Interviewers: Jamie Kim and Jamie Kwon
Interviewees: Michael, Julie, Christina, Nathan Hwang
Location: Hwang Family Residence
The Hwang family graciously opened up their home to Jamie and Jamie when they heard they were this month’s Central Members.
Jamie & Jamie: How did you start coming to CPC (Central Presbyterian Church)?
Michael: Julie’s family has been going to CPC for a very long time. I’ve been coming to CPC since 1997, after I graduated college. I was in Boston for 1 year and I moved down to NY the summer of 1997. Ever since then, I’ve been coming to CPC, or Joongbu. Julie and her family have been in CPC since 1991 and might have been one of the original members of CPC. She was a long time member of the youth group. In ‘97 it was mostly a Korean congregation; we didn’t have an English Ministry. We went for a while, and I actually taught 6th grade in youth group for a couple years but I couldn’t handle them so I stopped. Then I didn’t get too involved with church. This all happened when our kids were about a year or two old. Julie then started teaching.
Julie: Right, once the kids were in yoochibu (kindergarten) was when I started teaching and I taught for about 10 years. I was also director of yoochibu. I began attending CPC since 1991 and I was a junior in high school when I first started coming to Joongbu church. During college, I came back when we had winter/summer vacation. After college I was attending the Korean service. Pastor Kim Jaeyeol actually officiated our wedding. Every Sunday, we would attend service and leave right after. Even though we were attending church as members, it was just recently within the past 10 or 15 years that we have been actively serving in church. And just recently, we started getting to know our church members. We’ve seen the church grow in many ways—not only in numbers.
Michael: But we always wanted to go to the English Service because it's obviously easier for us to understand, but timing didn't work—2PM service wasn’t ideal for us. We were really excited that there would be an 11 am service when we moved to Old Westbury. It’s different when we can understand and fully get engaged with what the pastor is saying. That’s sort of our “history.”
Jamie & Jamie: Since both of you wanted to go to an English Ministry service for a long time, how did it feel when you were finally able to attend and understand the sermon comfortably?
Michael: Initially when something is new, it’s usually good. Once you get used to something, it can get stale a little. It was hard because we didn’t know a lot of people. It’s also difficult when you’re the outsider. There aren’t too many people that are in the similar stages of our lives—our children are much older and we have different schedules. I think that was a bit of a challenge, still is, in the community, but what I do like is the energy, the atmosphere is different...We have very energetic folks--
Julie: He took the words right out of my mouth! Dang it! I need to think of another word besides energy!
Michael: I think that’s a positive change—the fact that we’re in a smaller room setting rather than a big sanctuary. We have the sense of community when the room is full...like it was for the past couple of weeks. We appreciate the message—everything about it we like, but one thing we do miss is the Korean praise, at times. We’re really into praise. Sometimes Korean praise is really good. I miss that a little bit. All of these English praise songs are great, but songs in korean sometimes has more of a feel.
Julie: Since we have been attending KM (Korean Ministry) for so long, I think we have some KM in our blood and it has not left us still. Once in a while, as much as we like english praise songs, Michael will play Korean praise songs at home and we’re like, “Ahh” like some of the words they use in Korean are so different from the words they use in English and you can’t really translate the Korean words to English. It’s just been recently we have been getting into contemporary christian songs. We need to adjust ourselves--
Michael: We’re used to listening to 80’s and 90’s christian music--
Julie: He used to listen to a lot of contemporary christian songs back then. We grew up listening to that and then for a long period of time, we went to the KM and it was all Korean praise..Now we’re trying to get back into American praise. Michael is definitely adjusting more easily than I am. The praise songs back then were simple chords but now they’re much more complex. We’re learning but it just takes time to adjust. My attitude towards EM is positive cause I can relax without being too formal. We’re just comfortable. And Pastor Mark has been preaching very practical messages like being aware of where you are in your faith. We come home and then we talk about it.
Jamie & Jamie: It’s great that you mentioned praise songs. I love the fact that you’re so honest about this--we love working around you guys. Feel free to come to any of the praise team members and talk to us about the worship.
