When Love is Rare But Real
by Lillibeth Navarro, CALIF Executive Director and Founder I was given 2 free tickets to a fundraising concert of a partner organization in serving the disabled—the Shalom Ministry for People with Disabilities, a Korean majority organization, working with CALIF, so I went with my sister on Sunday, the 8th of July. We intentionally decided to come early thinking that there would be some Korean restaurants around but there was none. So we mingled about and everyone was busy, putting on the finishing touches to the decorations, or practicing their songs or just running here and there. We proceeded to go near the entrance and found Mrs. Park, the wife of the Pastor Moses Park who was going to be the main performer of the night. Mrs. Park was dressed in a beautiful traditional Korean dress, beaming and welcoming everyone as they were arriving. In no time, Mr. Moses Park came swiftly to welcome us and said, “Did you see how beautiful my wife is?” ‘Of course!’ I agreed. The Parks are one amazing couple with an incredibly tragic turned triumphant story of enduring faith and fidelity. Moses was 40 years old, married with two children and training to be a pastor more than 20 years ago. He was also a successful businessman. His wife and kids went on a car trip one day and had a horrible car accident killing both their kids and disabling his wife with total paralysis. What would have totally crushed a man with hopelessness challenged him toward a deeper conversion to God’s holy will. Moses understood, as he and his wife began to pick up the pieces of their shattered life, that God was calling them both to a different plan. Moses rededicated his life to the total care of his wife and in doing so, heard the call to start a ministry for people with disabilities. Thus was born Shalom Ministry for People with Disabilities and they’ve been here in Koreatown helping and blessing the Korean community for over 20 years.
I met Moses Park at their old building last year after I hired Justice Pak as Korean Outreach Advocate and had a friendly visit. We shared life stories and met his wife. She had a room of her own and because he himself took care of her, she was where he worked and she held her own as coach and inspiration to her husband and also as program director for some parts of their projects. She was napping in bed when we arrived so Moses had to tap on the door to see if she was awake and turned on the light so we could meet her. I was touched by their bond, so rare and real. He was a man of utter caring and joy and full of enthusiasm, he spoke like a proud Dad as he showed me his different programs. Some of the disabled workers there got curious as we toured and came to stop and greet us. Obviously, he had a fatherly bond with them, too. I was amazed at what they had in terms of free services for the disabled—practical stuff like wheelchairs, benefits counseling, peer counseling, advocacy, spirituality, business enterprise, etc.. For a non-profit organization with no major government grants, they were doing very well on private donations. They are a testament to how closely knit the Korean community is and how they support and patronize their own groups and projects. But Sunday night, Moses was singing baritone for the first time in 63 years he said. And he was nervous! They were passing out the souvenir program in glossy paper, complete with the English translations of some of the love songs, so those of us who did not speak Korean could follow the messages. Seventy-five percent of the book was filled with business ads. They had a very friendly, animated emcee, an indefatigable deaf interpreter who worked non-stop for two and a half hours, camera people and many stage hands. The concert started with a prayer led by a man with cerebral palsy and one could almost touch the powerful spiritual fervor of the crowd. And then the angelic voices of the professional singers, donned in solid different colors. All performances were accompanied by the piano. And as the Shalom Choir was going up the stage, the group—disabled and their attendants moved as one and sweet music also began to rise up like smoke to permeate the entire church with vibrant music. As Moses took center stage, he moved with grace, confidence and a smile and then I thought I was hearing Pavarotti, at times, he sounded like Bocelli but no—he was uniquely Moses Park, singing the songs with utter emotion and integrity and his spiritual singing just touched the heart even if one did not know Korean. He sang not only love songs but songs of men in battle, longing for home. A majority of the songs were love songs to God--thanksgiving, praise and worship. After each performance, I found myself cheering the loudest among a very tame and proper Korean crowd. I wish I could stand to give him a standing ovation but as I looked around, I saw instead, a lot of people, wiping their tears, obviously moved by this man’s performance. What an incredible leader! I thought. He just moved his entire organization to a new accessible building. He’s getting older but his beaming wife is a testament to his love. His dynamic organization is proof of his foresight and masterful management. I was seeing all that in the diligence of his singing, in the romance of his rendition and in the authenticity of his joy! The most moving part of his performance was a love song he sang with his wife. It was a song about following the Lord, step by step until they reached real love and Moses and Mrs. Park ended the song with both their arms framing their faces next to each other in a heart-shaped gesture. This was met with thunderous applause and therefore, an encore. As we headed for the door after the concert, a scripture passage came to me: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me!” That’s Moses’ testament. His incredible example speaks volumes about life and leadership. I’ve met many disability rights leaders, people who have awed me and moved me but Pastor Moses Park is one unique, incredible leader all his own.