On Saturday, January 21, 2023, a mass shooting occurred just a few blocks away from one of our churches: Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist Church of Monterey Park. Tuesday evening, Rev. John Yoon, the senior pastor of the church, along with church laity and other UMC members attended a candlelight vigil at the Monterey Park city hall in show of solidarity and support. They also prayed for those who were killed, injured and are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Rev. Yoon shares a reflection:
Our nation has been reeling and heartbroken by the rise of gun violence and mass shootings last few years. There already had been 38 mass shootings just a couple of weeks into the new year. Many people, including myself, have concluded that this can happen anywhere, at any time. But still, I thought, not in Monterey Park. This area is supposed to be a very safe place with a low crime rate and a wonderful place to live and raise a family. But then it happened. Our hearts are broken as we realize what transpired this past weekend. It seems so unreal watching hundreds of media vehicles and presence in our streets covering this tragedy, something like this wasn’t supposed to happen in Monterey Park. It was also a time of celebration and joy with the Lunar New Year Celebration, looking forward to the new year with new hope. Another mass shooting has hit us at the wrong time, in our own neighborhood this time, taking the precious lives of 11 people and leaving their families and friends heartbroken and grieving.
On that Sunday morning, as I woke up to the tragic news, I found myself in disbelief and shock. As I was driving to church in a hurry and panic, I received calls from our new bishop, Bishop Escobedo-Frank, and District Superintendent Saia Tu’itahi. Pastor Saia couple hours later visited us in worship to comfort us. Their immediate pastoral calls brought a sense of calm and assurance I needed. Their show of care and support that morning was very much appreciated by our church members, reminding us once again that we are not alone when we find ourselves in such a time as this. None of our church members at Shepherd of the Hills are directly affected by this tragedy, but they are beginning to find out they knew some of the victims. As Bishop Escobedo-Frank shared in her response letter, this is a time to mourn and pray. And tomorrow, we will continue the work to bring about change in Monterey Park and the world. As I watched thousands of candles lit in the darkness at the Vigil in front of the City Hall, I was reminded of the passage from Gospel John once again: “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Shepherd of the Hills UMC will work together with you all and the City of Monterey Park leaders to see how we can continue to shine that light in the darkness in the coming days.
I want to thank all of you for your prayers and for contacting us through texts, emails, and phone calls. Your words of love, care, and support are felt in our hearts.