INHERITANCE #13 - September/October 2011
The thirteenth issue of INHERITANCE magazine. Theme: Are We There Yet?
James CHouNG shares what lies beyond college christianity www.inheritancemag.com ARE WE THERE YET? ISSUE 13 September / October 2011 FREE We take a look at the growth, direction and unknown future of the Asian Amerian Church Issue 13 September / October 2011 TABLE OF CONTENTS EDITORIAL THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? editor’s letter BUT ... WHERE ARE WE GOING? THE YOUNG ADULT BLACK HOLE Will asks the natural response question to this issue’s title choice. Tim Tseng examines why young adults are vanishing from the American Church. pg. 8 pg. 2 MINISTRIES A HEART FOR THE ABANDONED POST-GRAD CHRISTIANITY AND THE LONG ROAD AHEAD Project LACE’s mission is to provide love and hope to children and help them achieve their dreams. pg. 3 A person’s time in college can be the most critical years of their life. Here’s how they can be prepared for what’s next. pg. 14 An Infusion of Seminary and Culture Cover illustration by Mason Tong James Yu explains why equipping seminarians with cultural context is increasingly necessary for ministry. KEEPING OUR YOUTH PASTORS Mike Whang had seven youth pastors in six years. Now he attempts to find out what that affected. pg. 16 pg. 5 TESTIMONIES A PORTRAIT OF LIGHT GIVE ME A CHANCE Sometimes an international perspective sheds needed light on our current one. Are you a portrait of light? pg. 22 Are we actively raising young leaders in the church? Or are we smothering them? pg. 19 inheritance seeks to promote unity among Asian American Christians by discussing and reflecting on issues relevant to our communities and churches. INHERITANCE EFC Communication Center 9386 Telstar Ave. El Monte, CA 91731 email@example.com www.inheritancemag.com We hope brothers and sisters will find greater clarity in our common struggle for identity and realize who God created us to be in Christ. If you are interested in distributing inheritance or displaying it at your church, please send us an email! inheritance magazine is a non-profit organization. All writing, art, and photography are the sole property of their respective authors, artists, and photographers. inheritance magazine © 2009-2011 All rights reserved. PUBLISHER Sean Lin EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Will Tseng STAFF EDITOR Irene Bramante Stoops ART DIRECTOR Daniel Chou We strive to publish without advertisements and distribute free of charge. Thank you for your continued support of our ministry through your prayers and donations. CONTRIBUTING WRITERS/INTERVIEWS Grace Hwang, Tim Tseng, Mike Whang CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Timothy Ho, Sarah J. Lee, Jennifer Tjong, Mason Tong, Loretta Wang 01 EDITOR’S LETTER INHERITANCE by Will Tseng BUT ... WHERE ARE WE GOING? That was the first question that popped into my head when we came up with this title. It’s possible that I’m the only person who is confused by the idea of Asian American Christianity. It’s possible that I’m the only one lost when someone asks me what I think the future has in store for Asian American churches. It’s possible, but not likely. But are young leaders stepping up to the task, adequately prepared? When we first came up with the theme for this issue, it was a noticeable shift from the hard, clearcut themes we’ve had thus far, and consequently, it was much scarier. We wanted to ask the hard question of “Where is the Asian American church going, and are we there yet?” But when dealing with an abstract topic, we can easily get lost and frustrated with various answers, or lack of a single answer. And this is a question that has no answer. It’s like driving a car with no destination in mind, or in a best case scenario, when everyone is arguing over where to go. So we threw this idea around, debated its relevance and feasibility, and came up with several topics — topics that we felt would be essential in plotting out the future of the Asian American church. And to our surprise, many of our topics landed on youth and leadership. When a church is planted, it’s easy to focus on the leaders. After all, it’s the leaders who lay the groundwork, both theologically and organizationally. It’s the leaders who inspire others to follow and motivate people for the Kingdom. But after a church is planted and the focus shifts towards the future, church leaders start looking for others to take up the work and keep the ball rolling. That ball lands with this next generation of leaders. 02 But are young leaders stepping up to the task, adequately prepared? Do they know where to go? Like a parent who works so hard to provide for his family, only to lose touch with his son that he’s sacrificed everything for, so do many leaders lose touch with those who would lead their ministry in the future. Leaders may find a high school fellowship too afraid to lead. They may find a college ministry frustrated by a lack of opportunity. They may find a young adult ministry non-existent. They may take a look around and realize that soon, only the leaders will be left. In the beginning when we were forming this issue idea, we naturally thought this issue would be about the current leaders of the church, and where they are guiding the future of Asian American Christianity, but we were sorely mistaken. This issue is about the future generation and what we are doing to mold them into the leaders we need them to be, because, like Moses and his peers, it may not be us who enter Canaan, but them — and if not them, then the generation after them, and so on. The question is not so much about where our future is located, but that we do have a future — assured with the ones we have prepared for the work ahead. Are we there yet? I don’t know where “there” is, but I know it’s not here. I don’t know whether we’ll be the ones who get there or if it will be those who come after us, but at least I know that we will have those who come after us. And for me, in the present, that’s enough to keep me smiling and moving. The question is not so much about where our future is located, but that we do have a future — assured with the ones we have prepared for the work ahead. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 MINISTRIES The $2 shoeLACE band simply slides onto a shoelace and carries the LACE logo in different colors. interview with Stephen Yoon Brown A HEART FOR THE ABANDONED What is Project LACE? LACE stands for Loving Abandoned Children Everywhere. Our mission is to provide love and hope to children, giving them the opportunity to achieve their dreams. We accomplish this by raising funds and awareness for nonprofits seeking to help end poverty, loneliness, and the neglect of children. Through the sale of shoeLACE bands and the growth of our movement on our website www.projectlace.org, we have been able to raise thousands of dollars towards our mission. cancer awareness. David told his son that each bracelet color represented something different; some bracelets raised funds to help the sick, stop hunger, and also to help children. Ethan became interested when David mentioned children in need and suggested, “Maybe we could do something to help the kids.” As they both thought about it, they found many bracelet ideas that promoted meaningful causes, but almost none focusing on promoting the cause with shoes. How did Project LACE start? It began when 5-year-old Ethan Kang asked his father and Project LACE founder David Kang why he was wearing a pink bracelet. David explained that he bought the bracelet to help support the cause of breast Our mission is to provide love and hope to children, giving them the opportunity to achieve their dreams. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY Project LACE What is Project Lace working on right now? First, we are focused on supporting local charities in the greater Los Angeles area and doing meaningful work to help children. Most recently, we gave a grant to Central City Community Outreach, which helps homeless children with educational programs in Skid Row. Second, we believe that God has opened doors to use our resources to engage in medical trips supporting children and families abroad. In the past two years, we have sent three medical teams fully stocked with supplies to Haiti. In January 2011, we sent 20 doctors, nurses, dentists, and staff to Cambodia to give medical attention to children and families in rural villages. These medical trips abroad enable us to offer tangible, life-changing medical services in areas that receive very little attention. While it takes a lot of time to organize and prepare these trips, the joy that we experience by participating and the relationships that are cultivated makes it all worthwhile. According to your website, “There are abandoned children in all social classes, races, religions, and communities — not just poor communities”. Can you elaborate? I think there are more neglected children in higher social classes than we realize. Just because a family has substantial financial resources does not guarantee that they will properly utilize perhaps the most important one they have, and that is the time that they actually spend with their children. People assume that if you have money, a nice house, cars, and clothes, that everything else falls