Eugene Cho

What we can learn from Rick Warren, People’s Liberation Army, Humility, Listening, and Cultural Sensitivity.

Oh man. I don’t know if I should be writing this. I’m supposed to be busy writing the manuscript for my first book…which is already late. But hey, I need a writing break and what’s a better way to take a break from writing by writing. Ok, not really.

As I’ve checked my Twitter feed yesterday, there appears to have been a controversy surrounding Pastor Rick Warren and this photo below that he posted on his Facebook and Twitter (It has since been removed). The photo was posted this past Monday morning as a joke by Pastor Rick (or someone from his staff?) and was meant to make comparisons of his staff to the People’s Liberation Army aka Red Guard, aka Red Army, aka These Folks Did Some Scary & Cruel Stuff:

“The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.”

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Before I comment on this, let me first say that I have much love and respect for Pastor Rick. While I haven’t been a huge fan of his Hawaiian shirts, let he that has perfect fashion sense cast the first stone. So, I’ll drop my stones.

Seriously, Pastor Rick has been influential to many; He’s been a mentor to many – locally, nationally, and globally. And with the personal tragedy of the death of his son, he has been on the hearts of many. Like many other pastors and leaders, I took a moment to pray for Pastor Rick and Kay Warren at my church on that Sunday morning (the day after news broke of his son’s suicide).

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My 8-year old son is HIV+. He is not scary…and I’m prepared to fight for my son’s right to live in the light.

In my mind, I’d be writing more and simultaneously, have more time to seek out guests for my blog. Neither have worked out but having said that, I read something recently and reached out to this mom and asked her to share her story on my blog. Today’s guest post is from Jodie Howerton – a friend, neighbor, follower of Christ, and fellow parent in the larger Seattle area. Minhee and I actually shared a meal with her and her husband, Mike, last year and were immensely blessed by their words and encouragement. We also loved exchanging stories of our respective three kids.

Through our friendship, I’ve since learned that their 8-year-old son is HIV positive.

Can you imagine if that was how your child was defined – seen only through that singular narrative?

Another reason why I love respect her so much is because while it takes courage to critique…it takes a whole new level of courage, faith, and audacity…to create.

But you know what…let me stop. I’ll let Jodie share in her own words.  Even if you’re unable to visit her page, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to leave a comment and encourage Jodie, her son, and their family.

Please read her post (and watch the video) and take a moment to act as you feel convicted.

I’m prepared to fight for my son’s right to live in the light.

Several years ago, when my oldest was in 5th grade, I previewed the HIV/AIDS video that our local public school uses to fulfill state educational mandates. The video was produced in the 1980’s (might have had an update in the early 90’s), was incredibly fear based, and contained very outdated information about the virus.

I was stunned. In most other ways, I’ve been very impressed with the curriculum our school district utilizes. The video featured newspaper headlines that read, “Thousands Die of AIDS” and even spliced in a shot of the grim reaper at one point. To illustrate how HIV attacks the immune system, the video used abstract concepts related to baseball that even I, as an adult, was confused by. Then there was the personification of HIV as a red monster.

My 8-year old son, Duzi, is HIV positive.

He is not scary and he is not contagious. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Church must not forget our own. Remember. Pray. #FreeKennethBae

UPDATE: November 3 marks one full year since Kenneth Bae has been incarcerated in North Korea.

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This post will likely only make sense for people of faith and for followers of Christ. For others, it might just come across as ludicrous…because seriously, who would go to the ends of the earth? Who would risk their safety to pursue their convictions in Christ?

[Please also read this post explaining why Kenneth's mother recently went to North Korea to visit her son.]

I’m writing to you about a man named Kenneth Bae. He is a son, a father, a husband, a brother…and also a follower of Christ. I do not know him but I consider him a brother-in-Christ.

Much like us…and unlike us.

Kenneth is very much like us and in another way, he is completely unlike us. He is like us in that we all seek to honor Christ with our lives. We seek to pursue our calling and convictions. We seek to live out our faith – whether that be in and through our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in our larger cities. But sometimes, God’s calling and convictions lead people to faraway places. We know this to be true because God calls us in Scriptures to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:8]

And in this way, he’s very unlike us…because his calling and convictions have led him to a very distant, mysterious, and isolated place called North Korea.
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His name is Messiah. He’s 17 so he’s prone to foolishness. But he is not a criminal. He’s just coming home.

