A Thank You To Our Church
August 7, 2011 § 1 Comment
Last night Sarah and I enjoyed a special time with our church. I was hoping that we would be able to just sit there and get our egos filled by people uncontrollably sobbing and telling us life won’t be the same with out us. However, I was told that I might have to say something. I am usually an extremely inarticulate person, so I thought I had better prepare something to say on behalf of the Harris’. This is what I said (in case you were there and couldn’t understand me between MY uncontrollable sobs):
Dearest Orange County Chinese Evangelical Church (OOCEC)
I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be saying tonight. I guess it lies somewhere between thank you and goodbye. But Sarah and I have been here for approximately 8 years and no thank you or goodbye could possibly express, no matter how well composed, how truly grateful we are to have been a part of this body and how much it hurts us to leave.
Sometimes people ask me how it is that I became a Christian. I often tell them that God used Rap music to save me. To some degree that’s true and it’s what I still like to tell people because it sounds kind of weird. However, I think it would be more truthful—and probably more weird—to say that God used OCCEC to save me. Yes, you heard me right. I found Jesus at a Chinese church, THIS Chinese church.
It’s odd for me to even say that. I remember early on when Sarah and I considered leaving OCCEC. We aren’t Chinese and we thought it might be easier for us to grow together in a non-Chinese church. And, to be it honest, in some way, it probably would have been. There are times when it’s not very easy to be neither Chinese nor Asian in this church. I mean, the jokes just aren’t as funny in English…
However, it is to our benefit that we stayed. OCCEC helped us unlearn a lot of unfruitful ways of thinking and talking about our faith and helped shape us into a husband and wife who attempt to place our Christian identity before any other. It’s here that we learned the cost of discipleship. It’s here that we learned we are our brother and sister’s keeper. It’s here that we learned that the blood of Christ is the deepest bond one can have–greater than familial ties. It’s here that we learned, as we now often sing, that it’s in the giving we receive and in the dying we are found.
Of course, working with the junior high has also taught us a few things worth remembering as well. I’ve learned that I’m a lot older than I like to think I am, that I’m not as cool as I pretend to be, and that I’m not all that interesting–no matter how hard I try. Serving the junior high has given some insight to Sarah about herself as well. She learned that she’s a horrible speller, that her voice pitch can get higher than it ever should and, much to her disappointment, that she’s the last person a junior higher wants on their team in capture the flag . Or, in other words, working with the junior high has taught us humility. Oh, I’ve also learned, should we ever have children, I want a boy! Just kidding.
It’s hard to say why it is we’re leaving. I’m not 100% sure that Sarah and I have even made the best decision. I don’t think there was a wrong decision, but I’m still not sure we made the best one. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, since PTS is a seminary shaped by Reformed Theology, that I’m clinging to the words of Martin Luther: “Sin Boldly!” But what I am sure of, is that a move to Princeton Theological Seminary wouldn’t have been possible without OCCEC. In other words, it’s your fault!
A lot of people may feel it necessary to go elsewhere to figure out who they are. You might feel you need to find yourself and your faith or find God somewhere “out there”—whether it be in the inner-city, a campus fellowship, or another church where things are less familiar. But I assure you, if you ask for the eyes to see and ears to hear, you’ll see that God is doing remarkable things here through a remarkable people. God is creating a remarkable church. Serving here has been the best experience Sarah and I have shared together.
Before I end I wanted to recognize a few people who have made our service and time here what it is.
Sarah’s Grandmother, Ruth Curtis:
Most of you are probably unaware, but Sarah’s Grandma has generously supported the junior high ministry with a monthly monetary gift. We’ve used that gift to buy snacks, teaching resources and various other things that made our service easier. Because of her gift, we rarely tapped into the budget the church made available to us. If you’ve ever been apart of the junior high at OCCEC, please introduce yourself to her tonight and say thank you.
Ken taught me how to think and talk like a Christian. Much of the unlearning and re-learning I mentioned happened through conversations with Ken. Was it brainwashing? Maybe. But what the world might call brainwashing, the Christian often calls discipleship. More than that, though, Ken is a friend. I enjoyed talking movies, theology, ministry, marriage, money and everything else with you. Thank you for your friendship and support.
Or, as I like to call him, dad. It was always awkward trying to refer to my dad here. (Do I say pastor, dad, John…?) As much as Ken shaped my thinking, it only made sense because my dad (and mom) embodied it for me my whole life. They may not have used the language I would use now to describe their kind of life, but they have lived and continue to live a very ordinary but radical life. Their life makes no sense apart from the cross. I don’t think I could have believed in the God Jesus revealed had it not been for the life and faith of Pastor John and Marty, my mom and dad.
And of course, thanks to all of you.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that “salvation isn’t about reaching a destination […] but it’s being in the process and on the right road.” We’d like to thank everyone here for putting us on the right road and loving us enough to not let us get off. You are our family and we love you.