into place, but I think we all know from personal experiences and our friends that this is just not reality. What is the driving force behind child neglect? Through our experiences abroad, we have learned that although parents may deeply love and care for their children, it’s difficult to combat the fact that many kids are disadvantaged due to the lack of basic necessities, such as clean water, healthy food, and medicine. These children are neglected, not be- 03 MINISTRIES INHERITANCE cause no one cares for them, but because the structures in place are broken. In the developing world, especially in rural village areas, not many educational opportunities exist for children. The things that we take for granted, such as computers, pen and paper, and clothing are scarce. We owe this generation of children the opportunity to have a chance to learn and to follow their dreams. Parental neglect is also a big issue, as some parents simply do not take proper responsibility for raising their children. Someone has to help bridge the gap that exists, and hopefully Project LACE can play a small role by providing support. What is the long term goal of Project LACE? Our long term goal is to have the vision of Project LACE catch on in other major cities here in America and abroad. We would especially love to work with any teachers or students that would like to get involved and spread the message at their schools. Branching out to other major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, and Seoul would be a dream come true. We have been blessed with strong connections to the sports and entertainment industry, thanks to our relationships with David Kang, Jaeson Ma and Carl Choi. We hope to continue collaborating with athletes, artists and entertainers by recruiting them as Project LACE ambassadors to help share our mission through their platforms. What do you think we as a community and population can do to prevent this from happening, whether we have children of our own or not? I think that it starts with finding one child in your surrounding community and choos- 04 ing to make a consistent, dedicated effort to be present in their life. When I look back on my life and the older mentors that I had when was growing up, I don’t necessarily remember everything they did for me, but just that they were always encouraging and available. Can you tell us some stories of how you’ve personally seen Project Lace change and impact a child’s life? On a break from seeing patients in the Cambodian medical clinic, my friend Grace Su and I took two large bags filled with children’s clothes to distribute. As 30 children and parents gathered tightly surrounding us, Grace and I prayed and asked for God’s help in passing out the clothes, with the hope that each child would receive at least one item. Carefully taking each T-Shirt, sweatshirt, or pants out of the bag, we looked around at all of the kids huddled around for a potential size match, and miraculously matched the clothes with the kids. It was such a moving and powerful experience for me. After we had passed them all out, and we looked around at the smiling children with new clothes, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed and humbled by what had just happened. God had provided, but I understood the great need that still existed. These clothes might be the only new clothes each child would receive for a long time. This gave me motivation for future trips, to bring awareness, to tell others about what I experienced, and to bring more clothes for the kids! inheritance SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 MINISTRIES interview with James Yu An Infusion of Seminary and Culture Cultural emphasis combined with theological equipping — that’s LOGOS Seminary. What is LOGOS Evangelical Seminary? LOGOS is an Asian seminary in North America. We started it as an Evangelical Formosan Church (EFC) seminary primarily to prepare and equip men and women for the EFC churches. We taught in the context of the Taiwanese language, but as time progressed we reflected the changing demographics of Chinese North America and converted to Mandarin, although I think we still teach a Taiwanese language class. The leadership at LOGOS saw the bigger picture of immigrant needs here in North America, so we started an Asian American ministry about 10 years ago. When we started, we were a bit aggressive as we thought our ministry would grow rapidly in the Asian American Movement. But the AA community was not ready for it at the time. We developed a unique bi-degree program at LOGOS by working with Fuller Theological Seminary. Students could get partial credit from Fuller Theological Seminary and LOGOS and graduate with bi-degree completion. Since then, we have developed partnerships with the Talbot School of Theology as well. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY LOGOS As a seminary, I think we’re now clear about where we’re going. We’re finally implementing steps to refine what the seminary is all about, and we’re moving towards a multi-lingual, cross-cultural platform with an emphasis on church planting and missions. We have approximately 380-390 graduates spread out over 17-18 different countries. Currently, we have about 100 full-time students. What makes LOGOS unique from other seminaries? We’re not the only Asian seminary, but I think we are the most formidable one in North America. At least we’re the only one with full Association of Theological Schools The leadership at LOGOS saw the bigger picture of immigrant needs here in North America, so we started an Asian American ministry about 10 years ago. 05 MINISTRIES (ATS) status. That gives us a leading edge, but it doesn’t keep us there. So I think we need to constantly re-invent ourselves and stay on the front lines. Why is there is a need for a cultural impact on theology, and where do you think God is leading Asian Americans with this? Oh boy, that’s a big subject (laughs). The church has to be culturally relevant. If you’re not culturally relevant, you might as well forget it; just pack up and go home. This is a big question not just for theologians or seminarians, but for all of the church. If we’re training pastors and leaders, they have to be at the forefront of cultural thought. They need to know the ethos of all of the people that they minister to, and where they are going. And if ministers are not aware of that culture, they are just going to hit or miss. Is LOGOS more driven to prepare Asians coming to America for ministry here, or for Asians living here to go on missions outside of the U.S.? Potentially, what we could do is provide something for the whole world. It’s a global 06 INHERITANCE perspective due to the uniqueness of the Asian seminary in North America. We’ve seen a major transition and migration of people coming here. And whether this choice to migrate is due to persecution, economics, or some other reason, people come here and they experience a powerful conflict of culture. This conflict is not something that can be experienced anywhere else. America is built in such a way that it allows a certain type of diversity, a kind of quasi-cultural mixture that takes place. This enables us to create unique solutions to cross-cultural environments which are taking place globally right now, because the world is changing so rapidly. People are migrating all over the world and America has advanced experience in this area. This gives us a context to learn and experiment so we can come up with solutions that could be models for the world as they go through cultural shifts. If we’re able to find any solutions or models, this is the place to learn it by experimenting and playing with those cultural dynamics. And once we’re able to find some type of solution, we can transplant that and help the world in terms of leadership, organizational dynamics, management, social relations, political relations, and culture. All of these factors play a part, and I think we are in a good place to start — a crucible of cultural solutions. If we’re training pastors and leaders, they have to be at the forefront of cultural thought. They need to know the ethos of all of the people that they minister to, and where they are going. Would this make LOGOS more equipping-oriented or missions-oriented at that point? For years, the seminary held a mission vision. When EFC was first established, the vision was “Attempt great things for God, and rescue millions of souls”. The first part was from William Carey, a missionary to India. And “rescue millions of souls,” implies a focus on missions. This is a very power- SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 ful mission vision to begin with, and even though today we have a revised vision, we’ve kept it as the spirit of our seminary. So, “attempt great things and rescue millions of souls” is what we’re about as a seminary. I personally feel as an Asian seminary in America, that our biggest strength has to be missions, and inter-cultural relations are at the forefront of our missional thoughts. You can’t talk about missions without dealing with culture. If you were to take someone trained at LOGOS with a cultural emphasis along with theology, and someone who was trained without it, and sent them both on a mission trip, which person would be more effective? The