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  • Faces of Ekko | Esther Kim Moon

    "In this divided world Jesus longs to create places of unity, reconciliation and peace, by inviting the rich to share and the poor to have hope. This is the mission of L’Arche, of Faith and Light and of other communities: to dismantle the walls separating the weak from the strong, so that, together, they can recognize that they need each other and so be united. This is the good news." - Jean Vanier

    This mission is vital for our community. I believe that God will use rEcess as a vehicle to evangelize the good news to those who need to experience the message of hope, peace, and love in a tangible way. I’m praying that through rEcess, God will bring reconciliation and peace to the brokenhearted, and for those who serve, may we continue to take the downward path of humility so that we can truly see the beauty and value in each of those we are serving, just as others in Christ have seen us.

    My hope and vision for rEcess is that it will be a place where children can come and be loved for who they are, rather than being judged for who they’re not. They will be able to come and receive love and individual attention, while having FUN! in a safe place. I pray that parents will also be able to come and find comfort and true rest in this community. May they experience God’s love over them and be deeply refreshed, so that they can be empowered to love and steward their children with even more grace and love, just as we have experienced God's love and been empowered to love and steward the resources God has given to us.

    I pray that we at Ekko will take time to check our hearts and throw off any strivings to become more “rich” and self-focused. Instead, let’s adopt this mission of actively breaking down the walls that separate the rich and poor, healthy and sick, strong and weak, and come to an understanding that regardless of how you view yourself in light of others, we are one body and we all need each other. Let's learn to look at people with unveiled eyes and softened hearts, and speak over them the truths of God’s love. Let’s be the vessels that God can use to bring the good news to those around us.


    Esther works in the fashion industry and serves with Ekko in the Ekko Kids department. She is also a member of rEcess, which is a respite program for families who have children with special needs, which formally launches in September. She attends Torrance #1 Ekklesia.

  • "Can I Have One More?" | Steve & Andrew on Mozambique

    "Can I have one more?"

    For a second I was transported to Mozambique - or what I think it looks like - and imagined the timid squeak of a little child, nervously fumbling with his already-finished glass Coke bottle, trying to absorb the merged courage of the crowd of the other children around him.

    "Of course you can," said Pastor Bryan.

    Then with a wave of his hand and a twinkle in his eye, the bottles jumped out of the crates that had kept them imprisoned from their destiny - the stomachs of smiling Mozambican children.  

    And of course I can.

    In the average workday I guzzle down numbers four or five before 5 pm. Excess is best, especially when my drink of choice is Diet Coke. I have totally, purposefully, bought into the ploys of red tie wearing Coca-Cola executives. I can just picture them rubbing their hands, gleefully slotting me into the "whale" consumer demographic, someone who drives to the market just to purchase one or two boxes of the 24 packs. I get the last laugh though, some days I buy Diet Dr. Pepper instead.  

    I'll be real with you - I think I am an actual soda addict. I had given up soda for six months last year, and the way the body yearns for something was otherworldly. The things I would do to feel that fizzy burn hit the back of my throat, I vowed I would never give it up again. So when the end of my self-imposed soda ban came up in March, I vividly remember the moment I took that first sip - I was living out a real-life Diet Coke commercial.

    And it's this same reason that Pastor Bryan's story resonated with me. Soda - a beverage so seemingly common to us in the States - was such a meaningful gift to the children. To a much much lesser extent, I think I had undergone the same feeling of excitement those kids in his story had experienced.

    As our departure for Mozambique approaches and as Andrew and I prepare, we would like to invite Ekko to remember the children with us; but more importantly, to pray for the children of Mozambique. And to corporately exercise this in a tangible way, Andrew and I would like you to join us in giving up soda from today to the end of July (July 29th).

    I'm not naive, I don't believe that giving up soda for a week will magically transport every unopened bottle into the hands of a kid in Africa. This isn't even about soda, but this corporate exercise gives us a tangible way to remember those children - to create internal space - every time you open up the fridge to reach for that cold soft drink. 

  • Faces of Ekko | Haein Hwang

    While reading Jean Vanier’s book, The Heart of L’Arche, I was very challenged by his  stories and the heart of those living in L’Arche. In today’s society, there is a growing amount of children and people with disabilities and mental illness. There is a great need for support and love for these people, all people.

    While working with families who have children with disabilities, and studying therapy myself, I find myself in the midst of all the different experiences: the diagnosis, the grieving parents experience, the therapy sessions that go well, the therapy sessions with no progress or gain, the rejoicing of something new, love that is big and strong for their child, and getting a real glimpse of what it is like to live with someone with a disability.

