Tag Archives: testimony

a life in transformation

“i’m gonna choke that motherf***in b***h!”  screamed a large young man as he came storming down the street from the building where our youth group was meeting.  he had overheard another young lady speaking about him and he began making threats.  much of the youth group just watched him explode.  another youth leader tried to speak with him but he just kept on walking.  i don’t know what came over me but i acted on the impulse to hug him as my heart broke watching this scene unfold.  he pushed me aside yelling “get the f*** offa me!”

 

he apologized to me and the youth leaders the next day but, needless to say, after this incident that happened about this time last year, the church leaders had to make the tough decision of banning him from youth group for a month.  this is when God opened the door for me to begin meeting up with him one-on-one.

 

this young man’s name is ese.  ese, has grown up in a notorious public housing project in our community.  he has struggled with abuse as a child, violence, substance abuse, his sexual orientation, sexual promiscuity, trouble with the law, and dropped out of high school a couple years ago.  he started going to our church a couple years ago as well but was unable to make it through a service, frequently getting into arguments with other people at church.  however, the youth leaders started focused praying for ese and he started to receive curious visions/dreams from God, that soon led to him accepting Jesus into his life.  since giving his life over to Jesus in the winter of 2012 it has been a privilege to witness the transformation of his life.

 

before he didn’t feel connected to God.  now he hears from Him regularly.
before he wouldn’t talk to Jesus.  now he talks to him in prayer…even for others.
before he could not sit through a sermon or bible study at church.  now he engages with the Word.
before he would get into damaging sexual relationships.  now he has been sexually sober for over a year.
before he would balk at the idea of speaking publicly before his peers.  now he has experienced publicly sharing a very personal poem on the mic to his peers.
before he would explode on people and get into fights.  now he has learned to walk away from such situations.
before he would not engage with peers his age.  now he attends our post high school bible study…and likes it.
before he would start arguments with people at church.  now he faithfully sets up and cleans up for church service every sunday, even becoming a set-up captain.

 

in fact, contrary to what anyone (even myself) would have believed, out of all my mentoring relationships this past year, ese has been the most faithful. ese still has a long way to go but i know that God is working in Him.  i have seen it with my very own eyes.  only God makes everything beautiful in His time.
ese

Markers of God in My Life (Memorial Stones PART II)

My wife and I have been reading the Psalms together.  We’ve come across Psalms like number 78 (again), 104, and 105.  They are reminders to recognize that the power of God has indeed touched into our lives and that ought to be passed on to the next generation.  Years, ago I posted a number of events/experiences in my life (from before birth to entry into college) that have demonstrated to me that God is present, personal, and powerfulI am writing a follow-up to that post by adding events/experiences from college to the present that have reconfirmed to me the reality of God.  I hope you too will testify to God’s work in and through your life…so He may be recognized as the mighty God He is.

15. A couple days before starting at UCLA in the fall of ‘97 my brother introduced me to a friend of his that he had met through his involvement with Little Spark Mission at USC.  I knew that God was at work in this ministry because my brother’s lifestyle changed drastically for the better in the course of his involvement (and like anyone with siblings can tell you, if a person has changed even in the home, they are indeed changed).  This friend of his was named Phil.  During our time together at UCLA he took me under his wing, sacrificed time to meet with me in the morning (and much more I’m sure), and passed on to me the second greatest gift a person could ever pass on, a gift that keeps on giving – he taught me how to walk with God.   Many people have told me what to do in my walk, this was the first person who actually showed me how to do it.

Phil fake proposing to Kris

16. I had begun trying to read the bible regularly on my own during the week (gasp!) in college.  I was doing okay until I reached the book of Leviticus.  If you don’t know, this isn’t the most thrilling stuff at first glance…it lists all the ceremonial rituals of the temple at great length.  I felt I wasn’t getting anything out of it.  One day, in frustration, I cried out in my heart “God, why can’t you just speak to me like you did to Moses, like a friend to a friend?”  Then, in one of the first times I can remember hearing the voice of God clearly, I heard him say two words: “I am”.   Suddenly everything came crashing together.  Not only is this the actual name of God that he told Moses, I realized he was indeed speaking to me the whole time, I just wasn’t hearing him.  You see, the book of Leviticus continually repeats the refrain “be holy, because I am holy.”  I had been struggling with lust at the time, and still do (but now I am trying to get help for it).  He was calling me out of that.  Since then I had a whole new perspective in reading His Word…that He was speaking to me.  Before I always felt I was missing out on something by not trying everything the world told me I needed to try.  Now, even though I have lapses, I had tasted a peace that I knew nothing in this world could match.   I didn’t need to look anymore…I had found the source of all that I need.