traditional seminary education has a lot of presuppositions. We presume that the way we teach theology, or systematic theology, Old Testament, or New Testament, is done in a vacuum. But the reality is that every time we do theology, we are doing it in a certain context. In North America, we are trained with a North American mindset. As we do theology, because we understand logic, we understand a certain approach to people. We are taught that way. MINISTRIES “Attempt great things and rescue millions of souls” is what we’re about as a seminary. But when we think about missions, we are thinking about a different group of people who need to hear the Gospel. Because that group is so unique, they have to hear it from their particular perspective. If they don’t hear the gospel from that perspective, it is irrelevant to them. This is also true with the generational gap, but even that is just a subset of a cultural gap because each generation has its own culture. So if we’re not able to deal with their culture, we’re not able to deal with their needs. And if someone said to you, “I don’t see the need for cultural contextualization in theological training?” Contextualizing our own identity is difficult. It involves soul searching and can be heart wrenching. It challenges the core of our whole being. And if we don’t want to take on that challenge, it may be easier, but we’re certainly not going to impact anyone in the world. If I deal with people and their context is different from mine, I would need to expose myself just a little bit to hopefully make my theology more relevant to them – and that can be scary. But once we’re able to experience or understand cultural crossing, it is so much easier to do it in another culture. Once we’ve done it one time, we’re able to do it twice, and a third time. Linguists say that learning a second language is hard, but the third language is a lot easier, and the fourth is even more so. We have a context; we’re experiencing a context of language and culture. Once we’re able to have this superior context in learning, we’re able to cross over to other cultures much more easily. What would you say is a long-term goal for LOGOS? I think if we do our seminary right, we should be a bridge between the East and West, theologically. What I mean is that people from the West will come to LOGOS in an effort to understand and minister to the East. And the East will do the same to minister to people in the West. Students will come here to develop contextualized global theology, because now, the East is influencing the world, much in the same way as how the West has influenced the world in previous years. People will come to understand a global theology that they can use for all different contexts. And so I hope that our seminary will be able to help other seminaries in Europe, China, and all places, by contributing to this realm of contextualized theology. By sharing our wisdom with others collectively, I believe that we can contribute something that is unique to our existence: an Asian and Western contextualized theology. inheritance If we’re able to find any solutions or models, this is the place to learn it by experimenting and playing with those cultural dynamics. And once we’re able to find some type of solution, we can transplant that and help the world. 07 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? INHERITANCE by Tim Tseng THE YOUNG ADULT BLACK HOLE Have you noticed empty spots in your Young Adult demographic? Tim Tseng examines this phenomenon in detail in search of possible reasons and solutions. 08 ILLUSTRATIONS BY Timothy Ho SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 Young Adults and the American Church It is becoming a well-established fact: young adults are vanishing from the American Church. Recent surveys indicate that emergent Americans who identify themselves as Christians today have declined sharply over the past twenty years (see FIGURE 1 and 2 to the right). Even White evangelicals, who have usually retained a higher percentage of young adults than mainline Protestants or Catholics are experiencing a decline of this treasured cohort. But even though many more young adults say that they are not affiliated with any religion, it doesn’t mean that they are rejecting spirituality. In fact, we are witnessing the spectacular growth of emergents who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious”. Some speculate that the conservative politics of many Christians may be turning off and tuning out the emergents, who are generally more liberal. Others think that the increase in privatization and consumerism in recent years has made the culture of young adults less interested in participating in organized communities. Rather, communities are formed to cater to the needs and desires of the young adult. Whatever the cause, the Church in America is facing one its greatest challenges. Asian American Emergents and the “Renewal” of American Christianity Though racial-ethnic Christian communities also face similar challenges, young adult engagement in church life is still relatively high when compared to the wider American Church. In fact, the significant presence of younger Asian Americans in thriving nonAfrican American urban churches and in many campus ministries can be interpreted as a sign that God is using Asian Americans Even though many more young adults say that they are not affiliated with any religion, it doesn’t mean that they are rejecting spirituality. THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? FIGURE 1: DISTANT FROM ORGANIZED RELIGION TODAY Distance from Organized Religion Emerging Adults Other Adults Attend church weekly or more 15% (20-plus) 30% (30-plus) 40% (Older Adults) Not members of a church 35% 19% (All Adults) Belong to no religious tradition 20% 14% (All Adults) “Secular” or “somewhat secular” 23% 15% (Ages 25-64) 10% (Over 64) FIGURE 2: COMPARING CHURCH ATTENDANCE (1970s AND TODAY) Church Attendance of Americans Under 45 1970s Today Attend weekly or more 31% 25% Never attend 14% 20% to revitalize (White) American Christianity. Asian American presence in previously White ministries legitimizes a multiethnic vision, as do Asian American ministries that reject being identified as Asian American. But these developments can also be a sign that Asian American churches have no future. The “Silent exodus” will continue as generations of young adults who remain Christians leave their immigrant churches for White or multiethnic churches. From the perspective of immigrant Asian churches (which should also be considered American churches), the wider American church can be viewed as a Black Hole, a parasite, or a vampire that sucks the young life out of their congregations’ families. I have very little sympathy for immigrant churches that drive their young adults out because of insensitive leadership, authoritarian parenting, or uncaring coworkers. These churches don’t deserve their children. But for the churches that have made a concerted effort to build intergenerational and multicultural faith communities (by the way, immigrant churches may be more multicultural than most multiethnic churches because they have to navigate language diversity), the revitalization of American Christianity seems to come at a great cost to them. The way American Christians treat the immigrant (and refugee) church is a test of our capacity to love the foreigner among us. Thus, the struggles and concerns of immigrant churches should matter to all Christians. Furthermore, the fate of those who embark on the “Silent exodus” should also matter. Do Asian American Christians in Asian American presence in previously White ministries legitimizes a multiethnic vision, as do Asian American ministries that reject being identified as Asian American. 09 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? INHERITANCE Even in many multiethnic evangelical churches, the goal is to shed, not affirm, our earthly identities. non-Asian ministries have any role other than increasing multiethnicity? Are their unique needs cared for? Are their contributions and gifts valued? The bottom line: Can the American church truly be renewed if immigrant churches are dismissed and “exodused” Asian Americans are only valued as window dressing? Raising these questions begs a deeper question: Why do Asian American Christian young adults leave immigrant or pan-Asian churches? I’d like to suggest a few reasons. Since I believe that immigrant and pan-Asian churches are to be valued as important members of the American Church, their desire to retain young adults must be taken seriously. So I’ll close with a few recommendations for these ministries. The “Silent exodus” or the “Babylonian Captivity”? The usual reasons given for young adult flight from racial-ethnic churches center on four narratives. First, the culture of immigrant churches is incompatible with the Americanized young adult. It is too “Asian”, and too foreign. Second, assimilation and integration into American culture is desirable, more compatible, and inevitable. Third, many Christians believe that multiethnic congregations are more biblical, therefore, morally superior to racialized churches. Hence, there is among many evangelicals today, a race to become multiethnic — often at the expense of immigrant and