#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.”

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Pushing the Boundaries Together

David and I were approached by Emergent Village to write a post for their blog. It is reproduced below for our NG.AC friends. Enjoy (and critique):

http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/park-pushing-boundaries

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David: The joke goes something like this: when a Japanese person goes to a new city, he looks to start a business; when a Chinese person first arrives in a new place, he looks to start a restaurant; but when a Korean comes to town, he’s going to start a church. As my Korean immigrant father is a recently retired pastor who planted or shepherded at least seven churches that I can count, I can attest to the above punchline—Koreans love church. And we’ve taken to church planting and the Christian industry by storm, a sort of ecclesiological Kim Yunah phenomenon for those of you who watched the Winter Olympics. Continue reading

Reflections on Christianity from a Japanese-American Painter

An effort to define beauty will ultimately fail, but we can speak of beauty, and point to the source of beauty.

Friends,

In order to prevent any more cobwebs from appearing on this beloved site, I’d like to share a wonderful interview with Makoto Fujimura, a Japanese American painter where he talks about his views on faith, how art reflects the mystery of faith, and the Eastern nature of Christianity.

http://goo.gl/0na0

Here’s an excerpt:

East/West distinction is also a categorization that is very difficult to define. The Bible is an “Eastern” book. The Bible is much more culturally “Eastern” than “Western,” if by “Western” we mean post-Enlightenment rationalism. Certainly, the Old Testament Hebrew culture was far more eastern than what we consider to be western. The Last Supper makes more sense in a Japanese context (that eating and drinking wine can bond a community together) than American. Early theologians like Augustine and Origen were influenced by African and Egyptian culture, which is more East than West, and certainly medieval art and theology has much to do with Eastern influence, while “Western” theology grew out of them. I know what you are asking pertains to our fascination with Japanimation, Eastern New Age mysticism, etc., but I would be careful not to fall into unhelpful distinctions.

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.

Santa Cross

It’s hard to reconcile Santa Claus and Christmas.

Here’s an interesting bit of Engrish that tries to do so.

And here’s a bit of news from Orissa, India that tries to do so as well. As I slept comfortably and self-righteous in my bed last night, one man died and thirty were injured as they worshiped on Christmas. All in all, ten churches were burned.

Their crime? Converting the dalits, also known as “untouchables”, to Christianity. Literally and figuratively, dalits are the outcasts, as in without a caste. In a Hindu society based on caste, they are the ones who are hardly human, and even to set your eyes on them is thought to bring you bad luck, touch  them and it’s considered a sin; hence the name, “untouchables.”

But of course, Hindus don’t want them to be Christian either. They don’t like the fact that these untouchables could be bought and converted so easily with food and warmth by these subversive missionaries, iconoclasts, imperialists, Westerners, and this crazy one called Jesus…they would rather burn them than to have them touched.

Even today, it seems, there is no room in the inn. Merry Christmas, in the truest sense of the word.

Theology: Towards An Asian Reconstruction

I just “found” this paper by C.S. Song, although it was originally presented in 1995 at the Conference on World Mission and the Role of Korean Churches. There are times in the paper where my allergic reactions to universalism flare up a bit, but I think it brings up important points for the evangelical church to ask about how we can better welcome and interact with people of other faiths. Speaking from a personal disposition where people in my own extended family wince when they hear that I’m Christian, it’s always good to give ourselves a gut-check so that Christianity as it is presented is not an obstacle for relationship. So keep that in mind if you read the paper…it’s born out of a context hostile to Christendom, but not necessarily Christ.

Check out these insights from a paper now twelve years old…

For the Christian church this is a season of distress and adjustment: distress because the ambition of “Christianizing” the world is not fulfilled, and adjustment because its centuries-old life-view and world-view have become obsolete and new ones have to constructed. As to Christians in Asia, this is an age of expanding our ecumenical horizon that to us God’s ways with the nations and peoples with which we have not seriously reckoned in our faith and theology before. It has become increasingly evident to thinking Christians that the future of Christianity cannot be separated from the future of other religions, that the well-being of the Christian church is closely bound with the well-being of the larger community around it, and that Christians and their neighbors are fellow pilgrims on earth in search of the meaning of life the and the fulfillment of it.

Some Christian theologians in Asia, particularly some of us from the reformed tradition, have taken upon ourselves the arduous task of doing Christian theology in this vast part of the world historically and culturally shaped by religions other than Christianity. We find ourselves questioning the ways in which traditional theology has gone about its business for centuries. We have no alternative but to listen to the voices from the world we share with our fellow Asians.

If there is salvation only for those who believe in Christ, as “extreme Christians” affirm, and salvation for them means eternal life in God, then what will be the fate of the great majority of the people of Asia, or more than two-thirds of the human race?

Critical Contextualization

“When you have a hammer in your hands, all you see are nails.”That’s certainly how I’ve been feeling with this book in my hands.

Paul Hiebert is quoted in the book, “The Shaping of Things to Come” with some brilliant insights into critical contextualization.

Frost and Hirsch, the authors share Hiebert’s thoughts (pp. 89):

A missional church ought to be filled with students of the Word of God. He [Hiebert] says: “This step is crucial, for if the people do not clearly grasp the biblical message as originally intended, they will have a distorted view of the gospel. This is where the pastor or missionary…has the most to offer in an understanding of biblical truth and making it known in other cultures. While the people must be involved in the study of Scripture so that they grow in their own abilities to discern truth, the leader must have the meat-cultural grids that enable him or her to move between cultures.”….

”(The gospel) is a me to which people must respond…It is not enough that the leaders be convinced about changes that may be needed. Leaders may share their personal convictions and point out the consequences of various decisions, but they must allow the people to make the final decisions in evaluating their past customs.”

He[Hiebert]wants leaders to trust the congregation, something that clergy have been notoriously poor at doing in the past. If the process is guided effectively, he suggests a number of ways a congregation might respond to old beliefs and customs. Continue reading

What Exactly Are They Apologizing For?

Thanks to Sonya Bearson for helping me find this article:  Hostages’ Pastor: ‘Remorse Is the Face of the Church’

Here are few quotes from the ex-hostages in the article:

“I’ve had sleepless nights, thinking of what we have caused the country. I am deeply sorry,” Yu Kyeong-sik said at a press conference.

“Remorse is the face of the church,” said Park Eun-jo, senior pastor of Saemmul Church. The Presbyterian congregation that sponsored the trip, in the Seoul suburb of Bundang, has a weekly attendance of about 5,000 people.

What exactly are they apologizing for? What did they do that was so wrong?

This is a strange age we’re living in – when we care more for animals than we do people, and terrorists don’t apologize, but missionaries have to.  Since when did the church become such a burden on society? Have we come to a point that we expect missionaries to apologize when the gospel they wield is subversive enough that terrorists find it threatening? We have come to a point where are more angry at the missionaries for being held hostage than the terrorists who held them hostage. How screwed up is that?

That’s like telling an abused woman that she had it coming. The church shouldn’t have to apologize, they should be the ones to have the government apologize for this same sentiment also expressed in the article:

After the hostages’ release, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the Associated Press that the group plans to abduct more foreigners.

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful,” he said

Separation of church and state is fine, but know this, this one’s on the state. Nonviolence should never have to apologize to those who use violence. Just because there are cowards in the state, doesn’t mean the missionaries have to apologize. C’mon South Korea, don’t boast about missionaries if you’re not willing to send them out. The Taliban is not entitled to perpetuate violence, nor should we, for fear of death, allow them to think that they can.