Chinatown Through the Eyes of God: Good Good News for our hyper-diverse City

Imagine if God were walking through Chinatown. What would God look or sound like? “Maybe God looks like an old Chinese grandma. Maybe God speaks Cantonese, Russian, or Spanish (all languages prevalent in Chinatown). Maybe God is smoking a cigarette. Maybe God smells like fish or herbs or incense. When we walk through Chinatown, we encounter a God who challenges us because Chinatown challenges us. Here, we meet God on God’s terms.” – Nate Lee, board member of Kingdom Rice

Chinatown’s story is a portal to the hyper-diversity of cities like San Francisco

Note that peoples of the world have descended upon the Bay Area and cities like it – the sheer migration of people into Bay Area cities from all throughout the world. There’s never been a time like this. “Missions” is no longer just across the oceans. It’s across the street, across the hall, in the market, or dancing next to us in Zumba class.

(See this chart found at one of my partner ministries, Youth With a Mission, San Francisco)

The frontiers of mission have been traditionally thought to be overseas. But with globalization, the frontiers are not so much geographic, they are urban and Asian (urban theologian Ray Bakke named this trend 20 years ago). More people are living in cities than ever before in history. Also, Asian culture and influence are sweeping the world. Whereas our Western world was once characterized with rugged individualism and the “Marlboro Man,” immigration and the onslaught of social media has brought “face” culture to the mainstream. Thirst for “face” is no longer a descriptor for Asians only. The thirst for face is ubiquitous, and the Church needs to pivot and embrace this reality.

With the nations at our doorstep, the Chinatown story is an entryway to the Kingdom’s unfolding plan. Cities in the Bay Area have a front-row seat. But we all have a role in inviting people to share in this story.

People from these nations are thirsting for an honor only God’s Story can ultimately give.

Recent global shifts have brought honor-shame to the forefront. Global Christianity has shifted from West to East, and North to South. No longer are Western lands the center of Christianity. Similarly, the moral imperative has shifted from guilt to shame. With all these unprecedented shifts, sharing the shame-reversing Good News of God is imperative. See here for more on this.

You are already familiar with Jesus’ invitations to the least likely in many of his encounters to the most despised, outcast, ridiculed. And perhaps you’re already familiar with all the “shameful” characters contained within Jesus’ genealogy.  We know Jesus’ mission. But rarely is it expressed this way. Jesus reverses our shame. How much have you thought through any of Jesus encounters with that simple framework? Or for that matter, how much have we thought through the entire biblical story with that framework? How much have you shared your own testimony to others from a place of how God reversed your shame? It requires vulnerability; it requires being present in other people’s lives.

Consider these links:

Bringing the Kingdom to our own Ohanas.

“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.” Je 29:5, NKJV

Are apocalyptic-looking skies part of our new normal of disasters, loss, masks, and injustice? Under very different circumstances, the Israelites too had to accept a new normal. False prophets promised escape. Yet the Lord commanded the Israelites to settle into the new normal, to engage for the long haul, and to seek the peace in their city. How relevant these words are to us today to embrace this new normal and to seek the peace of our own communities, orange skies and all.

Christian history reveals times when Christianity rose during transitions and new normals (e.g. the early Church, communist regimes, previous pandemics). This is the time (during our pandemic) and the place (our increasingly diverse U.S.) to seek the peace of where we live.

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