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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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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