Who Am I? And What Do I Want?

Trout Island, MI

Years ago, I was a graduate student at Wheaton College, taking a class in Interpersonal Communication that was famously known as “The Island Course.” The professor would personally fly the class, two by two, in his twin-engine propellor plane to Trout Island in the northern part of Lake Michigan, which his family owned. As islands go, it was tiny, but still roomy enough for one grassy airstrip and one casual summer home with enough beds for our entire class of 9 students, plus our professor. Think of it like ten days of “Survivor”, without the risk (or blessing!) of being voted off.

It was during this course that I was introduced to the “Who Am I? What Do I Want?” exercise, in which you would pair up with another person and ask them these two questions, then switch, then keep going for as long as you desired. What we found is that as we kept answering the same questions over and over again, in time we would reveal layer upon layer of information, much of which we had never revealed before. Most of the pairs conversed for hours and found themselves in tears before the end of their time, my duo included.

And while I cannot replicate the experience here, my hope is that as we use this blog to share both who we are and what we want to see happen or change in the world, we will be able to do so deeply and openly, with grace, compassion, and understanding, and that this would become a safe place for us all to reveal ourselves and get to know one another–contributors and commenters alike.

“Who am I?” I am currently calling myself a “writer,” although writing is just one of my many wide and varied interests. I have finally written one Jeremy Lin-related post; authored one book (The Missional Mom) and co-authored another with a group of amazing Asian American leaders and pastors with whom I was deeply honored to work (Growing Healthy Asian American Churches). If all goes well I’ll be at work on another book this spring and summer. In my previous journalistic life, I worked at Christianity Today and re:generation quarterly. But I have secret dreams to 1) write an Academy-award winning screenplay someday, 2) start a business again someday (I have an MBA in entrepreneurship and once launched my own dot-com business that is no more…that is a story for another day!), or 3) finally declare victory over the daily beast that plagues me (otherwise known as “laundry”).

The Lee Family at Moody Bible Institute

But for now, my daily life now is largely consumed by mothering and homeschooling my three boys (4th grader, 1st grader, preschooler). I’m a second-generation Korean-American, married to a second-generation Korean-Canadian (the Korean-CANADIAN distinction is very important to my husband, and as I have learned over the years, we are definitely in a cross-cultural marriage!) Hubby Brian Lee is a classical pianist and professor music at Moody Bible Institute. Our family attends a largely Asian-American church in Chicagoland which Brian and I helped to plant 16 years ago. I am a huge supporter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, as it was through this ministry that my faith grew by leaps and bounds while I was in college, and it was also through meeting Asian American IVCF staff workers (Peter Cha, Jeanette Yep, Jonathan Wu, Greg Jao, Henry Lee, to name a few) that I finally understood my ethnicity as a Korean-American was not a curse, but a gift to be cherished.

“What Do I Want?” At this stage of my life as a 40-something middle-aged adult (yikes, it’s scary to type that out!), I’m less concerned about understanding my own ethnicity and identity, and more interested to see the broader Christian culture demonstrate greater awareness and inclusion of the Asian American voice. I also want to challenge Asian American Christians to let go of cultural influences in their lives (both from Western and Asian culture) that are not God-honoring, and that encourage a particular definition of success and accomplishment that is more culturally- rather than biblically-defined. I’m excited and hopeful that this blog can be one vehicle to see these “wants” lived out, and honored to be a part of this group of contributors!

Please find me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or visit my website! I look forward to getting to know you better.

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Comments

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Helen Lee, Child of God and Sister in Christ, thanks for this post.

    I looked at the book you edited and found this review by a Pastor Will Shin (I’m not him):

    ” Not Recommended, February 11, 2008

    This review is from: Growing Healthy Asian American Churches (Paperback)

    All the contributors come from mainline churches or liberal churches. Possibly some are moderate at best. While it majors in Asian American sociological and anthropological trends and findings, it is extremely light in theology and ecclesiology.

