Tag Archives: AAID

GCF large group sermon: GOOD ENOUGH? (video)

I have had a lot of speaking engagements this year, but I had my first opportunity to preach at a non-InterVarsity fellowship this past Friday. On April 12th, I was invited to Grace Christian Fellowship’s (GCF) large group.

GCF was the first predominantly-Asian fellowship at U.Va, started by I.J. Kim nearly two decades ago. I first met brother I.J. when he spoke at Rockbridge in 2008 at our C-Team track. How fitting that even after graduation, he and I would reconnect in ministry! As I considered how best to serve the audience, I took note of the fact that many GCF members were 1.5 or 2nd generation Korean Americans who grew up to some degree in immigrant churches. That quickly led to Luke 15, traditionally known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

As I’ve done before, I asked the audience to imagine that the characters were Asian, firstly to offset the internalized bias that Bible characters are white, and secondly to make us more open to what God might have to say for us. I think it should be called “The Parable of the Good Enough Sons” instead. See for yourself what it’s like to see this famous text with Asian eyes and Asian skin.

Demonstrating the older son's anger.

Demonstrating the older son’s anger.



In late January, I had the rare privilege of being invited to lead a seminar at the Mid-Atlantic Union of Vietnamese Student Association (MAUVSA) annual “Advance” conference. MAUVSA is the regional organization the my beloved U.Va VSA is part of, and it gathers VSAs from 9 different schools together for shared fundraising and advocacy. Their conference was about pursuing your passion as a Vietnamese/Asian American leader. The U.Va VSA president remembered my talk at ECAASU and thought of me!

It’s so rare that a campus pastor gets the opportunity to act as a leader or speaker in such a setting. I really wanted to bring something valuable to students based upon my own personal professional and spiritual perspective. Thus, my talk – “Asian American Leadership in a White American World” – drew from my own exploration of ethnic identity and the sociological realities of America. I included material from InterVarsity vice president Paul Tokunaga’s book “Invitation to Lead” as well as InterVarsity alumna Jane Hyun and her famous book “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling.”  I really loved being able to serve my own VSA students in this setting!

You can find the video of my talk here (apologies for the backlighting and angle, there wasn’t an ideal place to put the camera).

Courtesy of Kim Pham Clark

(Courtesy of Kim Pham Clark)

There was quite a turnout even despite the fact that all the U.Va VSA students came to my seminar! Courtesy of Kim Pham Clark

There was quite a turnout even despite the fact that all the U.Va VSA students came to my seminar!
(Courtesy of Kim Pham Clark)


While at Urbana I had the privilege of speaking at the Pan-Asian N. American (PANA) lounge – a place where Asian American students could gather for food, fellowship, and to hear short talks focusing on a big idea that related to intersection of ethnic identity and spiritual life. I was the very last speaker in 4 days of excellent talks. My topic: “Asian America: Divided by God?” or, more bluntly, “Why don’t non-Christian Asian Americans like our Asian fellowship?

This 10-minute talk is a re-shaped version of my talk at ECAASU back in February. While ECAASU focuses on political activism and cultural awareness, largely from a secular standpoint, Urbana engages these topics from a Christian background. I approached the divide between religious and non-religious Asian Americans from a scriptural standpoint. I called Asian American Christians to re-examine their fears and gifts and to recommit to Christ’s mandate and manner of witness.

It seemed to elicit positive response from folks who’ve never heard this topic spoken on before. Some students I know from Duke, as well as student leaders from MIT and the University of Michigan, asked questions about how to  embody this kind of culturally-authentic / culturally-effective witness. Again I’m grateful for the chance to speak out of what God has led me through (even though I still feel so far behind where I should be)!

You can see the video here:

At the PANA "Big Idea" speaker stage on the last day of Urbana.

At the PANA “Big Idea” speaker stage on the last day of Urbana.

A great weekend at ECAASU! (seminar video)

I’ve just finished a whirlwind weekend back at dear old Duke for ECAASU 2012 conference! I had the privilege of giving a workshop twice on Saturday. I had conservative expectations on how it would be received — after all, I’d never participated ECAASU or anything like it as a student, and since most of the conference is secular I wasn’t sure how mine (about the divide between religious & non-religious Asians) would be viewed.

