Monthly Archives: July 2011

I’m not, but God is

One of the frightening things about planting  a chapter is that you realize very quickly just how inadequate you are. Yes, I am in the national planting cohort and it’s sort of like an ace pilot training program and yes my gifts have been affirmed in a lot of ways. All that’s true. But both at training in Madison and in many other ways, I have had to come face to face with fears, most of which stem from inadequacies or weaknesses.

For instance, do any of you know that I actually abhor cold-call contact evangelism or outreach? I do them out of faithfulness and conviction that God gives us opportunities when we step out like that. That’s right, dorm-storming and Proxe Stations are not things I am eager or excited to do. Which stinks since that’s basically what I have to do all year!

I’m also extremely black/white in my evaluation of things – I make clear and principled decisions but they often miss the potential in people just because they aren’t up to measurement right away. And this is hard because a lot of what I’m doing is looking for people with potential! When you start a chapter you’re not even looking for fully-fledged leaders, but simply people with potential for being committed members!

I often wonder if I have what it takes to pursue this new and awesome vision of Asian American ministry. I believe firmly in its relevance, necessity, and rightness, but am I too much the product of other ministry and bound to fall into old patterns or structures?

These and many other things have crossed my mind. In so many ways, I am inadequate to this task. But that has never stopped God before has it. I think for ME at least, this is a means for me to recognize that for all the weaknesses I have, God has grace for me and, forgiving as He always is, will use my strengths as well. Moreover, this also reminds me that like Paul, His power is made perfect in my weakness. Too often am I the kind of person and staff worker who emphasizes being perfect as if it could exist without God’s grace.

So even if I am not gifted, God is. And even if I do not know how to forgive myself for these things, God does. This is yet another reminder that the Good News is always good, no matter who you are. Thankfully, nobody ever graduates from being a student  of the Gospel.

While I've done Proxes many time & lead/taught many people how to do them, they still scare me!

CHBC Chinese fellowship: July 12 Bridging the gap(s)

I had the opportunity to visit the Chapel Hill Bible Church and give my “Who Am I?: Identity, Christianity, & Asianity” seminar to the Chinese fellowship on Friday, July 8. This time was different because (1) I had a translator, (2) I revised the structure of the talk so that it (to my mind) flows much better. You can find the video at the end of the post. The turnout was great, with 50 or more in attendance. It was an amazing chance to help bridge the gap — not just between Chinese (1st generation/immigrant) parents and Chinese-American (2nd generation) children, but also between Christian and non-Christian!

Apparently, they sent out a flier/promotional e-mail across their list-serv, including through a local Chinese school and presumably people shared about it through word of mouth too. But Kuo-Ping, one of the coordinators/deacons told me that there were many people they had never seen before at all! Non-Christian Chinese parents (and some of their kids) attended a seminar where I described how God through the salvation and healing of Jesus is the only answer to our difficult identity problems! What an honor and privilege.

This again goes to show just how crucial it is for us to address the issues of Asian-Americans (within the context of both their Asian heritage and American society). Anyone who has heard my full vision (or has read my support letter) for U.Va’s Asian-American InterVarsity knows that I believe that the necessary discipleship AND witness/outreach for Asian-American students is squarely found in that issue. Tonight is proof of that. Not that it will be easy, but having some better answers/approaches to this question can build up Godly families but may also contribute to the work of witness to those who don’t know Jesus, 1st-and 2nd-generation both!

And then on Sunday I got to present my ministry and God provided at least two new partners that very day! Praise the Lord for provision. I even got treated to lunch by some current supporters. As always, I’m affirmed that partnership really is a two-way, and very encouraging, relationship.

You can see the video (minus the last 5 minutes and the Q&A section — my camera ran out of memory) here:

Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant movement

Post-training post: Since I didn’t get to write everyday like I hoped to, here’s a post-training post.

Learning to live a life of constant movement

“What’s next? Then what? Then what? And after that? Ok so then what do you? What if that doesn’t work? OK so how about after that? And then?” Hans’ questioning at training was relentless as we debriefed our campus immersion day. He grilled us continually, asking us how we would hypothetically start a chapter at the campus we visited. He pushed us repeatedly to think of the next step. “What’s the next step?” And the next? And the next? And the next? Repeat ad infinitum / ad nauseum.

The harsh/sickening/exciting(?) reality of planting is that we must be constantly moving like this. Why? Because truth be told I’m not really at U.Va to start a chapter for Asian-American students, though what I am doing will take that shape in part. What I’m really doing is trying to start a movement on campus. I may be planting  a chapter — with its networks and circles and requisite structures in due course — but I’m starting a movement:

  • In the lives of my students to grow them in mission & ethnic wholeness/understanding;
  • In the lives of their friends who’ve never heard of Jesus;
  • To positively influence and partner with school administration;
  • (Particularly for East Asians) to bridge the horrific, unbiblical, ethnic-identity-based gap between Asian Christian and non-Christians, those in fellowships vs. those in Asian Student Union/Korean Student Association/Indian Student Federation etc.

