The Painful Gift of Displacement

2 Jul

The Painful Gift of Displacement (a working draft)

Brenda Wong

July 2, 2017

My first ten years of life was spent within a two block radius in Chinatown San Francisco.  We lived in public housing and my school and church was one block away in two directions.  Less than a block away was every type of food that my mom bought for the family. Occasionally we took the bus through the big tunnel to downtown SF but I never imagined that we would live anywhere else.

In 1965 when Chinese were finally allowed to own a house in San Francisco, my parents bought a home on the other side of SF.  An hour away by bus, we went back every week to our church in Chinatown. Everything was different in my new home community. There were no Asians, our house was accessible from the street and I learned how to ride a bike.  My classmates and neighborhood friends were no longer 2nd generation Chinese students and I was now the only Chinese American among my peers. I experienced displacement.

One definition for displacement found on the internet is “the moving of something from its place or position; the enforced departure of people from their homes, typically because of war, persecution or natural disaster.”

We are familiar with the horrific plight of refugees in war torn countries.  Forced out from their homes, communities and country, they resettle in less than ideal places. People are also displaced when natural disasters destroy their homes.

In San Francisco and Hawaii, many people are being displaced as development and business take over affordable housing and neighborhoods.  Small businesses are displaced when new restaurants or big box companies open. Gentrification where the rich displace the poor is everywhere.

Displacement causes distress and its effect is determined by the type of displacement and the person who experiences it.  There are so many types of displacement: economic, geographic and ethnic/cultural displacement to name a few.  In this article, I want to focus on cultural displacement which happens when we cross cultures.

I know countless experiences of feeling culturally displaced. When I was in college, I did not feel comfortable in the InterVarsity group at my university. Everything about that fellowship felt different than my Chinese church.  Though I wanted to grow in my faith, I was a fringe member of InterVarsity because of the wide cultural gap.

One summer during college I worked as a counselor at a Christian camp and was one of two people of color in a group of 30 counselors and leaders.  Even though I knew numerous white people growing up in San Francisco and at San Jose State, my feeling of displacement was magnified because I lived at that camp for two months without being with any other Asians. In my Chinese-American world, I was outspoken, loud and funny.  But in this camp setting, I found myself more quiet and insecure.  I was not familiar with hugging others. I felt different and didn’t feel like I belonged.

While on InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff at San Francisco State, I was invited by a Black friend to visit her gospel choir.  I loved gospel music and was really excited.  On my first visit, we gathered around the piano and then the leader said, “let’s do solos”.  I felt fear and displacement but took a risk to sing my solo, knowing that my voice and abilities were far inferior to everyone present. That bonded me with the choir and InterVarsity at SF State grew in relationship with the gospel choir.

In 1992, I was asked along with two other IVCF staff from the SF Bay Area to help replant IV’s ministry in Hawaii. A once thriving ministry since 1948 shrunk down to two students because of unresolved conflicts with InterVarsity outside the islands.

Moving from San Francisco to Hawaii in my mid thirties felt like displacement, a single city girl now on an island among peers who were busy mothers raising families. I looked like other Asians in Hawaii but I knew I was an outsider. Japanese and local culture was very different than Chinese culture in San Francisco.

At our first InterVarsity new student outreach at University of Hawaii, we were fish out of water and did not know how to reach “locals” (born and raised in Hawaii). No locals from Oahu would come to our table even though we gave away a local favorite, mochi crunch.

As the IV ministry developed in Hawaii, I was thankful to grow close to a local native Hawaiian student.  She took me to a Hawaiian community on the other side of the island and told me that I needed to kiss everyone, mostly men, on the cheek when I came and left. That felt really uncomfortable for me because I didn’t even kiss my brother or father, but I did what she asked of me.

I developed many local (born and raised in Hawaii) friendships after I moved to Hawaii.  But I experienced displacement in a new way when I took a three week missions trip to Fiji led by a local Christian leader in a completely local group.  That deepened my understanding of local culture.

Over the last 39 years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in San Francisco and in Hawaii, I experienced much dissonance and displacement.  Language, humor, relationships and values were often different. Training did not always feel relevant to me as someone who was from the city, the islands or a very different multi-ethnic setting.  I was swimming in dominant culture and didn’t know if I would drown. Most ethnic minority IV staff I’ve talked with have felt the same way.

Should we avoid cultural displacement?  Should we flee when we feel uncomfortable with people from other cultures?  What if we’ve never experienced cultural displacement because we’ve only been with people like ourselves?

God choose displacement when He came to earth as a baby and Jesus lived among us for 33 years.  (John 1:14).  Joseph was displaced when he went to prison. (Genesis 39) Moses was displaced when he was taken as a Jewish baby and raised in Pharoah’s courts and then displaced again becoming a shepherd. (Exodus 2) Wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites experienced displacement when they were looking for the Promised land.(Exodus12-20)  Esther, a Jew experience displacement when God raised her up to be the Queen of Persia. (Esther 2) Persecution in Acts scattered the church but as they were displaced, they preached the gospel in new places. (Acts 11:19-21) Paul experienced displacement as he reached out to the Gentiles and ended up in a Roman prison. (Acts 28)

Sometimes God displaces us and sometimes we choose displacement to survive, thrive or in obedience to God. However we end up being displaced, whether through famine, war, persecution or by choice, God uses displacement to shape us and draw us closer to Him.  If you know and feel the hurt and pain of cultural displacement in an ongoing way, you are not alone and Jesus understands and walks with you.

Cultural displacement is key to becoming cross cultural.  Most ethnic minority IVCF staff are cross cultural, comfortable in their own culture yet required to navigate life in a dominant culture organization.  Ethnic minority students in a dominant culture fellowship experience displacement.  White students in our Hawaii fellowships experience displacement.  Students on mission’s trips or urban projects experience displacement.

We can experience displacement for a few moments, a few weeks, a season of life or be called by God into a lifestyle of displacement. Sometimes our fatigue with displacement is too great and we need to seek God and His community for guidance, wisdom and strength.

If you have not yet experienced cultural displacement, you will most likely have the experience of being the outsider in a new culture if you are open to God’s leading.  Will you choose displacement when God asks you to do so? Will you have a posture to be open to God during displacement?

I invite you to take this risk so that you can experience the image of God in a culture that in not your own. Make friends with someone that is culturally different than you.  Don’t just ask questions but share vulnerably about yourself.  Be the only one of your culture in another ethnic group. The longer you are isolated from your own culture, the richer your cross cultural experience will be.

When we experience displacement, sometimes we have the choice to flee when we feel uncomfortable or insecure.  Sometimes we don’t choose displacement but it’s part of our journey to survive and thrive in this world.  If you have the privilege to choose in or out of cultural displacement, know that many ethnic minorities don’t have that choice.

Do we expect others who are ethically and culturally different to enter into our world? Are we open to displace ourselves, learn and be incarnational as Jesus was?  We will miss out on God’s rich image revealed in diversity if we don’t take this risk.  I am so thankful to know deeply the gifts that other cultures reveal about God’s image because I have experienced cultural displacement. I will continue choose it as God calls me into challenging places.

Working through the hurt and pain of displacement with God allows us to be blessed and transformed.  As I experienced displacement in Hawaii and was open to God, He brought me much transformation, joy and fruit in the kingdom. Our two students grew to four fellowships on two islands, including IVCF’s first ethnic specific fellowship for Pasifika, (Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians).  20% of our 150 students became Christians this year.  Our staff and volunteer team of 18 people are three fourths local and half Native Hawaiian.

Jesus wants to lead us all into experiencing the difficult yet rich gift of cultural displacement.

Surprised by God…

29 Dec

As long as I could remember, I wanted to be married and a mom.  That was my purpose and destiny.  I didn’t have aspirations for a career or plans for further education or travels. I just pictured myself married and raising a family.  That would be my joy and life calling.

But God surprised me… serving on staff with InterVarsity for 39 years, the “right” man hasn’t appeared yet and I have never given birth to any children.  What about my desires and longings?

I began the day face timing with one of my favorite kids who is 4 and like a granddaughter to me.  Besides chatting with her and her parents, she was excited to show me her new bike as she rode through the house.  I ended the call filled with joy.

This afternoon I visited my friend and was thankful to be able to pray for her son who just had eye surgery.  I remember when he was just a baby running around the house and now he’s finished his master’s degree and working as an engineer.  What a privilege to be able to be present to pray for his healing in such a vulnerable time.

Tonight I had dinner with another family and heard their son talk about his first semester of college.  Then his parents and sister and I talked all evening on a variety of topics… from ethnic studies, roommates and relationships to growing up in the church and values.  When the dad walked me to my car, I said “I love getting to know my former student’s kids especially when they begin their adult years.  I am so proud of the people that they have become and so intrigued by the thoughts and feelings that they have.”  He said “they are your kids too” and I felt so joyful and satisfied, like a proud mama.

A few days before, I talked with my friend’s daughter who told me what her college graduation thesis would be about.  I was so amazed that she, like her mom, was going so deep into music and culture.

In another conversation this week, my friends’ son was questioning the role of their family in the gentrification of their city.  I was never able to talk with my parents on such a deep level and I appreciated his willingness to ask hard questions though it might be uncomfortable.

Last night I had dinner with a family and their four children, all in high school and college and it felt like youth group and IV ministry with them and all their friends that kept coming in and out.

Glancing at Facebook tonight, I see the posts of another student’s daughter who is now graduated from college and is starting her career as a photo journalist.  Two of her videos are listed in the top ten videos of her company.

Today my friend texted me some pictures of her brand new son who is sooo cute.  What will his journey be like?  Who will he become?  What will his thoughts and values and faith in God be like?

All these are children of former InterVarsity students. I have known them all since they were born and I’ve been able to love them and journey with them whether it be a few months, 4 years or 28 years.  Though I didn’t give birth to any of them, I feel the love and pride of a mom or grandma.  I am so thankful for who they are and becoming. As we interact, I feel so enriched and joyful.

I am surprised by God in a greater way than I could ever imagine.  Without being married or giving birth, I share the feelings and joys of what it is to be a mom or grandma.  I have the privilege of seeing infants grow and develop as children, teens and into adults.  I have the joy of them surpassing me in who I was at their age.  God surprised me by allowing me to feel the joy and fulfillment of being mom and grandma with my former IV students’ children.

“Sing, O childless woman, you who have never given birth!  Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor.  For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband. says the Lord. ”     Isaiah 54:1

Displaced on Christmas…

26 Dec

At Christmas, we want to gather with family and friends for a fantastic meal, give and receive presents and enjoy time with our loved ones. We greet our friends with Christmas cards or on Facebook with beautiful pictures and words.  Yet so often Christmas or this season is filled with so many disappointments and hurts because we know that something is not right… and we just don’t feel the peace on earth.

Some of us don’t have a blood related family to spend Christmas with.  We may feel the ache because a loved one has passed away and is no longer with us and some of our dreams are gone with that death.  I accept my dad being with Jesus in heaven but it’s hard to see my mom alone now after 65 years of being married.

We may feel like something is missing in our relationships… For me, I’m lacking a husband, children and now grandchildren.  This changes my life in the present and future. Or maybe you’re married and have children, but it’s not all you hoped for.  You feel the deep loneliness and disappointment in your marriage or with your children. My friends Gabby and Ka`eo will always feel the hole in their lives from the death of their 5 year old son to cancer, even as they celebrate the new life of another daughter.

You or someone you love may be struggling with health issues. Mary is still recovering from a stroke and finds it difficult to walk. Joan knows that her days are numbered and that cancer is killing her body. Dave is recovering from a bad burn accident. So many others are praying and longing for health and healing. We see our kupuna generation slowing down.  A loved one may be struggling with addiction, depression, mental illness or be in the hospital or in prison. We feel the pain of those we love and long for them to be whole and at peace.

At Christmas we feel the crunch in our finances and may be more in tune with what we don’t have. Our credit may be running higher than we ever imagined. We can’t get what we want for our loved ones or even for ourself.  Our friends in Waimanalo who are houseless know the challenges of being houseless and trying to continue on with life.

Maybe you felt displaced in some way this Christmas.   You know you are not that picture perfect greeting card or warm and happy movie. You know your brokenness, disappointments and the pain of your loved ones.

If we dare to look at the world, our hearts ache even more. People suffering and dying unjustly.  Wars, violence, terrorism, racism, starvation and so many tragedies everywhere.

How can we celebrate Christmas with all our unresolved feelings and places of hurt, sadness and pain for ourselves, our loved ones and the world?  Thanks be to God, Christmas is more than the right food, decorations, presents and relationships.

Jesus came vulnerably as a baby in weakness, being born in a stable to a virgin.  He knew what it was like to be born of an unwed mother and experience life as a refugee.  He knew what it was like to be beaten and tortured to death.  He knew the emotional pain of misunderstanding, loneliness, rejection and betrayal. Jesus was single, and didn’t have children or grandchildren.  Jesus experienced what it was like to feel like God and everyone left him as he faced death.

In His death, Jesus took all our sicknesses and diseases upon himself.  He took strokes, mental illness, depression, cancer, abuse and addiction.  He understands our weaknesses, brokenness, disappointments and loneliness.  He experienced death for us and God raised Him from the dead. Death and sickness have no power over Jesus. We can invite Jesus into our suffering and He will show us He is present.

Jesus is with us always even when we are houseless, in the hospital or in prison.  Somehow Jesus can care for each of us but also care for everyone who is suffering in the world.  Because of Jesus, we have HOPE for ourselves and this world to have love, joy and peace.

Feeling displaced at Christmas can be a great gift for us.  It is a reminder to us that life is more than the right food, presents, financial situation or relationships.  Our joy and satisfaction in life comes from being connected to Jesus, worshipping Him and receiving from Him.  This is good news for us and also for our loved ones and the world.

Thank you Jesus for coming so vulnerably, in great weakness and being willing to be displaced in every way! Forgive us for finding greater joy in family, friends, food and comfort than in you! Give us strength to let go of any securities that replace joy and faith in you and when we find ourselves in need, let us rejoice that you are our rock and refuge!

One amazing week!

