Chicago UBF Annual Report by Ron Ward


“’Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.” (Mk 11:22)

First, God answered our prayer. When I look back on 2015, I cannot but thank God for his great faithfulness and deep grace upon us. At the beginning of the year, I took Mark 11:22 as my key verse: “Have faith in God.” It was my prayer to look up at God and depend on God to carry out campus ministry. God is Almighty God. God triumphed over the power of sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is able to do anything he wants to do. It is his good and pleasing will to raise disciples of Christ among young college students as future spiritual leaders who can be used for his world salvation purpose. By his power, love and grace the tides of sin and death can be overcome and life-giving work of the gospel carried out. I tried to look up at God through his living words in 2015. Whenever someone asked me how I was, I answered, “I am living by faith.” It was my honest testimony in the midst of real problems and challenges. With faith in God, my specific prayer topic was to raise 120 students as disciples of Christ. Chicago UBF members embraced this prayer topic and we held it throughout the year. We especially prayed to bring 120 students to our regional summer Bible conference. Exactly 120 students attended. It was precisely God’s answer to prayer. Though there were many ups and downs in 2015, God’s answer to our prayer has been a source of joy and comfort to us and has inspired hope to persevere in campus ministry.

Second, God blessed the ministry of his word. As we put our trust in God and listened to his word in 2015, God blessed us faithfully with life-giving messages. Mother Sarah Barry shared New Year’s messages on Matthew 6 and Philippians 2. Many found their key verses and spiritual direction through her messages. I prepared and delivered the Sunday message 32 times on Mark’s gospel, Hebrews and Luke’s gospel. Sunday messages were also delivered by Dr. James Kim, Steve Stasinos (3), Tim McEathron (2), Dennis Miller, and Kevin Albright (5). In addition, the Chicago elders prepared and delivered a special house church message series: Jim Rarick (Gen 1-2), Dr. Jose Ahn (Gen 25-28), Dr. Augustine Sohn (Gen 12-22), and David Choi (Eph 5). Dr. Alan Wolff gave a special, very inspring Thanksgiving Sunday message on Romans 8:28. P. Abraham Kim shared his powerful New Year’s message on Hebrews 12. P. Bob Henkins shared a very graceful Christmas message on Luke 1:69, “Jesus, the Horn of Salvation.” Through every message the work of the Holy Spirit was evident. God was faithful to provide his living word again and again, which revived our souls and empowered us to persevere in faith. The longer I serve in God’s ministry, the more I realize the importance of a well prepared and spiritual Sunday message. I also realize that only the Holy Spirit can give us such messages. This makes me kneel before the Lord in utter reliance on him. And may all glory and honor be given to our faithful God.

In 2015, we finished Mark’s gospel (13 lessons). We learned the mind of Christ who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Many experienced a transformation from a self-centered mindset to a more Christ-centered mindset and deepened in gospel faith. We also studied the entire book of Hebrews (14 lessons). We learned that Jesus is our Great High Priest who always lives to intercede for us. Seated at the right hand of the Father God, he is able to help us in any trial or difficulty. All we need to do is come to him in faith, persevere, and run the race to the end, until we enter his eternal glory. We also began Luke’s gospel (15 lessons so far). We pray to know Jesus more deeply and to have a sense of God’s history.

The ministry of God’s word was supported by the labor of headquarters and Chicago Bible study teams, who made introductions and study questions. The Chicago staff (Kevin Albright, Elijah Park, David Won, Steve Stasinos, Tim McEathron, and Ron Ward) met regularly to study the passages together, and were joined by Dr. Paul Koh and Dr. Samuel Park who made significant contributions. I was greatly helped in preparing the Sunday messages by Dr. Mark Yang. He was the best partner for me, and was also of tremendous help to our Bible study teams. Even though he turned 70 at the end of the year, his spirit and love for the word of God set the standard for our staff. Mother Sarah Barry prayed for us all as of first importance. Together with her, M. Anna Yang served with prayer and many delicious meals.