We are the physical parts of God’s spiritual movement in a new direction and new vision on Grounds. As a result, I the planter have to always ask myself “what’s next?” Not to constantly scheme and mastermind some perfect plan, but so that I am constantly linking where we are now or whatever movement is happening here with the dream and vision that’s not yet here. Having an attitude of constant movement keeps me flexible, keeps me open, keeps me responsive to where the Spirit is stirring something.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ll be reaching out all year in hopes of finding potential students. But it’s the attitude of constant movement that will keep me flexible — to do more in the areas where the Spirit’s stirring, and to back off the places where it’s not going, to be responsive to Him and not take things personally if they fall flat. As I’m constantly moving to and anticipating what’s next, hopefully I’ll come up with many many good ideas that, if even if I don’t use them for this next step, that they’ll be handy for another one somewhere down the road. As we grow in size and speed, our movement will increase in force and impact on those around it!

When we do outreach (potentially through a public Proxe board), I've always got to have a next step in mind to invite people to! What's next, what's next, what's next!

Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant outreach

Post-training post: Since I didn’t get to write everyday like I hoped to, here’s a post-training post.

Learning to have a life of constant outreach

When I arrive on Grounds this August, I will have only my backpack — with fliers, posters, papers, Bible, laptop, etc. — and a vision — that I’ve prayed, thought, dreamed, crafted into understandable articulations. I have no students, no structures, no alumni, no alumni donations, no office, no official CIO status for the group. Those things will hopefully be the result of the vision taking root.

But if God wants this to happen, that means these people are out there.  And to find them I must live a life of constant outreach. Everywhere, anytime, I must learn to be aware, available, invitation. In our training we’re taught to cast the net wide and in a variety of ways. And this scares me.  I’m not fond of talking to strangers without introduction — partly my own fears, partly my cultural predisposition. I have to try many different things in many different places and pray that God will open doors to find the right people!

You could say that my role as a planter is to be a first-year/freshman all year. But unlike the regular first-years who join fellowships or communities, I can’t stop once I just a little resolution. It’ll require boldness and perseverance.

Moreover, in trying to create a missional community, outreach and evangelism must go hand-in-hand. As I meet strangers, shouldn’t I also pray that God will give me divine encounters with non-believers as well as potential core members? And who says that non-Christians can’t be committed to this vision? God has done stranger things before!

Not surprisingly, a life of constant outreach is linked closely with a life of constant observation — because I must be constantly prayerful and aware/open in order to pursue and reach out! So pray that I’d be resilient and tireless in reaching out widely and in many different ways, even the ways I’m scared of!

This gathering of freshly moved-in first-years is exactly the kind of thing I'll have to step into if I hope to find those potential chapter members!

Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant observation

Day 1: Learning to have a life of constant observation

Our inaugural event of the chapter planting cohort was, not surprisingly, hands-on. Or rather, campus-on. We spent all our day-time sessions (including lunch break) at a local college to get a first-hand experience in some key chapter planting skills, feelings, environments, and work.

I won’t go into all the details — it’s tedious and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for any future planters! — but we were tasked to learn as much as we could about the school, in any fashion we chose, in 2 hours. After doing this myself and hearing everyone else’s experiences, conversations, and findings, we saw that this observing/learning/investigating must be not just a one-time activity, but a regular activity. Not only that, it must become a lifestyle, a constant posture when we’re on campus.

Between appointments we should always listen, look, watch, actively observe and write down things that show us the real needs, demands, interests, goals, and ideals of the school or our target student group. What kinds of events are put on? What kinds of fliers are on the message boards? What kinds of stories are in the school paper? Are the issues of my students implied or proclaimed? What kind of things do people want? What are their expectations? We must learn to discern these questions as we constantly observe.

Not only did we learn some important facts, but the Lord orchestrated some really divine encounters! Several planters got to share the Gospel with curious students, and TWO of those students took serious steps forward in their journey. By God’s grace, one of them actually works at the hotel we’re staying at. After meeting our staff and making the connection that we’re guests at his workplace, he spent the rest of the day with us. In our debrief meeting, he said “I’m thankful for this school because it has helped me be in the right place to move forward in knowing God.” We were just here for a learning experience! Imagine what it can be like if we do this intentionally, wholly, all-out, at our respective campus chapter plants?! As we ask questions and listen, the Lord can lead us into important encounters both for us to gain insight but also to share the Gospel and connect people to Him.

But in addition to the learning and witnessing, this life of constant observation is the way that God will speak to our heart. As we do this, God will give us compassion and love for this campus, precisely because we are not scripting or scheming (there is a time for that!). As we become active learners and observers, we allow God to show us what is really happening and what He really desires. We are in a place where we can see His vision for the campus, instead of asking Him to bless ours.

Debriefing on campus after our two-hour investigation excursion. We learned some important aspects of the campus culture, and some people had real divine encounters and got to share about Jesus. Sorry the picture is so boring! I wasn't going to take photos while out and about.