Tag Archives: ABC

Urbana 12 Pan-Asian Lounge: WHY NON-CHRISTIAN ASIANS DON’T LIKE YOUR ASIAN CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP (video)

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.

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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).

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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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:

CGCM: June 17 Asian-American identity and parenting seminar (video and photos)

From June 12-19, I spent time with Chinese Gospel Church of Massachusetts (CGCM, my home church) in Southborough, MA. As students are on break, I spent time visiting and serving churches that partner with me — seminars, preaching, presenting my ministry plan — because I value my partnerships tremendously & see them as a significant part of my in ministry. This is Part 2 of 3 about visiting CGCM!

This Friday I was given the opportunity to lead a seminar for parents (though there were some kids/youth there) on the topic of Asian-American identity. Ever since I came on staff, and particularly in one decisive instance in December, the questions and plight of parents has been a driving factor for me and the needs I am responding to. Since the parents are not Asian-American — they cannot provide their kids with a good model of how to navigate the identity journey. But I told them that they could do their best to pass on a version of Chinese culture to their kids that is at least good and Godly and scripturally attuned.

I explain how ethnicity and culture were intended by God to be ways of relating to Him and seeing His true character in our lives and communities. I shared 3 positive elements of Asian-American culture — material stewardship, community and church vitality — and three negative elements that Christian parents need to revise — authority instead of intimacy, materialism instead of Kingdom-view, fatalism instead of hope. Then I fielded some questions.

Thanks to Denny W, one of my supporters, we’ve got video of the WHOLE thing as well as some photos.

We started out in this room but then the audience grew too large.

Over 60 people? 80 maybe? I didn't count.

Explaining 3 positive elements that Chinese Christian parents are already teaching.

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