Monday, June 20, 2016

Seniors 2016: Jon Kim

"Men of Cru, the women around you are your SISTERS. Guide them, protect them, love on them as you would your own blood sisters..... We want to see our sisters flourish, to become absolute beasts for the Lord!"
I sat down with Jon Kim this past fall and I could tell something was different.  Over the summer Jon had ridden his bicycle all the way across America.  There is no doubt it takes real fortitude to make it on that kind of adventure, but it was obvious that the journey had cultivated much more than physical strength.  Jon was different down to the soul!  

I’ve always known Jon to be faithful, funny and talented.  He’s smart and easy to get along with. From the moment he transferred into Cornell University as a sophomore he was a dedicated part of Cru. He is notorious in my book for showing up to the Community Group in College Town when literally no one else did! From day one, he was definitively "all in" as a servant leader in our Ministry.  But he came into his senior year with a whole new level of confidence and tenacity.  Jon came back more deliberate, assertive and diligent than he was before.
Jon and his girlfriend Jocelyn Lee
I remember asking Jon "Dude, what sermons or podcasts or audio books were you listening to while you rode your bike all summer?" His maturity was obvious and evident. Jon grew over that summer in a way that I have likened to "taking spiritual steroids!" I wanted his reading list so I could pass it along to other guys!
John came back to campus this fall with a renewed vision to help other people grow and thrive at Cornell; especially men.  Last year Jon was a big part of the Cayuga Heights Volunteer Fire Department -a testament to his adventurous spirit.   This year he decreased his involvement specifically so that he could spend more time helping and mentoring younger students.  Jon helps to lead one of our Community Groups.  These groups of 8-14 students get together each week to eat, study the Bible and talk about life.  Cru’s Community Groups help facilitate spiritual, emotional and social health. We believe these gatherings are very important, especially at a place like Cornell where the academic rigor and competitive environment tend to isolate and separate people.  Along with his friends Grant and Josh,  Jon helps other men to grow in their faith and understanding of God’s design for life.   

During his "senior share" he had some powerful words to share with his classmates. Jon talked about "growing up" and becoming a "man" of God as opposed to a "boy."

Making reference to 1 Corinthians 13:11 where Paul says, 'When I became a man, I gave up childish ways', Jon began by confessing the ways that 'boyish immaturity' and a general refusal to "grow up" and take responsibility had seriously caused other people pain. Throughout his life, self centeredness had facilitated sin that had hurt family and friends. Rooted in the gospel, Jon boldly recognized his faults. He continued; "My story of brokenness is also a story of redemption. I stand here because of God’s redeeming love. He has torn me from my old ways, he has taught me and re-taught me and continues to teach me how to put off my boyish ways and to put on the armor of God. To stand and fight. And we cannot fight on our own."

From there he proceeded to give tremendous exhortation talking about men as spiritual leaders and fathers. A father is responsible for setting the spiritual climate in his family, and for showing sacrificial love to his wife. He said "Where a father and husband and brother shirks his duties, brokenness and weakness follow. When a man is missing from his home, the family is at half strength. Now, (even if we aren't married with kids) we as men do have a family right now, and they are all around us: it’s the church. Jesus looks around at his disciples and followers in Mark 4:33 and says, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” In 1 Timothy 5:2, there are instructions for the church: “do not rebuke an older man, but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as SISTERS in all purity.”

"Men of Cru, the women around you are your SISTERS. Guide them, protect them, love on them as you would your own blood sisters..... We want to see our sisters flourish, to become absolute beasts for the Lord!"

Jon continued saying, "Another way to develop manhood: Go and WORK. Work for the good of the church. In Genesis Ch. 2, after God creates man, it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to WORK IT and TAKE CARE OF IT.” Men, you are designed to WORK, to be FRUITFUL, PRODUCTIVE, in a way that PLEASES THE LORD. Men, whatever they are in charge of, they must do it to the best of their ability for the glory of God. Men, you will set the spiritual climate in your homes when you have a wife and children. You also will set the spiritual climate in this family at Cru. Get involved. Get tired. Influential preacher Charles Spurgeon says, “A perfect man is a working man.” That was our design in the first place! We as men need to rise to the occasion!"
Jon definitely worked hard this year! As one of the main leaders of our music ministry he helped coordinate the numerous musicians ensuring that we had a group ready to play each week. (He also plays drums!)  Jon’s role required him to both organize logistics and take care of people.  He helped manage everything from scheduling to transporting of sound equipment to organizing the volunteer musicians and helping everybody to grow theologically.    
Jon is related to two of my other favorite people, David and Hannah Kim!! 
I am very impressed and very grateful for the way that Jon stayed so involved throughout his time here at Cornell.  Many seniors can tend to “fade out” but Jon is a man of endurance and character.  Week in and week out, he was walking alongside his friends and serving his fellow Cornell students in and through the ministry of Cru.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Seniors 2016: Josh Tai

Driving in the car the other day, one of my boys asked me; "is Josh really gonna try out for the Duke Basketball team?" I said "He should!"  