9 Sep

Adventures with Jesus are never boring and I am so thankful for this amazing week!   About a week ago I flew in on Thursday night and Margie and Tina hung out with me till 2am as we got to talk about all that God has been doing in our lives.  I flew in a few days before RLT to officiate at my cousin Shirley’s daughter’s wedding.  After the wedding rehearsal on Friday evening in Marin, the wedding on Saturday was perfect!  I enjoyed my new role of officiating at a wedding with family and drove out from SF with mom.  It was so special to celebrate with Janelle and Clifford and I could still remember when Janelle’s parents got married and knew Janelle her whole life.  The reception and evening was beautiful and we had fun hanging out with my sister Verna and Shirley’s gang as well as all the relatives.  That evening I was still so excited and saw that I along with my two older cousins, Elaine and Pauline, couldn’t help but post our wedding pics on Facebook.  Some comments from them cracked me up… my cousin Pauline said “amazing how you got all these nice pictures and then did a really great job officiating all at the same time.  Elaine responded by saying “she’s younger than us and she’s use to an IV pace of moving around!”.

IV flew me out for the regional leadership meetings and I got to attend and officiate the very special wedding but God opened more doors for me.  After a wonderful worship time at Grace Fellowship and the afternoon with the parish group at Tina and Craig’s house, I was able to be at the Grace Fellowship youth retreat and partner with and encourage Tina.  God gave me a message from Mark 4,inspired by my pastor Jordan.  I shared that Jesus is powerful to still and bring us through any storms that we are facing.  After I shared this word with the high schoolers and then they shared vulnerably about the storms that they were facing, they prayed for one another and we got to worship God together.  I got to pray for a youth that was adopted and struggling with rejection from his birth mom.  I was honored to see God’s work continue through me after youth camp, and to see their faith renewed at the youth retreat.

The following day God opened the door for me to be with the Princes and Taylors.  I thank God that both Mary and Dave whom I have been praying for are doing so much better.  Dave was present and seemed to enjoy our time together and Mary was still struggling but wanted to do more walking practice.  Mary Taylor brought ribs for dinner and as we ate, we remembered some of our crazy stories from the Silver Ave era, stories from over 35 years ago.  We laughed about so many of the times that we just jumped into crazy needs… like taking in Shirley the homeless lady or Semiramis who was just about to give birth and had her 5 year old son and then we had to bring her up to Eureka as she got back together with her transvestite husband.  We never knew back then, the journey that God would have us take and where we would be today, especially the very difficult challenges and situations that the Princes and Taylors find themselves in now.

As I entered the regional leadership team meetings up at Alliance Redwoods, I decided to give it 100%, to be fully prepared, fully engaged and to give my all.  I chose to love and jump in and not give into rejection or a feeling that I’m different or I don’t belong.  As I kept chosing to participate with God and jump in, God was faithful and filled my time with significant times with people, like prayer with Peggy, sharing my story with Becky, encouraging Crystal about San Francisco and catching up with Collin.  I found the training that was offered helpful and practical and felt like God spoke as we studied Ephesians 2 together.  In every conversation, I tried to participate.  When I left them after our third day and dinner together, I was filled with joy, love and thanksgiving. God showed me that as I sow I will reap.  What I chose to give is how I will receive.

Before flying out tomorrow and because I was allowed to leave RLT early, I got to be at Aunty Jane’s funeral with mom and the family. Some odd Chinese traditions, $10 on your car for driving to the cemetery, taking the picture of the dead person home before you eat lunch with the family and buying candy with the lei si that we got. It was weird to see her family that had so much drama with her act like they were truly sad to see her go.  Lord come and bring your healing.  I’m thankful to encourage Helen and Tom, be with family and Katrina who was miraculously healed of her stroke.  It was also neat to be at mom’s parents grave and remember the roots that I am from.

God always gives me such sweet times with mom and I am thankful for all the time that I get to spend with her… sharing the days at the wedding and at the funeral, dinners together and taking her shopping at Sunset market.

It is always a blessing to spend time with Sharon and having coffee with her was so refreshing as we talked about the joys and struggles of life and ministry.  We both agreed that we love being a pastor for others and considering spiritual formation in people’s lives but handing $ and other details are so hard for us.  What a blessed partnership after all those years.  I am also so blessed that Grace will also take an offering for IV Hawaii during Christmas.

Along the way, I felt so joyful being able to help mentor Sandy with the women’s ministry and Tina with the youth.  I felt thankful that I could pray with and encourage my closest sisters in Hawaii, Laurie and Moani and all the challenges that their families were facing.

If I tried to organize everything that happened this week, it would have been impossible. What is beautiful is that life with Jesus is truly an adventure. When we are open to the Holy Spirit, there is never a dull moment and we see how God is always at work.  Because I flew here for 4 days of meetings, I also got be at a family wedding and funeral, minister with the Grace youth and spend time with family like Mary,Tom & Dave & Mary and Emma, Margie & Tina, Sharon and still connect with some of my dear and close friends and family in Hawaii.

What was prophesied to me when I moved to Hawaii 24 years ago is true. Though I was crying and felt that the break was so hard to leave SF and the whole life that I had after 37 years, the woman praying for me prophesied that God would double the support that I had in SF even if I left everything to follow him to Hawaii.  His word is true and my relationships and partners in SF continue to grow and I have a whole full and rich life in Hawaii with so many families that I am a part of. Somehow both of those worlds keep growing and I can barely keep up.  I realize I am on three teams that I am intimately tied to… Regional Leadership team, Hawaii Area Team and the Bluewater Core Team.  Only God knows how I can do what I need to do and I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit that will take us where we need to go.   I leave tomorrow am with a full heart of thanksgiving and joy.

Though I’ve  crossed the Golden Gate Bridge 6 times and the Bay bridge 2 times, one thing remains the same at the beginning and end of this trip, I got 3 hours of sleep before I came and tonight I hope to get 3 hours of sleep before I leave tomorrow.  God is good!


Pop’s final days in his journey to heaven!

9 Sep

On December 30th my dad had a brain bleed and was taken to ER.  They gave him an MRI, saw that he had a blood clot and he had brain surgery that same day. He was in ICU for 17 days at St Mary’s.

Wed December 30, 2015

What a shock when I was ready to enter into the morning session Urbana on Dec 30 and I received a text from Verna saying that pop was vomiting and had the runs, couldn’t move and didn’t want mom to call 911. Then I heard my cousin Matt called and got mom to call 911 and pop was taken to ER. I saw Brennan and Dani E and told them what happened and they prayed with me for pop.  God also provided Craig to come down to the hospital.  God was graciously providing`Ohana when I couldn’t be there. Then I got the text that it was a brain bleed and that he was going to have brain surgery as we were anticipating an invitation for many to come into the kingdom that morning at Urbana. All I could do is trust Jesus and pray.  That was a crazy morning cuz I also got called out to a prayer ministry emergency and had to leave the session early to pray for a woman who was sexually assaulted.  Yet God gave me perfect peace.  There were many new believers that morning as I was in my crisis prayer ministry and asking people to pray for my dad.

