You’ve heard the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” As a believer, I have learned that while my foresight is slowly growing into 20/20, as I am on a life-long journey to trust in God’s promises fully, my hindsight is closer to 20/20. I have now learned to see everything has passed in light of God’s providence, in which God works together all things for good, for those love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Providence informs us that the chief architect and builder of the universe has the whole world in His hands and He is also the director and the main actor in the stage of His world, unfolding His glory to His creation. What is truly amazing is that God the Creator, the Director and Main Actor of the “theo-drama” of this world involves us, His people, the Church to play a role in the cosmic drama of redemption in Christ.
So here is my story. Let’s see how my story now fits into yours and ultimately into God’s story.
My name is Keith Ryoo and many of you at Emmanuel Community Church know me already as your pastor. I grew up in a Christian household where my father was a pastor and my mother was a faithful believer. Regardless of my parents’ faithful teaching and demonstration of faithfulness, I digressed and perhaps even disgraced my family with my faithlessness. However, around when I was 14, the Lord opened my eyes to see my utter need of His salvation and opened my heart to embrace His redeeming love. Through my father’s teaching and my mother’s practicing of truthfulness of God’s living word, Christ through the gospel brought me on board to sail through stormy seas of this life.
The first few years of my walk with the Lord were filled with a strong sense of His presence. My awareness of His nearness was only growing, with many answered prayers and many battles over sin won. But it was when I went to college that I let go of His gracious guiding hands and was fooled into my prodigal years. Four years of my rebellion went by quickly and what brought me to my senses, to realize what a folly it is to pursue fleeting pleasures, was my mother’s sudden sickness. She was diagnosed with last stage cancer. Two weeks before her death, she told me that she wasn’t sorry because she prayed always, since she came to know the Lord in her childhood, to see His face soon. She loved the Lord and knew that to be in His presence is the most joyful thing. Whatever this world could offer was not so desirable to her. She went home to the Lord at age of 48. The last words she said were, “I must go home.”
Seeing the faith of my mother, of whom the world was not worthy, I was wholeheartedly compelled to all the more equip myself in the study of God’s word to explore and experience the abundant joy in Christ Jesus. To help me cut off old habits and ways, God graciously placed me far away from the city where I spent my prodigal years. So, I came all the way from San Francisco, CA to Corning, NY. Then the Lord was faithful to restoring my faded faith. As I was a lone stranger to this cold place, he gave me a friend who soon became a brother to me, with whom I would study and pray. To help and teach him, I had many sleepless nights studying to answer his questions. Soon we found a church to join and later found it unhealthy. But by God’s grace, I met Eunice there, now my wife of 7 years and mother of our 3 boys. I also was given opportunity to serve and teach in various ways. I stayed at that church for 6 years. It was a bitter training ground for me, learning humility while developing a thirst and hunger for sound teaching. Eunice and I left that place to find a more gospel-centered and Christ-exalting church. By God’s providence, we ended up at ECC right around when Pastor Matt was starting the pastoral residency to equip and train men for ministry. I gladly joined in such timely arrangement by God, who is for His people.
Two years later, now I am with you as one of your pastors. By God’s grace, I am what I am. God the Director used my mother’s life to bring me back to Himself and see all the more how desirable and worthy Jesus is, who came into the fallen scene of this world as the Main Actor to accomplish the mission of redemption by His sin-defeating life, sin-atoning death and death-annulling resurrection. God the Director orchestrated the time in a way that my first day (7/6) at the church was the last day for my mother 9 years ago.
He helped me learn and study to be equipped and train and struggle to be fit for use. Therefore, my desire has been shaped to serve you in the Lord by expressing my love for Him by feeding you with His word. By feasting in His word, we will grow together in our love for Him and to point others to our Lord. Let us play our role to let Christ be known in our community, to bring our friends and neighbors into this joyful journey, the journey of faith to enter into His rest, our eternal home together. We must go home. We must go home together, and we shall see His face too.
Keith Ryoo serves as a pastor at Emmanuel Community Church. He is currently a M.Div. student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Eunice, have three boys: Jin, Rhee and Yehohn which mean “truth reigns, gifting beautiful peace” in Korean. On a side note, he enjoys serving others and himself coffee, morning and evening. While Spurgeon said of Bunyan “prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline”, Keith’s friend said “prick Keith, he will bleed caffeine.”