe Cincinnati students are friendlier than San Diego students (Sorry, no offense to my fellow Tritons reading this)
  • Maybe I just stopped caring about what random strangers would think of me as I shoved flyers in front of their faces (The accompanying shameless plug for FREE lunch is worth the interruption, okay?).
  • Maybe nothing about flyering actually changed, and my struggles in the ministries outside of UC Outreach are just making flyering seem like a walk in the park…

Whatever it may have been, out of the hundreds of flyers that we passed out, we were blessed to have 13 ELS students (Coming all the way from Saudi Arabia & India to study English) stop by our luncheon! Coming from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, it was surprising to see how open and receptive they were to the gospel presentation shared by one of our staff, Christine. They were pretty engaged during small group discussion, and I managed to connect pretty well with one student, which I hope to follow up with and continue our dialogue as time goes on!

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ANF CNY Outreach Lunch – Christine delivering a brief gospel presentation to 13 ELS students

It’s been encouraging to see some of these students come out to our other events, such as a YA Game Night we hosted last Friday night, or even our surprise potluck dinner for Alice, our fellow intern soon leaving in February. They seem genuinely engaged by the community! We hope that as we build our relationships with the students, they will come to know more about the gospel and who Jesus Christ is in their hearts. Praise the Lord!


Kids Club / Sunday School

Every week, a handful of volunteers head over to local public schools – Taft Elementary & Rothenberg Prep Academy to host an after school Bible-based program called “Kids Club.” First of all, the fact that we even have an opportunity to share the gospel in two public institutions really is none other than God’s grace at work! During the program, we host a variety of activities (games, praise dance, lessons, small group time, snacks, etc.) as a medium for ministering to the children.

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Kids Club @ Taft Elementary – I believe this was game time…? You tell em’, Pastor Jason!

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Kids Club @ Rothenberg – Bible Lesson time led by Christine~

The curriculum is kind of similar to Sunday School at OTR LWC – Worship, main children’s message, classroom time, dinner, etc.

Now, I’ve personally never worked with children to a substantial extent in my life before coming to OTR, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect during my first experiences at Kids Club (and Sunday School)… The only experience I had to go off of was my own time in elementary school a long time ago in a galaxy city, far, far away…

I was overwhelmed, quite frankly. The children at both Kids Club & Sunday School were, for the most part, really difficult to work with (and still are, in all honesty). I have never witnessed so much rebellion unfold in front of my own eyes *_____*. And at face value, I was tempted to walk away with the conclusive, judgmental question: What is wrong with you all!?

… But I stopped for a moment and realized… You know nothing, Jon Mendez.

I don’t know where they are coming from.

I don’t know what happens to them in school during the day.

I don’t know what happens to them at home.

… Do they even have a safe place to come home to…?

Simply put, I don’t know their story. It broke my heart when I started to wonder about all the difficulties the children could be facing outside of Kids Club/Church. For some children, a Kids Club snack could be the only meal they get all day long. For some children, Kids Club could be the highlight of their entire week. For some children, Kids Club could make all the difference in shining God’s light in what seems to be a life surrounded in darkness… And even for the children that are actually okay in their circumstances, they aren’t any more or less valued in God’s eyes. Everyone is in need of God’s love.

And over the weeks, I really do feel that God has been steadily growing my heart for the kids. The difficulty in working with them certainly doesn’t change, but I am learning to connect with them a bit more intentionally. It can be tempting to think that nothing is getting to the kids in the midst of all the chaos… It can be tempting to be discouraged if only 1 kid of out 20 was actually paying attention to the lesson. Above all of this, it can be especially tempting to just treat these programs as a routine; just “another job to get done”

… And it makes me wonder… What if God treated us as “just another job?” What if God only halfheartedly pursued us, left us where we’re at now, and just said, “Meh. Good enough.”

Jesus could have given up at any moment in his ministry. He could have given up when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. He could have given up when he was abandoned by his family and followers. He could have He could have given up when he was sentenced to death on the cross…

But Jesus remained faithful and laid down everything for us. He took the cross all the way for us. And in the pursuit of being more like Christ, am I willing to do the same for the children? In the several hours that I get to spend with them every week, am I willing to pour out my entire heart to love upon these children?

