This New Year’s Eve Service will be especially meaningful to me. I came to Houston 15 years ago this week, and started my ministry as pastor of Seoul Baptist by leading the New Year’s Eve service.
I arrived on a Wednesday, and all seven deacons – except for one who was battling liver cancer – came to Houston International Airport with their wives to welcome me.
There is a saying among Korean pastors in the U.S. that whoever comes to the airport to welcome a new pastor will be the same ones who kick that pastor out of the church. I remember thinking to myself, “At least I won’t be kicked out by just one deacon or two.” Of the original eight deacons, one moved to another church in the area, two passed away, two are in the mission fields, and three are still with us.
The chairman of the pastoral search committee at the time was J.K. Kim. He worked hard to have me come to Houston. He suffered also. During the process, I received a letter from him requesting my resume. I was thinking about coming to Houston because they had said that I was the only one being considered. But after reading this letter, I decided that if I was just one of many candidates, I would no longer consider it, and I asked Brother Kim to take me out of consideration. He immediately sent me a follow-up letter explaining that I was indeed the only candidate and that the resume request was just a formality. He later told me that he was constipated for three days because he was so worried that I would not change my mind.
I didn’t have a strong desire to come to Houston because I thought my calling was to serve as a minister of education, not as a senior pastor. I planned to retire at the church I served at in San Jose. Then one day, a pastor invited me to lunch. He told me without much fanfare that it was God’s will for me to become the senior pastor of a church called Seoul Baptist Church of Houston. (It turns out that he had served as a deacon at Seoul Baptist before he became a pastor.) He seemed so confident of it being God’s will that I could say nothing except that I would pray about it.
Later, Seoul Baptist invited me as a guest speaker. When I met the church members, I liked them and began to seriously consider coming to Houston. The two dozen long-stem roses Sister Yi Park gave me at the airport for my wife helped my decision.
When I first came to the church, it was in disarray. The church had been without a senior pastor for 6 months. The lone associate pastor had quit three months prior. The Sunday worship attendance was about 120. The church didn’t have a fellowship hall or an educational building. We used the front part of the current sanctuary for the worship service, and the rear part for fellowship.
15 years have passed since then. It will be the 15th anniversary of our house church and the 30th anniversary of Seoul Baptist next year. We will be celebrating both things next February with some special events and a special guest speaker on February 17. We will also ordain three deacons that day.
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