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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Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming.

But...man...we can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and tomorrow...by God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and Savior...to preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

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