17. In the summer of ‘98 I attended a Christian training “boot camp” sponsored by the fellowship I was a part of (LSM).  I met my good friend and future best man, Lee Nguyen, there, a brother who exemplifies to me the life of a servant leader.  Amongst the many things I learned there, one stands out.  We were challenged to go on a “faith trip” dropped off at a town miles away, with no money, no food, no cell phones, and to depend on God for his provision…and our way back home.  Crazy, I know.  That day we (a group of at least 8) met a guy at a park who was leading a group of young people to clean a local school.  We followed him, we helped beautify the school, we met a bunch of people, we were treated to Jack-in-the-Box for lunch, and we were given a ride home to camp in his suburban by sundown.  Yes, God provides.

Me, Brenda, and Lee at LSTP 2005

18. In the summer of ‘99 I went again to the LSM training camp.  We were challenged again to go on another faith trip.  My partner and I went around talking to people in town about God.  One man we were trying to encourage, who seemed sort of down and out, heard about our situation and without our asking reached into his pocket and handed me a 20 dollar bill.  Who does that, to total strangers, who weren’t even asking for money?  This money helped to feed our whole team and then we were invited to an AA celebration in the park.  Yes, God provides, even through broken people.

19.  In my 4th year of college I sensed God was challenging me and the Christians at UCLA, confirmed through multiple conversations with others across fellowship/church lines, to step out of our little “Christian bubbles”, out of our comfort zones and to reach out to non-believers.   To be honest though, by that time, I realized I really didn’t have any non-Christian friends.  I prayed to God that he would help me get to know some non-Christians.  Wow, does God like to answer that prayer.  A guy started coming to our church through a church member that he met at the supermarket.  We were dropped off at our apartments and he turned out to live in the apartment right next to mine.  A little while later I was at school in a computer lab finishing up a project.  Turned out there was another person taking the same class as me in the lab and we started talking.  We headed home and it turned out he lived in the apartment on the other side of mine.   I was surrounded.  Sorry, that’s just much more than a coincidence to me.

20. In my 5th year Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, in one of his last interviews before he passed on, challenged believers to make a commitment to live as slaves to God.  I just couldn’t do it.  About a month later I had spun downward into an inexplicable time of doubt in God, even as to His existence. I remember lying in my bed feeling so worthless and low, when I heard God again.  I heard him say, “All of that…give it to me.”  Then I saw him take all of my crap and saw him hung on a cross and die for me and to all of that junk in my life.  Soon after that I gave my life over to him as His slave…that time was the freest I ever felt in my life.

2002 Graduation from UCLA

21.  In the summer of ’03 on a mission trip to Central America, we joined a group of local leaders to put on a city-wide crusade in the city of Las Vegas, Honduras.  On the night of the event, that we had worked so hard to invite people to, it began to rain…heavily. The crusade venue was an open-air soccer stadium.  My team didn’t know what we were going to do.  As evening approached one of my Honduran brothers tugged me to the field where a handful of people were already spread about on their knees.  I was like “What’s going on?”  He said, “We’re going to pray for the rain to stop.” Doubtfully, I joined him and the others.  As time passed the rain started to let up a little.  I looked up and saw a small hole in the clouds above.  We continued to pray and soon enough I saw the starry sky through a large opening in the clouds, just large enough to keep the rain out from the soccer stadium, as it continued to rain down on the rest of the city.  Many people came out that night.

22.  In 2004 on a summer trip to Guatemala with LSM, my buddy and I had met a law student named Fabricio at San Carlos University in Guatemala City.  He was so encouraged as he had been away from the Lord and His call on his life.  We had a wonderful interaction but for some reason.  My buddy and I were on campus on another day and we knew we just had to meet up with Fabricio again, but we had no way to contact each other at that time.  This is a large public university in the capital, with tens of thousands of students…it was a long shot but we just lifted up a prayer that we could find him.  As soon as we lifted up our heads from prayer Fabricio came walking around the corridor we were walking down.

