#prayforjapan

The heartache and loss of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the tsunami it triggered, and now the potential nuclear meltdown are almost impossible to describe.

Below, the following bloggers offer insight and perspective on this massive tragedy:

When faced with tragedy on such a massive scale (over 10,000 people killed, thousands missing or unaccounted for, 500,000 homeless or displaced, billions in damage), it is easy to turn away or shut down. However, let us not forget the stories of those who are grieving, even as they search for loved ones.

Yomiuri Shimbun /AFP/Getty Images: This woman was calling out the names of her family in the city of Soma in Miyagi prefecture earlier today (March 14, 2011).

How to Help:

  • CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) Japan: “A network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world.  CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be there to help their communities when disasters strike and coordinates Christian volunteers to work with local ministries in the event of a disaster.”
  • Evangelical Covenant Church: “Covenant World Relief is responding to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan with our sister denomination, the Japan Covenant Church.”
  • World Vision: “World Vision plans to distribute relief supplies to meet the daily needs of quake and tsunami survivors. We will also focus our efforts on responding to the emotional needs of children, who are the most impacted after such a traumatic event.”
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: “This designated account supplements the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering to enable a significant response for relief and disasters in Japan.”
  • Asian Access: “Pray for Japan, for the Church and for us as we prepare to come alongside the Church and other partners to deliver aid and respond with well-prepared teams as the opportunities arise.”
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Key Series: Why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans

Read this insightful series by DJ Chuang about why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans. It is a powerful introduction to many of the conversations we have here at Next Gener.Asian Church.

As DJ writes in his initial series post:

All to say that our American society needs more Asian Americans to be Asian American. It is to say that at this state of the union, we have too few. We certainly don’t have too many. We’d do well to have a few more to stand up and represent. We’d do well to think through and have more robust conversations about what it means to be Asian Americans. We’d do well to allow the richness of our Asian American’ness to overflow and not hide it under a bushel.

The disclaimers DJ writes at the outset are, alone, worth the price of admission:

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part Two

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Daniel DK Kim’s journey of worship and justice has led him and his family to commit themselves to fighting human trafficking in Mexico City for the next two years. They left today (with answers to prayer from the very start). Read the second part of our two-part interview with DK:

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What is the connection between releasing your new EP thefirst and your family’s commitment to fight human trafficking in Mexico City?

This EP is my first-ever studio project and I am still baffled and dumbfounded that it is complete, in print, on sale and in the hands of people who love it. It has been a dream come true and the way it happened was so sudden and unexpected, I can once again say that it’s because of God’s goodness this came about. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part One

Daniel DK Kim just gave up his dream job.

As the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California, DK has been living out a personal dream.  And yet, on June 15th, DK, his wife Sadie and their young son Micah will be moving to Mexico City for two years, “to do our part in the abolition movement while working with and raising up a generation of indigenous artist/activists in the city to lead the charge… until we see the end of slavery.”

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  As you can see from DK’s story, which we will share in two parts, this awakening to the intimate connection between worship and justice is both beautiful and challenging.

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How would you describe the connection between worship and justice in your life? What have been some pivotal moments in shaping your understanding of worship and justice?

Photo by Scott Hodge at The Idea Camp in Irvine, California

I’ve been a worship leader since I was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until recently, in 2007, that I began to feel discontent in the way that I viewed and experienced worship.  So much of our worship can become self-focused and self-indulgent if we forget about the call beyond the mere words of any song. I began to discover the synonymy of worship & justice in a few key passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 58 is a huge one for me: the challenge to consider what true fasting is made me think about what true worship is. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I began to see that my worship was just ritual if I didn’t take it outside of a fifteen-minute set list.  I wanted desperately to do something about this unfolding realization but didn’t know where to start.  All I could do was pray.

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Is Francis Chan…

… on his way to becoming the next Rob Bell? (Sorry, couldn’t resist tipping my hat to the last NG.AC post about Francis Chan. You know which one.)

Flannel, the folks behind the Nooma series (featuring Rob Bell) are launching another DVD series called We Are Church featuring Francis Chan. From their site (you can read the full post here, and watch a short clip of Francis talking about it):

…you might already know that Nooma was the beginning of a much bigger vision – a vision that encompassed working with many highly creative speakers to communicate the way of Jesus to the world.

Early last year, we committed to pursuing the larger vision and began a search for additional speakers to champion new projects.  The search process included wonderful conversations with ministry and seminary leaders, publishers, Christians bookstore executives, authors, pastors, and more that helped us identify well over 100 candidates… in the end, we felt God leading us to Francis Chan.

I have enjoyed the Nooma series with Rob Bell – the content, aesthetic, communication style and length (seriously, let’s keep our Bible study DVDs under 30 minutes!) have been a good fit for our church community.  I am looking forward to seeing what they do with Francis Chan, if they can capture the energy and passion of his live delivery.  Francis’ short film Stop & Think has a similar vibe (and clocks in at a very reasonable 15 minutes!) — a good sign for the future of this partnership with Flannel.  Stop and think for yourself below.

