As the oldest son in the family, I attended a Chinese school in Korea for kindergarten and a year in elementary school. My father was a school teacher, and I attended this Chinese school right in front of my home for his own fulfillment of a dream for me to get a jump start on my education. Afterwards, our family moved to Seoul and I could no longer attend a Chinese school which resulted in my forgetting most of my Chinese, but the school that I attended at the time had many friends I could play with and especially had a great teacher who guided me well so I was able to create many memories. I remember clearly learning to write -- I mean draw -- Chinese characters at a time when I should have been learning Korean. I would fold a semi-transparent calligraphic paper in half while inserting the thick framework for Chinese characters in between the folded sheets. I trained myself by tracing over the framework on the calligraphic paper that would display the pattern. The reason as to why I can say that my drawings do not look too bad is precisely because I trained myself to follow the framework in my calligraphy.
This year's Elijah Special Morning Prayer, that was lifted up to our Lord in the first week of the new year, is the fourth year experiencing it for myself after being commissioned at Bethel, and I was able to experience a special grace being poured out into our ministry. It was so moving to see our congregants wake up early in the morning, fight the California winter rain while carrying their young children, trotting inside in small clusters of people. Tears would form as I would watch in emotion as those that have difficulty in even getting around slowly walk in with a cane in their hands so they could keep a commitment to prayer. I prayed with all my strength for those children who would be tomorrow's Bethel leaders as they walked up onto the stage with their parents still rubbing their eyes awake, while I personally laid my hand on their heads with the hope that they would grow as the spiritual giants of tomorrow. Even if they slept during service, I prayed that the traces left behind from the models of prayer would be the framework for the rest of their lives to lead them to God.
Our Elijah Special Morning Prayer is a very precious time where the greatest number of our congregants are mobilized. It is the time of the year where even if attendance is not stressed, the faithful still gather to start off the new year on their knees in prayer. I believe that this time is not only a great time of devotion for our congregants, but for our pastoral staff as well. For a person serving in ministry, a time for prayer is necessary. It is precisely because it is almost a given for our pastoral staff to lift up their living sacrifices of prayer by serving in front of the church just as it is a given for our congregants to be fervent in prayer. We also prayed fervently every morning at 4 AM through the rigors of the early morning troubles while screaming out the name of our Lord to pray for all of our loving congregants to be challenged and blessed by the worship services. This is all due to one reason. It is so that we can become the example of the church. If our pastoral staff can become the framework of prayer that is slipped into a folded piece of calligraphic paper, we believe that our congregants will practice diligently, tracing that framework of prayer.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.