Julie: Yes, I’ve spoken to some of the parents and we said praise is difficult because we’re not familiar with it. They grew up in the 90’s and the only praise songs they know are by Chris Tomlin. That’s our level right now but we’re growing! We’re getting to know different songs but I think it’ll be good to mix it up. Back then the lyrics were very simple and now it’s like ‘Everlasting God’ when you can say ‘God you are forever.’
Sometimes simplicity is more powerful.
Jamie & Jamie: You mentioned that the change from KM to EM changed the conversations at home too. What has changed from your attending KM to EM?
Julie: Now that Nathan is going to high school and Christina is going to be a sophomore in high school and in a couple of years they’re going to be attending EM. Michael and I are looking into the future--
Michael: Yes definitely, when we were in KM, we missed the big picture. Now we are more conscious about what’s happening in the youth group. We got to know Pastor Isaac pretty well. 4-5 years will come quickly and this is the generation of young adults that are ultimately going to inherit, maintain, and build the church. We look at it as serving and investing into the younger generation. It’s great to see college students and young adults coming as new members. It’s very encouraging. The difficulty with college students is that many of them come back only for the summer. It’s important that we can help build a community with them. We’re definitely more conscious about the next generation now.
Christina: When they went to KM, we wouldn’t talk about our sermons. We would say, “How was service?” They would say, “It was good.” End of conversation. Now that their ministry is in English, we can really go into depth about the message. We are communicating and talking a lot more. Ever since they started going to EM for 2 months--
Michael: 6 months
Christina: 6 months?!
Julie: Appa’s been going since October!
Christina: It’s been 6 months?! Wow!
Julie: Also praise--now that we sing English praise songs, we have something else in common. We can relate to Christina and Nathan.
Nathan: About praise--I want to learn how to play guitar. Because Appa was used to KM songs, it would be hard for me. Now because we know the same songs, it’s easy. I’ve had a guitar for a while, but it was only yesterday that I started playing with Appa.
Jamie & Jamie: Wow, you have to play some songs for us! We’ll be sure to follow up on you about that!
Jamie & Jamie: It’s almost the end of summer and for the majority of the family, you’ll get busier once school starts. What are some of the challenges you expect or concerns/fears you have?
Nathan: Getting lost in the city.
Christina: I’ll be with you though! I don’t think there are any challenges cause Nate, Dad, and I will be together. We’ll be talking more. It might not be about church stuff, but Nathan reads the bible every day. Nate motivates me all the time. We’re really close. His friends are my friends. There’s no big challenge for me honestly—just excitement. Appa, Nate and I talk all the time. We talk too much about anything, everything. No challenge for me.
Michael: Serving as the leader is definitely something I didn’t expect so soon. Being involved in small groups with people we don’t really know is not easy. Certainly, we want for everyone to grow in a sense of community like a close-knit family, not like, “Hey see you next week!” That’s something we want to keep working towards. One good thing about the small groups—the way that they are structured. Even though many of the kids are younger, Christina and Nathan know all the kids through summer camp so we can relate. We want to provide a setting for fellowship and people to gather and grow as a family. We also want to help raise leaders for the next generation.
Jamie & Jamie: Your family has been very active in serving and soon you will be leading a community group for families. I know you guys are excited, but have you ever felt nervous or burdened?
Michael: I don’t think it’s burden; we definitely are excited but one thing we’re apprehensive about is wanting to do a good job as leaders. This is a commitment and I think about balancing church with everything else. In college, I was very involved with campus fellowship and the church. That was all my priority and so I put everything else behind and didn’t know how to balance it all. Looking back, I wasn’t mature enough to balance my time. I put church first and put everything else second, but that’s not what God wants. My job back then was to be a student first--
Julie: Serving God is just as important but you were there for a purpose; you were supposed to be a student.
Michael: Yeah, Julie knows that when I get into something I really get into it. I need to control myself--
Julie: And that’s where I come in.
I always need to check in with him.
MIchael: I also think the other challenge is that our kids are a lot older than the kids of the other families. How we raised our kids is so different than how kids are being raised now. When our kids were growing up they didn’t have tablets or phones, but kids these days do. A big challenge is not to push what we think is right, but to understand where the other families are in life, and what the culture is now.
