Eugene Cho

how do you possibly give it all away?

_C032530Today (June 3) marks the 2nd year anniversary of an amazing story of Beauty & Grace. Interbay Covenant Church, a 65 year old church with a long and fruitful history of ministry, chose to draw their history to an end in 2007 and gift themselves into a merger with Quest Church. In this process, they not only joined our church and vision but gifted all their assets (around 6-7 million dollars) to the ministry of Quest.

How do you possibly give it all away?

It’s pretty simple: They realized it didn’t “belong” to them to begin with…

There are days I still get the goosebumps at having a front row seat of the Holy Spirit at work through this selfless act for the larger Kingdom.  I am completely humbled and will always remain grateful and personally challenged… I am especially thankful for the legacy of such people such as Amy Boyd, Carl Hagstrom, and Vi Berlin who gave so much to the ministry of Interbay and later, to Quest in their unique ways. These three passed away this past year at the ages of 89, 91, and 100.

Do you have a story to share about amazing grace?

While it was something that the majority of their remaining members (eventually) joyfully chose to do, it was still very difficult and painful – both before the official merger and afterwards.Recently, I received this email from a former Interbay member – and now, a Quest member. Take a read…

I have been a part of Quest for almost 2 years now. When Interbay and Quest began the discussion to merge, it was not a decision that I initially embraced. I prayed, wrestled, discussed (and discussed) before coming to the understanding that the Lord could do more through us together, than apart. (I have to add that my boys wondered what the big deal was…they already hung out with the Quest kids, why couldn’t the Quest/Interbay parents hang out? 🙂 ).

For my first year at Quest, I experienced the normal growing pains of blending two families. Starting at the age of 5, I had always worshipped in Covenant churches (no, despite the way I look and my last name, we are not a multi-generational Covenant family-Roman Catholic and Lutheran family ties). I have experienced many different ways of worship, but never in such a large congregation, such a young congregation, or such a multi ethnic congregation. I felt like I didn’t know anyone, but they all knew each other, like being a transfer student in a new school. I plugged myself in as much as I could, since I was doing the temporary single parent thing, serving in toddler Sunday school, coming out the Taking It to the Streets whenever I could, etc., but still felt very much on the outside.

The second year was a bit easier, I knew more names, recognized more faces, started to get together with others outside of Sundays. With “E” home, I had a bit more freedom to prayerfully seek out where I might be able to serve more, as well as to be fed. I have been able to help in Women’s Ministry (though we’re going to come up with a better name than that) planning, plugged into a C-Group, and been able give more time to serving the toddlers of Quest. I have been challenged, encouraged, held accountable and been lifted up.

In the run up to my 3rd year, we have dealt with the difficult news of my mum’s cancer and preparations for my family to once again be separated by several thousand miles. I have often been humbled by the encouragement, the prayers, the support and care that I have received from the people of Quest. In the Sundays since “E” left, it is not uncommon for people to stop me on Sunday and ask me what I need. I usually can’t think of anything on the spot, so the frequent response has been, “Promise you’ll call if you think of anything” (they are often quite insistent 🙂 ).

Pastor Eugene, on April 17th, you did a posting on your blog on the beauty of the diversity of our church and why diversity is so important. It was both encouraging and challenging to me. But there was something else that brought me to tears. At the end you thanked Leo for some the photos that you had posted. They were beautiful. As I looked over the pictures, I was amazed at how many of those pictured I knew. I had not really paid attention to the photo at the top, when I had started reading, so I decided to scroll back up. I noticed again…”Hey, I know those people. That’s Matthew and his dad taking communion”. I had to look closely to recognize the other people in the picture. Then all of a sudden I realized who else was in the picture. It was my husband and I! I burst into tears. It finally hit me, I belong here. This is truly my church family. I belong in this family.

…I owe an apology and my thanks:

First, the apology. In my heart, and a few times to you both directly, I questioned your motives for merging our two churches. I was wrong and unfair to you both. For that, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I realize that this is way overdue.

Thank you both for your pursuit the Holy Spirit’s leading, not just for both churches, but for the Interbay neighborhood, our city and our world. Thank you for trusting that He who makes all things new, to make this family, a family. I am not naive enough to think that we do not currently or will not in the future have struggles-that is part of being a family. But I am thankful for this family and your part in bringing us together.

If you’re interested in more info regarding this “merger,” here are some relevant links and reads in some sort of systematic order:

  • A Letter to Interbay.  The letter I wrote on behalf of our church’s leadership team to Interbay asking them to prayerfully consider the possibilities and opportunities.
  • Wow.  Reflections after an affirming official vote for Interbay merging into Quest to become ONE church.
  • We are ONE Church.  Some thoughts after our first official service together on June 3, 2007
  • The Building Renovation which we undertook over 28 intense days in August/September of 2007.  Whew.  It was intense but amazing what you can do for about $56,000.
  • The Honeymoon is Over– a report on how things were going 3 months after the official merger.
  • Media Articles:  Seattle PI article on this story | Covenant Companion article entitled, Companions in Seattle.

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6 Responses

  1. steve lewis says:

    Eugene,

    Congrats on the anniversary. The timing of the post is funny for me, because two days ago I read about the Interbay/Quest merger in Soong-Chan Rah’s book as an example of faith and trust and an understanding that mission is bigger than turf. And two days before that, I was meeting with a church planter friend who is quickly approaching a similar situation of merging with an older congregation – I told him that he needs to hear your story, because I really think your two churches navigated the path to becoming one church incredibly well.

    Yesterday, you tweeted about having to clean up the excrement left outside your building, which makes for an unpleasant work experience. I’m glad that you get letters like the one you’ve posted here to encourage you too.

    Peace friend.

  2. Cody says:

    The first church that I ever had the joy of being their pastor, gave their building and funds away. When I started, there were only 10 members left of a church in rural New Mexico that had at times run a couple hundred and 70 years of history. I spent a little over a year there and in that time began to realize we could do one of two things: 1)we could continue with this small group until everyone died and no one would have been upset or 2)we could be a part of something bigger God wanted for that area. There is a large population of people who only spoke Spanish and a real need for ministry. Well after much talk and prayer, our congregation gave everything to a Spanish church that needed a building. People who had sat in the same pews for, well, there whole lives, had freely and willing given that up. It is one of the greatest things I have ever seen.

  3. sara says:

    what an incredible gift! there are so many older churches out there, i wish more had the same vision as these members did! I just found your blog today, from a link on facebook! 🙂 Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  4. philnamy says:

    Very encouraging. I alway’s thought pastor Ray was a big stud and wanted the best for the church.

  5. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    Finding Quest Church, being embraced by its pastors and congregation, only to be led to new heights, that is one example of God’s amazing grace.

  6. Eugene thanks for posting this note, it is perfect timing for me. I’m the church planter Steve wrote about above. I need to hear that what happened with Quest became a beautiful church. I have been in Seattle for eight months now and actually have been connected with your church and ministry without ever meeting you or having been there, but through the family that you must have much joy in leading. I have met many of Quest’s members and always without fail have loved them all, which speaks highly of their shepherd.
    Continue strong and hopefully soon I will have a similar story to share with you and the world as we encourage other churches to do the same.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. 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)

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