Tag Archives: chapter planting

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.”

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final AIV CoGo of fall semester

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.

A greater love

I absolutely love these students. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them.

As I drove through the humming darkness on US-29, I saw it as clear and stark as the taillights up ahead. This wasn’t about my regular core group of AIV students (though it’s unquestionably true for them and always has been). This feeling, this intense commitment and affection was for the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) students I’d spent the day with. I’d gotten up at 6am to make to Fairfax in time for the full-day Turkey Bowl – a multi-school VSA football tournament for charity and bragging rights. I didn’t get home that night until 11:30pm. I absolutely love them.

The whole situation is strange. It’s abnormal for a Christian campus minister (at least on most college campuses) to spend so much time in a secular [Asian cultural] organization, to be so involved with their events and to work at knowing their people and what they’re like. It’s probably even more abnormal for those students to be as welcoming and open as they have been, given that I’m a representative of the Christian establishment and its requisite connotations of judgment, cliquishness, and self-righteousness.

But maybe even stranger is that I, Greg Hsu, am part of this at all. When I was in college I ignored, or forgot, or disdained secular Asian life and the students who were part of it. I attended Asian Student Association’s (ASA) yearly Lunar New Year talent show and dinner and spent the rest of the year blissfully ignorant of their efforts, goals, struggles, and people. I was too preoccupied with maintaining a Christian establishment that taught me (or did I teach it?) to avoid that secular Asian life. While I think we did great work in Duke InterVarsity (even remaking the Christian communal life that often keeps non-Christians out), I never gave much thought to this whole world’s worth of life next door. Though we had the same story – as the child of immigrants, inheriting expectations and hopes, negotiating the uncomfortable bipolarity of being fully Asian and fully American – I saw them as different. I saw them as “not my responsibility.” Or maybe I just didn’t see them.

Yet this Saturday I got up at an ungodly hour and drove a hundred miles just so I could see them. So I could hold water bottles or give stretching advice. So I could scream on 3rd downs as the girls went through four overtimes in their play-off game. So I could cheer as the fourth-year guys got their first-ever Turkey Bowl win. So I could feel the ache with them when both teams dropped out of the competition. So I could eat pho with them, and pat bing soo for dessert afterwards. I came just so I could so see them and be with them, because I absolutely love them. I see them as my responsibility now.

Maybe for the first time I am understanding the depth of commitment that Jesus spoke of : Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Or the longing and grief in His voice when those friends were far off: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings. Or the hopeful invitation that He wants everyone to have: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. And it is natural; this fondness and effort and commitment is strangely effortless. I myself am surer than ever of God’s love. For me. For them. For us.

It may not be the deep and heartfelt conversations that get at the things of heart and soul, the greater things that God’s greater love answers – I long to have those interactions with these students! But I want nothing but for them to know and have the good things of God. And if for now that means washing bowls, cleaning floors, and coming to football games, then so be it. I want to do only what loves them best or shows them I love them. Because the Father loves these kids. That is what I felt and realized driving back. I felt an ounce of how infinitely deeply God loves the students in VSA. I don’t have words to describe it. I think I might have been crying. This is why AIV and I are here. Because He loves them so unbelievably much and wants them all to taste and see that He is good.

I absolutely love these students. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them.

Guys team cheering after their win over UMBC: the first-ever win for fourth-year guys.

Girls' offense in their play-off win over UMBC.

Without Fear

The weather’s cooling quickly and only one home football game remains. It’s been two and a half months since school and UVA Asian InterVarsity began. Though there have been many developments with AIV at this half-way point of the Fall, I’ve also noticed a pretty notable change in myself.

In my first week of planting, I felt like I was in a constant panic. My mind could never slow down and or rest – when I laid down to sleep it would erupt with a thousand new ideas or, worse, a thousand things I didn’t but could’ve/should’ve done. It was as exhausting and frantic as it was unpredictable. More than anything, it was terrifying. I was afraid.

One thing that training doesn’t prepare you for is the realization of the weight of this dream that has yet to arrive. It is the weight of many lives and stories to be reached, many wounds and hurts to be healed, many questions to be answered, and many people to come to know God more deeply and authentically than they ever have before. Grandiose as it sounds, I was constantly pounded with the weight of these profound and eternal hopes. And that weight was crushing.

I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not nice enough. I’m not proactive enough. And the list of inadequacies and shortcomings rambled on and on, until I realized that this was not the way to plant. One doesn’t plant a garden by trying to pull a sprout out of the dirt or drag a tree from the depths of the earth. One sows seeds. One waters. One adds fertilizer. One weeds. One tends. And somewhere in the first month – even as many things failed to materialize as I’d hoped or planned – I stopped trying to carry the weight of the dream of AIV. I sowed it into the ground instead.

