Happy Birthday, Pastor Chai! – Soo Kwan Lee

I casually flip over a calendar, and it says October 15. Today is Pastor Chai’s birthday! Pastor Chai has always been out of office on the week of his birthday and this year is no exception – I’m sure he does this on purpose. So I will not be able to wish him a happy birthday and present him with a little cake. I believe that he is trying to be considerate of the congregation, not wanting to impose on them in any way.

Having personally observed him, I feel that Pastor Chai lives a life that places the needs of the church as the highest priority, above his personal needs. From equalizing staff salaries to scheduling outside revivals and rallies in a way that he doesn’t need to take any personal days off, he always puts aside his personal needs. I think that God has given him the vision of house churches because of his sacrifice and dedication, and that is why He continues to use him.

As I serve as acting senior pastor, I realize that it’s difficult to have any personal life. Almost every day, Pastor Chai leaves home at 4:30 AM and returns after 10 PM. He leads the New Life course on Tuesdays, leads Worship services on Wednesdays, visits house churches on Fridays, and almost always has something on Monday and Thursday nights as well. Saturday is the busiest day of sermon preparation. On Sundays, there are services and events until 9 PM, and it is not possible to spend intimate time with the family. Even when there’s a retreat, one cannot fully enjoy it since the sermon still needs to be prepared. Even on holidays, it’s difficult to take a full day off. I am not complaining about the pastor’s life. It’s an honor to make sacrifices for the church. But I am in awe knowing that Pastor Chai has been leading this kind of life for the past fourteen years. Even during his sabbatical, he is busy holding revivals, but I am somewhat relieved to see that even with a packed schedule, he gets to travel to different places and get replenished here and there.

I remember a comment Pastor Chai once made in passing as we were driving from church: “In the old days, I used to get hot dogs for lunch from that gas station.” That had a great impact on me for some time. He must have done that to be in line with the weak financial standing of the church when the congregation was still small, and he must have continued to do so in order to bring the staff salaries up to his own level even after the financial situation got better. From that day on, while I was attending seminary, I also frequently had hot dogs for lunch. It is a great joy to have a model from whom I, as a minister, can see, learn, and follow up close and personal.

On behalf of the whole congregation, I sincerely wish Pastor Chai a happy birthday.

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