Eugene Cho

know and love your city

Minhee and I moved to Seattle in 1997.  We are entering our 12th year in Seattle but it was only about 8 years ago when I really began to grow in love with the city of Seattle.  I was kayaking in Lake Union when I just gushed over the beauty over the city.  And I just started praying for the city and the hope – someday – of being able to plant a church in the city.  God honored that prayer and on occasion, I’ll trek over to Kerry Park [few mins from Quest] and lift occasional prayers for the city and people of this city.

It isn’t a perfect city by any means:  I wish there was more diversity; city remains ethnically divided;  the road systems are wacky; a subway system would be nice; our sports teams are dreadfully cursed, we need more sun, etc.  But there are also some amazing things about this city:  the topography is absolutely breathtaking; the local music scene is alive and well; everything is green and wet; the city is a creative force and is the hub of numerous companies, etc.

How about you?  Where do you live and what do you like or dislike about your city or town?

One of the regular chats I give when I’ve had the privilege of speaking at conferences or churches has been the importance of knowing, loving, and engaging your city.  In short, it’s easy for churches and christians to live in our insular christian sub-culture.  The biggest culprits might be pastors in propagating that insularity.  Rather than engaging our city and culture, we often hide behind our buildings, church, and desks.

At conferences and churches I speak at, people assumedly ask,

Where do you pastor?

It’s not my attempt to sound pretentious but I often respond with these words,

I pastor the city of Seattle.

My local parish is Quest Church but I’m called to pastor the larger city of Seattle.  And as such, I spend a great amount of time learning as much about this city, its neighborhoods, issues, culture, expressions, arts, and leaders – all in hopes of engaging this city as a follower of Christ.

There are more beautiful cities in the world.  San Francisco and Vancouver, BC happen to some of my other favorite cities.  But Seattle is my home.  This is our city.  And this is the place where God has called us – in the here and now – to be light and salt.  To love God and to love neighbor. 

If you’ve never visited Seattle, check out this video to give you a glimpse of the ‘Emerald City.’  And if you are from Seattle, don’t forget your raincoats this week…the rain comes back tomorrow. 

Filed under: church, churchplanting, family, leadership, ministry, quest church, seattle, travel

16 Responses

  1. very cool – I’ll make it to Seattle one of these days. I’ve planned three trips and have had to cancel them all…

    having recently moved back to Austin, I am enjoying really getting to know the ciry and being a part of it in a way that I was never really able to do in the Chicago suburbs.

  2. mnelise says:

    I love on St Paul, MN – East Side, Frogtown, Downtown, and Midway, to be more specific.

    I grew up here, on the East Side (the strange place between city and suburb), but went to private high school in a ritzy suburb, where my friends were afraid to visit my house at night. I went away to college in Lincoln, NE but came back to the city I loved.

    I love the city because it’s my home. Because of its great ethnic diversity (especially in my area) in people, food, and cultural attractions; I love its huge Hmong and Northeast African populations. Because it’s broken but it’s trying. Because of the SNOW and the beautiful parks in the middle of the city, its trees and the river. I love my church, started by run-away slaves who came UP the river on a raft, towed by a passing boat of sympathizers.

  3. Kacie says:

    I live in Dallas, TX and Dallas has beautiful….. strip malls. Our weather is fantastic, except for July and August, when it is near hellish heat. Our culinary scene is thriving with…. chain restaurants. We are not truly cowboy enough to be cool, but also not metro. If you’re driving into downtown, be careful not to blink or you’ll miss it, and the rest of Dallas’s population lives in endless suburbia. We have mega-churches on every corner, and a school district that just banned teachers from recording test grades that would lower a student’s GPA. We will soon be the proud home of George W., and we are also the home of Jessica Simpson. The train and bus system is spic and span, it just hardly goes anywhere!

    I’ll stop there… haha… I just moved here a year ago from Chicago and lets just say I have struggled to appreciate this city! 🙂 It is growing on me, but it will take some time.

  4. Chris Scott says:

    San Francisco.

    Its breathtakingly beautiful. The scenery of SF with its towering buildings, stringed and ornate bridges, and relaxing piers and ports is like no other city on the planet. Plus, a short drive away from the city in any direction are other countless beautiful natural scenes.

    Along with its beauty, the city by the bay is packed full of diversity and a social scene of constant unfolding. Immigrants come and go, natives enter for a time to work, and tourists just come to see the bridges, cable cars, and liberalism. San Francisco is in affect is like one big beautiful porch that welcomes travelers with romantic history and dramatic scenery.

  5. Sally K says:

    @Kacie:

    I know how you feel!! We spent a year in Dallas, after living in a little town in Maine for 10 years. It was hard! But now that we are not there any more, there is stuff I miss – the Mexican food, Half-Price Books, and the butterflies. Have you noticed the butterflies? They are pretty awesome, as big as your hand, present all year (except for “winter”), and so plentiful that I found a few on my windshield. In Maine, we only have butterflies in July & August, and not nearly the variety of TX.

    I hope you find stuff that you might actually miss if you were to leave. . .

  6. Rebecca says:

    I am a true Seattle native, and while I love to travel and have seen beautiful places, this city will always be home and the most beautiful place on earth to me. And Kerry Park is one of my favorite places to pray.

  7. My wife and I grew up in Austin. We moved away a few times, but kept coming back. Something about this place and the people. I love living in a city that is not afraid of who it is, perhaps that is why we’ve decided never to leave again. We are loved here, and we love here.

  8. Randall says:

    I’m from Hawaii and now that I live in Seattle, I often get the question, why’d you move out here?