If this We Are Church series has a similar impact as the Nooma series, perhaps Francis Chan will become a household name in the way Rob Bell has. While I’m sure that’s not Francis’ goal — by all accounts, he is a genuinely humble follower of Jesus — I would love to see an Asian American find a platform like that to speak to both the church and our culture.

Donations to the Yoon Family

This past Monday, Dong Yun (Don) Yoon lost his entire family in an unspeakable tragedy when an F-18 fighter jet crashed into his San Diego home, killing his two infant daughters (ages 1 month and 15 months), his wife and his mother-in-law who was in town to help care for the newborn.

It is heartbreaking for any of us to imagine what we might do in his situation.  This hit home for us in a particular way this week: the Korean American community in San Diego is small and, while the Yoon family is not a part of our church, we are only one step removed from them.  Many of our church families know this family, and are grieving alongside them at this time.

There have been small glimpses of light, faith and hope in the midst of this tragedy.  First, the grace & faith Dong Yun Yoon displayed during his public statement about his loss.  Instead of blaming the pilot whose jet killed his family, he asked us to pray for him.  A friend of mine said that, while there are some important differences (one was an accident while the other involved hostages and murder) , Dong Yun’s response reminded him of how the Amish responded during their tragic school shooting.The LA Times ran a heartfelt op-ed piece today, likening Dong Yun’s response to that of Horatio Spafford, who lost his family and yet was able to pen the beloved hymn, It Is Well with My Soul.  Although I certainly have more than my share of grievances with the immigrant Korean church, Dong Yun Yoon’s response, and the support of his church community, reminds me of what can be so right about the first generation faith:  steadfast trust and hope in God, even in the midst of pain and sorrow, and a church that literally cries out to God on behalf of the suffering.

As Eugene Cho notes, the silence in the Christian blogosphere about Dong Yun’s Christ-like response has been disappointing, if not deafening.  I have been encouraged, though, to hear the empathetic words of the Yoon family’s non-Korean American neighbors, describing them as hard-working and sweet, and even seeing Dong Yun kiss his family that very morning as he left for work.  While San Diego is a beautiful place to live, there is a strong undercurrent of racial tension, so it is particularly moving to see the broader community rally around this family in some ways.

For those of you who would like to contribute a donation to the Yoon family, their church has posted the following information:

Tragedy in Our Community

On Monday December 8, 2008 Dong Yun Yoon (member of the Korean United Methodist Church of San Diego) lost four of his family members in the recent F/A-18D jet crash in San Diego.

We will dearly miss his wife Young Mi, daughter Grace (15 month), Rachel (1 month), and Young Mi’s mother Mrs. Suk Im Kim.

A Trust Fund has now been created and your donations for the Yoon family can be directed to:

Dong Yoon # 200-717-333, SD Hanmi Bank

If you are unable to find a Hanmi Bank in your area, you can mail your donations to the Korean United Methodist Church at

3520 Mt. Acadia Blvd. San Diego, CA 92111

Funeral
Place: Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary
Address: 3838 Bonita Rd. Bonita, CA 91902

Friday December 12 ~ Public viewing 5 – 9 PM (Little Lodge)
Saturday December 13 ~ Burial Service 1 PM (Chapel of Roses)

http://www.netsv.com/glenabbey/

Thank You

Honor, Shame and Justice

Earlier this week, I saw the film Call+Response with members of our church community.

Call+Response is a musical documentary about modern-day slavery and human trafficking featuring artists such as Cold War Kids, Talib Kweli and Moby alongside notable figures such as Cornel West, Madeleine Albright and Ashley Judd. [I’ve posted some personal reflections over on my blog, in case you’re interested]

The statistics on slavery and human trafficking are unnerving.  27 million people enslaved.  $32 billion a year made on their suffering (more than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined).  And it’s not just a problem out there somewhere; thousands of people are trafficked every year right here in the States.

However, something in the film struck a particularly raw nerve for me, as an Asian American follower of Christ.  Those depraved individuals who profit from the suffering and degradation of people are extremely resourceful, in their sick way.  They adapt the techniques they use to ensnare others, depending on the area in which they operate.  For example, in East Asia, they will often prey on the eldest daughters of impoverished families by convincing them they have no other way to support and honor their parents but by selling themselves into slavery.

Others will accuse the victims of rape and sexual slavery of being unclean and shameful to their families, so that they will have no real alternative but to remain captives.  Filial piety, honor, shame, obligation — these are hard enough for us to navigate without predators twisting them for their own ends.

Everything inside of us needs to cry out against this sickness and insanity.

This is not about “compromising” the Gospel by promoting “good works.”  If we believe what we say we believe — that God is good; that people (all people) are created in His image with dignity, beauty and worth; that we believe in a Kingdom that is right and true and good, because that’s the heart of our King — then we must be compelled to action.  In fact, I would argue that mission and justice, for followers of Christ, are inseparable.  We must not allow that false dichotomy to lull us into sleepwalking through life, thinking we’re doing God’s “eternal” work while, really, we’re kind of just sitting around.

