Posted on

“A Silent Exodus” Leads to Freedom

Ten years ago, Helen Lee shed a grim light on a generation of Asian Americans leaving the church in droves with a piece entitled “Silent Exodus – Can the East Asian church in America reverse flight of its next generation?” which Peter Ong resurrects on his blog.

Although I had heard of the title, “Silent Exodus”, and been loosely familiar with the term since the late 1990s, I’d never read the article until Peter’s post. When it was first explained to me back in the 90s, I remember that it had filled my heart with a sense of alarm, but when I saw the post and the title, even before reading it, I said to myself, “Exodus means freedom. They were never meant to come back.” I almost shocked myself with that thought. It runs counter to how I feel about the ethnic church that I serve and whether I truly know if they will find freedom upon leaving it. But is it possible that exodus was a necessary thing — perhaps even, a good thing? Is it possible that when Asian Americans don’t return to the church of their youth, that could spell good things for the faith of their youth?

Exodus in the biblical sense meant freedom, first of all, and a journey — so it begs the question as to why this exodus for young Asian American Christians would be a bad thing. I know why, of course. Or I should say, I know why my parents and their parents fear the wandering. I know why the pastors were concerned, after all, it meant that I was leaving their churches, which is, more than just a place of faith to me, it was, for many of us, the “third place” that was neither home nor school. It was the community that I grew up in, the place where I found more Asians than in any other arena of my life, and yes, it meant a place that prepared lunch for me on Sundays.

While in college, that familiarity was warm to me. The language, the songs, the food — ah yes, familiar in a season of change. Familiarity was a spring of comfort. It also bred contempt. I left the church, angry with its hypocrisy and self-righteousness, public displays of disagreement and pride, and I plunged headlong into “the world” and my own personal desert.

“I could always go back,” I would think to comfort myself in dark nights of the soul. But I didn’t. I didn’t want the rumors to get back to my father though he was cities away. I didn’t want the patronizing glance of pastors and elders to look down on me with those sad eyes and that sigh that meant that I was so much potential wasted. Those were dark years indeed for me. But even in the midst of my desert did I once think that what I had left was better than my pit.

I went for Christmas. I had missed it one year and my life was too empty without it. That one year I didn’t spend the holidays around parents or church and it was one of the most difficult I have lived. But Christmas at the Korean church was not comfortable, for them nor me. The gossip about my failure was more than my forced smile could dissipate and I never found the courage to go back there. That was my silent exodus. I never told anyone, and no one ever called.

In my desert, God’s grace came before forty years. By Easter, my heart stirred again. I needed to believe again. I asked around for a church at my workplace. After all, I needed a recommendation, I had given up on the sermon not understood. Even if I sat in the back, I thought, it would be a good thing – at least no one would recognize me and make me ashamed.

Sunday morning came. Because of my newfound anonymity, church became filled with wonder again. The smiles were genuine and the handshakes came without obligation. The pastor preached in a way that I completely understood — “I want to suggest to you that in Christ Jesus, you can be more yourself than you could without him.” In this new church, people danced, people wept, people confessed…prayer here was only one of many expressions. My journey had brought me to a strange place…but I could smell freedom, it was close.

I spent four years in that church, healing, and learning to love again. God set me on fire there. I had stopped reading books in college, which coincidentally correlated to a plunge in my academic career. But that year I returned to church, I read sixty books in a single year. I also began to long for my people again, even when they didn’t long for me. I don’t recall seeing another Korean there in Sunday services. Once there was a girl who was half-Korean in my cell group. Although she didn’t understand it, I opened my mouth for the first time in years to pray in Korean for her and I wept because she had never known that fervent, affectionate mother tongue. And while I still had Korean friends, my dearest and closest confidants were beginning to look more unlike me.

Redemption is a long and winding road. Take my word for it. I stepped onto the campus of Vanderbilt for the first time in six years to pick up what I had lost. But this was more than I had lost, it was altogether different. Whereas in 1993, there was no such thing as an Asian American Christian Fellowship, in 2001, there was and continues to be. And God made me a servant to those who were younger and brighter, continuing to draw me to where I am now, back to an ethnic church. To me, the ethnic church is both Egypt and Canaan. In my story, it is both point of departure and ultimate destination, but it is all Exodus and Christ is the one who delivers me and I am now more myself than ever I was before this began.


