Lent Day 18: Nathan & Priscilla

I’ve fallen behind in my posts – so I apologize for that.  Today, we’re supposed to visit the Facebook page of our missionaries in Cambodia:  Nathan & Priscilla Chan.

I remember when I first met them in Cambodia.  I was immediately moved by the story of how God called them each to leave their old countries, families, and lives behind in order to serve ‘the least of these’ in Cambodia.  Meeting Cambodians helped me see the need and the hope.  Meeting Nathan & Priscilla helped me see what a distant spoiled Westerner like myself might be called to do.

To get a glimpse of what their ministry is like, read this article about Priscilla and her ministry with Hagar International:

Priscilla Chan was a corporate lawyer at a large international firm in Hong Kong and Beijing before she decided to change course and follow her heart. She had always believed she was destined to do more than just develop a professional career. Surely her gifts and talents were meant for more than just generating profits?

So in 2010, after finding her life calling, this perky young lady moved to Phnom Penh. Today Priscilla is a legal advisor with Hagar Cambodia, an NGO that serves survivors of human rights abuses, including human trafficking and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Qualified to practice law in Hong Kong, the UK and Australia, she now uses her expertise to counsel victims of child trafficking in Cambodia.

Lawyers always have a way with words, and here she talks to AmiraCulture about some of what she’s seen so far.

Her turning point
“I remember coming across an article on the internet, some news about a major operation cracking down on traveling sex offenders. And it talked about men being arrested and taken back to their home country. One of the men had actually been arrested in connection with the exploitation of a boy. And I remember reading that the boy was 13, and his mom had sold him to the man for $2.50 and a bag of rice. That was the like the turning point. That was the article that changed my life—because I just couldn’t understand it. For a long time I really struggled with—wow!—Cambodian parents really don’t want their children.”

Read more…

Lent Day 13: How to save the world

Save the cheerleader the most vulnerable, save the world

This week, the Lent Experiential Calendar calls us to “take up” a concern for Cambodia.  Today’s experience is to read through World Relief Cambodia’s website.

I went with my church to Cambodia last summer for a missions trip.  And we spent quite a bit of time learning about Cambodian history, its current struggles, and we got to see many of those things up close when we finally hit ground.  So nothing I read on the site was news.

But one thing struck me about WR’s approach this time around.  Their aid, services, and training are aimed almost exclusively at the most vulnerable half of the Cambodian population.  Now, it is nothing particularly noteworthy to send help to the neediest and most vulnerable.  After all, they are the ones that need it.  But what struck me was WR’s belief that the future of Cambodia depended on the uplifting of its most downtrodden citizens by Christ.  Allow me to let the Bunnath, Nareth, Nomroth, and Sokha, the WR Cambodia Directing Team use their own words:

The Kingdom of Cambodia still bears the scars of a troubled past.  Modern Cambodia has inherited a legacy of poverty, disease, and lack of education from a half-century of civil war, genocide, and political instability.

HIV/AIDS, poverty, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation especially of children and young women are today prevalent in Cambodia.  Many Cambodians face brokenness:  in their communities, in their families, and in their daily lives.  The loss of hope, opportunity, and recognition mar their identity.

To bring Christ’s healing, World Relief Cambodia has seen success in using a cell church model for local church growth – almost 10,000 new believers since These Christians now constitute over 2,000 local cell churches across five provinces.  We are investing in training these new cell church leaders.  These churches participate in other ministry opportunities in their communities, including outreach to others, sharing health lessons, and caring for the sick.

 In the future, we envision these groups of believers as agents of true holistic transformation in their communities.

The logical philosophy, the prudent philosophy, the dominant philosophy says something different:

save the cheerleader…
save the powerful…
save the influential…
save the educated…
save the well-resourced…
…save the world.

And don’t get me wrong, I think we need to see the humbling, heart-rending, and salvation of the movers and shakers of Cambodia (or any country, really; including our own).  Christians who have the privilege of power and access have the potential to do much good.  And yet at the same time, they have the grave potential of falling into the very same trap that has ensnared nearly all who’ve been given wealth, power, and fame.  Just think of the dramatic turn the Church took after the Roman Emperor Constantine “converted.”  Many of the most regrettable acts in Church history can be traced to that reversal of Christianity as the religion of the oppressed, to the religion of the powerful.

