In Just One Week…

We’ve seen our first Greek Conversion of the new school year and we have Five house bible studies that are ready to launch! Praise the Lord!

Meet Erik:

1378936_10100896561964677_1339212813_nErik is in a Fraternity called Pi Kappa Phi. I met Erik when one of our students invited him to come to a Greek IV bible study. Erik grew up with parents who were Christian in Minnesota but had never made a personal decision to follow Jesus. I had met with to follow-up after his first Greek IV before summer started last Spring Quarter. We went through scripture in the Gospel of John as the Word sparked up questions and curiosity for Erik. Over the summer, Erik had read the full Gospel of John and came back to school excited to get his Brothers to explore faith and Greek IV as a non-Christian!

Erik has agreed to open up his house and gather other Brothers in his Fraternity to come together to talk about faith for a Pi Kap bible study that I would lead. Person of Peace? I definitely think so! But check this out.

Last Friday, I got together with Erik to hear about his summer, talk to him more about the Gospel of John and see where he was in his faith journey. He immediately said, “Yeah, I want to be a Christian!”

I was taken aback and asked some clarifying question then asked if I could share the Four Circles Diagram with him to help gain a comprehensive view of the Gospel. After doing the four circles diagram, he was stoked and ready to pray to accept Jesus in his heart.

Praise the Lord! Erik prayed to accept Jesus and is fired up to get his Brothers talking about faith! Please be praying for Erik with his recent conversion and growth!

Meet The Greek IV Leadership Team:

1372328_10100893979170617_133891282_oThis is a picture of our first leadership meeting since coming back from summer. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with one another after a long summer and get reacquainted to our goals and vision.

Greek InterVarsity’s goal is to create witnessing communities in every Fraternity and Sorority at UCLA.

In this meeting you see 10 leaders. These 10 leaders represent 7 different Fraternities and Sororities!

Of these 7 different Fraternities and Sororities, we are getting prepared to launch a bible study this quarter in 5 of them! That means in 1 year, we’ve gone 0 leaders and 0 house bible studies to 10 solid leaders getting ready to launch 5 house bible studies!

1373651_10100896696819427_419776702_nPlease be praying for these 4 leaders. They will be standing up in front of their entire chapters today to make an announcement and pass out a sign up sheet for their weekly bible study. Praise the Lord for the risks they are taking!

Welcome to Greek IV:

Greek IVWe kicked off our first Greek IV of the year last week with 17 students that showed up as we started our new series called, “Fake”. This month we will be taking a look at what it means to live life authentically in the Greek Community.

Greek IV Year 2 – Here we go!

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Silence – The Furnace of Transformation

I just returned from my five days of silence for a personal retreat from the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside. These five days consisted of one thing –

Be silent in the Lord’s presence.

I was uneasy heading into the retreat because I have not been able to deeply encounter the Lord well in silence. Naturally, the thought of five, full days of silence felt daunting. But with everything that has been on my plate this past year, I knew it was where God was inviting me. When I first arrived, I read a chapter on solitude from Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Way of the Heart.” Praise the Lord! His book completely shaped how I would enter into this time of solitude.

Henri says this about solitude:

“In order to understand the meaning of solitude, we must first unmask the ways in which the idea of solitude has been distorted by our world. We say to each other that we need some solitude in our lives. What we really are thinking of, however, is a time and a place for ourselves in which we are not bothered by other people, can think our own thoughts, express our own complaints, and do our own thing, whatever it may be… In short, we think of solitude as a place where we gather new strength to continue the ongoing competition in life… But that is not the solitude of St. John the Baptist… Rather, it [solitude] is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs.”

Henri calls solitude, “The Furnace of Transformation”. He continues to write about how while we are in the silence, we are stripped naked, all the way down to our bare nothingness. We come face to face with our naked selves. We meet the person that lies within the depths of our nothingness – the same nothingness that we try so anxiously to run away from. It is within that nothingness that we try to fill ourselves with friends, entertainment, work, and hobbies – all things deemed trivial next to the Great and Holy God.

In this silence, we encounter our true selves and we have no where to run to. We are stuck dealing with the empty space that resides at our core – that space that God has been longing to fill.

I entered into my silent retreat with this notion at the forefront of my mind and asking the question: what will God reveal in our time of silence together? Amidst the silence, God brought out all of my skeletons: the fears I try to run away from, the anxiety I try to replace with working harder, the anger that seeks to blame or argue with others and the solitude that makes me want to run to other people for acceptance and belonging.

