Celebrating 5 years of The District Church

tdc launch day 1

I took this picture on September 19, 2010, when I walked through the doors of the cafeteria at Capital City Public Charter School and felt like I was home.

It was the first public gathering of The District Church — 48 people and two kids showed up. It was a testament to the strange and marvelous way that God works; we’d grown a lot in just four months from a small group of about a dozen folks, none of whom had ever intentionally started a church before. Little did we know what was to come out of the faithfulness of Aaron and Amy Graham in responding to God’s call to plant a church in DC.

I found this video from 2011, where I share some of how God led me to be a part of this community I’ve called home for the last few years:

Yesterday, we celebrated our fifth anniversary. Five years of learning how to follow God better, how to love others better, how to be more like Jesus. Five years of doing life alongside new friends, old friends, dear friends, and family. Five years of seeing God’s faithfulness and God’s Spirit doing far more than we could ever have done or even imagined on our own.

Five years has seen a vast amount of change even in my own life:

  • my job description has changed from Leadership Resident to Associate Pastor to East Side parish pastor to Pastor of Teaching and Formation;
  • I’ve been ordained, baptized folks, and married folks;
  • I met Carolyn, we got engaged, married, bought a house, got a dog (living into our Jeremiah 29 commission? Next up: plant a garden!).

And what I thought would be a year-long internship has become my home for as long as God has me here.

I’m so unbelievably grateful for God’s grace in my own life. And even more so in the lives of those I’ve been privileged to get to know over these last five years; whether they’ve been passing through DC or whether they’ve put down their roots here, countless folks have chosen to throw in their lot with the rest of us, desperately daring to believe God is still at work in our city.

Let me share with you our most recent (5th Anniversary Edition) Annual Report, another testament to God’s faithfulness and the power of God’s Spirit:

Here’s to all that’s gone before and all that’s still to come. Thanks be to God.

I’m giving my birthday away for Iraq and Syria

In just under two weeks, I turn 32. (That’s weird to see.)

Anyway, this year I wanted to do something a little different for my birthday, and I need your help to do it. Many of you already know my friend Eugene Cho, and the organization he started, One Day’s Wages, “a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.”

One of the options ODW makes available is donating one’s birthday for a cause. And so that’s what I’m doing.

My goal is to raise $2,500 for One Day’s Wages’ IRAQ & SYRIA RELIEF FUND by the end of November, and I need your help. Will you join me in giving?

The United Nations estimates that, since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011:

  • almost 200,000 people have lost their lives;
  • about 4,000,000 people have been forced to flee their homeland;
  • with millions more displaced within Syria.

As the threat of the so-called Islamic State has spread from Syria to Iraq, ODW has expanded their efforts to respond to the plight of Iraqi refugees as well. And every cent of your donation will go toward providing aid and respite for these refugees.

As we say at The District Church, every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is precious to God. The plight of displaced Syrians and Iraqis doesn’t often make the front pages any more, but their lives and livelihoods are no less important.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

* 100% of your donations will go straight to the cause.

[Photo: Khalil Mazraawi – AFP/Getty Images]

Baptisms and birthdays

This past weekend, we celebrated:
EAST SIDE’S FIRST BIRTHDAY (yeah, it’s already been a year!). Thank you for your prayer and your support as the first District Church plant has reached this milestone — and we’re still here! It’s a tremendous testament to the grace of God at work, cultivating relationships, and we celebrated with a cookout in a couple East Siders’ back yard!
BAPTISMS. Five people got baptized on Sunday, including A., a teenager who’d walked into one of our first East Side services and stayed, helping out where she could and joining us for post-service dinners. Two weeks ago, I was able to pray with her to accept Jesus as her Savior, and on Sunday I was able to baptize her. It was an amazing experience and I may (or may not) have gotten a little choked up. Again, so grateful for the grace of God powerfully and evidently at work.
Please be praying for all of those who were baptized and for all of us here at The District Church, that we would continue to seek after God with everything we’ve got and to love our neighbors.

Thanksgiving at 30

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Yesterday, I turned 30, and I was reminded this past week–especially in light of this coming week–of how much I have to be thankful for: doing a job I love in a city I love, among people I love, with a family I love supporting me (even from afar).

There really isn’t a way to adequately convey how full my heart is after the events of the last week: from having my friend Rachel in town, to celebrating Austin & Maggie’s engagement, to numerous birthdays this week (Jordan, Erin, Rachel, Amy), to going to see LIGHTS for the fifth time (below), to the birthday party that was thrown for me last night.

