Vacation Church School Sunday Prayer

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
Luke 10:25-29

We finished a busy and wonderful week of Vacation Church School last week. Our theme was “God’s World Comes Together” and we talked about our neighbors and how we are to be with them.Image On Sunday, we had the kids come and sing and reinforced the message we learned this week. The Rev. Dr. Ken Henry (my head of staff) preached a sermon on the Good Samaritan entitled “If Only it was the Guy in the Ditch” and basically talked about how much easier it would be if the one we were supposed to love was the one who was beaten and robbed. That’s easier. But the one we are called to love in the story is the Samaritan…the outsider. The one that was the outcast. It was a good sermon.

I led the prayers of the people afterward. I wanted to share that prayer… mainly as a reminder even to myself.

God of the world, God of each one of us,

We come and say thank you for another week in which you have held us in your hands. We want to take a moment and remember that whether we felt it or not, you have sustained us again this week. God, we do believe that you hold the whole world in your hands—but we are not naïve… we know that even as you hold it, you feel the pulse of its ache—sometimes within an individual, sometimes among nations, sometimes within the environment, sometimes where just two or three are gathered…and so as we ache, we know that you also ache for this world that you hold.

God, in a world that is constantly at war and continually struggling for peace and reconciliation, it can feel like an unreachable goal or false vision to hope for a world of peace—to envision a world where all your children come together as neighbors, and live lives of peace and justice for all. And yet God, we cling to that peaceable kingdom vision, and we acknowledge the little ways in which those steps can be taken every day. Perhaps it’s through a seemingly insignificant moment, like a child this week at Vacation Church School reaching out and asking another one to be his friend—not knowing that he had never been asked that before. Maybe it’s in a small word of encouragement or a knowing glance. Maybe it’s through marching and protesting injustice with courage. Maybe our steps toward peace is through the hands of children making sandwiches right now for those who are hungry tomorrow—in the belief that they have that it matters. God, give us that belief. Teach us what it means to not only love the one in the ditch, but to love the one we don’t want to help us—the one that annoys us, the one that is the stranger, the one we cannot understand.

Loving One, we thank you that you are a God who will not pass us by, but stoops to lift us up and carry us out of our pain. You love us enough to tell us stories which will shatter our complacency and send us forth to carry mercy and peace to others… help us to go forth and do likewise—and we begin following in the footsteps of the one who came bearing the good news—and who taught us to pray saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever. Amen.  



Image The two new friends at Vacation Church School.


Ode to my 아빠 “Appa” (Dad)

“As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13)

ImageIt’s Father’s Day weekend, and I’ve already noticed that it really just doesn’t get as much press as Mother’s Day did last month. Maybe because I’m not bombarded with advertisements and reminders, or maybe because this past week and weekend is a particularly busy one for me at the church, I did almost forget that this Sunday is Father’s Day.

Let’s be clear, I’m also procrastinating my sermon writing right now.

But, I did want to take time out to reflect and honor my 아빠 “Appa”, even though I can’t physically be there to celebrate the weekend with him. 

My dad is the youngest of 4 children, and when he came to the United States, he came with his entire family (he was in his mid 20s). They all transitioned here together. Again, I can’t imagine what it would be like to pick up and move your entire life and everything you know to a foreign country… to learn a new language, a new culture… and eventually to have children that you raise in a completely different environment than the one you knew or understood. I really admire the Pak family for that.

The thing is, in many ways, my dad fits the stereotype of “Korean dad”. He’s quiet. He works hard. He looks super stern and scary to some. He’s not emotive or expressive in terms of sharing his feelings, and he’s definitely not the huggy type. I don’t remember seeing him a lot growing up because he worked such odd hours switching from graveyard shifts to day shifts–so if he was home, he was sleeping and then he’d be gone again. He only had every other major holiday off–so for example, every other Christmas, we would wake up at 5AM to open presents with him before he took off for work.

In many ways though, my dad is NOT the stereotype. He’s super affectionate with my mom. They hold hands and they’re kissy. I thought it was gross when we were kids, but I love it now. He’s never pressured me toward any profession, but always said, “Do what you love and do it well.” When he warms up to you, he’s really animated and laughs REALLY LOUD. 🙂 And here’s a secret… he might look more scary than my mom (that’s what boys said when they would visit our home in high school), but my mom is really the one you should be afraid of. (haha!)

This is going to sound SO cheesy, but when I was in junior high, I remember Reba McEntire came out with a song called “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” (You know some of you loved it too!) Maybe it’s because I was a teenager and super dramatic about life, but I loved this song because it really expressed how I felt about my dad in many ways. I really felt like I didn’t know him well at all. For those of you who are going to pretend you don’t actually listen to country music, the lyrics went like this:

The greatest man I never knew
Lived just down the hall
And everyday we said hello
But never touched at all
He was in his paper Image
I was in my room
How was I to know he thought I hung the moon

The greatest man I never knew
Came home late every night
He never had too much to say
Too much was on his mind
I never really knew him
And now it seems so sad
Everything he gave to us took all he had

Then the days turned into years
And the memories to black and white
He grew cold like an old winter wind
Blowing across my life

The greatest words I never heard
I guess I’ll never hear
The man I thought could never die
S’been dead almost a year
He was good at business
But there was business left to do
He never said he loved me
Guess he thought I knew

My dad has told me he loves me, by the way. But it really is rare. So I literally treasure it every time I do hear him say it. Like the song says, I really do believe he thinks I do know because of the ways in which he has provided me with opportunities and supported me throughout the years. And the truth is, I DO know that he loves me because he has provided me, his oldest daughter, with so many wonderful opportunities and although my mom might be the more verbal and loud cheerleader, my dad is the steady voice and presence that encourages me just as much.

