Eugene Cho

heart to heart letter

As the church moves into our seventh year, there is so much to be thankful for.  God has been immensely gracious in helping Quest be a presence to Seattle and beyond.  But I worry.  I wonder how many people truly understand the heart of our church – and are committed to it. 

The recent months have posed different challenges that have left me on occasions discouraged.  It’s never my intent but it sucks when you discover that you’re the source of someone’s pain, departure, etc.  It’s not what I had in mind as a pastor.  Or you begin to question if your leadership or preaching really matters? 

Several weeks ago, I received this email from a family that moved away from Seattle [and subsequently, Quest] couple years ago.  This letter spoke so deeply into my heart and encouraged my wife and me immensely.  We were both drawn to tears.  They were a couple that clearly understood the shortcomings of our church and my leadership – but nevertheless, grew to love both the community and missions of the church.  It encouraged us – that while we fall short of both our and people’s expectations – that somehow, God is being honored through our lives and Quest.  

Another Sunday approaches and as usual my heart begins to take on a familiar heaviness.  We have been absent from Quest for a year and a half and the same emptiness, the same pain, the same loss consumes my soul each week.  The first year it was almost constant.  Recently I have forced myself not to think about the family we left behind and this has proven useful.  I can now function quite well as long as I don’t remember how my family was once a part of the most incredible church I have ever attended.  Then Sunday comes and my avoidance is futile.  There it is.  The reminder that I am no longer where I want to be and the aching starts, the tears creep up into my eyes.  I cannot refute the longing or pain that enters my being.  I want to be back at Quest.

I know all of the roads I should be taking.  Contentedness is not a place but a state of being.  And yet?  I cannot reach any other resolution.  I am not alone.  D [husband] echoes all of this and we rarely talk about how deep our longing is to return to Seattle – as it is just too difficult.  We wonder if we made the wrong decision.  It is not as if God is not with us.  His favor and goodness to us still abounds.  But it does not change the simple fact that once, we were a part of a blessed place.  

The best thing I can liken it to is falling in love.  So this is the analogy I am going to use.  Here’s what happened.  We moved to Seattle, new parents, lonely, nervous, excited.  We visited other churches to no avail.  There was one we liked and thought we could make this work but thankfully D insisted we try a few more.  Then it happened.  D went online and found a church he thought we should check out.  It had a late service which was perfect since we hadn’t gotten our son ready in time to try out the next church on our list.  We walked in.  We knew.  It was kismet.  It was that feeling.  That knowing, “this is it”.  Instantaneously.  It was further confirmed by DeAnza who immediately showed us kindness and by Melinda who lovingly offered to watch our son so we could experience the service.  It was the sermon, the musical worship, communion, the realness, the depth, the uniqueness, the mission.  We found it. 

Week by week we delved more into the heart of the community and the more we got to know Quest, the more we realized this was not just a crush.  This was it.  The real thing.  Like anything, it was not perfect, but in its “quest” toward loving God and serving others it played out the way I believe God calls us act toward one another – with honest, openness, love.  I have never been to a church where the gospel remained ALIVE and central (with no wacky theology) and YET was able to keep Matthew 25 – critical part of its ministry.  People cared.  Not just about Christians, but about injustice, social justice, being a part of change.  From the pulpit to day to day conversations the concerns of our global community were acknowledged, agonized and prayed over, made a life priority.  This is where I knew I had fallen in love: a deep and beautiful love. 

Of course that was further confirmed by you, welcoming us into your home, into your lives, into your family.  Teaching us, befriending us, leading us and serving alongside us.  And of course there were others, so many others…

When we decided to move, it tore our hearts.  This is where the analogy of falling in love is best perfected.  I felt like my soul had been ripped, my heart empty.  I literally ached for our church family.  Daily.  I would cry often, several times a day.  At first I couldn’t even think of joining a new congregation.  It seemed preposterous.  If you have ever ended a relationship with someone you held a deep connection with, friend or otherwise, you know that it is a disgusting thought to imagine getting to know someone else, to have to explain your background, passions, to expose your wounds, your history and dreams.  I just didn’t want to do it.  But after time went on I knew it was necessary.  I actually tried hard to be optimistic.  The choices were abysmal.  Truly it was more of choosing the best of the worst. 