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

30 responses to ““A Silent Exodus” Leads to Freedom

  1. djchuang

    Thanks for sharing a personal and wonderful story of redemption. Always amazing to hear of how the Spirit of God can pursue those who are His, in whatever contexts, through whatever twists and turns. While not all stories end in a return to an ethnic Asian church, many stories do end in an expansion of God’s kingdom everywhere, in all kinds of shapes, places, and contexts.

    • Diane Louie (pen name) ⋅

      Yay! I thought everyone on this blog was several generations Christian. Perfect Asian American life. Pastor’s son. Married with 2.0 kids. Eucharist in the DNA. Engineer who leads youth worship. Goody-two-shoes and godly church family. Well, gone are my idols of stereotypes now. Thank the Lord for raising my hopes up, that I am not alone as my family’s first believer.

      The MAIN ARTICLE ABOVE shows above all His faithfulness, as you indeed explored other religions but came to the truth in Him. The TRUTH is timeless and spaceless, universal and personal, for we sinners are all undeserving recipients of His grace. Indeed, how much more beautiful when your words testify to His undeniable presence in your life. For me, His love is a miracle. Can’t say it quite right, can’t express it, can only experience and live to tell of it. Care to share personal illustrations?

      I came to Christ after a personal struggle with sin. Maybe I am too harsh on myself but I confessed, repented, sought forgiveness, and it is only by His Holy Spirit that I live, breathe, and stand tall. Been reading New Testament – it’s beautiful to see His work in your guys’ lives, as well πŸ™‚

      I plan to stay in the immigrant Christian church. In my 23 years of life, I have never experienced life as a true free Christian before, and I saw many people tired of the church administration, serving out of obligation rather than willingness and joy. Well, sorry for the quick judgment there – but the JOY is so overwhelming, that I am forgiven!

      I’ve jumped promptly away from sin, put on a new robe (red in baptism), and found love, joy, purpose, friendship in my new life. I am a new creation. It’s not easy being Asian American – there are down times, bouts of severe depression, self-condemnation in my spiritual struggles, violent Asian parent conflict, huge family brokenness – but I am singly, happily dancing in His eternal grace covenant. We are the chosen bride of Christ the Redeemer-Husband, isn’t that something so worthy, so beautiful, that all the minutiae of phyiscal church body imperfections seem tiny? And He granted me the courage to seek Him out of my sin – to reach out to Him out of myself. I bow and give all praise to Him.

  2. DJ, you are absolutely right. Not all of us can go back nor should we. As you say, I think God is willing to shape us for specific contexts. I consider it bridge building to a great extent. Some get wet so that others don’t have to. Some fall in so others can get across. But the bridge we build must lead back to the savior. That’s the only goal here. I think that many strands are needed and they can and will look very different.

  3. peterong

    incredible story of homecoming filled with pathos and beauty. it is an exodus that revolves on a hint of the prodigal coming home to discover that the heavenly father can make a home of the church and convict the older brother to re-examine his own identification with abba. despite all the cynicism and the maladies of the ethnic church, it serves it role in the kingdom and often holds onto their children in ill-directed ways…but still, they love their children…and stumbles and fails upon the departure of the children. the silent exodus is never seen through the lens of the parents…in their veil of “saving face” hides broken hearts…a confrontation of their failures of being spiritual parents to their children and empty home and/or even worse…a disdain for home…so naturally they default to shame which is another way of expressing their desperate attempts to fulfill their desire for harmony…their bullying shame is the only way they know how to communicate at times and it is an ugly cycle and part of the gospel is for us to take the bold step of humility and pursue freedom of our hearts to join them in the reinterpretation (translation) of language of culture and pursuit of God. There is so much misunderstanding and so much woundedness that we have all been complicit to. Part of my hope is that the restoration is a two fold one…so we can move towards the paradox of beyond and inwardness. As you told your story, it was ultimately about those we have in the church and your role as a bridge between that is so critical…to find that wounded younger david park in the midst of the youth…and give them interpretation…to equip them to thrive in the confines of the ethnic church…so that their wounds are being bandaged and their confusion are being worked out…too often we want our churches to be comfortable places of worship…and too often we want to create an erasure of culture so that we can hold onto a “biblical” standard…but as reality and our fallenness expresses, it is difficult if not impossible to have a “comfortable” or “healthy” church, but it is messy but sometimes amazing. But our calling is to find redemption in the midst of our conflicts…the exodus may be a sign of freedom but it could also lead to another series of bondage of our emotional slavery that never gets worked out and haunts us with resentment and cynicism. So we trade one shackle for another. Thank you for this dialogue…it has compelled me to pray…again…and again..

