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Inheritance

Once upon a time, there was a Buddhist monk named Tang Sanzang. He was compassionate to a fault, and he was prone to being fooled. Nevertheless, he was chosen by the Chinese emperor to go on a journey to Tianzhu, or modern-day India, to obtain Buddhist scriptures and bring them back to China to help spread Buddhism. It was a high calling to a dangerous journey ahead.

Guanyin, the goddess of compassion, appeared to Tang Sanzang just as he was leaving Chang’an on his own.

“Go westward beyond the mountains,” she said, “and you will find what you are looking for.”

Guanyin promised to guide Tang Sanzang to three powerful beings who would protect him on this journey and then, without any further instructions, bade him farewell, sending him on his journey to the West.

As Tang Sanzang traveled westward, he gained three companions who protected him and walked with him on this journey.

The first companion was Sun Wukong, the Monkey King and self-dubbed “Handsome Monkey King in the Water Curtain Cave of Flower Fruit Mountain, Great Sage Equal of Heaven, Sun Wukong.” Reckless and conniving yet brave and earnest, Sun Wukong vowed to be with Tang Sanzang all the way to the end. At first, Sun Wukong only wanted the honor and glory promised to him at the end of the journey, but after defeating demons who threatened to eat Tang Sanzang, Sun Wukong saw that this journey was a greater calling, and he only grew in his devotion to Tang Sanzang.

The second companion was Zhu Bajie, a former commander-in-chief in Heaven who was banned to earth for lusting after the Goddess of the Moon. Lazy and gluttonous, Zhu Bajie cared deeply about his own comfort and would constantly prioritize his own needs and desires, including walking away from the group to talk to every pretty woman along the journey. Knowing this fault in Zhu Bajie, many demons would transform into pretty women to distract him, and Sun Wukong came to Zhu Bajie’s rescue every time. As time went on, Zhu Bajie saw Tang Sanzang’s unwavering commitment to the journey, no matter the challenges, and Zhu Bajie was eventually moved to do the same.

The last companion was Sha Wujing. Originally a general in Heaven, Sha Wujing broke a vase and was banished from Heaven by the Jade Emperor, reincarnating into a man-eating sand demon. A little dense, but extremely humble, Sha Wujing repented of his old ways and vowed to be a new man. After meeting Tang Sanzang, Sha Wujing did everything in his power to serve the others on the journey, constantly putting their needs above his own. If Sun Wukong felt hot, Sha Wujing would be the first to fan him. If Zhu Bajie was feeling tired, Sha Wujing would offer to carry him on his back. Tang Sanzang was very thankful for Sha Wujing’s faithfulness and servant heart.

Together the three companions traveled over land and sea with Tang Sanzang, defeating the demons and monsters who threatened to kill the monk and eat his flesh. They overcame many trials and tribulations, but after an arduous journey, they obtained the Buddhist scriptures and safely brought them back to Chang’an.  

****************

The year was 1985. The location: Guangzhou, China. The main character: my mother.

My grandfather was very sick — my mother couldn’t explain to me what the illness was — and needed to see a doctor from the city immediately. But because he was poor, the doctors rejected him at the hospital doors.

“Come back when you can show us you can pay us,” they said. “Until then, go home.”

My mother, 20 years old at the time, went back home to her village and begged every neighbor, cried to them, pleaded with them to let her borrow money for her father’s medical treatment. The villagers, feeling pity for my mother yet moved by her persistence, each gave her a small portion of their daily earnings. After going to every villager’s house, my mother felt that she had finally obtained what was enough. She quickly brought her father and the sum of money to the hospital once again.

When the doctors finally started running tests on my grandfather, they realized that he was too sick and wouldn’t last the week. My mother, again, begged the doctors, cried to them, pleaded with them to save her father. They shrugged, pocketed the money, and left my mother in the hospital room.

My grandfather passed away a few days later in the hospital on his 52nd birthday: December 28, 1985.

