Leading worship at a multicultural worship night. PC: Wheaton College Student Activities Office

Live to worship

7:23 PM – I fiddled on the violin as Henry set up the sound system and turned on the keys. The song began as a rehearsal for Sunday’s worship, but it morphed into something else. After ten minutes, it was a new song, and I removed my shoes.

Every third quarter note, the drum set emitted a crescendo like cymbals. The resonance of Henry’s keyboard traveled across the empty stage to make it ring and fill the room with the sound of ghost musicians. I harmonized in the microphone as Henry led the worship song. My voice filled the space with improvised lyrics, prayers to our Father in Heaven.

Eventually we brought the song back to the original lyrics, closing the song with a prayer paralleling the introduction. “I love the Lord for He heard my cry and He delivered me from my fear/ and He lifted me up higher and higher… I believe You move at the sound of my voice/ You heard my cry and You answered me… I just wanna thank You/ I just wanna praise You/ I just wanna sing a song of love and have Your heart be moved by mine/ O God, be moved by mine.”

The power of prayer, revealed by the Holy Spirit through human voices over electronic keys and soft percussion. The power of prayer, captured in lyrics written by covered and covered by Jaye Thomas, read in the combined quote above. The power of prayer, like a psalm, a form of writing that is itself a musical call to God.

7:48 PM – I slipped my bare feet into my shoes, he shut off the sound system, and we went home.


Worshipping with my friend Henry this Christmas break made me realize how much I miss my worship team in Illinois. It has only been a few weeks since we practiced, only a few weeks since we conquered finals and rode into Christmas break, but those weekly times of worship are precious to me. Every Monday we meet to pray, fellowship, and worship God through music. We practice our pronunciation and have fun on the glockenspiel as we prepare to lead our multilingual community in worship.

This year I prayed for a team of worshippers, people who would want to spend time with the Holy Spirit even if we did not have an event to prepare for that particular week. God answered my prayer and has blessed us all through our habitual times of fellowship with each other and with Him.

This January I have the honor of helping to lead worship for Snow Camp, a winter retreat. My team plans on attending the weekend event as well, although we will not lead the worship together. A colleague is organizing the time, but I have the privilege of contributing to the set and leading vocals. Preparing for this throughout the month of December has thrilled me because I anticipate the Holy Spirit’s presence and power at the retreat and desire to know the Spirit more even now.

One of my main purposes in life is to worship God through music and prayer. Worshipping Him renews the life in me since I am spending time communing with the one who gave me new life: Jesus Christ. What joy!

David and Asaph knew this joy when they wrote the Psalms. They knew God’s heart and His faithfulness as they sang songs of worship and praise, songs that begged for Him to intervene and rescue them, songs that always ended in some form of reflection on who God is. Songs of sorrow and songs of dancing. Prayers, put to music.

Israel Houghton sings it accurately: “To worship You I live / I live to worship You.” This is my purpose: to glorify God. This is the purpose of any Christian, in fact, through whatever gifts and privileges He has granted you. May the new year only increase your desire to know God’s heart and worship Him, the Almighty One.

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Three Words on Waiting

Waiting: it seems like the theme of my life. I was wait-listed twice before being accepted into my college. I have been waiting to find the right guy since high school. I am now waiting on my visa from the Democratic Republic of Congo so I can finally visit the country where I hope to live. Although I recognize I am by no means the longest-sufferer around, I feel that I have experienced a good amount of waiting in my short life, and I would like to encourage you in your times of waiting.

1. Waiting is frustrating.

Let me just put that out there. In this impulse-driven American society, even an hour can seem like an eternity. If I don’t want to wait sixty minutes to enjoy a home-cooked dinner, I will stick a potato in the microwave so I can eat in five minutes. Others may call in take-out or go on a Los run. When I see the little check mark signifying that a friend has read my message but then does not reply for a couple hours, the waiting makes my imagination go all sorts of places. (No, they don’t hate you, Skye. They’re probably studying and will reply later.)

And when you are waiting for something you have put your heart into, such as applying to college or for a visa, frustrating may not be an emotional enough word. Waiting can be worrisome . . . unless you realize that God is in control and has asked you to lay your burdens at his feet. In the words of Gospel singer Travis Greene, “He’s intentional, never failing.”

So what do we do in the meanwhile?

2. Wait actively.

In other words, waiting does not equal passivity. Let me be clear: I am not saying, “God helps them who help themselves.” That adage is not found anywhere in Scripture. In fact, that adage elevates humans to God’s level and limits him to a failsafe. In reality, we can see God’s help most when we are helpless. Jesus mentions this in Mark 2:15-17 regarding our need of God due to the sin we all have. But I have digressed.

While God is not our genie in a bottle that we call when we have met our limits, he is also not a genie who does everything for us if we do have faith. We still have lives to live while we trust him, and we can honor God by living lives worthy of Him (not loafing around waiting for him to do something magical).

In my current situation, I have done everything humanly possible to pursue my goal, but God operates on his own time and not necessarily ours. Sometimes there is nothing left to do other than wait for your visa with patience, faith and integrity – praying all the way.

Prayer should not a cop-out to avoid a particular task; rather, it is a powerful and effective tool we use when we come before the King of Kings. It is a pleasing fragrance to him. It is a way to beg our Abba for mercy and grace (and visas). No request is too large or small, but his answers come in his time. Hence the waiting again.

3. There is a purpose to the waiting.

A few months ago when I was in the middle of preparing for my summer trip overseas, a friend shared some encouragement. She and I were texting about a couple matters including my summer trip, and she talked with me about waiting. I did not understand why she brought this up since I was confident in my plans and excited for the summer, but now I find her words quite applicable.

This friend shared a song with which I was familiar through my worship team: “Sovereign Over Us,” The lyrics read, “You are working in the waiting/ you are sanctifying us/ and beyond our understanding/ you are teaching us to trust.” That sounds about right. I don’t understand why I must wait, but I do  know I must trust God. Then comes the promise in the chorus: “Your plans are still to prosper/ you have not forgotten us/ you are with us in the fire and in the flood/ you’re faithful forever/ perfect in love/ you are sovereign over us.” Amen.

Admittedly, I do not know the purpose to this wait. Neither does the organization I will be joining. But I know that if nothing else, God can use this time to glorify himself through all of us who are waiting — if we wait upon him.

 

Hold on to hope, friends. God is for us, and he will not fail his people. Pursue your God-given dreams and plans, and trust him in the process. And if you do not have a specific vision from Him now, honor God wherever you are. He is faithful.

Planks and specks: a response to criticism about the Asian American fellowship at Wheaton College

Ever since I came to Wheaton, students and staff have been criticizing Koinonia, the Asian and Asian American fellowship on campus, for being exclusive. A few people, some of whom I know and love, have had bad experiences in the group, and many students make assumptions about it based on what they viewed as Korean cliques on campus. But I’d wager many of these critics have never gone to an event or taken the time to know the purpose and people of Koinonia, which incidentally is composed of much more than Koreans.

I have been participating in Koinonia Large Groups for a couple years now, ever since Michael, my American friend of Chinese descent, invited me, an American of European descent. I’d like to tell you about the organization and its events to correct any toxic notions floating around campus. To start, Large Groups happen monthly. We usually play crazy fun, often awkward ice breakers – real ice breakers that create laughter and gleeful memories, not the basic what’s-your-name-and-major kind. We munch on snacks. We listen to a speaker share his or her testimony or speak on a given topic. (This last Saturday two Wheaton staff held a conversation on intercultural relationships.) The praise team often leads us in worship as well.

That’s why I fell in love with Large Groups last year—the worship. The prayer over and among us and the music we all sang together was powerful. Tangible. The organization also has Saturday morning prayer from time to time, and it begins each school year by praying over each class. I love how Koinonia prays.