    From my four years of being in these homes and parent support groups, I have seen and felt a lot. I have had many questions about disabilities and why they even exist. Why would our God choose not to cure every single person when he is so capable of everything? One story that sticks with me is of a 3 year old girl who would come to therapy, and for the 30 minutes all we would do is clean her with baby wipes because at home she is put in a crib all day (with food given to her, her diaper changed) but because she is so low functioning, parents did not know what else to do but to keep her in the crib so she is safe. That was so sad to hear, but the reality is…disabilities are hard to live with. And yes, while that is true, Jean Vanier has taught me that disability is very hard to live with if you strive to live a life that is reluctant to selflessness and change.

    Jean Vanier writes, “We are called to use all our energies and gifts to create a more just and loving society, where each person, whatever their culture, religion, abilities, or disabilities has a place.” That is the calling of a Christian, to love the other regardless of what labels or background the person comes from. The people who worked with the intellectually disabled sacrificed and this act of love without saying a word told the people of L’Arche that they were worthy. The people who chose to live among the disabled had reduced salaries, longer working hours, loss of certain friendships and of course cultural activities. These people let go of “self pleasing fun” and embraced a deeper calling. They chose to love on those who were seen as burdensome, unpredictable, people that usually are associated with fear because we don’t know how to be with them. The people who served at L’Arche found community life, love in a grander form, and a new meaning and purpose of living in which our faith, gifts, and competence are integrated. So maybe God does not cure because he is at work. God doesn’t see these people with disabilities as people to cure but as people that will teach us how to love and be joyful in every circumstance.

    The people with intellectual disability felt valued, loved, and important, but it really did something more to those who lived with them and loved them. God must ask us -- If we love only those who love and affirm us, is that really love? Every time I left a home, my heart and mind would still be on those parents raising the child. Parents who quit their jobs to stay at home, parents who live on the bare minimum to provide their child the best resources, parents who don’t care about all the eyes that stare and voices that whisper when their child is being them self, living with their disability, parents who love so greatly and are constantly serving 24 hours a day. God is really amongst these families and these parents experience parenting like never before, because they are living their calling on loving those who may never be able to express their full extent of love in words or actions back.

    Jean Vanier’s heart gave me much insight, but to keep it brief I end with this quote – “We need God. We are not a fortress but a fountain that gives life.” God’s plan for his people is unity. In the church, each person is called to live a certain aspect of the life of Jesus. We are called to live humbly, open to those who suffer. We will discover his presence in the poor (poor in worldly terms, but the rich to God). People with disability are not a burden, but a glimpse of God’s love and an invitation to be closer to the heart of God.


    Haein is currently studying speech pathology at Nova Southeastern University and serves at Ekko with the Ekko Kids department. She is also a member of rEcess, which is a respite program for families who have children with special needs. She attends La Mirada Ekklesia.

  • Faces of Ekko | Johnson Wong

    With God's blessings and Ekko's support, I had the opportunity to spend a week in San Salvador, El Salvador during my spring break to embark on a Christian dental mission trip.  In partnership with the local Monte Sion Evangelical Church of San Salvador, our team of 14 dental students and 12 dentists were able to set up a makeshift dental clinic at the space of the Church and filled it with 8 dental operatories (chair space) and completed $113,095 worth of denistry during the week.

    Over the course of the trips, I was able to perform procedures such as fillings, extractions, and cleanings for 30 under-served people of El Salvador.  Unlike the typical dental mission trips, this particular mission trip had a strong emphasis in our identity in Christ, and this faith-based mission was exercised through our daily prayers before the start of clinic, praying for each patient after their dental procedures (with the help of translators), and daily devotions/worships at the end of clinic days.  I witnessed healing, both physical healing of pain through dental work, and spiritual healing through the knowing and acceptance of Christ.  

    Even though these people seem to be living in such dire circumstances lacking the "normal" things we have here in the states, their genuine attitude, loving ways, and most importantly their honest desire for God's Kingdom really moved our team to give praise to the Lord.  During my testimony three Sundays ago, I spoke of my desire to reboot and redirect my calling in dentistry back to God's purpose.  Not only did I gained that from this trip, but ultimately I got a much greater glimpse into what faithfulness in God can do to our souls, and how God's love for us can move us to do extraordinary things for His Kingdom.


