PAAC 2018 Holiday Letter

From a simple Facebook group to a beautiful beloved community and powerful voice for justice, PAAC is growing up so fast! Here’s a small sample of what we were up to in 2018.

Lent Devotional (February and March)

Somebody asked, “Hey, are there any devotionals written for and by Asian-Americans?” And we said, “No, but we can make one.” Charlene Choi spearheaded a team of 50+ writers, artists, musicians, dancers, and other creatives to bring you Our Daily Rice, a very PAAC journey through the Gospel of John. With over 12,000 views spanning 40 countries in just 1.5 months, we are humbled and honored by the reception this work received. Our Daily Rice remains available for reading any time on our blog.

As I Am Blog Series (ongoing)

After celebrating the Lent Devotional, we launched a new platform for PAAC voices: As I Am. We use words to explore and create Asian American identity. We wrote narratives, poetry, essays, and more. Our topics ranged from duality to perfection to unanswered prayers. As we move into round two, we ask our writers to take us out of the homes and churches we grew up in and push us into spaces where we’re not as visible: media, history, and the wild world of dating.

PAAC Family Retreat (August)

From a PAAC Family member who attended the retreat:

Being a queer Asian American Christian can feel lonely and finding spiritual communities that fully affirm both race and sexuality is difficult. But spending a weekend at the PAAC Family Retreat reminded me that I am not alone in my journey and identity. We shared meals, told our coming-out stories, worshiped, laughed, and affirmed each other. Being in a space where many of us did not feel the need to further explain our complex pointed me to how the Creator continues to break down harmful boundaries humanity has built. From this experience, I have gained many valuable friends and family who I can support and rely on as I continue to live in my fragmented identity.To all of my queer Asian American siblings, both out and not out, I want to remind you all that you are not alone in your journeys and that you are all loved. I want to thank our PAAC Family Moderators for organizing the retreat, sharing our stories in the main PAAC group, and for fostering community following retreat. I would also like to thank the donors who helped make attendance possible for many.

Statement on God’s Justice (September)

In September, we launched the Statement on God’s Justice, created (in about a week) by a cohort of PAAC writers, editors, designers, PR team members, and organizers. PAAC responded with grace and power to the Statement on Social Justice, a document that was hurtful, demeaning, and caused a lot of pain not just in our community but in the greater Christian community out in the world.

What’s next?

Hold onto your boba, PAACsters. In 2019 we are planning a major redesign of the PAAC website, a new platform for PAAC voices, and yes, a live conference in LA. Keep up with us over on in the PAAC Facebook group for the latest updates.

What Shall We Cry?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 40, Mark 1:1-8, + Luke 8: 26-39

What does it mean to be a voice in the wilderness? What will you cry?

Note: Straight Christians, we’ve all been complicit in the irreparable personal harms and civil rights violations that have been inflicted on the LGBTQIA+ community by virtue of belonging to an institution that propagates such violence, and therefore it is incumbent upon us to align ourselves to help eradicate these systemic injustices. So this entry is just as much for you to read and meditate upon as our fellow queer family members, neighbors, and friends.

Please join me as we read these two vignettes to reflect on this week’s Advent theme of Preparation.

Voices in the Wilderness

By Ophelia Hu Kinney

December 4, 2018

Reconciling Ministries Network

The United Methodist Church, the third largest denomination in the world, is heading this February to a decision-making forum in which we’ll answer just one question: is there a place for LGBTQ people in the kin-dom of God?

If I’m being honest, it’s a question I hold lightly. Though I work for an organization working to open the doors of The UMC to LGBTQ people, it’s a question I hold lightly. It isn’t that I should, but I do. Because I’ve been turned away from churches before on account of who I am, and I don’t just want queer Christians to survive. I want us to thrive.

But my colleagues are grassroots organizers who travel for weeks at a time, holding Dunkin Donuts cups on their laps at 3am while they wind down South Georgia roads to talk to folks who’ve never met an out queer or trans person; board a train in California to teach a whole church how to love a trans child in their congregation; fly out to Oregon to listen to the direction in which African Christians are taking us.

And those quiet feet going out into the world while every day is still young, they tell me to clutch the vision close to me – to hold it tight. I want to hold it lightly, but good news is like honey on the fingers; it doesn’t let you let it go.

Last month, my colleague flew to Brazil to visit the nation’s first queer-affirming, all-welcoming Methodist church. The nation just elected a president who’s vehemently, violently anti-gay, stating publicly that he’d sooner have his own son be dead than gay. What would you do as a Brazilian queer or trans person with that knowledge? That terror?

