Trust God, love people

Pictured, the Rev. Tae Suk Park, a 2022 ordained elder and associate pastor at Surfside UMC, Marion District, leads Wednesday morning’s Praise and Prayer service at AC. Photo by Matt Brodie.

By Allison Trussell

FLORENCE—Daily Praise and Prayer services led by young pastors asked delegates to trust God and love people despite obstacles and troubles.

Annual Conference held “Praise and Prayer” services each day of business this year, plus two early morning communion services.

Monday’s Praise and Prayer service was held at the end of the day and was led by the Rev. Kim Moultrie Bryant, a 2023 provisional deacon from the Charleston District.

With Philippians 4:1-7 as the Scripture, Bryant asked delegates what they do when things get difficult. During a trip to the emergency room with her father, Bryant was asked to step out and wait to make room for equipment.

“I replied sure and walked out trusting God would guide them in what needed to be done.” But as soon as she got to the waiting room, she began to worry: “Should I have asked more questions? Asked for more explanations?”

Nevertheless, she told herself not to worry and placed it in God’s hands.

“Our world introduces worries and anxiety, but Paul’s letter reminds us to stand firm in the Lord,” Bryant said. “I want us to be reminded that when things get tough, we can rejoice. … We thank God when we rejoice … we rejoice in knowing God is right there and stronger than our weaknesses. God has designed us to need him moment by moment.”

Bryant reminded delegates that Paul was incarcerated when he wrote this letter, but he still encourages the reader to trust and rejoice.

In these troubling times, she said, “We will rejoice for the chance to trust God.”

On Tuesday morning’s Praise and Prayer, the Rev. Cameron Thomas Levi, a 2023 ordained elder and pastor of Liberty Chapel-Friendship Charge in the Florence District, offered delegates a different way of reading Scripture. Lectio Divina offers listeners three chances to hear, listen and question a passage. Levi offered Mark 4:35-41 three times to the delegates.

“I’ve always believed I would fit right in with Jesus’ disciples,” he began.

As a middle child, he is good at pointing out injustice and at righteous complaining. In this passage, Jesus tells the disciples that they’re going to go to the other side. A storm comes up and the disciples are frightened.

“What draws me into this passage is the very real way that while I might not be in the boat, I stand here and storms are all around me swamping my boat. Their words become my words: ‘Do you not care that we are perishing?’”

He reminded delegates of the camp song, “Going on a bear hunt,” with its refrain of “Gotta go through it.” Our great desire is to avoid danger, all hindrance. But, following Jesus means getting in that boat, going through the storms. “Hope happens not by avoiding the cross, but by seeing it through to the other side.”

Where are you this morning? Levi asked. Are you still standing on the shore looking for better weather or are you on the boat in the midst of a storm wondering if Jesus will wake up and do something?

The next verse, Levi noted, was “’They came to the other side.’ Jesus makes a way where we see none, and with the disciples, we will ask, ‘Who is this that the wind and sea obey?’”

Wednesday morning’s Praise and Prayer service was led by the Rev. Tae Suk Park, a 2022 ordained elder and associate pastor at Surfside UMC, Marion District.

Park celebrated the week it had been, noting that this was his first Annual Conference as an ordained elder, and he had the honor of leading a morning devotion and took part of approving the separation of his home church—the same church who affirmed his calling and supported him through the process.

Last month, he took a vacation and visited an out-of-state, non-UMC Korean church as a guest. His friend offered to be his “guide,” but he scoffed that he was an ordained elder and among his people!

However, the church was huge with multiple buildings, and he soon found himself lost. Despite there being so many people and it being obvious that he was lost, no one stopped and asked if he needed help.

“I missed my family at Surfside,” he said, laughing.

As a pastor in a cross-cultural appointment, he is used to being lost and out of place, but here he was in a service with his culture, his language and his people.

“Never in my life have I felt so alone and out of place. But I learned that my sense of belonging doesn’t come from a culture, but from the community who loves me, the people who love me. The only place I truly felt I belonged [growing up] was the church, where I was loved.”

Paul tells the Thessalonians to love each other, to hold people up and to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing. This is the will of God for you (Thessalonians 5:15-18).

How do we do this? Park asked the delegates. He smiled and said, “If you see a lost Korean boy, help him!”

The church, the community of believers, should care enough about people to listen, acknowledge them, love them so they feel the love, he said.

“The tenet of our faith is this: To know God, to do good, to love. Where God exists, love exists. God is love. And by our love, others will know we are God’s disciples.”

Annual Conference also hosted two early-morning communion services. One, led by preacher Claire Van Der Berg with the Rev. Norma Bartelle as liturgist, the Rev. Louis Ashley as celebrant and Kendrick Huggins as musician, was Tuesday, June 6. The other, led by preacher the Rev. Gerald Clinkscales with the Rev. Margaret Wilkes as liturgist, the Rev. John Elmore as celebrant and the Rev. William Altman as musician, was Wednesday, June 7. 

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