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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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 1 day ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 1 day ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 4 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 4 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 4 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago