Welcome to the Workforce – Work before Seminary

Originally this blog was going to be a group blog of a bunch of friends who would contribute something every now and then. The hope was to give a voice to second generation Asian-Americans who were serving in reformed circles, but it turned out I was the only one writing and no one was really reading – which I laugh about now. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at selling the idea and my approach regarding second-generation Asian-American ministries at the time didn’t exactly jive with a lot of people I came across.  However, since I already bought the domain names and have web hosting, this will become the ramblings of a tired old man that once again no one will read.

From the age of eighteen to twenty-eight, I made an hourly wage of less than $13. A good portion of this was due to the fact that I was pursuing a career in mental health counseling, but I’ll get into that later.

To date, the longest tenure I’ve had at any job is still at Target. For a full five years it ate my soul. I remember applying for the job in this dinky kiosk and going in for interviews as a scrawny college teenager.  Starting at $7.75 was amazing at the time and it wasn’t just any Target. It was a Super Target.

I was one of those bright-eyed new guys. Getting paid while watching sexual harassment videos that were made in the 90’s was awesome. The acting was terrible, and the dialogue was always delivered by people who seemed extremely uncomfortable with what they were saying. The first thing though I really ever learned was that no matter how much training an organization gives you, they will always throw you into the deep end and you will make mistakes. Training is expensive for a company no matter the industry. Essentially they’re paying you to sit there to read or get accustomed to the job you’ve just been given. However there’s sometimes no quicker way to get people up to speed other than having them do the real thing. Mistakes will be made, what matters is how you bounce back.

Some of the guests (customers) were truly horrendous.  I was naive at just how terrible some people could be.  There were guests who would just treat you like trash just because you simply because you worked in retail.  A woman once handed me her child’s school supplies list and proceeded to asked me to get everything for her.  I helped her find the first three items before I told her I didn’t have time for this. There was another time when someone asked me where an item was located and I told her the aisle.  She gave me a blank stare and repeated the question.  I looked at her dumbfounded and repeated myself louder, “E1. It’s down that way.” She paused for a second, turned away and muttered under her breath, “I thought you were speaking Chinese.” I was too shocked to respond.

On the flip side, I have met the hardest working people at Target.  For many of my co-workers, this was their second or third job of the day.  One of them was a grandmother who was a real estate agent, but worked at Target to supplement her income so that she could also support herself and her grandchildren when some months didn’t go so well.  I didn’t know that another of my co-workers worked a second job until he approached me to work with him at his other job after he saw me doing a few roundhouse kicks in logistics (backroom) to cool off- yeah I was that awkward.  He offered to introduce me to his manager at the strip club down the road to have me work with him as a bouncer.  I was a 130 pound dork with glasses, wearing khakis two inches too long and tattered shoes from my sophomore year in high school.  I shook my head and undoubtedly, we never talked about it again.

After college, I had a difficult time finding a decent job, much of this was due to the fact that I had a psychology degree and all the employers at my engineering school were looking for…well engineers.  I was pursuing a career in mental health counseling and I felt like this was just part of the cost – crummy jobs until a masters degree. Getting experience in the workforce before becoming a therapist was extremely important to me – I still strongly believe that. Unfortunately, no one exactly wanted a psych major at the time. Standing in a mismatched misfit suit, I remember talking to a recruiter from Amazon at the job fair. After I told him my major he looked at me without hesitation and said, “We don’t need people like you. Here, have a pen.”

My first job outside of college was for a temp agency doing data entry making around $11 an hour. It was 2007, and the recession was just starting to go into full swing. Went perm about 6 months later and the banking industry went bust a little after. One after another of our clients bankrupted leaving the company I was with a lot of stock that we owned and would never be able to sell.

There was a round of layoffs and everyone at the company took a 5% pay cut. I went into a mode where I stupidly thought if I could reduce operational costs, I would be able to help save people’s jobs – this meant I started working around 6 am to 6 pm for several months trying to figure things out.

  • Reviewed all of our sku’s and flagged anything that had a negative gross margin or was significantly lower than than where it should have been.
  • Performed dead stock analysis so that we could markdown the price to get them off the shelf to make room for more something that would improve the inventory turnover ratio.
  • Cleaned up duplicate material numbers so that I could properly perform analysis to set the correct safety stock, reorder points, MRP profiles, etc.
  • Reduce our on-hand raw materials inventory by over 60%.
  • I also implemented RBAC for the company on the ERP system that significantly reduced mistakes.