“We love because He first loved us”- 1 John 4:19

Even if only 1 kid out of 20 pays attention to the lesson, even if it’s something as small as a child being able to stay in one place for 5 minutes… It may not seem like a big difference in a worldly perspective, but it means everything in God’s kingdom. It’s not about the results. It’s about being faithful to God today, and trusting that whatever unfolds, is precisely what needs to happen for God’s plan to work.

I do firmly believe that God is capable of radical transformation in everyone’s heart. No one is beyond the reach of His grace. As *lost* (loosely using this term) as these children may seem, they are most certainly worth fighting for.



Prayer Requests

  1. Kids Club/Sunday School Children:
    • We are beginning home visitations in February as an opportunity to spend time with some of the kids outside of school and build relationships/minister to them. Some kids really just want to be heard; to know that they really are loved.
    • We need more volunteers for our Kids Club programs! We’ve been a bit short on hands lately, so extra hands would be wonderful!
  2. ELS Students @ UC Outreach:
    •  Pray that we can continue to build relationships with those who came out to our CNY Lunch, in addition to faithfully continuing to reach out to others on campus during our weekly outreach.
  3. Negative Thoughts:
    • This past week, I had difficulties struggling with negative thoughts. Honestly, I’ve been subconsciously setting up expectations for myself to “perform” or contribute in certain ways to the ministries. Is it pride in wanting to prove to myself & others that I am useful? Is it fear of not being able to “keep up” with everybody else here? Whatever it is, I’ve been selfishly projecting these expectations through the people around me.A wise friend recently shared with me what C.S. Lewis remarked in one of his books – “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I’ve only been here a month and here I am, running around in circles (kind of like what a kid would do at Kids Club) comparing myself with people that have been here way longer than I have. But why make comparisons to begin with? If this isn’t already feeding directly into pride, then what else am I honestly trying to prove or gain from “performing?I recently heard a sermon delivered by Francis Chan at the Passion 2017 Conference covered on the following passage:

      “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
      neither are your ways my ways,”
      declares the Lord.
      “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
      so are my ways higher than your ways
      and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

      Followed by this passage:

      I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” – Ephesians 1:18-19

      Wait a minute, Paul… You mean to tell me that the God of the universe and all of creation actually considers me his “glorious inheritance?” Even in the midst of insecurities and brokenness? If such an almighty being like God cherishes us that much, then do my own thoughts (minuscule in comparison to His higher thoughts) really even have any power?

       

      Bottom line is, the longer I dwell in negative thoughts, the greater the hindrance in ministry. All the time and energy wasted away in insecurities could really be spent on God’s kingdom work! If I can genuinely believe that my identity truly is secure as a child of God… At the end of the day, would I actually know any better than the God of the universe and all of creation?

      If you could please pray for the renewing of my thoughts, the purifying of my heart’s motives for serving (not out of performance but out of genuine love), and for me to really stop letting comparison hinder my relationships, that would be greatly appreciated!

 


Thanks for tuning in! Will try to have more pictures and stories to share in February (:

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(I think kids are starting to grow on me. Heh)

Until next time,

Jon

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Settling In

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“I am the vine, you are the branches… Apart from me, you can do nothing” – John 15:5

In just a little over a week of being present here in OTR, this verse alone has spoken so much truth into my life…

And… yes, in case you haven’t realized by now… I am alive and well, thank you very much (:


Adjusting to this new stage of life has been pretty alright for the most part, albeit challenging in some ways. For real though – major shout out to Esther Chailim and the OTR Staff/Interns for helping facilitate my transition here! I would definitely be way more lost than I already am if not for their invaluable guidance and wisdom … ^__^”

Physically, it’s been difficult getting sleep here so far. The living accommodations are actually quite nice here (which will definitely be cherished in the midst of all the chaos taking place outside the house)… but despite the natural cries of physical exhaustion to sleep, my mind remains wide awake. Maybe it’s the shock of everything; that this is indeed, very real… Even in brief victories of falling asleep on time, I don’t think a single night has actually gone by without me waking up in the middle of the night from strange, borderline-nightmarish dreams (Or perhaps it’s the 3 hour time difference between CA and OH that has really thrown me off). I do want to say it’s been getting slightly better… But meh, I’ll take what I can get. I have a whole year to adjust, so… I’m 97.6% certain that I’ll get my sleep down by then!

