By Jerrica KF Ching

When I learned that I would need to do a reflection upon God and race, I felt a sudden rush of conflicting emotions.  The past several months have been extremely difficult to process, understand, and work through, given the countless amount of attacks upon the AAPI community, particularly the elderly.  These events have had me unearthing memories of my own upbringing that feel completely fresh and brand new, almost as though I am looking through them with a fresh new pair of eyes.  This process has caused my emotions to run from one extreme to the other, from recognizing how racism was prevalent for me even at a young age, and how interactions with others as an adult were merely swept under the rug repeatedly.

What has presented a different type of challenge for me has been the increase in AAPI community members coming forward in search of an AAPI counselor.  I will not hesitate to admit that my role as a mental health counselor as an Asian American woman was difficult to navigate with my own family, where “keeping things within the community” is strongly emphasized and a “blend in to not upset others” mentality is a high priority.  These past several months have shown me the extraordinary growth of a community that is finally coming forward to say “enough is enough,” and I see more people within the AAPI community helping others and also learning to ask for help themselves.  It has been my personal struggle of processing the trauma witnessed in videos on the news and social media, and learning to make sense of what this means for me, while simultaneously hearing and holding how others in the community react to it, and giving space for them to process as well.

It feels impossible at times!  How do those of us in the helping profession give space to others, while not turning into massive emotional sponges that absorb all of those emotions around us with no space for our own feelings?  I imagine this same thought has crossed many of my AAWOL sisters’ minds for these past several months.  How do we, with our gifts from God for service and community, also feel heard and seen?  I know I could wrack my brain for answers for hours to the point of writing out a peer-reviewed journal article on the importance of mental health, and yet I find the answer much simpler – trust that God would not be putting any of us in a situation that he did not intend for us to learn, grow, and heal from.  Trust in God, the One who has far more understanding of the grand plans for all of us, that what we are facing as a community right now is something with far greater meaning and value than is even comprehensible at this time. 

The things that are happening to our community are awful, heartbreaking, and emotional.  I know I myself have set clear limits on the amount of time I spend on my phone looking at news articles, social media, or any other type of stimulation that could easily cause me to panic and sink into a hole.  On that same token, for every news of an attack that I hear of, I also hear more stories about AAPI community members standing up for racism when they see it, for being helpful bystanders in very scary and risky situations, for leaning upon one another and being open and honest about their emotions.  For all of those times messages were passed down to not do anything in retaliation, it has been so incredible to also see people rising up to do better than those who cause harm, and to see action taking place.

I believe that God also gives us the ability to embrace a “both/and” approach; we can feel both angry with perpetrators and grateful for good Samaritans; we can be frustrated at the actions of others and take action towards reform ourselves; we can be heartbroken and hopeful.

Jerrica KF Ching grew up on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and currently lives in the beautiful state of Washington, working as a licensed mental health counselor and Asian/Pacific Islander mental health specialist at Columbia Wellness. She graduated with an MA in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling from George Fox University, where she is now an adjunct professor and supervisor. She finds joy in sharing her compassion with students on the importance of recognizing and acknowledging racial and cultural differences in others. Her research on racial colorblindness has been published in The International Journal of Social Science Studies.

By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by Kevin Dooley

But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18 NASB)

I only needed to look in a mirror each morning to be reminded of who I am. My mom would tell me how she came to terms with being different in her school growing up. I remember being excited to go to school as a child. It was fun to be in a room with people the same age as me, the same size as me plus or minus 5 inches, height or width, at least in kindergarten. It didn’t take long for that excitement to wither away when a pointed word from an honest child told me that I looked different or did things that were different. Within a year, it changed. Why was my hair straight and long, not curly? What was the black paper I was eating instead of a sandwich? Why did I not have a chocolate cupcake in my lunchbox? Why was there was a cookie with a piece of paper?

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By April Yamasaki

Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer

Last year when my church switched from worshipping together in person to worshipping together over Zoom, we kept the same format as much as possible. Those responsible for preparing our Sunday services still prepared a full liturgy focused around the lectionary Scripture readings. As usual, our worship time began with a call to worship; included songs and prayers, a time of confession and assurance, an affirmation of faith; and ended with a benediction. We celebrated communion on the first Sunday of the month, and I continued to preach once a month, with other speakers taking turns as usual.

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By Ajung Sojwal

Photo by Ted & Dani Percival

I once heard a preacher mention that people tend to be more faithful church-goers when they feel more financially secure. Well, that really threw me for a loop for I thought it would be the other way round. But then, Jesus used a lot of money illustrations with the “faithful.” So, maybe money is a larger factor in my relationship with God than I am willing to admit.

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By Angela Ryo

Photo by Chris Potter

I grew up in a Korean immigrant church where the offering plate was passed around on Sunday mornings, and I’d put money in it (if I had any!) when it came around. As I got older and earned more money, I tried to be more strategic about giving and did my best to tithe every month as much as possible. However, it wasn’t until I started serving in predominantly white mainline congregations that I found out about pledging. I had no idea that people pledged the amount they would give for the entire year! “Of course!” I thought, “That makes so much sense!” As I started to pledge, I was surprised by how pledging raised my level of commitment to the congregation I served.

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By Joy Wong

Photo by Jason Jacobs

In a post this past February, I wrote about the feeling of being lost in my faith journey, having been in evangelical circles my whole life and yet now, trying to navigate and make sense of the state of evangelicalism in light of American politics. Perhaps due to the isolation that comes with sheltering at home from Covid-19 as well as being a stay-at-home mom, the state of my faith felt largely like my own personal experience. While it’s been many years since I took on ministry leadership of any kind and my main ponderings have circled around the questions of locating myself in my faith journey, in the back of my mind I’ve also wondered whether my sense of being lost in that faith journey has disqualified me from being able to confidently lead in ministry in the future.

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By Sarah D. Park

Photo by Rawpixel Ltd

I work for a nonprofit organization called Project Peace East Bay, and we recently shifted to a horizontal organizational structure. Rather than having a staff of divvied up roles answering to one executive director, we got rid of that position entirely and make decisions as a four-person team.

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By Diana Kim

Photo by Terry Alexander

What makes a good leader? It’s not just about knowledge or authority. It is about empathy, being able to walk in and understand the experiences and struggles of others. Given the current state of the world, and all the hate we are witnessing throughout the country, empathy is all the more necessary for spiritual leaders to truly connect with their communities and congregations. 

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

Photo by carulmare

When Jesus called Simon to be his disciple, he told Simon he would be called Peter — Peter the leader of the early church. Jesus did not interview Simon for his IQ, EQ, talents, qualifications, and experiences. Simon did not write a thesis or pass an examining board to get his credentials to become Peter, the leader. If one were to check Simon Peter’s performance along the way, he had failed miserably — right after he aced the question of who Jesus was, he flunked by rebuking Jesus’ mission to the cross; he failed to grasp the meaning behind Jesus washing the disciples’ feet; he used his self-will to defend Jesus with a sword but denied him with his mouth. Despite all these “failures,” Jesus chose Simon and formed him to become Peter.

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By Joy Wong

Photo by GoToVan

This month, our writers were asked to reflect on the relevancy of worship. For the first half of the month, our reflections revolved around the challenges of personal and corporate worship in the midst of the pandemic, with churches shut down and community limited. However, upon the mass shootings on three spas and massage parlors in Atlanta on March 16th that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, our reflections took a different turn, in grappling with how to worship amidst the collective trauma of the Asian and Asian American community — and in particular, we as Asian American women.

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