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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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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