South Korea is battling floods and landslides right now. It’s the longest monsoon in seven years. My heart goes out to those affected because they will also face a long and difficult recovery, with lots of hazardous cleaning up to do. We would wish to put the past behind and start over, but it’s not so simple. I remember the time I visited New Orleans to deliver drinking water in the aftermath of 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Standing waters and waste piles were not only overwhelming but also adding on health risks to already vulnerable people. Fire burns our valuables away, making it rather easier to start with a clean slate. It’s a different story after a flood. Things may appear standing, but it’s difficult to salvage what has been internally damaged.
It hasn’t been so tranquil on this side of the globe either. Many of us have been left without power due to tropical storm last week, and apparently this year’s remaining Atlantic hurricane season could be one of the busiest on record. The storm hasn’t affected our main chapel but brought down lots of neighborhood trees. A neighbor’s tree fell into the backyard of our Jubilee Mission Center in Manhattan. The building’s renovation is approaching the end, but it looks like we will have to work some more with backyard fences. I pray for speedy restoration in all areas that have been affected by the storm and floods, both in Korea and in the United States. And at least in my heart, I wish the heavy winds and rain could sweep away the coronavirus too.
Soon we will see autumn approaching around the corner. Now that NYC schools can reopen for in-person classes, I hope it will be a good new season for all churches too. And hopefully with the continued safe reopening, there will be more breathing space for everyone. I went for a haircut the other day and heard from the barber that a famous local restaurant had to let go many of its Hispanic employees. The employees wept and the restaurant owner wept alongside them, the barber said. Restaurants struggle to keep up with the rent, while property owners can’t go on without paying their mortgage. It’s an upsetting situation for everyone involved, not to mention those who have been laid off. Yet I also hear, with real estate prices dropping, some are taking the chance to purchase a second home in the city; while more others are eyeing homes in the suburbs. The demand for suburban properties has exceeded the supply. What a time we live in, I thought.
Last Monday, I had the privilege to give a talk at two separate online events. One was a training session for the Korean Methodist Church pastors in the U.S., and the other for Korean American pastors in the United Methodist Church. With the title “Post-Pandemic Paradigm Shifts and Church Ministry” Already anxious pastors had to hear me say again that challenges to ministry will grow further in times ahead. But I also shared thoughts on how we could potentially turn upcoming challenges into God-given opportunities. The pandemic has given us a wake-up call that we may plan our paths but it is the Lord who secures our steps. Recovery of Christ-centered hearts and renewal of Christ-centered church is our way to go.
The pandemic has been especially hard for those already vulnerable, including those suffering from emotional and mental health issues. We buried our church member earlier last week. I said to his grief-stricken parents, “What remains now is to cure your grief through grieving. No human words can fill your loss but prayers will help you to rise above.” Their only son had been quietly suffering for long, but I remember seeing him in worship with his parents every Sunday. He never said a word but always came up to shake hands with me after the service. I pray that the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, the victory of Christ’s resurrection, and faith in God who loves us be with our brother and his parents.
Apostle Paul writes: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthian 4:8-10).