pan-Asian churches. Fourth, underlying most evangelical convictions is the idea that our earthly identities ultimately do not matter. Our Christian identity is the most important one. Even in many multiethnic evangelical churches, the goal is to shed, not affirm, our earthly identities. Together, these narratives create what I call the “evangelical deconstruction of Asian America”. I’m not saying that evangelicalism intentionally seeks to destroy Asian Americans. But Asians and Asian Americans who have their faith shaped by evangelicalism usually think that being Asian American 10 is irrelevant. So this is how the evangelical sub-culture “deconstructs” Asian America (and other earthly identities). Now perhaps Asian America should be deconstructed. Perhaps there should be no “ethnic” churches. Perhaps all Asian Americans should join the “silent exodus”. But these narratives sound suspiciously like “cultural captivity” to the “American dream” rather than entry into the Promised Land. Indeed, the American dream is the secular version of these four narratives. Immigrants are too foreign to matter. Their children can integrate and succeed. Together they create a multiethnic America where ethnic identities are less important than American identity. Given these narratives, is it any wonder We’re conditioned to think that only certain people are representative of Christianity — and that doesn’t usually include Asian Americans. that Asian Americans prefer to leave their ethnic ghettos behind? Leaving the ethnic immigrant or pan-Asian church is equivalent to moving up in the world. I won’t suggest very strongly that Jesus’ incarnation moves in the opposite direction. Nor do I blame Asian American young adults for wanting to pursue the American-Evangelical dream. But I do believe that these narratives powerfully shape all Americans. They create social scripts that ensure that the American norm is colored White despite the reality that there will no longer be a racial majority in the United States by 2040. It’s easier to conform to these social scripts than to change them or write new ones. That is why the “silent exodus” will continue in the foreseeable future. Of course, negative experiences in immigrant or pan-Asian churches will exacerbate the “silent exodus”, but even healthy churches won’t stem the flow. Insofar as evangelicalism is captive to the American Dream, insofar as Asian Americans are captive to the evangelical deconstruction of Asian America, there is no future for Asian American Christianity. Immigrant and panAsian churches will never be able to develop sustainable young adult ministries. Unless we prayerfully rely on the creative work of the Holy Spirit, these social scripts are much too pervasive and powerful for us to change. Here is an example of its power. Imagine what it will be like to dine at Christ’s great SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? banquet when his kingdom finally reigns. Who will be seated at that banquet? Will it not be a great cloud of witnesses from every nation and every race? Who would you want to sit next to (someone else will be seated at Jesus’ side, so you probably can’t sit next to him right away)? Augustine? Luther? Calvin? Wesley? Billy Graham? All the male heroes of Western Christianity? Would you want to meet the Asian and Asian American heroes? Would you know who they are? If not, why? Isn’t this because of the Christian social script that we’ve inherited? We’re conditioned to think that only certain people are representative of Christianity — and that doesn’t usually include Asian Americans. Creating Counter Narratives But I believe that God is alive, and surprising things can and will happen. We can counter these narratives by creating alternative or counter narratives. These new narratives can capture the attention of Asian American young adults and possibly move their hearts towards embracing immigrant and pan-Asian Christian faith communities. I suggest three ways to create counter narratives: 1 Re-envision the Asian American Christian role in the new global reality: church leaders need to capture a biblical vision of God’s redemption of all nations and peoples that includes ethnic and racial minorities. Asian Americans should not be fully identified with the dominant American culture or Asia. They are stewards of a unique set of gifts from God (Asian American cultures, ethnicities, histories, etc.) and will be asked to demonstrate how they have multiplied their “talents”. 2 Retrieve and retell Asian American Christian stories: churches and wealthier Christians could fund research in the study of Asian American Christianity. Insist that seminaries and universities hire specialists in this area. Create scholarships that encourage such research. By retrieving stories from the past and present, a treasure trove of resources will be available to help churches tell Asian American stories. Don’t let Asian American Christian young adults grow up with no knowledge of their unique stories and gifts for the wider church and the world. and wealthier Christians can fund artists to articulate traditional and contemporary expressions and forms. It is not enough to protest the way mainstream culture defines and stereotypes Asian Americans. Asian Americans must create their own representations. 3 Redeem representation: Embrace the reality that immigrant and pan-Asian churches need to encourage greater Asian American representation in the mainstream American church. Don’t simply consume what is offered by the mainstream — rather, insist that Asian American voices be heard at major conferences and events. This also means promoting and advocating for Asian American speakers and leaders who understand and embrace immigrant and pan-Asian ministries. The other meaning of representation is the creation of new ways of being Asian American and Christian in our worship, literature, and arts. Churches Multiethnic churches can also participate in this creative activity, but immigrant and pan-Asian churches are more deeply rooted in the Asian American experience and so have a greater advantage. In the end, the only way to stem the deconstruction of Asian America is to reconstruct Asian American Christianity again and again — in new forms and expressions. Like other emergents, Asian American Christian young adults are attracted to opportunities to create. So let us assume that immigrant and pan-Asian churches have created healthy intergenerational cultures and are responsive to the “Five Cries of Asian American Christian Young Adults”.* These churches can then become “culture making” laboratories and carve out space for creating counter narratives. There may yet be hope for Asian American Young Adults! It is not enough to protest the way mainstream culture defines and stereotypes Asian Americans. Asian Americansinheritance must create their own representations. *http://isaacblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/five-cries-of-asian-american-christian-young-adults.pdf inheritance 11 Youâ€™re invited to join us for an afternoon of seeking God and glorifying His name 3:30 - 9:30 p.m. on October 8, 2011 Evangelical Formosan Church of Los Angeles 9537 Telstar Ave., El Monte, CA 91731 For the latest details on speakers and artists, visit www.facebook.com/inheritancemag or thehill.inheritancemag.com Get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? College can be a pivotal time for one’s faith. But do we prepare for them what’s coming next? interview with James Choung POST-GRAD CHRISTIANITY AND THE LONG ROAD AHEAD 14 INHERITANCE The college and university context is where high stakes are often lost or won. Can you tell our readers about yourself? I have served in campus ministry for 16 years with InterVarsity, spending almost equal time between the East and West coasts while also splitting time between multiethnic and ethnic-specific ministries. I’ve also served on the pastoral staff of an inner-city, multiethnic church plant near Boston, as well as a thriving megachurch in Seoul, Korea. Currently, I am the national director of InterVarsity Asian American Ministries, and am the author of True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In (InterVarsity Press, 2008). Why can college be such an instrumental and lifechanging time in a Christian’s life? The college years can be the most critical years of a person’s life. In the span of four (or more) years, many students choose their vocations, their closest relationships and their guiding beliefs. Anthropologist Daniel Yankelovich writes, “The college subculture exercises the ILLUSTRATIONS BY Jennifer Tjong most powerful pull on all those exposed ... at an impressionable age. Four years of life at a live-in college is for most people an indelible experience: attitudes and values acquired in college, for good and for bad, often last a lifetime”. A student who grew up in the church can turn away from future Christian discipleship, simply because no one is available to show him the continuing relevance of Jesus Christ. Another student who grew up in an irreligious family can be more open to Christianity than at any other point in her life simply because she experiences the Christian faith articulated and lived credibly for the first time. The college and university context is where high