Here are some reflections from two participants at the May 19-21, 2014 “Lighting the Community Summit” in Washington D.C., including a first-ever Asian American Pacific Islander faith community meeting with White House Administration officials.
Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University
Ken Kong, Director, South East Asian Catalyst
Russell Yee, ISAAC EXPRESS
What was this gathering about? Why were you there?
Russell: I attended the API Prayer Summit because I wanted to see what this network could do in serving the Kingdom of God. I appreciated the opportunity to pray with other API leaders and to learn of their concerns and issues.
Ken: This gathering was about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders partnering together to provide a voice for those in our communities. I was there representing, as best as I can, our South East Asian communities across the United States and South East Asia. I was concerned about the issue deportation especially as it impacts the Southeast Asian community. The deportation of individuals is impacting the families.
Who represented the White House, and in what role? Did they seem to “get it” when it came to Asian American Christians?
Russell: We met mostly with staff who were with Faith-Based Initiatives of each cabinet division. We also met with the White House Initiative on AAPIs. The White House Initiative on AAPI clearly understood the issues facing our communities, while the faith based initiative folk were less knowledgeable.
Ken: My first thought was, “Wow! I was impressed that the administrations had Asians in office!”
What unified the participants? How noticeable were separate ancestries and backgrounds?
Ken: I think the thing that unified us was our desire to help our communities overcome socials issues and policies that affect our people. There were a lot of Koreans at this gathering–which was beautiful! Prayerfully, we are trusting God for other voices in the future events.
Russell: What I liked the most was that we came together to pray and to advocate for four main concerns facing our AAPI communities: 1) Kenneth Bae and the Huangs, each detained; 2) Comprehensive Immigration Reform; 3) Human Trafficking; and 4) Mental Health. Despite holding different political stances, we worshipped and prayed together. I am used to being with people of the same political orientation, so this gathering was very unique. I think this bipartisan effort is a good sign of the Lordship of Jesus. The group was more Korean American, but I believe that it can easily diversify and expand.
What got shared? How much did it seem to matter what got shared? What were some of the themes?
Ken: There was a lot being shared at the event. That just tells me that there is a lot that happening in our communities like immigrations, mental health, etc. To be honest it was a bit overwhelming but necessary.
Russell: I was very moved by the presentations from Kenneth Bae’s sister and from the Huang’s cousin. They face such unfathomable separation from their families while in detainment. I’m committed to praying and advocating for them now.
What gave you hope?
Russell: What gave me hope was our united prayer and our common concerns. This is the type of movement I’ve always wanted to see grow, and I committed myself to helping continue its efforts to engage APIs.
Ken: Being at the event gave me hope–that we as an AAPI can join voices and trust God for social change in our communities, that our hope comes from our faith in God and not with those in power.