Eugene Cho

our personal “perfect financial storm”

metphr06

We are living in extraordinary and turbulent times – in so many ways.  I have a feeling we’ll look back and tell our grandchildren about this “period” of time of significant economic downturn, recession, and shifts.  We can say that admit to this, right?  Any arguments?

Couple weeks ago, I shared about how our church is being affected and how we’re choosing to respond.  Thus far, the trend continues: more layoffs and only a handful of people finding work.  It’s a tough season but as I shared in that post, there’s always an upside to challenges.

In this post, I’m sharing about our personal situation – not with an intent to incite any sympathy but to simply put it out there and to ask for your understanding of some likely changes to this blog and some practical help.  In a sense, we’re in the midst of a “perfect financial storm.”  There was a day or two [late last year] when I was absolutely paralyzed and gripped by fear.  How did we get into this situation?

  • The current economic crisis has heightened fear everywhere.
  • We were trying to sell our home and placed it on the market for six months – in hopes of using the proceeds on funding a vision.  We reduced our asking price 20% and no takers.  We definitely had interest but when the credit stuff hit the fan, everyone fled.  And of course, we invested some significant money to try to get the home in its best condition.  Thought it was a good idea then.
  • During those six months, we also lost rental income since we needed to stage the home and for that period, paid double mortgages.  Ouch.
  • We invested some funds in some initial costs for the poverty org.
  • Minhee started grad school in the Fall and well, there’s expenses to that.  But so excited for her…

And just like that, we fell into a huge hole.  The church leadership was very gracious and gave us a 13K advance to help us get by last year [which they shared with the church membership at the church’s annual meeting].  But of course, we’re now in a situation with 13K less income this year, a home we really needed to sell but now off the market since after 6 months of it being empty, and blah blah blah.

Long story short, we are blessed and I know that one way or the other, we’ll get through this season even if that means we don’t get what we want.  It hasn’t turned out the way that we thought it would.  We could have never envisioned the economic downturn but who did?  We’re still committed to the poverty vision and our pledge.   But in the meantime, there’s something more important:

I need to provide for my family.  This is a must and a non-negotiable.

And because of the circumstances I listed above, we’re depleted and now in a foreign situation.  We haven’t been in this kind of situation since 8 years ago when I was working as a custodian at a Barnes & Noble store while planting Quest Church.  And just like then, we’re doing okay.  We”re learning more life lessons; We  have peace and are working creatively and prayerfully to emerge through this season.

Please don’t mis-read what I’m writing here.  We’re not asking for anything but I am sharing how we’re trying to navigate through this storm:

  1. Reducing Bills & Selling stuff.  Just like everyone else.  A few month ago, sold my mid-life crisis car and now, I’ve got no choice but to sell my collectible books.  If you’re a collector, let me know.
  2. Gift Cards. We decided to convert our airplane mileage and other points to Gift Cards.  This is a practical way you can help ONLY IF you need these Gift Cards.  There were numerous options but we decided to convert our mileage to about $1500 of Home Depot Gift Cards in $50/increments.   If you need them and want to “purchase” them, let me know and we can make arrangements.  This would be a big help for us.
  3. Ads for the Blog.  I’ve been mulling this for some time but now, no more mulling.  Providing for my family is worth the sting of being called a “sellout.”  In the coming month or so, I’ll be sharing about ad space for those that might be interested in sponsorship since I get emails from publishers already and blah blah blah.  I rather go that route than working via Google Ads.  And I promise there won’t be any ads for Viagra, Cialis, or other fun stuff.  This is to give you some fore warning in the case you want to unsubscribe now.
  4. Lastly, Minhee and I hope to temporarily move out of our residence home and into an apartment over the summer and possibly longer.  Our ideal renters:  someone in the larger Seattle area who are renovating their home and in need of  a furnished home or someone working in Seattle for the summer.  We did this for a month last summer and thankfully, worked out well.
  5. I’m going back to modeling.  Which is why the above are important.  🙂

The situation isn’t ideal and it feels embarrassing but we know that if we can get through this storm, we’ll emerge in a better place – and by that, I’m not talking from a financial perspective at all.  It’s much deeper.

We know that God is deepening us in maturity, trust, and faith.

We are blessed.  We have assets and stuff.  This is certainly a tough stretch but I know it pales in comparison to folks in our church that are unemployed, making decisions about health insurance, etc.  And certanly not even in the same stratosphere with those who are living on the streets or wondering where their next meal will come from.  I sincerely hope that you are doing well and learning to place your trust in God and looking for opportunies to be gracious and generous with those around you.

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19 Responses

  1. splinterlog says:

    I feel you pastor Cho. I’ve been down to almost half salary since November and often get my paycheck more than a week late.

    A few lessons I’ve learned: how to make do without a cellphone (more email), saving a small amount every month (religiously) and making the long hike to the ‘ethinic’ grocery store every week – fresh produce at about a third of Safeway prices.

    Is writing a book an option that you’ve considered?

  2. steph says:

    Pastor Eugene, thank you for sharing such a personal struggle. We will be lifting you up and praying for provisions for you. God bless you for the many sacrifices you and Minhee have made to be obedient.

  3. Kacie says:

    Eugene, I appreciate your honesty here – please don’t feel like you’re asking for sympathy. I also really appreciate that caring for your family is a non-negotiable. I don’t know where God is taking you through all of this any more then you do, but I do know that you are honoring God through this in your choices.

    I think you absolutely should put ads in here. Check out pro-blogger’s discussion of ads and ad placement. You are a writer – it is fine to make a little money through your extensive writing, especially when people WANT to read your writing.