By God’s grace, we could have a 7:00 a.m. worship service every Sunday in 2015. Adam Kramarczyk, Darren Gruett, and Rich Ryzewski shared the preaching duty faithfully. About ten people joined regularly. We could also have a 9:00 a.m. Spanish worship service every week under the leadership of Fernando Rayas. About 20 people joined regularly. And the Neighborhood Community Worship service was held every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Moses Lenthang, Henry Asega, and Kevin Albright served this ministry faithfully. About 30 people joined regularly. The total Chicago UBF Sunday attendants was about 375 per week and one-to-one Bible study was about 250 per week. Many college students were among the regular Sunday attendants. God blessed our Christmas worship by sending 586 attendants from Chicago UBF.

Third, thanks to God for the prayer of our elders, women missionaries, and early morning prayer warriors. The Chicago elders have been foundations of prayer support throughout the last one year. They are Dr. Augustine Sohn, Dr. Alan Wolff, Daniel Yang, Jim Rarick, David Choi, Richard Choi, and Dennis Miller. They have met every Tuesday evening to pray for God’s work and his people in Chicago, North America and the world. It has been my privilege to meet with them once a month and to share ministry concerns and prayer topics for Chicago UBF. Under the leadership of Rebecca Choi, the “Hannah’s Meeting” has continued. About 20 women missionaries and leaders meet once a month to share testimonies and pray for the work of God in Chicago UBF and throughout the world. They have been the spiritual backbone of our ministry through their prayers. Elijah Park has stewarded the early morning prayer meetings in Chicago UBF faithfully. These are held Monday through Saturday at 5:30 a.m. God heard the prayers of all of his servants and answered in many ways. Most of all, God blessed the ministry of his word and the evangelism and discipleship of college students. In addition, he showed his kindness in specific ways: granting a kidney to Michelle Li and a new life; granting green cards to Gustavo and Amalia Islas, despite complications that seemed prohibitive; allowing Danny Choi to marry a godly woman Mandy, after Danny had gone through life-threatening illness; the completion of Ph.D. study by Curie Lee, Daniel Park, and David Weed, and many more ways than I can write here. God answers prayer!

Fourth, God blessed our campus ministries. Chicago campus coordinators and assistants met regularly on Mondays to pray for student ministry and to plan joint meetings. The members are Little Sarah Kim and David Won (UIC, Columbia), Kevin Albright and Annie Lee (NU), Jim Rarick and Steve Stasinos (Loyola), Darren Gruett (NEIU), Gustavo Islas (Truman), Elijah Park (Oakton), Daniel Sohn (Harper), Caleb Kim (North Park), and Tony Gale (MVCC). As we gathered, shared testimonies and prayed, we experienced the power of God. Student ministry revived on each campus and the word of God worked powerfully to raise disciples of Christ. Specific campus reports will follow, prepared by campus coordinators. But I want to thank God here for using Little Sarah Kim to serve UIC ministry for the past 8 years. Under her guidance this ministry was rebuilt into a dynamic student ministry in Chicago. This year she entrusted UIC ministry to David Won and began a new student ministry on the north side of Chicago for those from various campuses who need shepherding and Bible study.

We also thank God for blessing our HBF and CBF ministries. Reports on both of these will follow by Sam Toh and Tim McEathron respectively. We thank God for the vibrant CBF ministry in Chicago. Isaac and Rebecca Choi have devoted 40 years of their missionary lives for this ministry. In order to serve more effectively, they have attended many seminars and conferences. Now they have developed their own philosophy and methods for fruitful children’s ministry and are sharing this with others. This year they drove more than 4,200 miles to various UBF chapters to present special lectures on CBF ministry. The fruit of their prayers is evident in Chicago UBF as nearly 30 CBF teachers have served small groups of children throughout the year. Tim McEathron has devoted himself faithfully to support this, together with his wife Sharon. M. Birgit Pierce’s tearful prayers have been a power source for the blessing of CBF as well. The fruit of CBF ministry is often not seen for many years. But CBF graduates are professional doctors, lawyers, engineers, and the like, and serve in fruitful campus ministries all over the world. Many of them credit CBF as a vital part of their spiritual formation.

