Serving at Urbana 2012!

I’m at Urbana 2012 Missions Convention in St. Louis, MO and it is awesome! I’m working Social Media for the conference (#SocialSquad), using instagram, twitter, and writing posts for the InterVarsity national blog.

Here’s a blog post I wrote, profiling the experience of an individual student. I was glad to pick one U.Va’s very own, Jerry M! He’s a leader in U.Va’s Black campus ministry chapter, OneWay InterVarsity. You can read the post here: http://www.intervarsity.org/blog/day-life-glimpses-urbana-12

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken for the instagram account (@urbanamissions):

I’m also speaking this afternoon at the Pan-Asian student lounge. I’m doing a book giveaway to help promote it too: see HERE!

Pray for us as we also have a U.Va InterVarsity family gathering this afternoon. Pray that students would be encouraged as we share and pray for God to continue working in our hearts.

Giving away books to encourage people to attend my #PANA talk!

Giving away books to encourage people to attend my #PANA talk!

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For when I am weak, then I am strong

How is it that this week is going so exceptionally well? How is it that this week — where I am suddenly sick and tired from air travel, where I’m out of ideas of what AIV needs to do to grow and confused as to what I’m supposed to do next, where going into work has been an act of will because I don’t feel that I have anything to offer — has been one of the best of the year?

How did our final AIV community group meeting end up being one of the best this fall? 10 people were there, and they spent over 20 minutes sharing and processing the material. And almost all of us stayed to get food together after! I felt grossly underprepared since the topic was heavy (repentance!) and I returned to Charlottesville only 5 hours before it started.

How come all my student meetings felt so anointed? Every single one this week seemed to go so well! – the sweet and fun conversation with the OYFA 2nd-year officer who I met so providentially this month,  the talks about being a real man with all its responsibility, the 1st-year AIVer who’s learning about real Christ-like leadership. I’ve felt both spiritually and physically inadequate to the task every time.

How is it that all the discipleship groups went so deep? Our Wednesday guys group was one of our most open and honest. The Thursday one-on-one was so powerful, since we recognized how all spiritual activity is to be done under grace and not out of guilt. And all of them have re-upped for more next semester. Really? Discipling isn’t even a primary gift of mine…

I suppose all of these things came to pass because God is good and generous and His word does not return to Him void. Even in my frailness this week, God was no less present and powerful for every single person who needed something. Though I felt less eloquent or clear-headed, whatever I said was somehow, miraculously, inevitably, no less true or powerful. I suppose it is because His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness. I suppose it is because when I am weak, then I am strong. And I suppose, for everyone involved (including me), this really is good news.

Perhaps I should continue to take my cues from that passage – 2 Corinthians 12:1-12 – and end on this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Image

final AIV CoGo of fall semester

OneWay IV large group sermon: THE COST OF EVERYTHING (video)

Last Friday, I was thrilled to get the chance to preach at OneWay Christian Fellowship’s large group. OneWay is another chapter of InterVarsity here at U.Va ministering to and through black and African American students – they went before us in terms of doing ethnic-specific ministry here on Grounds! As sibling IV chapters, we staff love to serve each other, invite each other to lead or get to know our students, and share our ministry space as a family. Even in the midst of AIV’s intense fall outreach schedule, I was glad to serve my fellow IV staff worker Charlene as well as get to spend some time with OneWay students.

The inclusion of my story as a son of immigrants/being Asian, as well as a reference of many scholarship-recipients was purposeful. As ethnic specific ministries, we have to get into our context for the Gospel to take root. In fact, our whole sibling chapter/staff model of InterVarsity here at U.Va is very purposeful to engage with the ethnic heritage and context we come from and enter into through ministry. And when I said that OneWay set the tone for some of what AIV does, that’s not just a politician’s compliment, I really mean that. Much of what I learned as an intern, before I received the specific calling to minister to Asian students, was gained from observing OneWay! I can’t say enough how important cross-cultural learning and ministry is for us.

OneWay is in the middle of a 4-week sermon series called “Follow Me” discussing the real, nitty gritty nature of what it means to follow Jesus. No platitudes, no fluffiness, just direct messages and reflection upon what this call means. I was given Luke 14:25-35 as my passage, which is often subtitled “The Cost of Being a Disciple.” You can find the YouTube video of the sermon, embedded here!

Emphasizing a point

Five anecdotes & adages about my life as a chapter planter

When people ask about how I’m doing or how AIV is going, I don’t usually have an answer that isn’t simply quantifiable. It’s not because I’m obsessed only with numbers. It’s because I cannot explain to you what’s really going on underneath the surface. So I’ve written a little list of 5 anecdotes and adages that hopefully help illuminate what my life is like as a chapter planter. Maybe this’ll become a series. Hopefully it’ll help me make more sense.