As it turned out, there was a lot of interest! About 80 students in all attended the workshop, about 20 asked questions in the Q&A or stayed to speak personally with me, and I was asked 3 different times to give this message or speak on their campuses. Both religious and non-religious students asked questions and affirmed the material. But maybe most amazing of all was when an ECAASU (and Duke Asian Students Association) board member told me that this was the best ECAASU workshop he’d ever been to. If you know my history and the story of Duke InterVarsity, then you’ll understand how literally incredible that is. I still can’t believe it. I was so humbled and so grateful.

Humbled and grateful because there are so many reasons that I shouldn’t be here and I shouldn’t be doing this — I was one of the religious Asians who helped to perpetrate (or at least never thought to heal) the very divide I am teaching on, I am only in my first year of fully-fledged campus ministry and it’s only the first year of Asian InterVarsity, I am new to the Asian American cause myself (how could I have anything to teach?), I wouldn’t even be here if not for the insistence of my friend and ECAASU board member Caroline’s suggestion to apply as a presenter,  and seriously, what do I know?!

And yet what the students kept saying that they were so glad to hear this message — religious and non-religious students alike left validated/affirmed, but also challenged to reconsider the things of the other side. It was undoubtedly miraculous. Because, judging from how amazed I am, and how grateful and responsive they were, I am fairly sure that this sort of thing has never happened before. So praise God, because I did not get here on my own, and what students left with isn’t any brilliant word I created: it was an contrite reflection of my life with the inspiration of God.

I also got to use my experience as a Duke alumnus to serve the U.Va Asian Student Union delegates! 11 ASU members came, including 2 students I’m pretty close with through VSA. It was a treat to take them to some great spots – Cookout (they were fond of the milkshakes) and Chai’s for dinner. I had a great time getting to know them better and serving them with what I have: knowledge of great restaurants. I hope to develop my relationships with them (individually and with ASU) more when I get back to Grounds.

So to close, I’ll post the workshop video. Unfortunately, this was my first iteration and my second one was SO. MUCH. BETTER. Smoother, fewer stops, closer to the proper time, with Q&A at the end, AH! Why oh why didn’t I record the second one!? Though perhaps, given the success of the weekend, this too is God’s method of reminding me that excellence and brilliance are not mine to keep and grasp (whether in the form of a YouTube link to be shared at will, or in my heart to infect as pride). Which is fitting all in all, because that too leaves me humble and grateful.

U.Va Asian Student Union delegates at ECAASU (minus Will, who took the photo).

CGCM English service: LOST SONS (video)

On Sunday, Jan 8th, I had the privilege of preaching at CGCM’s Renewal congregation service. I selected Luke 15:11-32, the so-called “Parable of the Prodigal Son” as my text since it’s been on my mind a lot. Out of all the Bible stories, this is the one Asians are least comfortable with, and thus, the one I had to preach on.

I asked the audience to imagine that the characters in Jesus’ story were all Asian, that this was an Asian family. I believe it’s more historico-culturally accurate, and also more personally relevant for many of the people, Asian or not, who might’ve heard a different message from this text or the church in general. Much of this is similar to material I teach back at UVA / in Asian InterVarsity, because in a sense, I believe this is the Gospel for Asians as we sorely need to hear it.

You can watch the sermon video uploaded below to Vimeo (recorded by my friend Enping H!):

It was amusing to have the youth all sit up front to see their reaction as I asked them to imagine the characters as Asian (and other similar expositions throughout).

Preview: Greg @ ECAASU 2012

As students are working hard at finals, I’ve got my own research project coming up! I was accepted to lead a workshop at the annual East Coast Asian American Student Union conference, this year hosted at my lovely alma mater, Duke University. 1,500+ students from dozens of colleges and universities will attend to see keynote speakers, enjoy Asian American performing artists, and meet other Asian American college students. I know that U.Va’s Asian Student Union intends to go this year. The theme of ECAASU 2012 is “Rediscovery. Renaissance. Revolution.” Even though it’s not for another 3 months, I’ve got lots of research and work to do before I’m ready. The audience will primarily be non-Christian I’m assuming and so I’m especially excited that my job brings me into the arena of Asian American activism from the secular side!

