Eugene Cho

generations of faith and salvation

Last Sunday, couple folks were baptized at Quest. Their stories of coming to faith in Jesus always moves me. With permission, here’s the story of Rosalind – one of only 30,000 Karaite Jews in the world and now one of two Karaite Jew believers.  I want to encourage you to read it and be blessed.

quest church baptism

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” Genesis 12:1-4

It feels like my faith journey began before I was born. I guess that’s why my testimony might feel more like a history lesson than a story about God’s grace, but the fact that I’ve made it here is almost testament enough.

I am a Karaite Jew; a sect of Jews that has been around since God passed down his laws to Moses. Originating in Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris-Euphrates river system (present day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.), only 30,000 of us remain in the world today, 4,000 of which reside in the U.S.

My parents were born in Egypt and, like many of the Karaite Jews, were also imprisoned, and then expelled, during the 1967 six day war between Egypt and Israel. In the middle of the night, my father was taken to a prisoner of war camp (similar to U.S. Japanese internment camps during WWII). At 37, he, my mom and two brothers were forced to start over, having lost everything (home, business, money, dignity), they began a second life in Italy as Jewish refugees. It’s a miracle that my father escaped the two-years of imprisonment sustained by two of my uncles and several other Jews. It’s a miracle that I was born to them in SF, CA, in 1972.

So begins my story of Christ’s protection, guidance and salvation.

Judaism is the Foundation of My Faith

In Hebrew, Karaite means “Followers of Scripture.” According to some Jewish scholars, the Karaite are referred to in the Bible as “the righteous,” because they believed in keeping the Torah’s commandments with no additions. [Now I understand why I always HAVE TO be right.J]

They broke away from Rabbinical Judaism (today’s mainstream Jews), who added an interpretation of scripture known as the Oral Law – the Talmud. The Karaite movement can be compared to the Protestant Reformation, because the Karaite vowed to follow the word of God over the opinions of Rabbis.

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

Grace Several Years in the Making

I am a Jewish Believer, Follower of Christ and have been since sometime before my 7th grade teacher at West Portal Lutheran School told my classmates that she felt sorry for me, because I was going to hell. When I approached her, hoping she’d clear up what must have been a rumor; Mrs. VanBlarcom confirmed that she had indeed said this, insisting it was nothing personal. Jews don’t believe in Christ, so you’re going to hell – “no offense,” she reassured me.

Thankfully, my brother had taken me to my first (and only) Young Life meeting in 4th grade. I had also been attending Lutheran school since age 5 and Chapel every Wednesday. All of this prep helped me believe that Christ’s teachings offered more hope than Mrs. VB knew how to share. So, I decided to take this up with my pastor, Pastor Keyne. When asked if I would go to hell, because I’m Jewish, Pastor Keyne showed me the grace I needed. “I can’t tell you the answer. God is the final judge.”

As an 11-year-old, this was reassuring. Also as an 11-year-old, I vowed never to assimilate as a Christian. Christians, after all, seemed was often more divisive than unifying. I decided that I would always, privately, be a Follower of Christ, never losing my Jewish identity.

Departure from Tradition

Not unlike my ancestors, today I stand before you prepared to profess my faith as a Jewish believer. No, the Karaite don’t believe that the Messiah has risen, but the tenants of this faith planted the seeds I needed to begin following Christ at an early age. How? Karaism teaches that:

It is more important to do the right and moral thing than to do the same thing as everyone else.
It is up to the individual to take personal responsibility for interpreting Scripture, basing his understanding on the merits and logic of a given interpretation.

Luke 7:6–8 gives me the courage to let go of tradition and join a small sect of Karaite Jewish believers. So far, I think this sect is only comprised of me and my brother Clement, but I have to admit that even as an adult I have continued to be very private about my walk with Christ. That is until today.

“Jesus replied. “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:  ‘These people hone me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” You have let go of the commandments of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Using the empowerment bestowed upon me by the Karaite, I have taken personal responsibility for interpreting scripture and leaving the traditions of men. Finally, I am choosing to be washed by the water of Christ’s amazing grace. Like my father who started anew at age 37, today, also at age 37, I ask Pastor Eugene to help me begin my public life in Christ.

Church, will you promise me one thing? If I do this, promise me you will never tell anyone they are going to hell. Amen.

[photo by dcruzin photography]

Filed under: christianity, church, faith, Jesus, ministry, quest church, religion

18 Responses

  1. zoelavie says:

    Thank you for a beautiful story of faith. May God bless you with grace and strength in your spiritual journey.