So, as I did for my mom on Mother’s Day, I wanted to write a “letter/ode” to my dad:


Our most recent picture together. We were cracking up. 2013.

Dear 아빠,

I don’t know what I would have done without your constant and steady presence throughout my life. As a child, I don’t remember you very much because you were working so much. Thank you for doing what you had to do to provide for us and care for us that way. One of my few childhood memories of you specifically though, and one of my favorite things you did, was you would come into our rooms after we were sleeping, and tuck us in. I don’t know if you remember that, but for some reason, I remember you did that a lot. I loved that.

Umma told us that you helped her a LOT when we were babies and that she couldn’t have raised 3 babies without your help and support. I remember you taking us camping and playing magic tricks with us when you were home. I was always amazed by what you could do and how smart you were. It’s funny because mom was always the one who disciplined us, but if she had to tell you, I remember us being SO SCARED when you got mad… because you so rarely got angry with us.

As a teenager, I remember that you were the peacemaker and mediator between me and mom as we struggled through those years. Sometimes I think the only reason I didn’t get off course during that time with my life is because you were there.

I think what I’m most thankful for though, is that you have truly demonstrated to me what it means to be a good man, a good father, and a good husband. I know I am blessed to have that kind of role model in my life because even though you do not tell me all the time, you SHOW me all the time what it looks like to be patient, loving, kind, and to think through decisions. You have shown me what a healthy relationship looks like because of the love you and Umma share.

Thank you for your constant support, words of advice (that I like hearing!), and for showing me love throughout the years by everything you do for me. Happy Father’s Day, Appa! I love you very much!!


Your first daughter- Irene



My Jesus Year

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 
Luke 4:18-19

So, I thought I was being super creative and unique when 2013 hit and I started anticipating my upcoming, what I called my “Jesus year.” Yes, I am one of those people that think about things months in advance (my birthday just passed on May 28th) and here I was thinking I was all sorts of clever for coming up with this term for myself. Image

Um, it turns out that this is actually a THING. Granted, I don’t think it’s a popular term for all those turning a mere and random 33 years old, but you can google it and there are projects, books in the works, books that have already been written, and all sorts of things related to “the Jesus year.” Even urban dictionary has a definition for it: Jesus Year-time to get moving and get things done (maybe).

With more research, I learned that there are people who are acknowledging their 33rd year in a special or significant way. I read somewhere that someone even dropped everything, sold all their stuff, and traveled the world and basically took a year off from the “pressures of adulthood” and embarked on a year of self-improvement.

Okay, so I can’t afford to do that. I’m a pastor. Even if I sold all my things, I don’t think I could afford a plane ticket to more than 2 countries. That’s not really an exaggeration. My car isn’t even worth the repairs I pay for when I have to. That aside, I love my calling and my work right now. I’m different from many of the people I read about in that my life doesn’t feel stagnant right now and I’ve been on a journey of self-wellness and self-improvement actively for the past 5 years.

So what can my Jesus year mean for me, Irene Pak?

You know, in a lot of ways, I’m definitely not the Irene I envisioned when I was younger. In a lot of ways I’m better. I’m the healthiest I’ve been physically since I was a teenager. I’ve grown up SO much emotionally and although I have a lot of growing to do, I am really self-aware and have been able to change negative patterns. An amazing and loving family surrounds me. I have a community and friends that I know have my back and will kick anyone’s butt if I need them to. Seriously. I serve an incredible church that supports me and empowers me in ministry.

But you know, I also thought I’d be married with at least 2 babies by now maybe even going on 3. (I love kids so much). I thought I’d be financially stable and driving a car that I wasn’t worried about dying every day.

Instead, today as I write this, my heart has been broken again and my vulnerable and fragile heart so full of love just broke in half and is pouring out a pain I feel like I can’t bear. The only reason I know I will be okay and the glimmer of light I hold on to in the midst of this darkness is because I have come through devastation before—and God has sustained me through it all. In the midst of all the uncertainty, I have been praying—and in the midst of the “ugh” and the “okay” I feel a semblance of peace rest upon me reminding me that I am loved and all will be well no matter what.

As I have been lifted in these days by so much love and care, I could dwell in the fact that my “Jesus year” hasn’t been off to a great start—but I am reminded just in that I’m calling it my “Jesus” year and thinking about Jesus that I am certain his own heart was broken many times—and love continued to pour out for people. If you know me well, you know that even though I’d like to think I could give up on love, I won’t. It might not happen with a partner, but love will continue to pour out of me upon others. I will continue to try and help others and try to see the good in other people. I will continue to have meaningful connections with other people and not just superficial ones.

So, I might start with something as simple as giving thanks for 3 things every day of my Jesus year like many I know are doing. Even on the days where it’s been hardest to give thanks, remembering what there was to be thankful for is so healing.

May 28th: For another year of life, for love, for Joy Yee’s bubble tea
May 29th: Chicago, Jeanne & Zaida’s welcome, safe travels
May 30th: For coffee, Cuban food, the pleasure I get in cleaning sometimes
May 31st: For friends who remind me that I am loved no matter what throughout the day; for a friend who picks me up at the airport at the last minute with open arms waiting for me; for a place to go other than my own home
June 1st: For cuddles and hugs from children; for a mani/pedi with black nails and pink toenails, which Aimee described to me as grief and hope together; for Ghiradelli ice cream.

As I continue to grow more and more into myself, I do hope this year will be a year I can rest secure in the God I know loves me and never lets me go… and although my planning doesn’t always work out, I know I am abundantly blessed by love.

So may this Jesus year be one where I am intentionally thankful, have the courage to continue to live boldly the calling to which I have been called, and continue to love and to serve others.

Main goal: Don’t get crucified at the end. But really, even if I do, resurrection, right?