Lydia Choi

Lydia Choi

Lydia Choi is a wife, mom of three kids, and a pastor. She has been serving in ministry for 20 years in diverse settings including multiethnic churches, church plants, small, large and multisite churches. She is a ministry consultant at Ministry Architects and an associate campus pastor at Timberlake Church on the east side of the Seattle area.

By Lydia Choi

“Come,” Jesus said. I got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when I saw the wind, I was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

We all go through our own storms in life, but there are certain storms that come in the way of a woman in ministry. In the storms of life, I have found myself holding onto the gospel of Jesus Christ as I sit at the foot of the cross. John 3:16–17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Yes! Jesus came into this world to save us.

The year 2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. This year is also my 20th year in ministry, and it is the year I became the first elder ordained by the Reach Conference of the Free Methodist Church. I was in ninth grade on a mission trip in Tijuana, Mexico, when God called me to ministry. Growing up, I had met maybe one or two Asian women pastors, and I was excited to become one. I was so passionate about my new calling that I served in all ministries of my church.

In my teen and college years, I volunteered in kids ministry, youth ministry, worship team, church choir and soup kitchens. I went on every mission trip our church hosted. During high school, I even started a Wednesday morning prayer group at my school. I invited whomever I knew was Christian to come to the prayer group. Soon I had unchurched friends and even friends who were Buddhist join the prayer group! I can still remember the joy I felt when a non-Christian friend asked me how she could be a Christian. I lent her my Bible for the weekend and told her to read the Gospels. The following Monday, she came to school in excitement to share with me that she had decided to be a follower of Christ. We were standing by our lockers and just before classes began, we prayed together.

In high school, I mapped out my life. I planned to attend a Christian university, then seminary, find a first ministry job and a husband, get married at age 24, and have kids so that I could start ministering. Everything happened according to my plan. I met my husband, David, at the seminary we attended, Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. David was a Master of Divinity student pursuing pastoral ministry. We got married after David’s graduation and served together as pastors. There were triumphs and hardships in ministry, but one particular hardship was difficult to overcome.

We were serving at a large church that had Korean, Chinese and English congregations. David was the English ministry pastor, and I was the children’s pastor for the Korean congregation. As I was coming back from maternity leave with our third child, the leadership of the church asked me to step down as a pastor and to be a pastor’s wife like all the other pastors’ wives at the church. They told me that this was a season for me to support my husband’s growing ministry.

I did not understand. I was angry. My anger turned into shame, shame turned into sadness, and sadness turned into fear. I felt like I was sinking. I cried out to God, “God, you told me to come. I got off the boat and walked on water. But I am sinking!”

When Peter got off the boat and saw the wind, fear crept in, and he began to sink. In desperation, Peter cried out “Lord, save me!” And this is exactly how I felt. Jesus did not waste a second to save Peter. Matthew 14:31 states, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

When the wind came my way, I began to doubt my calling as a pastor. I needed to fix my eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1–2 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

After our meeting with the leadership of the church, my husband, David, walked closely with me as I processed my thoughts and emotions. I was struggling with fear in my life. I had fear of shame, fear of failure, fear of people, fear of disappointing others, fear of the future, fear of the well-being of my family, and the fear list continued. I remember the very Sunday when David preached a message on fear. I was sitting in the back of the sanctuary with our new baby sleeping in the stroller. I heard David speak these words, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  These words spoke truth in my life. What is there to fear when the perfect love of God has already cast out my fears? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16) to save us. Jesus’ last words on the cross were “It is finished” (John 19:30).

William Barclay explains that Jesus “did not say, ‘It is finished,’ in weary defeat; He said it as one who shouts for joy because the victory is won. He seemed to be broken on the cross, but He knew that His victory was won.”

Jesus had already won the battle for me. What is there to fear when the battle is already won? Every morning and night I recited 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

Soon after my resignation at the church, David wanted to enroll our family in a six-month missions program with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).  He had done the same program in his college years and had always wanted to go back with our family. He had mentioned missions program several times a year throughout our marriage, and I replied with, “Sure, one day.” But this time he was serious. I had many questions, “Excuse me? You want to quit your job, take our three children (and our youngest was only a year old), and go do missions for six months? What are you going to do after? We are pastors. It’s not like we have thousands of dollars saved in our bank account. How are you going to feed the family?”

David’s answer was very simple, “Don’t worry. God will provide.” My answer that day (and many other days) was the same, “No, thank you.” After several months of conversations, tears and a few arguments, David stopped asking about it.

Later that year, a missionary came to our church as a guest speaker. There was a special nudge in my heart. God was telling me to ask him to pray for me. So I did what no other polite Korean pastor’s wife would do when we had a guest speaker. As soon as the service ended, I walked up to the front of the stage with the stroller at hand and asked him to pray for me. When he prayed for me, the Spirit interceded, and I knew then that God wanted our family to serve the nations through that missions program and to share the love of Jesus with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ. God’s fingerprints were all over the process of getting ready to go into the mission field for six months. We sold our car, our piano, our furniture, packed other belongings in a friend’s garage, and got on a plane to the YWAM campus.

The three months of training for missions was life-giving. I was the eager student that would always sit in the front of the class and cry during every lecture. It was a time of healing and experiencing the Father heart of God. One of the greatest things I learned in YWAM is to relinquish my rights. God had led me into a season of humility so that I can lift up the palm of my hands and say, “Yes, God, I obey.” I was called to serve God and His people with a heart of a servant. I was reminded of my faith tradition. My great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my parents served Jesus as humble servants. Jesus, the King of the universe, came into this world as a humble servant who died the ultimate death on the cross.

Our family went on an outreach to serve and love the people of Asia during the missions program. I experienced that God is bigger than I imagined. God showed me that His mighty power was not just at work in North America but in the most unlikely places of the world. He showed me His infinite love for His people, for my family and for me. As I served God in the unknown, I did not have a choice but to walk very closely with Jesus. I had to fix my eyes on Jesus.

I believe that we are all positioned for a unique calling. And along that path, there are storms that might come our way. I find peace in the words of William Barclay as he explains a scene with Jesus and Peter on the boat in Matthew 14:

“These verses finish with another great and permanent truth. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind sank. The great truth is that, wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. Olive Wyon, in her book ‘Consider Him,’ quotes from the letters of the seventeenth-century Bishop of Geneva, St. Francis of Sales, who had noticed a custom of the country districts in which he lived. He had often noticed a farm servant going across a farmyard to draw water at the well; he also noticed that, before she lifted the brimming pail, the girl always put a piece of wood into it. One day he went out to the girl and asked her, ‘Why do you do that?’ She looked surprised and answered, as if it were a matter of course, ‘Why? To keep the water from spilling … to keep it steady!’ Writing to a friend later on, the bishop told this story and added: ‘So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the cross into its center to keep it steady!’ In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from the cross bring peace and serenity and calm.” +

Lydia Choi

Lydia Choi

Lydia Choi is a wife, mom of three kids, and a pastor. She has been serving in ministry for 20 years in diverse settings including multiethnic churches, church plants, small, large and multisite churches. She is a ministry consultant at Ministry Architects and an associate campus pastor at Timberlake Church on the east side of the Seattle area.