People were still being let go and I found myself devastated.  I remember walking over to a friend’s cubicle and seeing him starting to pack his bags and him telling me that he was let go.  I felt like I had failed and that was something I carried for a long time.  I ended up leaving when I started seminary. What I took away from all of this was:

  • To the company, everyone is replaceable. No one is truly in indispensable to any organization. There will be temporary pain and loss, but people get over it and move on. The long term loss at times isn’t quantifiable and it is only perceived as temporary. However, the true impact can only be felt by the people who remain and its usually only qualitative.
  • It’s not the job of your company to take care of you – at least not anymore. I used to go to the Target next to work and one day I ran into my 0ld LOD. He had chosen to take a pay cut and demotion so that he could spend time with his terminal daughter. Hearing that broke my heart.
  • Take charge of your career. No one is really going to spend the time and lay out a career path for you. Figure it out yourself and meander your way there. It may not be what you expected, but if you believe in God’s sovereignty it’ll be where you’re supposed to be.

Asian-American & Evangelicals: What we as Asian-American Christians must do first

Let me be very clear. There is no question that forms of racism are alive and well. Although this pains me to write, I must affirm that such racism continues to exist even within the ranks of our brothers and sisters in Christ. To neglect this fact would be both foolish and naive. While visiting a church this year, my wife painfully recounted an event to me where an individual walked up towards the group where she was having a conversation. This individual then acknowledged everyone else in the group and then proceed to speak to everyone except for my wife. While I can understand that to many this may not appear to be overtly racist. However with the experiences of a minority, I must state that to be treated as invisible triggers deep pains in many of us. As a child, I personally remember multiple instances of being bullied and beaten because of my ethnicity. My wife remembers having trash thrown at her from cars while walking on the sidewalk multiple times.

As adults, when we moved to the Northeast several years ago, such experiences did not cease. My wife had an individual follow her through a grocery store and continually ask her if she was adopted. I myself experienced similar instances, however this post is not about our experiences as second generation Asian-Americans. In many ways, I have written about the above experiences because I feel as though I need to establish my credibility as a minority here in the United States.

There is no question that racism exists, however the question that must be asked is how we as an Christian Asian-American community should address these issues. The general sentiment is that these portrayals have gone on for far too long and without sufficient acknowledgement by those who create them that these characterizations are both hurtful and harmful. Without a question, this sentiment is legitimate. There is a laundry list of stereotypical and offensive characterizations of Asians in the media. However in my experience, reactions that are predominately based upon anger and frustration, when allowed to run unchecked for far too long, breed deep resentment and bitterness.

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, ESV)

This is absolutely a legitimate point for us to begin. By acknowledging our failures we do not forfeit our voice or strength. As it says in scripture, a careful and honest introspective look at our own sins enables us to more clearly and rightfully address the sins in others.

When the Reuters published their findings regarding their recent poll surrounding friendship, their header read:

About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Dunsmuir, L. (2013, August 8). Many Americans have no friends of another race: Poll. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-usa-poll-race-idUSBRE97704320130808

Many Asian-Americans posted variants of this article, with some including snide remarks about white Americans. However the statistics do not look in our favor regarding social integration:

There is some variance across U.S. Asian groups in the composition of their social networks. Korean Americans are especially likely to have all or most of their friends from the same heritage (58%); by contrast, just a fifth (21%) of Japanese Americans—a majority of whom are native born—say that all or most of their friends share the same heritage. Chinese Americans fall in the middle, with 45% having all or most of their friends of Chinese heritage. There are large differences between native- and foreign-born Chinese Americans, however. Among the native born, 14% say that all or most of their friends are Chinese American; this compares with 55% among Chinese immigrants. The same pattern occurs for native- and foreign-born Filipino Americans and to a lesser degree among native- and foreign-born Japanese Americans. Other U.S. Asian groups do not have a large enough sample of native-born respondents for analysis.