    Johnson is a second year dental student at UCLA and hopes to enter a residency program in Pediatric Dentistry upon graduation.  He recently completed Doulos Advance and attends the Culver City Ekklesia.

  • Faces of Ekko | Kelly Kim

    Be still. 

    At the moment, nothing in my life is certain. In fact, every aspect of life my life is a big fat question mark.  Do I have what it takes to pass the bar...on the first try? If I do, will I even find a job in this market? If I do, will it be enough to pay for the mound of school loans? Will I ever get married and have a family?

    But in the midst of all these uncertainties, I've learned what it means to be still and just let go.  And it's not the kind of letting go you do when all other means have failed and you are forced to throw in the towel.  Instead, it's an intentional letting go of this tight grip I have on my life that just blisters my little heart the harder I think and the harder I try.  It's a letting go of my fleshly desire to orchestrate every single day, week, month, year that's coming up ahead and to die to my inclination to make everything go according to my plan.  Ultimately, it's a letting go of my agenda and asking God, "What is Yours?"
    In this stillness, I’ve experienced a transformation in the way I view my circumstances.  Of course, I can’t say I’m completely free of anxiety regarding my future, but what I have noticed is that the amount of time in which I linger in those types of thoughts are much shorter and insignificant than it used to be.  The reality of my situation remains unchanged, yet everything has changed.
    Most notably, my prayers have changed and the posture in which I pray has changed.  I'm not so hunched over in fear, doubt, shame and guilt.  I'm not so busy divulging my sins unto the Lord and rambling on about my needs, but have become silent in trying to discern His.  I'm really getting to know Him.  And kinda embarrassing to admit, but now there's actually some room to genuinely be concerned about others in my life and recognize that their struggles are as real as mine.
    Over these past few months of sitting in this quiet place, I've come to realize that God doesn’t always perform the most obvious miracles in our lives.  We may never experience the radical healing of sickness or “water turning into wine” moments.  But for me, this shift in perception is a miracle just as powerful as these. 

    I guess in that respect, I have been healed!  I was paralyzed by skepticism as well as my own self-righteousness.  But now I can walk upright and take steps -- granted, small steps -- to trusting and maturing in Him. 


    Kelly is a third-year law school student at Southwestern Law school in hopes of becoming an employment litigation attorney. She loves outdoor activities, eating good food with good company, and her family and Louie, her dog. She currently serves in the Worship Ministry as a vocalist, and attends the Buena Park Ekklesia.

  • Thank you Pastor Caroline, Esther and Rina for representing Ekko as you guys met with 99 Balloons in Arkansas! We want to thank 99 Balloons for hosting us and taking the time to educate and train us.

    99 Balloons Story:

    99 Balloons rEcess:


    For more information about 99 Balloons, check out their Website or Facebook.

    If you have a heart for children with specials needs and want to serve in this capacity, feel free to contact Pastor Caroline at caroline@ekkochurch.com. Ekko will be in a season of research and development as we discover what this means for our church and how we can effectively serve in this capacity. Continue to pray for discernment and direction as we discover this together and be available for the other.

  • Pastor Janette Ok at Society of Biblical Literature

    Recently, our very own, Pastor Janette Ok attended the Society of Biblical Literature. Think “Comic-Con” for Biblical Scholars! Ekko had the privilege of supporting and sponsoring her participation at this Fall’s SBL. Check out the interview below about her trip to SBL!

    {Pastor Janette serves as the Teaching Pastor, Selah Advance Guide, and Facilitator of the Teaching Team at Ekko Church.}


    Ekko: How was SBL (i.e., the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature), Pastor Janette?

    SBL was terrific. It took place in Baltimore the weekend before Thanksgiving. I was really sad to miss Ekko’s Anniversary Service but so glad to reconnect with my colleagues, friends, professors, and mentors.

     
    Ekko: What did you do?

     I presented a paper based on some of the research, thinking, and writing I’ve been doing for my dissertation on 1 Peter and the construction of ethnic identity. I also presided over a panel based on Reading Revelation 18, and met with other members of the steering committee for the Minoritized Criticism and Biblical Interpretation section to plan for next year’s sessions. In between these things, I listened to papers, connected with friends and mentors, met with my dissertation committee, networked, and perused the massive book exhibit.  

     

    Ekko: What did you learn?