Friday Jan 1, 2016

I hosted 20 students from IV Hawaii and Urbana in Sf for 5 days and we all arrived in SF at various times on Jan 1.  Late that night after all the students were settled in at Grace Fellowship, Moani, Keoki and I went to St Mary’s after visiting hours around 8:30pm.  After trying to figure out how to enter since all the doors were locked, we found a way to enter through the parking garage.  I’m so thankful that Moani and Keoki were with me in my first visit that night.   We were so glad to see pop and share with him how much we love him and were praying for him. It was Keoki’s first time meeting pop. We held pop’s hands, talked with him and prayed. I was so thankful that they got to visit often until they left on January 8th.

Sat Jan 2, 2016

The next day God provided through our friend Lance at Grace Fellowship, a double decker bus to take the students and staff to the Golden Gate Bridge.  That freed me to be with mom and pop for the whole day.  I took mom to the hospital that morning.  I met Pat, his nurse who was an IV alumni with Nurses Christian Fellowship.  Her mentor was Lynn who I just saw at Urbana and she was present at Mary Taylor’s wedding.  Craig and Tina not only went with our students by bus to Fisherman’s wharf to catch the double decker bus, they came right after to the hospital to visit pop. Then they took mom and I to a Vietnamese restaurant to eat lunch and mom got to share her testimony with them. Tina told pop we were going to do a vegan diet and she thought he laughed.   Angela and Christine drove all the way up from San Jose to visit pop.  Lance came with Geoffrey and Kristen, pop’s first two grandkids.  They visited pop before Geoffrey left for Colorado. Then Lance took mom and I along with Geoffrey and Kristen out to dinner at a yummy hot pot restaurant.  Pop was very responsive and squeezed our hands tightly and when I asked if he knew that I came last the night before with Moani and Keoki, he squeezed my hand.  Colleen, Doug and Shirley came.

Sun Jan 3, 2016

Mom gave me $ when I got to SF and said that pop wanted to treat the IV Hawaii group to a meal in SF, so pop treated our group to lunch in the mission district on Sunday. It was after a wonderful time of worship at Grace Fellowship sunday with the IV Hawaii gang bringing Holy Spirit Fiyah during the prayer hour.   Moani, Keoki, Brennan and I went to visit pop in the afternoon.  When we arrived there was a big group of Cumberland people that came to visit pop.  They were the ones who came to pop and mom’s house for Christmas caroling. When we went into pop’s room, he had his breathing tube out. I was shocked and he looked great.  It was a beautiful time of prayer,  and Keoki had his ukulele and we sang “There’s something about that name” with other songs.  At the end of the song, pop motioned like he was clapping his hands.  Verna was there and her friend Jennifer who is a nurse came that day and often to check on pop.

I didn’t get to visit pop on Jan 4th cuz I took the students down to Fisherman’s wharf and we had our Polynesian feast that evening.

Jan 5-13:   Over the next nine days, I went every day with mom to visit pop.  Other highlights included another time of worship with Keoki playing the ukulele and we sang Majesty, O Oe Io and other songs and pop seemed to be moving his hand a lot like he was enjoying the beat and really enjoyed the music.  Ronnie came often after work.  Paul Hom was having his PT appt and came up to visit pop. Pauline and Ron came with their family. Verna brought Kelly Jo.  Margie came with the girls to visit and Alice lee came.  One day 4 pastors came, Bruce and Lisa, Lawrence Fung and two others.  Elaine and Jimmy Joe, Beverly Wong came and many others.

It was hard to see pop lying in ICU over these last 14 days. His lifeless body seemed so helpless as he was unable to speak and share his mind and heart.  I didn’t like seeing his hands tied to the bed so that he wouldn’t pull out his tubes.  I didn’t like seeing the breathing tube in his mouth and the feeding tube in his nose. Pop was created for more than this.  Daily it was so precious to hold his hand and feel the tight squeeze of love whenever I was there.  Though we were not certain then about the effects of the stroke, we felt confident and certain that pop was able to hear us and receive our words, love and presence.

When Amber said in Chinese we all love Jesus, pop got really excited and slapped his hands.  We sang there’s something about that name and O Oe Io.

God gave me the most precious time of of inner healing and deliverance with pop the first time I was alone in the room with him.  I told pop how much I appreciated him in my life all these 60 years.  Pop always supported me and were an example to me of a man of faith, especially in the last years when he couldn’t see. What a privilege to pray over his whole life, the places of pain and the challenges he faced as a young school boy when he came to SF as an immigrant and then when he went back to China and got mom as his bride.  I got to pray for his healing of family tragedies and confess the sins of our ancestors and also let pop know that he is forgiven in Jesus name.  Releasing negative things and receiving positive things from God. It was a beautiful time of inner healing and deliverance.

Pop was fidgeting around so much and wanted to pull his covers off all the time.  Every day it seemed like he got weaker and weaker.  And then on Jan 14th,  I tried to see what pop’s comprehension was… asking him if pop knew I was there and then if he wanted to go to heaven, to 31st Ave or to stay at the hospital and pop couldn’t respond.  And when I asked pop if he loved Jesus or if you loved mom, he couldn’t respond.

God gave pop such a wonderful team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists who cared for him so well.  God gave him a hospital that was so pleasant… taking the elevator up to 220, walking in without calling the nurses cuz I am family.

So amazing and it was wild that when pop was in ICU I preached at Damon Au’s church and saw Frances Joe and Phyllis and Cons.  And Frances said “your dad was the dad that everyone wanted”.

On Jan 13, The day I visited alone without mom, I told a woman doctor that we had limited code because of pop’s medical directives. She was a Christian and arranged for our family meeting the following day.

I never expected that pop would become so weak… but it was so special to have him hold my hand and squeeze it, and his squeeze was so strong.

thursday Jan 14, 2016

It was special that David Alvarez got to come in and pray for pop after we had lunch together and before our family meeting.  As soon as David started praying, he sensed God was saying “James, come home, come home” and pop answered ” I’m coming”.  What a beautiful call from our heavenly father.

Lance and Suzanne played Suzanne’s new CD for pop.  It was mellow reflective music and she dedicated the CD to pop.

God gave us the right doctor for the family meeting that afternoon. We never saw him before or after that meeting. He knew how to ask each of us to share what we saw happening with pop and he was a Christian. After listening to all of us, he told us that from his observations and experience, pop’s brain condition was irreversible. It was a miracle that he shared the word “irreversible” which Mary Taylor says is not something that doctors feel free to say.  But in pop’s medial directives he made it clear that he didn’t want to be in kept alive by machines if his condition was irreversible, “so we bless you and let go so you can go to your father’s arms… no more suffering and pain, not more tubes and needles, we release you to be in the Father’s presence, whole and complete.  You will be feasting at the table of the Lord and we will join you when our days are done.

I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone. I already feel the emptiness of this house without you.  It’s so quiet.  The TV, radio and computer isn’t on.  You were always in touch with all the news around the world and every issue that was happening.   You and mom listened to Christian sermons from the internet… Bluewater, New Hope, Cumberland and so many others.   You always watched the news and knew what was happening.  You and mom were always talking to each other and you began the day in prayer together and ended the day in prayer together.