Pew Research Center (2012). The Rise of Asian Americans. p. 89

While we can attempt to separate first generation and second generation Asian-Americans, there are some studies have shown this to not be the case:

However some evidence suggests that SGKAPs are generally more insular in their ethnic/racial religious networks and in their racial/ethnic preferences for marital partners. Finally, among married SGKAPs, we also see greater religious network homogamy relative to other groups. In short, their religious and ethnic ties do not vary a great deal from their peers who are experiencing analogous social contexts and pressures to conform; however their behaviors that stem from those ties are more consistently homophilous and endogamous. This suggests that perhaps the second-generation Korean-American Protestant case is somewhat exceptional in our diversifying environment. While their congregations may cater to an English-fluent audience, their congregations are noticeably uniform in racial and ethnic terms. Tentatively, I suggest that religion serves to sacralize ethnic/racial preference for second-generation Korean Americans more so than other groups.

Park, J. (2013). Ethnic Insularity Among 1.5 and Second-Generation Korean American Christians. Development and Soceity, 42(1), 113-136.

In the face of institutionalized racism we must acknowledge that ethnic insularity is our enemy. In our absence, we allow for the propagation of stereotypes that are far from the truth. Simultaneously, we also implicitly allow for stereotypes that we hold of other ethnicities to take root in our communities. The solution is not for us to become more and more Asian, and neither is it for us to advocate complete assimilation. However it should be known that as we interact with people of other ethnic groups, we will be forever changed. We will be infused with new perspectives and different methodologies to problem solving. We will be more apt to see the similarities in our different cultures and just maybe we can acknowledge that the rift between us rendered by sin and already bridged by the blood of Christ is greater than any rift between us rendered by culture.

Cognitive Psychology and Stereotypes

This, my friends, is a short primer on a single aspect of Cognitive Psychology (in particular – schema theory) and it’s application in understanding how and why ethnic stereotypes exist. For one, please note that this is a simplistic explanation as I do not have the time to delve into this deeply in all of it’s intricacies. Additionally, while I do stress that the concept of schema is still a theory, it is an undoubtedly useful structure upon which for us to understand how individuals organize information, and engage with the world around them.

A simplistic explanation of schemata is that they are essentially structures by which we organize all the information that we have stored in our minds and how we perceive new information that we encounter. Over time, these structures essentially form shortcuts in our information processing. A very clear example of how this works is how we provide instructions for various tasks. If you ask a novice to document their work flow of a particular task it is likely to be greater in detail and more linear than those who have greater expertise. Essentially as we gain proficiency, the steps in order to perform a particular task is chunked into groups which reduces the load on our minds as we execute what we need to do.

Novice: Pumping Gas at a Gas Station
1. Line up the vehicle with the gas pump
2. Turn off engine & exit vehicle
3. Insert credit card & enter zip code
4. Select grade of fuel.
5. Open fuel door and remove gas cap
6. Insert nozzle into gas tank and being pumping gas
7. When fueling complete, replace nozzle
8. Replace gas cap and close fuel door

Intermediate:
A. Preparation of Using the Pump
1. Line up the vehicle with the gas pump
2. Turn off engine & exit vehicle
B. Payment
1. Insert credit card
2. Enter zip code
C. Pumping Gas
1. Select grade of fuel.
2. Open fuel door and remove gas cap
3. Insert nozzle into gas tank and being pumping gas
D. Actions after fueling is completed
7. Replace nozzle.
8. Replace gas cap and close fuel door

Expert:
A. Prep tasks and pay for gas
B. Pump gas
C. Get ready to leave

Such schemata are perfectly natural and absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we would never be able to accomplish anything in life just attempting to deal with the sheer number of stimuli that we are presented with every day. While schemata are helpful, studies have also shown that these schemata are unfortunately extremely difficult to change after they have been well established otherwise known as the self confirmatory bias. As humans we have a tendency of ignoring or failing to seek out knowledge that do not fit in the schemata we have developed over the years.

