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Photo by Joshua Wong

Photo by Joshua Wong

By Maria Liu Wong

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6:8 (NIV)

I just returned from a nine-day journey to Latin American cities with my 11-year old son Joshua, my colleague Mark, and his 12-year old son Daniel. Part research on practices of ministry in the city, and part exposure trip for our second generation, this pilgrimage to Medellin (Colombia), Guatemala City (Guatemala), and Mexico City (Mexico) has become a turnkey moment for me as I reflect, pray and live out who I am as a woman, a mother, an educator, and a witness of what God is doing in cities in this part of the world.

In Medellin, I met Elizabeth Sendek, one of very few female seminary presidents in Latin America (and elsewhere!), whose experience as a leader resonated with what I heard in my dissertation research. I also reconnected with Yarumal missionaries there, whom I had gotten to know 14 years ago in western Ethiopia, while I was a volunteer instructor in a teacher training college. I returned to Guatemala City where a visit to the city garbage dump when I was 15 years old first challenged me to see my role in God’s kingdom proclamation and justice-seeking in a bigger way. That original garbage dump had since migrated, replaced by informal communities living on top of the layers of garbage and dirt, served by more than 20 non-profit organizations and ministries.

Then, I visited Mexico City for the first time, impressed by the immensity and scope of the city. I was encouraged by conversations with young women – local and foreign – working towards justice for and sharing the Good News with marginalized street kids and indigenous families. Dialogue around ministry in the city, sustainability, mentoring, listening, servanthood and leadership development stirred in me compassion as well as renewed hope in the power of the Gospel to change lives.

When I think of my roles as a leader in a seminary community that seeks to understand and live out God’s peace in New York City, and as a mother of three young children, I wonder how my son sees the world. At age 11, what does he see and take away from an encounter with a family working and living in a garbage dump? Or with a holistic homeless ministry including a shelter, drug rehabilitation program, church and bakery for job training? Or with a female president of a seminary challenging the status quo? What does he consider normative, and what will draw him to join in the work of sharing God’s peace – spiritual, social and physical – with others?

Each person mentioned in my travels shaped and continues to shape how I see God at work in the city, and indeed the world. These new and old friendships challenge me to ask, pray and reflect more on the vision of the future God has given us. And it humbles me to have this precious gift of motherhood, stewardship as my husband and I raise our children to love God, love the city, and love a world that needs more people to seek His justice and goodness.

Maria Liu Wong serves as Dean of City Seminary of New York in Harlem, NYC. She also leads a women’s fellowship group and volunteers in the children’s ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church Downtown. She graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University this spring, and her dissertation focused on women and leadership in global Christian theological education. She lives in the Lower East Side with her husband and three energetic little New Yorkers, volunteers on the School Leadership Team at her younger son’s school, and enjoys creating ways to make time and space for students, faculty (and herself!) to learn from and with each other.

Photo by Capture Queen

Photo by Capture Queen

By Wendy Choy-Chan

She has just walked out the door, a little nervous, holding onto the key that will lead her to her next milestone in life.  It is her driving test, finally, after a year of practicing and anticipation.  How many of these similar milestones and life stages has she gone through?  Each time with fear and trembling, but also each time learning to trust God and to have confidence in herself. I pray that God will be faithful and reward her for her efforts and give her courage, protection, wisdom and a smooth drive. Pray that this will be like the other steps that she has taken before. Yes, just like that very first step she took all by herself when she was one. I still remember clearly. Continue Reading »

The Gift Economy

Photo by A♥

Photo by A♥

By Tina Teng-Henson

In late July, I came across a thoughtful op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times in which he describes “the gift economy.” The gift economy is characterized by interdependence, sympathy, generosity, and gratitude. His conviction is that this nurtures better lives more sweetly enjoyed than the ones you’d otherwise find in the capitalist meritocracies we find ourselves in. Continue Reading »

Photo by lina smith

Photo by lina smith

By Liz Chang

Once, during my sophomore year of high school, I went to the salon and asked the stylist to trim about three inches off. I left crying because they cut six inches off instead.

Fast forward to present.

Recently, I decided to go to the salon to get my haircut. I was planning to get another trim, layer it like I usually do, and be content with the way I’ve gotten haircuts for the past several years. I left smiling because they convinced me to get an “inverse bob” cut by chopping seven inches off instead. I felt refreshed and strengthened to embrace the major life changes I have been encountering over the past two months. Continue Reading »

Photo by Cassandra Rae

Photo by Cassandra Rae

By Debbie Gin

Keeping company with seminary presidents and deans this year, I’ve had an unusual opportunity to watch how top leaders in theological education function — how they make decisions, what connections they forge, with whom they cultivate deep relationships, why they work against the grain for particular projects, and how much they divulge and in which circles.  For the most part, authenticity and transparency are highly valued.  And, for the most part, I agree with this high valuing. Continue Reading »

Photo by rima xaros

Photo by rima xaros

By Joy Wong

I’ve never considered myself much of a worrier.  I always thought that between my husband and me, he’s the worrier for sure. But lately, I’ve been experiencing a lot more anxiety, and after some reflection, I’m starting to realize why. Continue Reading »

Photo by amanda tipton

Photo by amanda tipton

By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

It was a typical toddler meltdown. My two-year-old, overtired and over-stimulated, wouldn’t talk to anyone or eat any of the food we put in front of him. Instead, he retreated into a corner of the room to wail.

But the scene, which took place a couple months ago, was anything but typical. Continue Reading »

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