I’ll miss your interest and questions about all that happening with me and InterVarsity, your ponderings about the newest strategies of life.  Your interest about all that my friends are up to.  I will miss you eating your dinner in your bowl and your love of steaks.  Our family dinner will never be the same without you.   Your chair at the table will be empty and we will remember your presence.  How amazing that at 87 you did not lose any of your cognition.  You had a great memory and you were always trying to learn”.

We contacted the relatives and close friends and told them to visit Friday Jan 15 and possibly Sat but we didn’t know how long pop would be with us.
That night the doctor called us and told us that pop had a blood clot in his leg and asked if we wanted surgery.  Mom and I agreed to not do that.

Jan 15, 2016

As I began this day, I prayed, “Jesus, I release pop to you for your full healing in Jesus name.  I know lance isn’t there yet.  Give him special revelation and comfort. We pray for unity in Jesus name.

I don’t know what today holds but I know God, you hold our future…”

God gave us the most amazing and awesome day with pop in his last day at ICU. Thank you Jesus for each person that we got to see and each amazing way that you worked.

When mom and I first got here, two uncles from the China came who wanted to pay their last respects to pop. They didn’t stay long and I heard they didn’t say much. It clearly shows the difference from those who have hope and those who don’t know Jesus.

Thanks God for bringing Paul Hom & Debbie Au here at the same time and in your planning they left together and Debbie took Paul out to lunch. Debbie was interested to only pray for miracles and even resurrection from the dead but not releasing people into heaven. And then she asked if pop was ready for heaven.

A sacred moment was when I asked pop if he was ready for heaven and he raised his arms up and then I said ready to praise Jesus and say hallelujah, and he kept his arms up in the posture of praise.  Just then Pauline, Ron and Jr came in and witnessed that. Then we asked pop again, “are you ready for heaven?” and then he raised his hands up to the heavens again!

Pauline said she remembered pop taking her to her first Sunday school class at church. So many of the relatives came in and said “uncle James, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know Jesus”  Then I reflected on how pop was the first Christian who came to know Jesus and when I was born there was no one that was a Christian and now everyone knows Jesus, Emmanuel fellowship and even the second generation and now the third generation. We are here spiritually because of the commitment of the prayers of those who have gone before us.

It was great to see Jr who I haven’t seen n ages and he looks exactly the same, but has four children with the youngest being 15.

Thanks abba for all those who comer by today. Thanks for bringing Matt and Jeanette and Emilio and Doreen and Wing and Elaine and Bruce and even that Brandon called. I see that my dad was the ringleader of the relative clan and all the nieces and nephews were touched by his life.

Then the big miracle of the day. When lance finally got here and we (including Ronnie and Suzanne) met with all the doctors, God moved in lance and Suzanne’s heart to be ready for pop’s departure, that everything changed because of the blood clot in the artery. They were ready to send pop into comfort care and Lance asked us all what we thought. I see you God raising him up as a leader now that pop will be going to heaven, Lance is standing up in more ways. Thanks for the way that he led and said lets have everyone gather in the room and worship and prayer so they can leave if they want. Lance asked Matthew to bring his guitar and possibly got inspired by Keoki. Thanks God for that special time of prayer where we were able to thank and appreciate pop and commit pop to you and also that we were able to grieve and let him go.

Thanks God that Shirley and `Ohana came and her mom got to pray the very special prayer over him in Chinese and even Justine was said and Jameson and Doug also came. How beautiful that the whole family came to say good bye. And it was so precious when Shirley thanked pop and said say hi to my dad. So many of pop’s friends are in heaven… Warren & muelin, Neil, Paul, smith Jang, Peter and Vivian, Raymond Wai…. Thanks that Judy and her husband came and after joking w pop she was really sad to say goodbye to him. There were so many people from cumberland that came to spend time with pop.

It was so special to share time with Rev Chan. He met pop when he began Cumberland and they’ve known each other for 50 years and it was a grand finali that Rev Chan got to share what he was trying to do in china in the next ten years not just save China but transform China. How amazing that when they gave 100 water pumps to one poor village in China, then 90% of the people became Christians. Thank you for his vision that after 22 years at Cumberland then he went 22 years with agape and now he sees the next 22 years to share the love of Jesus. Thanks for the cross he gave pop to wear on the day of his burial. partnering with rev chan till death and beyond.  thanks that Craig and Tina came late and Craig got to jump in with the entrepreneurs like rev chan and Lance. All those years that I had a negative view of rev chan because of bob and now I see his heart, his vision and his capacity and heart for Jesus and the kingdom.

When Rev Chan and mom and Verna left, they took pop off the breathing machine.  When Craig, Tina and I came in, pop seemed like he was breathing so peacefully, his arms together and comfortable.  Lance and Suzanne came back in to see him and then they left and Tina and Craig left before midnight.

It was special to google hang out with Moani, Keoki and Moani’s dad and have them thank pop and pray for him over the phone.

Then pop got moved upstairs around 3am.  room 746 is so different, so peaceful and quiet.

“now pop and I are spending our last night together. It’s interesting that I can’t remember too many memories between him and I when I was a child or teen, though he did take us to the park and to mt hermon.

pop, you were always a leader, taking us to Washington park, church, mt hermon, leading the relatives into the kingdom, being the strong one that everyone depended on. Thank you. your breathing is more shallow, your legs are cold and your body is slowly shutting down.”

what a precious time of playing all of my favorite worship songs with pop. I started with good, good father and thanked pop for being a good, good father to me and all of us.  And thanking him for his love for me, that’s who I am. I played It is well – bethel, Thank you with ray boltz and that I was able to thank pop for all that he did, teaching sunday school, giving to mission’s, always being someone who was excited about the next generation and young people growing in their faith.  I got to play soon and very soon, my tribute, Holy Spirit Fiyah and other songs and what a precious time of worship and prayer with pop.

I started praying and releasing pop to heaven and eternity, but then I noticed that he kept breathing, so I went back to my chair and tried to snooze.

Jan 16, 2016

Thanks lord for a beautiful night with pop and now it’s 8am and a new day is here.

Thank you Lord for all those that have been so faithful in supporting us, loving us and praying for us!  I took some time to send some texts and emails to those that were praying for pop and all of us.

As the nurses came in to do their work with pop, I noticed that his breathing was deep and loud snoring like when the breathing tube first was removed.  So I texted Lance and Verna and asked them if either of them wanted to spend the night with pop if he was still here.  Lance responded and said that he was glad to spend the night.

A little after 9am some visitors arrived to visit pop.  It was Joanne and her son Vincent. She knew pop for 35 years and she shared that pop was always so kind to her three boys as they were growing up. She was part of the Chinese congregation of Cumberland.  I told her that though pop was sleeping (we could hear him snoring away), he was able to hear everything that we shared with him so she could speak freely and by faith pop would hear whatever she wanted to say.

We stood next to pop’s bed and Joanne said “Hi James, this is Joanne”.  As she said that pop gave a loud snort and I said “wow Joanne, my dad is really happy that you’re here.”  As she continued to talk, I noticed that I didn’t hear anymore snoring.  That was odd to me so I waved my hand a few times over his nose and mouth to see if I could feel any air coming out of him.  After doing that for a few times and not really feeling any air, I said “Joanne, I don’t feel any air. I think my dad just went to heaven”.  We couldn’t believe it and she checked to see if she could feel any air coming out of his mouth.  We were all so surprised cuz it happened so suddenly.  One of my favorite songs “It is well – bethel style” was playing as pop went from earth to heaven.  The next song after that on Pandora was Oceans which talks about how our faith takes us deeper.

