Kindred Spirits at KidMin

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

That’s exactly how I feel about KidMin people! They’re my kindred spirits! Perhaps that’s why I look forward to conferences or gatherings where I get to be with KidMins! I say this over and over… but they get my life! There is so much comfort and joy in being with people who get your life…

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It’s been a full week since I’ve been back from KidMin 2014 in Columbus, Ohio, and I spent some time reflecting on what God taught me last week. Well, to start… God taught me how selfish I am! Ugh, I know.. not a great start! Well, let me explain. One thing I was so looking forward to doing at KidMin was just to sit with my friends and just gab, gab, gab… gab about life, gab about ministries, and laugh a lot! I have so much fun with my KidMin friends that I have made in the past… and it’s always a big reunion to be with them! The biggest thing I was looking forward to at KidMin was to just sit, relax, and laugh a ton with my friends!

IMG_3134During Presenter & Staff dinner on the first night, we prayed over this verse on the left and for all the attendees as we colored outside the lines. I also specifically remember Chris Yount Jones telling us to be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to those that may need a friend, a hug, or someone to listen to. Yeah, yeah… I know…

Well, that was Thursday night… and before I knew it, it became Monday, the last day of the conference… And i had barely seen my friends! I thought I would be up late with my friends every night just laughing our heads off, but that barely happened as I was busy getting ready for my next workshop or I was meeting with certain individuals, etc. I was bummed… super bummed! This is where God said “Gloria, stop being so selfish! I know you love being with your friends… but you’re not here just for you to be with your friends. You’re here to connect with others and to encourage them! Remember when you first started out in KidMin and how alone and lost you felt?” BAM–a total rebuke! Yup, I was selfish… (I never seem to learn that lesson well).

As I was confronted with this rebuke, I took a look back on my KidMin weekend, and I realized what a blessed time it was! I did get couple meals with some old KidMin friends that refreshed and encouraged me… but the bigger blessing was in connecting with new attendees, connecting with KidMins in my workshops and getting very encouraging feedbacks from them, getting to know new people through “Here Alone” connect group, and being a listening ear and praying mouth at The Shelter. A lot of these conversations took me back when I was a newbie, when I was struggling in ministry, when I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and when I felt like no one understood my life. I honestly don’t know if anyone I talked with really felt like they got something out of our time… but I was reminded that there are many that are still looking for their kindred spirits and I hope they realize that there are many in this KidMin World. My prayer is that everyone at KidMin left with at least one more kindred spirit in their lives… and that God would continue to use me to bless those that are discouraged and struggling in their roles as a KidMin because without my kindred spirits, I wouldn’t be where I am today!  Thank you God for last weekend and this great reminder!

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Elevate & Celebrate Fathers…

