• Faces of Ekko | Joanne Moon

    Most of us are familiar with Joanne Moon—we have often been the recipient of her generous hospitality, her willingness to lend a patient ear to our worries, her commitment to our tribe, and the unique gifts that she utilizes so compassionately for the Kingdom of God. Many lives have been impacted by her quiet life. Ekko has recently had the privilege of investing back into Joanne's life and call. A great Spiritual Director program was discovered by the help of Pastor Janette and Joanne was invited to consider further study in this specific skill set in ministry. With the church in mind, even with a full load at home, Joanne accepted the invitation. We look forward to seeing what God will do through this process. Let's continue to pray for all those undergoing constant formation for the sake of the others.

    Below are Joanne's responses to questions we asked about her studies:

    What is Spiritual Direction?

    Spiritual Direction has been a part of the Church since the first century. While it has undergone a series of shifts in its focus over time, it has been an essential component of Christian growth and nurturing. Spiritual Direction is a series of conversations where the director will come alongside the directee to help listen for the words and work of God in the directee’s life.

    Spiritual Direction is different than counseling, first and foremost, in that counseling is usually concerned with the relationship dynamics in one’s life—all relationships, but especially the primary relationships with family are explored in this context. Spiritual Direction, which also focuses on relational dynamics, is concerned specifically with relationship with God—how one is in relationship with God, how one communicates (both sends and receives) with God, what God’s call or purpose is for one’s life, etc. Spiritual Direction is not a discipline that is oriented towards solving problems, but about growing in our inner life with God.

    Why do you want to become a spiritual director?

    There’s a hidden dimension in every human’s life—one that is not visible or fully graspable even by ourselves. The demands and rhythms of our current culture can often dismiss and demean the important work of nurturing our interior life with God.

    For a long time I have had this great burden for people to have a space just for them, where they can gain clarity about God, self and life. This growing desire found a home in the long tradition and practice of spiritual direction where I have been witnessing firsthand and am learning that directors offer a sacred and safe space for directees to explore and articulate their deep places and encounter God who loves them and is with them there. It is a powerful ministry of presence that is truly transforming me from deep within—and when you are experiencing the living God, it is hard to keep it just for yourself.

    To read more on Spiritual Direction, click here.

    Joanne is our Story Advance facilitator, where she guides groups of people from our tribe through deep inner healing and restoration through the presence of God. She is married to TJ, Ekko’s Intern Pastor, and together they host Ekklesia in Cerritos. She is the mother of two beautiful and energetic boys, Jio and Max.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Rebecca Suh

    During the first week of Orthopraxis, I was prayed for by a member of the pastoral staff and given a word: God has seen your endurance and is proud that you persevere. Fantastic, I thought. God is telling me that He has seen me – He knows all that I have endured in the past and I must be on my way to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    In the next few weeks that came, my life started unraveling around me. What I knew about my personal relationships, family, career and future all shifted one by one. Orthopraxis, in this season, has been a time for me to let go of control and the things in my life that I knew to be such a solid part of my identity. I stepped into Orthopraxis this year not really having any personal expectations or knowing what would come from it all, and my world literally turned upside down. There’s not a single thing this season I let go of willingly and God had to take them to create the empty space that is here now.

    I am now in this ironically safe but dangerous place. A leader at Ekko once said to me that, “The irony is that the center of God's will is the most dangerous place to be because it's a place where we must continually die to ourselves and live for Him and others. But as we relinquish control, we stop spinning out of control.”

    I am still spinning. It’s slower now, but I’m still there. I hope to eventually reach a place of stillness and to revisit now what it is God told me at the beginning of my journey: to endure and persevere.

    Rebecca works as an attorney in Newport Beach. She enjoys yoga, reading books, listening to NPR, and spending time with her loved ones. She attends Fullerton Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Esther Han

    I honestly didn’t know what to expect going through Orthopraxis for the second time. It was a hesitant, unsure decision, but something in me urged me to do it and so I decided to do it with faith. I realized when I first took Orthopraxis 4 years ago, my heart was guarded and unwilling to change. Part of it was a self-defense mechanism, while another was just a spirit of unrepentance and fear. I wasn’t allowing myself to take a close look at what was really going on deep inside. What happened throughout the course of these few months wasn’t some significant change or transformation that took place, but rather a change of heart in the way I viewed God, others, and myself.