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I love pastoring my church. It’s the hardest thing my wife and I have ever done but we are blessed to have planted Quest Church in 2001. One of our visions for Quest was that it would grow to be a multiethnic and multigenerational church – not for any other reason than it reflects the vision of the Kingdom of God.

The challenges are real but one of the blessings of such a community is that it exposes the blind spots that we all have. All of us. And if you don’t think you have any, that’s proof you have blind spots.  Imagine a church if only men were in leadership? Or if only women were in leadership? Imagine a church if only the older folks were in leadership? Or the entire church was completely homogeneous?

We would simply see things through a particular narrative or filter of lens.

And such is the general case, in my opinion, of how many are “seeing” the case and verdict of George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin.

I have encouraged my readers to consider taking the time to listen, seek to understand, and mourn with those who mourn.

I would additionally encourage you to not fall for the bait of the extremists or idiots on polar opposites. And by that, I’m talking about those that would resort to mayhem and violence or [shaking my head] those that would show up at a peaceful protest of young adults and kids…wearing a “Ni**er” shirt. These are rare stories and we would be wise not to allow them to hijack the large narratives of how people are genuinely seeking to process, understand, make sense, seek justice, and form their respective convictions.

But since we all have blind spots, we have to have the courage to examine our blind spots – perhaps even to begin by acknowledging we have them. Some of you insist you have none. We have to consider how we all choose (or have it be chosen for us) the filters by which we see and process things. This is why many have chosen to see the verdict purely from a legal or “evidence” perspective. As such, many of my readers or social media following  have pushed back,

“Where is the concrete evidence that race was ever an issue?

And that’s my point.

You’re asking the wrong questions.

It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced the nuances of being “an other”. I’ll write more of this another time but for now, I think we would all be amiss if we all don’t take the time to consider our respective blind spots. I have those blind spots, too, so I have been personally compelled to do so with all the respective comments, emails, and conversations that have been generated by the verdict.

As I shared earlier, I’m privileged to be a pastor to an imperfectly amazing church. Very imperfect. Very amazing. I wanted to share with you a very honest and raw piece written by one of my church folk. Her name is Wendi. Yes, she’s black. And yes, she has a son. And yes, he’s 17. And by the way, his name is Messiah. And yes, Wendi’s brilliant but I don’t need to spew her resume. Read the rest of this entry »

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If our black brothers and sisters are hurting, can’t we at least listen, seek to understand, and mourn with them?

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Soon, the headlines and media coverage will turn to the next magnet. And soon, another frenzy will ensue. What will it be about? Who will it be about? The answer I do not know but the fact that we’ll move on is certain.

But some will stay. Not because they want to per se but because it’s the reality of their lives.

It’s not that I’m trying to be a downer or “that pastor” that keeps bringing up the issue of race. I could contend that race doesn’t exist. Or it shouldn’t. It’s a human construct. It was a gift from God to reflect His creativity, beauty, and diversity but as a result of our human fall, depravity, and sinfulness…it has been constructed for domination, exploitation, and separation.

As a result, it is sadly a part of our reality and will continue to be so – until that glorious Day when all things will be restored. But in the here and now, we must continue to labor through the consequences of the curse of that suspicion and separation.

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The power of the Gospel is such that God sees us, meets us, and adopts us as sons and daughters.

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The power of the Gospel is so profound that it meets us where we’re at. The power of the Gospel is such that God knows everything about us and nevertheless, continues to pursue us, court us, woo us. God remains jealous for us. This is the power of the Gospel…

The Gospel sees us.
The Gospel meets us in all of our brokenness, sinfulness, and depravity.
The Gospel meets the lost and brokenhearted.
The Gospel welcomes the sick, the lepers, the widows, orphans, the AIDS stricken, the ostracized and marginalized…
The Gospel even welcomes us.

When we receive the Gospel, the power and grace of the Gospel is such that God adopts us as His sons and daughters.
The Gospel is Jesus and Jesus is the Gospel.

This truth was especially revealed in a powerful way through an experience and conversation I recently had this weekend and further affirmed through a video I desperately invite you to see below.