    This book devalues and marginalizes Gospel theology in favor of Asian American sociology to shape the ministries of the church. While it realizes that in many Asian American churches, a discontinuity exists between doctrinal orthodoxy and practical orthopraxy, this book suggests that in order to have continuity, it is doctrinal orthodoxy that must “be biblically and critically reassessed” to meet sociological and anthropological orthopraxy rather than reassessing the sociological and anthropological orthopraxy to meet doctrinal orthodoxy.

    It is heavy on arguments of methodological comparison (Asian Americans methodology vs. Western American methodology) and personal testimonies of “what works” and “what doesn’t work.” But what few biblical Gospel references are given, they are interpreted through liberal or moderate theologies. The book is biased toward the Egalitarian view of role of women in ministry, as it is hailed as biblical while the Complamentarian view of role of women in ministry is mocked as sexist.

    As a 2nd-Generation Asian American myself and a Reformed Baptist pastor, I found this book of little help in leading the church to become and understanding how the church can become biblically healthy. But, hopefully, this book will spark more theologically and biblically robust works to follow.”

    Is this a diverse and tolerant blog that safely welcomes a plurality of perspectives and voices, even ones that are contrary to other perspectives and voices? An example would be the review above by Pastor Will Shin which IMHO contains constructive critiques.

  2. Daniel So says:

    “Truth Divides” — If you’re seeking to discover whether or not NG.AC is a “diverse and tolerant blog that safely welcomes a plurality of perspectives and voices, even ones that are contrary to other perspectives and voices,” perhaps you should browse through some of our past postings. NG.AC has been around for a number of years, and has hosted many lively conversations from people representing a broad range of opinions.

    As for the usefulness of posting the entirety of Will Shin’s review, in my opinion, a link to his review would have sufficed.

  3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Daniel So,

    I wasn’t aware of the welcoming of a broad range of opinions on this blog, as I am new to this blog.

    With regards to posting the entirety of Will Shin’s review, just wanted to save readers a click. Plus I myself will often not click on someone’s link.

  4. Helen Lee says:

    “Truth Unites,”

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions. The book you mentioned is in its 4th printing, so it seems to helping at least some folks!

    Blessings to you,
    Helen Lee

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “The book you mentioned is in its 4th printing, so it seems to helping at least some folks!”

    Kewl!

  6. David Park says:

    Truth, glad you are checking out the blog regularly!

    I appreciate the bringing up the review of Helen’s work, and certainly, I appreciate differences of opinion, but I feel like you could have done that more tactfully. I have met Helen in real life (IRL) and have admired her work and the projects she’s been a part of for years, so I was a little taken aback by your comment here, which honestly felt like a leading question/challenge, trolling even.

    Here’s my 2 cents: Will Shin’s review, while valid, completely misses the point of that work. And first of all, the authors are not nearly as liberal or mainline as he presumes. They fall squarely in the camp of evangelicals. His own position is extremely conservative and I don’t say that critically, I say that with respect to the whole body of Christians around the world, that to be a Reformed Baptist pastor is, to use the body metaphor, one tip of a toenail in the global Church body of Christ. I write that with a smile on my face and with a self awareness that I, too, in my own theology and tradition am less than one tip of a toenail in the global body of Christ. So, with no antipathy for Pastor Will Shin, I humbly think that he incorrectly assumed too much when picking put that title.