Initially, this experience was painful, shameful and difficult, but the Lord gave me perseverance. I asked the Lord to bring me into deeper understanding of these issues. Day by day, I would gain more depth and more insight on where my heart had become hardened and where I had succumbed to the enemy’s lies. Each day I became more bare, vulnerable and naked to the point where I found the most raw version of Nick –

It was then, when I had finally found the most raw version of Nick, that I was able to root myself in the truth:

The Nick that I encountered in the nothingness, the Nick that I’ve locked somewhere far, far away only to forget because I was embarrassed and ashamed of him, the Nick who had been rejected and hurt by the world and was told to suck it up, the Nick that lived in fear everyday of people’s expectations of him or not being liked…

… that very Nick is God’s beloved child.

It was like glass shattering, chains breaking free, barricaded doors flying open!

Nick is God’s beloved child. 

Once I experienced this truth, I gained more authority. I gained more power in the Spirit. I was given a knew identity. The true, healing work could now come! I am God’s beloved child. I can take greater risks and fail knowing that God’s love is unconditionally. I am Abba’s Child! There is no condemnation, for those who are in love of the author and perfecter of life! I am given love, perfect love, so I can walk humbly by the Spirit and love others free of judgment, full of tenderness and compassion.

All in all, the silence IS the furnace of transformation and I hunger and long to hear and be with the Lord in the silence. Silence is no longer a place marked with fear and anxiety, but a place where I can experience conversion and transformation of my old self into the the new self that God continues to fortify and build. Woo! Praise the Lord for his goodness!

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Thank you for your prayers for me and Natalia during this crazy Kwok of a summer. I’m so pumped for the new Fall Quarter and to see God continue building the Greek IV at UCLA!

Baby Kwok & Greek IV Update (Prayer Request)

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After waiting 18 weeks to make the announcement official, the Kwoks wanted to let the world know that we are going to be having a baby boy! We would have made the announcement sooner but the 6 week technology fast during LAUP made it a teensy bit difficult.

We cannot wait to welcome Baby Kwok into the world and to become parents!

This leads me to an important IV Update and prayer request.

The past few months have been filled with transitions, changes and unexpected difficulties. Participating in LAUP this summer was an incredibly eye-opening experience but it was also a difficult time for me and Natalia. The combination of committing to LAUP during our first trimester of pregnancy and Natalia’s commitment to her clinical rotation this summer made it extremely difficult to cater to our marriage, especially while we are thinking about preparing for parenthood and the changes to come in our lives.

During LAUP, we lived in a house with 15 people in the hot inner-city in a home with one shower and main bathroom. Natalia would commute up to an hour to and hour and a half from doing a emotionally and physically exhausting full time residency to a husband who was leading a team of interns through the LAUP experience under a technology fast and a minimal stipend. The combination of these two factors, while also trying to think about all of the life changes coming up with Baby Kwok, were definitely a recipe that put strain on our marriage and brought up a lot of inner-brokenness in me.

Thankfully, the Lord has been working in us post LAUP and things have been much better.

With the time remaining between now and the return of the UCLA students, my supervisor is allowing me to focus time on prayer, reflection and giving the Lord the space to speak into my life right now.

I’m glad that Beau can cover the more urgent responsibilities and I am eager for the Lord to renew his word and call to me in this season. While a month isn’t much time, it’s a great start!

Will you pray for us in this season of healing and transition?

Pray for the Lord to continue the healing and restoration He has begun in me.
Pray for Baby Kwok that he would be healthy, nurtured and blessed!
Pray for the Kwok’s ministry support and partnerships to increase now that we are raising support for an additional family member.
Pray for Natalia’s pregnancy – so far no morning sickness (Praise the Lord!)

The Los Angeles Urban Project

This summer, I spent 6 weeks living in the inner-city of Los Angeles working with former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women at Homeboy Industries.

Here’s the setting:

Natalia and I moved into a home that has one shower two bathrooms with 15 people. Our team was given a stipend of $5 per day per person that covers all living expenses (food, gas, laundry, tithe etc.) and we had a full technology fast. In the beginning of the project, my team handed in their cell phones and wallets and held on to their ID’s and health insurance cards.