In both September and October there have been significant low points where I felt like I was at my wit’s end. Out of ideas or seemingly out of options. But both times God stepped in and, completely unbidden by me, pointed the way to the next right step. Especially in October, God moved and opened opportunities that I couldn’t take credit for. All I’d done is sown the dream again and again.

This job is still immensely stressful. I’ve had stress-induced sleep dysfunction for the last month and a half; no matter how much I rest, I wake still tired, sometimes oversleeping my alarm clock(s) by up to two hours. I’m doing what I can to deal with that: praying more, working out regularly (and this time I mean it!), resting more. But even with all that stress, I am not walking around like a molten volcano anymore. I am no longer afraid, or much less so anyway. And that’s to God’s credit convincing me somehow to have greater faith.

So I have no idea what November brings except that the days will shorten, that the leaves will die, and that maybe our first real snow will fall. I have no idea even what I’m doing for our community group meeting this week, or if we’ll get new friends to come as we’ve been hoping for, or anything else. But thank God it doesn’t matter. I suppose I’m tasting the truth of “There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear,” because more than maybe anytime in my life before, I’m more convinced and in tune with the fact that God loves me and AIV much more than I can imagine.

Excited about the food from our latest AIV event. This picture has nothing to do with the post sorry.

Come and See: Invitation to Investigate

It’s the first FULL week of school and things are moving quickly. I’ve done several events with students, but AIV’s core weekly activity is called an Investigation Group (IG or I-Group for short). An I-Group is a community group Bible study where students — whether lifelong Christian or just curious — get to investigate what Jesus is like firsthand.

We personally explore the Biblical text about Jesus and try to imagine ourselves in the action, to really see, to really walk, to really hear what’s being said or what’s going on. It’s a safe place for asking questions and share about ourselves. And to be honest, for both the long-time churched folks and those who’ve never touched the Bible, it’s a great chance to put aside all that we may have heard about Jesus and look again with fresh eyes and new openness.

It’s an invitation to investigate the Bible and Jesus — and we mean it! I make no assumptions about people’s religious, spiritual, or personal backgrounds and work hard to make it a genuine and genuinely open place for all people who are interested! And really, an attitude (as well as the action) of invitation are crucial for people to investigate which makes perfect sense actually — it’s usually best when form follows function — because the Christian act of investigation scripture begins with Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” what He is like.

So pray that the AIV I-Group on Thursday night would bring even more people of all backgrounds to investigate who Jesus is and that it’d be an enjoyable or even life-changing experience as we talk about the scripture and how it applies to our real lives.

A New Home

Most of you know I’ve been traveling like a mad man this summer — weddings, fundraising, training. I have enjoyed the visits and opportunities to preach/speak but when all is said and done I am very glad to be back in Charlottesville. A year ago, I was just beginning my intern program and had no idea what lay ahead. Now I’ll be here for the next 3 years! I’ve just moved into my new apartment and it’s been a busy weekend of settling in.

It has been a rather pricey affair though. I don’t have many possessions, at least housewares in any case — last year my roommate Eric and his family provided all of our things. So I went to Target on Friday afternoon with Lara, a student friend of mine, to acquire some important things. Rugs for the floor, a stand for the TV, lamps, cutlery tray and more. We totally filled the cart and at one point even had a second one. But as Lara and I continued to check items off my list, she reminded me that while I’m spending a lot of money, these are valuable investments to turn the apartment into a new home. That made me feel better, even though that trip cost $312. These things will last, but more than the material value, they create a sense of belonging and hospitality.

As I’m now unwrapping things and putting them in their proper place, this is exactly what planting is like. Planting a chapter is exactly like this. The point of the chapter is to create a new home. Obviously since the chapter’s just beginning, the idea of a home/house is much too sedentary for what the community (and my job) will look like. And being honest, there is a similarity between the work and the investment.

I realize in some moments just how crazy it is to be planting a chapter. I have no alumni, no structure, no guarantees, no reputation — it’s a hard road ahead of me. An expensive investment you might say. But the hope is that it will turn an empty space into a real home. Not just for lost first-year Christians to be comforted, but an inviting place for non-Christians to be welcomed, loved, and to experience God. The hope is that people will eventually know this fellowship as a house of God, especially those who have never felt comfortable or welcomed into one before.

$312 of stuff on ONE cart! Thanks Lara for helping me.