Sometimes I can’t feel my face when I’m wandering outside in the cold 10-30 degree weather… but last I checked, I am still intact as 100% human and 0% popsicle! Let’s pray that ratio stays constant throughout the winter (: – Another shout out to the Kairos College students & YAs for helping pitch in for some of my winter clothing, and mama Mendez for helping me shop for the rest! You guys are literally lifesavers.


Ministry-wise, it has actually been pretty slow so far. The holiday season is wrapping up, many of the church members are just getting back into town, and the schools (The elementary schools & U.Cincinnati) are barely returning from break this week. As thankful as I should be for coming in during a [relatively] easy period of time, I am definitely not giving enough credit to God for this blessing. I admit that I might have flown in with a subtle mentality to “get down to business” (disclaimer: I am not going to defeat the Huns) in the ministry. Whether it was lingering pride or the desire to just want to feel useful and/or significant, I was definitely speaking way too soon.

Not too much has happened from an objective viewpoint, but in the few moments that I’ve had so far to interact with the community during Street EV, work with the 8-11 y.o. boys during Sunday School, be enslaved to the demands of the Sato and Chung Babies (Yes, Jonah. That means you LOL), or play with get schooled by the teenage boys in a friendly savage game of basketball (I was never that good at B-Ball anyway, so did I really stand any chance?), I really felt like my eyes were being opened to the reality of the state of my soul.

In reality, I realized that I am far more weak than I thought I was. Sure, I might be coming in with some talents and skill sets here and there, but I found myself feeling anxiousstruggling to catch onto the rhythm of the community and the ministry here.

Granted, it’s only my first month and the ministry is still relatively new to me… but seriously! One week in and God has really shaken my core and humbled me. There are a lot of things here that I’m not used to – The demographic culture (the majority of the population here being African-American), but most of all… the ministry culture (heavily outreach-oriented, compared to previous churches where I was mostly involved in “inreach” ministry – ministering to people already within the church). Basically, if you were to summarize my life experiences on a hypothetical resume, outreach would be one of the very last things to appear on that list. In a worldly perspective, I would be very unfit for the task.

And a big part of why I was so hesitant to start the internship earlier than Summer 2017 was because I wanted to spend time working on myself & people skills before heading into an outreach-oriented environment. But who am I to say that I know exactly what’s best for me?

I’m once again humbled in the sense that… God can use even the ordinary people to do his extraordinary works. The best example that comes to mind is when God called upon Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus. Moses wasn’t too pleased, and was rather reserved about his capabilities to lead an exodus…

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  – Exodus 4:10-12 (NIV)

I have to constantly be reminded that I am not doing any of this of my own strength & abilities. God called me here in OTR earlier not because He thought I had the skills ready to go for ministry… but because this is perhaps the best place for me to grow in my intimacy and dependence on Him – to believe in my heart that truly, apart from Him… We can do nothing (see John 15:5 above). As Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians,

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

As I continue to spend time here, one of the biggest questions that I’m reflecting on right now is… How can I orient my ministry to be led by the spirit, rather than by my own abilities?  [Insert Jesus is the answer here]. But really, it’s something that I want to actively position my heart in prayer for! Speaking of prayer requests… Here are a couple of others:

PRAYER REQUESTS:

  1. Sleep/Lifestyle – Sleep has been getting better to some extent, but at default, I’m not too much of a morning person. I’m finding myself to be pretty tired by almost every afternoon time. Pray that I can continue to adapt to the pacing and schedule here.
  2. Relationships – I was introduced to many new faces this past week – Church members, children, teenagers… As I’ve stated in a previous post, I’m exhausted from the idea of starting over – I can’t help but honestly compare my relationships here to the ones at home, and it’s an unfair comparison, really! Pray that I can be present in my relationships here and be intentional in building rapport with the members and kids.

And at the core of it all…

3. Patience – Good learning; Good relationships… they take time and thought. As much as I’d already like to be in a place where I feel confident in ministering to the community; comfortable with the people here; assertive in my role as a church member here, I need patience to take a step back, observe, and really focus more on my own personal relationship with God during this transitory period; patience to steadily build interpersonal relationships with others; patience to see how God will teach me and use me for His kingdom, and patience to trust that God’s timing is ultimately perfect.


All in all, so far, so good! Even in the hardships that I’m currently facing, I couldn’t be any more happier to be here (:

On another note, OTR Living Water Church is going away for a retreat this weekend with Pastor Sam of Catalyst Agape Center (New Jersey) as our guest speaker. We’re hoping it will be a refreshing time for LWC as we kick off the new year!