By having the money stipend we learned about Lordship over money. In relocating into the inner-city we are able to experience what life is like for those in poverty and by having our technology fast, we were able to be fully present to what God is showing us through the teachings and experiences in LAUP.

We spent a week receiving teaching about the inner-city and spent the next five weeks volunteering with Homeboy Industries while continuing to receive teachings and experience inner-city culture.

Meet my team!

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What a beautiful group of individuals, huh?

What is the purpose of LAUP?

LAUP gives students personal encounters with Los Angeles residents who are living in poverty. LAUP aims to lead students into service of the poor and offering them a foundation of faith from which they gain hope, purpose, and power to combat injustice in the context of the inner-city.

While Homeboy Industries is where our team spent their time volunteering during the day, we also had many teachings and experiences in the inner-city that taught us about several huge themes. In an attempt to succinctly yet accurately summarize what happened during this urban project, I’m going to break them down by theme of what I learned. Those these are:

Money, Race, The Inner-City and how Homeboy Industries ties in with all of this.

Let me start with money:

MONEY

This summer I learned so much about money and how much power it has over me and in our culture. One of the biggest concepts I learned from LAUP was how to live simply to give generously. We had many teachings on money and outside of the context of LAUP it was hard for me to look at what others have and/or what is convenient to buy rather than seeing an opportunity to give elsewhere. My team and I lived on $5 per day, yet something we always said was, “I can’t believe how much abundance of food we have.” By the end of the project, we found so much joy in being able to give over 20% of it away. Prior to LAUP, I never heard of people agreeing to live at a medium income level and giving the rest away. Seeing their radical generosity has deeply transformed me and helped me think about how much more joy there can be in living simply to give generously and also how important it is that we do this.

One of the most powerful quotes of the summer that I heard was, “I had to empty my hands of all that I had so God could fill them.”

RACE

LAUP has been my first pass at racial reconciliation. Prior to LAUP, I had no idea much impact race played in our society and how important it is to understand our own ethnic identity as well as others’ ethnic identity. We spent lots of time talking about race, through the lens of the Trayvon Martin case. I learned so much about the journey of latinos and blacks and how easy it is as an Asian American to sit back and not care about other racial issues that occur – which is generally what I have done. I learned that as an Asian American follower of Jesus, it is my responsibility to care and grieve the unfair and racist circumstances that many blacks and latinos have had to live with everyday and to keep on advocating, caring and fighting for them until we are fully reconciled. It broke my heart to hear that for some black people, the Trayvon Martin case was just another example of what they’ve have to deal with on an everyday basis. Race matters, and although I’m not super politically savvy, I’ve experienced enough at LAUP to know that there’s something off with our justice system and race and that I desperately want to care for the systemic racial injustices that exist in our society.

THE INNER-CITY

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In the first week of LAUP, we were sent to survey how difficult it would be for people in certain scenarios to find what they need (job with a criminal record, section 8 housing and other scenarios). In an attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of many people who live in the inner-city we encountered many difficulties that we like to call the cycles of poverty. There is an overwhelming amount of factors that people in the inner-city must face and I learned that if you want to begin to address some of the system injustices or fix the cycles of poverty, we must address issues in a holistic way. For example, we cannot fix the issue of homelessness if we aren’t willing to address how difficult it would be for homeless to find housing, receive education, get a job, eat healthy food, deal with communication barriers and many other factors. I know for me, feeding the homeless has been something that has been used to stroke my own ego or clean my own consciousness from these issues, yet in the bigger picture, it becomes a selfish act. LAUP taught me more holistic ways to care about these issues, in particular, to actually care for the faces behind those struggling with these issues.

HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES

Homeboy Industries provides hope, support and job training to formerly gang involved and/or recently incarcerated men and women to redirect their lives and help them become contributing members to the community.

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Here’s me and my team with some of the homies, homegirls and staff at Homeboy Industries.

I had the opportunity to volunteer in the development department and the curriculum department helping with administrative needs. The biggest piece of advice I got from Homeboy Industries was to stop everything you’re doing and talk to the homies and homegirls whenever you get a chance.

Homeboy Industries was the perfect opportunity for me to see all of the teachings in LAUP played out. Homeboy Industries absolutely addresses system injustice in a holistic way and is the largest gang intervention program in the country. I’ve got to hear stories from people who have had life sentences, have families who generationally are involved with gangs and/or those who are high risk of being involved with gang activity because of their families. Homeboy Industries offers a safe place for people in these circumstances to understand true kinship and get their lives together.