  4. me

    just wanted to say thanks for the post. good stuff.

  5. josh ⋅

    Reading this redemptive story makes me happy and sad all at the same time; reading about (and knowing from experience of those I serve) the “silent exodus” makes my heart break because broken church = broken family, perhaps moreso for AA than for others. It would be my hope that gospel could somehow overcome the divide between 2nd & 1st gens from each other for the sake of the kingdom, but also for the sake of their own health and wholeness as ethnic peoples made in the image of God. Alas, this seems not often enough to be the case.

    I must admit as one of those whose cultural inheritance was forcefully and intentionally denied to them, and who’ve had to create, at great cost, another legacy almost from nothing it is very hard to understand those who give up such inheritances willingly. That is the lesson I have to learn from you, while my heart aches to teach my dongsengs not to so readily abandon what they currently resent.

    As an aside, all churches are ethnic churches because all people are ethnic people; not all churches are explicitly so. Therefore the promised land that many AA’s arrive at is not a Canaan where they can be fully AA in their faith and life, but a Babylon of chosen exile from a land they really never knew. Then then find themselves always singing the Lord’s song in a new land so long that they forget they are not Babylonians and were never really intended to be.

    What I want AA’s to know is that the rest of the body needs them to not just disappear culturally, theologically, socially, & spiritually. As a BA, I have a burden to bear as it relates to the body, and that burden is my gift to them. Are AA’s willing to sacrifice in order to bear burden for the body of Christ,whatever their burden is; I’m familiar enough with mine.

  6. Josh (hyung),

    Masterfully said – as always.

    My journey helped inform my vision and hope for the ethnic church. I think the Exodus metaphor is valuable in the sense that I needed to see who I am from the outside. And that shed light on what my “burden” to bear is. The risk is relative to the reward, and the exodus is terribly risky, many souls are lost, but because AA people were pragmatic opportunists, because the Gospel is clouded in notions of prosperity, unquestioning conformity, false humility, self-righteousness, and proud works-theology, the Exodus is a necessary component to the journey. I believe that AA churches, culture, theology, and believers will be revitalized because of having left. Many will return and many will contribute to multi-ethnic churches, but this journey is a big component to seeing how we fit into the greater kingdom of believers and allowing AAs to cast out our own racism, prejudices, and cultural demons.

    It is precisely that mindset that will turn Babylon into Canaan.

  7. Helen Lee

    The ironic thing about that phrase “silent exodus,” and its use in the title of the CT article is that I actually opposed it at the time. The word “exodus” to me implied that a movement from a negative to a more positive situation, which was not the phenomenon we were seeing at the time ten years ago. The trend was more that young Asian Americans were leaving their immigrant churches and not going anywhere else. The more appropriate term would have been “silent exile”. But “silent exodus” had already begun to be used as a catch phrase to describe what was happening in the Asian church in America, and it was hard to convince my editors to use a word that I thought would more accurately depict the situation.

    Now, however, the word “exodus” might actually be a better fit. Ten years since that article, there are certainly many more options for Asian Americans to consider if they do not want to remain in the immigrant church but do not want to attend a largely Caucasian church. But the need remains high for healthy churches targeting or attracting Asian Americans. We still have our work cut out for us!

    Thanks, David, for sharing and for your blog. I find it quite stimulating!

  8. Helen,
    It is an honor to have you comment on the post as the author of the original article. I really do believe that your article was a watershed piece. And I love that you can shed insight into your initial reactions about the title even at the time of publication.