    God bless you guys!

  4. Shaun King says:

    I’m right there with you bro! Struggling man! Giving it my very best shot.

    Hang in there.

    Shaun

  5. Eugene- I have never met or known of another pastor who is so willing to be transparent and honest about life’s struggles, and without the intent for pity. You provide a great encouragement to others in crisis just by allowing yourself to be seen as real and vulnerable. My heart and prayers are with you and yours; I love you and hope that Lauren and I can be a support to you through this. Don’t hesitate to ask and please continue to update the community if you think of additional things that could help.

    When you talk about ad space here, am I understanding correctly that you will be looking for folks to pay you directly to advertise their ____ on your blog? If so, I’m very interested. We’ll talk?

  6. Mike says:

    Why does everything have to be about you?

  7. eugenecho says:

    umm, that would be me.

    @mike: well, it is my blog. 🙂
    relax dude. relax.

  8. @E: I wondered if it was for you, but figured it had to be directed at me or Shaun King, because I have no clue how anybody could respond to your post the way he did.

    Yo Mike- that was really bizarre.

  9. Peter Chou says:

    I was eating a fortune cookie while reading this and my fortune said “YOU ARE GOOD WITH FINANCES”. True Story.

  10. Darwin says:

    In case you missed my tweet last week, there’s a good article about how to negotiate your phone/internet/etc bills at: http://www.erica.biz/2009/negotiate-your-phone-bill/. I am becoming a big fan personal finance blogs. My fave is http://www.getrichslowly.org. One for food ideas is http://www.5dollardinners.com.

    Not saying you should do this, but it isn’t that uncommon for bloggers to have a kind of “tip jar” on their blog that basically feeds directly in to their personal paypal account. I’m not sure how I would feel about putting that up on my own blog, but then again, if someone (whether I knew them or not) came up to me on the street and gave me an envelope of cash because they knew I would use it, would I accept or reject it? It’s tough because part of my pride wouldn’t want to accept it. But then again, can I be entrusted to spend this money wisely?

    I was given some money recently – some from a random drawing and some from a friend that I kept trying to refuse but they wouldn’t let me. I have then assessed whether or not I need to use that money for myself (either to pay expenses or save), and have so far given half of it away to various charities, and maybe eventually the whole thing. Is it my place to reject such gifts, or just to redirect them for God’s work (either directly or indirectly by investing in myself, and then using my talents/time/life to glorify God).

  11. Brian says:

    A great example of tasteful ads on a blog can be found at Michael Spencer’s site, internetmonk.com. The ads are not invasive and look alot better than Adwords.

  12. ryan says:

    Eugene – I know you didn’t write this to get a pat on the back, but you’re a good leader and model fighting the isolation many in ministry experience – particularly in hard times (that’s what you meant by modeling, right?:)) Kristi and I will pray for you and Minhee and if I need Home Depot cards, I know where to go.

  13. Maia says:

    Last April my mom was in a similar “fear” situation. Her house was going into foreclosure and she was supporting three kids herself. As a Real estate agent her income dropped when the market gates closed. She asked her well off dad for help, he said no. We sat down for four hours one night, prayed, came up with a plan and faced that paralyzing fear in the face with God on our side. We realized, the worst that could happen is that it would forclose, we would still go on, things would still be okay.

    Our plan was to:
    1. Sell the house
    2. Find an apartment in a nice community
    3. Get a new job
    4. Fix her teeth (okay so this one is kinda random but she needed some dental work done and wouldn’t go on any dates because of it…. lol)

    We did a rough fix up job (one weekend, no sleep, me, josh and my mom)on her four bed house in Everett and then the following Monday we put it on the market for 20% less than it was worth but enough for her to live on for three months.

    God said yes to our requests, she sold the house in less than a month, found an apartment in Seattle and a new job all within a month. She now works as a concierge at a private condo residence downtown and with some other side work has surplus income of almost $2,000.00 a month which she is using to pay down her bills. Quite a different situation than a year ago.

    We did what you are doing, what we could and asked God to meet us.

    On another note, I could use a HD giftcard… Do you accept paypal? Josh might not appreciate the condo improvement work that comes along with it but hey we need some stuff fixed.

  14. Maia says:

    Oh, and do the tip jar idea!!! Seriously!

  15. Hey, Pastor, just wanted to voice our support. Like you, our financial situation is baaaad, but we are hoping and praying it will get better. You are right…there are life lessons to be learned. And I would never criticize you for running ads. Go for it!

  16. Howard Chung says:

    All the business meetings I’m in every day for hours at a time is regarding these very kind of issues . . . finding the right balance between decreasing expenses and increasing income.

    What we really have to be careful of is spending too much focus and energy on decreasing expenses that end up hardly saving any significant levels which ultimately doesn’t help the big financial picture in the long-term.

    When identifying additional income sources, the Hedgehog concept from one of the most popular business books, Good to Great http://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Companies-Leap-Others/dp/0066620996 , is often referenced.

    Document what your most passionate about, the best at, and has the biggest economic engine. It sounds like you’ve identified a few income solutions such as the HD gift cards, renting out the house, and the ads. By applying the hedgehog concept, you might find additional income sources you hadn’t considered.

    You’re obviously passionate about a lot of stuff! You’re really great at blogging. You’re an excellent teacher. What about offering blogging classes to business professionals and small business owners from time to time? I think you’d get a lot of takers! Sign me up!

  17. […] Eugene and his wife, Minhee, have made/are making a lot of sacrifices in order to support this non-profit financially and logistically.  They are really such an […]

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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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