In getting a gauge on what the spiritual atmosphere is at Homeboy, I was able to have several spiritual conversations with some of the homies. I had conversations with on a regular basis with one homie in particular. We exchanged ideas about faith and who Jesus is and in the end I was able to pray for him twice over some deep situations in his life.

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After 6 weeks, I’ve come out of LAUP seeing the world and scripture lived out in a very new way. I experienced so much of God’s grace in loving the homeless and going to skid row several times. I’ve taken my first pass at social justice and racial reconciliation. Loving the poor and the homeless has taken on a completely different theology for me after studying the passage after passage after passage where Jesus talks about loving the least of these while being in the context of LAUP.

Can’t wait to bring these teachings to the Greeks!

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Summer Plans

For the next 6 weeks I will be serving in the Los Angeles Urban Project and will be out of communication electronically. If you want to contact me, please write me at the following address:

Nick Kwok
Homeboy Industries
Los Angeles Urban Project
P.O. Box 31190
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Please extend your prayers! I’m an ASC for a team of 5 interns and we will be serving at Homeboy Industries. Please pray for our spiritual protection during LAUP! As we serve at Homeboy and serve the impoverished neighborhoods, we are a target to the enemy’s attacks. 

Will you add me, Natalia and my LAUP team to your daily prayers! 

Pray for protection

Pray for witness 

Pray for our hearts to be transformed by serving in LAUP! 

For more information on Homeboy Industries, check out this video:

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See you on the other side! 

Greek Conversion!

4 weeks ago, one of my students introduced me to one of his Fraternity Brothers. He knew lots about God, lots about the Holy Spirit but not a lot about Jesus.

He was open to meeting with me and upon our first meeting he said, “I normally turn down these meetings, but I felt like this one could be positive.”

This guy knew scripture and knew theology. He talked to me a lot about different doctrines and about his life and how God had rescued him from many things. He knew that he believed in God, wasn’t 100% sure about Jesus.

We met up for 3 weeks and after the first meeting we decided that the rest of our time together will be to talk about Jesus. Who is Jesus, why is He important?

The second time we got together, I shared the Gospel with him and articulated how much Jesus loved Him.

For a long time, he has felt like God was the strict, disciplinary, rigid, unemotional God. He had heard people say this statement to him many times before, but for some reason, God pierced his heart and he cried. He said that the feeling was overwhelming and he didn’t really know what to do with it. He didn’t feel fully ready to take a full commitment to follow Jesus and I told him to continue reading about Jesus and we’ll chat again.

We met today. We read through John 5 The Healing at the Pool and talked about how some people make excuses as to why they don’t want to be healed and also how some people place their hopes in things that aren’t Jesus even when Jesus is right in front of them.

I asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” He said yes.

“What is holding you back?”

I don’t know what’s holding me back.

“Let’s ask God.”

I lead him in listening prayer and he asked God what is holding him back. He got two images:

1) An image of him holding onto a rock with the waves crashing on him but he didn’t want to let go.

2) An image that he was holding onto gold and silver in each fist as tight as he could and he couldn’t let go. This is symbolic from a family story. The gold and silver needed to touch the rain and if he held on, they would never touch the rain.

I got an image for him that he was chopping boards like you would in karate. He was focused and would not detract from the task at hand. Someone came in and grabbed one of the boards and in desperation he chased after it and he NEEDED the board.

We debriefed what God could be speaking to Him and he wasn’t really sure what it all meant. I asked him to pray about what would happen you let go. He asked God to speak to him about what would happen if he let go in these images:

1) In the first image, he saw that when he let go of the rock, he was in tattered clothes like in cast away. Once he let go of the rock, he saw a boat floating in the water that was close to him and then he saw Jesus walking on the water.

2) In the second image, he released the gold and the silver and immediately heard thunder, which was indicative of the rain that was to come.

I got an image that he was holding onto the gold and silver so tightly that it made his hands bleed. The second he let go, the gold and the silver was floating in front of him and the wounds that he had in his palms immediately began to heal.

Once we prayed these two images, I interpreted for him that God wants to rescue him, heal him from his pain and any anger he has. He agreed and said that’s what he needed for him to be able to follow Jesus.

We prayed for him to accept Jesus into his heart. Once we finished praying, I asked him how he felt and he said that a HUGE weight was lifted off of his shoulders and he felt very light.