    Here’s another observation, truth, many Asian American Christians assume very little theological intersection with their own culture/ethnicity/heritage. This is why people like Will Shin don’t care for blogs like this one. Because cultivating a particular ethnic voice seems counterproductive to the “new creation” work that Christ seems to call us to, but I want to suggest there is a tension there many Christians dismiss that is actually constructive to our transformation and Christian witness. One, the apostle Paul doesn’t dismiss his Jewishness wholesale. He also doesn’t mind having Roman citizenship either. Why? Because they are both useful for the gospel. When Asian Americans forget their heritage and culture, they often 1) forget to advocate for other Asians who face problems that they themselves faced, whether they be immigration-related, race-related, socio-economic-related, health-related, which means ultimately, they can’t even reach people like themselves (how do the disciples proceed in mission? Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth…); and 2) they can’t unpack their family-system related, history-related gifts AND problems. Meaning they can’t contribute to the diversity of God’s feast table because they have forgotten too quickly and rushed into being the model minority. Our problem with Asian American churches is not primarily theological. Usually the doctrine is Chalcedon compliant :), the pastors are trained in conservative seminaries; the problem is that we don’t speak from our hearts and experiences. We don’t know ourselves. And you know what John Calvin would say about that? Calvin says there is a correlation between knowing ourselves and knowing God; and he says they’re so closely related, he can’t say for sure which should precede the other.

    Now if you’ve read Calvin at all, you know that he isn’t not sure about many things in life or in doctrine. But I happen to agree with him, because while Asian American Christians are extremely moralistic, we are not often transformed or transformation agents in the same way our persecuted/oppressed Asian brothers are back in the motherland. Why not? Because we’re not Biblical enough? No, it’s because even the Word incarnate spoke into and with a particular cultural context and voice. Many Asian American Christians lack the self-awareness and sensitivity to separate a biblical truth that is understood for an exam, and a lived, embodied witness that enters into the pain and suffering of others so that truth might heard without hypocrisy. That’s why I think the sociology matters, not because it’s salvific, but because it brings nuance to table of Asian American churches. That’s important to me, because I’ve seen too many people back away from Christianity not because they didn’t like Jesus, but Christians all began to disown their heritage and culture, and became culture zombies – and that’s not culturally neutral either, btw.

    Sorry for the long comment, but just wanted to say that I’m very familiar with critique like Pastor Will Shin’s and I think he brings up valid points and cautions, but I think there is a very valid missional facet he is missing. I believe in good theology, yes, but I also believe that in order for the gospel to be heard in a postmodern, post-nationalistic age, we need to unpack what it means to have the nations, tribes, and tongues before the throne, and I don’t think Reformed Baptists have the corner on that and if they did, I would have bought their book, like I did Helen’s. 🙂

  7. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Hi David Park,

    No need to apologize for the long comment. I appreciate the thought and care by which you express your thoughts, even though I might not always agree with every thought. Couple things:

    “Our problem with Asian American churches is not primarily theological.”

    It depends. There certainly are some Asian American churches that teach aberrant doctrine. May they be few in number!

    “Usually the doctrine is Chalcedon compliant , the pastors are trained in conservative seminaries; the problem is that we don’t speak from our hearts and experiences.”

    Could be. Sometimes there’s an over-correction, and there’s too much introspective navel-gazing which is just as unhelpful.

    Pax.

    Usually the doctrine is Chalcedon compliant , the pastors are trained in conservative seminaries; the problem is that we don’t speak from our hearts and experiences.

  8. Wayne Park says:

    Some people are so far right *everything* is to the left of them.

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Or conversely, some people are so far left *everything* is to the right of them.

  10. Wayne Park says:

    How cute.
    And positively pedantic. Fair enough, I threw the first stone.

    It displays a lack of candor “IMHO” to drag up a criticism of someone’s book on their bio / intro post, but since you went there…

    “All the contributors come from mainline churches or liberal churches.”

    Right from the get-go this is bogus. I know the churches the authors come from, and they are neither mainline nor liberal. But starting from this kind of “labeling” the typical rhetoric unfolds, “they are not gospel” “sociological a priori” etc.

    I too know Helen. “You will know them by their fruit.” This is a person doing good work. Bringing up contra-claims like this is entirely spurious. Please. Go start a blog.

  11. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Pastor Wayne Park: “Please. Go start a blog.”