    The short answer is because of my band but I think the real answer is because God brought me here.

    Seattle has been so amazingly good for me in so many different ways. Partly because of Quest, partly because of all the amazing people I’ve met, partly because it’s gotten me back into bicycling, partly because of the great coffee and beer.

    Apart from these things, one of my favorite things about Seattle is how there are so many hidden pockets of cool stuff. Sometimes I get lost and I turn some random corner and find myself in a little neighborhood with interesting looking bars and restaurants and coffee shops.

    And I love how different neighborhoods (just streets apart) all have their own unique vibe.

    I really love Seattle.

    And it doesn’t rain THAT much. And when it does rain, it’s usually a light rain – unlike Hawaii where a lot of times when it rains, it RAINS buckets and boatloads.

  9. Sam says:

    San Diego

    We know some people call it America’s favorite city. They probably work for the visitors bureau. It is a great place to live, but definitely not perfect.

    We like it because I had serious allergy problems where we last lived. We asked God to make it possible for us to move somewhere where my health would be better. He did, and has given us a love for this city and its people. It seems that this is where we should be.

  10. Erik says:

    I’m in Stockholm. I’ve traveled to numerous places around Europe and there’s nothing just like home.

    Favorite things about Stockholm are family and friends.

  11. We currently live in Richmond, Virginia, about 2 hours south of D.C.

    Richmond likes:
    Architecture, river city, close to the mountains and the ocean, great friends, fun restaurants, a lot of history, university town, so lot’s of young people.

    Richmond Dislikes:
    Way too conservative, tries to be edgie in art, but not really, bars not too interesting, old blue blood, which mean old money and a lot of snooty people, nightlife pretty lax.

  12. Tom says:

    Fun post.

    Spent 50% of my life in LA, 30% in San Francisco and 10% (most recently) in Denver. I’m sure some folks have been more blessed in terms of places to live, but probably not many:^) I enjoy cities, and especially those three. Portland and Seattle are also personal favorites–I have a particular fondness for the Pacific Northwest in many respects–as well as Austin, Texas. Made me kind of chuckle to see how many readers you seem to have there. The little blue spot on a big red map :^)

    Important idea. Learning about a city–any city– in detail and with a sympathetic ear, heart, eye and nose may be a way to get outside ourselves and our own little communities and parochial takes on life.

    Lots of ways to do it, but maybe one of the easiest is to simply get out and walk around. I’ve been doing ‘urban treks’ for years in US cities and cities around the world. My jobs have given me an opportunity to be in a lot of places.

    Even on trips when I had relatively little time, I’ve tried to schedule a day or two in a new city to just ‘walk around.’ Gotta study some maps, of course, but you’d be surprised at how much you learn by seeing the natural and built environment, talking to people along the way, and getting a feel for the place.

    I’d love to hear how people embrace their cities. Read about the history? Get involved with the local politics? Support the local sports teams? Visit a wide range of religious services?

  13. Tom says:

    Oops. Bad math. Meant to say 40% in SF.

    Nice try with this post. I was surprised you got as many responses as you did. Too many evangelicals I know seem sort of overwhelmed by cities and long for ‘a less complicated past.’

    Cities are just a physical and social incarnation of complexity and diversity and a lot of what’s best about people and God’s creation.

    Still, I think many faithful Christians who want to embrace their cities–or greater diversity in general–just don’t know where to start.

    Glad you’re trying to help a lot of us do that.

  14. […] On Sunday evening at 5.30pm, I’ll be teaching at Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco.  This church is actually a mile away from my parents’ place.  I very much enjoyed meeting the pastor of MBCC this morning for some good coffee and chat.  Bruce Reye Chow is the planter/pastor of MBCC and also the moderator of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. denomination.  One clearly apparent thing I sensed about Bruce is his relationship and commitment to his neighborhood and the larger city.  Know your city so you can grow to love your city.  […]

  15. […] made our way to Seattle – not quite certain what the future would hold.  I shared more about why I love Seattle here.  Many of you also shared your answers for the world’s most beautiful […]

  16. Ah, yes. My chance to rant about the beautiful city of PHOENIX.

    Beautiful year round weather. I wore shorts on christmas day.

    Mountains to go hiking, nothing like the city view from the top.

    Diverse landscape. Go up for skiing, come back down for a round of golf.

    Besides not having a beach or any major attractions, I love the music scene, the art, and the people.

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One Day’s Wages

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As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory) May our hearts break for injustice and exploitation - whether abroad or in our own backyard. Spending a few days for @onedayswages in Thailand. Along with one of our board members, I'm traveling with a group of 10 others to learn, listen and visit a few NGOs including one of our partners, @thefreedomstory. Couple days ago, we spent an evening walking through Soi Cowboy. On a given night, about 10,000 people are in the ring of prostitution in Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong. Much of this is driven by the consumer demand. Approximately 70% of male tourists go to Thailand for the sex industry.

Human trafficking is complex. Anyone that says otherwise is lying or selling you something. 
To reduce it to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.

When people speak of human trafficking, they tend to be ‘attracted’ to the issue of sexual exploitation. Dare I say it, human trafficking has become trendy as a justice issue.

Clearly, it’s evil and egregious. But to reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful. Because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to not only combat sexual exploitation but engage in issues of poverty, forced labor, commercial exploitation in tourism, land rights and power abuses, organized crime networks, cultural and economic realities, etc.

Oh, it's so complex but we have to be engaged whether in Thailand or in our own backyards. May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God... More thoughts to come.

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