Ahh… Praise God. Although he is unnamed for now, please be praying for him that he would continue to grow in his spiritual journey and that God would protect him.

Can.This.Wait

Imagine gathering a group of people together to come to a conference where they are there specifically to have their questions answered about Jesus. Imagine coming to a conference where the amount of non-Christian is no more than the amount of Christians. This past weekend, we had a conference called Can.This.Wait. Can making a decision to follow Jesus wait? The framework of the conference had 4 speakers:

Who is Jesus?
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Why should I care about following Jesus?
What are the next steps to continue my spiritual journey?

We had a band come to help us connect through secular music as well as transitioning into worship music.

The last night of the conference, one of the staff named Sam, gave a talk on accepting the invitation to The Great Banquet.

10 First Time Decision to follow Jesus
5 Adult Decisions to follow Jesus
10 Still Processing what it means to follow Jesus
2 Recommitments to Jesus
Check out the video leading to the response!
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I was asked to MC the conference and give the 4th talk on how to continue your spiritual journey and it was a blast! We had about 35 non-Christians come and 17 of them made decisions to follow Jesus and another 10 are in a place of openness to God. Unbelievable!
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LAUP – Homeboy Industries

Last week I attended a conference called STIM (Students Training In Mission). At this conference, students who are participating in one of InterVarsity’s Urban or Overseas Mission Projects come to receive training on cross cultural communication and ministry through an intensive, interactive weekend.

Meet my team:

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My role for LAUP will be an ASC (Area Site Coordinator). This means that I will be leading a a team by helping interpret the experiences we’re having together, highlight the spiritual development of the people on the team, leading and facilitating bible discussions and finding opportunities to deepen the way we serve in our project.

What is the project? Homeboy Industries. Check out this video.

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Homeboy industries serves people who are getting out of gangs and providing them with resume training and educational development to help them find jobs.

Natalia and I will be living in a house with the director of LAUP and our team who will be serving at Homeboy Industries.

Be praying for us as we prepare for this 6 week project and cut ourselves off from electronic communication!

Greeks Seek Healing

We had our last Greek InterVarsity of the Winter Quarter and God has been doing some amazing things.

We started our God, Sex and Dating series 3 weeks ago immediately after coming back from Greek Conference. These bible studies have been able to challenge people to see the way that God has designed sex and our hope is that people will start asking themselves the question, “What would it look like if I allowed God to help me make decisions about my sex life?”

Our last Greek IV, we covered the topic, “Is there healing for sexual hurts? Is there healing from sexual regrets/mistakes?”

We talked about the prostitute who laid down a years worth of wages of perfume at Jesus’ feet, weeping and wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears. Jesus told a parable to one of the Pharisees, Simon, about how those who have greater debt and are forgiven are more grateful for the grace they are receiving. (Luke 7:36-50)

Jesus’ grace know no bounds and He is willing to extend and pour out this grace on all people. We acknowledge that there are many people who have experienced sexual hurts externally, through uncontrollable evil that happened to them. There are also those who have made decisions that they are ashamed of regardless of what caused them to make the decision.

For many of us, these decisions push us into a places of shame, guilt and embarrassment. But if we are hearing from the voice of God and examining Jesus’ character, these are the exact places where he wants us to experience His grace. This may be very surprising for some to hear.

We had 13 students come to our last Greek IV. At the end of the study, I opened up a time of prayer. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes. I asked them to respond to what they are hearing God speak to them through the scripture. If they had places where they wanted to allow Jesus to come in and begin a healing process with past sexual mistakes/regrets and hurts, I asked them to take a risk and anonymously raise their hand.

Praise the Lord, more than half of the room raised their hand!

7 months ago, Greek InterVarsity did not exist at UCLA.

By the end of the winter quarter, Greek IV is reaching 6 Sororities and 2 Fraternities and we are seeing people seek Jesus for past sexual hurts!

This is huge affirmation of why I responded to God’s calling to come to UCLA. We are seeing the vision of Joe and Jane Greeks be reached and experience the power of God!

We are going to continue our God, Sex and Dating series in the beginning of the Spring Quarter before we launch our next outreach.

Join us as we follow up with these students and ask Jesus to reveal himself in places of hurt and shame. Please continue praying for us as we plan what our next outreach will be and pray to reach other Fraternities!