First, the story:

This past Saturday evening, I spoke at a “Family Camp” in the Camp Cascades retreat center where numerous churches from the Northwest gathered. After my sermon, a family came up to greet me. It was an older couple and they were pushing along a very large mechanical wheelchair. To be honest, it was large and impossible to miss. In this wheelchair was their 19-year-old son who I’ll refer to as “John”. As we talked, they shared how something I preached on deeply resonated with them. It was the point I was making about our human inability to look at people in the eyes – especially those that don’t fit into our boxes of “normal.” They shared the pain of how literally none of the adults had asked about John thus far at this “family retreat.”

This, it itself, convicted me. I had noticed John but I didn’t bother to take the time to say hello to him or ask of his story.  As I shared earlier, it was impossible to miss him – not only because of the humongous mechanical wheelchair – but also because of his heavy breathing. While I was preaching, I could occasional hear his heavy breathing.

So, I asked this older couple,

“What’s your son’s story? What’s John’s story?”

Over the next couple minutes, they shared a glimpse of John’s story. John is paralyzed, deaf, mute, mostly blind. He is only able to feel some touch. They explained that when John was three months old… Read the rest of this entry »

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Parenting for dummies. Parenting do’s and don’ts.

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Do yourself a favor and bookmark this post – especially if you’re a parent or a parent-to-be someday. Or if you have babies around you.

Refer to it often. Study it carefully.
Take notes. Draw diagrams. Connect the dots.
Consider this as a gift.

I still recall when we planted Quest Church about 12 years ago. The picture above was soon after our 2nd daughter was born and right when we started the church. How fast time flies: She’s already 12 and her sister (our oldest kid) is now 14.

[Note to self: breathe in. breathe out.]
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“You are part of an imperfect family with imperfect parents…and where the foundation is God’s grace.”

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Dear Son: Happy Birthday to you, J!

Today, you turn the big ten. 10 years old! Double digits. Goodness gracious.

Mom and Dad love you so much. It’s difficult and perhaps impossible to fully articulate the depths of our love for you and your sisters.  We are so blessed to be your parents and I am so proud and blessed to your father. I am so proud of who you are and who you are growing to be. While I am proud of your accomplishments and how you seek to honor your parents, I am simply proud of you: The person that you are and not just what you do. Your love for God and your desire to serve Him with your life – even at such a young age –  brings so much joy. Your sisters love you. Your grandparents love you. And of course, God loves you. His love for you is vast and deep.

My hope is that through our love for you, we can give you a glimpse of God’s love for you.

Yet, you are part of an imperfect family with imperfect parents – including and especially your father. You know this very well. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s official. I am writing my first book. Someone please pray for me.

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I have some exciting and humbling news to share with friends, supporters, critics, and blog stalkers.

First the news:

After several years of wrestling, praying, and mulling  (and very intensely the past few months), Minhee (my wife) and I finally thought it was time for me to work on my first book.  And while I’m not an agent kind of person (however much I like Jerry Maguire), the conversations about publishing were intimidating and the learning curve so high that I decided that it would be best to work with a literary agent. And so, I’ve decided to partner with Chris Park for many reasons including the fact that she’s sharp, become my unofficial grammar police, used to work for both publishers and as an editor in her former life, and got bonus points since her husband is a Ph.D candidate in New Testament.

With her help, we forwarded a brief book proposal to various publishers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Imagine a singular decision of courage and faith that will bless the generations to come.

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged.  For various reasons, I’ve chosen to take a little sabbatical from blogging. It was meant to be life giving but somehow, it grew to become a chore, a job, a metric, a regular statistics checking habit…and to be honest, it was attracting more than its share of angry folks that were going out of their way to contact me. Just leave your comments and let it be. Please. I appreciate the dialogue and the comments but we don’t have to be best friends and you don’t have to save me. Fo realz.

But…I’m back.

Life has also been full. Beyond full.

And as much as I want life to be neatly packed, organized, and compartmentalized…it just doesn’t seem to work that way.

It’s been full but it’s not chaotic. Does this make sense?

You see, we live in a busy world but there’s a difference between empty fatigue and gratifying tiredness.

My hope is to invest in the things that I deeply care about. And this…takes prioritizing or in other words, a life audit. So, why the silence on the blog? Because it was time for a life audit… Read the rest of this entry »

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Gone fishing. First monster bass.

Going offline to train for the World Bass Championships. See you all next week. Grateful. Enjoying a moment with my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. Road trip continued.
Mountains are awesome. Road trip. Epic clouds. Oceans. 
#pugetsound Seattle. Summers. Speechless.

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