Friday, June 2, 2017

Trip to U.S.A. (April/May 2017).

Kristin and I traveled for five weeks in April and May of 2017. We visited New York, Denver and Los Angeles. We also visited Lake Chapala, Mexico and a separate blog is posted.  Click here to go to "Travel to Ajijic, Lake Chapala and Guadalajara, Mexico"

NewYork (April 16-24)

It was a long journey of 34 hours from Chiang Mai to New York. The journey included a 5-hour direct flight from Chiang Mai to Incheon, Korea, an 8-hour layover at Incheon, a 13 hour flight from Incheon to Los Angeles, a 2 hour layover at Los Angeles and another 6 hour flight from Los Angeles to New York. Physically the journey was pounding our bodies, and we did not feel well after all. Thus, we ended up postponing the primary purpose of this trip to New York: i.e. clean up the storage in College Point. Well, we will surely clean it up next time within the next 12 months.

We visited with Kristin's mother now resting in peace at a cemetery in Long Island. Kristin's oldest brother, Kwangsung Won, took us there. She lived alone for 50 years since her husband passed. She lived a tough life. She immigrated to the U.S. with four children and helped them get married to settle down in the U.S. I am sure she is enjoying her life after this life.

Kristin and I had lunch with Jae-sup Choi, our long-time travel mate in Flushing. He brought Mr. and Mrs. John Koh (Choong Heup Koh) and Jennifer Oh, another friend I met while I was working in New York. The Kohs happened to be mutual friend of myself and Pastor Daniel who is an Indian and serving in Khazakstan. What a small world! We had a great fellowship and shared how God was working in our lives.

Kristin and I also had lunch with Elder Kwangho Cho and his wife Myung Hee. Myung Hee is Kristin's college friend and we all are Yonsei graduates. Elder Cho agreed to act as the connecting point in New York for the merchandise flow network of SfK Ministries. His unwavering commitment was always an encouragement to me.

Also, we had lunch with Kumbok Kaye Min. She was a business acquaintance while I was working, but later we found out that she is a high school alumnus of Kristin. A small world. I made a proposal to her to serve for SfK Ministries as Regional Director of Resource Development covering New York and New Jersey area. She wanted to pray about it and later she accepted. Hallelujah! I felt so encouraged. I hope she will develop well and expand her role with SfK Ministries.

On a negative side, Danny Kim sent me his intent to resign from SfK Ministries. He felt that he could not fill the responsibility of the officer position which he assumed. I could not do anything about his prayerful decision. But he agreed to remain an SfK Kingdom Fellow and wanted to be involved in the SfK trading post network to cover Europe. I remained grateful for his willingness to serve.

I met up with my former colleagues on different occasions. It is always joyous to see them and hear about their life stories. In this trip, I met up with Dayoung Choi, Seung Joon Lee, Yong Sung Park, Myung Sook Moh, Seop Song, Dong Chul Kang. This time, I missed the opportunity to meet up with Yeonhee Han and Byung In Oh due to vacation and time conflict.

I also visited with Misun Chang, vice president of a Korean AM radio station in New York. When I was working in New York (2004-2008), she was a radio anchor and division manager at another Korean AM radio station. I had a weekly corner in her program for women, titled "Good morning, I am Jeffrey Lee." I was allowed to talk about any subject for up to 7 minutes on a weekly basis. My talk centered around business, management, leadership, economics and investments. This program lasted for 2 years and 10 months. She was a brilliant anchor and based on a few comments about the talk I prepared, she was 90% accurate with what I was going to talk and provided a lead. It was fun. I was calling in even from overseas while I was traveling not to miss this responsibility. Our short encounter brought back the fond memory of that time. It was too bad that she broke up with Mr. Young Dae Kwon who owned the AM ratio station and a golf buddy through ShinWooHoe at that time.

I did not have time to meet up with some friends, such as Pastor Minsong Ahn, Kisoo Son, but I was able to talk with them on the phone.