    Thanks for validating the concerns in my original question: “Is this a diverse and tolerant blog that safely welcomes a plurality of perspectives and voices, even ones that are contrary to other perspectives and voices?”

  12. Helen Lee says:

    Can’t help but re-enter the conversation.

    “Truth,” I think that everyone here on this blog is open to a engaging in healthy debate and discussion. Even amongst those of us who contribute here, you won’t find universal agreement on every issue! But it’s one thing to respectfully disagree with someone, and another thing to get at your issues in a backhanded way. So: if there is something specific you’d like to discuss with me (or any of us!) in response to something we have written, then you certainly have the freedom to opine your perspective. But to post someone else’s review, and to not make clear exactly what issue you are trying to raise, doesn’t encourage us as contributors to take your comments seriously, and it doesn’t demonstrate that you are truly here for robust and respectful dialogue.

    So maybe we need to start over: are there particular points from Will Shin’s review that you agree with and would like our blog to tackle? This comment stream doesn’t seem the most effective way to have that conversation. But I am sure that if you present your points with a spirit and tone indicating openness to dialogue and discussion, you will receive responses in kind. And certainly we will consider your ideas to help us plan future blog topics for us to take on and address.

    Blesssings,
    HL

  13. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Helen Lee: [M]y hope is that as we use this blog to share both who we are and what we want to see happen or change in the world, we will be able to do so deeply and openly, with grace, compassion, and understanding, and that this would become a safe place for us all to reveal ourselves and get to know one another–contributors and commenters alike.”

    Me: “Is this a diverse and tolerant blog that safely welcomes a plurality of perspectives and voices, even ones that are contrary to other perspectives and voices?”

    Pastor Wayne Park: “Please. Go start a blog.”

  14. Helen Lee says:

    Pastor Wayne is entitled to his opinion as well, and certainly anyone IS welcome to start a blog and host discussions there. But you are also welcome to offer your hopes for topics we can address here. The choice is yours. Now I must go attend to the rest of my life and thus will disappear from said blogosphere for the rest of the day. But I am hopeful that whatever conversation emerges going forward will be reflective of the fact that we are fellow pilgrims on the same journey.

    Peace,
    HL

  15. djchuang says:

    Truth, Wayne, et al: neither of you are qualified to be on the far right nor far left, as far as the spectrum of Christendom goes. You’ve got a loooooong ways to go if you’re serious about leaving the safe cocoon of the mushy middle.

    The far right are far more venomous in the watchdog blog world aka discernment blogs, where even a Tim Keller or John MacArthur has been ripped to shreds. Not to mention the media-polarizing Westboro Baptist. And, on the left, Rob Bell doesn’t even qualify, to really venture left you’ve got to be buddying up with the likes of a Bishop Spong or Robert Funk.

    Sorry, boys, you’re just siblings trying to split hairs on the evangelical pinhead where angels are dancing. 🙂

  16. David Park says:

    Truth,
    Although I think you simply wanted to get your question answered as to the merits or deficiencies of the book which Helen worked on articulated by that review, I hope you see that it was all too easy to view it as a jab at Helen.

    That being said, we do want to strive to make this a place where different points of view can dialogue. That not easy to do even, or perhaps especially, among believers. And this is tragic in my opinion. We are all way too easily offended and quick to offend. And in the absence of visual cues, facial expressions and gestures, it is very hard to discern the motives and intonations of someone’s text on the screen. Sometimes the blog comments aren’t the best way to communicate but I feel like this also is a learned practice in dialogue. I hope you would continue to practice with us.

    I was mentioning to another blogger here that the blogosphere is like the fight club of the writing genre. There is a certain rawness to it that is invigorating and prickly all at once.

    I know Wayne through his comments and I don’t know you very well, but I hope to. If I could apologize for any lack of blog hospitality I would, and will if it makes you feel any better, I am happy to say I’m sorry. But if I could, I urge you to stay in the conversation. We all want to be sharpened. We don’t have agree but we do have to become Better listeners.