stakes are often lost or won. Does a good college fellowship environment prepare collegiates for a post-college spiritual walk? Yes — a good college fellowship should do that, and some fellowships are better at it than others. A good college fellowship shouldn’t merely serve as an island of SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? respite from the raging waters of college life. Instead, it should prepare us for post-collegiate life by helping us integrate our faith with our students — why they matter and how they are to worship to God. Otherwise, their faith may not stick. A good college fellowship should help us live out and share our faith in the communities we are in now, instead of merely building a “holy huddle”. And it should prepare us for the world beyond college by helping us connect with mentors who have experience integrating their faith with their work life, instilling in us a vision of how our work can glorify God, and helping us to know what to expect in communities in post-collegiate life. Yes, a good fellowship should do these things, but they are sometimes neglected. Have you seen people having difficulty transitioning from a college fellowship life back to their home church, particularly if it is an immigrant church? It depends. Some college fellowships are actually ministry branches of an immigrant church, so a student may have never left it, and returning or sticking around isn’t as big of a deal. Other students look for college ministries that are unlike their immigrant church backgrounds to purposely find a break. But for both kinds of students, entering back into the immigrant church can be a jarring experience for many who have graduated from college. This is especially true if that student has had extensive leadership experience in a campus fellowship and beyond, but comes back to church at the bottom of the ladder of influence as a twenty-something. In this situation, frustration can begin to brew. If they can’t influence, then they’ll often seek out ministries that will allow them to use their gifts to bless the community. We see many Asian American Christians attending “young adult” churches after college because of the difficulties of being part of an immigrant church. Why do you think this happens, and is it inevitable? I don’t think it’s inevitable, but it does happen. As I said previously, I really think it’s because the immigrant church often doesn’t know how to receive college graduates back into their ministries. Sociologically, everything about their lives points to the fact that they are adults. They (usually) have a job, they’re living on their own, they pay their bills, they make many of their own decisions. But when they return to an immigrant church, they’re often treated like children again. They are asked to serve existing structures like youth ministries, they have decisions made for them, and they have budgets given to them. If they’ve had any taste of real leadership in college, then coming back to an immigrant church as an adult, albeit a young one, can be a frustrating experience — not just because they are being rebellious, but because they want to serve, and they want to serve in the ways God has wired them. Sure, the problems go both ways. Sometimes young people can be impatient with change and be immature in their responses. But if the immigrant church doesn’t embrace new voices and allow them to influence its direction, then they’ll lose them to these next-generation churches, because these newer or younger churches are offering real A good college fellowship shouldn’t merely serve as an island of respite from the raging waters of college life. Instead, it should prepare us for post-collegiate life by helping us integrate our faith with our students. leadership, real influence, and a real way to serve that feels truly meaningful to these post-graduates. Can the typical immigrant church accommodate a returning collegiate’s spiritual and cultural needs? I’m stuck on the term, “typical immigrant church”. When we’re talking about Asian American immigrant churches, are we talking about first generation Chinese churches, or third generation Japanese churches, or Hmong, Filipino, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indian, or Laotian churches? In the diversity of Asian America, it’s hard to define “typical”. But I do think that immigrant churches can — and sometimes do — accommodate returning college students. But many leaders in the immigrant church need to learn how to welcome them back, and not merely take it for granted that they will return. They need to learn how to share their influence, to be creative in welcoming them into influential roles, and to find ways to tap their potential. High school students usually do not see themselves as true adults in our culture, and so they will often go with the status quo of a church, or just deal with their own separate youth group. But college is really America’s strongest equivalent to a rite of passage, where someone moves from child to adult. 15 THEME: ARE OURWE SOCIAL THERE NETWORK YET? INHERITANCE Often overlooked, a youth pastor’s job is never easy. And immigrant churches that know how to embrace and empower these new, younger adults will not only find them returning, but also find their church growing and stretching in new ways. The most consistent griping I hear from post-college folks is that the older generations don’t get it, don’t see it, and don’t understand them. Welcoming these folks back to the immigrant church is really about creating a space for them to continue to develop and grow. You can’t take them for granted and they want to express their service in a way that’s true to them. If they feel heard, understood, and supported, I think they would find the immigrant church a great option to help them continue in their spiritual journey. What is your hope for Asian American Christian graduates and their spiritual journey after college? My hope for Asian American Christian graduates is simple to understand, but difficult to put into play. I hope they will know their gifts and strengths as Asian Americans and use them to serve not only their own communities, but also to bless the wider culture. And as they do so, I hope that they will continue to grow in love for God and for their neighbors. For each Asian American Christian, I hope that he or she will do this in whatever community that would release his or her gifts to be a blessing not only in the church, but also beyond its walls. As for ethnic churches, they have their place in American society. They will continue to serve and bless immigrants to come to this country, helping them grow in a faith that is communicated in their heart language. But even as the English language begins to dominate our ethnic churches, there is still a place for ethnic-specific churches in our country to reach out to unbelievers who might not enter the door of a White American church. And while the ethnic church can continue to be effective in evangelism for American ethnic subcultures, they can also be a voice of justice and reconciliation in our culture at large (would the Civil Rights movement have happened without the black American church?) — as long as they remain in partnership with communities of faith that don’t look anything like them. inheritance 16 Mike Whang examines some possible reasons for why that is — and what we can do to help. by Mike Whang KEEPING OUR YOUTH PASTORS Pastor Jay Pastor Ben Pastor Christine Pastor Will Pastor Steve Pastor Tim Pastor Jonathan Between 7th and 12th grade, I had seven youth pastors. Once a year, my friends and I prepared skits for their farewell banquets and welcomed their successors the following week. By my count, no youth pastor stayed By my count, no youth pastor stayed at our church longer than 18 months. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? I do not think we can understate the importance of reliable, authentic and effective Christian discipleship towards youth, especially in the Asian American church. at our church longer than 18 months, the shortest lasting about three months. At the time, I thought this was the norm. Now I find this to be one of the largest contributing factors as to why most of my friends from youth group have left the church or left their faith altogether soon after graduating from high school. So what’s the deal? Why is it so difficult to retain a Korean American youth pastor longer than three school semesters? Or perhaps a more pertinent question is what’s at stake? If a youth were to grow in their Christian discipleship under consistent leadership throughout even just their high school years, how might the outcome of their faith and their holistic spiritual readiness to enter college be changed? Or put negatively, how does having inconsistent spiritual leadership damage an impressionable adolescent’s perception of the gospel and Christ’s call for a holistic devotion to the Kingdom of God? What’s the deal? What’s at stake? To the latter I would respond with seemingly melodramatic but sincerely unexaggerated answers like “everything”, “salvation”, “people’s lives”, “families”, “happiness”, “the future of the Asian American church” or “the spiritual well-being and culture of our nation”. I do not think we can understate the importance of