    There were moments where Orthopraxis seemed repetitive and monotonous to me because I knew I had once “digested” the material before. But everything I read, whether for the first or second time, made me realize how I wasn’t the same person that I was even a year ago. I was re-learning and re-applying everything I’ve always known in my mind, but never put into practice with my heart. It started off with remembering what God had done for me and why He had to die for a sinner like me. Only then was His grace able to be much sweeter and personable to me. How could He love someone like me? What did I do to deserve His love? And why was I continuing to live a life that didn’t reflect that revelation? It was so easy for me to forget. All those moments where I felt like God was so distant in my life, He was there – but I always mistook His silence for absence. I wanted to live a life that remembered what He did on that Cross and reflected the power of His love, truth, and healing. Re-experiencing the beauty of that truth was so simple, yet so profound. It was a reminder that I was bought at such a high cost and that how I lived my life actually mattered. Simply put, it was a realization that my life was not my own to live.

    That is when it hit me that discipleship really wasn’t about the 5-something months of intensive reading and teaching. It wasn’t some prerequisite of becoming this “radically transformed” Christian. It was a change in my attitude, posture, and lifestyle. It was reminding myself daily of what He had done on that Cross and remembering the beauty of the covenant relationship He had established with us.

    So really, the journey is just getting started. These past few weeks were merely a starting point in discovering and co-writing this unfinished narrative God has for me. Thus, Orthopraxis is an ongoing, lifelong process of learning and practicing the art of becoming more Christ-like through both the mundane and extravagant, everyday moments of our lives. It is being given a chance to express what the Cross means to us through how we live our lives and allowing it to affect and penetrate our relationships with Him and others. It is Him allowing us to have a say in how we want our stories to be written, and as a good Father, He wants us to do it well. How amazing is that? 

    Esther works at a law firm in Orange County and is currently preparing for grad school and her future as a high school English teacher. She enjoys laughing at people who make jokes (instead of the actual jokes), buying books that she plans on reading but never finishes, and having fun as one half of the dynamic duo "Polyester" with her boyfriend Paul (get it?). She currently leads Orvine Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Christina An

    Before attending Ekko, my faith was not a priority in my life. Growing up, I always belonged to big congregations and was never plugged in so I never had a church that quite felt like home. As a young adult, attending a Sunday service once a month was fulfilling enough to where I felt I had done my “Christian deed” and left with my spiritual fix.

    However, joining Orthopraxis was a game changer. Orthopraxis taught me ground up what it means to live a Christian life and for the first time, forced me to make a commitment to the Lord. Orthopraxis provided spiritual structure, personal discipline, and a breakdown of God’s expectations of me-things all very new to me. During a season of aimlessness, destructible behavior, and consistent bad habits, God made his voice heard in my life and for the first time I was receptive and it’s been a beautiful relationship ever since.

    I didn’t change overnight, I didn’t receive vivid prophecies, or experience spiritual anomalies. Most times I wonder if he even hears me. However, establishing a relationship with God and getting to know my Creator was the first step in finding myself. In a world full of looming temptations, Orthopraxis helped enlighten me on how to repent should you fall and how God’s unconditional love will guide you. Above all, Orthopraxis has taught me we are all sinners. Sinners who are working our hardest to serve God’s kingdom and become more like him. I struggle with my faith, I have waves of doubt, and sometimes I don’t like the answers I’m given, but believing God has a plan for me is the faith I thrive off to do my share. Putting God first has helped bring such peace and I’m excited for the future story, future life God and I will create together.

    Christina works in fashion PR and ultimately would like to become a creative director of a lifestyle brand. Her hobbies include collecting and framing art, amateur astronomy, and practicing acupuncture on whoever will let her (she promises to start with the small needles). She attends Torrance #2 Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Kevin Pak

    I did some “Christian” things. Some may even say extreme Christian things. I moved into a church and cut myself off from everything of this world for two years, no internet, no nothing, to study the Bible. For six months I was in solitude, in the mountains, in a small prayer hut, no human interaction, just praying. Yet, here I was on the verge of denying my faith, to try and run away from the confusion, insecurity, and depression that I found myself in.