  17. Wayne Park says:

    Truth, please don’t be petulant, it doesn’t become the blogosphere.
    If it makes you feel better, I’m sorry, I detract my comment. You don’t need to start a blog. How about a twitter account? 140 characters? Look I’m just messin wit u man
    pax

  18. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Hi DJ Chuang,

    I appreciate a humorous peacemaker for the Bible says “Blessed are the funny peacemakers.”

    Yet humorous broom used to sweep the uncomfortable elephant in the room under the rug is not always helpful. This is not easy to say, and perhaps more painful to hear, but when a contributing pastor says “Please. Go start a blog” it doesn’t show “grace, compassion, and understanding,” nor does it show that the Nexgenerasianchurch blog is a “safe place” for “a plurality of perspectives and voices, even ones that are contrary to other perspectives and voices.”

    I sincerely hope there’s not a passive-aggressive hypocrisy residing in this blog.

    Blessings,

    Truth Unites… and Divides

  19. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Note: I posted my last comment without having read the comments immediately above by David and Wayne Park.

    Let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya in Korean to start the weekend. It’s all good. I have extra tissue for y’all because I’ve used up all of mine.

    Pax.

  20. Wayne Park says:

    like

  21. William Woo says:

    Ironically, I was thinking about my signing on to write here on DJ’s reinvitation. I blogged here a few years back but due to writer’s block and other issues, I mostly haven’t written. And I asked myself, 1. DO I have time? And 2. I am not sure I align in my viewpoints with the other writers. But I this little conversation has encouraged me to try to get back at blogging and commenting. THanks Dave and DJ.

    As to this conversation, I am a student (now online) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and I would like to paraphrase my Seminary President-Paige Patterson, “If you get something in writing by way of complaints, and the person doesn’t sign their name, just throw it away. It’s not worth reading.”

    Ironically with each passing comment, there is a measure of self-disclosure,just like Helen had mentioned in the exercise of “Who Am I”?

    Truth Unites, who are you?

  22. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    William Woo: “Truth Unites, who are you?”

    Just a miserable and wretched sinner saved by the grace of God and the sacrifical love and work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. A 5-sola Bible-believing follower of Christ.

    If that’s not enough, by all means, please do ignore and skip over my comments.

    FWIW, my strong preference is for folks to engage the arguments and comments rather than focusing on who’s making the arguments.

    Pax.

  23. William Woo says:

    “FWIW, my strong preference is for folks to engage the arguments and comments rather than focusing on who’s making the arguments.”

    As such, your first comment was a cut and paste of someone else’s thoughts. I’m curious what you think of that book?

  24. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “I’m curious what you think of that book?”

    I haven’t read the book.

    BTW, apologies if I wasn’t clear enough in my comments above. If I wanted folks to give a review of Pastor Will Shin’s review, I would have explicitly asked for it. I would have written something like, “What do folks think of Pastor Will Shin’s review?”

    The review was offered within my initial comment to examine the hope expressed by Helen Lee: “[M]y hope is that as we use this blog to share both who we are and what we want to see happen or change in the world, we will be able to do so deeply and openly, with grace, compassion, and understanding, and that this would become a safe place for us all to reveal ourselves and get to know one another–contributors and commenters alike.”

    From my perspective, this is still an open question. 😉

  25. Helen Lee says:

    Well, since that review was about a work I was integrally involved in, and I do feel completely safe here for anyone to analyze its strengths and weaknesses, I’m perfectly content for anyone to raise issues they might have about the book and have those be catalysts for future conversations about Asian American Christianity.

    I’ve been a journalist and writer for quite a while, so I’m used to having things I write be scrutinized, challenged, critiqued, etc. So, “Truth”, the door is wide open. I am inviting you to go ahead and raise issues. I think we have more than indicated we are open to discussion.

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