reliable, authentic and effective Christian discipleship towards youth, especially in the Asian American church, where our youth are faced with the added challenges of embracing the gospel within an entirely different cultural context from their parents. We need youth pastors to effectively serve a singular church for longer periods of time. I would like to humbly offer my thoughts as to why the pattern of youth pastors leaving their congregations within two years is a prevalent phenomenon in the Asian American church, and also offer three suggestions to work towards a more holistic youth ministry within our churches. Entry-Level Status Most twenty-something seminarians and aspiring pastors seem to perceive youth ministry as a stepping-stone or training grounds towards becoming a senior pastor. Being a seminarian myself, I have spoken with many youth pastors and they all have sincere and admirable passion for ministry. They often aspire to be missionaries, church planters, worship pastors or senior pastors. Never have I heard a youth pastor tell me that they wished to retire at age 65 after 40 years of dedicated ministry to the youth. Most twenty-something seminarians and aspiring pastors seem to perceive youth ministry as a stepping-stone or training grounds towards becoming a senior pastor. to $1,500 a month (I know several who make far less). Here in Southern California, that’s scarcely enough for rent, gas, and an injurious diet. A menial just-enough-to-get-by salary translates into a lack of investment and commitment on the part of the youth pastor, and reinforces the temporal entry-level status of the position. Part-Time Status Most youth pastors serve 10-20 hours a week at a church (sometimes just one day a week) while attending seminary full time. This is an insufficient amount of time for the youth pastor to build rapport with kids and to get to know their families. Even with the best of intentions and sincerity of heart, lack of time prevents youth pastors from building lasting connections with their church communities (kids, parents, senior pastors, and peers). Similar to any other part-time position at Starbucks or at a tutoring center, the youth ministry position is often viewed as a means to get by and cover living expenses while finishing up school, a more primary endeavor in their lives. Supply and Demand / Ease of Relocation When interviewing first generation pastors and education department leaders to research this article, I often heard that local Asian American churches are desperate for good youth leadership but have a shortage of quality youth pastors. High demand for quality youth pastors means several churches are often constantly This notion of youth ministry as an entry-level position into vocational ministry translates into youth pastors perceiving their positions as temporal and short-lived, even before their first Sunday sermon. Entry-Level Pay Most local churches simply cannot afford a full-time youth pastor. The prospect of offering health benefits, a retirement fund, and a salary adequate enough to provide for a youth pastor and his family’s living expenses are so impossible that it’s even perceived as irrational. Most youth pastors are paid around $800 ILLUSTRATIONS BY Sarah J. Lee 17 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? Lack of time prevents youth pastors from building lasting connections with their church communities. vying for their services, and if they have any small altercations or dissatisfactions with their churches, they can easily leave and relocate elsewhere. This translates into desperate churches offering reluctant or hesitant youth pastors interim trial positions, where they can reevaluate whether or not they want to stay at that church after a few months. I can attest to this sentiment, as it seems like each week a new opening for an Asian American youth pastor position is posted on the walls at my local seminary. Confucianism vs. Egalitarianism This one is huge. An Asian American youth pastor is often in conflict with first generation leadership on account of their differing cultural values. Asian parents and pastors usually subscribe to Confucianism with a distinct hierarchical system, whereas most Asian American youth pastors are more accustomed to an egalitarian culture. First generation leaders do not perceive assertiveness and independence as a strength among youth pastors, but instead, interpret these characteristics as rebelliousness or a lack of respect towards authority. These cultural misunderstandings have resulted in several horror stories of youth pastors growing wary of serving the Asian American church and leaving altogether, if not being laid off beforehand. Unrealistic Expectations Most youth pastors I interviewed felt that the expectations of parents and first generation leaders towards them were unrealistic. They felt that Asian American parents relied INHERITANCE too much on youth pastors to raise their kids and had a tendency to think that finding the right youth pastor would solve all of their children’s problems. These expectations became taxing and overbearing, often resulting in youth pastors getting burnt out or feeling inadequate for the job at hand. Having established the above six reasons as to why the tenure of a youth pastor is so short, I would also like to also offer the following suggestions and solutions. Bridging the Cultural Gap Asian American youth pastors need to be in close relationship with first generation parents, pastors, and their children. Youth ministry cannot and should not be done independent of the parents. This means youth pastors must apply themselves to educating themselves in the language and culture of the first generation parents. Correspondingly, parents and first generation pastors must apply themselves to learning American culture. Both parties must be educated in their cultural differences and be sympathetic towards one another. I do not think this is something to take lightly. In order to build an effective and holistic youth ministry, Asian American churches need to invest in educating their leaders to become more bicultural and bilingual. Full Time Positions / Financial Aid Youth ministry must be taken more High demand for quality youth pastors means several churches are often constantly vying for their services. seriously. Youth pastoring should not be perceived as an entry-level or part-time position, but as a permanent, full-time position. Parents need to become financially involved in providing resources to make this a reality in their church. Additionally, financially well off Asian American churches need to be generous in helping smaller local churches provide fulltime salaries for their youth pastors. Parental Involvement Parents are the lead spiritual role models and gatekeepers for their children. Youth ministry should always be a collaboration between the youth pastor and the parents of the youth. Parents should always be more invested and involved than the youth pastor. However, it is the duty of the youth pastor and the church to equip parents in aiding their sons’ and daughters’ Christian discipleship. I have much hope for the Asian American church, and I am blessed to have known several young pastors who were willing to die on the hill of bridging the generation gaps between children and parents within immigrant churches. An Asian American youth pastor is often in conflict with first generation leadership on account of their differing cultural values. However, this is no easy feat and requires dogged emotional persistence and financial dedication from parents, churches, and youth pastors. Let us pray this for our churches: 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV) inheritance 18 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? A few issues back we had a conversation with Matthew, an elder at a Southern California church, about his thoughts on pride in accomplishments and in the church. We revisited him and had a brief conversation about raising future leaders in our youth congregations. Matthew personally cares about this topic and has worked in this area of ministry for many years. interview with Matthew* GIVE ME A CHANCE What is the key problem for English ministries that don’t have enough young people stepping up into leadership roles within the church? I think it boils down to three things: lack of mentorship, lack of opportunities, and lack of trust. When I say “trust”, I mean it from both sides. Young people have to be able to trust in their own skill set, and on the flip side, others need to trust that the young generation can handle it. Our natural tendency is to stick with the status quo. For example, many people always vote the same church members into leadership or recommend certain people Our natural tendency is to stick with the status quo. *this writer’s name has been changed due to privacy concerns 19 THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? over and over again. This is why we need mentorship and discipleship programs so we can train the youth.It’s similar to an old apprenticeship philosophy — think of a discipleship relationship with a purpose of leadership development. Can you expand on what you meant by lack of trust, particularly trust in yourself? Young people are always saying, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready” — I hear it a lot these days. When they are finally up to the task, there’s a risk because if they do a bad job, it leads to distrust from the older generation. Stepping up into leadership is very risky, and it makes sense that some are scared or lack confidence in their own abilities. Do you think the first generation dealt with this too? I doubt the first generation told themselves, “We can’t start an Asian church, we can’t do it,” because they obviously did it. What do you think changed since then? We’re too comfortable and we don’t take our faith seriously sometimes. We want to achieve all these other things around us, like success or stability. But I think the first generation gives a lot more financially, emotionally, and time-wise. The very act of giving defines them — it is their role. These days, do you think churches foster an environment for leadership growth? Do they give or create opportunities by saying, “Here’s something you’re good at and we think you can handle it. Run with it.”