Disclaimer:  I’m a little sensitive about this… but you’ll find out why if you read on! If I remember correctly, about three weeks prior to Mother’s Day, I started seeing blogs, facebook posts, hallmark commercials, articles, and ads about mother’s day… about how we need to appreciate mothers and stories and stories about how awesome mothers are!  Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to underplay the role of mothers!  I think mothers have very difficult jobs, and there are many women that are worthy of being recognized.  Many mothers work tirelessly… and I applaud them! Father's Day in SA Now, you have to understand that I grew up without a mother since age 8.  She passed away suddenly, and it literally took the whole village of extended family to raise me!  I often say I was raised by many mothers… but I was raised by one father.  He probably had no clue how to raise a pre-adolescent girl… but he tried his best.  He made a lot of mistakes (we can both admit it now) but he did what he believed was best.  He made me instant noodles for breakfast.  He tried to act cool in front of my girlfriends and embarrassed me.  He was mean to all my guy friends and embarrassed me.  He let me drink 3-5 cans of soda per day.  He made me sneak in popcorn to movie theaters.  He let me have lots of junk food.  So my dad was far from an ideal picture of the perfect father.  However, he was always there.  When I was physically separated from him during elementary school years for 4 years, he called me every saturday night (this is the 80’s… so that was a big deal).  Whenever he traveled, he brought back earrings and necklaces for me.  He tried his best to talk to me, guide me, and even give me girly advice (yeah, he wasn’t very good).  He cooked for me.  He bought me clothes (although his taste wasn’t always the best).  He took me to hair salons to get my hair done.  He tried his best to be the mom and the dad.  He went into overtime to make sure I was well taken care of.  He never complained… he just tried his best.  And even to this day, he apologizes for not having done enough for me.  He’s far from perfect (and I know that really well…) but he’s the closest thing to a mother I’ve always wanted. So I get sensitive that fathers don’t get the acclaim and the celebration that mothers get.  I know that my dad had to step up to his role because he had a daughter without a mom… and he probably never imagined that he’d have to do all those things.  However, it’s one week before Father’s Day, and I have yet to see something out there talking about fathers (except for bunch of email ads to sell father’s day ties, shirts, and golf accessories).  Call me biased, but I think father’s job is just as stressful and difficult.  They just have different stresses, and they deal with them differently from mothers.  But that shouldn’t diminish how we celebrate fathers.  Fathers are more often portrayed as being lazy, sitting back and watching tv with beer in their hands, etc.  But even if it’s done in humour gest, how often do we see pictures of good and involved fathers in comparison to man’s man lounging in mancave?  I know that there are more households with mothers than fathers.  But get this… On Father’s Day of 2009, I was at a church in Khayelitsha Township in Western Cape, South Africa.  Because fatherlessness is a prevalent issue in many townships, they really wanted to celebrate fathers!!!  The whole service was led by fathers!  The praise team all consisted of fathers!  They called all the fathers up on stage to sing, dance, and to pray for them.  They really wanted to elevate, celebrate, bless, and encourage the fathers!  It was one of the coolest things I had experienced.  And then the little kiddos came up on stage, and sang a song that moved me to tears.  The lyrics said:  “we pray for you, you pray for us, we love you, we need you to survive.” We often talk about importance of the role of fathers… but I don’t think it’s elevated enough.  I don’t think it’s celebrated enough!  What if we raised the bar!  What if we elevated and celebrated fathers as much as mothers!  What if we blessed, appreciated, empowered, and encouraged fathers as much as mothers!  I wonder what that would do to our perception of fathers in the society…

I’m human afterall…

J:  oh glo, you’re a mess!

me:  i know!

J:  it only shows that you are human … grin

me: hahahaha… darn, thanks?

J:  hahaha… what, you’ve always be all together most of the time.  almost like my wonder woman.

me: and i kinda like it that way!!! or at least i like to give that illusion.  LOL!!! i wanna be WW!

J:  but it’s all good … you’ll bounce back and maybe this is God’s way to telling ya to slow DOWN!

 

So it’s no big surprise that I’m obsessed with Wonder Woman… I think I’ve always liked her because she’s always been so super strong–physically, emotionally, mentally (yes, I know she’s not real… just let me have my moment!)  I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman since I first saw Lynda Carter rope in all the bad guys with her lasso as a 4 or 5 year old.  As I got older and probably due to circumstances, I felt the need to take care of myself and be strong.  I felt the need to always be in control of my own life–or as much as I can.  So I became this “I got everything under control” person… and I played the part super well–with my whole extended family, in my ministry, and everywhere else…

So when I came unglued this week, I seriously felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.  And for those who had to work with me this week probably never saw me coming apart… but I was a total mess.  Thankfully, I have some of the most amazing friends that came to my rescue… and helped me laugh–literally LOL!!!  And just as my blunt yet loving friend reminded me, I’m human afterall… and it’s okay to be vulnerable!  In fact, I’m so blessed to have girlfriends that allow me to be human in front of them (or over the phone or text) and be glued back together with gentle reminder that God is in control even if I’m not!  Thank you God!

One of my favorite lines from my friend over our phone convo:  “At least we’re still not in our 20’s–naive and dumb.”  haha… if you’re still in your 20’s and think that was insensitive, just wait ’til you hit near 40’s/40’s, and you’ll see what we meant by that!

Don’t Tell God What To Do…

Yup… I did just that!!!  I know, I should have known better… but I was burnt out. I was tired.  I was hurt.  I was frustrated.  I was annoyed.

