Monthly Archives: January 2011

Full Circle

I am currently in North Carolina for 3 days of IV intern meetings at the house of our regional director. We have really come full circle — nearly a year ago I was interviewing for IV staff in the same house with all the questions and fears of an almost-college-graduate. Now we’re here to debrief/share about the year, receive more training about campus ministry, and also discuss placement for future if we stay on staff.

We really have come full circle. Our first activity was for each intern to sit in the exact chair we were interviewed in (known as the pink chair) and think back to the interview, and then also share about what God has done in our lives so far on staff. All of us shared and I kept hearing how God has really demonstrated His total provision as we’ve trusted Him in this crazy calling into campus ministry. Through scarcity and abundance, contemplative times and busy times, we saw that God was doing so many things at once, and things we couldn’t even dream to pray for. God really was arranging a whole package of growth for us to draw us more in love with Him. It was really wonderful to pray thanksgiving after sharing.

Wednesday we spent almost 7 hours in training to strengthen our vision for building a chapter and developing leaders as well as understanding how to strategically grow our students in evangelism/sharing about Christ.  Today/Thursday however is the big day where we discuss future placement for staff work. We all have a little anxiety I imagine. We don’t know the possible openings yet until tomorrow (actually, nobody in the region does). Will we be excited with the options? Disappointed? Unsure? We’ll then get to submit a written response detailing our preferences. And then we wait 3 weeks or so until final decisions are made by regional leadership.

I fully trust our regional leaders. They placed all 12 of us interns and we’ve all seen God really do unique and wonderful work in our personal spiritual lives as well as our ministry lives and even places like our family lives. We know they have our best interests in mind even as they consider ministry needs, spiritual gifts, weaknesses and strengths and all of it together.

One other intern and I were talking about how to cope with the pending decisions and we said that it would be great to posture ourselves by praying that God would grant us peace and prepare us to grow and serve and know Him better wherever we are placed. So I invite you to pray for us too. Pray that we interns would have discernment and also peace as we share our preferences and we wait and that we’d continue in the present calling and responsibilities we have!

At our spring intern meetings we share and receive training with our regional director. What a year it's been!

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Retreat into silence & rest

Hi friends!

I sent you an e-mail last week telling you about my plans to take a 2-day retreat after Staff Conference. Thank you for your prayers for that time. I want to share  about what a great time it was.

Last week immediately following National Staff Conference I felt the need to take some intentional time off. I had many new things on my mind after a week of my vision expanded, and I also really needed to rest. I decided also to fast from all food and drinks (except for water) for two days as well.

I spent my first morning in two hours of silence – reflecting, praying, reading Scripture, writing response and sitting quietly. I read Jeremiah 29 and meditated on the call I’d heard at SC’11 – to commit to the good of the campus and see beyond chapter work. It was a very restful time.

When I awoke the next morning I was quite physically weak from fasting. I thought to myself “Wow, after just one day of no food, my body is so weak. How much more so my soul when I don’t have scripture or prayer on a given day?!” This really reminded me of the need to be resting and meeting with the Lord each day in prayer and scripture!

As I entered my second 2-hour retreat of silence on Tuesday, especially in light of my hunger, I reflected even more on my dependence upon God’s Spirit to sustain me. That day I read about Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-42). This was also really convicting. As I looked back over my fall schedule I realized how many times I like Martha was “worried and upset about many things.” Yes there were things and “preparations that had to be made.” But if “few things are needed — or indeed only one” then I, like Martha, had to account for my posture of busyness.

But more than just convicted, my very restful and life-giving retreats of silence also gave me a renewed hope and eagerness to have daily times with the Lord. More than just two good 2-hour blocks of silence, they really served to reawaken my devotional hope. That whole week saw more good devotional times each morning and I’ve started this new spring semester with scripture nad prayer each morning. Instead of having devotional time elsewhere, I’m giving God the first slot in the day. And that, unlike the preparations or busyness or work, “will not be taken away.”

Thanks again for your prayers. More than just expanded vision, God has reignited my devotional life this winter. And that is certainly the first and foremost thing.

God’s Work on Film – Athlete’s IV at UNH

Many times in the university world, athletes and athletic life is seen as a spiritual dead zone. A few brave ministries venture in there to do their work but most schools don’t have an AIA or FCA ministry. Often times we attach stigma to the hard-partying god-like lifestyle that athletes tend to embody or be thrust into. But nothing is impossible for God.

