by Chandra Crane
As a Mixed Thai-American minister working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the Jackson Metro area, one of the things that first drew me to the Christian Community Development Association is the emphasis on listening to the community in which we are serving. Healthy contextualization comes from learning from community members, not championing our own agenda.
When we embrace the experiences of others as well as our own experiences, we are able to see the richness of the diverse kingdom story. Through these stories, King Jesus shows us how we can “… build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce… [and] also seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
We know that our calling is to embrace the stories and strengths of others; we are also called to embrace our own stories and strengths. The Asian American community brings a rich legacy of honoring those who have come before us and being community-minded. This is such a valuable gift. Jeremiah continues the exhortation to the exiles: “Pray to the LORD for [the city], because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). As Christian Community Development practitioners, we know that our prayers for the city must be rooted in a true diversity of stories and strengths.
Diverse Heritages and Authentic Hope
I was meeting with a Hmong American friend recently, sharing my struggles to honor my Buddhist Thai family while not losing sight of Jesus. So much of Thai Buddhism revolves around not offending the spirits, of making “merit” to appease their wrath and bring favor. Alice encouraged me to practice (what I so often preach) and lean into the both/and of Jesus’ Mixed identity. Rather than downplaying the Thai spiritualism of my ancestors, she suggested that I acknowledge the reality of the spiritual realm and value that my family is so attuned to it.
It was so freeing to see how I could embrace certain aspects of the Thai community and culture rather than rejecting everything. I realized I can learn from my family even as I put their beliefs in the context of my own Christian faith. Being willing to listen and learn from them has made a significant difference in my relationship with them and how I see myself.
Building Trust for True Partnership
As I partner with students and faculty members across the nation, I see the beauty of this both/and perspective. I am learning so much from them and their work on campus. As they contextualize ministry for their specific campuses, they are honoring those who have come before and paving the way for the next generation. As they think about their ethnicity, they learn how their stories shape them for service. For those who are Asian American, they are doing the work of processing the ways that God has gifted them to honor the Lord through a uniquely Asian American lens.
Fellow CCDA practitioners, I am so grateful to be part of this powerful ministry of listening, learning, and growing together. As we build on the good work being done, I encourage our community to grow in listening to Mixed people. If we want to continue to do multiethnic ministry well, we must not neglect the multiethnic folks among us. When we encourage, equip, and empower Mixed folks to serve, the Beloved Community continues to grow and thrive. And as we Asian Americans showcase the value of our ethnic identities, the broader community continues to learn and make progress.
That’s our prayer as we push forward in partnership and true reconciliation:
About Chandra Crane
Chandra Crane (M.A. Ministry) is the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship National Mixed Ministry Coordinator and lives in the Jackson, Mississippi Metro area. She is the author of Mixed Blessing: Embracing the Fullness of Your Multiethnic Identity from InterVarsity Press (2020) and host of the podcast Mixed Blessing: Breaking Bread at the Multiethnic Table. Chandra enjoys reading, napping, and cheerfully defying stereotypes. Follow her on Twitter: @ChandraLCrane.