I met up with Taeok Park, CPA and my college friend. He takes care of our tax returns. He agreed to handle the tax return and reporting for SfK Life Corporation. It is a blessing to have someone like him to take care of important issues like tax. It was disheartening to hear that Young Wook Yoo closed down his business operation without making payment due to him. Well...

We had a dinner gathering with the eldest brother couple and the second brother couple of Kristin. It was too bad that the third brother couple could not join us due to a distance during the weekday. They all seem healthier than before. It is good that they maintain their physical health. As we pray, I wish they would seek to keep their spiritual health also.

We worshiped at The Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. I was hoping to hear the sermon preached by Rev. Tim Keller since he plans to retire in July this year and the church will split into three independent churches in Manhattan based on a premise that they will in turn split each into three independent churches when time comes. It was a brilliant example of avoiding the founder's syndrome and of expanding Christ's church. Instead, we ended up listening to someone else's sermon, but it was also inspirational. Rev. Keller must have spent long time and much energy developing his successors. Praise the Lord! The tulips on the sidewalk in Manhattan were a proof that Spring has arrived.

One little fiasco happened while we visited New York. I ended up waiting for almost 3 hours for Kristin who went out to see her college friends because she could not break up and leave, while she could not communicate to me. Well... It happens.

Denver (April 24-26)

We flew to Denver and drove out of the airport to see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. As usual, the Denver horizon was wide open and the open sky was quite vast. A sigh of relief comes out of our chests, praising the wonderful creation of God Almighty!

We visited with Nick who is running a ministry of Aquaponics. He is serving in difficult countries, such as central Asia and Middle East with aquaponic solutions to help pastors and missionaries in the regions. He is serving in Khazakstan along with John Koh and Daniel G. We agreed to find a way to collaborate together for His Kingdom.

Originally, we wanted to visit Denver briefly just to receive the stuff sent from New York and stored them in the storage in Centennial. So we did not make any contact. Although we had no work to do on storage, we remained under water without making any contact. It was the first time. We were able to take good rest.

Meanwhile, we celebrated our 34th Anniversary. We had dinner at PF Chang and did shopping at Macy's and Eddie Bauers. Kris got her hair done and received her facial treatment. We started late and it was too gloomy to drive out to see Mt. Evans. Instead we spent time at Park Meadows. I found time to finish up and submitted an article for IBA Leaders Forum to be held in June.

Los Angeles (May 2-20)

The longest stay out of this trip was in Los Angeles. We initially stayed at the Song's, our long-time friends from OMC and our travel mate on the Spain-Portugal Trip 2016. Their hospitality is greatly appreciated and we are indebted with their love. Mindy Song tried to serve us with as much food as possible and here is an example of a breakfast table.

In one morning, we hung out with them and Helen, their daughter, now a medical resident, who stayed with us in Rwanda for a couple of weeks. We visited a church, named Wayfarers Chapel and nicknamed Crystal Church overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A lot of weddings take place for a good reason. In fact, we were asked to leave because of another wedding to take place.

The primary purpose of my visit to Los Angeles was two-fold: i.e. teaching a BAM class at World Mission University and holding SfK Life Corporation board meeting.

SfK Life board of directors meeting is held quarterly, but once a year we meet face to face to hold a strategic meeting and also to get to know each other and discuss important issues face to face. Hana Financial's Sunnie Kim graciously allowed us to use their conference room for the meeting venue. As usual, Grace Yoo took care of several administrative issues. All members, including a new member Mark Russell, attended the meeting and the meeting was fruitful. The photo was taken after Bonnie and Mark left. Sorry guys.

After the board meeting, I was able to spend some personal time with Tom Phillips about what God desires of him to do with his business. We drove to Malibu and visited Pepperdine University. The panoramic view from the campus was breath-taking and our fellowship time was uplifting. I pray that our good and faithful Lord will hold his hands in the decision-making process.