It’s in the midst of that that this church reaches out and says, “We want to be bold.” They write me online. “Greetings to the Reconciling Movement from the Reconciling Church of Brazil.” It’s a modern-day epistle. I write them back.

Erica Malunguinho, a Brazilian activist and trans woman, put it this way: “I’m not afraid. According to the system, I was already born dead.”

Born dead with no-place to go but six feet up. Six feet up through the dirt and the breathlessness and the suffocating weight, a memory of sunlight that hasn’t happened yet…

The Brazilian church is raising funds for its new building. Its leadership is electric. They sent a 360-degree photo last month. The site is yet unbroken. It’s in the middle of the city.

Everywhere I look, I’m catching visions of life that have yet to push through the ground – sunlight that has yet to break.

Excerpt from Legion of Demons:

A Sermon After the Pulse Mass Shooting

By Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz

June 19, 2016

Westminster Presbyterian Church

In the days following Pulse, Rev. Laura gave a sermon naming the evils in our society and world. In it, she stated that it is important to name that which is demonic today, and that our demons are Legion. From mass shootings to systemic racial injustice, she spent much of her sermon naming injustice after injustice, and then how we are to be delivered from them. We pick up as she closes with this bit of advice:

“We who hear this story have no reason to turn away from hope.

It is turning from a myopic focus on our own fears about decline, our fears of not speaking prophetically enough, our fears about becoming too political, our fears about how much we lose in this time of rapid social change, to the news of what God has done for us.

If you recall from the Scripture for today that the demons do not just depart. They do not dissolve into the atmosphere. They have to relocate. In this world of the Scriptures, evil is not erased. It moves.

Being a Christian is not living in some fantasy world of butterflies and unicorns. Demons do not simply disappear. Being a Christian, struggling with our faith, struggling to find the will to be part of a community that can be exasperating, is to see a world full of demons, to know these demons better than we would like to, and know exactly what we are up against. It is to stare death, chaos, and disorder in the face and proclaim the gift of life, God’s presence, the power of community, in the same breath. It is deciding to live resurrection.

Hope is the queer community showing up at Pride.  Hope is being brown and gender nonconforming, and leaving one’s house every day. Hope is the young black person protesting police brutality because there are beautiful people out there who deserve to live. […] Hope is the family fleeing violence in another land, hoping to reach safer shores through impossible conditions. Hope is the legal team fighting to defend Native American sovereignty against the broken treaties and promises of the U.S. government. After all, if a Gentile possessed by Legion can be freed and sent even before Jesus’ ministry was officially open to non-Jews, if someone who lived chained and naked among the tombs can be restored to community, I say we who sit here with our doubts and fears and grief and brokenness and tiny glimmering hopes have no excuse.

Go. Get out of here. Do your work.

  • Care more about saving lives than retaining members.
  • Refuse to be held hostage by xenophobic fears and bureaucratic excuses that prevent us from welcoming more refugees
  • Refuse to be held hostage by a gun culture propped up and fed by gun manufacturers, who care more about the bottom line than about our beautiful children.
  • Become a thorn in the side of those who feed the demons.
  • Become the elderly women who have been standing on the corner of Washington Street and MLK Drive in Atlanta, protesting the war since the early 2000s.
  • Make it easier for people to exercise their citizenship.
  • Make it safer for queer people to gather.
  • Teach your children you don’t have to know what gender someone is to treat that person like a human being.
  • Make this country really free for Muslims and Sikhs who want to live without being harassed, or their places of worship vandalized.

Aren’t you sick and tired of holding vigils?

When you return to your home, don’t pretend like anything is the same as it was. Name the demons. Declare how much God has done for you.

Go.

[Full Text: A Legion of Demons]

These two vignettes remind us that there are voices crying out on your behalf and on behalf of the Christian community. These voices call evil in the Church and in society for what it is. They name the injustices of conversion therapy, the firing of queer leaders, and the shaming and outcasting of human souls. They name injustice in the fact that it is at most times impossible to be fully queer and fully Christian in the world today.

Therefore, know that you are not alone and that you are known. Known not only by a harm-bound institution, but too by a holy Divine. Know this and cast your light, a light that is greater than the light of stars, onto the Legion that has been unjustly placed upon your shoulders.

Then speak, and walk through the world as wholly yourself.


