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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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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