But more importantly, when we place our focus on the most powerful rather than the most vulnerable, we betray the story and the person of Christ, who made salvation possible, not through economic, military, or political conquest, but through his vulnerable defeat on the Cross.  Jesus recruited his most influential disciples from the most common of places.  He spent time with the powerful, but more often, he was associated with “the least of these.”  Through the weak and the foolish, he saw it fit to shame the strong and the wise, by using them as the bearers of his gospel.

So on this second week of Lent, I am reminded of the most vulnerable in Cambodia, and in the same thought, the power of Christ’s own vulnerability on the Cross.  There is hope for Cambodia, because the hope is already there, and it can be found in Christ

who walks the streets selling his body
who is daily lured into bonded labor
whose rice crop failed again
whose blood is filled with AIDS.

Save the most vulnerable.  Save the world.

Lent Day 11: Do something you’ve been avoiding

IMG_0587So the Lent Experiential Calendar says today to do something I’ve been avoiding or putting off. To be perfectly honest with you, I wanted to shave off my ‘stache. I am Chinese. I was not made to grow a ‘stache. It’s uneven, splotchy, and otherwise a distraction from more noteworthy things, like my fine round nose. But thus is Lent.

I was thinking of what I’ve been avoiding. The problem is, most of them have to do with chores, which is fine. My wife would’ve been quite happy to have me all caught up. And I will (so I say). But I thought I’d do get to something in one of my relationships that I’d been avoiding.

I brought up something that’s been on my mind with a good friend today. Won’t say what it is — it wasn’t anything that we needed to reconcile over. Just something that I know I needed to share out of concern and love. Something that I’d been talking to God about, but now needed to talk to this person about. But hadn’t really brought myself to do it. Because I was afraid. But Lent is a period to let go of things, like fear. Lent is a period where we are reminded to die to ourselves.

So I did.

And let’s just say… I’m glad I did.

Cus what I let go of, I received even more in return.

Lent Day 9: Fast one meal, pray instead

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  — Jesus

I did something today.  I’m not supposed to tell you.  But I looked fabulous doing it.

I’m not a huge fan of fasting, not the least of which because I’m a fan of food, of feeling satiated.  I used to fast for dinner, but since being married and having a family, I realize that fasting can make things weird during family dinner time.  So I fasted from lunch.

During my lunch break, I began with an extended period of just sitting silently before God.  Sometimes I forget how long it takes for my mind, my eyebrows, back, and shoulders, and finally my heart to really rest in the grace of God.  I felt hunger pangs here and there, but focusing on Christ diverted my attention.

I then turned to 24-7 Prayer International’s podcast:  Lent Day 8: Sent to Save.  The narrator turned our attention to the famous John 3:16-17.  And I was challenged to think about God as first and foremost the One who loves us enough to send his Son.  I’m embarrassed to say that the thought really struck me.  These days, I realize, when I think of God, I think of his mission, I think of being a part of his kingdom movement.  And I love that; it energizes me.  But before God is a God who sends, before he is a God who has a plan, before he is a God who dreams — he is a God who loves.  And he loves me.

The thought of God’s tender and inexhaustible love toward me arrested me.  How differently would I live, would I view and treat others if I lived in the constant awareness of God’s tender and inexhaustible love towards me?  The pangs of hunger would poke at me every once in a while and, in the moment, I found myself quite satisfied to deny my hunger so that I could feast on God and his love.  In that hour, I became truly convinced that Man does not live by bread alone.  Christ is more precious than gold or silver — but at that moment, more importantly, he was more precious than food.  And if you know me at all, that’s pretty DAMN PRECIOUS.

Now the challenge is, will he remain precious to me when I have food again?

Lent Day 8: Call someone you’ve fallen out with

I’ve been blogging about my journey through our church’s Lent Experiential Calendar.