About the author: Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her/hers) lives in Portland, Maine with her wife and two cats. She is the wife of a fearless reformer, the daughter of two circumstantial pragmatists, and the sister of a hopeful romantic. Although she grew up in a family of agnostics, she became a Christian in college and has worked ever since to understand what that means. Ophelia believes that we inherit from our divine source the ability to co-author and co-build the kin-dom of God. She and her wife tend www.QueeringTheKindom.com. You can support the work that Ophelia described in her piece by donating to www.rmnetwork.org.

About the author: Laura M. Cheifetz (pronouns: she/her) is a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA). She serves as Deputy Director of Systems & Sustainability at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), overseeing operations and development. She is an online contributing editor to Inheritance, a progressive Asian American Christian magazine. Laura is multiracial Asian American of Japanese and white Jewish descent.

This Is Not My Beautiful LIfe

Jessie woke up to two small feet on her face. Her body was pushed to the very edge of her mattress and she really had to pee.

The room was hangover bright but she didn’t recall drinking at all last night. Also, this was not her room.

Also, WHY WERE THERE TWO SMALL FEET ON HER FACE?

And while Jessie would really appreciate the answer to that mystery, she felt as if she were about to wet herself so she made a game time decision to first void her bladder THEN determine the why about the feet.

She slowly nudged the feet off her face and then tried to sit up. Unfortunately, she couldn’t because there was an enormous stomach in her way.

Her enormous stomach.

She stared at her swollen belly for a good long while, mind blank. Finally, Jessie pat her hands all over her body. First, her face. Then her arms, thighs, and at last, the offending mound of flesh. It was hard and taut and definitely hers.

As if in response to her unasked question, something from INSIDE her pushed and pressed OUT and Jessie saw her belly move. And then, that something smashed into her bladder as well as her ribs at the same time and she somehow rolled off the edge of the mattress and
chose a logical direction to find a toilet.

Thankfully, there were only so many layouts a living space could have and thanks to her seventeen years of life experience, she had lurched in the correct general direction of a bathroom.

She peed. For a long time. So long, in fact, that Jessie wondered if she was dreaming because those were the dreams that caused an immediate panic upon awakening and surely she must be dreaming because she seemed hugely pregnant and apparently, also had a small child attached to the two small feet she had found on her face not five minutes ago and —

Oh. She was done peeing.

Pee dreams never ended with being done peeing.

This did not bode well.

As Jessie waddled (OMG SHE WAS WADDLING) back to examine the small human in bed, she took note of her surroundings. This was clearly the master bedroom of a house. And if she were not mistaken, there would likely be a mirror in this said house. She waddled back to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.

It was not her face that stared back.

Well, that was not entirely true. The face certainly looked like her – but in a tired, OLD sort of way. And her body. Her body looked as if she swallowed a basketball.

This could not be real.

She heard the rapid pattering of feet and the door to her room opening. The knot in her gut told her what was happening but still, she was not prepared. Two additional small humans – a taller boy and a shorter girl – came into view complaining in Chinglish that there were no more bars left and whining about something called an eye pad and if they could watch English videos because they had already watched Chinese videos and —

Jessie did some quick math. One kid in the bed who sounded as if he was no longer sleeping.

Two progressively larger kids in her bathroom and apparently, ANOTHER kid inside her.

She swallowed. Oh, God. The children were still yapping away and she had not been paying any sort of attention.

She needed to sit down.

She staggered past the children back towards the bed, flopped gracelessly onto the mattress, and shut her eyes. She counted slowly to ten. Then to twenty.

Jessie decided to count all the way to one hundred but when she opened her eyes, she was still in the room that was not hers, surrounded by children that were not hers, impregnated with a baby that was not hers.

She closed her eyes again.

“Mama! Mama!”

Jessie did not want to acknowledge those words. If she ignored them long enough then perhaps she wouldn’t really be their mother doing whatever mothers do.

Wait.

What time was it? Shouldn’t she be at work? Shouldn’t these children be at school? Who was going to keep these children alive? Who was she married to? How was she going to figure out what to do without making everyone think she was crazy? And most importantly, how was she going to get back to her timeline and start her second quarter at UCLA?

She summoned the internal strength to look around for an alarm clock. And there it was.

6:48AM.

Fuck.

She didn’t even know their names.


Virginia Duan is an author/writer and incapable of writing in brief. She swears. A lot. She also finds it almost impossible to refrain from commenting online for the sole purpose of making people admit they are idiots. Fatal flaw is fatal.

