Eugene Cho

Never stop learning. Go deep. Be deep. Have more depth than 140 characters.

romero

There are many beautiful aspects of our larger culture … and then they are broken things. There are also things that are incredibly encouraging and of course, disconcerting.

One of my concerns in our larger culture – including the Church:

We’re
lacking
d  e  p  t  h  .

In my first book – Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (set to release on September 1 but available for pre-order now),  there’s a chapter entitled, “Have More Depth than 140 Characters.”

I am the first to tell you that I don’t know everything about everything. But when it comes to my core pursuits, my passions, the issues that inspire me and drive me to serve, I try to learn as much as I can.

Over the past few years, I have met many people who are not only interested in serving the world in various ways but who are engaged in their convictions and passions. But I am often surprised to find out that they do not know the basic history and background of their chosen interest.

I remember one time in particular, at a conference, when a woman came up to me and told me she was very grateful and appreciative of a talk I had just given. We chitchatted, and eventually I asked her what she did as her vocation.

She said she worked at an NGO, serving the poor in Central America. We were having a polite conversation. She asked for advice, and I tried my best to encourage her in our short conversation. As I shared one of my favorite quotes from Óscar Romero, I asked her if she had read much of his works or about him.

“Aspire not to have more but to be more.” – Óscar Romero

She had this blank look on her face.

“No, I haven’t met him yet, but I’d love to. Can you connect me? How can I contact him?”

An awkward silence ensued.

It dawned on me at that point that she had never heard about Archbishop Romero—who, by the way, was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I really want to encourage you. You’re doing some great work in your communities, so be encouraged. As you keep doing deep work in your community and because you feel led to serve the larger communities throughout Central America, you need to understand the history of Central America. The equivalent of you not knowing about Óscar Romero in your context is if you were to say that you care about civil rights in America and not know about Martin Luther King Jr.”

Another awkward silence.

Please don’t judge me. It sounded much more pastoral and kind when I said it. Really! I gave her a huge hug and encouraged her to keep pressing on, going deeper, caring well, leading well, listening well, and loving well.

You may or may not know about Óscar Romero, but I hope you learn about him, especially if you ever choose to serve the poor in Latin America. Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and vulnerable as security crumbled in El Salvador in the late 1970s.

He was celebrating mass at a hospital, lifting a chalice during the sacrament, when he was shot.

The assassination sparked an international uproar, coming one day after he preached a sermon that implored soldiers to act like Christians and stop carrying out the government’s ongoing repression.

Óscar Romero has an important story to be heard. And there are many others, if you take the time to dig in and learn. To better understand issues of poverty, justice, and classism in Latin America, how can one not take the time to study and learn from theologians such as Dominican priest Gustavo Gutiérrez and the Jesuit priest Juan Luis Segundo?

  • How can we say we care about abolition and not know the story of William Wilberforce?
  • How can we say we care about the history of slavery and abolitionism in the United States and not know about Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass or Harriet Beecher Stowe or William Lloyd Garrison?
  • How can we say we care about women’s equality in America and not know the likes of Susan B. Anthony (who also taught at a seminary), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth?
  • How can we say we care about the civil rights movement and racial justice and not know the story of Emmett Till?
  • How can we say we care about Asian American context or ministry and not know the story of Vincent Chin?

Point being, you can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep. Take time to understand the issues, facts, complexities, and nuances.

Without knowing even the basic background of what you care about, you can hurt the people you are trying to help. This is an issue of respect.

All issues have their form in a community of history, context, and culture. If we miss these things, we simply are not doing our jobs well. We’re not caring well, listening well, and not setting up ourselves well for mutual relationship.

Never stop learning. Study the Bible. Read the news. Devour books. Engage people. Ask questions. Be a critical thinker and active practitioner.

Your move.


The above is an excerpt from my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 158-161.

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6 Responses

  1. Peter Yi says:

    Hey Pastor Eugene, do you know a missionary named Bronson Yi, who served in Asia?

  2. Bruce Strom says:

    As always, thank you. I gladly take the shovel from you and will join in digging deeper.

  3. aldoyle2013 says:

    Powerful. And it hits me at a time when I am (feeling) totally consumed with work and life. Eugene, I have to stop now and think about what you are saying. About what your message is about CHANGE. I know I can talk a good game. I often get paid for it. And I can write and bout things and get paid for it. But there is coming a time when I am going to have to pause… long… and think….hard… about me…”Am I A GUY WHO IS more in love with the idea of changing the world, than actually changing the world.” Expletive resisted!”

  4. This idea is something that has challenged me since I heard you share at The Justice Conference in 2012. With so much news of injustice coming at us every day, it feels a little overwhelming because I want to learn about all of it.
    “You can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep.”
    I’ve come to a place where I feel okay with becoming *informed* about many issues going on around me, but I want to be an *expert* in that which I’m passionate about. Thank you for your challenge in this, for challenging me to see that posting something on Facebook is not the same as living justly. and reading some tweets does not make me informed.

  5. Joe Hancock says:

    Reblogged this on Joe's Thoughts and commented:
    Great thoughts from Eugene Cho which are taken from upcoming book Overrated. Check it out and go ahead and pre-order book!

  6. […] under a rock as I just discovered Eugene Cho’s blog just this weekend. The credit goes to this post for convincing me to move his new book to the top of my fall reading list. In this personal […]

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

It. Still. Hurts.
#TamirRice Incredible news: @onedayswages is projecting to have our most impactful year as we grant out $1.3 million dollars! Thank you so much for your prayers and support...please read on to learn how you can join in our work.

As you gather with family, friends, and loved ones for Thanksgiving and the holidays, I wanted to share an opportunity. Often times, when I speak to people about the privilege of generosity, I remind them, "You don't have to but you get to." It's so true.

My wife and I (and our three kids) started ODW in 2009. We felt the Holy Spirit convicting us to give up our year's salary. It wasn't an easy thing to say "Yes" or "Amen" to but we made the decision to obey. As a result, it took us about three years to save, simplify, and sell off things we didn't need.

It's been an incredible journey as we've learned so much about the heart of God and God's love for the hurting and vulnerable around the world - particularly those living in extreme poverty. ODW is a small, scrappy, grassroots organization (with just 3 full-time employees) but since our launch, we've raised nearly $6 million dollars to help those living in extreme poverty: clean water and sanitation, education, maternal health, human trafficking, refugee crisis, hunger, and the list goes on and on.

So, here's my humble ask: As we do this work, would you consider making a pledge to support our work...so that we can keep doing this work with integrity and excellence?
You can make a one time gift or make monthly pledge of just $25 (or more). Thanks so much for considering this: http://onedayswages.org/give (link in bio, too) Don't just count your blessings. Bless others with your blessings. Here, there, everywhere. Be a blessing for this blesses our Father in Heaven and builds the Kingdom of God.

#ReThinkRegugees #WeWelcomeRefugees
@onedayswages Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply.

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