Eugene Cho

asia vision trip reflections

 

from october 30-november 12, i had the privilege of marking the five year anniversary of quest church by taking a personal ‘vision trip’ to asia. i spent approximately two days traveling by air, car, bus, train, boat, and foot; spent 5.5 days in thailand, 1/2 day in burma, and 4 days in japan. each experience was so very unique that it’s hard to use one post to sum up the entire experience. you can listen to the audio reflection (this past sunday’s sermon); it’s an hour of rambling so it might not be worth your time. if you want to hear a concise, gut-wrenching, in your face reflection of a ‘vision trip,’ listen to unjin lee’s (a quest intern) five minute reflection of her recent three week trip to congo.  you need to hear it.

anyway, let me briefly share with you about my reflections on the respective three countries. let me first share that the entire trip was incredibly exhausting and compounded by constant traveling and jet lag. i traveled with a group of give other people, three pastors in my denomination, the evangelical covenant church, and two of their sons.

Thailand: During my 5.5 days in thailand, we visited multiple cities: bangkok, region of roi et, chiang mai, and mae sot.  each city offering its unique experiences. in addition, we arrived in chiang mai during the Loy Krathong festival around 10pm and witnessed fireworks galore and thousands upons thousands of floating raftlike candles. this buddhist ritual, “the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of one’s grudges, anger, and defilements, so that one can start afresh on a better foot.” roi et is in the ne region of thailand. chiang mai is the largest city in the northern area of thailand and is becoming another big tourist site. mae sot is a border town between burma and thailand. bangkok is the capital of thailand and the largest city in thailand. about 7 million registered peopel live in bangkok and about 10-12 in the larger area of bankgok. trust me when i say it is crowded, fast paced, hustle and bustle and a clashing of eastern versus western, traditional versus contemporary, and the inevitable onslaught of globalization which automatically leads to westernization and urbanization. like many cities around the world, people flock to bankgok in search of work, income, and life in the fast lane. as you may guess, tons of tourists flock to thailand and especially to bangkok. travel + leisure magazine has called bangkok the third most desirable tourist destination in the world. in a census taken in 2000, i believe, only ten churches were registered in bangkok (out of 7-12 million people!). we spent the bulk of our time visiting covenant missionaries and global initiatives of covenant world relief/missions which took us to the slums in bangkok, rural farms in roi et, music schools in the streets, and fish farms in chiang mai. according to one source, approximately 96-98% of thai are buddhist.

Burma: some may know this country as myanmar but old school folks know this country as Burma. i did not know much about burma except that U2 wrote and dedicated a song entitled, Walk On, to honor Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the national league for democracy in burma who has been under house arrest by the military Burmese government for many years now. in 1991, she won the nobel peace prize and used the 1.3 million dollar prize to establish a health and education trust for the burmese people. some pretty heavy stuff.  long story short, we trekked from mae sot by 4×4, by foot, and eventually via boat and by the time we walked up a hill, we ended up in a small karen people military base. we eventually were escorted to a nearby karen village for ‘church’ on this sunday. i was given the privilege of preaching and after my 50+ minute sermon (w/ translation), it was deemed insufficient and more teaching, sharing, and preaching was requested and service went for another 2 hours. throughout the past 60+ years, there’s been war, strife, genocide, and a very complicated history that has currently left at least 200,000 IDPs (internally displaced peoples) from the karen people.  in the past year or so, the covenant denomination donated approximately 60K to help build two medical clinics in the villages; we were able to visit one; the other had been burned down by the burmese military army. 

Japan:  in a flash, we were on a 7 hour flight from bangkok to narita airport in tokyo, japan.  we spent 4 days in and around tokyo.  like the rest of our itinerary, we visited local covenant missionaries and some of their holistic development work.  tokyo is a beautiful city in my opinion.  i’ve been to japan numerous times and each time, i am amazed at how orderly everything seems.  for whatever reason, i was most ‘moved’ by my time in japan.  i was especially stirred by the conversations i had with some of the local missionaries and pastors.  everything slowed down in japan (in comparison to bangkok) so more reflective conversations were possible.   to affirm again the conviction of the small world that we live in:  1) i stayed a night at the home of a missionary family whose mother is the chairperson of the of the church next door to quest, 2) spent two nights at the home of one of my congregants whose parents have been long term missionaries in japan (had no idea i would stay there), and spent the day at a retreat center (several hours from tokyo) run by a pastor and his wife;  his wife has had coffee at qcafe and i remember making her that drink.

i know that numbers don’t give the complete picture but according to one source, only .7% of the 130 million people would identify themselves as christians.

how shall we respond?  that’s another post…

Filed under: emerging church, quest church

4 Responses

  1. jeff says:

    how to respond… the million dollar question.

  2. Meilyne says:

    Hi, my name is Meilyne and i go to Woodcrest Christian High school in california. I am a 9th grader and in my Bible class we are learning about missionaries we are doing a project on “adopting a missionary” and being able to talk with one who is currently ministering in a country besides US, and england. I was hoping if you could refer me to a missionary by chance or if you yourself area missionary currently on a trip. God Bless.
    Sincerely,
    Meilyne

  3. Hazel says:

    Great to hear that you have “stepped” out of the comfort zone to see the need out there. It calls for stamina, faith and a strong sense of love to do that. Your life will not be the same again for a long time to come. Needs are forever great out there until you have personally dare to cross the line, you have yet to figure out the love of God stretched far and wide for the entire lost.

  4. […] enjoyed the article not only because I personally trekked out to the Thai-Burma border last year but because I love the premise of traveling [even on vacations] with a sense of purpose.  […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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