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Say Something in Chinese

When I was a kid and my white classmates learned that my first language was Mandarin, they typically had one of three reactions:

“Really? Was it hard to learn?”

“So how did you learn English?”

“What’s my name in Chinese?”

Whatever their initial reaction, it was usually followed with the command, “Hey, say something in Chinese!”

When I was very young, I would oblige by commenting on the weather or their outfit, but I eventually got tired of feeling like a Mandarin-speaking sea lion and learned to respond with, “Something in Chinese,” which usually made it clear that I was not interested in continuing the conversation. I have only recently begun unpacking some of the resentment and confusion I felt toward my cradle language.

My parents settled in the Midwest among a community of highly educated immigrant Chinese professionals. We attended a Chinese church and most of the kids I grew up with could speak a smattering of Mandarin, Cantonese or Taiwanese. But in those days there were no trendy Mandarin immersion schools or Mandarin-speaking kids shows, so our cradle language was quickly subsumed by English. I dutifully went to Chinese school two hours a week from first grade through middle school, but I resented the extra class time and homework. Despite my attitude, I clinched the speech competition year after year, which I sometimes suspect was due to my deeply entrenched study habits rather than any latent gift for gab. I outperformed my peers linguistically overall, to the delight of my parents and their Chinese friends. “Wah, hao bang, ah! Your Mandarin is so good!” they cooed, and I would do a few more verbal backflips in response to their applause.

Many PAAC members I spoke to share similar memories of sitting sullenly through language school, or perhaps skipping it because Saturday morning cartoons took precedence. But others, like my older cousins, grew up in the 1970s when it was much less common to teach children Mandarin or Korean or whatever language their immigrant parents spoke. Some have parents who didn’t want their children to face the same prejudices they did, and thus wanted their children to speak flawless, unaccented English.

A lot of us have experienced some kind of cradle language renaissance during college, even though many people also reported a steep drop-off in their language ability after leaving home. Perhaps we got homesick. Some people, like me, took academic language classes to atone for quitting Chinese school several years earlier. Others immersed themselves in Asian pop music and television dramas, often picking up a large vocabulary about love or martial arts that I never found in my textbooks.

In college, separated from my family for the first time, my mother tongue became a way to seek, or perhaps form, my identity. During freshman year, I proudly tested out of entry-level Chinese in order to take the courses designed for semi-fluent speakers that emphasized reading and writing. I did well enough until the upper-level undergraduate course, when the materials were only written in simplified characters  (jianti). I had read traditional characters  (fanti) my entire life, and suddenly the words that had once been familiar seemed like strangers. I quit my Chinese studies after that course and focused on my chosen majors, one of which was, ironically, English.

I never got to use my Mandarin much as an adult, despite sometimes claiming proficiency on resumes and job applications. (And squirming awkwardly when asked whether I could translate marketing materials into Mandarin, or would I consider teaching Mandarin classes in addition to my 150 biology students?) My spoken fluency has gotten progressively rustier and my writing skills, which never made it past a third grade level anyway, atrophied even more. But after becoming a parent, my cradle language has reemerged in unexpected ways.

After having a half-Chinese child and moving to an even smaller and more remote Midwestern college town, I now find myself speaking more Mandarin than I have since freshman year of college. The large research university brings in a plethora of Chinese faculty, postdocs and students, some of whom send their children to the same daycare my son attends. My interactions with those parents typically follow a set arc as well:

We look at each other, possibly making eye contact, possibly not.

The international families are speaking fluent Mandarin, while my child jabbers away in English. I am dressed in the typical white suburban mom uniform of leggings and a T-shirt. Very clearly Americanized.

We glance at each other again, and somehow … they can tell that I speak Mandarin!

They make their way over to me and start speaking excitedly and very, very rapidly, in Mandarin.

I respond haltingly, “I also … have this son … of two years. My husband is a … big after-graduation science man. And an American.” (This is my way of covertly begging them to speak more slowly and simply.)

No one ever seems to slow down or bat an eye. So either my Mandarin is not as bad as I feel it is, or they don’t want to embarrass me by talking to me like I’m seven. Either way, I’m left catching only half of what they say, frantically assembling context clues in my head, and either replying like a slightly slow child  or smiling politely until the conversation is over.

I confess that I sometimes resent this pattern as much as I resent being a sea lion for white people. I know I should feel grateful for the chance to practice my mother tongue. I know no one means for me to feel stupid or excluded. But I try to speak slowly and clearly when someone acts like they’re having difficulty understanding what I’m saying. I go out of my way to speak their language. Would it kill them to try and speak mine, or at least slow down?

