friendlier Asian Americans

I’m a warm-fuzzy kind of guy; David Park called me on that recently. This past Sunday, I met up with Sam George, author of Understanding the Coconut Generation: Ministry to the Americanized Asian Indians, after church. I found out he was in town (I live in the metro DC area) and was thrilled we could find time to meetup. He’s done very well with his niche book, going on a book tour in 14 cities last summer and speaking at conferences about his well-researched book.

I wait patiently for him to finish several post-service conversations after he spoke at Greater Washington Mar Thoma Church that morning. I’m greeted by more than a half dozen South Asians there in the fellowship hall, old and young alike. I was there for no more than 10 minutes and was warmly greeted and invited into conversations. I’ve recently visited Asian American churches (that shall go unnamed) where I go ungreeted and don’t get conversations.

Over non-vegan lunch, Sam and I talked over many things about our mutual interests to minister to the next generation Asian Americans. His book’s research really brings to light the needs of the Americanized South Asians. Hmm, someone ought to do this for East Asians and Southeast Asians. About 10% of South Asians in the US are churched. Outside looking in, South Asians seem more connected than East Asians – they’re hosting a conference for some 200 next generation leaders this Fall in London and in New York City. Maybe I’ll drop in.

It’s not so funny that the moniker “Asian American” has been co-opted by East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) when in fact, the label encompasses over 34 Asian ethnicities. Even “pan-Asian” doesn’t really span across East + Southeast + South Asians in social or church contexts, and rebranding us as “Asian & Pacific Islander (API)” doesn’t help bring us together. So we all labor to figure out how to bridge the generations in our isolated ethnic-cultural contexts. We know we have more in common than we have different. Sam keenly observed that South Asians have much to learn from the Americanized East Asians; reading our (few) “Asian American” Christian resources gives a predictable road map for what’ll happen to South Asians in the near future.

Tonight I’ll meetup with my old pastor Arnold Wong. He officiated my wedding to Rachelle, when I crazily married her the day after graduating from seminary. I’m still crazy about her, with no particular future in mind, just the adventure of a wild ride through life.

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