It is then fairly simple to apply this towards how racism develops and why it is so difficult to address. As segregation of ethnic groups due to various reasons still exists here in the United States, significant interactions between people of different ethnicities does not occur on a regular basis for many individuals. This causes race to continue to be a primary heuristic by which people often categorize others. Initially, the generalizations may be somewhat benign – “All Asians look a certain manner.” However, as negative generalizations become continually reinforced due to self confirmatory bias, this has been shown to have been extremely difficult to change. For example, a waiter may continue to believe that “all Asians do not tip” even after receiving an extremely generous tip from an Asian patron at his restaurant. With the application of schema theory, the waiter would have to had multiple Asian patrons that do not fit his existing schemata before he would even be able to entertain an alternative schema.

It is notable, that racism can also develop with no interaction of the other ethnic group as other forms of reinforcement can come from media and other sources. With this in mind, the only real effective way to address racism is continual engagement between ethnic groups so that developed schemata are continually refuted with alternative examples. As mentioned before, due to the strength of these heuristics this takes a significant amount of exposure and time to adequately even being to change. More on this later.

Reflections on “Asian-ification” of Selective NY Public Schools

Nearly a year ago, the New York Times ran articles on the topic of Asian-American over-representation at selective high schools in New York City.  In 2012, “14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian”  (Spencer, 2012).  This promoted the NAACP to file a complaint last year.  It is important to note that this was supported by the Asian American Legal Deference and Education Fund, and to a certain extent rightly so.  There is no question that the essential premise of the complaint filed does have merit and no one would question that a standardized test falls short of a holistic and comprehensive evaluation of the student.  However in the face of limited resources, standardized tests will forever remain as benchmarks of student academic performance.  It is important to note that to this day, the leading predictor of a student’s student academic performance in college is still the SAT (above GPA and many other measures).  With this in mind, it is not unreasonable for NYCDOE to utilize a standardized test as the sole admissions criterion, as any other additional admissions criterion would inevitably result in a significantly greater expense to the NYCDOE – an expense that it most likely could not afford.

Coverage of this issue last year in many ways was incredibly skewed.  I am focusing on Kyle Spencer’s article published on October 26th, as it was one of the most widely distributed ones via social media:

Melissa Potter, a spokeswoman for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that filed the complaint with the United States Department of Education in September, said that though some of the city’s poorest Asian immigrants had found their way into these schools, many were still being left out, for the same reason that poor blacks and Hispanics were: they do not have access to the grueling, expensive and time-consuming test preparation for the exam. The complaint argued that other factors, like school grades, teacher recommendations and personal experience should also be taken into account.

[…]

The city began offering a free test-prep program several years ago for black and Hispanic students, but after a legal challenge, other ethnic groups were granted the same access to the course. Today, 43 percent of the students in the program are Asian. (Spencer, 2012)

While Spencer acknowledges that such prepping and tutoring resources are certainly expensive, to omit the financial status of Asian Americans in NYC presents an inconclusive narrative.  In a 2008 report by the Asian American Federation concerning poverty among Asian Americans in NYC:

  • In New York City in 2000, nearly 1 in 5 Asians (19.6 percent, or 152,674 people) lived below the poverty level and 40.9 percent (318,981) lived below twice the federal poverty level (in the low-income bracket).
  • In 2000 and 2006, New York City’s Asian population had a higher percentage of near-poor people (21.3 percent in 2000 and 22 percent in 2006) than non-Hispanic whites (12 percent and 13 percent), blacks (19 percent and 19.4 percent), and the general population (18.5 percent and 19 percent).

With nearly 40% of Asian Americans in NYC living below the low-income poverty bracket as defined by the US Census, sending children to such expensive prep comes at a great sacrifice to many of these families.  With this not recognized by Spencer’s article, it could be inferred in his statements that Asian American students that are taking the free test-prep program are doing so at the expense of Black and Hispanic students.  However, with a higher percentage of Asian Americans in lower socioeconomic strata than black and Hispanic Americans, Asian American students should legitimately have access to free test-prep programs as other students.  To omit this fact from the article, perpetuates the “model minority myth” that many would read this article from.

Without a doubt, the NAACP complaint highlights an important issue that does need to be addressed.  It is wrong for Asians to ignore these issues and believe that the status quo is acceptable.  However, with admission based strictly upon standardized testing and established this way for legitimate reasons, I strongly believe that issue needs to be addressed at the other end.  Without a doubt, we as Americans need to improve schools for all students and this is a far greater issue than admission policies that strictly based upon standardized tests at elite public schools that serve just a fraction of students of NYC.  In many ways, this is a responsibility that we all should share – even more as Christians.

