God Always Has a Plan
My last blog entry was written in South Korea. Today I am writing from Scarborough, Maine, my stateside home.
Since my last blog, I have spoken at the Pastor Bob White's Grace Bible Church in Gorham, Maine, at Pastor Peter Vreeland's church in Pinhook, Maine,
It seemed that everyone had heard that I was going to China to work in a school there. Some were excited that I was going and others were not. Some thought it was only natural that a teacher and principal would be involved in a school in China, but others, having read about Korea on this blog and seen it through my eyes, thought that someone who had served as an interim pastor in Korea should continue ministering there. I had a difficult time answering the question, "Are you looking forward to going back?"
I have enjoyed my time here in Maine. Staying in my parents' house has been wonderful since it means spending time with them. I visited a brother from the church here in the Maine Veteran's Home.
|My father joking with Roland Collomy.|
|Breakfast at Marcy's in Portland|
|Beal's Ice Cream|
|Lunch at Heidi's Brooklyn Deli|
|Homemade spaghetti and meatballs!|
|Memorial Day dinner with Christian at Grammy Manzo's house - pot roast, squash, mashed potatoes and...|
|...strawberry rhubarb pie!|
|My nephew Austin is on the left|
|Mom and Dad eating fried clams.|
|Mom and my sister Beth Hancock and her husband Kevin|
|Left to right: My nephew Austin, niece Kayla (eating fried shrimp), and her boyfriend Dean|
|Christian is more than another face in the crowd.|
|Cooper, my brother Tim's youngest son.|
But until last week, my joy was tinged with a kind of mourning. This past spring, we studied Critical Counseling Issues with Pastor John Hadley via streaming video from Maryland Bible College & Seminary, and we learned about how people can mourn and grieve the loss of a loved one before the person dies. People can grieve as a family member is slowly lost to cancer or Alzheimer's disease. We also learned that grief doesn't have to be only for people, but can be for the loss of anything one cares about. For me, the grief was for the potential loss of my life and loved ones in Korea. Going to China to work in a school was a marvelous opportunity and the fulfillment of a desire, but it meant the loss of something that had become dear to me.
When I became the interim pastor of the Grace Mission Church in Seoul by default, I was scared, uncertain, and wondering why God was saddling me with the responsibility. We had been praying for God to send someone to pastor the church for the year Pastor Steve DeVries was on sabbatical, and I didn't want to believe that God's answer to our prayers was me.
Not long after I began ministering, my friend Tain Palanun, who I had hoped would colabor with me, was taken out of the country by illness, and before Christmas came, the two ladies who remained on the team, Jadzia Swietek and Dawn Doorenbos, were called by God to Baltimore for a season. Although there is no "i" in the word team, I was the missionary team, and I was depressed like Elijah for a while. But this was all part of God's plan.
From January to May, God did a work in me that I didn't notice. I was busy executing the plan for each day and preparing for the next days ahead, preaching and teaching, in the church, in the schools, in the hospital, and being drawn into relationship with the people where I ministered. I didn't notice that God was putting them into my heart or that God was putting me into their hearts too. It wasn't until it was time to go lay the groundwork for the school in China that I realized that God had been knitting our hearts together in Korea and that going to China would be a painful separation. It was then the mourning began.
|Beauty on my mother's back steps.|
I loved working on putting the school together and loved the people I would be serving and living alongside and the students we would engage, but I loved Korea and the people I had grown fond of also. There was an ache in my heart at the prospect of having to leave them. At one point, I sent a Facebook message to Pastor Matti Sirvio asking him how he had been to so many places planting churches and moved on to a new country without his heart breaking. I never got an answer. I prayed and prayed and read my Bible and sometimes despaired. I told God that He needed to put China into my heart the way He had put Korea there or else I didn't know how I would be able to live there with joy.
Last week, I went to Baltimore expecting God to settle my heart, and He did. I met with Pastor Scibelli, Pastor Lange, and Pastor Schaller, and God spoke to my heart to remain in Korea. I will be involved with the school in China as much as I can be, but I will be living in Korea and loving the people there by God's grace. It was not an easy decision, but I am certain that God answered my prayers and has sent me to where He desires for me to be for another season. I am thankful to everyone else who has been lifting me up in prayer all these months. The power of your prayers sustains me in the times when I feel lost or cannot bear up under warfare. Don't stop praying, please.
I have two weeks before I board a bus to Boston to catch the first of two flights that will transport me back to my other home in South Korea. I can return now with some experience under my belt and confidence in God's call. I will be working in China for a season to set up the school and continuing to help the school throughout the coming year. Pray that God covers this amazing endeavor and blesses the school with students, resources, and blessings for the staff.
Pray also for Pastor DeVries' return to Korea in a few days and his plans for the upcoming year. Pastor Sejun is moving from Korea to Baltimore to attend MBC&S for a year, so please pray for him as well and all you Baltimore folk take care of him (take him to H-Mart to buy some groceries). Pray for Dawn Doorenbos who has a one-way ticket to Korea this July. She is coming to Korea by faith to serve the body there, and wants God to show her what His plan is for her life there. Pray for the three weeks of special ministry in August - the S(e)oul Winning week, the EACON (East Asia Conference) week, and the Japan Mission Trip week. Pray for the underground church in North Korea and for God to make a way for the Gospel to spread in that nation.
One thing I have learned this past year, is that God always has a plan. We don't know what it is, but God always has known, and He is always working to bring it to pass. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Notice the verse says, "I know." God knows the plan. I don't know the plan, but God says I can rest assured knowing that His thoughts, His plan, is to give me peace, a future, and a hope. I will try to remember that the next time I am wondering what God is doing in my life...