I didn’t expect writing this post to get so emotional or for this weekend to be so emotional but such has been the case. I’ve been particularly reminded of my immigrant story – my personal journey trying to find my identity in a foreign country when I first came to the United States at age 6. After immigrating to the Land of Opportunity, I soon began to be pounded with questions like “Where are you really from?” and “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”…and of course, the mixture of insults which included words like chinks and gooks and commentary about my beautiful slanty eyes…
It’s been emotional as I’ve been reminded of the courageous story of my parents, the future for my children, and the investment of so many in my life.
It’s been emotional as I’ve been – again and again – reminded of God’s grace.
This weekend, Minhee and I are in Washington DC to attend a banquet to commemorate Korean-American Day in United States history (January 13). Be honest. You didn’t even know there was a Korean-American Day, huh?
Check it: S. RES. 283 of the 109th Congress:
Whereas on January 13, 1903, the arrival of 102 pioneer immigrants to the United States initiated the first chapter of Korean immigration to the United States;
Whereas members of the early Korean American community served with distinction in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War I, World War II, and the conflict in Korea;
Whereas in the early 1950s, thousands of Koreans, fleeing from war, poverty, and desolation, came to the United States seeking opportunities;
Whereas Korean Americans, like waves of immigrants to the United States before them, have taken root and thrived as a result of strong family ties, robust community support, and countless hours of hard work;
Whereas the contributions of Korean Americans to the United States include the invention of the first beating heart operation for coronary artery heart disease, development of the nectarine, a 4-time Olympic gold medalist, and achievements in engineering, architecture, medicine, acting, singing, sculpture, and writing;
Whereas Korean Americans play a crucial role in maintaining the strength and vitality of the United States-Korean partnership;
Whereas the centennial year of 2003 marked an important milestone in the now more than 100-year history of Korean immigration; and
Whereas the Centennial Committees of Korean Immigration and Korean Americans have designated January 13th of each year as ‘‘Korean American Day”…
Each year, the banquet – sponsored by Korean Economic Institute – honor couple Korean-Americans around a particular focus and this year, they focused their selection of honorees around humanitarian work and I was truly humbled to be an honoree along with Kyung Yoon (Executive Director, Korean American Community Foundation), and special guest, Dr. Jim Yong Kim (President, World Bank Group).
No such thing as a self-made person
It’s emotional for me – not because I’ve won some sort of prize or accolade but to be honest, I’m again reminded that I am not an island to myself. I am who I am – even in all my imperfections – by the grace of God.
I am nothing with God.
I am nothing without God’s mercy and grace.
And yes, I am not an island to myself. You see, there is no such-thing as a self-made person. Someone invested in you and that’s certainly the case with me. Many people invested in me and I hope that I can – be and do – likewise for others.
- I’m thankful for my parents who came to this country only knowing a very words like “Thank You” and “Hello” and “Good-Bye” and yet, they ran a grocery store in San Francisco called “Royal Pine Market.” We lived the classic laborious and unglamorous Korean-American immigrant journey. They got up at 6am to get the store opened by 7am and closed the shop at 11pm. Our family ate nearly every single dinner at this store for several years until we sold it. I marvel and admire my parents – now more than ever before – because I now know how difficult it is to raise a family (and I know more than 3 English phrases!). I admire their commitment, tenacity, and devotion to their children and family.
- I’m thankful for my wife, best friend, and deepest advocate – Minhee. A simple bullet point would not be sufficient to explain her inspiration in my life. So, feel free to read this.
- I’m thankful for my two older brothers (Philip & Michael) – who bullied me, babied me, and brother-ed me. They paved the way so that the youngest (aka “Eugene), could have an easier path.
- I’m thankful for my children: Jubilee, Trinity, and Jedi. I love them dearly and inspire me to live my life as a model for them so that they, too, might be inspired as I’ve been inspired by my parents. I often fear how I’m failing them. All I can do is try my best to love them, teach them, show them – both in failures and successes and everything in between.
- I’m thankful for my teachers. I had some bad ones, some mediocre ones, and some teachers that I know cared for me deeply. They went beyond additions, subtractions, divisions, conjunctions, and punctuations. They built me up; Inspired me; Demanded more from me. And I’m serious: Teachers are heroes.
- I’m thankful for my pastors, mentors, and spiritual leaders – for pointing me to the One that informs and transforms everything. I’m thankful not just for the content of what they shared and taught but the content of their character – the latter brought veracity to the content of their theology and teachings.
- I’m thankful for my team – my staff from Quest, Q Cafe, and One Day’s Wages. Grateful for these brothers and sisters. Grateful for their love and support. Grateful for their prayers. Grateful that they trust me enough to work with me. Thank you Gail, Ray, Katey, Joanie, Jin, Pam, Aaron, Coby, Christian, Anita, Michael, Jill, Sun, Criss, Roxy, and Matt. Thank you Philip & Julia. Thank you to all our interns, baristas, and volunteer staff.
- I’m thankful for my church – my spiritual family. Thank you, Quest. Minhee and I are truly humbled to have started Quest Church in 2001 and I am privileged to be one of your pastors.
I’m humbled and grateful for these people and more who are part of my life.
My prayer – Then, Now, and Tomorrow
As I express my thanks to many who have poured into my life, my prayer for my life remains the same as it was in 1989 when I became a follower of Christ:
My hope is that in all things, I may bear witness to you.
I want to make You known.
I want to reveal Your story.
Through my actions, words, and deeds
– and even through and despite my imperfect life –
may many be fascinated and drawn to Your amazing salvation and grace.
In Jesus Name. Amen.