  2. thejourneywithnoend says:

    AMEN!!! Thank you for sharing? I would love to share this with some friends? Do you mind if I print it and share it?

  3. Peter says:

    Tears are filling up. Amazing story.

  4. Joe says:

    I also attended West Portal Lutheran in SF from 2nd-4th grade. I had wonderful teachers who shared the love and grace of Jesus. What a beautiful story of God bringing people to himself…sometimes in spite of Christians.

  5. Nate says:

    Profound.
    I have long considered Judaism to be as family. It would be a mistake to consider Xianity as a religion, born simply at the time of X.
    Beyond that, we are accountable (as individuals) to how we receive or reject the wooing of Jesus…
    Beautiful testimony.

  6. Kacie says:

    AWESOME. Worshipping with the Chosen People of the Lord that have believed in the Messiah is a HUGE privilage. That is awesome.

  7. Lori says:

    Rosalind, you have a powerful testimony. What courage you have to stand on the word of God and its truths whether or not your fellow Karaite approve or agree with your interpretation of scripture. Welcome to the family and God’s richest blessings to you in your life with Him.

  8. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    Thank you pastor Eugene for giving my story a global audience. Lori, Kacie, Nate, Joe, Peter, Joann, Zoelavie, (and journey with no end feel free to share) — how touched I am by your responses. I’ve spent years searching for a church that embraced diversity over assimilation, extended grace instead of judgment — one humble enough to act as a servant (not a barrier) to Christ’s message. Finally, I’m home.

  9. eugenecho says:

    @rosalind: thanks for stopping by the blog and again, sharing a glimpse of your heart. thanks for extending to me the joy and grace of being one of your pastors.

  10. Joel says:

    Wow, this is a powerful story. I particularly liked her vow to never assimilate as a Christian, but remain as a Follower of Christ – I am of a similar bent, after eighteen years of acting Christian. Thanks for this.

    P.S. I think the scripture passage is actually Mark 7:6-8, I tried to look it up in Luke and it wasn’t there.

  11. Newman says:

    Shalom Rosalind. I’m Jewish but was raised a Christian. After studying the Hebrew Bible for several years, I’ve joined the Karaite community in Jerusalem. I’d like to know more about you’re story. Coming from the small community of “followers of the Miqra” that I’ve joined, and having joined the faith I was raised in. We may have common experiences, and valuable information to share about our beliefs. I’m interested if you found a way to reconcile the religion God gave our ancestors at Sinai, and being a follower Jesus. Maybe you can do both? My email is newmancbn@yahoo.com

  12. Shalom Everyone,

    As a karaite Jew who was born and live in Israel it is
    Very sad story to hear !

    To leave the truth,and to believe in false believes is waste of time and life that ELOHEY ISRAEL (ADONAI) gave you. I think that you really mad bad choice and that you need to come back to your roots (i.e Karaite Jews).If you will learn the Bible it self you will find
    that there is no other TORA.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Moshe

  13. What can I say? Rosalind ask yourself this question. If Jesus died once for the sins of mankind and by believing that he sacrificed his blood once is all that is needed to believe in, then explain to me Jer.33:17-18. “For thus saith YHWH; There shall not be cut off unto David a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall there be cut off unto the priests the Levites a man before ME to offer burnt-offerings, and to burn-meal offerings and to do sacrifice continually.” Why is sacrifice needed if the blood of our brother Jew was enough for ever? The Covenant YHWH made with our forefathers has not been annulled. It has no expiration date. God hates human sacrifice. The Christian Bible is not a “new covenant” (testament). At what point did YHWH say HIS Covenant with his people was void? There was NO other Covenant made with Israel. “MY people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”

  14. Lew White says:

    The act of immersion for followers of the Messiah of Israel is the beginning point, where they enter into the Covenant. Acts 2, and Acts 4:12, show us there is a Name we must call upon for deliverance. We speak it as we are immersed, not anyone holding onto us. That Name is but one:
    “YAHUSHA” seen in the TaNaK 216 times, and spelled as Yahushua (2 times), and Y’shua (1 time).
    Immersion is the outward sign of a good conscience toward Yahuah, and also the outward sign of our identity as an Israelite. It is the moment our heart becomes circumcised by Yahusha.

  15. Thank you for this faith & hope story. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. God be with you always in your journey..

  16. Joseph says:

    Great another jew ruined and is spread as evidence that christianity has to be the “true” religion.

  17. Thanks for some other wonderful article. The place else may just anyone get that type of info in such an
    ideal method of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such information.

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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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