1
“Hope for the World Through Asian Americans:
4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring”
Mt. Hermon JEMS Family Conference
Pau...
2
I walked in. “OMG! I was stunned...and my heart sunk like the Dow Jones in 2009. In the middle
of the Great Room was a l...
3
They'll all laugh! I can't..."
Then the hostess looked directly at me, and smiled. I took a step, hesitated, drew in a d...
4
Open your Bible to I Cor. 12:7-23. [read]
Paul uses the analogy of body parts to illustrate that a toe is not a hand whi...
5
white person who seems to have it all together as an up-front leader.
He loves you as much as the black person who can w...
6
talk to without editing our thoughts. Someone who will love us unconditionally when life is great
and when life is awful...
7
When I think of Asian Americans being the community glue, I think of an ingredient that provides
the stickiness in the g...
8
Asian Americans like to have the best, if we can afford it. In that way, Asian American Christians
often aren't much dif...
9
could bring on 13 new staff plus have enough to bring the salaries of current staff to a decent
level.
Is this crazy tal...
10
other areas.
One of my heroes is Dr. Lewis Hsu. We met when we were both active at Atlanta Chinese
Christian Church. Le...
11
the Gospel and to join the fight against sex trafficking. Janie is heading up a group of fellow
musicians producing an ...
12
When I first read this, I jumped up and down—in my Asian American kind of way. I even high-
fived—myself. I’m an introv...
13
kingdom is all about: servant leadership. How about some servant leader CEOs?
How do you find potential Level 5 leaders...
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Asian Americans used their high value for hospitality and community to build teams others wanted
to be a part of. They ...
15
As they opened my gift, an incredible thing happened. As the guests saw what it was I brought,
ooohs and ahhhs filled t...
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Paul Tokunaga "Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring"

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"Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring"

Paul Tokunaga (Vice-President, Director of Strategic Ministries at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA) shared this powerfully encouraging message at the Mt. Hermon JEMS Family Conference in July 2013. [Published with permission.]

http://l2foundation.org/2013/hope-for-the-world-through-asian-americans-4-unique-gifts-we-bring

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Paul Tokunaga "Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring"

