Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead

2022 IYF Leaders Forum – Paving the Way for Happiness! Held on April 12

The International Youth Fellowship (IYF), a global youth organization with branches in about 120 countries worldwide, hosted about 200 attendees at the 2022 IYF Leaders Forum, held at the Sheraton San Gabriel Hotel. This wonderful gathering of community leaders commenced with a welcome by the West Coast Director of IYF, Isaac Kim, who took a moment to greet all the dignitaries in attendance including several mayors, council members, sheriff’s department representatives, and consul generals from 15 different countries.

Kim set the tone of the meeting by speaking of the darkness that is now in many hearts, and the many problems that our youths are facing. He then transitioned to hope as he remarked that “just as the darkness always changes to light, so will the hearts of the young people of LA.”

Next, the mayor of San Gabriel, Tony Ding, took the stage and shared about his heart to serve the people of San Gabriel and thanked IYF and its founder, Pastor Ock Soo Park, for being an encouragement for young people all over the world. He noted that “the only way to decrease the hate in the world is to increase love, and that love comes from God.”

Another welcome message was delivered by Dr. Hillel Newman, Consul General of Israel. He commended IYF for sharing this vision of instilling values in the youth and raising the quality of life to improve society. He is grateful for Israel and IYF to “support each other and stand together.”

Then Ross Maza, Councilmember of Alhambra, who has been a friend and supporter of IYF since 2018, addressed the IYF Leaders Forum expressing that it has been a privilege to work with IYF for the past few years. He is thankful to IYF, as a father of two, particularly for the support that IYF has offered to both local youths as well as youths around the world.

After the several warm welcoming messages, the audience was amazed and moved by three performances from select members of the world-renowned Gracias Choir. They showed their talent, particularly as an international choir, as they sang three songs in three different languages: “Solamente Una Vez” in Spanish, “Hava Nagila” in Hebrew, “It is Well with My Soul” in English.

During the performance of “Hava Nagila,” which means, “let us rejoice” in Hebrew, a video of Pastor Ock Soo Park’s recent trip to Israel and 7 countries in Africa was shown for the audience. The video highlighted Pastor Park’s many meetings with many government officials including the Deputy Prime Minister (whose official invitation is what brought him to Israel), the Deputy Prime Minister of Education, chief rabbis, as well as members of congress and ambassadors. These meetings focused on the discussion of mind education. The city of Ashdod signed an MOU with IYF for educational cooperation and youth cultural exchange.  Pastor Park also took part in Bible conferences, broadcast interviews, and various Gracias Choir concerts during his visit to Israel.

Following Israel, Pastor went on a tour of several countries in Africa and met with the Presidents of Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia. He also met with the Kings of Lesotho & Eswatini, and the First Lady of Mozambique. All of these leaders of countries met with Pastor Park for the purpose of discussing their youth problems and establishing IYF centers so that Mind Education and other IYF programs can deliver hope and strength to the hearts of their youth.

Now the stage was set for the highlight of the afternoon – the keynote speech from Pastor Ock Soo Park, founder of IYF. He began speaking about a woman who had divorced her husband two years prior to speaking with Pastor Park. He asked her why she got divorced. She replied by saying, “our personalities just don’t fit.” Pastor went on to make the point that just as machines like televisions and air conditioners have the function of adjusting (volume, temperature, etc), so do people have the function of adjusting our hearts. Why just give up because “personalities don’t fit?” Why not try to adjust? After all, aren’t people much more sophisticated than machines? Upon accepting Pastor Park’s advice, the woman reunited with her husband and the couple has been living happily ever since. This notion of “adjusting our hearts” is one of the key ingredients in leading the youth to happiness and hope for the future.

Pastor Park went on to share another story, this time of a youth, whose mother approached the pastor in tears saying “my son is doing drugs, addicted to games, and I also caught him carrying a gun. Pastor, please help my son!” Pastor brought him to Korea thinking, “how can I help this young man to change?” Pastor didn’t tell him to stop doing the harmful things he was doing, instead he thought about how to make his heart happy. He planted peace in his heart, and the young man began to change. When he returned to his home in LA six months later, his friends encouraged him to do drugs, but he didn’t want that anymore. The next summer, the youth brought 24 of his friends to spend the month in South Korea at Pastor Park’s church. Again, nearly all of the students changed. And the following year, the number of youths increased to 68, and the following year – 500 students, and thus, IYF was born!

Since then, Pastor Park has been studying how to help youths change. The wisdom he developed became what we know today as Mind Education, which has three basic components to help youths change: thinking deeply, self-control, and connection and exchange. At the beginning of his message, Pastor Park commented about our function to adjust, and as we adjust these aspects, of learning to think deeply, learning self-control, and learning how to connect others – we can gain a healthy mindset which leads to a happy life, which is the goal of Mind Education.

In addition to IYF and Mind Education, Pastor Park also founded the Gracias Choir, which started as a group of 10 ordinary people with no training in music, that was transformed into the world-renowned choir and grand prize winner at the top international choir competitions in the world. Today the Gracias Choir travels 30 cities in the US and Canada every year performing their famous Gracias Christmas Cantata free of charge under the theme “We Bring the Joy to You.”

About 40 presidents from countries around the world have met with Pastor Park and asked him to work for their youth. The message drew to a close as he proclaimed, “Mayors, consulates, guests… let’s work for the youths of America and around the world! People can either hurt others or bring joy to others.  I’m so thankful when I see our young people changing – let’s be the people that bring joy! May your children live brightly and may the blessings of God overflow in you.” A beautiful ending to a truly beautiful event!

Although the event came to an end, the work that the IYF is doing with government officials in Los Angeles (and around the world) is just beginning. We look forward to the next local program, called “Content of Character,” which will be held at the IYF West Coast Headquarters in Monterey Park in June.

Pictures can be found here:


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