    More confusing still, I found myself signed up for “Orthopraxis” at this church I just began to check out. But in Ortho, as the weeks went by, the story I told began to change. Not that I started to twist or fabricate events, but the way I told the story was slowly changing. My attitude and perspective slowly transformed from deep regret to thanksgiving. I began to see and understand why God has taken me through the things that I have gone through. It was to humble this prideful heart of mine; it was to break this thick head of mine. It was God deconstructing my life so that I can open up to Christ. It was so that I would finally open up to those around me. And the most unexpected and amazing things began to take place. Relationships in my family began to heal. Relationships with the church began to form. Light was shedding into my little corner of darkness.

    By no means do I have my life set, nor am I certain of the paths I will take. I also know there will be more times of trials and tribulation. But I know I can walk on without the regrets of the past, the worries of the present, and the uncertainty of the future.

    Kevin works as a math and science teacher for C2 Education and is dreaming about his future with God. He enjoys gardening, math and science, and tofu stew (which he expects to see in the banquet hall with Jesus at the end of time). He currently attends Irvine Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Annette Chan

    “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

    This famous quote from Lewis perfectly encapsulated my experience at Ekko Orthopraxis 2014. The story began when I joined Ekko just in time to sign up for Orthopraxis. Having recently moved across the globe to the area, I had a difficult time settling down in Southern California. I felt stifled in my new environment, as if a heavy wet blanket was putting out the fire that was burning at the core of my heart. At the place where there was once peace and joy, anxiety and unsettledness took over.

    It was at that place where I learned that the ability to open up to others was a gift, not a choice. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, I was able to share my heart with my group members the first time we met as a group, even though I didn’t even want to be there. Looking back, I am so grateful for the experience, as it opened me up to a group of warm-hearted people who were empathetic, caring, and willing to listen.

    Brene Brown, in her TED talk on vulnerability, defined courage as the ability to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Orthopraxis provided me with a safe space where I could share my heart with a handful of trustworthy people. Through tangible actions of love from my sisters in the group, I understood experientially that I was loved regardless of my value, my productivity, and how “good” I am; this is the type of love that God has for us. I have always struggled with understanding that not merely as head knowledge, but as a heart-felt belief. Because of my experience in Orthopraxis, today I am happy to say that I understand the mystery of His love just a little better.

    Annette is currently enrolled in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at the Rosemead School of Psychology in Biola University, and it is her hope to help bridge the gap between psychological research and the church's view on wholeness and healing. She enjoys cooking, baking and playing ultimate frisbee. She attends Buena Park Ekklesia.

  • Faces of Ekko | Rina Yoo

    Jean Vanier called his L'Arche community, “a sign that love is possible.” Through reading Vanier’s reflections and being prayerful for this new extension of our church, I’m just beginning to understand what Vanier truly meant when he said that. Vanier stated that being part of a community that loves the “misfits” of society deepens our humanity, as well as our spirituality, and it also teaches us more about our Father through the disabled community’s fragility and simplicity of their lives. It’s humanity as God intended to have a spirit that moves us to “grow in the love of all people in the human family.”

    Vanier stated that through the disabled community, his eyes were opened to a world full of heart, vulnerability, communion and celebration. What’s been pressing most deeply for me is that our society views the disabled community as tragic and burdensome, when all along, they may be the ones that truly reflect the heart of God. Vanier wants us to shift our views of the disabled community to be about hope, joy, freedom and nourishment. I still find myself struggling with removing these false beliefs that I’ve had about people with disabilities my entire life. They are so deeply engraved that it’ll take conscious effort to replace them with truths. As Vanier put it, God is opening up our hearts to the cry and anguish of these people that despite all their fragility and weakness, continue to transform and call others to the heart of the gospel.

