News Articles

After grieving losses in metro N.Y., Korean church gaining new strength

PALISADES PARK, N.J. (BP)–Myoung Woo Lee was on the 86th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower on Sept. 11. His body has not been recovered but his memory lives in the hearts of the congregation of Global Community Church of Greater New York.

“He came to our church, got saved and baptized,” said pastor Stephen D. Kim, the gravel of unspent tears in his voice. “He was a faithful and sincere deacon and treasurer of our church. He was an accountant, finding pennies, and now we cannot find his body.”

Lee, a certified public accountant, was a tax auditor for the state of New York. He had been a member of Global Community for more than three years.

Two weeks after the terrorist attack, another Global Community member died, Yong Ho Kim (no relation to the pastor). Kim and his wife, Hyesook, were reached and made professions of faith in the summer of 2001. Before they were baptized in a home swimming pool, he was diagnosed with a fast-growing form of prostate cancer.

“It was such a testimony to the church that he wanted to be baptized even though he was going through chemotherapy,” Pastor Kim said. “A month later he went into the hospital and didn’t come out.” Yong Ho Kim died Sept. 23.

The double blow walloped the four-year-old church to its knees.

“I was so touched by the ministries of our fellow Southern Baptist pastors, who called and ministered unto me, praying for me, encouraging and comforting me,” Kim said. “It was a difficult time for me, for all of us.”

Was. Past tense. Global Community allowed itself time to grieve. Now it’s back on mission in New York and around the world.

“I encouraged our church members to let their emotions and their questions come out,” Kim said. “Don’t hide it. Don’t beautify it. I encouraged our church members to be honest to God. I tell them God wouldn’t reject or refuse the honesty of their questions and anger and confusion and disappointment and hurt.

“We believe the death of people like Myoung Lee in the World Trade Center were not in vain,” the pastor said. “Their sacrifices tear down the Islam world for the progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

As part of his post-9/11 ministry to the congregation, Kim preached a four-week series on “Dilemmas of Life — Now and Then, Life and Death, Sorrow and Joy, and Good and Evil” — that together helped remind the congregation that even when it seems otherwise, God is in control.

In what now seems to many in the congregation to have been a pre-ordained movement of God, associate pastor and Ph.D. Joy Chung was commissioned Sept. 9 by Global Community as a missionary to Korean families in the New York and New Jersey metro area.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, Kim and Chung counseled one-on-one with members, their families and other families in the 400,000-member Korean community of New York City.

The pastor gathered the leaders of Global Community’s 20 cell groups together on Sunday nights, “comforting and encouraging them so they might do the ministry of healing in their cell groups.” Members for weeks prayed hour-by-hour in a continuous intercessory prayer chain for good to come from the terrorist attack and for Myoung Lee’s body to be found.

“It really pulled our congregation into family bond of love,” Kim said. “Myoung Woo was in the same area where the plane hit. We looked for him at all the hospitals, everywhere, with DNA tests and everything but we couldn’t find him. We have our hope he was burned but somehow he couldn’t be recognized. We traced all the names to all the hospitals in Manhattan. We waited, praying, but couldn’t find the body.”

Myoung Woo Lee’s memorial service was Oct. 7, after Yong Ho Kim’s farewell service, which was Sept. 26.

“I remember both widows standing at Yong Ho’s service, hugging and weeping together,” Kim said. “Miyoung Lee was still hoping her husband’s body would be found. That was very difficult times.”

The congregation that grieved through Thanksgiving and Christmas turned a corner when they went to Prayer Mountain, N.J., for a New Year’s Eve service, the pastor said.

“We were just giving thanks to the Lord for God’s grace, God’s goodness despite difficult times we had, and how the Lord blessed as we walked through this valley,” Kim said. He had written scriptural promises on cards; participants selected a card at random and were comforted by what became personal promises. “That provided much healing,” the pastor said.

The next Sunday, Myoung Woo Lee’s wife sang as part of the church’s Grace and Peace praise team for the first time since Sept. 11.

“That was a great big step of faith for her, to stand again in front of the church to lead praise,” Kim said. “That showed she was coming through her grief time. She is working at a dentist’s office now. Her son [junior high student Sang Hoon Lee] is doing well too.”

So is Global Community.

“Our church is growing continuously step by step by the grace of the Lord,” the pastor said. “Almost every Sunday we have new members.” The congregation (300 attend each Sunday) meets at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. The worship team starts at 6 a.m. to haul everything needed for Sunday School and worship, even chairs, from an off-campus storage shed to the first, second and third floors of Robison Hall — and back down again at the end of the day.

Bible study, discipleship training and early morning prayers take place in the church’s mission center, located in Palisades Park, on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge that connects with Manhattan.

In the same strategic area is the Family In Touch counseling center, which was set up one week before the terrorist attack to minister to Korean families in New York. Chung receives a fulltime salary from the church as director of the center and community missionary.

“In God’s sovereignty, God prepared. We didn’t know what’s going to happen,” Kim said. Then came Sept. 11. “We wanted to reach out to the hurting even though we were in sorrow,” he said. “That’s something we could do in Korean community. Joy is ministering unto teenagers, fathers, mothers, families. This is a very good thing.”

Global Community sends out two or more international mission teams each year — one couple was later appointed for career service in East Asia by the International Mission Board.

“The existence of the church is world missions,” Kim said. “That’s my conviction and biblical understanding. I myself came to the Lord through an American missionary in Korea. That’s why my heart is in missions. I personally believe [a] one-time mission trip will affect more than many years’ church attendance.

“Their personal experience overseas, how the Lord works in their lives, it makes contagious for others to get involved in missions,” the pastor continued. “It’s condensed discipleship training that lets them put into practice what they have learned.”

What the congregation learned by going through the terrorist attack was similar to an international missions trip, Kim added.

“We must put our trust in God alone in all circumstances,” he said. “The Twin Towers we could see from this area, and it’s gone and the people gone. Only what is done for God will last.”