By Doug Ruffle
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” - Matthew 25:40
As I anticipate celebrating Advent and Christmas this year, I am reminded of the story of Steve Chung and how he brought a whole new meaning of the Christmas season to me. This is a story that took place in my native New Jersey while I was serving on staff of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference as the Coordinator of Congregational Development. Steve taught me about developing new congregations with new people.
Steve worked for an electronics distributor in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and was an active lay member of the Korean Community Church in Englewood, New Jersey. On a street near his office, Latino day laborers gathered to find work. Some would stay all day, hoping that someone would hire them to do landscaping, construction, or moving.
Steve needed help loading and unloading televisions that day, and so he hired several of the laborers. He began a relationship and afterward would come by the street corner to see them, sometimes bringing coffee; other times, sandwiches. He managed to communicate despite language barriers. Steve knew what it was like to immigrate to the United States, for he had come from South Korea. When Steve Chung hired those day laborers to unload electronic equipment, he never dreamed what God had in mind.
Steve went back to his small group in his church and shared about the day-to-day struggles of the day laborers. They felt called by God to reach out in some way. The small group provided the initial leadership and funding to offer programs to the day laborers. They began an academy that taught them skills in electricity, construction, plumbing, and computers. They also taught English as a Second Language. The project became known as “Street Angels.”
What started as an outreach of one layman grew to include the entire Korean Community Church. Eventually, the Korean Community Church hired a Spanish-speaking staff person who began holding worship services on Wednesdays for the day laborers, their families, and their friends. A whole new faith community emerged.
It all started because one member of the church’s heart was touched. Isn’t that what the Christmas spirit is all about? And the beautiful thing is that it can happen any time of year.
Here’s my prayer for this Christmas: That God might open our eyes and hearts to those in and around our communities, to those who need and desire a helping hand so that they can help themselves. May the Spirit of the Christ Child inspire us to action in his name. Amen.