? Some churches are good at it, and some leaders are pro-active with that kind of mentality, but not all churches and definitely not all leaders have that attitude. I do see it in different forms, such as high school leaders forming a core team of kids to take charge of their fellowship. It may be standardized but it shows how much responsibility churches are willing to give the kids. Even with programs like VBS (Vacation Bible School), we rely on these kids to step up into positions that can lead You have to be accountable in the small things first. 20 INHERITANCE The first generation gives a lot more financially, emotionally, and time-wise. The very act of giving defines them — it is their role. to future missions trips or church leadership positions. It’s neat to see them grow into different leadership roles. By giving the youth a chance at leadership, do we put a lot of things at risk? Things could possibly fall through the cracks, and especially in the minisry of God where many things are at risk, including church efficiency, future finances and even theology. That’s why you train them. You have to be accountable in the small things first. It’s like that verse in Luke: 10 Whoever is faithful with very little is also faithful with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with very little is also dishonest with a lot. (Luke 16:10 ESV) At what age do you think we should start educating and training our youth in leadership roles, and when do you think they can start being implemented? I started doing this when I was teaching my elementary school kids. Based on the Bible study of the week, they had to go home and honor their parents. In children’s worship they started ushering, presiding, and leading music. So even these small ceremonial things done at a young age can be training for the future? How do you tell the difference between these ceremonial things and actually growing leadership skills? These are all still leadership skills, and many people don’t see it. Young people get a feel for how the basic framework is run, and they can build off that. It gives them opportunities and allows them to serve in small ways, such as picking up trash, fundraising for 30 Hour Famine, etc. These are all skill sets they can use in the future. Do you think congregations are understanding of younger leadership and the growing pains that come with it? Do you think the 50-60 year olds who raised the church since its inception can see these high school and college kids leading their church? It depends on the congregation. Some just train and go ahead, and some have to be shown that these young people are capable. ILLUSTRATIONS BY John Lee Different churches gauge ability by different factors. Some may gauge it by numbers: how many members do they have and how much in offerings do they bring in each week? Is it enough for them to be selfsustainable? As Asian as it sounds, one example is how we always have to fight for the bill at the end of a meal. If a young person is able to win the fight for the bill, that’s pretty significant. Then he or she is no longer a kid who relies on parents for food and money, but now he/she is a peer. Even being able to cook for older adults and earning their respect in that manner can be a huge thing. Here’s an example: This past Sunday was a really cool experience for me. At our church, we have a very strict grandma that makes awesome fried rice for us. After all these years of cooking in the same church kitchen with her, I haven’t been able to duplicate that signature taste of her dish; it’s like a secret recipe. We can serve in a lot of ways with or without a title. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. But last week, when we had a church event and I busted out my secret noodle recipe, she came up to me and admired my noodles. She began to ask me how I made them and what ingredients I used, and I was astounded. Coming from her, it meant something extra special. At that point we had a mutual sharing of knowledge, and not just a kid/parent relationship. We’re obviously not peers, since she’s older. But I had gained her respect in our manner of communication: food. It’s these small things between generations that add up over time and lead to trust. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 So there’s an attitude of respect, and acknowledgement of the other side. Yeah, and I think it needs to happen more often. I don’t think we acknowledge the first generation for what they have done or their example as much as we should. In immigrant churches, sometimes positions of responsibility are given to the youth, only to have no real power or influence. Do you think this jades or demoralizes future leaders? It doesn’t matter what titles are given. If someone wanted to start their own Bible study, could they? Of course! Is the church going to stop it? If I wanted to clean up the church, and I randomly grabbed a broom and started sweeping the floor or mopping, would they stop me? We can serve in a lot of ways with or without a title. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last, right? Are we serving with the attitude of “I want to be seen and known — this is my title”? Or are we serving because we have a servant’s heart? I remember in the past some of our elders picked up trash after meetings when everyone else had left. That really impressed me, and you don’t need a title for that. THEME: ARE WE THERE YET? If you serve the youth, and if they know that you care about them, they will in turn care for others in the future. recipes in the kitchen, find a way to reach out and serve others. This is how we invest in future generations and how they’ll invest when the time comes. That’s the model. It’s also important how you model your own service. I’ve seen people complain about long staff or deacon meetings and I don’t think people realize that it sends the wrong message to our youth. Realize that as a model and example, people will naturally follow after your own attitude and heart of service. inheritance You’re talking about a heart of humility. Yes, and an attitude of service. You don’t need a title to wash someone’s feet. What are some concrete steps or advice you can give towards building youth leaders into older leaders? Give them an opportunity to serve, and model service yourself. If you serve the youth, and if they know that you care about them, they will in turn care for others in the future — it passes on. I’ve seen people who used to get rides to church events in their youth, invest in their first car to take the current youth to their events. Whether it’s giving rides or sharing You don’t need a title to wash someone’s feet. 21 TESTIMONIES INHERITANCE testimony by Grace Hwang A PORTRAIT OF LIGHT Sometimes it takes a change in scenery to change our perspective. Grace Hwang shares the lessons imparted to her from her trips outside the U.S. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV) Being a high school senior can be a period of great pressure and apprehension — for both teens and parents alike. SATs and AP testing may be finally and entirely completed — can I hear a “Hallelujah!” from all you seniors? But numerous uncertainties still remain. This type of pressure differs from the demands of obtaining a golden five on the APs or a complete 800 score on the SAT. Instead, we seniors are presently tasked to mull over the question, “Am I really ready for adulthood?” Suddenly, topics that have never been in our area of concern seem to be one enormous hammer looming overhead. I’m not challenging the teenage sense of responsibility — because I know we all hate being undermined — but having spent most of my developmental years in Africa, urban life seems slightly intimidating compared to the simplicity of rural Kenyan living. Having said so, I have found that myriads of mini-monsters that the world dubs as “concerns” have invaded my mind. “I’ve never known anything but freefor-all driving! What is up with these traffic lights!?” “How in the world am I supposed to pay my bills?” “Hey! It’s a laundry machine that’s fully functional! Great! Now how do I work it?” “How can I change the world?” You may snort at my last question. After all, it’s not a typical area of anxiety among the general population. And yes, I confess, Having spent most of my developmental years in Africa, urban life seems slightly intimidating compared to the simplicity of rural Kenyan living. 