During this third year of discipleship training, I had the privilege of serving in the women’s class. As a senior pastor, it is customary to serve the men’s group so serving the women was a bit of an exception. I usually served in the evening, but since none of the gentlemen could make it at that time, I had no choice but to unexpectedly switch to the morning to serve the women’s group. It was definitely a culture shock to say the least. There exists an entirely different world from the forest of men that I was accustomed to. Serving in a church within the bubble that is Irvine where I publicly shared everything, I had to force myself to adjust through the unfamiliarity of the women’s group culturally, if it was not already a complete shock. The men’s group made barely any excuses regarding homework or attendance requirements. If training started at seven thirty, they would be there, and if there was a due date for an assignment, it would be turned in by that time with no excuses. However, for the women’s group, there was never an occasion where there were no exceptions. The men were rarely late to training, and if they were, eight or nine times out of ten it was due to the rush hour traffic coming out of work. On the flip side, for the women, our training time naturally changed from nine in the morning to ten. If this were for the men, it would usually warrant a strict order of discipline, but the reason that I could not was because the reasons that they were late were because of their children. Just from that I was able to see that the responsibility of raising the children was with the mothers as opposed to the fathers. They run all around town giving their children rides while balancing family matters and serving their parents. They also have not-so-easy tasks while serving in ministry as well. Seeing all of this take place, I could not bring myself to discipline them and instead became a somewhat soft trainer for ten months.
Now having recently completed their training, I am not sure if they are fully relishing in their newfound freedom. If my heart could have its way, I would love to send them all on vacations. I am able to recollect a discussion that we had during one of our meetings. As we typically discussed elements regarding childcare, a discussion regarding the differences between raising one child and two children aroused interests. One particular sister said something that I will never forget. She said, “When it was just one, I would find ways to leave my child with my parents to go on a date with my husband, but now with two children, I want to leave both of them with my husband to freely leave and have time for myself.” We glazed over this topic with laughter, but the expression ‘freely leave’ lingers on. It was so sublime to the extent that the expression ‘freedom is never free’ would pop up in my head.
As Korea’s president Jae-In Moon made his first official visit to the states, his first stop was the war memorial stone of Jangjinho. Today is a type of day where the words he said left a particular lingering in my heart. He said, “I would not be here today if it weren’t for the brave American marines who nobly offered their lives to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” I want to extend a round of applause to all the mothers that are running head first into an environment like Jangjinho, laying down their freedoms for the freedoms of the family.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.