The New York Times Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/27/education/a-grueling-admissions-test-highlights-a-racial-divide.html

Clergy Engagement in Suicide Prevention, Asians and the Gospel Truth

A few months ago, I was the technical lead on a webinar training for clergy organized by one of my professors.  Below is the audio recording of the webinar along with the accompanying PowerPoint slides.

 download slides

During the webinar, a question was asked regarding Asians and suicide.  Although formal research has increased concerning Asian-Americans in recent years, the body of research is still limited here in the United States relative to other ethnic groups related to what the APA terms as Suicidology.  However, there was a notable book published by Mamoru Iga in 1986 on suicide in Japan that is important to this short discussion.

Iga states regarding suicidality in Japan:

“Suicide is mostly caused by a failure to attain personal goals because of inadequate means.  Inadequate means include ‘inimical’ behavior, illness, declining creativity and weak ego.  Weak ego is characterized by a strong dependency need, a tendency towards emotionalism, high susceptible to group pressure, a lack of reality testing and weak impulse control.”

In the same chapter, Iga also notes that social structures exist within Japanese culture where “value orientations [exist] that produce unrealistically high aspirations and inadequate means to achieve them.”  In many ways, I believe that Iga’s statements can be generalized towards a large subset of Asian cultures where there are stereotypical extreme demands placed upon individuals to succeed along strictly defined routes towards social mobility.  While Asian value orientations can produce extremely high levels of achievement, we must recognize that our cultures do not adequately identify and support individuals who would perceive themselves as inadequate due to failure or a self-imposed felt lack of attainment.

There are several important facts to consider in this discussion before we continue.  In 2007, based upon data found in the National Vital Statistics Reports and then republished by the APA:

  • Among Asian-American adults, those aged 18-34 had the highest rates of suicidal thoughts (11.9 percent), intent (4.4 percent) and attempts (3.8 percent) compared to other age groups.
  • Asian-Americans college students were more likely than White American students to have had suicidal thoughts and to attempt suicide.

From the data, there is a clear need to address this issue that I won’t speak further upon since it is well past 1 AM at this point.  However, it would be helpful to break down Iga’s comments into two parts for sake of organization: unrealistic high aspirations and inadequate means.  From the experiences of many Asian-Americans there is a high frequency of imposition of unrealistic high aspirations and expectations upon children.  Most recently, this element of Asian culture came under fire by many individuals in western cultures with the publication of Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother last year.  However we must absolutely differentiate between high expectations and unrealistic ones.  Studies have shown that high exceptions by teachers do improve student performance – students essentially rise to the expectations of their teachers.  Arguably one of the most damming downfalls of the American education system is that we do not expect nearly enough from students today.  Teachers who teach to and are evaluated by a standardized test that is created to assess the bare minimum level of academic achievement expected from students, will only set up our children to fail in the real world where these minimums fall woefully short.

Unrealistic expectations have the opposite effect of high expectations.  For example when an individual learn new skill sets, unrealistic expectations cause that individual to be oblivious to progress made through practice.  Since perceived progress is minimal or not salient, further training and effort is perceived to be futile and most individuals eventually give up.  In most cases, reasonable expectations can be met with adequate support.  For example, an individual that is struggling with getting started with an exercise program may need a personal trainer to provide the structure necessary for success.  However when inadequate means are provided to achieve unrealistic expectations in areas core to an individual’s identity, I believe that these individuals are then susceptible to depression and suicidal ideations.

There are several ways how the Gospel corrects for this (For the sake of time, a most excellent description of the gospel can be found here):

1) The gospel corrects our aspirations.  Many of our aspirations have very little to do with what can be considered eternally significant.  This can certainly be expounded upon more.  However in short as a Christian, one of the changes in our aspirations is the desire for holiness.  “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).  For any sane person this is absolutely daunting as God commands us to be as holy as He is holy .  However…