So here we are.  The boys have now adjusted and will go to the children’s ministry.  We have joined a “growth group” full of some really great people.  But we cannot shake the longing.  It is a lot for me to humble myself enough to attend this congregation.  I know they are people who love God.  I have to remind myself that we are all striving for the same things.  Ultimately at least.  There is no word about the injustice that surrounds us.  Not from the pulpit or otherwise.  Women are not leaders in the church, they are only allowed to “teach” children as far as I can tell, or other women.  We have been attending for 8 months and never met the pastor.  I’m not even sure who his wife or children are.  Each Sunday I ask the Spirit if it is present.  I cannot feel anything.  This is not a fit for me or for D, but it is the best choice for the children’s ministry…

So I guess this letter is twofold.  To tell you how much we love you and appreciate all that you have done for us.  And to tell you that we have not forgotten Quest, it is still very much a part of our hearts and prayers.  We both would move back in a faster than you could imagine, if God opened the door.  We pray and dream that He will.  In the meantime we hope and miss how at one time we were a part of something incredible.  Thank you for being God’s messengers, for being our friends, our mentors.  You still inspire us.  We love you!  From the very depths of my soul I want you to know how very blessed I feel to have been a part of it all. 

With greatest respect,

B

Filed under: religion, ,

8 Responses

  1. Dennis says:

    Eugene,
    I think this letter represents how many people feel. You guys are respected. I know that you’re challenged how to prioritize your time so my family continues to pray for you and your ministry.

  2. Jennifer says:

    E – I’m so glad you posted this. Quest really is that special and I hope you know encouragment this year at Quest, and as you go to sabitical.

    B&D – We miss you too!!!

  3. Pete Wilson says:

    Wow Eugene. I can’t tell you how refreshing this post is. As a pastor I wrestle with the same things. Thanks for allowing God to use you to speak to my heart today. Thanks for the authenticity.

  4. insipid "g" says:

    ditto, jennifer… miss b&d + the boys. 😦

  5. rexhamilton says:

    Your question of whether or not the people of Quest get (and are comitted) to the heart of the church resonates with me deeply right now. There are many things I celebrate about the church I pastor, but a discouragement about people’s commitment to being the church is beginning to take it’s toll. The letter you share is an encouragement and it challenges me to pray for such an experience to happen to us in the weeks to come.

    While I wait, I should pull out some of the old letters from years past and be reminded of God’s faithulness…

  6. Jerry says:

    Beautiful letter!

  7. darwin says:

    Since this letter encouraged me so much, I thought I’d share with the greater community the email I sent you last October when i decided to officially become a member of Quest after our ‘courtship’ of one year:

    “I came to Seattle in September 2006 in such a state of despair after my older brother Oliver passed away from colon cancer at age 28. It had been only 2 months since his passing and I hadn’t really had any time to process it. I was lost, lonely and depressed in a new place, wishing I was still back in California where everything was familiar. Yet I knew that when I chose [giant eastside corporation] last year in March 2006, that God wanted me in Seattle for some reason. I prayed and reflected upon it – it was on a hike at Yosemite, at the top of Nevada Falls, that I wrote in my journal about God pushing me to Seattle. Despite all the unknowns, worries and concerns, he gave me an inner peace about it. But last September that peace was nowhere to be found and I didn’t know what to do. I yearned for community, for direction, for meaning, for someone to talk to. Luckily, I found Quest though HM (through a college friend of mine), and honestly my life was changed. It wasn’t a perfect process, nor was it very easy or quick. But this week will be my “1 year anniversary” for my C-Group, and that day 1 year ago I remember very well.