This is a great video from InterVarsity’s twentyonehundred productions (the media/video arts branch) that was shown at Staff Conference ’11. God is doing great things at the University of New Hampshire through the Athlete’s InterVarsity. Pay special attention to the fact that two probably non-Christian coaches are speaking well of IV, and hear especially what the track coach has to say at the end!

Be encouraged, be hopeful, and be prayerful that God’s work would embed itself in the very life of the university like Athlete’s IV at UNH so that the administration and the culture itself would reflect Him more and more. God is Lord of every part of a school’s culture.

Staff Conference 2011 – Greater Vision

Hi friends! Thanks for those who prayed for me during Staff Conference and my two-day retreat afterwards. I will write a bit about both in separate posts.

Lessons from Staff Conference 2011

  1. IV staff workers are not in student ministry. We are in campus ministry. This means that we need to intentionally, proactively seek the renewal of the whole campus & not shrink our vision merely to chapter-related work, important as it is. God will use our campus work, but we must do that AND other things to flesh out this vision fully! God call us to put down roots & commit to the university itself! We see in Scripture:
    “Build houses & settle down; plant gardens & eat what they produce.  Marry & have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons & give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons & daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace & prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Once we have faithfully done this, God’s “plans to prosper [us] & not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope & a future” will be made known! (Jer 29:11)
  2. God calls us to engage the powerful #1: There are God-fearing people in the administration/faculty who, even if not believers, genuinely desire to serve students. Like Nehemiah to Artaxerxes, Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, or Joseph to Pharaoh, God will open doors for us to have influence on those in power & give us allies in high places. These privileged places are not taken for granted – not every subservient nation got its members in such high ranks. This should not surprise us – God has been pleased to use secular or non-covenant means, rulers, & institutions to achieve His ends since the Old Testament. That applies on campus!
  3. God calls us to engage the powerful #2: We will encounter unjust judges (Luke 18:1-8) in our schools who contradict the growth of the Gospel or renewal of the campus or even the presence of God. But they too can grant us justice if we find the right approach & are persistent. And if we have powerful allies & partners, this too will aid our cause.
  4. We are daily creating ripples in the lives of students & campus culture. But that should not dull our hunger for a great revival and tidal wave of the Spirit’s work to overtake us. We often neglect to hope for great things out of pragmatism or veiled jadedness. We need to humble ourselves to patiently but hopefully ask God to pour out His Spirit powerfully. We joined staff to see the transformation of a generation, not just ripples
  5. In spite of the professional demeanor, Christian faculty members get scared and discouraged too, just like normal people! The milieu & direct coworker interactions can easily dull the sharpness of their hope and conviction. Yet faculty, who create the curricula for universities, are some of the most important allies & pathways in seeking campus renewal. My job as a staff worker must include the intentional pursuit of and encouragement of Christian faculty to build them up & encourage them in their own campus-renewing work.
  6. In times of crisis or chaos, God will be pleased to show the power of His gospel. The racial incidents at UC San Diego proved again the failure of secular ‘diversity’ in all its shallowness. What proved better was the racial reconciliation, multiethnic, and ethnic identity fullness of the message that the InterVarsity staff worker offered to share when the administration was at its wits end. They gladly accepted. At St. Louis this happened as well (watch the video here from InterVarsity’s media branch). In all ways, we must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15) & out of chaos & crisis God will prove His righteousness & love.
  7. We must encourage our students not to cast aside responsibilities & opportunities of academic life for the sake of just doing chapter work. We ourselves must increase our vision of integrated work and ministry to help our students find that way. Only when we do this will we develop whole-life disciples who seek the good of the ‘cities’ they are in.
  8. God is greatly at work at every corner & kind of university! Want proof? Watch ALL the video testimonies of God’s power at different types of campuses and chapters! From commuter schools to HBCUs, northeastern to southern, public & private, athletes & graduate students, God is bringing people to Him to renew the campus. Nothing is impossible for the Lord. Watch all the videos here:  Staff Conference ’11 videos

God really expanded my vision for campus ministry & helped to redefine what the scope of my calling and role should be!  But far from being burdened or worn out, I feel even more excited about my job than ever. It really is a privilege to be doing this ministry work. I was also blessed by great times of fun & fellowship with my other staff workers & enjoyed getting to meet new friends too! Whether Blue Ridge or class mates from summer training, or new staff all together, God really built me up in all those interactions.