2) The gospel corrects our understanding of the means by which we seek after our corrected aspirations.  As Christians we all have a tendency of believing that our sanctification lies wholly within our own hands.  At times, successes in the resistance of temptation lead to pride, while failure may lead to debilitating shame at our seemingly unchangeable inadequacy.  However, nothing can be further from the truth.  In our reading of scripture it is easy for one to focus upon what are called imperatives while ignoring the indicatives.  For example while reading Ephesians 5 my mind is drawn to verses 3-32 that dictate behaviors that I am to avoid (imperatives) rather than the first two verses that tells me that I am live my life in the constant acknowledgement of the love and sacrifice of Christ that enables my obedience (indicative).  To this day, I have never forgotten this passage from Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chappell:

People cannot do or be what God requires without the past, present, and future work of Christ. ‘From him and through him and to him are all things’ (Rom. 11:36).  Simply railing at error and hammering at piety may convince people of their inadequacy or move them toward self-sufficiency, but these messages also keep true godliness remote.  Thus, instruction in biblical behavior barren of redemption truth only wounds.  […]  When we exhort congregations to stand for God against the assaults of Satan, we must never forget the balance of the Pauline imperative: ‘Finally my brethren  be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’ (Eph 6:10 KJV).  Amid his most strident ‘be’ message, the apostle remained Christ-focused.  Today’s preacher has no lesser obligation.  We should not preach God’s requirement in isolation from God’s grace because the holiness God requires he must also provide.  If we neglect the means of grace then we deny the possibility of obedience.

There is obviously much more that can be said on this subject and for a later time.  If you are an individual seeking help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an excellent place to start 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a 24/7 lifeline available free to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.  There is also specific helps for Veterans and Spanish speakers.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments in the field below.

Impressions of “The Rise of Asian Americans” by the Pew Research Center

The recent report released last month by the Pew Research Center entitled “The Rise of Asian-Americans” has undoubtedly spawned much discussion.  While looking at some of the conclusions provided by the report, the extrapolated data presented several trends that would probably be surprising to most readers.  As a side note, it is not my intention to provide a full summary of the report or the current discussion here.  I have included a link at the end of this post to the full report for your perusal at your pleasure.

The focus of discussion among many Asian-American Christians concerning this report has been the general religious affiliation of each ethnic group – as summarized above.  For the most part, the results of the report fit generalizations that most Asian-Americans involved in ministry have had in the recent past.  For example, it is of little surprise that a significant number of Korean-Americans self-identify as Protestant.  However there are other data points contained within the report that certainly need to be discussed and analyzed.  To focus solely upon key demographic features found in the table above and the fact that Asian-Americans are now the fastest growing ethic group as noted by the 2010 census, would miss extremely important sociological patterns that we simply cannot ignore.

As identified in the table above, nearly 74.1% of all Asian-Americans in 2010 were foreign-born.  As a whole, it is also notable that only 63.5%  of Asian-Americans were identified as proficient English speakers.  Even more striking is the identification of  only 43% of foreign-born adult Koreans as proficient English speakers in this report.  With this data in mind, we must undoubtedly recognize that ministries for first-generation Asian immigrants are here to stay.  Although immigrant churches have been decried as inherently sinful by some prominent individuals, it is an undisputed fact that the majority of English-speaking churches in the United States are neither structured nor equipped to effectively minister to recent immigrants.  Until significant change has occurred, it is not feasible to realistically expect non-English speaking immigrants to attend the average American church in large numbers when resources for language and cultural transition are not provided.  Another implication of this data is that over the years I have spoken to many well-meaning first generation pastors where they have reported to have structured their church with the expectation of the rise of the second generation congregation and eventual decline of the first generation ministry.  Based upon current demographic data, this event will most likely not occur for many Asian immigrant churches as the rate of immigration seemingly far exceeds the birthrate of Asian-Americans at the present time.  The report in many ways substantiates the necessity of Asian immigrant churches.  With the statistic of only 52.5% foreign born Asian-Americans being proficient English speakers alone – not to mention the added presence of racism, it would be extremely difficult for a significant majority of Asian-American immigrants to become connected intimately with a non-immigrant church.  This experience is also echoed by many American ex-patriot believers who often find themselves gathered together in worship in foreign countries.  I would be hard pressed to state that such gatherings should be disbanded.

Unlike my opinion regarding first generational ministries, the report does cause me to personally question the current state of ethnic specific ministries for second-generation Asian-Americans.  With only 25.9% of the Asian-American US population being native-born, this would mean that even a second generation pan-Asian ministries would only seek to minister to approximately 1.4% of the US population.  With this in mind, the sphere of influence of Asian ethnic specific ministries for second generation Asian Americans could be assumed to be less than 1%  in the United States as a whole.  While some may argue that there are regions of the United States that are heavily populated with Asian-Americans, the argument is a bit moot as Asians only consist of 14.92% of California’s population – the most heavily concentrated state  within the contiguous US of Asian-Americans.  Without a doubt such ministries contribute to statistics such as 58% of Koreans report that the majority of their immediate social circle is composed of individuals who are also Korean.  I propose this statistic can be expected to be much higher among Asian-American Christians who are involved in their ethnic specific local church or para-church ministries – especially ministries where the church culture expects individuals to be present at a high percentage of functions and events.  Because of such tight-knit social circles, the effects of this can be seen in a diminished ability for many second-generation Asian-Americans to network professionally and also engage comfortably with culture at large.  This can be most clearly seen in the median duration of unemployment during the First Quarter of 2012, as shown below.  While the median duration of unemployment of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher was around 25 weeks long, Asian-Americans with degrees in higher education had a median unemployment duration that was close to 1.5-2 months longer than the average duration of unemployment.  This discrepancy is extremely significant as professional and personal networking is still the primary means of finding a job among Americans today – even in the age of online job postings.

While second generation Asian-Americans have often been hailed to possess a bi-cultural identity that is helpful in evangelism, it can be assumed that only a minority of Asian-American believers are currently engaging others outside their ethnicity based upon this report.  This is certainly problematic and brings forth the question of the viability of multiple long-term self-sustaining second-generation Asian-American churches in the same regional location outside of the Western regions of the United States if the focus is upon such a small percentage of the US population.  Make absolutely no mistake, the issue at hand for many second generation Asian-Americans is not a matter of numbers.  Scripture is very clear that God is very much concerned about each and every lost sinner that repents as shown in Luke 15:

[15:1] Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” [3] So he told them this parable: [4] “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
(Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

However as Asian-Americans even though we have the lowest probability of all other major ethnic groups of living in racial/ethnic tracts (11%),  there is indisputable statistical evidence that points to our preference towards racial isolation when considering the table below and everything else that has been mentioned above:

To be absolutely clear,  I am not saying that it is sinful to be part of a predominately Asian-American congregation and please do not misunderstand that I am writing as though such issues are entirely unique to Asian-Americans – they are most certainly not.  However, in face of such evidence we must look hard at ourselves and consider whether or not we as a collective whole have made our ethnic and/or cultural identities an idol within our hearts – lest we become like the lawyer who hopes to justify himself in Luke 10.

[29] But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” [30] Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
(Luke 10:29-32 ESV)

As second-generation Asian-Americans, when we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, we absolutely must recognize that we are often the most akin to the priest and the Levite than anyone else in the parable.  There are undoubtedly many individuals in need within our communities that we simply pass by without a second thought.  Like the priest and the Levite in the parable, we also often justify this with our prior religious commitments.  In our case instead of avoiding the necessity of purification rituals, many of  us have prioritized our fellowships and personal lives.  In many ways it is certainly good to recognize that we are often ill-equipped to provide substantial and beneficial aid to absolutely everyone, however we ought to recognize that our hearts tend to gravitate towards the whole and the beautiful, rather than the broken and blemished.  In all honesty, even as a counselor my own heart gravitates towards the whole and the beautiful rather than the broken and blemished.  Yet within this place of shame we find that we all need Jesus more than we think.  I need Jesus more than I think.  Deep down as Asian-American believers we must recognize and possibly repent over the fact that we have most often chosen to love individuals while ignoring the people who have lived closest to us.  This is absolutely significant in light of 1 Cor 12:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
(1 Corinthians 12:21-26 ESV)

As Asian-American believers we need to ask, “In what ways do we desperately need believers of other ethnicities?”  Simultaneously, we also need to consider in what ways are we as Asian-Americans indispensable to the majority culture.

Pew Research Center (2012). The Rise of Asian Americans. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/19/the-rise-of-asian-americans/