But then I remember that these parents either spend most of the day working with people who don’t speak their most comfortable language, or they’re at home not speaking to anyone over the age of three. That I can definitely understand and sympathize with, whatever the language! So fumbling over my sentences may be the least that I can do. (And one of these days, I may beg one of these Chinese parents to take pity and actually tutor me in Mandarin.)

Truth be told, I miss hearing and speaking my cradle language. I regret losing so much of it because I was hiding from that part of my identity, and I fear being unable to teach it to my child.  I’ve experienced the great gulf between me and my own family members caused by linguistic, geographic and cultural distance. I recently lost my last remaining grandparent, a woman who was born a few short years after the Republic of China was founded, who survived World War II, the Chinese Civil War and the flight of the Kuomintang to Taiwan, from whom I like to think I get some of my entrepreneurial spirit (and almost certainly my temper). Because I lacked the  fluency to communicate with her beyond, “I’m hungry” and “No, I don’t have a boyfriend yet,” most of this history and heritage is lost to me, except for a few precious stories.

Many other Asian-Americans also find themselves newly galvanized to relearn their first language when they have children of their own or face the loss of older family members. And thus as the generations turn over, language becomes not just something we’ve lost but something we find again and make new meaning from. There’s a wide range of how we’re teaching our kids their heritage language, sometimes dependent on how much we ourselves know, sometimes not.

Many of us have parents who can provide our children with Chinese, Japanese or Korean language exposure or, in some cases, waipo’s Taiyu bootcamp. Some are able to send their children to Mandarin immersion school, while a surprising number have placed their children in Spanish immersion programs while speaking a variety of languages at home. I don’t have any of these options, but I’ve taught my two-year-old to count to ten and sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Mandarin, which is good enough for now.

I’ve sometimes questioned whether my child will ever be “American enough” to survive in an era of xenophobia and immigration battles, but perhaps I need to make sure he is Asian enough to hold onto his heritage in a country where he is a minority. As I haltingly reclaim my and his Chinese-American identity, the Mandarin language becomes more than a performance or an academic subject to study. It becomes a profound means of connection and belonging, even when I stumble over discussions of potty-training with the Chinese parents in my son’s daycare. My friend Melinda Tan told me of a recent trip to Taiwan where she was able to translate Taiwanese for her children: “In a way it was a relief to know I could fall back into not only speaking Taiwanese, but ‘being’ Taiwanese, in a way that I cannot in [New Hampshire]. When I speak the language… I fall into another way of being, not just in words but [in the] connection that I feel with other people. My kids felt a sense of belonging when we visited.”

I suppose that connection  is what I’m trying to maintain when I encourage my son, “Say something in Chinese!”


Jennifer Duann Fultz is a Taiwanese-American freelance content writer and digital marketing consultant whose parents probably still don’t quite understand what she does but are proud of her anyway. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and son. In her spare time she enjoys reading, cooking, trying to plan her life in advance and pretending to organize her home. Her website is aminusmama.com.

Unanswered Prayers

“God, You are sovereign and you know all things. Your love knows no bounds and is lavish. I am grateful for your love and grace in my life. I want to do your will and I want to know Your heart. When words fail me, hear my heart in prayer. Will you give me the gift of praying in tongues? If it’s your will… Amen.”

I felt a strange comfort when I first heard people praying in tongues around me. I was eight or maybe seven years old. My mom brought me to a revival at a local Korean church because some famous preacher from Korea came. It was rumored that the Holy Spirit was with him and he was slaying people in the Spirit. I didn’t understand too much because the Korean words being preached were unfamiliar. As I looked around that cavernous sanctuary, I saw all these people lying on the floor. The preacher was praying for people and then at the moment he would touch their forehead, they fell backwards into the arms of two people who were the designated catchers. They would gently lay the person down on the floor. I don’t know why, but I remember it being unusually warm in there and noisy. So many people saying what seemed like a Buddhist chant that my great-grandmother used to repeat. I looked around again and saw that my friend was getting prayed for and I saw him fall backward. I can’t remember if it was me or if it was my mom that initiated it, but all of the sudden, the preacher was in front of me. I don’t remember what he said or the questions he asked, but I felt the firm push of his hand on my forehead. I expected my eyes to close and my body to fall backward, but I didn’t. I faltered back and then gingerly walked back to my seat with the cacophony of prayers and shouts surrounding me. 