Thank you once again for joining me on this journey! (: More updates to come once ministry gets rolling this year!!!

Many Blessings,

Jon

 

 

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The Journey So Far…

I am literally just hours away from boarding my flight to Cincinnati, Ohio…

Hours away from starting a brand new chapter in a (somewhat) brand new environment…

All I can really say at this point is:

 

 

NANI!?!?!?!?!?

(Roughly translated to “WHAT!?!?!?!?!?” … *sigh* Okayyyy… I think I’ve been watching a bit too much anime lately)

 

But really though – Where on Earth did all the time go!?!? It literally only feels like I just made my decision to take the internship yesterday…

How do I even begin to articulate how I’m feeling in this moment? To give it a shot…. I’m feeling…..

Excited: It’s not every day that one gets an opportunity like this! My time in OTR will undoubtedly be challenging and stretch me in ways that I never thought I could be stretched, but I’m excited for growth; excited for the new relationships; excited for the new culture; excited for a different spin on the ministry that I’m used to… and so much more! (And Graeter’s Ice Cream. This, I cannot deny. *Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassss*)

Anxious: For many years, I’ve had the notoriety of despising uncertainty… Sure, it’s gotten better over the years, but with such a huge transition just over the horizon, I can’t help but feel anxious about where exactly God is taking me next in my faith. Stranger in a strange land, much? I honestly do find the idea of “starting over” to be a bit tiring – And just when I felt like I was getting really settled into an awesome community over in San Diego… haha. Nonetheless, I am praying & hoping that all goes well!

Loved: Even as of now, I’m still trying to process all the love that I’ve received (and still am receiving) over the past few weeks… All the farewell hangouts, dinners, gifts, donations… I honestly feel incredibly far from deserving of any of these things… I am reminded that truly, love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5), and truly, God’s grace was at the very core of all these wonderful blessings from family and friends. You have all definitely inspired me to continue striving to be graceful to those around me…

Tired: It’s been a rather *BUMPY* day with a flat tire (yes, the pun was intended) early in the morning and my travels to San Diego delayed for a good 4 hours. But despite the setbacks, the trip back to SD was a safe success! God is good.

StuffedTacos El Gordo as my last meal in San Diego? But of course! 

… And I could honestly keep going, but I’d be sitting here hacking away at my laptop and potentially missing my flight… *yikes*

But the one sensation that strangely… holds all the other feelings together in a nice little translucent bubble…. is peace.

Feelings come and go, but I have found myself overwhelmed with peace over the past couple of months in the preparation process. In normal circumstances, I would have freaked out over my seizure and consequent suspension of my driver’s license and job… freaked out over figuring out all the logistics for the trip and attempting to tie loose ends in such a short frame of time.

In reality, it actually seemed as if others have been freaking out about this whole behemoth of an internship way more than I have… Not to blame them, of course! But with God’s amazingly clear guidance and protection over me in the past couple of months, how could I possibly doubt that He wouldn’t be able to take care of me?

Who knows what interesting and/or challenging things I’ll face in Over-The-Rhine?  I cannot change the cards that I am dealt with, but I can most certainly change how I play the cards. I will definitely need to constantly pray for discernment in these circumstances!

But all in all, I’m feeling very good about 2017 (:

Long-Term Prayer Requests will come up as I begin ministry in OTR…

But I do have a couple of Short-Term Prayer Requests that I’d like to share before my departure!

  1. Safe Travels – Pray for Esther Chailim and I as we fly out to OTR! (Esther will be helping facilitate my transition for about a week) Early morning flight at 6:15am with a layover somewhere in the mix… We expect to arrive in Cincinnati around 4pm EST. Let’s pray that stays true (:
  2. Adjustment to OTR – Things are sounding pretty low-key in OTR right now during this holiday season. Pray that I can take this opportunity to adjust to my new home, community, and especially the weather. In all seriousness, pray that this poor California Boy doesn’t freeze over into a popsicle (or as I like to call it, a *Jonsicle*) as I adjust to Eastern US Weather!
  3. Homesickness – I may have underestimated how much I’ll actually miss everyone from back home in SoCal… ): The thought is slowly creeping up on me, but pray that this won’t hinder me from being present in OTR as I’m going through this transition in life!

 

Thank you for joining me on this journey! Happy Holidays and see you all on the other side (of the nation)! Peace out, California!

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