The mission center supported by our church and organized by our Cambodian missionary, Esther, almost resembles a zoo. A while back, our church staff and our families visited a zoo, but it was still incomparable with the front yard of that mission center. Our visit to the countryside of Cambodia was welcomed by a white cow with its neck bone protruding outwards who was feeding her calf. Perhaps it is due to this year being the year of the rooster, but all over the yard there were chickens running about with their hairs plucked. We figured this out later, but the chickens did not lose their hair in chicken fights, but that particular breed is normally hairless. There were chickens laying eggs, to chicks running around, all while dogs and cats were lazily spread about with their bellies upward with a few surprising us by rubbing themselves on us out of joy to see visitors. Typically dogs and cats are at war, but it was not so at this mission center. They say it's because they all grew up together, but I feel that even they must also be born again through the gospel. They resembled brothers and sisters in Christ as the dog and cat communities became one, licking and leaning on one another even as they napped. As we were frying and eating a freshly caught chicken for lunch, a surprising thing happened when the missionary called out the dogs by name, throwing to them the bones of the chicken. First, Cambodian dogs eat chicken bones well without any abnormalities. There is an almost ironclad rule for domesticated dogs to not be fed chicken bones, but it did not apply for Cambodia. Second, all of those dogs had names. However, I was told the freeloading dogs that rolled by have no names. She would call out their names, Bebe, Lion, and etc., one by one to feed them the leftovers from the bones. I was curious so I asked how she fed the dogs with no names. She said that she simply just calls out, "Hey, dogs." As I let out a chuckle, I suddenly stopped when realizing that to my shame, I, myself, do not know the names of all of our congregants as well.
At times, I wonder how God will call us. Will He say, "brother," or, "sister"? Will He call us by name? Allow me to share these passages.
"For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me." (Isaiah 45:4, ESV)
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you(your name) on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:15-16a, ESV)
This is evidence that God will call us by name as well. He will never bunch us up the way someone would call out, "Hey, dogs," but He is personal and warm to each and every one of us. I, for one, cannot wait until that day. It may be impossible, but in the meanwhile, I will do my very best to remember the names of all our congregants.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.