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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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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