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Understanding the meaning of Christmas through our Milal Friends

Hello, my name is Jenny Choi and I would like to share about my experience as a volunteer at the Milal Christmas banquet. I attend Grace Community Chapel and this was my third time volunteering at Milal through Grace-In-Motion

I had gone in to this event feeling weary from the holiday-season frenzy. After gift-shopping, exchanging white-elephant gifts, and attending end-of-the-year meetings, I was beginning to lose sight of why I was doing these things. Volunteering for Milal became just another thing to do in the midst of the busyness. Somewhere in my Christian walk, I had become very good at serving out of duty, not desire. In many ways, serving became a bigger part of my identity than my relationship with Christ, and I came to believe that God needed me more than he desired to spend time with me. What should have been an act of worship became an obligation.

But while I walked in to this event with the mindset that I was fulfilling a duty, the attitude of the friends at Milal was the exact opposite. As they walked downstairs and entered the decorated banquet hall, they had genuine wonder and anticipation on their faces. To them, this event was a celebration of Jesus’s birth, a reunion with old friends, and a chance to have a genuinely good time. As they joyfully entered the room and filled the atmosphere with giddy excitement, eager to spend time with us and each other, I asked myself a question: “What am I really here for?”

Before we were assigned our partners, Brian, a high school student, came in and immediately seemed to recognize me. He was dressed festively in a bright red sweater and his mom had helped neatly slick back his hair. I was partnered with him last year, and while it had taken him a while to warm up to me then, this year he responded right away and seemed happy to see me.

I quickly learned that though Brian could initially seem aloof and disengaged because of his quiet demeanor, he is actually incredibly social and tuned in to people. While I was having a conversation with another volunteer, he would lean in and softly speak his own imperceptible words, imitating our gestures and tone of voice as though he longed to be part of the conversation. He would go up to complete strangers and put their guard down as he would gently reach over to hug them or carefully inspect their belongings. I would have preferred to remain inconspicuous and stay in the back of the room, but being partnered with Brian repeatedly brought me to the front of the room. If something near the stage caught his attention, he would walk over with a steady, but determined pace. At some points, I had to hold on to him to prevent him from walking up to the different performers, because his curiosity and love of people made it hard for him to simply sit by as a spectator. He would walk up to the EnoB singers in the middle of their powerfully-sung solos and speak into the mic. If there was fast-paced music playing, he would take my hand to clap to the beat.

What moved me most about Brian was his way of worshipping God freely, without regard for time and place. When Tony, dressed as Santa Claus, handed out presents to each person while taking pictures, worship music flowed softly through the speakers at the front of the room. Listening to the music, Brian stopped immediately, closed his eyes, and tilted his head in a posture of worship. It was evident that he had heard the song before and associated it with worshipping in that way. Then, undeterred by what was going on in the room, he stood up and walked in his steady but determined way to the front, right next to the speakers, and raised his hands in worship. I was worried that he might draw attention away from the main event, and therefore tried to steer him away from the camera’s line of vision, but in hindsight it wasn’t necessary. For someone who often fears stepping out of my comfort zone or being seen, Brian’s simple act of worship was a bold reminder to be free and undignified before the Lord.

Volunteering with the friends at Milal, even if it was for a few short hours, helped recalibrate my understanding of God and of myself. He doesn’t need the strong, but the weak. He doesn’t need my service, but my undivided attention. When I can be like the friends at Milal and have a simple, child-like faith and enjoyment of the presence of God and others, I can worship in spirit and truth. Though it’s not always easy, I was challenged to worship without caring about who in the room is watching me. Worshipping before God, “I can be even more undignified than this.”

It was a blessing to be able to take part in this Christmas banquet. The friends at Milal may not be successful or rich by the world’s standards, but if they can love each other and worship God, they are in a good place.

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