Moment for Mission
“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, … so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” — Ephesians 1:11-12, NRSV
In 1981, life was difficult for In-Sook Hwang and her husband, Bong-Choul, a doctoral student at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Struggling to feed their little family of four, Hwang found a job as a custodian in a United Methodist church. Expecting people to bring their Bibles to church as they did in Hwang’s native Korea, she was surprised that most brought a potluck dish instead! She was never invited to eat with the congregation, however, but was left to clean up afterward. “For the first time,” she remembered, “I experienced what it was like being marginalized.”
But Hwang was thankful for the opportunity to tidy God’s house. “One day, while I was cleaning the church windows,” she said, “God’s words shone a light to my darkness. In that situation, God called me to be his servant”—but not to clean church buildings.
Hwang, who had never seen a clergywoman in her life, “accepted God’s call to be an ordained pastor.” She applied to Iliff, received scholarships and, eventually, began a 30-year vocation as a United Methodist clergywoman, serving as a pastor and a district superintendent in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.
Newly retired as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Carbondale, Illinois, the Rev. In-Sook Hwang exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for his amazing grace!”
Yes, thanks be to God! Through United Methodist support of the Ministerial Education Fund, our denomination’s 13 seminaries help students like Hwang discover their calling.
Loving God, thank you for pastors and others you call to tell your story and share your love. Remind us to claim our inheritance in you and to “set our hope on Christ.” You bless us beyond our wildest dreams, and we are grateful. Amen.
From Discipleship Resources: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost/in Kingdomtide — Architect and Designer of the Universe, the heavens themselves shout your name and power. We often struggle to know our place in creation, and too rarely have we reminded ourselves that there are those who will not know you unless they hear you proclaimed from our hearts. We give our tithes and offerings this morning, grateful that we have a way, in our giving and our living, to proclaim the name and power of your blessed Son, Jesus the Christ! Amen. (Mark 6:13-29
Growing up in a conservative Presbyterian congregation in Korea, In-Sook Hwang loved reading the Bible. “I knew God must have a very special purpose in my life,” she recalled. “I knew I was called to serve God.”
As a child, Hwang was drawn to the Old Testament story of Joseph. Like Joseph, she said, “I cherished the dream that God planted in my heart—that I would serve the Lord with my life.”
After applying to law school and failing the “very tough and competitive” entrance exam, Hwang was devastated. “I was wandering in a spiritual wilderness,” she said. “But I knew that God loved me so much and gifted me with faith in Jesus Christ.”
Thanks to United Methodist support of the Ministerial Education Fund, the Rev. In-Sook Hwang discovered and fulfilled her dream, not to become “a righteous judge,” but to become God’s servant to transform people’s lives. She has served as an ordained elder in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. She retired in July 2018.