The challenges of HBF ministry are very great. Most churches the size of Chicago UBF have a youth pastor on staff who is financially supported. Sam and Anna Toh have taken the cross of serving HBF without any financial support and given their hearts to the task. They have worked hard and creatively, bearing many difficult issues that arise with young people in their teenage years. They have carried out conferences especially designed for high school students and encouraged Bible study, praise, and prayer. Many young people have kept their identity in Christ during their high school years by the help of HBF. In the past year, Helen Kim, Francis Choi and Christine Mun supported this ministry fully. Helen has grown as a fruitful one-to-one Bible teacher and will continue to serve.  Francis will go to Uganda as a missionary. Christine will join another church with our blessing. Yvonne Lee, who seems well suited to co-work with HBF leaders and to serve high school students will join HBF in the new year.

Fifth, God blessed us to serve world mission. We thank God for enabling Chicago to serve the world mission ministry of UBF by supporting precious servants of God dedicated to missionary care, including our General Director P. Abraham Kim and his wife Sarah, Mother Sarah Barry, Grace A. Lee, and Dr. John and Sarah Jun. Chicago UBF members joyfully served in providing spiritual and logistical support in many ways, and took this as a divine privilege. We were also glad to host various meetings and conferences, including an IEB meeting, and the Leadership Development Workshop, and to provide support for the upcoming 2018 International Summer Bible Conference to be held in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, Chicago UBF leaders visited many UBF chapters throughout the USA and the world to serve, and were mutually encouraged. We earnestly pray for the raising of missionaries to preach the gospel to all nations, including Muslim countries, North Korea and China. We also pray to support the missionaries sent out from the USA in any way that is helpful to carry out world mission.

Sixth, God established seven new families. It was our great joy to participate in God’s work to establish seven new families in 2015. They include four that took place in Chicago UBF: Francis Choi (Chicago: HBF) & Teresa Sung (Uganda) on January 10, with the theme “He has made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecc 3:11). Nathaniel Turnock (Philadelphia) & Marie Juarez (Chicago: Truman) on May 2, with the theme “In all things, God works for good” (Ro 8:28). Leibins Rivas (Venezuela) & Diana Guzman (Chicago: UIC) on October 3, with the theme “May God’s grace shine through us” (Ps 67:1-2). Matthew Groters (Chicago: Truman) & Sunny Luci Wu (China, Chicago: UIC) on November 28 with the theme, “The Lord bestows favor and honor” (Ps 84:11-12). God also established three families who are closely related to Chicago UBF members: John and Sumin Kim (John is the son of Dr. James and Sarah Kim; Sumin is a wonderful Christian woman), Daniel and Mandy Choi (Daniel is the son of Isaac and Rebecca Choi; Mandy is a woman of faith in Christ), Sean and April Cho (Sean is a missionary from Korea UBF and April is from Oakton ministry; they married in Korea). We pray that each of these families may take deep root in God himself through his word and become a source of blessing for each respective mission field. Francis and Teresa will go to Uganda in the summer of 2016 to live as permanent missionaries.

Seventh, my personal thanksgiving to God. Personally, I thank God for strengthening me by his grace through his powerful word, in the midst of many challenges. I began the year in Kazakhstan, attending the CIS director’s conference. In February, it was necessary for me to go to Seoul to attend an IEB meeting to pray for the election of the General Director. In March, I visited dear brothers and sisters in Moscow to support a messenger workshop. In April, I attended the Latin American conference in Mexico. In the midst of all this travel, I had to oversee and serve the Chicago UBF ministry. It was too much for me. Then, one morning, the Lord spoke to my heart, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Php 4:13). The strength and wisdom that God gives enabled me to persevere and to work effectively for his ministry. Later in the year, in the midst of Hebrews study, I became overwhelmed and felt totally inadequate to continue. Then the Lord visited me personally through his words, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16). As I approached Jesus in prayer, the Holy Spirit poured into my heart with deeply refreshing joy and grace. The Lord sustained me throughout the entire study. In November, in the midst of serving God’s work, I became aware of my own spiritual complacency. I was conscience-stricken for elements of a civilian mentality in the midst of spiritual warfare going on all around me. At that moment, the Lord helped me to come to the cross and meet him who shed his precious blood for me. By his grace, he spoke to my heart my 2014 key verse, “Be shepherds of God’s flock,” and renewed my spirit and awakened me to serve him for the rest of the year.