When I was leaving California three years ago, a friend wrote this to me:

As you go, I hope that you see and are seen, that you inspire and are inspired, that you know and are known.

Over the last few years, I’ve been so humbled to see how these things have come to pass. Knowing and being known is pretty core for a nomad like myself, and God has been so faithful in this.

This is now the longest I’ve been in one place since I left Hong Kong almost fifteen years ago, and while every few years has been punctuated with a new chapter, this is the first time that, instead of going on to the next thing or to a new place, I’ll be putting my roots down deeper.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to have done any of that without all of you who’ve been involved–from the over fifty people who have supported me financially over the last two years, to those of you who’ve been so faithful in prayer for me, and to those who have been friends and family to me for longer still.

This Thanksgiving, at the beginning of a new chapter entitled “My Thirties,” I’ll refer to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Yesterday, my dad sent this quote from Confucius:

At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing the norm.

Standing firm … I like that.

75

My dad was born on November 9, 1937. Which (for the more arithmetically challenged or lazy) means he’s now 75 years old. And over the last thirty years, I’ve been privileged, honored, and humbled to watch and to learn from him. There really aren’t enough words to do justice to the person my dad is:

  • as a father, offering wisdom, counsel, love, support, and prayer;
  • as a husband, demonstrating amazing love to my mom, and the humility and sacrifice necessary to make a marriage work;
  • as a scholar, in his commitment over the last forty plus years to an ethic of hard work and diligence, and faithfulness to the Scriptures and to theology–what Anselm described as “faith seeking understanding”;
  • and most of all as a follower of Christ, exemplifying for me “a long obedience in the same direction,” consistency in spending time in Scripture and in prayer, in love of and humble service to others, in integrity and faithfulness over many, many years.

And to appropriate some words I wrote to Dad on the occasion of his 70th birthday, but which still hold true (with an edit and update or two):

“Participating in the work of the kingdom of God isn’t about building one’s own legacy. Being a first generation Christian, and raising three sons who all went to seminary and are now pastors, for some it might be a temptation to think in such terms. But your humility before, your obedience to and your relationship with our Lord has served as a safeguard against this. Your attitude towards us has indelibly shaped and defined how I will view my own kids (if and when, God willing, I have some!): “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Ps. 127:3). Whenever people compliment you and Mom for the way you’ve raised us—usually with words like “Great job!”—you would always direct the acclaim to the right place: “Only by the grace of God …” You taught me that there is nothing greater than our God and his kingdom; no family legacy, personal fame, global recognition—there is no higher goal than following and serving God. And in an age where the culture sorely tempts us otherwise, I thank you for the foundations you laid.

“A theme that pervades the Bible, and especially the Psalms, is that of trusting in the Lord. You and Mom have showed me what this looks like, in allowing Clem, Gabe and I to walk our paths, trusting that God was big enough to guide us, that his reach was long enough to keep us—whether we knew it or not. You never prescribed a career or vocation path for us, never pressured us into being doctors or lawyers or pastors; all you asked of us was that we follow Christ. Even when we didn’t—as each of us wrestled and struggled with Christianity, each at points not sure we would even follow in your footsteps of faith—you continued to be faithful, to hold us up in prayer, to intercede on our behalf and to lay your hopes and anxieties for us before God. And by the grace of this God, we’re all back; and you continue to trust God for us even as we’re scattered across the globe. I hope I can have the same faith—“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)—that you demonstrated, and be able to trust God in my own life and for the lives of those whom I love.

“There are so many things that I learned from you, Dad. Some I have learned directly—through your teaching and your words; but most I have learned indirectly—through your exemplary actions, lifestyle and attitudes, and also through the way you raised Clem and Gabe before me—I can see the same positive values and attributes in them, and I hear you in their words. I know that I can come to them for counsel and advice, and be guided by the same wisdom, clear-thinking and reason—not to mention openness to God’s leading and the movement of the Spirit—that you provide when I come to you. I look at them as parents, seeing your influence on the way they raise their kids, and I see what I want to be like as a parent: giving out as much love as is humanly possible in seeking to raise mature, responsible and God-loving kids. And as men of God, you have set the bar, and so I also seek to follow Christ and live with integrity, to love God and to love neighbor, to look out for those who are less privileged than us, to be responsible with the blessings and resources God has given us, to seek to make a difference in this world in the ways that God has called us, and to have fun and enjoy the life and breath that we have been given.

I thank God that you are my father; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD.