Hundreds of mostly Korean American college students from over 50 different churches in Southern California gathered at New Life Community Church in Artesia from April 15-16 for the fourth annual SOLA Conference, a conference for collegians co-hosted by several Korean American and Korean immigrant churches.
The turnout of some 450 students and about 50 pastors makes this year’s conference the largest in its history. College students from many major Korean American churches (the term being used broadly to refer to churches that have a majority of Korean American staff and congregants) including Living Hope Community Church, Gospel Life Mission Church, Sovereign Grace LA, Christ Central of Southern California, and Good News Chapel, as well as English congregations of Korean immigrant churches including Bethel Church, Oriental Mission Church, LA Open Doors Church, New Life Vision Church, Good Stewards Church, and All Nations Church, were seen in attendance.
This year, in accordance with the theme ‘Light After Darkness,’ the scope of the conference focused much on the hope and victory that is found in the gospel in the midst of the shame, hurts, challenges, obstacles, and failures that all people deal with in life.
Chris Brown, one of the senior pastors at North Coast Church and one who has had years of experience ministering to college students and young adults through his ministry at Azusa Pacific University, said that such a theme is particularly poignant as college students today “have to deal with a lot more than the college students from 40 years ago,” due to the accessibility that they have to all kinds of information.
Brown said that Christians must not run away from, nor blame others for, those broken aspects of life, but “face and accept the truth” about themselves, as he addressed the collegians during the first session of the conference. Just as Jesus brought to light the truth about the Samaritan woman who had five husbands (John 4), Jesus wants to deal with those painful aspects of each person, Brown said.
“He will cross every racial, gender, political line to deal with it,” he said.
“Jesus said that we must worship in spirit and in truth,” he explained, adding, “Jesus is saying, ‘You won’t be able to worship Me spiritually unless we go there.’”
Alex Choi, the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace LA, emphasized that Jesus himself experienced deep pain while on earth.
“Because of what he went through, he can understand our pain,” Choi said, an idea which was echoed by Harold Kim, the senior pastor of Christ Central of Southern California.
“If you feel like you fall again, and again, and again, remember that Jesus got beat down again, and again, and again — but he got up,” Kim said, “and so will every Christian.”
Kim, who spoke during the last session on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, also emphasized the power of God, the love of God, and the glory of God that is revealed through brokenness.
Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead reveals his power, Kim said, and it also reveals his love for Lazarus as Jesus risked his own life to go to Lazarus and raise him from the dead. But in response to just those two factors — the power and love of God — some may still have lingering questions, Kim said.
“If God is powerful and loving, then why does he allow pain? Jesus, why did you let Lazarus even die in the first place?” Kim posed.
He pointed out that though Jesus had the power to stop Lazarus from dying, he chose to wait instead, that God’s glory would be revealed and that even more people would see and be in awe of God.
"Because Jesus is all powerful and supremely loving, he let [Lazarus] die," Kim said, "to bring about an even greater revelation of God."
Also in accordance with the theme, many of the breakout sessions at the conference featured topics such as understanding how past pains shape God’s future plans; understanding how the gospel takes away shame; discerning one’s calling from one’s life experiences; and creating a structure to be more focused in following Christ in the midst of a distracting world, among others.
Meanwhile, about 50 pastors also attended the conference, and a luncheon panel for the pastors was also a part of the event, during which Harold Kim, Alex Choi, and Julius Kim, the dean of students at Westminster Seminary Escondido and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church, shared their insights and experiences from ministering in their respective contexts.
A seminar exclusively for women was also featured during the conference, during which Christine Yi Suh, the assistant director for spiritual formation and care at Pepperdine University, shared her experiences, thoughts, and strategies in trying to thrive in her discipleship to Christ in the midst of the busyness of life.
The conference was co-hosted by seven local churches, including Good News Chapel, All Nations Community Church, Gospel Life Mission Church, Good Stewards Church, Christ Central of Southern California, Living Hope Community Church, and New Life Vision Church.