That night, as my mother walked back to her village alone, she saw a faint light in the distance. In a flash, a goddess appeared in a white robe, a water jar in her right hand and a willow branch in her left.

“Do you need help?”

My mother didn’t know what to say.

“What do you need?”

My mother looked at the goddess and said, “Money. Money would have saved my father.”

“Go westward to the Golden Mountain,” the goddess said, “And you will find a rich inheritance waiting for you.”

“Really?”

“You will have to go through trials and tribulations to receive it. And you will not be able to return to the way things were. Will you go on this journey?”

My mother talked to her older sister, my aunt, who had just married into a new family about a year ago.

“Big Sister,” my mother said, “Guanyin appeared to me and told me that if we head west to the Golden Mountain, we can gain riches. Will you go with me? We can repay our debt to the villagers for Father’s medical fees, and Mother won’t have to work so hard in the fields.”

My aunt thought about the pros and cons. She knew that she needed to solidify her place in her new family now. Besides, her husband’s family had just started a new business in Guangzhou, and she was counting on her husband’s business to get rich. This was her new family now.

“Why should I go with you?” my aunt said. “I am no longer part of your family now. This debt is your problem, not mine.”

My mother then went to her younger brother, my uncle, to ask if he would go with her to the Golden Mountain.

“Well,” my uncle said, “I think I have more potential of finding a wife here. If I’m so focused on gaining riches, then I won’t be able to settle down and find a woman.”

Finally, my mother went to her mother, my grandmother. My mother didn’t want to ask my grandmother to go on this long journey with her, but she had no one else to turn to.

“Mother,” she said. “Father is gone now, and we have to pay back our friends in the village, but Guanyin has come to help us. She told me that if we go westward to the Golden Mountain, we will gain riches. We can pay back the debt and maybe have money left over to live comfortably. Will you come with me?”

“Daughter, I have to tend to the fields now that your father is gone. Your sister is living with her new family now, and your brother will hopefully bring a new woman into ours. I still have many mouths to feed and no one to support me. You should get married and find someone to go with you.”

With that, my grandmother left for the day to the city marketplace, lifting two baskets of vegetables, one on each end of a wooden rod that she balanced upon her shoulders.

In her desperation, my mother went back to the road where she met Guanyin. In a flash, the goddess appeared before her again.

“Have you decided?”

“I will go, but I have no one to go with me.”

Guanyin smiled and said, “There is a man in the village down the road who has agreed to go on this same journey for a different kind of inheritance. You do not know each other, but do not fear. You both will need each other to reach your destination and reward.”

That night, my mother quietly packed her three outfits, two undershirts, and a pair of shoes into a bag and pocketed the $10 bill that Guanyin graciously provided for her journey. As she waited on that same road, she saw the man walking towards her with his own small bag.

That man was my father. Together, they traveled over land and sea, overcoming multiple trials and tribulations to reach the Golden Mountain.

About the Author: Cindy is an aspiring mental health counselor. She loves Korean food, boba, and her family.

About the image: Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King

Joy: PAAC Christmas Home Video

The 12 Days of Christmas is a carol about the 12 gifts Christ has given us. For example, the partridge in a pear tree is Jesus on the Cross and the two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments. We’ve decided to rewrite the lyrics to anticipate our joy with Christ in the complete renewal to come.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me the death of the patriarchy!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 8 public care plans, 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 9 living wages, 8 public care plans, 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
10 gay wedding cakes, 9 living wages, 8 public care plans, 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 11 gun free states, 10 gay wedding cakes, 9 living wages, 8 public care plans, 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 cop convictions, 11 gun free states, 10 gay wedding cakes, 9 living wages, 8 public care plans, 7 free tuitions, 6 open borders, 5 I U D’s, 4 fair trade shirts, 3 pride parades, 2 R B G’s, and the death of the patriarchy!

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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