I.

(September 2011)
I followed a 1st-year to get into a Watson-Webb, 20 minutes early to stake out and set up a study room. I move tables and chairs into a circle. In my bag I have 12 copies of the Bible passage, my notes, and pens. I sit quietly, waiting for the next 20 minutes. And the next 20. Nobody comes.
I walk back to my car, reminding myself that God has called me here. Shortly after, I shout at God for not following through. And I repeat this process a dozen more times that night.

II.

Actually, this is how it always feels. What alternative is there? I am fighting/living/dying to bring a vision that doesn’t exist yet. And I feel relish/rage in every moment of it. My mind is a hot, tempestuous place, always coming up with new ideas and thinking about what to do now and next.
Such is the life of a forge.

III.

Chapter planters are not optimists or pessimists; we can’t afford to be either. I gustily plan for 30 but always fearfully know it could be 6. We live in two places at once; both are real. That is every day of my job. God help you if offer any overly-optimistic/-pessimistic ministry ‘advice’ to a chapter planter. I’ve learned to politely receive and not take it personally. But, this is me we’re talking about, so it’s hard not to.

IV.

We all know that ministry is not an easy calling – if it is, you’re not doing real ministry – and at some point or other, every campus minister has a hard year. NSO flops because students drop the ball. Divisions emerge in leadership and commitments aren’t honored. Even when good choices are made, sometimes things don’t seem to click in some pragmatic or spiritual way. In a hard year, numbers shrink, morale sinks, and we say “okay, next year.”
Consider that a chapter planter willfully signs up for a hard year, or two, or three. We don’t have the luxury of “next year,” because there isn’t even a “this year.” There is no M.O. to rewrite or reshape. If I do not go to campus on a given day, the chapter does not exist. It is a round-the-clock kind of calling that has no back-up plan. Yes, we’re all a little crazed. That should explain why we joke about being the Top Gun of IV.

V.

(March 2012)
I am setting up meetings through Facebook on a nondescript weeknight – my hours know no rhythm. And as I’m adding an appointment into Google Calendar I realize that I, a professional Christian minister, am meeting with leaders of some of the U.Va cultural organizations on a personal and pastoral level, many of whom are not Christian or in any way religious. These are the same leaders who asked me, suspiciously, cautiously, necessarily, what exactly my role – as a professional Christian minister – was going to be in their organization.
After hours of attending events, cleaning up, serving alongside, offering rides, offering advice, it seems they believed whatever answer I gave them about being here to serve and support them because God loves them even if Christians don’t always show that. I have taught Acts 2:42-47 many times as a Christian leader but this is the first time I know what it truly means to “[enjoy] the favor of all the people.” It humbles me, empowers me, and brings me to tears. It reminds me that I am here for a specific, God-ordained reason even though it feels like hell and the gates seem to be prevailing more than we are. It helps me sleep another night and go to war another day.

One of the many events last week – a dean of students garden party for incoming Asian/Asian American first-years to meet some leaders.

2011-2012 AIV report

Dear friends & supporters,

I’m excited to present my 2011-2012 ministry report. God has done many great things in our inaugural year. Asian InterVarsity is growing & going forward in God’s vision of renewal for the University of Virginia. I hope you’re encouraged as you read the report, & that you’ll consider how you might partner with the work God is doing. Prayer & financial support has been critical in encouraging & resourcing me as I’ve spent this 1st year sowing new seeds & feeding hard soil toward a harvest in the Asian & Asian American community. If you’re interested in partnering, please…

You can view the embedded version below — for full-screen, click here.

God has done great things this year. I hope you are encouraged & will consider partnering to help support as we move forward to greater & deeper things.

Winter Conference ’12: SKEPTIC TO SEEKER (audio)

This recording is very overdue, but here’s the audio of a seminar I gave back in January at our area winter conference! The conference helped students deal with the unspoken question of “what happens after I become a Christian?” and how to keep on growing in general, giving students a vision for growth and purpose whether they were a skeptic still figuring out their view of Jesus, a faithful Christian who was in a position of affecting the world around them.

My seminar was on the first step: Skeptic to Seeker — it offers very practical understanding and advice for Christians on how to best help their skeptic friends become seekers, and also directly addresses skeptics (which we did have in the room) and gives them counsel on their own role in growing. The talk went very well and students asked some great questions, including a student who at the time had just started going to her school’s InterVarsity chapter. She came and asked me after about how to grow and I was really encouraged as I spoke with her then prayed with her. A couple months later at summer Rockbridge, I found out that she’d become a Christian since I saw her last! What a wonderful glimpse of the journey I’d been teaching on.