One of my constant personal prayer topics was for my son David to come to Jesus. To be honest, as I was like a prodigal son to my parents, so he has been to me. God has used him as a tremendous source of blessing for my spiritual growth. Through him I have learned the love of God and the power of persistent prayer in a way that has really changed me. As I prayed for David this year, the Lord reminded me that his name was inspired by the Holy Spirit on the night he was born through Acts 13:22 “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” The Lord sees him with great hope, to be a man after God’s own heart. Since the Lord has hope, I too have hope and could pray for him faithfully. At the end of the year, when he was in a time of crisis, the Holy Spirit visited me and gave me his power and wisdom. Then, when I assured David that God loves him, his heart was moved and he acknowledged his own sinfulness. It was a new beginning for him. He was willing to play the piano for our Christmas worship service. When I saw him doing so, my own heart was moved by God’s love and faithfulness.

    I am grateful for the support and prayer of my wife. She used to be known as Deborah, a name she gave herself over 30 years ago. But in the last five years, she has experienced a personal spiritual awakening and experienced the power of the gospel deeply. She is finding herself as God created her. Now she believes that her given name, “Dervilla” better reflects God’s work in her life. It means “daughter of Fal,” or “daughter of Ireland.” Though first of all, she is a daughter of God, redeemed in Christ, she is also an Irish woman by blood. As she has been changed inwardly, the valuable elements of a genuine Irish woman have come to the surface more: honesty, a sense of justice, a fighting spirit, and courage to speak the truth. At the same time, the Irish temper has dissipated. “Dervilla” fits who she is becoming in Christ. Only 462 women in the United States have that name. She is such a unique and creative person that I agreed with her to make her name change. In God’s perfect providence, she has been the best wife for me. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in October. She has been a courageous and loving mother for our six children, enduring many agonies as a pastor’s wife. She helped me in my ministry by proofreading my messages.

    When I look back, it is so evident that my Lord Jesus upheld, strengthened and sustained me during 2015 by his grace alone. All I can do is give thanks to the Lord and glorify him for his great faithfulness. I am also thankful for all of the warriors of prayer who interceded for me faithfully in 2015.

Eighth, be a wise builder in 2016. As I prepared a message on Luke 6:43-49 for the last Sunday of 2015, the Lord moved my heart to take Luke 6:48 for myself and Chicago UBF in 2016. Referring to those who hear his word and put it into practice, Jesus said, “They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.” It is sure that torrents will come to everyone and to every church. These torrents include the moral relativism that is evident in the recent public acceptance of gay marriage, the threat of Islamization and the fear and anger it engenders, the spiritual complacency that follows material abundance, sinful desires within, temptations of the devil, personal trials through death, broken relationships, financial trials, failures, and more. In the midst of these torrents, Christian leaders can be tempted to compromise to gain immediate benefits or to avoid persecution. This may seem smart, but it will surely lead to destruction. The only solid rock is Jesus Christ. Only those who build on Christ will withstand the storms and never be put to shame (1Cor 3:11; 1Pe 2:4,6, et al.). So Jesus urges us to be like a wise builder who digs down deep to lay our foundation. This digging down deep refers to the practical struggle to accept his word and to put it into practice. There are a variety of ways to do this, but in our ministry this has been done through deep Bible study with sincere testimony writing and sharing, as well as through personal Bible reading, Bible memorization, daily devotion, and small group Bible study. I am sorry to say that in recent years, our spirit to write and share Bible testimonies has been weakened. It is imperative that we renew the spirit to struggle with God’s words and put them into practice. If we carry out many activities, but fail to lay a good foundation on Christ through his words, our ministry will not bear the fruit that God wants. It is imperative that we heed Jesus’ warning and be wise builders who struggle to put his words into practice, both personally and in our community. So I have six prayer topics based on this key verse:

  • For life-giving Sunday messages on Luke’s gospel every week.
  • For each campus and church ministry to focus on the deep study of Luke’s gospel, and to write and share testimonies weekly.
  • For fellowship leaders to meet all together to share testimonies on Luke’s gospel and pray together once a month.
  • For 500 Sunday worship attendants and 1,000 regular weekly Bible studies.
  • For the raising of 12 committed disciples of Christ among students on each Chicago area campus.
  • For the sending of missionaries to major universities in the USA and Canada, as well as other nations, who are in need of gospel workers.
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