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Gated Communities, Groceries and Restaurants December 29, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American.

I  just came across this interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the growth of Korean Americans in the Fullerton Area. What struck me and got me thinking was the Asian American culture is often seen as one of upward mobility and a pursuance of comfort. It is not surprising why there are so many churches (according to the article, two of the largest Korean Churches in California are in Orange County) in the area to minister to them as well as food conveniences. 

But there is very little said about our connectedness to the gospel that reaches beyond the creature comforts of our lives. I write this in the comfort of a pretty nice church office, but my heart yearns for more of a discipleship that requires sacrifice. Not out of duty because it is part of our immediate transformation by the gospel. 

I come across conversations with so many Asian American Christians and what is always pressing on their minds are where to live, where to eat and where to shop. I find it hard to bring up anything else. I remember asking a person at church this Sunday, “how is your marriage?” and this person looked at me as if I asked them what is their preference for pornography. But if I asked where do you want to eat, I would get a catalog of restaurants and the choice meals. Or if I was to ask where we should live, I would get a series of answers of schools and parking rules. 

I wonder if the gospel is simply a purpose driven life to enjoy the comforts. To live out like that song “Heart of Worship” says, it’s all about God but the irony of that  song it is not about God but all about this person’s struggle. 

As I read the article I thought about perhaps it reflects a bias from the contributer in how he sees Asian American culture or it is a dangerous reality…and if it is so, does it reflect our gospel community the same way. It ends with this summary: 

As a student in 1979, Ahn lived in Garden Grove but became turned off by what he said was an unsafe area. Like many Korean Americans who first got their footing in Garden Grove, Ahn was lured to some of the more posh areas of the county.

“A lot of people did what I did. Young couples look for a job in the Garden Grove area and live there for three or four years. Then their children grow up and people are looking for bigger houses,” Ahn said. “They don’t have a choice in Garden Grove, so they move to another city like Fullerton or Irvine.”

Ahn now lives in a gated community in Anaheim Hills but still drives to Garden Grove every weekend for the grocery stores and restaurants.


sabbatical (of sorts) December 14, 2008

Posted by peterong in Reflections.
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I fighting a cold and getting out of bed with certain aches and pains. it has slowed me down and as usual, it frees me to understand that there are limits and boundaries of what I am to do. Yet, I am compelled to write and to get these thoughts on and it reminds me of the days when I wrote more when I was living in Syracuse (when demands of ministry were less and the blog world were a new and exciting way for my soul to find nourishment from the wilderness of Syracuse). 

It was a sabbatical time for me; those two years in Syracuse and I as sit in my bathrobe, with a cup of green tea, I reflect on this past year and returning to New York City has been such an enriching time. For me to reconnect and yet remember the humility of just being present in the lives of others. To hear people just wrestling through faith and finding comfort that I am not a lone doubter of this experiment of worship. 

As I write this paragraph, my little son is grunting and making “body music” my thoughts return to him and how I want words to be part of his discipleship. For me to chronicle some of my journeys for him to know that this encounter with the cross is explicitly violent and yet, it is transformed into something so glorious. That atones us. That restores us. I want him to recognize that the cross is not to be censored or sanitized but to enter into the brutality so that he can know the depth of love that comes from it. So I pray. 

I know that this blog has been an oasis of sorts for others and for some others it is just another blog among thousands/millions. But I have this corner that exposure has been somewhat assured that people are moved by it. but I write with a heaviness and responsibility that I am to maintain it. To write so that God can be reflected in this journey. I have found myself more and more regularly returning to orthodoxy and how much more I trust it. Seminary has taught me the paradigm of orthodoxy as a groundwork of engagement in a new generation who needs to understand the message of the cross. We are all born with a theology, the question is which one is it? 

I miss this place. of creating words. of jaunting through the world where people who are becoming fellow pilgrims. I have met so many good people through it and I miss the diversity, the passion and the distinct approach towards faith. I miss it but I also found refuge from it, from the constant insecurity of my blog stats, my feedback, my referrers, etc. I just want to write because my heart is full and it overflows into words. I do miss the people. from the atheist who discovered with me a gospel that is so close to being beautiful to her. to the seattle pastor who continues to stretch people towards encounter out call to those who are poor, to the asian american brother who I find we are living in parallels of having a child and going to seminary, to the teenager who thought that pro choice is really having a choice and her choosing to have her child adopted, to the young man who lost his faith in the Asian American church and found that there were places in his life that was crying out for freedom and to the one woman who lost her child to suicide who is slowly stumbling back into faith. 

this is my story unfolding and with each word, I pray that I remain in worship.