Josh is headed to Duke next fall to pursue a degree in nursing. And he is really good at Basketball!! But probably not:)

I first got to hang out with Josh while we were doing construction work on the Court Street House; a home that we were remodeling to house homeless men.  Josh is one of those guys that you could always call for help. Whatever the initiative, whatever the outreach, whatever the venue, Josh is a guy you could count on to show up and serve! I will definitely miss his faithful presence next year!  
I got to hang out and serve with Josh over Spring Break out in Baltimore.
I learned early on not to regard Josh Tai's introversion as a lack of passion or spirit! People might not immediately describe Josh as "outgoing" and yet I have observed him "going out" faithfully engaging others with the love of Jesus. I remember getting to know Josh during his freshman year. Specifically because he is such a quiet guy, I had not expected him to do such an incredible job gathering others, engaging his friends and striving help people to encounter Christ.   I literally marveled at the way he was always inviting friends to come check out Cru and the Christian community.
Josh with his bro's Grant and Jon
One thing I appreciate about Josh is his teachability.  As a mentor to Josh, I had the chance over the years to provide him with constructive feedback.  Josh is humble and receives input with humility and grace.   He also possesses a veritable resilience.  When something doesn’t work out according to the plan, Josh may be disappointed, but you can count on him to press on and find other options. Two summers ago he didn’t end up getting any of the internships that he had hoped for. Rather than mope about it, he signed up for a Cru summer project in Wildwood, New Jersey.  There he was able to grow in his faith, improve his leadership skills and bless the International student community out there. 
  I was really glad he went out to Wildwood! He's one of the few Cornellians who has joined us out there on that incredible Summer Mission!
Here is Josh speaking at one of the backyard parties in Wildwood.  

Josh's love for Christ and the mission has also compelled him to be a part of Cru's work in South Africa. Last spring Josh went to South Africa to serve with the Mamalodi Initiative.  (The Mamalodi initiative is a model of effective, sustainable, Christian humanitarian aid.  Students from Cornell and Harvard spend time tutoring underprivileged teens so that they can pass the matriculation exams that stand between them and a quality education. )  In just a few days, he will return there for the Summer Mission.

During his "Senior Share" Josh talked about our identity as connected and derived from our names. He talked about the names that people call us and the names we call ourselves and the names that God calls us. Throughout his life, words like "ugly, worthless, pushover, loner, and boring have served to discourage him. Josh talked about the powerful ways that words affect our lives and the importance of believing God's words of truth over the satan's lies. In Christ, we are "loved, children of God, chosen, saints, soldiers and friends of Jesus."

Friday, June 10, 2016

We Bought a House!

Ever since we arrived in Ithaca back in 2008 we have rented homes.....4 of them to be exact!  And we've lived in some really great places -specifically the house right next to campus.  When Cornell decided to sell that house, we were really, really bummed!  For a whole slew of reasons, we did not think it was the best decision to purchase that house, and so we had to move.  That began the journey that ended us up here - over a year later, with a house purchased on Ellis Hollow Road.
I have said for years now, that if I ever did end up buying a house in Ithaca, I would want it to be on Ellis Hollow Road.  I love this location because it is close to campus and yet out in the forest at the same time!  The space behind most of the houses to hang out, play, hike and even hunt deer is amazing!  
The house was owned by a wonderful family for over 50 years.  They actually built this house and raised 8 kids in it.  There was a lot of old school wall paper inside though, so we've been ripping it off this week and doing a little painting.  
One of the funner parts of actually owning the house is that you get to choose paint colors!  
The house has 4 bedrooms, but my main concern was garage space!  Haha.  This house does have some pretty good garage going on, which is really great!  
And, we are tearing down a small wall to make the living room more "open" as they say:)

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Born Again:" A testimony of "R"

Note: For some students, placing their faith in Christ means tremendous amounts of family strife and even persecution.   "R" is a student in our ministry who has an amazing story.  Because she is still in the process of communicating to her family about her new life in God, I will not be printing her name.  