    Gosh, so many things. For starters, I learned that my ideas are not crazy! As I research and write, I sometimes wonder whether I’m making any sense and whether I’m actually onto something. It’s important to put one’s work out there from time to time for criticism and feedback. I’m encouraged, thankful, and relieved to say that my paper was well received, generating good questions and further conversation. I feel a new surge of energy to keep writing and to chip away more aggressively on my dissertation, line by line and page by page! I was also reminded of just how much I love scholarship andministry and how each serves to inform, inspire, and shape the other.

     Ekko: What does scholarship and the church have to do with each other?

    Thomas Gillespie, a former president of Princeton Theological Seminary, used to say, “a PhD is never wasted in the church.” His words have really stuck with me. I don’t think every pastor needs to have a PhD or that having a PhD necessarily makes a good pastor. But I can say that the learning, discovering, deconstructing, reconstructing, drop-kicking, and training that I’ve experienced and continue to experience has changed and shaped me in my discipleship and as a teacher and pastor.  

    This entire journey—from the day I graduated college and began teaching and pastoring up to now—has humbled me to the core. I’ve learned the importance of vision, endurance, and covenant community. I’ve learned the frivolousness of perfectionism and pride. I no longer take myself too seriously or think I need to have to have an answer for everything. I’ve also learned the value of delayed gratification. In my twenties, I faced many steep learning curves (I still do!). I had to learn how to suck with style before I actually gained the skills, knowledge, and experience to be competent and even good at certain things.

    But competency without character doesn’t bear much fruit. I’ve learned that some endeavors, though very challenging and time-consuming, are worth the struggle and journey because the goal is not simply a degree, a position, or prestige. The goal is to become more like Christ and to grow more in love with Him and others.

     There were so many times I wanted to quit during the first two years of my doctoral studies. I felt so inadequate and in over my head in every respect. What has kept me going over the years is knowing that there are people in my life—members of Ekko, family and friends, and mentors and colleagues in the academic community—who affirm and believe that I have something (however small) to contribute to the academy as a Korean American female pastor and to the church as a Korean American female New Testament scholar.

     “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).  Whether teaching, preaching, mothering, writing, counseling, researching, or resting, I seek to do it all for the glory of God, so help me God!  

  • Book Review | "David and Goliath" by Malcom Gladwell

    Review by Eugene Kim


    As the children’s pastor gave yet another sermon on David and Goliath, there sat disinterested, lil’, eight-year-old Eugene in the furthest-corner seat from the pulpit.  “I already know this story,” he thought to himself as he quickly thumbed through the colorful pictures in the middle of his children’s Bible.  And there it was—an illustration of the famous standoff between a heavily armored bearded giant and a scrawny shepherd boy.   Eugene then quietly squeezed his Bible shut, leaned back, and stared into the textured ceiling.  “Thirty more minutes till I go home.”

    Though you can find Malcolm Gladwell’s books in the Self-Improvement section at your nearest Barnes & Noble, Gladwell is essentially a nonfiction storyteller.  His books, such as Blink and The Tipping Point, are less about providing an instruction manual to a “better self,” but more about offering compelling stories with a didactic undertone.  Gladwell’s approach is to use examples of real people and their experiences to guide his readers to a twisted-yet-logical conclusion.  He continues this method of storytelling in his newest book, David and Goliath.

    Gladwell begins with the famed story of David and Goliath.  Most people (including Lil’ Eugene) would agree that David was the underdog.  He was a shepherd, not a soldier.  So when David killed Goliath by slinging a single stone into the giant’s forehead, it was a miracle.  Goliath clearly had the advantage—he had the height, weapons, and armor.  However, in David and Goliath, Gladwell concludes that Goliath never had a chance against David.  

    In order to reach this conclusion, Gladwell analyzes each of Goliath’s weaknesses and David’s strengths.  Goliath expected hand-to-hand combat and was weighed down by his armor.  Moreover, Goliath’s towering height probably resulted from an overproduction of the growth hormone from a benign tumor in his pituitary gland, which often leads to vision problems.  As for David, he was agile without armor and he had the experience of slinging stones at wild lions and bears.  Studies have also shown that an expert slinger can hurl a stone at the velocity equivalent to a bullet shot from a handgun.  David brought a sling to a knife fight.  Perhaps God chose David because he always had the clear advantage.


    That is what David and Goliath is all about—there are often advantages to disadvantages, if you are willing to look hard enough.  Gladwell illustrates this point by calling into question all types of setbacks: having only average-sized players in your junior basketball team, choosing to attend a state college than Harvard, losing a parent at an early age, losing a child, having dyslexia, being subjected to racism in the Deep South, witnessing the bombing of your city by Nazi warplanes . . . How can an individual find an advantage in any of these situations?  Gladwell sometimes has to reach, but he always manages to find a silver lining.  In other words, David and Goliath is a book about redemption.

