Eugene Cho

out of the comfort zone

The Seattle Times published an inspiring article entitled, Out of the Comfort Zone, as its feature article in today’s Sunday Pacific Northwest Magazine.  It’s written by Paula Bock who has traveled/vacationed with her husband [and now daughter] to the Thai-Burma border annually since 1996.  During their trips, they volunteer with the refugees on the border.  In her words:

Volunteering on the Thai-Burma border for a dozen years has changed me.  I’m humbled and inspired by friends who’ve had everything ripped away – famimlies, home, jobs, safety – and still care about others.  They connect me to the rest of the world, help me see behind horrible headlines.  Back in Seattle, I relive certain moments, a dusty afternoon, the smile of a child recovering from fever.  I feel human.  My life is not only about me. 

I 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.  Here’s another excerpt:

A reminder that helping is complex. Over time, you make mistakes; you learn. You learn to provide what’s really needed, not just what you want to give. You learn fulfillment can’t come solely from checking off items on a do-good list.

What if you help rebuild a library in a refugee camp that was burned to the ground — and it all gets torched again? Do you erase the check mark? Abandon your altruistic agenda? Spend your next holiday on a Maui beach? (Tried that, felt hollow, sat by pool with computer plotting next volunteer visit.)

You learn to find joy in the unexpected. Stray moments. Momentous events. [read full article]

My trip to the Thai-Burma border and into one of the Karen villages was eye and heart opening.  I only regretted not being able to travel with my wife which is the reason why we are making plans to travel “out of our comfort zone” this upcoming summer for our 3 month sabbatical.  Our family, including our three kids, hope to travel to couple destinations to remind ourselves

  • that we live in a larger world
  • that we are connected to others
  • the way that we live is not normal
  • and much has been given to us and much is to be expected.

Filed under: family, seattle, travel

3 Responses

  1. d says:

    PE, if Quest ever put together a team to go, I would be your volunteer from la…

  2. e cho says:

    d:

    we sent a team last summer to the thai-burma border. the team also crossed the river into burma as well and visited some of the refugee camps. when u work in that area, it seems like most people know of each other. we’re hoping to permanently sent someone that has a heart to work in the area in the future.

  3. d says:

    Oh wow, that is so awesome. I wonder where I could find resources on organizations that send teams there…?

    d

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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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