Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In Los Angeles! Goobye Air Force!

It is now two days and a half since we flew in from Germany (my wife and I) to begin our new life here in Los Angeles (Buena Park, Orange County). Today I officially have signed out at the Los Angeles AFB to let them know I arrived safely and began to take my final vacation days until I'm technically out of the Air Force.

There's much more I'd like to write about, but I'll do that in the future once the craziness settles down. I'm still dealing with some jet lag, and have gone on Internet researching/purchasing splurges building my dream Home Theatre system I've been neglecting while being stationed in Germany. . . I'll tell you how I got $600 off a Samsung 4665F LCD TV ;-) from Best Buy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

My Past Two Years and the Spiritual Darkness of the Military Base

CORRECTION: I didn't have a car for only two months rather than years.

It’ll be two years since I joined the Air Force in July 29th. What’s the overall assessment? Suffering. . . but good (but no I would not do it all over again if I knew better. . .) Here’s a rundown of what I’ve experienced in the past two years according to category (you can get a more detailed description of the specific experiences by going through the history of the items that have an * next to them ):

Financial

1) Invested in my first Roth IRA

2) Moved into my first apartment in Germany *

3) Became financially independent from my parents for the first time

4) Bought my first, brand new car *

Church Community

1) Quit two ministries after active involvement due to differences in vision with leadership *

2) Got fired from one ministry due to my views of one of the ministries I quit above *

3) Listened to every single Acts29Network and The Resurgence podcast/vodcast along with most of Mark Driscoll’s sermons along with much of Erwin McManus’ *

Personal

1) Proposed on the Eiffel tower *

2) Got married in glorious Spokane, WA *

3) Traveled enough to know I don’t like it and got my first pick pocket experience

4) Had no car for two years and biked everywhere *

5) Learned a improved keyboard layout – Dvorak!!! *

6) JeffersonKim.com helps a long lost cousin reestablish contact *

Military

1) 9 months of working weird, 12 hour shifts, sometimes entire weekends (72 hours) all by myself without interacting with a single person

2) Volunteered to quit two years earlier than my four year commitment

3) Sheltered during Hurricane Katrina for 7 days *

4) Got my website censored from the networks

So we all learn the best through conflict and suffering. It’s fairly clear from my past posts that I learned quite a bit through the Church community and the military work environment. Now the question becomes on solutions. After much deliberation, I’ve concluded that there is no hope for the church community here. If I were to describe hell, I would probably describe this area.

As for military. . . there is hope, but that’s an arena that I don’t want to claim even enough experience or insight to be so bold as to publicize a possible solution. Basically, I have my opinions, but there are much smarter people in much more authoritative positions to be able to fix the problem. And I would say now that they’re actually laying off Air Force personnel, they are at least making the attempt to fix the problem, which is more than I can say about myself.

So going back to the church community around here. . . there’s no hope. And here’s why.

First, to discern what a healthy Christian community will look like it should have multiple aspects, and here are some.

1) Teach from the Bible exegetically, which means that they’re trying to understand the original intention of the authors and extrapolate to our context

2) Teach the Bible as though it’s a book essentially about Christ and not as a book on how man should live his life

3) A community that loves one another

4) A community that loves the local military community with the hope that they will come to know Christ

5) Reach their community as though they were missionaries in a foreign country

All items above need to be spearheaded by strong leadership. So until there is strong leadership, there can be no hope. Had I known there wasn’t strong leadership out here, I might’ve tried starting my own ministry out here. . . but seriously, would I do it knowing I would only be out here for two years? Probably not. . . so that relates to some factors that bring together hopelessness to have strong leadership:

1) People tend to live here and move within a three year period because the Air Force moves them. We’re talking an entire leadership, and congregational turnover within three years!!! That’s CRAZY enough to destroy a ministry and make any leader want to quit, but add more. . .

2) Military personnel have to deploy for 4 months or more and travel back to the states for weeks at a time. So not only can the people only stay for about three years, but then they deploy for months at a time! Not only that, but when holidays come around, they will most likely return back to the States for vacation or travel.

3) The American community is isolated with about 60,000 people. We’re talking a small town completely isolated from the rest of the world! No large city nearby (not even a German city) that people commute from. . . this is it! In other words, if you’re a talented leader, you’ll probably focus your energies on a large city stateside, rather than some small military community. For you Seattlites. . . imagine Everett completely isolated and see what strong church communities come from that. . .

4) Travelling. . . We’re here in Germany. . . what do you think most people are going to try and do on the weekends? That’s right. Travel! We’re only a four-hour drive from Paris!

It comes down to this. You need time to create meaningful community and strong leadership. Military personnel in the military predominantly cannot or choose not to commit to a meaningful community due to their unique position and transient lifestyle. Strong leaders will come to recognize that they can simply impact much more people by going stateside where they can disciple people for a longer period of time.

That’s just one of the prices military personnel face. Transient living.

The lack of Christ centered, biblical, and missionally focused community has been hell for me. Like, if I were to be in hell, he could just stick me here. Well. . . I guess if I knew I was here for three more years, I’d make something of it, but by the time I got kicked out/quit all the ministries and discovered that the leadership out here didn’t hold the same ecclesiology as me, it was too late to create something substantial of my own.

Well, hopefully the suffering I went through will teach me to be a lot more careful and discerning in the future before committing to a ministry or church community.