I apologize in advance for the rantiness of this post; if anything, I feel this conviction most strongly for myself.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed when confronted with these atrocities and, eventually, pushed back into apathy, I want to care about the people about whom God cares deeply.  I know my heart is moved, and now?

Call+Response lists 33 ways you can respond today.  Organizations such as JustOne and Justice Ventures International are a couple of grassroots non-profits working to promote justice worldwide and are well worth your support. Even the simple of act of telling a friend that slavery still exists today can be the beginning of positive change.

Our Band Needs a Phonoharp

Walter Kitundu, one of this year’s Macarthur “genius grant” winners, creates amazing hybrid instruments (see the phonokoto to the left) and teaches at-risk students about tabla, turntables and invented instruments.

This is a beautiful quote about what this intimate connection between music, creativity and identity has done for the students in this program:

Our young people have a chance, through the lens of another culture, to reflect back upon who they are and what they can be as citizens of the planet.

As Asian American followers of Christ, we are constantly reflecting through different lenses.  Unfortunately, that liminality often leaves us feeling a sort of spiritual homelessness. Living as people who are neither here nor there definitely takes its toll, and the natural temptation is to retreat.  In many ways, church culture has become our refuge, instead of, as the psalmist says, God.  Sometimes we just want to sit and mindlessly consume the religious goods and services someone else can offer to us, like watching a couple of hours of television to unwind.

However, it seems clear from many of our church experiences that this enclave mentality has failed: it does not promote sincerely following Jesus, nor does it actually provide much of a refuge at all. If we can find that creative spark (ignite it, if you will) perhaps we can forge a deep sense of identity — “both/and” instead of “neither/nor.”  Music, creativity, the arts — perhaps these lenses can cause us to reflect on who we are and what we can be as citizens of the Kingdom.

Kitundu’s music is strange and beautiful (and, really, isn’t that what the church is called to become?):

Presbyterian 2.Oh!

Congrats to Bruce Reyes-Chow, who was elected moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Saturday, June 21st!

Here is a great quote from Bruce at the GA:

…nothing is too hard or too wondrous for God. If the church steps out in faith rather than clinging to survival, to be more intent on being faithful than on being right, to be together based on our common covenant in Jesus Christ rather than by property or pensions, then we will be able to live into a future in which we are a vital and vibrant presence in the world.

Bruce is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco and is a prolific, insightful blogger. It looks like the banner of his blog can now read “pastor/geek/dad/follower of Christ/moderator.”

As a Presbyterian myself, it is a breath of fresh air to see the denomination move away from what can often be an insular old boys’ network and towards a different picture of what the future might be. This is more than just saying, “Let’s start using this internets I’ve been hearing about to keep those young whippersnappers inside the church” — Bruce is fully engaged in culture 2.0 and it will be interesting to see how he can help turn the ship around.

To many Presbyterians, the fact that a young, urban, Asian American church planter could become the new face of the denomination is nothing short of miraculous.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Even though it’s already over halfway through the month, I thought I would mention that May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month. Check out Enscriptchun for some great links to various voices in the Asian American blogosphere. I definitely resonate with Enscriptchun’s words about APA Heritage month:

I’m quite aware of the issues surrounding the relegation of the vast sum of Asian Pacific culture and history being reduced to a single month celebration, but it’s nice to have some recognition of contributions of our people, right?

Many of us have endured more outright racism than we’d like to remember. Even innocent sounding questions like, “No, where are you really from?” or well-intentioned (but totally wrong) statements such as, “I don’t even think of you as being Asian” only serve to reinforce the notion that we don’t belong here, that we’re something other than “normal.”

This morning, I heard a piece on NPR by Dmae Roberts called Secret Asian Woman — you can listen to the audio here or watch this video she produced. Although she speaks specifically about her multiracial identity, I found myself relating to much of her story — the struggle, pain and weariness from being Asian in America and learning to forge a new sense of identity in the face of a culture that often belittles, dismisses or ignores us.

It has taken me many years to recognize my God-given identity as an Asian American follower of Christ. For so many years, I lived in the marginality of “neither/nor” — neither fully Asian nor completely American. While this sense of spiritual homelessness has made me cling to my ultimate heavenly citizenship, as I have walked with God over the years my perspective has shifted dramatically. I have begun to see myself as “both/and” — in all of the beauty and mess that being both Asian and American means.

In many ways, being “both/and” people uniquely positions us for missional leadership. Many of us, in order to survive adolescence, had to learn to navigate fluidly between different cultures inside and outside the home. We had to learn to process, filter and recontextualize information and learning to the appropriate cultural setting. As Friend of Missional describes, “A missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people and adopt a missionary stance in relation to their community.

David Gibbons has been talking about building third culture churches that reach out to the marginalized. Dave describes these communities in this way [h/t: DJ Chuang]:

Third culture is the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.

Perhaps one of our greatest contributions (in addition to some pretty cool musical endeavors), as “both/and” Asian American followers of Christ, will be to build third culture churches who are actively engaged in the mission of God in the world.