California team with Honduras team in Guatemala City

23. From 2005 to 2008 I had the privilege every summer of being a part of mission work in Ukraine (to the ends of the earth!).   Each year I went I got to witness the ministry expanding.  Our desire from the beginning was to connect with key people who could join us to develop a disciple-making ministry in Ukraine.  In 2006 I met Nadia.  Nadia happened to be in my small group during our training conference.  Nadia is from Zakarpatska, a rural area in the far west of Ukraine.  She is an orphan who has never met her parents and was homeless when she met Christ.  Before I had the privilege to meet her, the Lord had already prepared her and taught her about human weakness and His faithfulness. She had a compassionate heart for the broken, the lost in the streets.  Out of all the people I had had the privilege to meet over the years on the mission field, Nadia was not only willing to learn but I felt our hearts were as one…without a doubt an answer to prayers.  Despite our language barriers, we saw the same needs, felt the same hunger, and were convicted of the same imperative for workers for God’s harvest field.  I remember sharing silences with her, words being inadequate to express our wonder in the fact that God was and is indeed moving amongst us.  Nadia is now a missionary to the gypsy people group on the western border of Ukraine.

Nadia leading bible study

24. When I was student teaching, my guiding teacher told me not to teach at a school like Locke.  I didn’t even know about that school.  But sure enough when it came time to find a job, Locke was the school that got back to me.  As I was going out of the country for the summer, I took a leap of faith and took the position.  On my first day of professional development, walking into the school, I remember seeing a mural of the mascot…a saint.  Interesting.  During lunch I saw another new hire praying before his meal.  I introduced myself.  His name is Craig.  God had provided another brother in the faith literally right by my side…when the classroom placements were announced I found out his class was across from mine.  We began praying together regularly…those prayers got me through that first year and beyond.

25. In that first year of teaching another colleague of mine and I drove around the school multiple times, like the Israelites around the walls of Jericho, to pray for the school community.  Satan was not pleased…that very week I had the first fight break out in my classroom.

26. Early on in my time at Locke God spoke to me from Isaiah 1…his heart for the fatherless and the widow…for the people of the Locke community.  Every year a couple colleagues of mine at Locke would gather to pray weekly.  Little did we know He was brining about transformation.  In 2008 Locke High School became the first school in LA of its kind, changing a traditional high school into a home charter school.  In the fall of 2008 I experienced something I never even dreamed of…hundreds of people from different socio-economic status, age, race, and even religion joined hands in a circle on the Locke High football field and prayed for the Locke community.

founding staff of Animo Locke 2

27.  I had been seeking a woman that I could spend the rest of my life with for years…that search intensified in my later twenties.  There was a point where almost every young woman I encountered I was wondering in my head “God, is that her?”  It got a little ridiculous.  I met a woman who was a prayer warrior…I asked her to pray from me concerning this.  She spoke to me about a month later.  She felt God was saying I needed to stop fretting.  It still wouldn’t happen for a couple years and that I needed to focus on what was right in front of me.  When the woman would come into my life I would know.  She would be smart and she would have a heart for missions.   In the late summer of ‘06 I was seated next to Ji for the wedding reception of a mutual friend.  Needless to say, although she had been an acquaintance for years, we hit it off and now we’re married.  She is smart (I’m not just saying that.  She has a PhD in Cognitive Science) and she has a heart for missions (she followed me into this crazy experiment!).

Me and Ji

28.  Speaking of this experiment, of moving into the inner-city, there have been many confirmations from God that we are right where God wants us to be.  First, on the first day we had a little tour of our neighborhood we miraculously came into the home we now live in.  Second, the church community here has been amazing, embracing us outsiders immediately.  Third, the team of youth ministers I have met are awe inspiring…they care so deeply, actually, and sacrificially for the youth of our community.  Fourth, I was sharing about the ministry my family is now a part of to a completely different set of youth from the O.C. at a retreat in the Big Bear Mountains, when we met a couple of youth who “just decided to stop by” this Christian camp site on their way up the mountain.  We asked them where they were from and it turned out they were from the same inner city that we moved into!

