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A New Chapter

Pete Sung

There is no doubt Rick Warren is a once-in-a-generation genius when it comes to church. It's all grounded in God's love, God's word, and God's unchanging purposes for our lives. I feel grateful to have been a pastor on Rick's staff and to learn the nuts and bolts of the purpose-driven system. Now, I hope to make good on being a "purpose-driven ambassador" to the world.

A Grateful Farewell to Saddleback

After an absolutely amazing season serving with the fine people of Saddleback church, Vivian and I have accepted an offer to return to Bayside to plant the next generation of churches in Northern California.

We’re a church for people who don’t like church
— Ray Johnston, Bayside Church

Ray Johnston is the visionary leader and founding pastor of Bayside Church. Along with fellow senior pastors Kurt Harlow, Andrew McCourt, and Lincoln Brewster, Ray has developed a culture of collaboration that is redefining what church leadership looks like in today's world.

We will miss the many family and friends we've enjoyed spending time with in Southern California these past seven years, but are thrilled to return home where we will help push multisite church-planting to the next level.

There are so many people to thank for the wonderful experience we've had at Saddleback, but it all comes back to Pastor Rick, who's vision, leadership, and heart created one of the most influential churches the world has ever known.

We will miss you all, especially the multisite team, my campus pastor bruthas, and the amazing crew at Saddleback South Bay. That said, we can't wait to get started up north. Let the good times roll in the name of Jesus. We're coming home!

This is the amazing lobby of Bayside Blue Oaks, one of the newest Bayside campuses. I love this picture for what it tells me about living out a healthy church expression--people connecting with people in the name of Jesus. Oh, and if you look closely near the bottom right of the picture, you'll see the one-and-only Jason Krogh (Blue Oaks campus pastor) rocking the tuxedo t-shirt as he welcomes people to the campus.

Play Ball!

Pete Sung

So hilariously awesome! An amazing pack of preschoolers playing t-ball. JP played his first game today with the Rancho Mission Viejo Little League Rangers and it was a blast!

They looked so good in their little uniforms and competed with the adoration and cheers of an impressive crowd of parents and grandparents. It was in this moment that Vivian asked with delight, “Is this a dream come true for you?”

Hmmm… What a great question.

Well, in many ways, I suppose it is. To see my son out there with “SUNG” emblazoned on the back of his jersey was a little surreal. I’ve always dreamed of being a father, but there have been times in my life when I wasn’t sure that would ever happen.

For one, was that oh-so-confusing period of singleness. I teetered along the spectrum from thinking, “I don’t know if anyone would ever want to marry me,” to, "I don’t know if I ever want to get married.” A little extreme I admit. Fortunately, Vivian burst onto the scene of my life, and has proven to be just the perfect partner.

Another moment that threw fatherhood in doubt was my time serving in combat. Without getting too deep into the morbid details, I was forced to face the very real prospect of never returning from the Middle East. Good thing is I’m here (unless I’m stuck in some kind of M. Night Shyamalan movie), so I’m grateful for that.

So is it a dream come true? For sure. It's an absolute privilege and joy to be a parent and see my child experience the exhilaration of life. It’s something I hope I don’t ever take for granted.

Here’s a good word I’m thinking of to help keep me focused on the right things with my son. Although this takes the conversation in a different direction, it's a helpful piece of guidance from the scriptures:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
— Ephesians 6:4

I like this verse because it reminds me of two things,

  1. Don’t project unhealthy expectations onto your children, and
  2. Keep your priorities straight, raise your kids to have the kind of character the Lord desires.

These are common parenting pitfalls I'll have to stay vigilant against. But with the help a supportive community, I'm optimistic I'll survive ... or rather my kids will survive!

Four-Wheeling in Trabuco Canyon

Pete Sung

“This is crazy!" she screamed, "Is your adrenaline pumping!?!"

At the base of Trabuco Canyon, on the doorstep of the Holy Jim trail, is a sweet little off-road spot frequented by many four-wheelers in South Orange County. I’d been here a few times with the boys, but yesterday was our first time taking Vivian.

“Is this what boys like to do?”

I loved the way she asked the question. She wasn't being sarcastic or "judgey." She was just genuinely curious as she watched me and the boys laughing our heads-off while driving through every bump, rock, mud pit, and creek bed on our path. It was one WILD ride.

We’re approaching our seventh year down in Southern California and it has definitely been a wild ride. These intense years have been filled with amazing highs and regrettable lows. Some of them have made sense… even been predictable: raising a family, meeting new friends, plugging into our church family, working on film projects, graduating from seminary, serving as a pastor, and for Vivian this year returning to teaching. But there have been plenty of unpredictable twists: job changes, health issues, shady landlords, relational struggles, and financial worries. But through it all we’ve seen God move mountains in our lives and we’re abundantly grateful for that.

One challenge I didn’t account for was the frequency of our moves. Years ago, when I finished my service with the military, the one thing I wanted was to settle down. As an officer I had moved, on average, every year of my military service. I lived in four different states and four different countries. That made it hard to get to know people well. I longed to take my relationships deeper, but it just didn’t happen.

Now fast forward a decade and I'm on the move again. This time with my family in tow. Probably the place where it hurts the most, is seeing the effect on Ethan. He’s a friendly and resilient boy, but he’s had to attend four different schools in the last four years. It wasn’t a big deal the first few years. This past year, though, we could see the difficulty of stepping into a new school and making friends. This was a challenge, especially in a small school where the kids had already known each other for a good while. It took some time, but Ethan made big strides. It’s good to see him enjoying school again.

