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Emily Oren

A Korean Congregation Reaches Out

"Moses says, 'God, I am a wimp!'" Pastor Stephen Ro shouts the words. His audience, mostly Korean American teenagers and twentysomethings, laughs appreciatively at the way he can reduce larger-than-life biblical characters to normal size. "'I cannot speak. I cannot lead the people. Pick someone else!'"

"God says, 'You're right, Moses. You are a wimp. You are a nobody.'" The words of the Almighty, translated into nineties-speak. "'But I can use you.'"

Pastor Ro's voice grows softer, more convicting. "'I use nobodies to declare My glory.'"

Moses was unwilling to follow without negotiation God's design for his life. Ro compares this to modern Christians, who are so unsure of their own abilities to evangelize that they don't reach out at all. This is a grave mistake, he explains; this is Satan working through the sin of pride. In reality, it's not about our abilities, or about us at all. It's about God's ministry.

Ro speaks candidly about his own insecurities: his imperfect English skills, his voice that is a mix between a Korean accent (where he was born) and Baltimore ghetto slang (a former place of ministry). He challenges himself to live up to God's desires for his life, and in doing so issues an identical challenge to his congregation: to be more friendly toward outsiders, visitors, and non-Christians in their neighborhood.

I squirm in my seat. Worshiping here for the first time, a participant but also an observer, I hoped to remain unnoticed, but was pounced upon cheerfully by the welcoming committee, given a name tag, made to stand up during the announcements, and chatted with at least 15 times before finding a seat. The members of the congregation are friendly, gregarious, and on fire for their God, and I'm a little overwhelmed by it all—but I feel very much at home in a place where I would normally feel quite foreign.

Now their pastor exhorts them to reach out more. I anticipate further zeal after the closing hymn.

Pastor Ro, the youth leader and pastor of the English-language ...

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