"R" wears new jewelry now because she is a Christian and all of her old jewelry was Hindu.  She had images and pieces that had all been consecrated and dedicated to false Hindu "gods". She discarded all of her idols and packed her jewelry in a box on April 29th, as she put her faith in Jesus Christ!   Her Community Group leaders, Anna and Margaret went to the store and bought her some new necklaces.  

I love R's story because in it we can see God's grace working through many different people all throughout the school year.  

It all started last summer, when our own Rachel Chuang sent R a facebook message. We love sending welcome messages to incoming students to let them know that the Body of Christ is alive and active on campus.  R was Hindu, and so she wasn't immediately sure what to think of Rachel's hospitality.  But she said: "Rachel is such a sweet person and we connected and messaged each other over the summer."  When R arrived on Campus Rachel invited her to check out Cru.  God also connected R with another Christian girl who is part of a different fellowship.  It's pretty clear that God had plans for R this year!

I met R back in February when she got invited to our winter retreat.  We sat around the table in a small group and studied the book of Jonah.  I didn't know where R was at spiritually, but I could tell she was really interested in the scriptures!  When she was getting dropped off that evening, she said to me "Thank you."  And then, even though it was the first time that I had ever talked to her she said "I'm not a Christian.  I'm just checking it all out."  I said "That's awesome!  I'm glad you came out this weekend!"  R has always been very open and willing to talk about what she is thinking.

After the Winter Retreat, R began to attend Anna Thompson and Margaret Gao's Cru Community Group on Tuesday nights.   Each week they would hang out, eat together and study the Bible.  R relished the chance to ask questions and engage with other women about the truths of the gospel.  The group meeting on Tuesday April 26 was considerably significant in R's life.  She regards the study that night as the "catalyst" for enabling her to surrender fully and joyfully to Christ.

She recalls, "On that day, we read a portion of Mark’s Gospel regarding how Jesus healed a man who was tormented by the demons known as Legion."   Anna talked about the reality of spiritual warfare and the discussion that night focused on Jesus' supremacy over demonic forces.   R said "The lesson that Anna taught us was that God is all powerful and mighty and demons are nothing compared to God. It was comforting, but I was still afraid. Because that discussion gave me an insight into what I was dealing with since I was a little girl."

She continued, "Ever since I was a little girl, whenever I went to bed, I would feel this oppression. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. It felt like some kind of force or pressure was pushing down on me throughout the entire length of my body. It was a heavy, uncomfortable atmosphere. I was always afraid. I always went to bed in fear. And that CG meeting made me realize that what I was facing with was most likely a demonic oppression."

The next day, R met up with a Christian friend to talk more about Jesus and her experience of Spiritual warfare.  She said "Our conversation made me realize that in other religions, there are entities such as demons, who portray themselves as gods or goddesses and these are the things that other people in those religions are giving their love, devotion, and life to. Hinduism is heavily, heavily embedded with idol worship and many 'gods/goddesses'—now I call them entities. I was brought up in this environment of idol worship, performing rituals, having those rituals done to me. Although I wasn’t religious, I still respected and prayed to those entities and consequently made attachments to those things. I basically gave reasons for whatever demon/entity that has been oppressing me to stay attached to me. I also realized that this oppression became more pronounced once I started College, which translates to when I started getting involved in Cru. I started to feel more things that I don’t remember feeling such as fingers stroking my head. It now makes sense because when I first joined Cru, I was starting to learn about the Truth, about Jesus Christ, our one and only God…and this thing does not want to let me go."

The next few days were filled with gospel conversations, a whole lot of prayer and an intense spiritual and emotional journey.  At times R felt very oppressed and scared, but in and through prayer things began to shift!  On April 29th at about 1:00 am, R sat in her room with a friend named Sharon.  She took off her Hindu Jewelry and took her idols and bhagavad gita (Hindu guidebook) off of their shelves and proceeded to pray to Christ.  She repented of any and all idol worship and surrendered to Jesus.

The next night, she came out to our Friday night Large group meeting.  Every time someone would ask her how she was doing, she would excitedly answer, "I've been born again!"  It was awesome. At our last Leadership Meeting of the year, we had R share her story! It was an amazing time of celebration as we looked back on the year through R's testimony. The story of God's faithfulness and grace was and is an encouragement to our faith.

Please pray for R as she continues to grow in Christ. Her witness is already very passionate and overt. This summer, she plans to continue to read the scriptures along with a couple of other books like Tim Keller's Reason For God.