Archive for September, 2008

Multicultural

Ever since I came out to Arizona, a few people have asked me: ‘what is cross-cultural ministry like?’ I realized that they maybe assumed this to be true because most of my past experience had been in the Korean church and in an Asian college fellowship. But after experiencing this year and thinking it through, I wanted to clarify that what I am doing is NOT cross-cultural ministry, but rather multiculture ministry. If I were going overseas to a new environment and new culture, and sharing the gospel with people that did not know Jesus Christ, I would say that I am doing cross cultural ministry. However….

… America is a unique place. Many cultures and people of different backgrounds all in one country. Though I am not going to an unreached place, a multicultural ministry has not been without its challenges.

Born in the cornfields of Iowa City and raised near the eastern shores of Virginia, my family and I have made America our home and it’s the only home I’ve ever known. All my life I have considered myself a Korean-American, and at different points of my life wondered: what do I identify with more? My Korean background? or my American background? Here in America some social anthropologists dub us as a “salad blow” of cultures, where we are just mix of many different ethnicities. Others say that we are in a “melting pot” with English being the language of communication. I see how both of these can be true, but after moving away from the familiarity of my home in Richmond, VA to Tucson, AZ , a new and unfamiliar culture, I have begun to really ask the question: Who am I? And the bigger question that is tied into this is … what does God have for me here?

I feel like a fish in a big sea… a diverse one. I am currently serving on Staff at a Navigator campus ministry, which is made up of Caucasian, Spanish-speaking background, Asian and Native American students (placed in descending order of quantity). My staff team though a much smaller scale represents a similar ratio of ethnicities. Some would ask, how does it feel or what is that like? And for a long while I’ve been silent, wanting to put the puzzle together in my own head, and to really speak from my experience here.

One thing I said in my first newsletter home was: coming out to this ministry has been like a “Two-way adoption.” My adopting this ministry as my family and them adopting me. And this is the main reason why I think my situation here is not a cross-cultural ministry. I have come to partner with the existing body of Christ here in Tucson to expand the vision that God has given us collectively. And I think that in some ways this process is still happening and some days are more challenging than others.

And it’s safe to say… it’s been messy, and far from perfect. And honestly, learning how to relate to a new culture and figuring out how you are a part of that bigger picture has been challenging. One thing I’ve had to trust is that if this “unity in the body” thing was a man-made idea, it would fail miserably. But thankfully it is God-inspired. So in my lack of understanding of this topic of unity, I have been in the book of Ephesians frequently trying to find a place to begin praying, and begin understanding God’s view of this diversity found in his body.

I remembered hearing a sermon this summer on unity by a person I well-respect, concerning this topic from the book of Ephesians. The sermon was on Eph. 4:1-16 and the idea that there was “diversity found in Unity” and what we want is “unity, and not uniformity,” caught my attention. Because even though I know that the differences that I experience between the people I know can cause misunderstandings, it is all the more a reality that God has called me to “bear with one another in love.”

I am not certain what other people on my team think about this topic, but on my end this experience in multicultural ministry has pushed me all the more to ask the question “Who am I… in Christ?” And that finding my identity in Him, is more important than me finding life and identity in things that are familiar or my education/career or even what I call my ‘cultural background.’ At times it is the hardest truth to come to grips with because there are times I get frustrated with being misunderstood, not heard, or not known by those around me. But whenever I’ve asked that question: “what am I doing here?’ the constant voice I hear is “follow me.” And the verse in Philippians 2:3-5 comes to mind frequently:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

It came be easy to forget or easy to give into my flesh that I am not out here, building my own kingdom, but His. It is a hard, but a good lesson to relearn. So even though it hasn’t been easy, I have learned that I can “rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God… “(Romans 5:2b-5)
When you think of me: Please pray that I would:

  1. Bear with those around me in Love
  2. Put others before my self, and follow Christ
  3. Unity in our staff team and in this college ministry at the U of A
  4. To be Joyful and thankful hearted 😀
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