When I left my last church, I took few months off.  When I started to talk to God about my next ministry, I put a huge condition on Him.  “God… I’ll go anywhere… ANYWHERE… to another city, another state, even another country!  I will go ANYWHERE–just don’t send me to an Asian church!!!”  I started making my own plans… I began several conversations with churches and missionaries… I even started cleaning out my stuff, and even started packin away things I didn’t think I needed right away.  I was so sure that God was going to call me to leave Los Angeles, and I was excited to see where He was going to lead me.  However, even when great opportunities came up, I just didn’t have that conviction nor confirmation to go… so I became indecisive and just sat on my decisions.  Well, fast forward 5 months. Yes, I had received phone calls from few Asian-American churches… but I had immediately said “no” to all of them except for one only because they had different ideas and vision, which intrigued me.  But deep inside, I couldn’t see myself there.  Well, fast-forward few more months.  God often speaks to me through amazing people in my life… and they all started talking to me about how I was letting my baggage get in the way of the most amazing opportunity.  I really fought it… I really struggled through it… but you can see where this is going… I was willing to do anything for God, but I put a huge condition on Him.  And the story of my life is… God called me to serve in the largest Asian-American second generation church in the country… what in the world???  I just have to look at the irony of my life, and just laugh!

I don’t believe God just sits back and enjoys messing with my life… and laughing at my life.  But I believe that God is telling me that He has a perfect plan for me that is WAY better than what I have planned for myself.  Yes, it’s another lesson learned… but God did give me a firm conviction and confirmation that this is where I am suppose to be… at least for now.  I have to admit that I was disappointed that God didn’t listen to me, but I have no doubt that His plans for me are far better than mine… and I AM excited to start kidmin at a church right near where I live–in Los Angeles!!!  It’s gonna be an exciting journey!!!

honesty

They say honesty is the best policy…  I think most of us would agree, but do we really live by that policy?  In my opinion, I don’t think most people live by what we consider to be the best policy.

I’ve come to value honesty so much in the last few months.  We live in a society where we have to be politically correct, nice, and not hurt other people’s feelings.  Don’t get me wrong–there is nothing wrong with these things… we should be nice , not hurt other people’s feelings, and sometimes be politically correct.  However, sometimes that takes precedence over being honest with people.  We live in a culture where we think being a good friend is always validating their feelings no matter what– and we call that support.

In the last few years, I’ve learned that being a good friend is someone who is honest with you even if it hurts sometimes.  Of course I want my feelings to be justified too… but thankfully I have friends that will be honest with me.  In the past year I’ve had friends who told me that I was being prideful, that I need to get over my hang-ups, that I was being overly sensitive or not sensitive enough, and that I had my head in the clouds.  It’s never pleasant to hear these words from friends… however I know that they speak to me with love and care… and when I really think about it, these are the exact words I need to hear at times because I’m far from perfect and I need correction and a dose of honesty from people who love me!  I’m thankful for these friends because they have had profound impact on me this past year!

I believe God often speaks to me through these amazing people in my life… and I’m so thankful for true community and real support!  Just imagine what our communities would look like if we were more honest!!!  By the way, honesty has to come through the right delivery–with tact and out of love!  I LOVE my honest friends!

Another Halloween… and what’s your evaluation?

Halloween 2011 came and went… and a ton of articles, blogs, and facebook posts marked what Christians and churches should or should not do on Halloween…  and for the first time, I just sat back and observed all the conversations that were going on around me as well as in the cyber world.  For the first time, I didn’t have to think about what our ministry should do this year.

In the last 17 years of ministry, I have planned and participated in over a dozen of themed Hallelujah Nights, Reformation Night, Movie Night, Carnival-type Fall Fest, and Community Harvest Festivals.  And truthfully, I really enjoyed putting on a night of games and fun for families, not to mention I LOVED dressing up and eating lots of junk food.  However, I often struggled with why we were doing what we were doing and just how effective we were.  In case you’re wondering, I’m NOT against these events on Halloween Night.  I think some churches and communities do them really well.  For instance, I came across this article that talks about a very successful Halloween alternative in a church parking lot.  Gosh, I would love to go to that event!

