A Lifetime of Service: What it means to be truly rich
Work in Progress Sermon Series
In this sermon series we will look at character and how we might reevaluate our everyday priorities in order to ultimately build lives of value and richness.
On her first visit to Highland Park United Methodist Church, Arang Cistulli and her husband listened to a message about “How To Get Rich.” In the sermon, Rev. Paul Rasmussen spoke about what it truly means to be “rich.” He shared that it had nothing to do with money, but everything to do with people.
As Christians, we are called to reach beyond ourselves, beyond even the walls of the church to care for those who are struggling. For Cistulli, that message didn’t just feel like the right thing to do, it’s what she was made to do.
In the six years her family has attended HPUMC, Cistulli has served in some way on nearly every committee that gives back to others. She currently serves on the Microfinance Committee for the church, which offers small loans, business training, and counseling to entrepreneurs in developing countries.
“It’s actually God’s love at work,” Cistulli says. “Allowing people to take ownership to improve their lives and regain their dignity with a hand up, not a hand out.”
The program gives borrowers a sustainable way to provide for their families, giving their children the opportunity to get an education, instead of being forced to miss school to earn extra income. It’s a concept that hits close to home for Cistulli, whose family immigrated to the United States from South Korea.
When her father was a young boy, his parents recognized that he had a particular talent with regard to his studies. They believed he would be better off attending school instead of working in the rice fields; they did everything they could to allow him to pursue higher education.
When he went on to college, the family began to sell the rice fields that had been in their family for generations to pay his tuition. Cistulli's father was the first of seven kids to attend college, eventually becoming a neurosurgeon.
Many years later, Cistulli and her parents moved to the United States where her father retrained as an obstetrician-gynecologist and started a practice in Ohio. As a doctor, her father was committed to treating every patient who walked through his doors, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or whether they had insurance.
“My parents made it a point to treat everyone equally,” says Cistulli. “I grew up in a home where my parents modeled what it meant to truly care about all people.
“Even though at times I experienced prejudice against my family and me, I grew to be very compassionate towards other people because of my parent’s example,” Cistulli adds. “Over the years I’ve looked for opportunities to elevate people who were hurting.”
Cistulli’s father sent as much money as the family could spare back to South Korea, to help pay the college tuition for his siblings.
“When I went back to Korea last summer and saw how my relatives had prospered, in part because of the help my parents sent years ago,” Cistulli says. “I felt such happiness, and it was gratifying to see that they were doing so well.”
When asked about her own lengthy record of giving back to others, Cistulli always points to her father’s example.
“I’ve lived a pretty comfortable life because of my parents and my grandparents,” she says. “So who am I to just ride on their coattails? I’m in a position to be not just a donor, but a doer.”
It would be almost impossible to come up with a list of the ways Cistulli has served as a light to HPUMC and the surrounding community. Her passion for outreach is hard to match, but in none of her volunteer roles or committee positions does she ever ask for recognition. She simply gives back out of a love for people and out of respect for her parents who taught her to be compassionate and to serve others. Her life is full of the kind of 'riches' that Rev. Rasmussen talked about on Cistulli’s first visit to the church. And it is out of that wealth that she continues to give back today.