Eugene Cho

caring: putting a “face” to the other

I had the privilege today to give a short chat in a class at Princeton Theological Seminary on the topic of justice and compassion and it’s intersection with the church.  The challenge of the church and its leaders is to raise the consciousness of the larger world – including the church – to a calling and purpose towards the reconciliation and restoration of ‘Shalom.’  We have to remind people that there are suffering and injustice in our cities and larger world – because many choose not to believe.  We know it’s there but we choose not to believe. 

We are competing against the principalities and forces of the world – compounded by the simple issue of human depravity – that prefers and chooses the stories of gossip and entertainment rather than the ways of Mercy, Justice, and Compassion.  The church struggles also with the church. We struggle with ourselves and our temptation to build up the Institution, Fame, and Programs of the church rather the elevate the Trinity and the work of the Larger Kingdom. 

Amongst many things that we can do, one that is absolutely critical is to put a “Face” to the other – or, to put a “story” to the other.  Everyone has a story: The victim, the victimizer, the suffering, the hungry, the homeless, the prostitute, the poor, and the list goes on.   On that note, today happens to be National Burma Day.  About two years ago, I was crossing a river from Thailand to Burma. I was preaching at a church in a Karen village in Burma.  I was playing and laughing with kids in a small village in Burma.  The experience was formative because it helped put a “face” and a “story” to the other.  

I’d like to share a face and a story with you through these videos.  10 minutes is what you need to view these two videos.  My invitation is to simply encourage you to CARE:  whatever the cause.  whatever location in the world.  whatever the issue of compassion or justice. 

Care.  And as you learn the faces and stories of the other, become an Advocate and share their faces and stories.

I was first introduced to the situation in Burma through a U2 song called, Walk On which was inspired and dedicated to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, ‘leader’ of Burma who’s been under house arrest the majority of the time since 1989. Couple friends at Quest through organizations called World Aid and Free Burma Rangers shed more light in the situation through the personal convictions. A year ago, I actually had an opportunity to travel to Burma [via Thailand and ‘illegally’ w/o a visa but that’s another post]. One of the highlights was preaching at a Karen church in Burma (just across the border from Thailand). I remember a conversation I had with one of the Karen ‘teachers’ in their make shift school system. She was young, intelligent, and a believer of Jesus Christ. She responded with these words in her broken English, “I stay because I believe in Jesus and I must fight for my people.”

The visit to Burma was eye opening and heart convicting. The recent events have embarrassed me as I consider how distant my heart had grown to this and other injustices around the world. Consider the following documented statistics:

The U.S. State Department and two credible NGOs found in 2002 that Burma’s military regime is using rape as a weapon of war.

There are approximately 1,600 political prisoners in Burma, including 38 elected members of parliament.

Millions of Burmese have been pressed into what the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, calls “a modern form of slavery”.

More persons died from landmines in Burma in 2002 than any other country in the world.

Burma is ranked “Not Free” by Freedom House’s international reports.

Burma was ranked the fifth most repressive government in the world by Parade Magazine.The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which passed the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly, found that Burma’s regime is using ethnic cleansing against Burma’s ethnic peoples.

Praying for an end to the violence and a beginning to a new democracy and diplomacy. To learn more about the situation and ways to ACT, visit the following links:

Filed under: quest church, religion, , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Thank you for that challenge.

  2. Ron says:

    As someone who has only recently decided to live up to the challenge of loving His church (there is pain there that I have been afraid to face until now), this continues to be the most frustrating thing. I want to love my brothers and sisters, but I cannot accept complacence. I know that while I feel called to work in international development, not everyone is – but at the same time I struggle to accept as genuine a faith that is ok with the status quo. In short, I’m wondering why so many are afraid to be challenged? Did we not understand what we were getting into when we became Christians?

    The hardest part is challenging out of love, not anger. Thank you for the challenge.

  3. […] Rich and Teresa Norman from Quest helped start a church community for refugees from Burma including the Karen and Chin people.  The group has since grown to over 100 people the last time I heard including tons of young […]

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One Day’s Wages

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F A M I L Y. So grateful to be creating memories.

Confession time: I sucked in my belly like it's the end of the world because of the full solar eclipse and then stopped breathing until this photo was taken. Which is probably why my wife looks like she's punching me on the side. But...mission accomplished. #OldManTricks These are crazy, turbulent times. Fight the good fight. Run the race set before us.

But we also need you for the long haul. Don't burn out. Discipleship and justice work is a marathon. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't play the victim. It's far too tempting to blame others. Be rooted in prayer, Scripture, and community. It's okay to pause, critical to rest and retreat, and godly to practice Sabbath.

#NoteToSelf Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical. Breathe.

Show yourself some grace.

We can't do everything for everyone in every situation. Do what you can and do it with a joyful heart.

Amen

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