While these 8 lessons apply to a campus minister, ask yourself how they might apply to you too – as a undergrad student, grad student, layperson in church, or parent too. God wants more partners in the university work, so we welcome your participation in His mission wherever you are!

Worship time at Staff Conference '11. They and the speakers were a major part of us hearing the Lord's call to deeper service & commitment to Him & the campus.

National Staff Conference: Stretching

It’s been a good time so far in St. Louis with all the other staff. Overwhelming is an understatement. There are 1300 staff from all departments and geographical regions (including overseas-serving staff). We’re hearing sermons and talks that are pushing us to stretch our vision of campus renewal. Our seminars and training tracks are encouraging us to practically and prayerfully try new things that encourage our students or the university to see what God wants to do to set things right.

I’m very much processing the material and content we’ve heard – there have been many things that’ve definitely pushed me to reconsider my present views of university life, staff responsibility, personal discipleship when it comes to settling into the universities we are called to. I hope to write more later about some of the specifics that I’ve felt convicted about but there have many things that I’ve seen the Lord speaking and highlighting things for me. So that is exciting!

Thanks for your prayers and support as I and other staff are here to learn about how to help bring about God’s renewal to the whole campus.

National Staff Conference: Preview

I am off to St. Louis for the much-anticipated IV national staff conference 2011! All active IV staff will be there to learn about how God wants to redeem not just individual students or build up a strong chapter, but transform the whole campus to reflect Him.

I will be in the Multiethnicity track — we’ll learn about how, as IV staff workers, we can demonstrate racial reconciliation and unity of the diverse Body on campus. So often the secular vision of diversity is only skin deep; God wants something better and I look forward to the chance to explore this topic.

I’m also glad to spend time with my other staff worker friends/colleagues, not only from the Blue Ridge region (VA, NC, SC) but those that I’ve met from all over the country!

Please pray that our learning and fellowship times will be used by God to enrich and energize us for greater love for Him and for our campuses.

My last national staff gathering was in Madison WI for training summer. I know God will use SC 11 to do great things in us and for our students.

Reflections on CMC 2010 & ABCs in the Church

(Nota Bene: I am excepting California from any statements in my post here on out. The California ABC experience does not represent the Chinese-American experience in the church or larger culture because they are almost and sometimes are the majority in their community setting. All ABCs are minorities. Maybe I’ll address the CA vs. everyone else difference another time.)

As some of you know, I spent Dec 26-30 in King of Prussia, PA at Chinese Missions Conference 2010 — the Chinese church in America’s Urbana equivalent. Hosted by Ambassadors for Christ (AFC) it is a major influence/force in mobilizing Chinese immigrants to go into missions. Originally affecting mostly the east coast American Chinese, they are now growing — hosting a conference in San Diego and one in the UK.

I’ve been once before in 2007 but this time was a very different experience. Instead of a sophomore, I’m a college graduate. Instead of a student, I’m a vocational minister. Instead of being resistant to issues & question of ethnic (Asian/Chinese) identity, I am increasingly aware and convicted of them. It’s in the last area –  ethnic identity – that the Lord spoke most powerfully to me.

I’m not ready to share or talk about all of it yet but I will say that for me personally the Lord is increasingly putting Asian-American issues into my life, both personally and ministerially. They are unavoidable, I am constantly seeing them, not with some neurotic imposition of my own ethnic crises, but because the Lord is highlighting questions, issues, needs all around me. Throughout this staff journey, God has been bringing them to me and asking if I’ll be led into it.

At this conference, I was affirmed again that one of the major needs in the Chinese church (maybe in other Asian churches too, I wouldn’t know personally) is help dealing with the 2nd generation in every way imaginable. I’ve repeatedly experienced/come across the following TWO issues pertaining to the 2nd generation church experience.

  1. Family issues: I, young/inexperienced 23-year-old, have been asked a half-dozen times about “how can I help/lead/guide my son or daughter?” by parents who are desperate for insight; I’ve also repeatedly been in the place of counseling Asian-American students (both at Duke and after) about how to deal with their parents’ cultural and spiritual views. In any case, the 1st and 2nd generation don’t know how to relate to each other in Biblical, healthy ways. Expectations, rebellion, spirituality, etc. are all confused and nobody knows how to talk to each other.
    That’s why I keep getting asked questions that I’m generally unqualified to answer. I don’t say this with any malice, please understand it as grief, but why on earth am I, the just-graduated-not-even-married one that parents are asking? I am glad for the opportunity to serve. But something is seriously wrong. I am glad to share what I know, but how can there be nobody else, wiser, better qualified, more certain than I? Or maybe there’s nobody in the position even if they are qualified.
    I’m not passive-aggressively suggesting that ABC youth ministry is inadequate; I think many of these issues are not easily solvable by programs. They begin/exist in the home. And they are complicated. But clearly there is a dearth of training, which exists because there is a dearth of vision about what is actually happening. Many church-going 1st generations assume all is well. Many of their children assume so too (if someone older says something then it’s so). This is patently untrue – the brokenness is rampant. The horrific attrition rate of ABCs leaving the church is related to this I’m sure.
  2. Missiological/ecclesiological issues: the 1st generation doesn’t actually know what to do with the 2nd generation in terms of their role in the church/mission of the church. The traditional 1st-generation mission is to be the body for immigrant Chinese, building up immigrant believers, and sharing the Gospel to non-believing immigrants. They are clear about this, and it has been a successful endeavor generally.
    But the assumption is that the 2nd generation, once graduated from high school/college, ought to come back and serve (in youth program or English congregation — any ABC knows the dreaded request to help with summer VBS). But the issue is that the Chinese church doesn’t have a place to feed, teach, or build-up the 2nd generation even if we do come back. Our English congregations almost without fail lack purpose, vision, energy, and vigor; not because they are Biblically weak, but because they are missiologically/ecclesiologically confused.
    What are 2nd-generation bicultural Asians doing in an immigrant church? While we can partner in that immigrant-reaching endeavor, the questions/callings/convictions we have still go unanswered. For instance: what do we do with our minority/bicultural identity? Even if we go along with the 1st-generation assumption, our place in the Body still is unresolved. So we are listless. We are confused. And we feel harried. But we shouldn’t be. Right? Wrong? I met a Chinese-American pastoring the English congregation of a Chinese church in VA beach. He said “We didn’t know who we were supposed to reach so we ended up reaching nobody. So now we’ve just decided to try [a certain missional outlook].” I was glad to hear that someone in similar shoes is wrestling with the same questions and pressing forward in Jesus.

These two problems in my view are cyclical. What the ABC Christian needs is a vision and guidance through other ABC Christians. The pastor from VA Beach is a big deal because as he and others like him try new things, the confused people like me will start to have models to think about, ask about, compare, and pray about. We’ll see what God is doing, and discern this together. But we are not going to have any 2nd-generation church to speak of unless we start dealing with the home issues. And to deal with the home inter-1st-2nd-generational issues (of miscommunication, different expectations, different views of God), we need intermediaries to help both sides understand the other, reconcile, and grow in Christ.

At CMC 2010 I was an intermediary for both sides of that divide. A 50-year-old man I’d seen before very humbly asked me how to help his son. I gave him my best answer — “encourage sharing, ask open-ended questions” instead of “check-point parenting, like did you eat/sleep/do homework/go to church.” He sounded slightly desperate, or grieved when he asked. I also helped to share and encourage a fellow ABC about her own family pains. The common physically and emotionally absent father leaves a back/heart-breaking vacuum in the lives of his family members. What to do? I shared my best answer – pray and go about the slow hard work of regrowing the fabric of relationship (saying thank you, faithfully doing chores, trying to engage in conversation even if it seems fruitless).

The role of intermediary is the role I’ve repeatedly been called to play. But I see myself taking up the role of pioneer as well, maybe even very soon.

I’ve shared a bit more personally than I typically would, but since this blog is about both my personal and general ministry issues, there you have it.

If you’ve been praying for me, pray that the Lord would continue to guide me in how I can faithfully answer His call to use my gifts and identity as an American-born Chinese to serve others (whether Asian or not). I very much feel that God is trying to make this a bigger and bigger part of my ministry outlook. I never thought I’d feel this way, but I willingly welcome it.

12/27 - Evening speaker session at Chinese Missions Conference 2010