Annual prayer over each class at the first Large Group, Aug. 2014. PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Annual prayer over each class at the first Large Group, Aug. 2014.
PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Koinonia also has the best fundraisers (better even than Mu Kappa’s, I regret to say, although our campus-wide game of Espionage is pretty epic, so be sure to join us in that this spring. Yet Koinonia is smart—I mean, who can resist bubble tea? Twice? Not me…and the Pepero sale is about to start—#sharethelove #withthispoorcollegegirl. 😉 )

The organization offers multiple activities throughout the year such as the Fall Retreat, Under-Upper Football and Family Group Olympics. Family groups, another name for small groups, generally meet weekly to establish close knit communities under the larger umbrella of Koinonia. Koinonia also hosts the annual Lunar New Year Festival, which was one of my favorite events freshman year. If you read my article for the Wheaton Record that year, you could not have walked away feeling excluded; the then-president made it his mantra that the event was open for the entire campus!

So why does Koinonia get such a bad rap? It’s one of the largest organizations in the Office of Multicultural Development, and Asians are the largest racial category on campus, so perhaps it’s simply better known. But it seems better known in name than in heart.

Last year’s president, Jen Fu, did a fantastic job of making me feel wanted in Koinonia, and this year I have several friends on Cabinet. I’m as involved in Koinonia as I can be without being in a family group. And as a participating member of the group, I would be blind if I overlooked the mission of this year’s Cabinet in relation to engaging with the broader campus. The Cabinet wants Koinonia to be a support base for Asian students yet not be these students’ entire collegiate world.

One last thing: Friends generally become friends because of some commonality. In sociology we call this homophily. In a place where one may be the minority, racial or cultural similarities can be an extra draw. Everyone needs friends who can understand each other. I rejoice that Koinonia is a context where a racial minority group in the broader U.S. society can come together in a sort of ethnic enclave and actually have power and can celebrate its various cultures in a safe space. This homophilous group only becomes cliquish and thus sinful when it excludes others. For example, white students group together all over campus. Why then do many people pick on the minority for this?

Kois have fun at the 2015 Fall Retreat PC: Wheaton Koinonia

Kois have fun at the 2015 Fall Retreat
PC: Wheaton Koinonia

I beg these critics to stop picking on the organization of Koinonia, other Asians or Asian Americans and specifically people of Korean heritage, who tend to be pegged as the most cliquish. Please examine your own friend group. Look for a plank in your eye before you point out a speck in another’s. Being composed of humans, Koinonia is not perfect, but the accusations against the organization no longer seem appropriate.

The Koinonia of today is vastly different than the one about which I’ve heard decade-old stories. If you have accused Koinonia of being exclusive, you should come to an event some time. See what it’s about. Break out of your own groups, and break the double standard that minority students cannot group together but majority students can. If you’re not Asian, getting to know people in Koinonia is a way to value other cultures, to learn about God’s beautiful diversity and to work towards multiculturalism for all. (And if you know me, you know I’m a strong proponent for multiculturalism!)

I plead with you to respect Koinonia and the people in it and to give the organization a chance before you judge it. Do not perpetuate incorrect, negative assumptions and stereotypes about other Asians on Wheaton’s campus either. As for Koinonia, the organization boasts phenomenal people who are truly building up Christ’s church. I ask you to do the same.

Mu Kappa: a taste of Heaven

We sat around the pot of fufu, a handful of sisters. First we wet our fingers in our bowls of homemade peanut soup. Then, protected from sticky base we were about to share, we reached into the communal pot to tear off a piece of the doughy circle of boiled flour. Next we dipped the fufu in our peanut soup and placed it in our watering mouths. Oh satisfying West African food. We savored our first bites, remarkably silent for a brief moment before we continued our chatting and laughing, inquisitive and alive, together.

Meet Mu Kappa, summer edition: a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, making hilarious memories every Sunday evening. We’re joined primarily and ironically by the fact that we have such diverse experiences as third culture kids.

An extension of a group that meets during the school year, our Sunday dinner fellowship this summer was composed of missionary kids with bursting passports, biracial college students with double citizenship and a residence outside the United States and friends whose parents who do business overseas.

I’m an American from Connecticut, but with a belief in the connectedness of people, an interest in the world and all its beautiful and diverse cultures and a leading to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I love spending time with these welcoming friends.