To some degree Vivian and I also experience the challenge of relationship building. But now that we’ve been through this a few times, we see the great benefit and privilege of getting to know so many people in so many places. God has been our guide, stretching our relational skills to their limits. Through it all we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and the communities of people we’ve been a part of. Because of this, our hearts have grown in love and grace.

So as we look forward to the coming year, we are optimistic about what lies ahead. Sure, we have no idea what twists and turns will come, but we remain confident in God and what he will do, no matter the circumstance.

Here’s a verse I often return to. It helps give me confidence to face the bumpy roads of life.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33

Exceedingly Fond - AAI Promo 2015

Pete Sung

It’s finally done. After months of intense laboring, the promotional video for the Asian American Initiative at Fuller Seminary is complete. I have to admit, it was tough on me. I wore many hats in making this video: director, producer, editor, animation director, cameraman, among the many. And I can’t tell you how many hours I put into it (actually I’m afraid to total it up). But I’m glad to say it’s finally ready.

A little background on it. As a student in the Asian American Initiative, I have benefitted from the wisdom and experience of both Ken Fong and Daniel Lee. They have blessed me with their thoughtfulness and foresight in carefully developing me to be a better leader. So I felt a personal stake in creating a video that authentically reflected their vision while at the same time served as a helpful invitation to others.

While I now have several videos under my belt, this one really stretched me. Probably the biggest challenge was directing the animation sequences. It was totally new to me. I had the privilege of working with several talented animators. Kenji Ono, a feature film storyboard artist at Dreamworks, got us going with the storyboards. Hannah Joe, a recent art school graduate from Otis College of Art and Design, handled the character design. While Kuangheng Hwang, usually an industry 3D animation artist, lowered himself a dimension to tackle the movement of our characters. With meticulous care, they took on each of my demands and put the pieces together.

To give you a better sense of the transformative work that went into taking this piece from concept to print here’s a look at Kenji’s storyboard of the Older Brother character stewing over the Younger Brother’s party. We sought to convey the misplaced motivation of trying to earn his father’s love so we decided to show the Older Brother reflecting on all his hard work with a mental montage, and his face of disgust sitting prominently in the middle.

We went through several renditions. In it’s final form, we decided to go with a simplified version of the images, appearing one-by-one, with a prominent tree in the background whose fruit turns to black as the Older Brother reaches his boiling point (by the way, trees are meant to be a recurring symbol throughout the video).

There were plenty of others who served important roles in the making of the video, but the unsung heroes were my family. They put up with not having their husband and father around much for months on end as I juggled this project with the many other demands on my plate. Now that it's over, hopefully the video will serve it's function well. But even if it misses the mark, I remain very grateful for the people I worked with and the many lessons I learned.

Evon Hedley

Pete Sung

Evon, Viv, and JP horsing around over breakfast at Central Park near Old Town Pasadena.

We could all use a mentor. A person with wisdom and experience. Someone we can learn from. Someone who can guide us through life and maybe help us avoid unnecessary pitfalls. But how do we actually find a mentor? I struggled with this when I first moved to Los Angeles. While I met many wonderful people, I had a hard time finding others who had the time and willingness to get to know really get to know me.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
— Proverbs 13:20

I was willing. Over the years, especially since becoming a Christian, I've learned to value opening myself up, even the ugly parts. But I had a hard time finding others who were willing to open themselves up to me. It was discouraging. So I looked for other ways. I tried to learn as much as I could through books. I had works on leadership, discipleship, even biographies of great Christian leaders like Billy Graham, and while I learned a lot, something was still missing.

In the winter of my first year at Fuller Seminary, I took a class from Dr. Julie Gorman on Adult Discipleship. One of the great features of the class was an end of the quarter party connecting us young seminarians with a group of distinguished ladies and gentlemen from a nearby retirement home. It was here, I first had a chance to meet Evon Hedley.

Evon (right) as a young man with Douglas Waters prior to his sendoff as a Canadian delegate to a Youth for Christ Congress at Beatenburg, Switzerland in 1948.


Evon had a career in ministry at World Vision. He was a big part of building World Vision International into one of the largest Christian humanitarian organizations in the world. In the early years of the 1940s and 1950s, it was a golden age of North American evangelicalism that birthed prominent organizations such as World Vision and others like Youth for Christ and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Evon worked side-by-side with many of the influential people that made it happen.

But despite these impressive credentials, Evon is one of the humblest people I know. He speaks of these times with excitement, but not with any sense of ostentatious pride. He’s more interested in what’s going on in your life now, than in what happened in his life decades ago.

Evon narratives this rare video of evangelical leaders who gathered for the Beatenburg congress (More details at the Youth for Christ website).

There are many ways Evon has positively influenced me, but a couple stand out in my mind. The first is his indomitable spirit of encouragement. He is full of genuine love and support. He always has an encouraging word. No matter what struggle I’m experiencing, he leaves me feeling it will soon become a triumph. He’s also surprisingly affectionate. He loves to give hugs, and he’ll sneak you a kiss on the cheek, even to grown men. His unabashed love, helps me to let my guard down and just focus on being a person of love.

I have so valued my time with Evon. And with his advancing years, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll have to enjoy with him. Next month he turns 99. His mind is still very sharp, but his body is becoming more frail. It's sad when I see him with bumps and bruises from accidents due to simple household activities. We typically set up our time to get together over email. He’s great at responding quickly, but I fear the inevitable day when I won’t get a reply. So all the more, I celebrate the times we have together.

He has been a great mentor and friend to me. He is an answer to prayer. I’ve learned so much from him. Interestingly, it hasn’t come so much through structure or curriculum (although we've had that too), but by mainly just spending time together. For this I’m grateful to God. I've learned much, from a man who has loved much.