I have also read some GREAT blogs about how families can connect with their non-church attending, non-Christ believing neighbors on Halloween by serving them hot cocoa, hot tea, providing the best candy bar, etc.  One of my favorite post is written by Gina McClain, Children’s Ministry Director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN.  Another great post I read is written by Jeff Vanderstelt.

I think these are all great ideas… because at the core of these ideas are all well intentions.  So many Christians and churches want to care for their community, and share Jesus’ love on what is considered to be a day overcome by evil.  But what bothers me is that so many churches that I know are consumed with “what are we gonna do” for the sake of doing something on this night.  Some churches put on an excellent, fun, and safe night just for the children in their own ministry.  Some churches insist on doing their own small event when they don’t have the budget nor the resources to pull together a successful event.  Some churches think it’s wrong to even participate in anything that remotely resembles dressing up on Halloween and challenge families to be set apart by not having their kids dress up (poor kids…).  Some churches tell the families that the Christian way to be a light in their neighborhood is by being a gracious host when kids come to trick-or-treat.

In my opinion, I think each church and ministry need to take the time to evaluate their community and their resources.  I don’t think there is “one-size-fits-all” program for every church.  In the same way, I don’t think there is “one-size-fits-all” way of doing Halloween for all the families in the church.  For instance, i would LOVE to be in a community where neighborhood kids come to trick-or-treat… but it just doesn’t happen on my street.  For about four years in a row, we were prepared for kids to come by, but I don’t think we ever broke 5 door knocks in a year.  There are kids in my neighborhood, but they just don’t go trick-or-treat here.  It just doesn’t make sense for families that live in my area to prepare a pot of hot cider and a huge bowl of candy waiting for knocks on their doors.

I have also done quite few Halloween alternative events when I was serving in a small church.  They were fun events, but for the most part, we really didn’t draw that many kids from the community.  95% of the kids that came were our own church kids.  In my heart and mind, I felt that our event wasn’t a good use of our resources because there was no way we could compete with 3 other huge carnival type events in the area.  I would rather use the manpower and finances towards an event that would have greater community impact.  Everyone thought they were successful events, but in my mind… they weren’t.

All this is to say… what I think churches should do is to evaluate their current way of doing Halloween, and really focus on what they would like to achieve on this night.  If it’s for families to connect with their neighbors, then encourage them to be the best hosts in their own neighborhood.  If the goal is for the church to serve the community by providing a fun, safe place for kids to be, then put on a fabulous event.  Don’t get caught up in just doing… but think strategically about the why and how!  And since we just had Halloween, the best time to evaluate for next year is now…

KidMin Friends are the BEST!

When I first started out in ministry, I felt so alone…  Sure, I had lots of friends who supported me as well as a great team of volunteers and pastors… but somehow, I still felt alone…  There were few very difficult points in my ministry where I almost stepped down (and I actually did on couple of those occasions)… but one of the reasons why I am still here doing KidMin is because of my KidMin friends (the most important being that I believe it’s God’s calling for my life)!  I have been so blessed to connect with amazing people that are doing children’s ministry all over the country!

I just spent some precious time with my KidMin friends at LifeServe in Louisville and KidMin Conference in Chicago in the past month.  And to make it even better, I connected with and added more friends to my list of people I can talk ministry and life with!  The reason why they are so precious to me is because we’re automatically bonded by our love for God and our love for leading children to Christ!  And the positions that we hold in our local churches seem to automatically bond us together because we all have shared experiences.  Even if our church settings and demographics are different, we understand each other!  I don’t have to start from the beginning and explain everything to someone who gives me a blank stare.  I love that our friendships go beyond conferences because I still talk to them via phone, text, fb, chat, and email very regularly…  and we not only talk about children’s ministry, but we also share lives together.  Tonight, I’m reminded how blessed I am to have these friends even if I don’t get to see them face to face very often!   And they are seriously my #1 fans in my ministry even if they’re not at my church!  My KidMin friends are SERIOUSLY the BEST!!!

so I decided to share some photos of my fun friends… too bad I don’t have photos of all of them. (mental note, take more photos with my KidMin friends–and most of these photos are from my friends… i suck at remembering to take photos!)  😀