Eugene Cho

If we want to seek the peace of the city…we have to engage the conflicts and injustices of our city.

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Unless you’ve been living in absolute isolation, there’s been much in the news – here, there, and everywhere – including the violence and protests in Ferguson. But in the midst of much shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t Shoot’ hand raising…we also need to engage in practical solutions. It would be tragic if it simply resulted in lots of noise…and it doesn’t compel us (as individuals and church communities) to examine our own lives, our blind spots, and our commitment to live into our calling as ministers of reconciliation.

So, I thought I’d share one practical way we can – not just love the idea of reconciliation but actually be agents of reconciliation. Reconciliation has many nuances and aspects but I’m convinced of this:

Reconciliation isn’t pretty or sentimental. It’s messy but it begins with first acknowledging that something is broken. We’re broken y’all.

In other words, if we want to seek the peace and shalom of the city…we have to engage the conflicts and injustices of our cities.

So, back to the one practical idea: I’m really grateful for our elders at Quest Church. This week, we made a decision to donate $5000 to the Educational Quality and Equality program at St. Louis Urban League. As the youth are preparing for the school year but held back by delayed starts due to the violence and protests, we felt that this would be a wonderful way to support the urban youth, children and families of Ferguson.

In addition, we’ve been preparing for some time to build an ongoing relationship with an urban school in our own city – Seattle. It’s important to note that while it’s tempting to focus on Ferguson, we can’t ignore or neglect issues in our own respective cities.

I share this – not in any boastful spirit. Please. Let me stop you now from sending any angry emails. I’ve received too many this past week for my 5 Ways We Should Engage Ferguson post. If you feel you must email me to rebuke me, you can contact me at whatwouldjesusemail@gmail.com.

But I share this as an idea for you, your family, or your church community. While people may have varying ideas about justice may look like in light of Ferguson, I think we can all agree that EDUCATION matters if any and every context. This matters in Ferguson. This matters in the Seattle. This matters in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This matters in urban, suburban, and rural contexts. Education matters. I’m reminded of these piercing words from Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And the fact that certain schools in certain neighborhoods (often in same ‘school districts’) have different and limited resources is an example of injustice, disparity, and the uphill path for many students of poverty – black, white, yellow, red, and brown.

Translation: Our schools are sadly a perfect, tragic example of the reality of the ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots’.

One of my congregants is an elementary school principal. At her school, 93% of her students qualify for free and reduced lunch rate and she shared the miracle and blessing of several churches collaborating together to bless students and faculty like with no agenda but to simply ask, “How can we support you?”

This is the Gospel in action. 
Faith + Works = Kingdom

Can you imagine what it would look like if every local church built a long term relationship with one local school in need?

And don’t underestimate what one person can do. I was blown away by this teacher in North Carolina who raised nearly $80,000 to feed Ferguson kids who can’t get meals at shuttered schools. 

I’m not suggesting that this idea is the answer to Ferguson, to racial tension, and the complete answer to the journey of reconciliation. But as I shared above, in the midst of much shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t Shoot’ hand lifting…we also need to engage in practical solutions. We can’t just leave a trail of debris of shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t shoot’ hand raising.  

Would love to hear any ideas you have or ways that you, your family, or your church has sought to build a more just, compassionate, and beautiful neighborhood and city.

God bless you.


photo credit: USA Today

 

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19 Responses

  1. I hope you never stop speaking even though you receive angry emails. Because what you say is so important.

  2. Today and Tomorrow if you find a teacher’s Donor Choose project the Gates Foundation will match your gift. There are lots of teachers that teach at low income and/or minority schools that are trying to do something extra and don’t have resources to do it. So they are seeking small donations to get it accomplished. A friend of mine’s wife has a project up to buy five ipods that she will load with audio to go along with books in her kindergarden classroom. The kids can then read along with the audio from the audiobooks.

    Her class room last year had the average student make 1.5 years of growth to close the educational Gap

  3. Great article. May the Lord continue to bless you as you seek to lead others to be doers and not hearers only of His Word.

  4. Reblogged this on 2corinthians112 and commented:
    This is worth reading. We need to take action in our communities in order to show the love of Christ in real and tangible ways.

  5. Stacy says:

    Thank you for this post. “Collaborating… with no agenda”. I love that churches’ actions speak louder than words. I love that churches are reaching into their community, and allowing schools to take the lead on how to best serve its students. What a beautiful picture of trust, respect, and service.

    I know of a church that partnered with a local school. The pastor reached out to the school’s principal and counselor, and asked how the church can best help.

    The partnership started with a few snacks, then church uniform drive events. Next were a school-year-end celebration hosted by the church, Thanksgiving food drives, school community dinners, and a tithe fund given to the school for whatever it needs. Now in addition, there’s a full collaboration to provide free after school tutoring at the church in partnership with the Union Gospel Mission.