29.  Along with the transition into the inner city came the wonderful arrival of an amazing grace, our son Amos.  In fact, the first Sunday we visited the church we are now a part of, the pastor announced that Ji was pregnant, something we had only recently found out.  This revelation instantly enabled people of the church to bond and relate with us, with their high value of family.  This gave our family a way to connect to the new community and a way for them to connect with us.  Amos also entered the world in wonderful timing.  Ji had just finished her lectures and so she was able to hand off administration of final exams to her assistants and I was able to take more time off of work with his birth coming so near spring break for many schools.  Now that our son is here he is a continual reminder of the wonder of our God’s love.  If we who are weak, limited, and sinful are overcome with love to care for Amos…it makes me marvel about how much more awesome then is our Heavenly Father’s long-suffering patience, perfect love, and faithful care for us!

our son Amos

So what has God done in your life?
Won’t you set up some memorial stones too? Let’s remember what He has done and who He is. Let it be a witness to us as well as for all to see.

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. – Psalm 78:4

Grace is for people who don’t deserve it = that’s us

These past couple weeks ive been struck by and also discouraged by what I see around me…in the church.  that’s right…the people that are supposed to be children of God…not really living like it.  all this with a general theme that I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing repeatedly that just because someone says (and even believes) they are Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that it is so (Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, John 15, James 2).  Then I find myself being super critical and judgmental.   Gosh, im really not any better.

So needless to say I’ve been feeling really drained and emotionally tired.

Then this morning God opens my eyes again to this thing called his grace.

On my drive to work I was listening to a message by Rankin Wilborne.  It was basically about the idea that one of things that makes Christianity so offensive to people, to us, is actually this idea of grace: that God would love us, regardless of where we are at in our lives.  It sounds nice but he challenged me to really think about that.  When you think you’re pretty good and someone treats you lovingly that’s pretty rad…duh, that’s obvious.  But when you know you’re pretty rotten inside and someone lavishes real love on you, that’s jarring…humiliating, and “traumatic” (in Wilborne’s words).

He drew out this point from the episode in Jesus’ life, the night that he knew he was going to be betrayed, when he washed his disciples’ feet.   So Jesus comes around to Peter to wash his feet (a disgusting job reserved only for the lowest person) and basically Peter says “No way, Jesus!  You’re my master…I can’t let you do that!”  Jesus then lets him know that unless Peter allows Jesus to do this, he can’t be part of a real relationship with Jesus (alluding to the fact that Jesus would, in fact, die for Peter’s sins).  Peter’s response seems like a respectful thing, but the idea that underlies what he said is that he can’t accept Jesus loving him this way…in his unloveliness.  But you see, that is what grace is: letting Jesus love us in our crappiness.  We can’t tell Jesus to love us when we have our act together…first off, that day will never come and second, if that day did come then that’s the day we are saying God should wash our feet.  WHY WOULD GOD, THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE, BE OBLIGATED TO WASH OUR FEET?!?!

Just in case I wasn’t getting all this, Jesus shows me even more grace this morning.  So, I was completely lazy last night and this morning, even though I have sooo much work to do.   I was late to our professional development meeting this morning at work…but I still got “staff cash” (its like a little raffle ticket that people get for being on time).  Then Grace (Yun) sat down right next to me (haha).   Then at the end of the meeting, that I was slightly dozing through (I know terrible huh…after like 9 hours in bed!), I win the raffle.  Man, I really didn’t deserve anything like that.  I know that’s not even comparable to how Jesus died for ALL of my sins, even the ones i committed and will commit today.   Now, this is no license to keep living in sin, in fact, if I really taste his “traumatic” grace regularly, I shouldn’t be able to help but change…out of  love for him.  the moment I take his grace for granted is the moment it is no longer grace to me.

memorial stones or “how i know God is real…from my life” PART I

originally posted (on facebook) Saturday, June 28, 2008 at 11:04pm
there’s this one message I still remember from high school that was on setting up altars of God. what the people did back in the day was when God moved in a powerful way among them they set up a memorial of stones. they did this to help them REMEMBER Him. so when somebody came along that didn’t know what happened they would point at the stones and ask “what does this mean?” then they would tell of what He had done.