Why hadn’t I been slain in the spirit? What was wrong with me? Did God’s spirit not want to be in me? Did I not believe enough? I walked away with the impression that I didn’t want it enough, or that I lacked enough faith. More than feeling rejected, I felt confused. Maybe I didn’t understand what the preacher was saying so it didn’t happen for me. To this day, I still wonder why it happened for so many, but not for me? 

Many years later at a high school retreat, my very Presbyterian Korean church had several instances of praying in tongues, people being slain in the spirit and even some holy laughter. Again, I felt like an outsider. Why was my faith not enough for me to experience these apparent gifts of the Holy Spirit? I prayed every day to experience the Holy Spirit’s gifts also and I asked for God to increase my faith. I prayed that God would help me to get rid of any hidden sins in my heart. When it came time to graduate high school, I was whisked off to another retreat where two people with supposed gifts of prophecy prayed for me. One pastor gave me a verse – Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for because it seemed like a generic passage to me. The other person prayed furiously in tongues, but no one was there to interpret or tell me anything. That was the first time I prayed asking for God to give me the gift of tongues. These pastors and people looked like people who were anointed and highly spiritual. They were the ones chosen by God and I desperately wanted to be chosen. 

Growing up with Buddhist grandparents that converted to Christianity later in life and somewhat Christian immigrant parents who really went to church for community and to be with other Koreans, I didn’t fully grasp the concept of religion and God. Going to church was the thing to do on a Sunday like going to Korean school was the thing to do Saturday mornings. You just did it. But I constantly felt conflicted. 

When I got to college, it was the first time I had the choice to go to church on my own. It was scary to suddenly have a lot of freedom and I wanted to go with what I was used to. Campus ministry felt too wild and uncertain, but the English ministry of a Korean Presbyterian church felt familiar and safe and there was really only one big one that had a huge college ministry. I immediately got swallowed up in this church and did everything I could to seem like the perfect Christian. But there was one big thing that I felt was holding me back – I still couldn’t pray in tongues. It was a prayer that I prayed for so long and now, as a college student, I felt silly that I still had not received this gift. Again, I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me? Am I even saved? Is it because I was not slain in the Spirit? Did I miss God’s Spirit? Am I not Christian enough?” After a year of asking these same questions, I finally found the courage in me to ask one of the college ministry pastors about it. He simply said to me, “You should ask God to give it to you and He will give it to you.” Was it really that simple? Because I’ve been asking since I was a kid and still nothing. So I pressed the pastor, “What if you ask and you don’t receive this gift?” He looked at me and said, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will.” Up until a few years ago, I earnestly prayed for the gift of speaking in tongues. After some reflection this past year, I’ve come to the realization that this is an unanswered prayer. 

In my wrestling with this unanswered prayer, I’ve grown a tremendous amount in my personal faith. Those questions I was asking myself? I found answers to them – unexpected answers. And the questions didn’t stop because the answers led to more questions. I sit in the tension of my many questions and it has not only drawn me closer to God, but it also revealed to me that my upbringing and my early faith experiences missed a lot about God and faith. I never picked up the Bible to read to see what it said for myself until a few years ago. I still have moments where I feel conflicted because it still sometimes seems that the Christianity I adopted rejects the very core of who I am and how God created me. The Korean part of me has been denied culturally as a Christian. There are certain traditions that our family shied away from practicing and participating in once we started going to church and it stopped completely when my grandparents adopted Christianity. I had to let go of my Korean-ness in order to be fully recognized as a Christian. Sometimes, the institution of church made it seem like God was saying to me, “You can’t be Korean and Christian. You have be one or the other. You choose.” God also created me to be outspoken and loud with a bent toward fighting injustice. Traits like that were fine if you didn’t identify as a woman. It always felt like I had to choose one or the other – that I couldn’t be both and still can’t be both. But I’ve finally started embracing the gifts that God has given me instead of wishing I had the gift that would make me fit in with a group of people who wanted me to conform not transform. 

“God, You are sovereign and you know all things. Your love knows no bounds and is lavish. I am grateful for your love and grace in my life. I want to do your will and I want to know Your heart. When words fail me, hear my heart in prayer. Thank you for making me the way that you have made me and for the gifts that are unique to me. I want to change the world for You. Amen.”


Phyllis Myung is a writer, mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend. She primarily works as the director of children and youth at her church in Boston and is passionate about families, mental health awareness and hamburgers.

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