Those were the words I often heard from Sungjung Choi, a South Korean, and student in a class I taught as an adjunct teacher for a theological school a few years back. “Hello, My Teacher”
Sungjung Choi is older than I am, must be mid sixties. He speaks very broken English but he sold his business in South Korea and came to Prince Edward Island, Canada, to learn English, then study theology. He graduated, and went to serve his Lord in the Philippines.
An incredible story really.
South Koreans must have some kind of cultural thing about honoring and respecting their teachers. Sungjung Choi always called me “my teacher” every time I saw him, especially when introducing me to another person.
My messenger app rang yesterday to a Korean accented.
“Oh, hello My teacher!”.
I knew instantly who it was, though I have not seen Choi for almost four years. Turns out he and his wife were on Prince Edward Island for a few weeks. He told me about this ordination taking place the next day. I had not known.
He called simply to say hello, but I said I would be there for his ordination. He seemed embarrassed about it for he had not intended to put pressure on me about coming to this service, a four hour round trip drive.
However, I really wanted to go and said I would be there.
The person speaking the address for Choi’s ordination was a long time ministry friend of mine, the one who spoke at my own graduation in 1990, and without whom I would never have survived my early years of Christian ministry. He is indeed an incomparable friend.
I was humbled to be there for this ordination service today.
Sungjung Choi is humble, kind, friendly, and has a great faith. He and his wife are the salt of the earth, giving me hope for the future for an existing God loving people. I was privileged to give them both a huge hug.
Tom, my professor friend posing in the picture with Choi shared an insight with me. It seems that he and Choi went out for coffee and a chat a few days ago. Tom shared with Choi how some people want to plant another congregation in Charlottetown.
Choi shook his head saying…
“The church is in here (pointing at his chest) why is it people want to keep building buildings?”
You can only build “the church” by people putting something into their hearts.
I always loved Choi’s heart. This interaction Tom shared with me confirmed that Choi is indeed one of my people, of the same heart and tribe.
There are many things about church customs, forms and culture that no longer speak to me. Things changed, many church buildings closed, but the church is not dead…. it’s in here (pointing to my chest).
Choi will lead that church, and I both praise him, and pray for him for dedicating his life to this thankless task.
Christian Church expression is transitioning…
However two things will always be needed for “church of the heart” forms.
Humble, honest, kind, and holy people deeply trained in the gospel of Jesus and theology, and then schools with godly people committed to doing this task of training.
I don’t care what forms the church takes any more. I don’t care how, or where they meet, nor if it is two, ten, or two hundred, meeting in a building or not.
However, the kingdom will always need theology professors like Tom, and ordained people like Choi serving people in unshiny places in all four corners of this earth. Out practicing love and administering the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in Jesus’ name for this rising new church to come. A church more fixated on the love and justice of Jesus than construction of campuses and buildings. But that school must realize that most of these trained men and women will no longer stand in traditional pulpits. There will not be any for them. They will speak, but in different ways.
I’m unworthy to be called “My Teacher” by Sungjung Choi, of South Korea.
We are equals with a mission in a world where nothing is immoral, and any truth asking for change is scoffed at. It’s not any fun to be a Christian on Facebook or in the public square anymore.
Regardless of how much we love, people who believe a gospel of Jesus’ hope, and a truth that stands over us all, calling us all to himself, are not going to be tolerated. Yet, there is a smugness in fundamentalists that rubs off on too many, and that does not need to be tolerated.
Choi will suffer loneliness no matter how kind and good I know he is. People love the forms, flattery and beauty of religious ceremony, but few want to take the journey deep down.
The faith journey is not an easy journey, especially for the ordained in unknown corners of this earth.
It was a joy to see ordination still exists and survives, and that in our fellowship it grants a task to carry out, not a position or title to wear.
Hello, my teacher! ?????????
I’m still learning myself. I have never felt more incompetent. Yet I find people are asking more questions than ever. Choi will have no shortage of people seeking him out for the spiritual wisdom he is so willing to share.
Choi will help build up the church, one found in the heart of people, not too preoccupied with the ones of bricks and stones.