22 PHOTOS BY Loretta Wang SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2011 this matter does not really cross my mind often. I figured that it wouldn’t bother anybody else, including me, if I didn’t lose any sleep over this topic. So I scrambled over the things that mattered most. Correction — I ran around like a headless chicken scrounging for insects on the ground when I should have seen the kernels of corn that the farmer was tossing at me. It took me awhile to stick my head out from the dirt and see the big picture. This past April, a group of students and I embarked on a week-long educational journey, which my school dubbed “Interim”, to the Lake Victoria Islands. Upon arrival, we were to interact with the students and assist at a school there called the Gethsemane Garden Christian Academy. My initial impressions of it was as follows: 1 Somebody please move the goat off the road before we squash it. 2 The kids are nice ... Oh look! They all want to shake my “Chinese” hand. 3 Our host is calling the insects here “members of the family!?” I’ll kill them all! 4 Somebody, anybody, please pass the bug repellant. 5 A motorboat! Oh wait ... it stalled. There it goes! No wait ... it stalled again ... and again. TESTIMONIES These children know and love their community. They don’t want to mend it simply for the sake of fixing. to reach uncharted heights, determined to become affluent, influential, and eventually return to heal their community. This resolve was so great that Gethsemane, a boarding school, had to create a rule for when the students were permitted to wake up, because some of them wanted to study instead of sleep. From the world’s view, restoring their community is near impossible, no matter how much willpower they possess. “The UN and relief organizations couldn’t fix it. What makes you think you are able?” But they neglected a chief factor. These children know and love their community. They don’t want to mend it simply for the sake of fixing. They desire to revive their community so that their people may ex- perience the love that is derived from the Christian lifestyle they have embraced. They wish to no longer watch their parents live under the anguish of premature deaths and the terror of spiritual oppression. And this is why, from a Christian perspective, the children of Gethsemane hold the key to the manacles confining their community. Because of this grand purpose, the students of Gethsemane, from elementary to high school, have hearts that all burn with a singular question, “How can I change the world?” This question was especially pressing during the Sunday service we attended. The service started in a typical Kenyan manner — vibrant and filled with dancing and jumping. Towards the end, however, the jovial mood abruptly became one of somberness as Naphtali, our host and the school’s headmaster, stepped onto the podium to speak. An extensive school break was coming up and the children were to return to their respective villages. The children sat humbly, some on the floor and some in plastic chairs, soaking in his message — “Don’t waste your life.” “How can I change the world?” I wore a pasted-on smile for the first few days. This changed, however, when a couple of my friends and I were assigned to type up “résumés” of children who hoped to attend Gethsemane. We carried out our task in the school’s computer lab, interrupted at sporadic intervals by the rain (the roof was leaking) and power outages. Nevertheless, it didn’t take a genius to notice that these applications were not typical in numerous aspects — at least not by American standards. The form contained categories such as “background”, “available resources” and “number of meals in a day”. But despite these sob stories, one category especially protruded in my mind — “orphan status”. I felt as if I had stumbled into a paper graveyard. From a secular perspective, the students of Gethsemane were born with chains. Generations of poverty had led to a vicious downward spiral of decay through AIDS and debauchery. And these children were fully aware of the situation. Many of them aspired 23 TESTIMONIES INHERITANCE The pictures in this article are from photographer Loretta Wang’s own mission trip to Africa in 2008. Returning to their villages meant that they were going to be confronted with all kinds of temptations, in both spiritual and physical aspects. I watched in sober astonishment as I observed these adolescent faces set with solemn determination, not one appearing bored or making a mockery out of the situation. I listened all the more keenly. I could learn much from these eager minds containing attention spans twice in size compared to mine. How were these children — one looking the mere tender age of 8 — supposed to transform such a conflictridden society? Naphtali continued to lecture, mentioning how villages in the past which were once deteriorating from immorality have since improved. He then spoke about Makira, one of the most spiritually darkened villages facing a severe dilemma stemming from debauchery. “Who is from Makira?” he inquired. “Those from Makira, please stand up.” Three students did so. He then gravely instructed, “Then you must be the examples. Be the light to Makira.” I sat in half awe and half skepticism. How were these children — one looking the mere tender age of 8 — supposed to transform such a conflict-ridden society? Were these the children who were supposed to release the stranglehold of demonic influence upon their home? “Yeah, that might work ... ” I thought, “With a legion of angels!” However, I was reminded and convicted that as Christians we are all called to be lights. But how many times do we wave our hand nonchalantly and say, “Eh, someone else can go be the light. I’m not bright enough. He’s brighter! Why doesn’t he go shine his light or something?” I know that I’m constantly ensnared by 24 But a tiny part of me screams, “Who cares what you are or aren’t? You’ve got God behind you, man! this lie. So many times I feel that I am not adequate for the Christian body. I think, “I’m not as smart as he is, not as thoughtful as she is.” “Oh, did I mention that I don’t even speak in tongues?” But a tiny part of me screams, “Who cares what you are or aren’t? You’ve got God behind you, man! Why don’t you go blast the world with His light!?” We may not be confronted by issues such as AIDS or poverty on a daily basis, but we are surrounded by the world, which has been “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22) since day one of the curse up until now! So, body of Christ, what do you think? Why are we having Christmas light competitions when we should be fighting to light up our world? inheritance THIS ISSUEâ€™S CONTRIBUTORS: Timothy Ho is a fourth year architecture student at the University of Southern California. He attends First Chinese Baptist Church of Walnut and thinks waking up after a challenging charrette is really satisfying. He is left-handed. Grace Hwang is the daughter of Pastor James and Antonia Hwang and lives in Kenya, East Africa. John Lee is a Los Angeles-based freelance artist. He is currently developing a new portfolio for Cartoon Network and looking for an in-house job in the Entertainment Industry. His work can be seen at www.johnhlee.net. Sarah J. Lee is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Los Angeles, CA. Adobe Creative Suite and some select traditional mediums such as pens and watercolors are all she needs to have a good time. Her work can be viewed at www.simplysarahjlee.com. Jennifer Tjong finds her refuge in the Lord, and hopes to glorify Him with her life and who she is in Him. She is presently a striving writer and hopes to be a dutiful, godly wife and mother who places her attention on the home and family, rather than on a career. Mason Tong is a graduate of UC Davis and an alumni of Campus Crusade for Christ, Epic. He attends Chinese for Christ Church Berkley and is an aspiring artist. Mason is obsessed with swords, manga, throwing down the sociology card, and God. Tim Tseng is the Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (ISAAC) and Pastor of English Ministries at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church. He has been married to his wife for 26 years and has happily raised two sons. Loretta Wang is a photographer based in Californiaâ€™s San Gabriel Valley area. She adores her 14 year old dog Jade, grows sunflowers, and loves eating macaroons. www.lorettawangblog.com Mike Whang is an independent Christian artist (The Nehemiah Band) and seminarian (Fuller Theological Seminary). You can contribute! Send samples of articles, art, and more to: email@example.com Non Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID INHERITANCE EFC Communication Center 9386 Telstar Ave. El Monte, CA 91731 www.inheritancemag.com Alhambra CA Permit No. 108 www.facebook.com/inheritancemag www.twitter.com/inheritancemag We need your support. inheritance magazine is a ministry that strives to publish without advertisements and distribute free of charge. Please check our website or the inserted envelope for donation information. October 8, 2011 Learn more inside.