So I’m gonna be setting up some
Memorial Stones of God’s Works Witnessed in My Life

1. In Japan, my grandmother became the first Christian in my family, after a neighbor invited her to bible study. This was amidst persecution from others, namely from my grandfather who tore up her bible at some point.

2. My mother accepted Christ, in college in Japan through a Christmas presentation of the Navigators…a ministry that would have a great impact on my brother and I. I didn’t learn about how my mother had accepted till almost the end of my college experience.

3. My father accepted Christ after attending a church in LA for some time…his roommate got him to go b/c he told my dad there would be girls, music, and Japanese food! Go dad!

4. before I was born my parents gave me a name…the meaning of which, unbeknown to them, matched up with what they wanted me to be. i guess my mother asked my father what kind of child he wanted me to be and he said something like “one who is loved by God and by men.” David means “beloved.”

5. about the time I was in 5th grade I got a kidney illness that hospitalized me for days (my entire body was swollen) and put me on medication for years afterward (which by the way was supposed to stunt my growth but now im the tallest in my family). there’s a lot that God triggered through this event but the biggest lessons i learned through it was that humans are weak and that He is a personal God. My first clear memories of praying begin around here.

6. the day I went into the hospital was the first day my soon-to-be youth pastor came to visit our church. Jason Zahairiades (half greek-half Korean. once again I didn’t know how much Koreans would impact my life till college) talked with God like He was a real person. He taught me through example that Christianity is not about rituals and rules but about a living relationship with a powerful God.

7. Although, growing up in the church, I must have said words a bunch of times, I believe I sincerely accepted Christ in 7th grade at Mt. Hermon youth camp.

8. One time, I can’t remember exactly when, I fell off a small cliff. I cried out to God as I was falling. next thing I know I was on the dirt ground with nothing but a scratch on my hand.

9. My freshman year of high school I went to this revival event and as I was praying to experience his Spirit’s movement in me somebody began to pray for me. I can’t really explain it, but soon after my body began to shake uncontrollably. His work at that time was more significant than that, like experiencing God’s peace, but I guess it was the first time I experienced God physically moving in me.

10. In the winter of my freshman year in high school I went to Winter Vision (a youth camp for our conference) in Santa Cruz. on the final morning of the camp the speaker gave a message on the power of God’s movement in the early church and the potential for power in this generation. He focused on ACTS 4:31 where the place the believers were praying was shaken. After the message we received news that So. California had been rocked by an earthquake that same morning. it was what we now refer to as the Northridge earthquake. the earthquake struck at 4:31 a.m.

11. One morning in high school i witnessed a demon manifest in my friend. it was scary. We prayed hard. Then my youth pastor came and prayed and the demon left.

12. I contemplated suicide my junior year. Nothing dramatic had happened. I just found myself in a place where I felt so much pressure that I felt like I was caving in and all I could do was ball. while my face was buried in my pillow my stereo was playing the song “Come Let Us Return” by Kevin Prosch. I heard these lines: “For He has torn us but he will heal us, for He has wounded us but He will bandage us, and He will come.” He did. He saved me, my soul as well as that night.

13. During that anxious time of waiting my senior year for college letters, I found I did not hear at all from UCLA. A while after everyone got their acceptance/rejection letter my acceptance arrived on the day of my 18th birthday. It seemed a confirmation that I would go to the only school that I knew people at…who all happened to be Christians.

14. Sometime in high school I was at another revival meeting. One of the leaders was praying for me and they said that they sensed a call of Joshua over my life (you know the guy that had to lead the Israelites into the promised land when Moses passed away) and something about an iron scepter. now I don’t really know what that all means (will mean) but my 5th and final year at UCLA I was reading through the book of Joshua. what God spoke to me during that time of my life, not only was it the freest time I felt in my life, but it was a time that ultimately led to my decision to go to summer missions to Japan and into the graduate program of education for teaching.

So what has God done in your life?
Won’t you set up some memorial stones too? Let’s remember what He has done and who He is. Let it be a witness to us as well as for all to see.

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. – Psalm 78:4