    I nervously walked to a stranger’s door and met lots of new, interesting and slightly intimidating people. Little did I know that in a year I would consider many of those in that room some of my best friends. I was finally able to have a real conversation with someone for the first time since moving to Seattle – I mean real because somehow I felt like I could open up a little bit to people like the bible study leader Mark and tell him about my story and my feelings and my faith. This past year I’ve gone through different seasons, but I’ve learned and grown a lot. I took the step of faith to be baptized as an adult. I got involved with a men’s group- another group of people I count as my best friends. At work, things haven’t always been great and for a few months in the summer I was seriously thinking about leaving [giant eastside corporation] – and Seattle for that matter.

    If it weren’t for Quest, I think I would already be gone from Seattle right now. I would have been more interested in other companies in the Bay Area and even though I didn’t get the [lucrative startup] offer, I think I would have kept searching and found something to move on to. But through the whole job search process, I was in agony. I wanted a change, but I didn’t want to leave the people I met in Seattle – mainly people I met through Quest. On that Sunday after two other guys my age left Seattle, you jokingly asked why everyone is leaving, and I felt so guilty because in my own mind I was thinking about leaving as well. I was afraid to tell my C-Group about interviewing in California, and I really only told a few people and I felt guilty for hiding it. It just felt so painful to tell people that I wanted to leave.

    That Sunday when I got prayer from you about considering leaving Seattle or not, I asked that God would open or shut doors according to His will. It hurt my ego, but God definitely answered my prayer when I got rejected from [lucrative startup]. Had I gotten the offer, it would have honestly been a VERY tough decision to make. I like to think that I could have walked away from an opportunity like that and chosen instead to go with my heart and stay in Seattle, but I don’t know for sure. God wasn’t going to take any chances.

    After that, I felt so relieved and felt at peace about staying in Seattle. I had another job opportunity I could have followed with a really exciting start-up, but I consciously chose to not follow up since they’re in the Bay Area, and I had decided to stay in Seattle. Now, I’m almost moved into my new place with J in Fremont/Greenlake, and I feel very at home in Seattle. I feel blessed to have a great community here and lots of friends who I want to grow deeper with. I’m almost afraid of getting too “comfortable.” Basically, a year ago I would have never guessed the kind of impact a church could have on me. And it’s not really the church. It’s not Quest. It’s Jesus. He’s been guiding me through this whole process, and using Quest and the people there to help me along. For this I am thankful.

    As you say, we are broken and imperfect, and I don’t love everything about Quest. But I’m human and broken, just like everyone else and hey, I’m willing to part of a broken family if they’re willing to accept a broken person like me – that’s where the beauty lies.

    I went through the membership class almost a year ago, but I never committed officially. I’d like to become a member now. I’m not saying that I know I’ll definitely be here for the next 5 years, or even the next year, because I don’t really know exactly where God will lead me. But for this next season in my life, I want to intentionally call Quest my home and have all the rights and responsibilities that go along with that. I told DeAnza on ” post-renovation opening Sunday” that when I walked into chuch, for the first time I truly felt like a host. I think a lot of that came from staying up late with you and a few friends renovating the building, but I think it also comes as a sign of where God has taken me the past year. I’m excited for this new season at Quest and in my life. I wanted to thank you and your staff for they way you have all impacted my life, and let you know that I am regularly praying for you, your family, and the greater church staff and family.

    A year ago, Seattle was just a place I had to live for my job. Now I have a home.”

    5 months later – I still feel the same way, perhaps more so. I was reminded of the great community I have on my birthday last week which happened to be on the same day as C-Group, as well as my birthday fundraiser party over the weekend. I am truly blessed by my friends. Whenever I visit my college friends in Silicon Valley they always ask me when I’m moving back to the Bay Area. I have to tell them honestly – I would love to, but right now Seattle just feels like the right place for me and I’m loving it. A lot of that love has been found through Quest and the community I have here.

  8. me says:

    thanks for sharing this darwin.

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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