Greetings from Salt Lake City! I just wanted to update people on how we’re doing here in Utah and what the ministry here has been like. I was on this painstakingly slow computer in the hotel lobby, and it made me think of California and all the high speed internet access we have there. But I digress.
I’m here in Utah with Pastor Kim where he’s preaching for a Korean youth conference put on by the Council of Korean Churches in Utah (I think that’s the official name). It’s a conglomeration of ten different Korean churches in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas, and this conference or rally is the first of its kind for them. Pastor Kim preached last night to the youth, this morning to some teachers and parents, and will again tonight for the youth.
It has been such a blessing serving alongside so many faithful ministers of Christ here. We’ve had the opportunity to sit and talk with many of the Korean pastors to just hear their testimony and encourage them as they struggle to maintain faithfulness in this city. Their hospitality has been amazing and their honesty has been extremely convicting. It is clear that they love their students here and want to encourage them towards Christ-likeness.
Personally, it has already been a convicting trip, one that will undoubtedly send me home with many things to turn over in my mind. Many of these churches are struggling with a language/communication barrier between first and second generation immigrants (parents who moved to the States from Korea or other Asian countries and children who were born in the States). They find communicating effectively with students very difficult and their resources here are scarce. Ministry helpers are hard to come by as well.
As a child of an immigrant family, my heart breaks for these churches and families especially. I imagine my own parents when I listen to their testimonies about how they want so badly to reach out to their kids, yet there’s a cultural disconnnect that keeps them from being able to do so. These parents desperately want their children to be successful in the States, to live happy and moral lives. But ultimately, as Pastor Kim puts it, it’s a clash of idolatry in the parents’ and kids’ hearts that is creating the generational gap: both are worshipping things in this world, and those idols aren’t matching up. Whether they worship respect, or money, or education, all these idols are creating dissent between the generations. All the while it should be our Lord Jesus Christ that has their attention, but it’s not, which is causing such a great divide.
Though I haven’t had much interaction with the youth (only from last night), I can sense a feeling of apathy among the few that I’ve talked to. For them faith is almost an afterthought as things like school and friends collude their judgement. There is a dire need for the gospel to be preached here, and in its entirety. As one pastor put it, “People are going to Africa and China to be missionaries, but why can’t they come here?” It was a deeply convicting thought.
Lastly, there’s the battle against Mormonism going on all around. The pastors told us that maybe 60% of Salt Lake City was Mormon but the surrounding areas were 98-99% Mormon. There are children in these churches who actually convert to Mormonism because all their friends at school are Mormon; they can’t find any Christian firends. As if the population itself wasn’t convincing enough, the Mormon temple in Salt Lake is the epicenter of the entire city. All the streets are named in relation to where the temple is (i.e. 100 West, or 200 East, etc.). The temple in many respects symbolizes the tight grip that the Mormon cult has on the entire city. I’ve never seen such a blatant display of idolatry against the one, true God.
One pastor told us, “To wear a cross around you neck here is a true leap of faith because you know you’re surrounded by people who will actually judge based on that.” This was sobering indeed.
On the one hand, I’ve realized how blessed I am in California and at Lighthouse Community Church where we don’t face even half of the struggles that the community here faces. Though we have our own difficulties and idols that are just as serious, ministry here is tangibly different and challenging. Pastor Kim and I have been continually praying for this city and these churches, for a renewal of the gospel in the hearts of the believers here. Please keep praying for this city and even the state of Utah, namely the pastors and teachers who are faithfully serving; and especially pray for faithfulness and a commitment to understanding and teaching the true gospel to all. Praise God for his grace.
Doing better than I deserve,