    May I provide a slightly challenging thought? An Asian church took the initiative, with the partnering school having a 85% free or reduced school lunch rate and 40% Asian, 30% Black, 15% Hispanic population. When I see people serving each other- no matter the race, background, income or status- it’s a bit of what I’d imagine heaven may be like. I don’t necessarily think it’s about segregated churches per say- segregated churches happen because people want to understand/be understood in context of their background, language and culture- but it’s about churches that have God’s vision, perspective, leadership, wisdom and understanding to look beyond itself and learn how to love their community in spite of itself and the community.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Pastor Eugene, and allowing us to share our thoughts and ideas as well.

  6. Anna Lyn says:

    Yes!!! Education is key. Many of us already invest in education. Thank you for encouraging us to invest not just in our own local schools, but also to share where resources are much needed.

  7. Lou Anne says:

    You can’t educate dead children /young men we must address the injustices of our justice system in order to have someone to educate . And let’s not assume that all these victims were lacking in education

  8. Joshua S. says:

    Why education? It can help people escape poverty, and poverty is experienced at higher rates by minorities. http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr11-17.pdf

    Some other important issues related to improving education:

    1. Advocating for adequate state funding for schools (which helps ensure equal funding for schools in poor areas vs. rich areas.) For those in Washington State, make sure your legislators take this seriously: https://k12.wa.us/Communications/OtherCommunications/SummaryMcLearyDecision2013.pdf

    2. Working to Lower administrative costs in your school district. Awareness is important here: http://data.spokesman.com/salaries/schools/2014/

    3. Fighting to move school board elections to even years. Off-year elections mean lower turnout, and lower turnout makes it easier for special interests to sway elections.

    4. Encouraging schools to update their teaching practices to reflect neuroscience research by John Medina: http://www.brainrules.net

  9. Tommy W. says:

    Unemployment is rampant in this city. Jobs and job skills are badly needed. Jobs bring self respect. Injustices need fixing in many cities. Police have tough calls to make. Many officers fear for their own safety as do their families. I do not want to live in a police state. I think mutual respect is a must! There are good officers and not so good officers just like us common citizens. Officers are not judges and jurors. No matter what race, we each have a right to live without intimidation. I pray the grand jury will make a just decision based on the evidence presented. Mob violence and looting is not the answer. We need to treat each other the way we want to be treated. I want fair justice for all. This is not a race issue but an issue of excessive force by the police which appears too much. May God grant peace and love for all & we all need to pray on this issue.

  10. Michael M. says:

    Oh man! I couldn’t agree more. Too many people want to pull away from the secular world when we need to dig deep and come together and be Jesus to them. Jut be there friend and help them. It’s duty of the church to take care of poor and sick and hurting not government. Imagine if church invested more.

  11. mb says:

    We must face the injustices around us but we must also stop this reckless behavior that provokes injustice. It’s called common sense behavior… people like to provoke, push and play the justice system. . Then when injustice is done there is complaining and outrage. If people practice practical common sense I bet we would cut the injustice dramatically. . Although not completely. If we are going to hold the justice system accountable for the injustice. . We the people should be held accountable for our actions that provoke injustice also..

  12. […] Finally, two posts about the continuing conversation about justice. I think justice is a good catch-all, broader than just Ferguson or racism or any other single cause. White People, White Power, White Platform is another great commentary from Caris Adel, and finally Eugene Cho challenges us with If We Want to Seek the Peace of the City, We Have to Engage the Conflicts and Injustices of Our City. […]

  13. […] Lastly, two posts concerning the persevering with dialog about justice. I feel justice is an effective catch-all, broader than simply Ferguson or racism or some other single trigger. White People, White Power, White Platform is one other nice commentary from Caris Adel, and eventually Eugene Cho challenges us with If We Want to Seek the Peace of the City, We Have to Engage the Conflicts and Injustices of Our City. […]

  14. Jan K says:

    I am disappointed….trying to bolster education as a means to racial justice is taking the easy way out. That is not going to cut it. Why not donate to an organization that fights racial discrimination?

    http://www.racefiles.com/2014/06/25/no-simple-answers-to-achieving-racial-justice-but-one/

  15. theoldadam says:

    I remember when cases were tried in the courtroom.

  16. dkzody says:

    Fresno’s police department and school district have teamed up to put chaplains in the schools, starting with the poorest/lowest schools. There are currently 21 of these chaplains, of which I am one, working with first grade students on how to be resilient and to ‘bounce back.’ We do this through children’s literature. Each week I spend time at lunch and recess with the students and then go into the classrooms to tell stories and engage the first graders.

  17. […] Eugene Cho speaking of reconciliation says: […]

  18. […] “Reconciliation isn’t pretty or sentimental. It’s messy but it begins with first acknowledging that something is broken.” – Eugene Cho […]

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One Day’s Wages

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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. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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