    While reading Jean Vanier’s book, one story about two boys named Phillippe and Raphael stood out most to me. Vanier stated, “as I began to live with Phillippe and Raphael, the first thing I discovered was the depth of their pain, the pain of having been a disappointment for their parents and others.” Their needs were exactly the same: to be loved and to love, to make choices and to develop their abilities. I believe God has called me align my heart to His and to feel the anguish and hear the cries of his people that are hurting and suffering. Strangely enough, I feel God working in me--changing my heart to yearn more for a life that’s not quite as comfortable; a life that includes much grief and struggle, but also healing and new freedom.

    This is the spirituality of L’Arche that we wish to bring to Ekko.

    Rina Yoo is pursuing the path to become a registered nurse, and is currently finishing a program to become a certified nurse assistant/patient care technician. She serves with the Ekko Kids department, as well as rEcess, a respite program for parents of children with special needs, which officially launches in September 2014. She attends Cerritos/Buena Park Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Robert Jewe

    It’s finally June, and Orthopraxis has come to an end. Doesn’t it feel like we just finished a school year? Maybe it’s because it also happens to be graduation season, but there’s a sense of closure and freedom in the air. I’ve heard my fair share of commencement speeches, so as we wrap-up Orthopraxis, I think it’s only fitting I begin my memoir in similar fashion.  

    Welcome, family, friends, distinguished guests, members of Ekko church, curious readers via Reddit and StumbleUpon, and of course, the GRADUATING CLASS OF ORTHOPRAXIS 2014!!! WE DID IT!

    I remember our first week of Orthopraxis, a brisk Friday evening in the back room—So much anticipation! So many people here! Are we all going to cry tonight? Are we going to speak in tongues? Are we going to sacrifice an animal? Are they serious about this strikes thing? Why is there so much reading? What is a covenant relationship and is it legally binding in the 48 contiguous United States, plus Puerto Rico?

    That was February, now it’s June. Five months later and along the way we’ve discovered that life is like a race or a journey and the people in our lives have shaped our future and—okay, I’ll stop.

    No one likes commencements speeches. They’re all boring, way too long, have forced humor, and you’re almost always praying for it to end quickly. Some of you probably feel that way now while reading my testimony. (Mission: Accomplished.) And of course, the worst thing about commencement speeches is you know what’s coming—a four part summary of what’s been gained throughout the educational experience garnished with a quote from Mother Teresa, a former US president, or Dr. Seuss. Luckily, this is where the connection between commencement speeches and Orthopraxis stops. Because I don’t know about you, but Orthopraxis was nothing like I expected.
    I thought it would be easy; It wasn’t. I thought I’d break down in tears every Friday; I didn’t. I thought I’d feel drastically different; I don’t. Truthfully, I brought a lot of presumption with me into the program,and as God often does, He surprised me. I think we often try to put God in a box, according to how we think He’ll move in our lives—after Orthopraxis I’ll feel more connected to people at church. I’ll be head over heels in love with Jesus. I’ll stop drinking. I’ll finally be ready to date. (It. Just. Got. Real.) But if there’s one thing I learned over the past five months, it’s that this whole Christianity thing, this thing we call faith, is nothing like attending school. You don’t graduate as a Christian. There are no finals. It doesn’t end; God doesn’t hand out diplomas.  

    Orthopraxis is the beginning of re-orienting your life towards intentionality in your relationship with God and with people. It’s practicing things like prayer, reading the Bible and Christian literature, missing out on your friend’s birthday Vegas trip because you have other commitments (#FOMO), and loving other people. It’s learning to establish a rhythm of discipline and improvement to continue your entire life—not end just in time for summer trips and day club season. Can we make progress? Of course, and I think we all have. But if you’re wondering like I am why you don’t feel like a completely different person, or like you’ve just finished becoming a “real Christian”, take comfort in the fact this truly is just the beginning. We got a taste of what correct living looks like. It’s up to us to continue the practice. There are no shortcuts. It isn’t easy. In all likelihood your milestones will be small improvements only you and God know about. But it leads to Life. And as we all know, life is a race, or a journey, or something like that.

    As I wrap up my fake commencement address, I’ll leave you with a cliché dictionary definition: Webster’s dictionary defines the word commencement as “The time when something begins.”

    Here’s to the end of Orthopraxis, and the beginning of correct living.