I taught a "Principles and Practices of BAM" class at World Mission University over 10 days or two weeks. Each day, I taught 4 hours. A total of 10 students signed up for the class, 50/50 from undergraduate programs and graduate programs. Overall, their attitude was sincere and hard-working. Tom Phillips, Mark Russell and Brian Chun joined us as guest speakers and their lectures were well received. While I was teaching, I chose to stay at Come Mission housing, equivalent to a hostel, sharing the bathroom and shower. But, it was convenient for me without having to drive down to Palos Verdes after 10 pm.

For a few days, Joyce came down to see us, staying with Kristin at the Song's. We did not have much time to spend together, but we were able to hang out in the Korea Town and Echo Lake. It was fun to paddle the boat in a small lake with a water shootout.

One surprise encounter in K-Town was with James Jihon Kang, a dentist now serving in Malawi as part of Merry Year International Foundation. He said he came to celebrate the graduation of his wife. Our encounter was brief but sweet.

Another surprise encounter was with Elder Dong Kyu Kim and his wife at Cerritos Mission Church. We worshiped together at OMC Los Angeles, particularly at Senior High Department. He retired from dental practice and now teaches calligraphy to senior. He stood by one of his old pieces of work. We had a reunion with the senior pastor of the same church, Pastor Sam Pang. We worshiped together in Denver at KCPC and later Logos Central Chapel. His children and our children grew up together. It was fun to see the grown up children: Natalie and Jeremy.

Grace Yoo arranged for a meeting with Natalie Oh, a professor in Sydney. She was interested in microfinance and also the work of SfK Ministries. We will see what God has in store for our meeting.

I also was hoping to hold some gatherings to speak with potential donors for SfK Ministries. None has worked out, but a couple of people agreed to hold at least one event in November when I will return. We will see.

During my trip, I get to meet up with many friends and one of the important ones in Los Angeles is Kingdom Fellows. LA has the highest number of KFs. We met up at Panda Inn in La Palma and quite a few people came. The attendees were Grace Kim, Daniel Pak, In Kim, Jinsoo Kim, Kathy Cho, James Kwon. Also in attendance were Danny Pyon, pastor and a friend of Grace Kim, and Amos Lee, pastor and a friend whom I met at BAM Consultation in Sorak a few years ago. Grace Kim picked up the tab, graciously and generously. I also met up with Kathy and James, I also met up with Hyon Ah Kwon from Seoul, a photographic artist and part of Heart to Heart NGO. The gathering was encouraging.

I also had meetings with several old friends, including John Lim, Stephen Lee, Amos Lee, Young Shim, Elder Daniel Kang, Pastor Daeho Yu,  Out of the meet-up with Elder Kang, I learned about an Oriental Medicine Doctor Kabsun Kim, also a pastor, practicing in Los Angeles. I ended up receiving treatment from him three times for free and also buying herb medicine worth $700 for two months. Incidentally, we found out that he has a farm in San Bernardino County where we also own a 5 acre land. We agreed to explore what can be done on this property when I return in November. Through him, I also meet with Tae Won Yoo, who is taking care of the farm. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for our relationship and the land.

One surprise gathering I had was with Steven Yu and Bonnie Lee, my former colleagues. Steven was a loan officer at Garden Grove branch where I was leading the branch. Steven and Bonnie were the first formal recruits for California Center Bank, at that time, now part of Bank of the Hope. Bonnie has become a banking executive and Steven is is a successful businessman. It has been 22 years since I saw Steven. We met at his house at the beach front in Palos Verdes where we literally spotted dolphins from the living room. Bonnie brought sushi take-out along with her two daughters. We had a joyful reunion.

We left Los Angeles on Saturday as soon as I finished up the class on Friday. (May 19) The return journey was not as bad as the initial journey because the trip was short and the layover in Incheon was short. As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to travel many different places on earth. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

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