Then I said ” Joanne, my dad didn’t want to go to heaven and leave me alone in the night and he was waiting till someone was able to be with me before he left this earth to be with Jesus.  As soon as he heard you were here J0anne, he immediately felt free to leave this earth and be in Jesus’ presence.”  What precious daddy love.   My friend Frances Joe said my dad loved me to the end.

I texted Lance and Verna and told them that pop went to heaven.

I send out some texts and email updates to share this good new with those who had been praying for us.  I called Sharon Huey to let her know.

So we have this amazing and funny story of pop’s last breath on earth before he departed to heaven.  I believe it was pop’s time to be with Jesus when he began his shallow breathing and somehow he held on or told Jesus that he didn’t want to leave me alone when he went to be with Jesus.  So when Joanne and Vincent, the first visitors of the day came, Pop took his last loud breath and entered heaven.  That was about 9:15am that morning.

After the doctor came in and listened to his heart and pronounced his death officially at 9:35am, I got some more visitors.

My mom’s brother and family came in and I told them that pop just went to heaven.  In God’s amazing timing, He knew that Joanne was the mature Christian woman that was supposed to be there for pop’s homecoming.  My relatives who were not Christians would surely have been “freaked out” if when they arrived and talked with pop, he died

Then Mrs Wai and Alice and Daniel came to visit and I told them that pop just went to heaven.  Mrs Wai was able to witness to my relatives and then pray in Chinese.

As they were leaving, Lance arrived.   Then Verna came and we cried together.  Lance told us that on the way down, God gave him a vision.  He saw pop in glory and pop said “everything will be all right. It’s really nice up here.  I’m going to go look for my friends.”  That is especially beautiful because during my dad’s last years he was blind and now he can see and look for his friends in heaven!

Shortly after that, the hospital chaplin Linda came in and she prayed from the book of common prayer.

Before we left pop’s body, God gave Lance, Verna and I a beautiful time of prayer and thanksgiving together to honor pop as his three children.  We thanked God and thanked pop for the ways that he loved us.

Then we left to go to mom’s house to have lunch together and Suzanne and Ronnie joined us there to have our first meal together as a family with pop in heaven.

Mahalo pop for all the ways that you have loved me and poured into my life.  Mahalo for the ways that you have been so supportive and encouraging to me!  You have loved us, provided for us and led the way for us to know Jesus.  You came to this country and went through the pain and hardship of being an immigrant boy rejected in school because of your eyesight and being new to America.  You worked as a bus boy to support our family and God led you into His kingdom through Wilfred Hsu and you led us all to Cumberland where each of us made our own decisions to commit our lives to Jesus.

You struggled with your sight but you didn’t complain and continued to trust God and be faithful to love and serve him.  One great gift I have is that I got to spend so many days and nights in your home as an adult because I was living in Hawaii.  It was so precious to see you and mom pray together every single night and every time I left for Hawaii you and mom prayed for me and sent me off your love and blessing.

A few days ago, Lance sent me your video of when affirmed my ordination and blessed me as a pastor.  What every child longs for, his father’s blessing and affirmation of my life calling and ministry.

You always showed interest in my friends whether it was the friends I had in Cumberland that you always welcomed into your home,to the may IV students in SF and in hawaii you always welcomed into your home and life.  You didn’t mind the last Urbana gang, over 30 people in your living room sharing about all that God has done.  Even when you were in the hospital, you gave me money for the students from Hawaii to have a meal.

You sowed into my life and I thank you for all the ways you’ve been generous.

You took us to Mt Hermon for so many years and Ronnie Fong says that because of that he started taking his family to Mt Hermon.  You always valued family and wanted us to be close.

I am thankful for all the vacations that I got to share with you…. Epcot and the cruise to the Bahamas, Canada and Baniff, China visiting your village, Grand Canyon and all of your trips to Hawaii.

Maybe one of the reasons, its not so hard to send you to Jesus is that I feel that my life with you has been so full. I had countless times of talking with you about all types of topics and you always shared freely with every friend that came into this home.

what I shared in Facebook to honor my dad

“Thank you Jesus for the most amazing pop for almost 61 years! I am honored to be part of your legacy of unfailing commitment to Jesus, generosity of love and hospitality, dedication to family and church, fruitfulness in evangelism and discipleship, creativity, faith, wisdom and humor and hundreds of lives that are forever touched and changed by you! Thank you for always loving me, supporting me and believing in me! A hui hou… till we meet in Jesus presence! So thankful you are whole and celebrating with Jesus and with so many of your loved ones. I love you and thank you for loving me till the end! Thank you Jesus for the miraculous last day with pop in icu with family and friends and the intimate and special night I had with you as I was worshipping, sharing my heart with you and God and reflecting on God’s goodness to me and all of us through you! Honored to be your daughter! Thanks everyone for all your love, words of comfort and encouragement and prayers! We all feel the supernatural presence and leading of God through your prayers! Pop’s celebration of life will be in the afternoon of Jan 30!”





Circle of Life

9 Sep

Today I was the pastor officiating the wedding rehearsal for my cousin Shirley’s daughter, Janelle. This was my first wedding in SF and something about it was very different from the last wedding I officiated. I knew Janelle since she was born and though I haven’t seen her that often, I have known her through all the years of her life. I can still remember the cute baby she was and how excited her parents Shirley and Jameson were when she was born. Her parents just celebrated 30 years of marriage together and I remember being at their wedding when they were looking forward and hoping for the best. Now they are both retired and their baby is getting married.How time passes so quickly.

As I met the bridesmaids and groomsmen gathering for the rehearsal, I couldn’t help but remember all those times that I gathered to be at the rehearsal dinner and then the wedding with dear friends as they got married. How quickly life flies by us. Janelle and Clifford will make a commitment to spend the rest of their days together after dating for 10 years since she was 16. Then they will have children and their children will someday marry someone and I will probably be watching from heaven.

Next Friday I will be at my Aunt Jane’s funeral. She died of cancer and had some difficult challenges in her life, especially with the broken relationships in her family. I’m thankful she knew the lord and was glad to go be with Jesus and her husband and to escape all the pain she endured. We are losing more of our elderly generation to heaven… And there’s Aunt Esther who has alztimers at an early age. We will all be with the Lord one day and the time will pass by faster than we can imagine. How did 61 years go by so quickly? When will my day come?

We’re gonna all gather tomorrow to celebrate with Janelle and Clifford. I get the privilege to be the officiating pastor. Let your light shine Lord. Another family begins as we also send another family member to Jesus.

Lord let us number our days and live by faith. We don’t know how quickly they come and go!

“You’re a Mom… that’s your kuleana (responsibility)!”