    I believe that the word “exodus” is so profound because of the fact that in many ways, we share a diaspora mentality with the Jewish people. While it is significantly different from the African-American experience of slavery and that aspect of exoodus, we do know what it means to wander, to long for “home”, to be in the twilight of nations, to raise up idols at the foot of the mountain, to see that generation being born in the desert, on and on. We are moving forward as you say point out. I believe that now, more than ever, we are moving in the right direction towards more dialogue, more common ground, and a new humility. The best is yet to come…

  9. josh ⋅

    Exodus & exile have been the dominant theological paradigms by which Black-Americans have historically understood their faith. Firstly a desire to be liberated from physical bondage corresponding to the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. Secondly an experience of living as strangers during the great rural-urban migrations of the 20th century as in the babylonian exile of the Jews. These paradigms helped define what it means to be Black in our culture and the themes continue to resonate even in secular media & music. For BA, this was perhaps easier to develop because of the history of disenfranchisement & oppression in ones own land (although not the land of ones chosing).

    The challenge it seems to me for my AA brothers & sisters (especially given the issues of intermarriage, but that’s another can of worms) is to refuse to take the babylonians name, custom & practice as being ones own. Put another way, to be Christian without being White; to be American without being White; to be ethnically conscious in a good way withour being apologetic.

    What BA are faced with… well, you know how it is to think about your own community. You just shake your head and say, “my people.”

  10. I think I see what you mean a little more clearly now Josh.

    I agree with you whole-heartedly. AAs, unlike BAs, can ‘sell out’ a lot more easily with less repercussion from the Asian community and less exculsion from the white majority. It is imperative then, that existing ethnic churches and multi-ethnic ministries (much like the one you’re involved with) plant the seeds of what it means to be AA and Christian and that challenge that you speak of.

    Other fronts of the challenge are to initiate dialogues within and across the ethnic boundaries than can amicably transcend denomination and congregation. Thus Korean Methodists talking to Korean Presbyterians as well as Koreans talking to Chinese, etc. Very little of these are happening by the way.

    Then the AA church, which is borne of this type of insight, that understands its burden and its role, can begin to act in the ways that you mention to be a city on a hill.

    If we move too fast socially, it just becomes about AA rights and privileges. Too slow, and they get “whited out”. Too fast spiritually, and we fail to address the wounds and dysfucntions and pass as a multi-ethnic, culture-smearing congregation. Too slow, and then we lose relevance to the AA community. It is a tricky balance…but insight from the BAs and others, will help guide us out of this desert.

    So we’re still on track for a 40-year walk…you still game, brother?

  11. josh ⋅

    as long as my sandals don’t wear out!

  12. Bumble

    Great journey. Now we might pioneer a path for the next generation…

  13. Thanks for sharing. Lots of good stuff here!

    I was talking with several people at the Atlanta Taiwanese Presbyterian Church (ATPC) retreat this past weekend and we were discussing about this very topic. I’ve been involved on and off with ATPC over the years. And I’ve wrestled with this issue individually, corporately, and even nationally. And I have come to no resolution yet on this complex issue. I think the Taiwanese-Americans are several years behind the Korean-Americans, so hopefully you can pass on the solution to us when you find it. πŸ™‚

    In my personal situation, I’ve been attending a primarily Caucasian church for the past several years. But, fortunately for me, whenever I do visit ATPC, everyone have always been warm and welcoming. Though they always say, “When are you going to come back?”, they never pressure me or condemn me.

    In many ways I do want to go back. I’ve attended and visited many churches in the Atlanta area, but still I feel the sense of community the strongest in ATPC. I could leave for years (which I have) and visit and they’d welcome me as if I never left. And there’s something about being the same “people”. Though there are language, culture, belief barriers, I still feel close to them.

    But in many ways, I’m hesitant to go back. And apparantly a lot of others think the same way. There’s a big void in the church of 2 gen TA. The teenagers and kids are there because of their parents. But, once they have their own cars, most TAs choose to go elsewhere. The 18-40 year old group is almost non-existent. I visited ACCC North one time, and it seems like they are in the same situation.

    How can this problem be solved? Should this “problem” even be solved? I don’t know.

