“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” – Matthew 13:8 (NRSV)
It started with an acquaintance and some literature shoved under the door.
“Most of us in the apartment building were only there for a year or two,” said Rev. John Mobley, regional minister for Alabama/Northwest Florida. “But Alma Davis was there on the first floor and seemed like she’d been there forever.”
Mobley was living in Louisville at the time. He had been raised Southern Baptist and even attended seminary.
“During that time (the Southern Baptists) were heading a little more to the right, but I thought that since they were congregationally governed I could find a church where I would fit,” he said.
He wasn’t having much luck and Davis knew of his plight. She invited him to explore her denomination. While she had been disabled and working at home, Davis was a faithful member of a local congregation. She slipped a copy of a Saturday Evening Post article about the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) under Mobley’s door – and he was hooked.
Mobley said that the local Edenside Christian Church pastor, Bob Kirkman, heard about him and invited him to read more, like the classic book Journey of Faith. Kirkman also made sure Mobley was introduced to the regional staff when they were in town.
Fast forward to the early 2000s: Mobley was a member of the Mission Funding Council that provided seed money grants for new projects. One of those projects was to build a program at Brite Divinity School in support of Korean pastors. That’s the first time he heard of Rev. Dr. Timothy Lee, who was called upon to organize the program.
Lee himself had come to the Disciples from another conservative Protestant tradition.
“After I finished my first year of graduate work at the University of Chicago Divinity School, I was thrown into a spiritual turmoil because of the conflict between what I learned at the Div School and my conservative upbringing.”
That was when he was embraced by a local pastor who sympathized with him. He was the late Rev. Soongook Choi, a figure revered by many in the North American Pacific/Asian Disciples (NAPAD) community and beyond. Soon Lee and his wife became active members of Chicago Christian Church, and Choi introduced Lee to the Disciples community, including the Disciples Divinity House on the university campus.
When Lee finished his PhD work at the Divinity School in 1996 he was ordained at Choi’s church. Afterward, Lee taught at various colleges for a while. Then in 2002 he was tapped for a new program developed at Brite, aimed at nurturing leaders for NAPAD, with the majority of initial funding provided by the Mission Council. Eventually the program was adopted by Brite, and Lee went on to earn tenure. Lee is now the moderator for NAPAD and has also served on a number of general church task forces and boards.
Mobley and Lee touched base again over dinner at the Administrative Committee of the General Board in Newton, IA in April. Lee is second vice moderator of the General Assembly for the 2017-19 biennium. Mobley represents the College of Regional Ministers on the committee and lends his wisdom to inter-regional projects. Both have influenced and shaped many, many Disciples through their work.
Mobley says, “I see my ministry as a legacy of Edenside even though it has since closed.”
How those seeds that Davis and Soongook planted have grown and multiplied connections and ministry!