by In-Yong Lee
One of the most important things for me in life is making and cherishing friends. I value each and every friend with whom God has blessed my life. Probably because of that, I feel at home wherever I go. I know some people have just a few very close friends and some others have many of them. Whether you have a lot or a few, we all know how important they are for us to have a meaningful life. Especially with your closest friends, you can share your deepest yearnings, joys, sadness and troubles, and when you do that, your joy becomes enlarged and your sadness reduced.
On August 6, I had the privilege of being on a panel at Global Opportunities Summit: A Global Vision for North Carolina, which was held at Elon University. Cindy Thompson, Executive Director of Boundless Impact, is the one who convened it. She had visited St. Paul’s in Asheville while I was the pastor on March 15 this year, together with FlameBuilders, young adults (21-35 years of age) in our annual conference who are trained for church leadership. Sometime after their visit for worship and conversation, she asked me to represent faith communities at the aforementioned GO Summit…
About 125 participants in the event were all from the business/educational organizations… All the panelists were excellent, and the shared awareness of the increasingly global nature of our society was articulated in various, persuasive ways… I was specifically asked by the moderator to share my story and lessons about efforts to bridge cultural divides in our still very segregated faith communities. And I shared what I have learned from our multi-ethnic efforts and teachings.
Seeing the audience’s reaction to my presentation, I think it resonated with their own observations in life in a very deep way. When the audience was given opportunities to ask questions, somebody asked what they can do to address the still existing racism in organizations and society. I looked at the other panelists on our team and nobody wanted to respond to that. I said, “I wish I could give you a shortcut. But there is no such thing as a shortcut. It takes the tedious and hard way of making friends one by one across the boundaries of race. It is so hard and daunting you might want to quit. But if we persist and persevere with patience, wanting to be friends with one another, we will see that it is possible.”
I am thankful to God that Cokesbury UMC is one of a few churches that have been blessed with this gift of friendship that overcomes racial divides and other human-imposed divides. Praise God who created everybody differently but equally beautifully! May we be able to see the beauty of everyone, not despite but because of the differences we see in one another. May Cokesbury be the place where the most beautiful friendships occur and thrive in Jesus our Lord, who loved and still loves all people.
Since July 2015, In-Yong Lee has been Pastor of Cokesbury UMC in Charlotte. Cokesbury and St. Paul’s UMC in Asheville (where In-Yong previously pastored) are among a small group of churches that has been participating in multi-cultural / multi-ethnic coaching over the past year with Mark DeYmaz and the Mosaix Network.