    • Diane Louie (pen name) ⋅

      Yay! I am so happy there ARE some Taiwanese Americans alive whom the Lord has blessed to notice these shortcomings. As a recently baptized reformed Christian (whoopee! I’m forgiven! I lean with care and joy on Holy Spirit!), I had felt kind of lost and alone, searching for the “right church” but I couldn’t find it. I deserve to die, oh this I know, but Jesus saved me from beyond death, this I know FAR better, rescued and raised me up into a new life I want to live now! Yayy… see what happens when a very young believer joins a blog of more mature Christians… hehe, sorry if my excitement seems immature, but my spiritual high hasn’t come down for many months now.

      Troubled, eager, excited, depressed, joyful, and knowing now what the heck I was doing, I “pulled” my Taiwanese mother into church. She accepted Christ, too. Many Taiwanese parents force their children into coming. I brought my Mom to English sunday school with all the crazy youth. Praise the Lord.

      At Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church in San Jose, California, I thought I’d reached it – heaven on Earth. As it is, the intergenerational conflict seems to have left the English ministry a bit exclusionary, the youth clearly obligation-centered and – our congregation is on a separate floor now from all the other ones, at the request of the Taiwanese reverend.

      But, guys – as much inherent discord, cultural conflict, intergenerational conflict, administrative bureaucracy, confusion in our identity as Asian American Christians – can you complain much more for His joy?? I know I will and have, but

  14. Thanks Bumble and Oliver for your comments!

    Oliver, since we share the same backyard, we should get together for coffee or something. I look forward to meeting you.

    I believe that the problem CAN be solved, but I do think it needs to be addressed first. Many churches and pastors lament the “silent exodus”, but the way it sounds to the ears of those on the margins, is that the lament is an economic or cultural loss, not a loss of spiritual consequence. This is where I think that dialogue between churches, ethnic to multi-ethnic and vice versa needs to be opened up primarily because many ethnic churches cannot afford to build up contextualized ministries faster than our own rate of attrition and secondarily because multi-ethnic ministries can not bring light to a cultural distinction.

    I think the ace that the ethnic church holds (but rarely uses) is the fact that they have an inheritance to bequeath of how the first generation or how the mother culture was transformed by the Gospel. In other words, they can help us (as 2nd gen) realize or piece together how we are grafted on to this tree that leads back to a Jewish messiah. We need to hear that our fathers and grandfathers did not come to faith for its “niceness” or some Judeo-Christian/Confucian synergy or similarity or that Asian pastors helped them get a driver’s license and camraderie upon arriving in the states; what we are dying to hear is that Jesus is real, that our fathers and grandfathers felt that this Jewish messiah answered prayers to which our ancestors were powerless to answer, healed illness that no acupuncture could solve, gave riches that no education could buy, and gave grace that threw our notions of taoist balance out the window.
    My ethnic church has the power to tell me the story of where I came from, my spiritual lineage, the power to heal me from my dysfunction (e.g. the Korean tendency for stubborn independence, courtesy of our history as the “hermit kingdom”), and the freedom to take the best of my mother culture and best of this American dream. I do not know why more ethnic churches do not exercise this power, but when we relegate our churches to discussing pure theology or propositional faith, we are effectively cutting off the very branch that we sit upon in the words of C.S. Lewis.

    • Diane Louie (pen name) ⋅

      Nice mix of cultural metaphors there.

      I don’t know if it helps, but at my home church, the senior reverend pastor (Taiwanese, NOT American-born), among all the pastors, was the one to suggest putting the English Ministry on an entirely separate floor, a story above the Chinese and Taiwanese.

      The reconstruction of internal church there is NOT to “separate” what is already a deep discord of intergenerational conflict, but rather a vision to STRENGTHEN the English Ministry, to make it, literally, stand on its own.

      I wish Asian American immigrant churches with strong English ministries – like my local church – can continue to attract people to Him.

  15. josh ⋅

    Wow! That last post was powerful; like a sermon. Makes me want to jump up and shout “Amen!” but since this is an AA forum I’ll simply nod my head, and grunt loudly in agreement while looking serious. :p

    You’ve said a mouthful indeed, and summarized what I believe to be the best latent components of the “ethnic” church. There is an old gospel song that says, “my soul looks back and wonder how I got over.” This song is a key example in the BA church of what you are saying. For BA’s God was never an option; He was (and is) survival and salvation, not a means to the end of success and prosperity so much so that even now BA’s cannot possibly think of their history without God – not just a theology about God, or sermons inspired by God, but God himself acting and living and sustaining and providing in unbearable circumstances. The irony is I suspect that many Asian (especially Korean) immigrants know this reality, but somehow have not translated it into AA gospel. Indeed music might just be the place to start.