9 Aug

Those words at the end of a conversation tonight with a dear friend resonated with me on a deep level.  What in the world was I doing attending the Explicit young adult conference full time over the last 3 days and then ending the night babysitting the beautiful children of some of our most dedicated leaders at Bluewater?  I’m single and 60, never been married nor have I ever given birth.

I was clearly not a college student or in my 30s seeking to learn about relationships and sex, nor was I interested in meeting a potential mate there. I was probably the oldest person there, but I found joy being there… hearing the teaching and seeing young adults equipped.  It was wild to have the first two talks given by the children of dear friends… Mark Palompo, son of one of my former students Mike Palompo over 35 years ago and Charis Logan who I knew since she was 9, daughter of close friends Joy and Cal Chinen who is now married to Marion Logan former staff with Chi Alpha at UH.  It was an amazing conference getting explicit about the differences between men and women, healing from abuse, pornography, homosexuality, finding a spouse, self image and worship with some upbeat anointed worship leaders.  It was awesome to have suggested Moani Nanod-Sitch to be a speaker and then to see her as one of workshop speakers, ministering powerfully and have her own reserved parking stall.

I got to see Michele’s vision come forth… her vision to be explicit about issues of relationships and sex for young people and this first conference for college students and young adults. I got to hear from my roommate Angel and other IV and Bluewater people what God was doing in their lives at that conference… ways that they were set free and healed.  I got to hear friends preach powerfully… pastors Tisha and Jason Lehfeldt, Steve Piech, Jordan Seng, Dan Chun and others.

Then I went to  babysit for the couple`s ohana group for their date night.  Funny thing after asking “everyone” I know, no one was free to help but TJ and then Johanna ended up helping too.  We left feeling thankful that it was so “easy” as the children all knew each other and had a good time. TJ set up everything  for them to have “fun” and they babysat last month.  It was great to serve together with my two dear friends TJ and Johanna!  Even the youngest kids didn’t really cry and Jojo Seng was the pipe piper for the children.  It felt good to serve the couples that work so hard at the church… the Chongs, Sengs, Cooks, Hamasakis, Thorneburnes and Yamamotos.

I didn’t fit into that ohana group cuz I wasn’t married nor did I have children, but I found joy being there to make something happen for them.  It was so special to see Sandy, Linda, Lisa and Sonya in dresses going out with their husbands.  I told them that they needed to keep growing in their marriage because all the young adults are aspiring to marry someone, have a family and be where they are so they need to keep growing and leading.  I was with young Benjamin who was 1 to children and young adults and parents serving in the church.  In God’s weird economy, I felt complete.  Not because I met my potential mate at the conference or got some wisdom on relationships and sex and not because I got to go out to dinner with my spouse.

At Explicit, God reminded me that He wants to take my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.  He reminded me of my calling when I was in my 20s to bring healing to the abused.  So many times, it has gotten so rough, messy and difficult loving both women and men who were abused, those sinned against and those who have sinned.  ouch. I also see that my calling is to help leaders walk their walk with God, to encourage and love them, to point them towards Jesus in every way.

Why do I find joy and completeness at the end of this day?  I’m not married or a young adult hoping for marriage and family, I don’t have a husband or children nor do I hope to go on a date, though I still hope to be married.

God has called me to be a spiritual mom and that’s my kuleana (responsibility)… to be equipped to see college student and young adults be healed, whole and transformed and have godly marriages and strong families and to serve God wholeheartedly.  To love the children of fellow leaders at my church so that they can go on a rare date together and build an stronger marriage and family… all for the glory of God.

It’s not so bad to not fit in… to be the oldest person at a young adults singles conference or the honorary member of the summer loving ohana group for couples to go on dates.  When you’re where God wants you to be and doing what He is asking you to do then you fit in because you fit in with God. You can find the joy of being in a family and of being a mom… of raising children, whether it be baby that needs to be carried, sisters that need not to fight, creating space for children to express themselves in art and watch a movie over pizza or to give myself to see young adults be healed and empowered for God’s purposes heading towards healthy relationships, marriages and families for the Kingdom. “You’re a mom and that’s your kuleana”

Thanking Jesus in a challenging week!

26 Nov

It’s early morning Thanksgiving Day 2014 and I am filled with so many mixed feelings… The unjust Ferguson verdict and all that followed this week, including the statement I just read from the SF Public Defender calling the grand jury’s decision biased. I am so grateful I got to be with a diverse Christian community at the Ferguson Prayer Vigil to seek God, mourn and bring our hurt and brokenness to the cross. Shortly after the prayer vigil when I was at my friend’s home, we heard a lot of helicopters and sirens. Protesters that marched down Telegraph vandalized some businesses including the Paint Store which was right around the corner and where I was earlier that day. Anger, rage and helplessness turned into violence and disregard for others. I am thankful that though the T-Mobile was destroyed right across the street from Ruby’s Garden, God’s grace and protection was upon this business seeking to be God’s light in Oakland.

So many things happening this week that seem so hard… It was hard to see my close friend still struggling after her unexpected stroke and then a fall which required hip surgery. Hardly able to walk, unable to be independent yet we pray for God’s presence to increase and that her left side will be fully restored. A friend who came by today told me how her dad’s health was fragile and he was just put into hospice. Tonight I got an urgent prayer request for my friend’s mom that was rushed from Molokai to a hospital on Oahu because of her heart. All week I’ve been praying for another close friend’s mom who had a stroke and is in a coma. Another dear friend continues to struggle with the painful effects of cancer in his body. My friend’s co-worker was assaulted in Oakland, beaten in the head and needing two surgeries. A brother in my SF church died early this week in a tragic head on collision that leaves two people dead. My friend’s daughter tells me today that as she was just about to take a walk, they found a dead body in the park in Oakland, an innocent teacher and writer fatally killed. Come Lord Jesus! We bring all this brokenness to you at the cross. Thank you Jesus that you carry all of this for us.

Thank you Jesus that injustice, sickness, suffering, depression, violence, anger and rage, broken relationships, addiction, death and disappointments are not too dark for you but that in every situation you are present and you will bring light and life. Thank you that you are our hope!

Thank you Jesus that you are transforming me and the people around me… my family worshipped together for the first time in 60 years. You were present with my family as my dad had his eye operation this week and we are trusting you to restore his sight. I was filled with joy to spend time with a dear friend who’s life is radically transformed from depression and anxiety to peace and security.

Our life situations may be peaceful or challenging. Things around us might be sad or joyous but one thing remains: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness O Lord!

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:10-12

Grieving about an Unjust System – Ferguson

24 Nov

I heard that it would probably turn out this way but I had a small flicker of hope that maybe things might be different. As I was listening to the verdict, I heard that the white officer, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man, was found not guilty. I was silent in disbelief as tears streamed down my face. Not again Lord….  

I grieve for Michael Brown and his family. I grieve that so many are judged and even don’t matter just because of the color of their skin. It seems impossible to stand up against those who hold the power in the system.  Not just individuals and relationships, but an unjust system of power and privilege that seems so hopeless to change.

What timing that this verdict comes at the end of our IV regional staff conference where we made so many gains in addressing unjust systemic power and gave the marginalized a voice that was valued and heard.