Rockbridge ’12: IDENTITY TRANSFORMED 2.0 (video)

Preaching “Image Rejected” during week 2.

UPDATE: Image RejectedReclaimed are now posted.

Hi friends! It’s been 3 hectic months since my last post. It’s just been too busy to blog! To bookend the silence, this (like my last post) will be a write-up plus video! There’ll be 3 sermons (2 sermons by me & 1 by my roommate, Garrett Trent, Greek IV @ U.Va staff). Editing & uploading takes time — I’ll add the new videos as I finish & repost the blog link to Facebook/Twitter etc.
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Our yearly chapter camp is an awesome time of celebration and growth for students from all over NC, SC, and VA. God is so tangibly at work there and we staff know it’s a crucial time to be present and attentive. I had the privilege of serving in the Identity Transformed (IDT) track for both weeks. IDT helps student wrestle with what God meant identity to be and how our false identities inhibit our transformation. Though it was a new track last year, we saw God work throughout the bumpy first-run to transform students deeply.

I’ve enjoyed my part in growing the track and getting a front-row seat to this amazing process. But I also love IDT because it’s good for me. My identity is often wrapped up in accomplishments. My posture is go, do, build, make. God through IDT calls me to berestlistenbelong. My action must be grounded in my abiding, but that’s easier said than done! God used the 2 weeks of IDT to speak to those very identity issues of mine.

I came into Week 1 worn out from a 6-week blitz of traveling, exit meetings, and a big year-end AIV event. I felt unprepared for my IDT roles (preaching 2 Gospel session sermons & leading a small group).  I hadn’t put in the 10 hours per sermon, I hadn’t reread Colossians recently. I was afraid that, in my unready state, I’d hinder God’s purpose for the track. God had different plans in mind. I was especially amazed on Thursday (gospel session 3: Image Reclaimed). It was the turning point of the week – after 3 days of reflection on false vs. true identity, we were inviting students to receive the true identity God had created for them. As I invited people to let Jesus reclaim their broken identities, 7 people said yes for the first time, and 10 for the first time in a long time! I hadn’t gotten in the way, God has used me, and amazing things had happened during week 1.

Inevitably, all staff come in tired for the 2nd week. But instead of growing to trust Him more, I again felt that I was going to mess things up. I felt out of tune on Tuesday when I preached on Image Rejected. Technically, it was one of my best sermons ever (I executed transitions and points well, etc.). But I didn’t feel spiritually in-tune. When it came to reflection time, I invited students to receive help to pray repentance (to let go of false identities). Again I was afraid that my out-of-tune-ness was going to get in the way. But as the next hour unfolded, over 20 students came for prayer; over a 1/4 of the track! Clearly God had it under control.

You’d think I’d get the message by Thursday. But no. I still heard a voice in my head telling me that I was going to mess it up. And that voice got worse when “only” 12 people accepted my invitation to receive God’s true identity. Half of me was rejoicing & truly excited. But the other half said, There are fewer people this week because you weren’t good enough. You forgot your points. You weren’t spiritually prepared. You weren’t as eloquent. It kept saying that, even when staff prayed against lies of the enemy the steal & destroy our joy. I had not been good enough. If only I’d been more prepared, slept more, prayed more.

Then God used two of the students who’d said “yes” for the first time to bless me. As I was cleaning up, a young man told me that he’d grown up his whole life in church but that God had spoken through my sermons to show him things in a new true way. “Now I feel freed for God to use me now! It’s amazing!” As I was leaving, a young lady told me thanked me for the words I’d spoken; now she understood the truth about what God is offering her. “I’ve become part of the InterVarsity community which was awesome but I never understood ‘the joy of the Lord’ that everyone talked about. But now, today, I have it! These tears I’m crying are tears of joy.”

I actually don’t expect students to ever speak to me after about a sermon; nobody did that week 1 and that’s perfectly normal and fine. But God sent these two students to bless me and affirm me. And in a very gentle and gracious tone, I felt God saying that “They came to thank you because they value their transformation. I value their transformation. Don’t worry, you too can value their transformation.” Here I was, feeling uneasy about getting up there, and feeling like I’d done terribly. To God, I hadn’t gotten in the way. To God, I’d done well.  God sent the students in that moment to speak against my habitual false identity as hero that threatens to steal and destroy. Moreover, I realized that God has been growing me all year in this area.  Last year, when I received praise for my speaking, that voice would probably have gone something like Look at me, I’m such a good preacher. At least now there’s a little fear and trembling. Which is all to say that Lord had this too under control.

Turns out students aren’t the only ones getting transformed.

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IMAGE REJECTED

IMAGE RECLAIMED

IMAGE RESTORED (by Garrett Trent) [to be posted later]