    It would be a wonderful thing if more Chrisian music was written by and performed by AA artists in a style (not yet invented to my knowledge) that is distinctly AA. I mean, BA can “gospelize” almost any song so that what was white bread contemporary at the Vineyard Church becomes “gospel” at the Church of God in Christ.

    • Diane Louie (pen name) ⋅

      Do you read Inheritance Magazine? This month it talked about the NEHEMIAH band, an AA Christian band of Korean Americans. Cool, huh?

  16. Hey David,

    Interesting how you wrote about “The Silent Exodus” – I know the pastor who wrote that as his D.Min. Thesis – his name is Min Ho Song and at the time, he was finishing his D.Min (I’m pretty sure it was this degree – either way, it was his doctorate) at Trinity in Chicago. He wrote this as a pastor who served in the same church Young Nak Church in Toronto – all the way from children’s ministry to youth to college, and finally to young adult EM. Then he took his whole family on missions to the Philippines. Interestingly enough, the KM pastor of Young Nak suddenly passed away from a strange illness and he sensed God was calling him back to serve at Young Nak. Upon his return, he was chosen to become the Senior Pastor of the KM. He would be a great person to speak at our “conference.” Anyway, I left my email, so get back to me – I’ll try calling again tonight.

  17. Pingback: Everyone check out Dave Park’s discussion on the “Silent Exodus.” « Peter Ong’s Ministry Website

  18. peterong

    dave, some intriguing thoughts about this and I feel that there is a major transformation in your heart for the first gen ethnic church…something is melting…

  19. djchuang

    I’d like to think that my heart is that all kinds of churches would thrive, be it a first-gen ethnic Asian immigrant church, an intergenerational Asian American church, a 2nd generation+ pan-Asian church, or a Asian/multiracial church. Different contexts and different people need different kinds of churches, and I think it’d be helpful to not only talk about only one way to reach people but also to talk of many kinds of churches to unleash God’s gifts among all kinds of peoples and generations. πŸ™‚

  20. Good point DJ, I think I should probably create some new categories of posts that address different applicable modes of church. This post is definitely addressing the immigrant church, but I believe there will be some of the diversity that you mention. It’s certainly not to say that this journey of mine is normative. Let’s just clear the air and say that I am not normal. Thank you for allowing me to confess that. Whew~

  21. Steve Choi ⋅

    When I saw the subtitle of the post I had a moment of hope that this piece was about leaving religion behind for the freedom of nontheism, or at least leaving the imperialist/conqueror’s religion Christianity to explore traditions that predated it (e.g. in Korea, Buddhism or Confucianism). But alas, Park throws away the freedom of walking away from his provincial, myopic, conservative ethnic church and simply joins another one.

  22. Sorry to disappoint you Steve. I did explore other religions deeply, Hinduism and Buddhism in particular, and did not merely “entertain” them. I completely acknowledge the criticism of Christianity as a conqueror’s religion, I had (and still have) problems with Koreans accepting this white man’s religion wholesale, but I have trouble explaining away the person of Christ in history and in my own personal life. I don’t believe in Christianity as a religion, but I believe in Jesus Christ. If that means throwing away my freedom, maybe. But people said the same thing when I got married. I don’t regret that because I know who I married. And I know whom it is I believe. If I can convince you of anything, if I have joined a myopic and conservative ethnic church again, it’s not because I thought I had to. It’s not because I didn’t think I knew better. Jesus is the splinter in my mind. I can no longer extract him from my experience and being. I know it may sound foolish, and sometimes I feel foolish for saying it, but I know Jesus, I’ve met him. I don’t know how or why, but I can no longer explain him away or wish otherwise. I’m not going to kill anyone over it and that doesn’t make me judge over anybody, all I’m saying is, I’m a witness, that’s all. I can’t deny it.

  23. Bing ⋅

    David, That was one of the best responses to a criticism of Christianity, I have ever heard. Well said.