At our Asian Pacific breakout, God convicted me of how easy it is for me to not face the things that are so painful and difficult. It’s so much easier to just disengage and stay in my safe contained world.  That choice to just be an individual, look after myself and stay distant from the painful plight of my Black, Latino, Hawaiian or any oppressed brothers and sisters.  Jesus cares about justice.  He cares about those who suffer.  And when I share Jesus’ heart and do what He would do, I experience life because I am choosing love.

I am in SF where the pain is felt so much more intensely than in Hawaii though the evils of systemic injustice are practiced in beautiful Hawaii too.  Will I take a stand and choose to be uncomfortable?  Be direct on Facebook and in my conversations with others choosing to talk and take a stand about this unjust and broken system?  My staff partner overseeing Black Campus Ministries at UC Berkeley sends in a text, “let me know if you want to help”.   This is where the rubber hits the road, the intersection between what I believe and how I act.  It’s a bigger question than if I can do something specific to help her.  It’s saying yes for all situations of injustice and systemic evil.  When I say yes, I make myself vulnerable instead of choosing safety.  When I say no, I will miss out on God’s blessings and there will be no flourishing for me or anyone else.  It is inconvenient to say yes.  It was inconvenient for Jesus to suffer and die.  But as he died, we got to experience life.

So I stand with my Black brothers and sisters and all who are oppressed and suffer and I grieve with them and say Lord, we want a change in the system.  Justice, mercy and righteousness! Lord, let me share your heart and stand up for the things that you care about.

Aloha Brian Trainor

3 Mar

IMG_2660photo 3

Brian Trainor went to be with Jesus on my birthday February 19, 2014, a few days before his 35th birthday.  I, along with Moani Sitch got the privilege of flying out to New Jersey to his memorial and celebration of life service to remember him and be with his beautiful wife Amanda and son, little Brian.  This is what I got to share at the celebration of life service on Sunday February 23, 2014.

I thank God for the the opportunity to be able to fly all the way here from Hawaii. God provided a flight with miles the day that I began my travels. Though my airline left me in Pittsburg because we couldn’t land in Newark, I’m thankful that God made a way for me to get here with a 7 hour ride with strangers who became friends.  I’m sure Brian is laughing with me from heaven with my big adventure to get to his memorial.

God brought Brian to study at UH in Hawaii about 15 years ago and I had the privilege of knowing him since then. Both Brian and Amanda were actively involved in InterVarsity and Brian and Amanda are family to me.

photo 1securedownload

When you think of Brian in Hawaii, you may think of him surfing, skydiving, hiking and swimming…  yes he did all that, but I want to talk about something deeper that we got to experience with Brian in Hawaii.

I met Brian in InterVarsity Christian fellowship, a college ministry where Moani and I are campus ministers.  Shortly after meeting him, I invited him to my church Moanalua Gardens Missionary Church and his first Sunday there, our pastor invited anyone who wanted to put their full trust and faith in jesus to get baptized.  Some came prepared with an extra change of clothes and a towel but Brian took the plunge to get baptized in his Sunday clothes without any extra change clothes or towel. That’s how serious he was about his commitment to Jesus.  That day changed the rest of his life and eternity.

The words I share about Brian today are not just from me but represent many of His family and friends in Hawaii.  Brian loved God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.  In all the years I’ve known Brian he had a wholistic and practical faith in God. Brian who was exceptionally gifted and well rounded and could have pursued prestige and great success, but he chose to love God and use all god gave him to love and serve others with great humility.  Brian’s faith in God was practical and he put into action how to love people in a personal way but also he wanted to change structures and the world.  Brian had God’s heart for truth, love and justice.  He was not afraid to ask difficult questions to work out his faith in a real way.

He led our fellowship to respond to a tragic shooting in Russia by having us write letters and send lei and prayers to those who survived the tragedy. Besides majoring in political science, Brian also took EMT classes at a community college and he also led a Bible study there with our good friend Taian who was a teacher there. He spent one summer with InterVarsity in China seeking to love Chinese students with God’s love.  He cared for and wanted to bring a justice to those in need and also served as an assistant in the state legislature. He sought to respond to God in every aspect of His life.

In Brian’s years in Hawaii. He invested into relationships with depth and honesty and experienced the meaning of intentional community and brotherhood in Jesus.

I asked his best friend in Hawaii, Troy Phan to share a story.  This is a direct quote from Troy
“I met Brian in the fall of 1999.  I first met Brian at an IV activity.  I wondered to myself “Who is this goofball?”  Came to find out, I appreciated his corny jokes and dorky sense of humor, and he appreciated my stupid jokes.  From there on, we became good friends.  When we were with a group of our friends, we would be the only two laughing at each other’s silly comments, while the rest of the group would have that puzzling looks on their faces.  That was okay.  As long as we thought it was funny, then it was FUNNY.


One of the things that I admired about Brian is his spontaneity and passion.  We would have these so-called “study sessions” back during undergraduate school.  These sessions would be mostly talking, lots of questions, very little answers, and hardly any studying at all.  We would discussed the bible, our faith, feeding the homeless, making a difference in this world; among many other topics.  I was more of the slow down, let’s think this through, and how are we going to do this — kind of person.  He would be let’s do it now — kind of guy.

So one night, we cut our study session short, pitched in $10 bucks each, and went down to the Jack-in-the-Box and picked up 20 of the 99 cents sandwiches.  We would then head down to Ala Moana Beach Park and started to pass them out.  With only 20 sandwiches, our attempt at solving the homeless problem in Hawaii lasted less than 15 minutes.  But for us it didn’t stopped there.  We continued to discussed what we did, and how we could do it better next time, for the next several hours.

I am grateful for Brian being who he was.  I am grateful for he being a part of my life.  I am grateful for having found a great friend”

There are so many more stories about Brian and his life in Hawaii.  It is been my great joy and privilege to see God bring Amanda and Brian together in their college years as they both grew in faith and served in InterVarsity.  I’m thankful to have a key part in God’s bringing them together. Amanda was my housemate for about 3 years and  when I went on my first sabbatical, I asked Brian if he wanted to sublet my room for six months.  I asked both him and Amanda if they felt comfortable since they were about the same age and sometimes it’s awkward to live in the same house.  They both said ” no problem at all, he/she is like a brother/sister to me”.  Part way through my sabbatical, Amanda called me and said I have something to tell you.  I immediately said, ” you guys like each other and got together?”  I was thrilled when she said yes as I saw all that they had in common and what an amazing couple they could be.

Amanda, God made you to be the perfect person to be brian’s partner.  You both loved healthy eating, being active and you would always laugh with Brian.  You are strong, gentle and complementary to Brian in every.  You shared the same passion to love God and serve those in need and we were all honored to send you both off after marriage to serve in the Peace Corp in Panama.

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When I think of brian, I think of what was said about the great apostle Paul.

Brian, your life has been poured out as an offering to God. You have fought the good fight, You have finished the race and you have remained faithful to Jesus, Amanda, little B, all of us and countless others.  And now you are the first among us here today to received God’s prize for you Brian, His crown of righteousness.

You left way earlier than any of us were ready for…  We will always remember you and love you and your legacy will always Inspire us forever.
Thank you Brian!

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these pictures are from Brian’s last visit to Hawaii in February 2013