An interesting preface: Our church small group talked about critiquing and redeeming the Asian idea of ‘face’. And so this practice of publicly blogging about my Lenten journey, I’m aware, walks this fine line of inviting others into my experience vs. social posturing/image management. Jesus, in fact, warned against praying, giving, or fasting for the wrong audience. And so I realize that I need to keep my heart and motives in check in the days ahead. And I am very open to your help.

Now back to today’s experience. Today we’re supposed to call someone we’ve had a falling out with to make amends. I’ve been thinking about this all day and (fortunately/ignorantly?) I haven’t been able to think of anyone. So I decided to turn to the person I fight with the most: my wife.

I interrupted my wife’s date with The Bachelor and asked if there was any unresolved hurt that I’d caused her in the past couple weeks. Fortunately/ignorantly? she said no. But she did share about a certain pattern of hurtful behavior, if left unchanged, would send me straight to Hades. Ok, that’s not what she said, but I appreciated the soft light she shined on the kind of husband I’ve been.

The hardest thing about patterns is that they are just that: patterns, habits etched into my interactions, often times unconsciously. And because this is in my marriage, it means that I have a habit of hurting my wife, often times unconsciously (which is no excuse). Our conversation reminded me that grace is not only about being forgiven, but it’s about the gift of self-awareness and repentance. Without the gentle prodding of my wife and the power of the Holy Spirit, I’d be running on autopilot in the worst way. And so I pray for grace. And after that I ask for grace again. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop asking, till Kingdom come.

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy on me

Lent Day 7: Declutter your room

We have a family of 5, so the house is often embarrassingly cluttered.  But I asked my wife if we could declutter our office, which is often a larger version of that kitchen draw that you hide all the random stuff in.  It’s usually quite an overflowing mess.

I like the idea of decluttering rather than cleaning.  Clutter has the connotation that there are things that are in the way, things that need to be removed.  I will be selling a bunch of books, we recycled tons of paper, threw away a huge bag of garbage, and did some re-organizing.  Did we hide some stuff away, yeah.  Is there still too much stuff, yeah.  Do we still have a few random piles of things, yeah.  But overall, we did decent job of decluttering.  It’s far from clean, but it’s far from cluttered:

Office decluttered

Some reflections, though:

  • It seems that there is always too much clutter.  And once we declutter, it’s bound to get cluttered up again.  The analog to my heart is so apt, it’s almost crude.
  • The hardest part about decluttering is that you have to choose to get rid of things. A few things, you cherish; but most things, you’re just afraid to throw away.  But you know what needs to be done.  I think sometimes, I need time to mourn before giving things up to God, but other times, I just need to stop thinking about it and just do it.
  • It feels nice to have more room.
  • Working on the room together with my wife gave way to some good conversation.  So often we are divided in our work and duties, meaning much of our home time is often in separate parts of the house.  And dinner is enjoyable, but with all 5 of us, it’s always a party.  But here, being just the two of us, and having a relatively mindless task to do opened us up to just talk.  No talk of the things we need to do.  Or even intentionally being caring.  Just talking about our day, our kids, about old pictures, about things we thought were funny.  It was quite nice; and it just happened.

Lent Day 6: Write a letter to God about the sins you want to die this Lenten Season

I was surprised by what I wrote to God.  I won’t be sharing it here since the internet is a public space.  But there is a certain attitude, emotion that I often overlook, but realize is utterly destructive.

Reflecting on your sin isn’t comfortable.
Discovering insights about your sin is even less so.

Lord, I give it up to you.
And I want to give it up, forever.

Lent Day 3 – The Mark of the Beast

StacheI haven’t quite begun the experiential calendar yet, even though I’m the one who created/adapted it.  So bear with me.

Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve decided to give up shaving for Lent.  How will you manage without your beautiful countenance?  I know, I know.  But kidding aside, I’ve given up shaving (1) because I was so moved by bearing the ashen Cross on my forehead all day I thought seeing my hairy face each morning and evening would be a strong visible reminder, again, of my unstately creatureliness; and (2) biblical folks have often given up the blade as a sign of mourning, sometimes mourning over their own sin.

Since my wife finds my blotchy growth patches unsightly, I may inadvertently be fasting from a few other things too.  But a promise is a promise…