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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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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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. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter

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