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August 13, 2012 / windlessly

This is a post that requires no pictures and no title, no fancy layout or eye-catching appeal… no grammar and no evident structure. It will be buried soon, beneath a mountain of text and other posts, but already its existence is ratified by my desire to express. All it will be is some internal reflection, an outpouring of emotions and feelings, a capturing of a beautiful night, the regurgitation of the fleeting moments I’ve experienced as I struggle to find the right words- some I may elusively capture, some I may shoot and miss, leading to an awkward bump or ugly turn of phrase.

Dan, Linda, and the rest of the Yung family were sent off in glorious fashion this night at my cousins’ church, both celebrating and mourning their upcoming departure to Living Stones Village in China. They have been youth pastors and Sunday school teachers and good friends to the church for at least 7 years, working so closely with the youth here that tonight was an outpouring of emotion and gratitude that couldn’t be expressed any other way. The singing, the worship, the prayer… the laughter, the tears, the sobs. I’ve never been more moved by forty bodies gathered in one room for a single purpose: to bless the Yungs family and the radiant love that God has shone through them. Hearing the testimonies, the confessions, the stories, a soulful song, the sobs, the voices cracking… I was shocked at how deep the influence of two individuals and their family ran within a church. Even as a visitor to the church who has only talked to Dan and Linda a few times, I felt so compelled to speak and to share, but unable to- inhibitions of my mind, as well as my reluctance to take time away from those here who are so much closer. If I was close to tears, I can’t imagine the intensity of feeling that those who have spent 7 years with them were feeling this night. And so I reserve my thoughts for here, secretly wishing they may be able to read it, but after a full night of spoken sentiment from those much closer to them, I accept the reality of otherwise.

Dan and Linda: it is evident that you are a spiritual father and mother to any that stray under your compassion and guidance. From the testimonies I heard today, you have touched everyone in youth group, left no one out, became a source of encouragement and inspiration to all, as you have to me. I cannot fully capture the emotions I felt as I heard and learned so much more about you both today, through the heartfelt expressions of others. I had the blessing to meet you for the first time four years ago, my first visit to California and my first day at my cousins’ church, which I have fallen in love with since. Through several more visits, frequenting their church more and more often, meeting new friends, adjusting to the style of worship, I also came to recognize your faces- it was you, Pastor Dan, that I first had to nudge David and ask who you were after a story he told about a mysterious “P.D.” You had a goatee. You looked young. You looked fun to be around. And you welcomed me, along with Linda and Pastor Ed and Sandy and everyone else in this church, and made me truly feel at home- Linda with her genuine heart, Pastor Ed and his unforgettable humor, Sandy and her charm, you and your spiritedness.

My deepest impression was of my visit just last summer, where I stayed a total of 17 days in California, fortunate enough to accompany Laura and Esther and David and Christina to church for three Sundays in a row. And in a short span of time, my desire to follow Christ was rekindled. My faith grew stronger. Watching and learning from Esther to do TWA’s, encouraged by the vitality and autonomy of the youth worship service here, hearing from Phil in Sunday school… I went back to Syracuse refreshed and renewed. I sought to change some of my habits and desired Christ more deeply. The time that I had spent worshiping and learning about God with this church felt so real. It was the youth of this church that just spoke so deeply to me. Watching people like Jacob and Hannah and Eve and others be such leaders was a true inspiration. I was super impressed with how they organized the farewell party today. But not only them, but everyone else who took on any sort of responsibility in the church. And I am absolutely certain that you, Dan and Linda, and Ed and Sandy as well, were the ones who had the guiding hands to mold and shape the youth ministry here that I learned so much from. I think being in the presence of such amazing people and community really made me yearn for Christ and the fellowship He gives us. On Sundays in my home church it would always be a large congregation, spread over all age groups. Worship was lead by mostly adults. The pastor would preach from a stage, distant and elevated. And then I came here and saw Pastor Dan playing basketball with David, Pastor Ed remembering me and coming to shake my hand, Sandy having some passing conversation with me on the beach, Linda sitting down and socializing with us after service on Sunday. It was so comfortable, so friendly, so warm and inviting… truly, as people have said, a spiritual mother, a second family, someone to text, someone to relate to. A “cool” pastor indeed.

So thank you. For those brief moments that you’ve welcomed me and called me by name, I’m already grateful. You’ve made me feel a part of the church. Your closeness and faith in God has been inspiring, as have your selflessness, love, and patience. Hearing those voices speak alongside mine in prayer at the end… I felt a rush of awe and encouragement, for each one of those voices was a story and a life that you have touched. Each one was a person that you have made connections with and prayed for and loved on for 7 years. Tearful goodbyes were appropriate. But also encouragement and excitement for the future. LSV will be lucky to have you both, let me tell you. I hope that your whole family experiences peace and joy through God as He continues to guide you and use you for His will. I pray for your safety, for those that you are leaving here, for those you will soon be joining in China. I hope that you are blessed as you have blessed so many of us.

I’m surprising myself with how much I have to say, after only coming for a handful of services. But a handful of services is more than enough to experience the love you’ve shown, but more importantly, the love of Jesus that you imitate and reflect to others. Like Linda said, the night was not about you both as individuals, but about God and His loving hands and the work He has accomplished and His ever fulfilling grace. You, Linda and Dan, were just the awesome two vessels that He used and blessed to help others in the fashion that you have, using your gifts and talents, your charismatic personalities, your humor and undying compassion and wisdom to help others. God is good and all powerful, and I genuinely believe that it was a part of His plan to let me join in tonight, to take part in prayer, to have my soul revitalized by the goodness that has flowed through the church. This night, with all of the reminiscing thoughts, choked words, heartfelt prayer, passionate outpouring, honest confession, and eternal thanks, was truly beautiful and all it should have been.

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