    One may not always agree with Gladwell’s conclusions, but he at least challenges the reader to take a second look at apparent setbacks, disadvantages, and obstacles.  So by really looking at our own tangled circumstances, perhaps we can form some perseverance, which builds character, which leads to a greater faith in God.

    Twenty years later, Eugene slips through the front-entrance of Ekko and walks towards the seat where he always sits in the very front-right.  He’s wearing yet another straight-edge shirt and a smile.

    But what makes this Sunday different from any other Sunday is that Eugene is returning to church after a month’s break.  A newcomer would have never known by looking at his toothsome smile and bouncy gait that Eugene lost his father to liver cancer just days ago.  

    Eugene sits in his seat and feels the compassionate gaze of the congregation on the back of his neck.  He then nervously tangles his fingers together, leans forward, and closes his eyes.  “God, life is so unfair,” he prays. “But I still trust you because you know how my story unfolds.  From this difficult experience, may I feel more empathy towards others and form some grit from the hardships yet to come.”
     


    Eugene is a frustrated musician turned attorney.  When he's not in the courtroom, Eugene can be found in his sterile interior office or at a local punk rock show.  He loves music, biographies, and NPR. 

    Eugene serves in the Worship Department and attends Brea Ekklesia.


  • "Mold My Heart" | Jason Koh

    Mold My Heart | Original Song

    Nothing in this world can satisfy
    A heart that’s made of gold
    But you, oh God, have kept this very heart
    From melting in the cold

    Mold my heart just like yours, father
    Mold this golden heart
    Turn this beating cymbal into colors of your art

    Light the fire in my heart, oh
    Light the fire, oh God
    'Cause I want to be like you
    To love like you

    Even when I’m lost and out of place
    Your patience finds its way
    The deepest seas can’t stop your warm embrace 
    Majestic God, Yah weh

    Underneath the scars,
    Is a heart, that’s yearning for you God
    Tune my heart into your world
    And teach me songs of yours
    Orchestrate my heart lord
    To love like yours


    "When I was worshipping, I was inspired by Corinthians 13 to write this song.

    It illustrates how we can be going through all the motions to portray what seems like a “golden heart”, but if Christ-like love is not present, it’s meaningless. We can have the finest metal, but it’s nothing but a “beating cymbal” unless it is forged by God.

    I feel that this song is fitting in that Ekko is transitioning into a season where we are emphasizing the value of spreading love, externally. To love, we have to learn to love like God, which entails loving on those that are especially challenging to love. It’s much easier to spread love in our internal vicinity, because in the end, we aren’t that much different from each other (i.e. most of us are Asian, raised in similar areas, dress similarly, etc.). But we’re starting to spread our love throughout the world (ie. Australia, Mozambique, Hong Kong, etc.), and getting messed up as we start pouring out to those that are nothing like us. Verse 11 (“when I was child…when I became a man”) talks about the art of maturing, and I feel that Ekko, just turning 5, is undergoing the same kind of growth – one that isn’t just about us anymore.

    Segueing into the Advent Season, I feel that we are very much called to prepare our hearts, so that God may be able to light his fire, and form us. As we learn to love, we learn to be patient, and wait for His coming."
     


    Jason is a UCLA graduate currently working in finance. He loves to gym, jam, and eat good steaks. Jason serves in the Worship Ministry as a bassist, and attends Culver City Ekklesia.

     

  • Baptism 2013 | Jessica Kim


    "My life before Christ could be described as unaware. Very unaware about the life that He created for me and wanted me to live. A life of richness, a life of more. I committed my life to Christ because he filled me up and satisfied my innermost desires without me even knowing it. He sneaked into my heart and made a home.  Something about Christ was too good to let go of and I am so grateful that He chose me first. Walking with Christ has been a journey of struggles and blessings. But in the midst of it all, He has been my rock and my hope. He gives me life to live to the fullest and keeps me dreaming. I thank you God for designing my life to meet those who I know today. I'm grateful for every person You have placed in my sphere who have challenged me, encouraged me, loved me, and shaped me to become who I am today. I am always inspired by the ones around me to love more and be better - especially in accepting this invitation from Christ. I pray that I am better able to fulfill all He desires from me as I take this new step towards him."