The seminar I’ll be leading is entitled: “A Future Together?: bridging this divide between religious and non-religious Asians.” Summary from my workshop application:

Today in Asian America, two camps of Asian American life have arisen from the 2nd-generation – religious & non-religious Asians. Yet these 2 groups, with so much in common, have tended to be separate, at odds even with each other. Each camp has staked its claim on one source of identity – the non-religious have claimed cultural history/political activism & the religious have claimed spiritual identity. This dual path is detrimental to BOTH sides; in fact, we need to have a future together if we are to reach our full potential. The combination of the 2 together can be a revitalizing & mobilizing force for Asian America to produce better social & political outcomes for ourselves & others.

Religious (particularly Christian) Asian Americans need Rediscovery – they are sorely out of touch with their shared cultural heritage and immigrant history, which inevitably makes them disinterested in the pressing and important political and social issues facing the larger Asian America today. If they could Rediscover where they come from, they might have a hand in that fight too. Conversely, non-religious Asian Americans are, perhaps due to assimilational difficulties or uncomfortable experiences with religious persons, often spiritually or religiously orphaned. Few Asian Americans claim our historical religions except in name; most have little spiritual framework with which to interpret or navigate life, which I believe is detrimental to personal wellness and life experience. They need a Renaissance in their spiritual and moral sensibilities.

Ultimately, if these two parties could come together out of their Rediscovery and Renaissance, there could be a Revolution in Asian American activism and social engagement in this country – to benefit Asian America but also the nation or world at large with our incredible talents, gifts, and energy that so often goes unnoticed or untapped. We need the historical/political motivation (which non-religious Asians have) combined with the spiritual and moral strength and means (which religious Asians have) to enter a new era.

Excited? I know I am! I’ll post more updates about ECAASU and my progress as I get closer to February.

Eastern Promise, Eastern Promises: Dreams, Hope, & Glee’s “Asian F”

Eastern Promise, Eastern Promises: Dreams, Hope, & Glee‘s “Asian F”

(This post is about a recent episode of Glee, titled “Asian F.” You can watch it here: Asian F.)

MIKE CHANG, SR.: Deep in Hubei province this old woman knew the best school in the United States. That’s where my son belongs… My son got an A- on his chemistry test. An A- is an Asian F… An A- won’t do… It’s clear to me that either Michael is on drugs or that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. He needs to quite Glee club. Performing is a waste of his time…
MIKE CHANG, JR.: I’ll do better dad. I promise. Get me a chemistry tutor, I’ll pay for it myself.  Just give me one more chance.

The unfinished story of Asian F

Through two simple, but by all accounts authentic, minutes of dialogue, Glee takes a stab at a story and life that is true for a good many Asian Americans. Glee of course isn’t a realistic (in the sense of serious) drama; while its characters are often dismissed as caricatures, they are caricatures of normal people in a normal world with normal problems. Mike Chang, Jr., the focus of “Asian F,” is no different. Many of the bloggers seem content to slap an obligatory label of “stereotype!” on the episode, calling it well-trodden material (which I find strange; if anything, there’s a dearth of mainstream portrayals of Asian America), ready to move on to critical and artistic thoughts elsewhere.

Perhaps these mostly-white writers are dismissive because the tropes seem derogatory while they instead affirm a progressive approach to diversity. Or perhaps we (Asian Americans) are ready to move on because the story is so familiar and familial to us. But while we’ve heard it, or deride it, or can catalog and inventory all the particular contours and permutations, it doesn’t mean it’s finished. The story of “Asian F” still lacks a proper ending, much less a happy one. Because you don’t have to be a performing artist to know the uncomfortable stalemate we still face when it comes to hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Even if we desire to reach some promised land of egalitarian diversity, it doesn’t deal with the places we’re coming from or going home to.

What’s more, I’m not sure we’ve dared to understand the story deeply enough, since dwelling on it is known to cause us strife. But we need to, because until we do, we will carry on ignorant, resigned, or unreconciled in ourselves. So I’m going to examine Glee’s “Asian F” and the bigger story that many Asian Americans are living. As I analyze the episode, let’s allow it to speak to us as a representation of the lives we live and take an honest look at what is really going on – not just on-screen but in ourselves.

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