I am most filled with joy and laughter when I am with friends from Mu Kappa. I’m humbled by their open arms. We also support each other through celebrations and suffering. When we’re not laughing, snacking or going off on adventures, we share in each others’ struggles and lift each other up to our Heavenly Father. Last fall, we held prayer vigils for a friend whose family needed the Holy Spirit’s intervention. More recently, my Mu Kappa friends have distracted me when I was in physical pain. They also helped me with cooking and cleaning each week that I hosted the group. We’re family.

Mu Kappa is an extension of the global church. We come from Pacific islands most people have never heard of, South American jungles, Chinese cities, spiritually parched Europe and the 10-40 window. Korean Americans from Africa and China and the Middle East, Indians from Eastern Europe, European Americans from every region of the world—representing all corners of the earth, we come together to feast and share our stories. We worship and praise our marvelous Creator. We ask each other questions and care for each other deeply. We are the Body of Christ from around the world, a joyful and tight community composed of all nations, coming together at college to glorify God through our shared lives.

I’ve seen a sneak peak of Heaven.

African Leadings

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Photo credit: http://www.toonpool.com/user/2442/files/africa_635355.jpg

I have wanted to be a missionary ever since I was a child. God instilled the desire to share the good news of Jesus to all creation from the moment I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved, and I pray that I will act on that conviction through evangelism and future missionary work. I figure that if missionary work is part of my job, I will have to evangelize and will be forced to remember and proclaim the Gospel!

I have loved Africa ever since I was a child as well. I went to Kenya when I was ten-almost-eleven, and that encouraged my love for the continent, but I think I was interested in it even before I visited. I know that I do not love Africa on my own; God has called me there and continues to call me there.

When my focus drifts from God, sometimes He flashes an outline of the continent in my head, and I joyfully remember where He has called me, the greater purpose in my life. God recently gave me another vision or image as well.

The latest image consists of my hand and a black African woman’s hand woven together. We are walking, holding hands, and we are friends. Perhaps I am sharing her burden, as Galatians 6 commands; perhaps she is sharing mine. She is an image reminding me and encouraging me to my future beyond college and the U.S., and I look forward to meeting my African friend.

People ask me where I would like to go in Africa. Some disbelieve my call there, but most people I meet encourage me and are excited. My answer to their location question is unknown. I am interested in central and eastern subSaharan Africa, although I do not fully know why.

I could be more interested in that side of the continent because I visited Kenya seven and a half years ago. I am certainly more interested in the countries with the darkest skinned people, for I have always been attracted to black skin.

I told God that I would go wherever He wants me, even if that means a lighter skinned, Muslim country in northern Africa, however. As I write this, I realize that I did not tell Him the same for western Africa and the southern half of the continent; I shall pray now for Him to open up my heart to those places.

But could my interest in central and eastern Africa — Uganda, Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Kenya, and perhaps Tanzania and the CAR, et cetera — be from Him just as He has led me to Africa as a whole? The more I look at a map of Africa and ponder it, the more I am inexplicably drawn to central and eastern Africa.

I am excited to see God narrow my interests a bit. Reflecting on what I studied this past year in my multiple college papers that I chose to write on Africa, I noticed that they all had something to do with refugees. Additionally, I am currently interning at Lutheran Family Services, a refugee and asylee service, and loving it.

After college, I would love to get married and have a family, live in Africa, write print journalism, and do some form of missionary work.

Today my refugee friend told me to go to Rwanda. He was speaking of its beauty, as it is “the land of one thousand hills,” but when he found out my career goals, he admitted that there is much about which I could write and tell the world as a journalist, and he told me about the need for religious classes to be reinstituted in schools there.

My friend was socialized having a religion class from Kindergarten through tenth grade in Burundi, up through 1991. His final two years of secondary school did not include the over-an-hour long classes on Christianity, Catholicism, or religion, and his twelve year old daughter, a newly arrived refugee in the U.S., has had none.

I will continue to study Africa, particularly central and eastern Africa, and pray about God’s future for me. I recognize that I should also begin to learn kiswahili, kinyarwanda, or some other language spoken in Africa despite not knowing specifically where I will go yet. I hope to visit the continent again in the next few years, and I look forward to learning more about refugee and immigrant situations and the cultures represented by my African friends who are now present in the U.S.