Julie: For me, I’m not burdened... I’m excited. Coming to EM gave me this heart to go out there and serve our younger brothers and sisters. Now that we have fellowship downstairs it’s so much better and nice to have all the families and young adults in one room. I just want to serve, make sure everyone is fed, and having a good time. I want to be used for EM and serve in that way.
Jamie & Jamie: Could you tell us more about how you guys grew up and came to know Christ?
Michael: I came to the states when I was 10. I grew up in Alabama. There were probably 10 Koreans total. My parents always went to church. During my sophomore or junior year in youth group is when I decided to accept Christ. And then we went to the same church--
Julie: And the same school!
Michael: Yeah, and back in the south we had a very close-knit group of friends at church. Church has always been an important part of our lives and that’s why it’s so nice to see our kids wanting to go to Friday night service because that’s what we did in high school and college. It’s actually us that don’t want to drive them these days because it’s so far.
Jamie & Jamie: Julie, how did you come to know Christ?
Julie: I actually grew up in South America for 8 years. I then came to the states and went to another church before Joongbu. It was in middle school that I accepted Christ. When I was a junior in high school, I moved to Joongbu. College was a different experience, I was getting to know God through campus ministry and serving. After college is when I got a little dry. We were stuck in that plateau for a little while especially when going to KM because we couldn’t understand everything. It’s been about 5 years that God has been working in a different way. My love for God has changed, and I feel like I’m growing in a new way. Back then, the foundation was there but now God is teaching me in a more mature way, showing me who He is and what he wants me to do through my children, my church, and my community. I’m realizing all the small things He has done for us, like meeting my husband in school—Michael was never supposed to come to Boston College. Just the little things we didn't know back then but can look back at now and understand. Also, it’s not easy staying at this church for a long time but there’s a reason why God kept us here. I think this is the reason why we’re here at EM and God wants to use us in this ministry to serve Him.
Michael: So… I actually thought I had applied to Boston University. Growing up in the south, I didn’t know there was a difference. When I found out that it was different from Boston College, I was like “Oh!”
Christina: Dad that sounds like you!
Michael: Sometimes you think you can only grow in faith when you have that burning passion, and you see this passion a lot in younger people when they accept Christ. And then, if you lose that sense of passion, you think you’re not a good Christian anymore. It was only recently that we realized that this feeling or passion is not a prerequisite. You can mature in faith in a different way as you go through different stages of your life. It’s important to know that the fire you had when you were younger is not something you have to have all the time.
Julie: Yeah, we have our ups and downs in our relationships with God and I think God understands. He’s telling us it’s okay to have those moments, and He still loves us. I think we’re in a very happy time in our lives. Someone actually asked me when I was the happiest in my life, and I actually think it’s right now--
Michael: Actually there’s a Disney movie….oh wait I think it’s called “Kung Fu Panda.”
The wise turtle says something like, ”Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” I think there was even a sermon on not looking in the rearview mirror, to not dwell in the past.
Jamie & Jamie: Christina, your mom is going to have a lot of time because you, Nathan, and your dad will go to school in the city and won’t come home until later. What hobbies do you think she should pick up?
Christina: Extreme couponing!
Julie: I do religiously look through my BJ’s coupon book…
Jamie & Jamie: Thank you for your time! How can we pray for you as a family or as individuals?
Christina: To spend more time together as a family. We don’t sit like this all the time except during dinner time. Other times we’re scattered throughout the house.
Julie: But at the same, we’re very thankful that we can eat dinner together.
Nathan: We also have a rule during dinner time—no phones.
Michael: We’re definitely content. People ask me how I’m doing and I always say I’m doing well. Then they say there seems to be no change, everything’s steady. That’s good in some ways but you get very comfortable where things are. Someone actually told me, when you get comfortable at something, then it’s time for you to move on. You need to be slightly uncomfortable, face challenges, and grow. Maybe all of us should experience a slight discomfort.
Julie: Sometimes, we get too comfortable. Maybe God challenges us so He can bring us closer.