Eun Ha (Grace) Choi (left) travels over streams and rivers to reach an indigenous Dumagat community with supplies in the Philippines. (Photo: Courtesy of Grace Cho)

By Eunha Choi
April 2, 2023 | ATLANTA

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.

John 15:4 (CEB)

There is not a single missionary who doesn’t face identity and productivity crises while in mission. I believe that the level of such anxiety is exacerbated for missionaries who had limited contact with local people and partners amid the pandemic. When I was going through such hard times, God renewed me through the words of John 15. 

Grace Choi (front, second from left) with some of the Filipino youth from their youth group after JAMPAC (Jesus and Me Philippines Annual Conference annual youth revival gathering) at Central United Methodist Church, Manila, 2006. Photo: Jae Choi

When my husband Jay and I arrived in the Philippines, we began to serve as youth coordinators of an annual conference in the Manila area. As we were learning the local language and culture, we prepared for a youth discipleship retreat without knowing how many members would attend. At that time, we had a daily spiritual practice of reading a chapter of Scripture and praying to the Holy Spirit to lead our day. One day, we were reading 1 Samuel, in which Samuel invited the townspeople to make Saul the king. The verse says, “Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number.” (1 Samuel 9:22, NIV) Strangely, the word convinced me that God would send 30 people, and on the day, exactly 30 young people attended the retreat!  

The town where the retreat was held was located at the foot of a mountain province far north of Manila. At night the town seemed showered by the stars brightly shining. On the last night of the retreat, we held a night of praise and worship at a basketball court while inviting the local community members in the town to join us. Singing praises together, I felt the presence of the Lord. Then I realized, “My parents and friends back in Korea could never imagine where I am at this moment, only God knows where I am, and God is here with me.” I was overwhelmed by this revelation. I felt God’s presence not only with my rational thought but with my heart and soul. God said to me, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you….” (John 15:16, NIV) It refreshed my call and identity as a missionary. 

Photo: NASA; V. Ksoll and D. Gouliermis (Universität Heidelberg); et al.; Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

“What am I doing here? Am I making an impact here?” Questions such as these are common to missionaries. So often, what I do looks so insignificant and what I offer to the people seems to make no change at all. When I was going through such self-doubt, God always reminded me of the fundamental way of participating in God’s mission: “Remain in me!” (John 15:4, NIV)

Missionaries cannot be genuinely productive apart from God because the branches bear fruits by being connected to the vine. I learned to shift my focus from myself making an impact to God wanting me to remain in Him. With this understanding, the fruit is sure to bear naturally as an outcome. 

The Rev. Eunha (Grace) Choi is a Global Missionary and full clergy member of the Philippines Annual Conference, where she and her husband, the Rev. Jae (Jay) Hyoung Choi, served 17 years as missionaries in the Philippines. They are currently Missionaries in Residence at Global Ministries’ Atlanta office helping to coordinate communication and services with other global missionaries around the world.

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