  24. Jennifer Wong ⋅

    Wow…. I think you just perfectly described what I am currently going through. I’m a 2nd year in college right now and I definitely experienced that “silent exodus” when I graduated high school. I had so much contempt for the church, and I dived into all the worldly pleasures I could once I got to college. I made several attempts to go back to being “Christian” but they were out of my own effort and they failed.
    After a long desert period I started to break down and God called me back. My friend brought me to a new church, a multiethnic charismatic church- way different from my conservative Chinese church. I experienced such growth at this church, which my very conservative family is still a little skeptical about. The past couple months God has been putting me through little trials here and there, and healing me of so many things.. I definitely know I’m on the way to becoming more myself than I ever was.
    Thank you for sharing!!

  25. Jennifer Wong ⋅

    *forgot to say… I still go to my ethnic church whenever I’m back home from college. So I guess I haven’t actually “left” my childhood church… I just have a very different kind of homechurch when I’m away for college.

  26. Diane Louie (pen name) ⋅

    Beautiful story. What an adventurous journey.

    I know some believers are driven wildly with wanderlust into a prodigal exploration of faith with the goal of making it truly one’s own. As a new believer, at times I am tempted to see this as a self-centered journey, as if the faith is in OUR hands, especially in a secular world that encourages self-exploration in both godly and ungodly ways.

    Your article thankfully reminds us it is the Lord Himself who takes us and makes us stronger in Him throughout our spiritual journey, that is the ultimate love story of truth. At any point along our winding scenic routes, we can lift our faces and see Him. This story illuminates Asian American homecoming in a redemptive light, too, all the sweeter for the time away from the home church that happens to be the ethnic church for many. Although I am extremely young in the faith (baptized half a year ago as my family’s first, after college), my bicultural Asian upbringing as an American born Taiwanese daughter allows me to empathize deeply with the reasons for the silent exodus. Churches with three congregations, such as Cantonese, Mandarin, and English ministries, are excellent havens for spiritual unity, and to my newly believing eyes, they were the Asian American heavenly home. Yet at the same time, their interactions, more clearly than in any other place, exhibit the raw cultural and ethnic discord that lies at the sometimes troubled heart of the Asian American Christian consciousness.

    Asian American Christianity is, thank God, a dynamic identity that requires as much spiritual vigilance, self-reflection, and a certain amount of soul-searching on our part as it does the Lord’s faithfulness, His love, His guidance, His promises, and our growing security in Him. (That’s why I’m always on these blogs!)

    Case in point: I never grew up in church, but coming from a troubled Asian family, coming to Christ and to one of His churches means the world to me. The Lord not only saved me from sinning, He brought this lost sheep back home on His shoulders. In the Asian immigrant church, I can easily see how familiarity has bred contempt, giving rise to a complacent spiritual attitude in a world where Christ calls for vigilance. As the only American-born Asian among first and 1.5 generationers, I unintentionally carry an air of foreign-ness, even exoticism to certain places. Yet, for all the suffering and hardship I endured pre-Christ, coming home to my Taiwanese church is all the more worthwhile. The Prodigal Son comes to mind (although application is limited, as I am a daughter, not a son), and the rejoicing, the smiles, the joy in our hearts, the firm handshakes are genuine on all sides. I still pray in English, while my pastor might pray in Chinese. Yet, we are moved by the same faithfulness, and I will not wander easily, for He has found me.

    So, I personally have a bias and affinity for ethnic immigrant churches. The mother tongue, the maternal and paternal love of the Chinese-speaking elders, the solidarity of each congregation, the FOOD – I think first of my blessings to be able to come home. The inherent discord, the well-known generation conflicts, the underdeveloped English ministry, the interdependence of church administration that “turns off” the younger generation, the Asian American inferiority complex, the silent exodus.. these are ancillary issues that are dwarfed by the sweetness of coming home for me. Praise Him, and let’s put our hopes in Him alone to carry us through the brokenness, the hard times, the conflicts, the trials and tribulations. Putting these aside, it is unfailingly fruitful to seek and worship Him in any church – the interdenominational, interracial, the pan-Asian, the ethnic immigrant church where it all started.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s