    Robert works in marketing for the Barna Group, a Christian research company. He enjoys good coffee, wearing long-sleeved shirts with the sleeves rolled up, and making anyone who rides in his car freestyle rap. He currently attends Fullerton Ekklesia.

  • Faces of Ekko | Deborah Kwak

    Jean Vanier, a modern day saint, has given up everything to live in a community of people with mental disabilities. People with disabilities teach us so much more about the reality of human life and existence than we think. They teach us how to live with strength, bravery and fortitude despite daily challenges. They teach us how to love without inhibitions and the freedom of it. We learn to step in to relationships with people not because of what they have to offer us but simply because we enjoy them. When we open our hearts and befriend the powerless, we are taking a step in to the reality of human weakness and frailty, which we often mask or attempt to run away from. We have all felt, in one way or another, to some degree, the pain of loneliness and the pain of wanting to form relationships but not exactly knowing how to. When we offer presence, which Vanier defines as “helping the other to see their beauty and value,” we are offering the gift of friendship. We offer our vulnerable selves and we welcome our true selves, the beautiful and the messy. In walking in to these friendships with people with disabilities we discover that people with disabilities are far more rich than most.

    Every single human being has a great need to be seen, valued and appreciated for who they are, not because of what they can do or produce for us or for society. Our society prizes efficiency, competence and productivity at the expense of compassion, companionship and community, but the cry for relationship, the desire to love and be loved, is within all of us. When we walk with people with disabilities, we find that the gap we often flippantly create between the able bodied and disabled is far too wide. The barriers, misconceptions and fears are torn down so that we could live the “new vision of community Jesus” came to establish. With new eyes to see, we begin to pay attention to the giftedness of each and every person’s life as well as our own and appreciate the sacredness of each human being, made in the image of God.

    I think, before, I wasn't sure how to act or how to approach someone with disabilities because of the fear of rejection but the best gift you can offer any one is your self, your time, and your care. I think often I feared not only their reaction, but my own ignorance too. Befriending the disabled could be demanding and it does take a sense of responsibility but any friendship we sustain requires both love and responsibility. When I adore a friend, caring for them doesn't feel like a responsibility, but rather, a joyful desire. Jesus was a friend of the broken, the powerless and the weak and he sought after them in spite of the pain these very friends caused him. He accepted them, giving us the reality of God's kingdom.

    Deborah Kwak is a graduate of Biola University, and currently serves in the Ekko Kids department as part of the worship team. She is also a member of rEcess, a respite program designed for parents of children with special needs. She is a member of Cerritos Ekklesia.

  • 2014 Orthopraxis Testimony | Tiffany Kim

    Right before Orthopraxis, I made some drastic changes and sacrifices to my life to further my relationship with Christ. I had the expectation that God will bless me because I gave God what was most precious to me. I went into Orthopraxis with the desire for instant transformation to become a “perfect” Christian; however, that was not what exactly happened. The reality of Orthopraxis went far beyond my expectations. The perceptions I had of myself, from the beginning of discipleship to the end of it, had completely shifted. The content of my life was shaken as we started to deal with the root of our issues.

    I was not the greatest Christian girl, as I have perceived myself to be. All the issues and sins that I thought I got over in the past all came back. I was still shameful and broken. The enemy knew all of my weaknesses, insecurities, and issues of acceptance. He used that to his advantage and I found myself trying to find acceptance and security in temporary “lights” like I did in men. Eventually, those “lights” soon became dim and I had nowhere else to turn to. The lectures of Orthopraxis and my team really helped me come to terms that Jesus was the light that will always shine eternally. He has been faithful since the beginning even when I was not. I came to terms that no one is ever going to be a “perfect” Christian. However, I know there is always room for growth and improvements and the journey with Christ is challenging and long. Although I am still broken and scarred, I know God accepts and loves me for who I am. I gained something greater than instant transformation. I gained a better understanding of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love through my brokenness.

    Tiffany Kim is a junior at UC Riverside studying anthropology, and now serves with the Hospitality Team at Ekko. She enjoys making videos of her roadtrips with her sister and can sneeze with her eyes open. She attends South Bay #3 Ekklesia.