  1. 1. 1 “Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring” Mt. Hermon JEMS Family Conference Paul Tokunaga July 4, 2013 [A STORY] "I don't like parties much, especially big ones. For me, more than 5-6 people is a crowd. So, when I got the eVite, I looked at the invite list and only three of my friends were invited…out of about 60. I recognized some of the others invited but I didn’t really know them. I don’t know about you but I’m just not that comfortable in a room jam-packed with strangers. I’m never been very good with small talk. I'm not sure what to say and usually I don’t get the jokes people tell so I just go “ha, ha, ha” and hope they don’t ask me what I thought of it. So, I sat there staring at the “Yes,” “No,” “Maybe So” eVite buttons. I knew the hosts. I liked them and I knew they would want me to come. Deep breath…go, Braveheart, go…I hit “Yes.” Here’s another thing about me. I always bring a little something, a little gift whenever I visit someone's house. My parents would kill me if they found out I visited someone empty-handed. A quick trip to the mall. This one? That one? This one? C’mon, dude, it’s not Kim Kardashian’s baby shower. Just pick one. Party Day came. Deep breaths. When I walked through the front door, I was stunned. Everybody was very well-dressed. Some guys had on tuxes, women in Jimmy Choo stilettos and little black dresses—the whole deal. I had on my best, too—my best Dockers khakis and a plaid shirt that matched…pretty much matched. These were A-List people. How did I get invited? Surely someone goofed. I didn’t belong here with these movers and shakers. I was so tempted to moonwalk back out the front door. "You made it! I'm so glad you came! I was hoping you would." She was always a gracious hostess. She came up right when I finished tucking my shirt in. But it was almost like she didn't notice what I had on. I relaxed a bit. The party went on. I kept looking at my watch. The hands were hardly moving. I started rooting for the second hand to move faster. “You can make it..deep breaths.” I tried to channel Conan O’Brian as I small talked. “Nice tie.” “Nice shoes.” “Nice nose ring.” I was running out of material. At some point, the host hollered out, "Let's all gather in the Great Room!"
  2. 2. 2 I walked in. “OMG! I was stunned...and my heart sunk like the Dow Jones in 2009. In the middle of the Great Room was a large table, a huge table— the kind you would have a banquet on. On the table were large gifts. Large gifts. They were all ornately wrapped—like they probably do for you at Giorgio Armani or Versace. I wouldn't know. I’m a Target/Big Lots/Dollar Tree kind of shopper. I’m convinced if God had given an 11th commandment, it would have been: “Thou shalt never shop without a coupon.” If I ever had a child, I would name him/her BOGO as in Buy One, Get One Free. I had brought something very small, very ordinary to me. You know those clearance sections at the end of the aisles at Target? I didn't know it was a gift-giving party. How did I miss that? I kept it in my pocket. I slowly back-pedaled until I was leaning against the rear wall. I tried to impersonate a standing lamp. I chanted my new mantra: Blend in, blend in. One by one, each gift was opened by the host and hostess. What great stuff! Stuff I wish I had. With the opening of each gift, our hosts lavished thanks on the giver. After seeing about 10 of them opened, I looked down at my armpits. I didn’t remember putting on a two-tone shirt. I made up my mind right then and there: no way was I going to put my stupid, tacky, insignificant, poopy, unimportant loser of a gift on that table. I looked for the closest door. I think I can get out. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. Later, I would send a gift similar to the ones on that table, if I could afford it. For the first time in my life, I thanked God for eBay. With all these people here, perhaps the hosts would forget I came and wouldn't realize I didn't leave a gift. I think I can. I think I… "Friends, this is all great. We love what you have brought us. They definitely are things we need and we'll use them well. You were so kind." That was my cue to slip out quietly. I think I can. I think I… "But, it seems like one gift is, uhhh...missing. It was something we were kind of expecting from one of you. This is a little awkward. Did anyone see a gift that didn't get opened?" I was so-o-o-o close to the door. I looked around the room. No one was coming forward with their gift. And then, clearly, the host glanced at me. I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can. "I can't do this, I really can’t do this" I told the door. "My gift is so small and plain and ordinary. I wrapped it myself. I'll be so embarrassed if I bring it up and they open it in front of everyone!
  3. 3. 3 They'll all laugh! I can't..." Then the hostess looked directly at me, and smiled. I took a step, hesitated, drew in a deep breath, and walked forward, head down, eyes on the floor. When I reached the table, I couldn't look up. I held out the gift. The wrapping was nearly coming off because it had been squashed in my pocket all evening. More embarrassment. “Oh God, just shoot me and I’ll die quietly. I promise I won’t make a scene. I won’t bleed all over this Persian rug. Just shoot me now.” "Ahhh..." said the host, his eyes sparkling. My mouth felt like a cotton factory. "I…wish…I could have brought… something else," was all I could get out. As they opened my gift, an incredible thing happened. As the guests saw what it was I brought, ooooohs and aaaaahs filled the entire room. Then, loud clapping, cheering, foot stomping. It was like Heat vs. Spurs, Game 7. They were celebrating my little gift! "It's exactly what we need," the host told me. “Exactly. It’s perfect.” The rest of the party was much better for me. Several people—important people—OMG is that Mark Zuckerberg? OMG that looks like Kobe!–-they came up and said what a terrific gift I had brought. A few others just squeezed my shoulder as they walked by. As the party ended, the hosts stood by the door, thanking each person for coming and for their gift. When I reached them, both of them reached out to me and embraced me. "It wouldn't have been complete without your gift. Thanks so much for bringing it." I walked, actually sort of waltzed into the crisp evening air. "If only I knew it would mean that much to them. I would have given it to them much sooner." I looked around. No one was looking. “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night. That tonight’s gonna be a good night.” Eat your heart out, will.i.am. My night was better than any night you’ve ever had. [WE BELONG!] The Bible is full of parties and banquets. These gatherings were the inspiration for this party. In Isaiah 60, God foretells of a great gathering of diverse people groups coming together, each bringing gifts and offerings distinctive to their place and people. In Luke 14, Jesus gives one picture of the future Kingdom as he tells a parable of a wedding banquet. Like this story, the Bible also speaks clearly and often about each of us having a unique contribution to make in the Kingdom.
  4. 4. 4 Open your Bible to I Cor. 12:7-23. [read] Paul uses the analogy of body parts to illustrate that a toe is not a hand which is not a eye which is not an elbow. Everyone brings something different and all parts are needed for the body to function well. Paul couldn't be clearer: "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (I Cor. 12:17) Asian Americans have gifts to bring to the party. Our gifts are important as well as unique. We have some gifts that no one else can bring. Do you believe that? [JUST AS HE WANTED US TO BE: ASIAN AMERICAN] Do you ever wonder if God made a mistake when he created you? It is not easy being an ethnic minority. We are always comparing ourselves—consciously and subconsciously--with the majority culture, as well as with other minority cultures. “Do I measure up?” “Am I as good?” “Do I have as much to offer?” Me: growing up in mostly white Campbell, CA; white folk—10. The most I could hope for as a Japanese American was to be a 7. But, hear the Gospel in 12:18: "God has arranged the parts in the body, EVERY ONE OF THEM JUST AS HE WANTED THEM TO BE." There was not a celestial computer error when you were created Asian American. God didn't go, "Whoops! Darn! I meant Rick Chuman to be Rick Christopher. I meant Tina O-gimachi to be Tina O’Flaherty. He loves the slant of our eyes. He loves our height…or lack of it. He loves our sleek, hairless arms. He wanted our roots to be in Asia not Europe. He wanted us Asian American. In your heart of hearts, do you believe that? God has not given us the freedom to question our worth in his body. To question our worth or place would be to question his wisdom in creation. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' " We may feel that sometimes the gift we bring is not worthy or does not measure up to the gifts of others, but that is never God's viewpoint. He wants what we have to bring. "On the contrary," continues Paul in 12:22-23, "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are INDISPENSABLE, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with SPECIAL HONOR." Here's my blunt interpretation of that verse for Asian Americans: God don't make no junk. You are loved by him just as much as the
  5. 5. 5 white person who seems to have it all together as an up-front leader. He loves you as much as the black person who can worship his socks off. Chill out and quit wasting so much energy comparing yourself and getting down on yourself for how you don't measure up. God gave you a whole lot and expects you to do something special with it. Leave your comfort zone, leave your only-if-I-were-like-so-and-so pity party and be a vital, unique part of the body of Christ. Let’s go! [BEING UNIQUELY GIFTED] Thankfully, God is not a cookie-cutter creator. Each person in this room is unique. Each culture is unique, as well. Culture is not "Gospel-neutral." We must always examine our culture in the light of God's word. As we do that, it will be clear that there are some aspects that are consistent with the Christian faith and some that work against it. There are some wonderful aspects of being Asian American that give us special contributions to make to the Kingdom. These contributions are not better (nor worse) than the contributions of any other culture...they're simply unique. [4 UNIQUE GIFTS] Tonight, I want to suggest 4 unique gifts Asian American bring to the kingdom of God. I’m not saying that people of other ethnicities don't embody some of these qualities. I am saying these seem to be consistently present with Asian American Christians. #1 Deep Friendships and Being the Community Glue People are starving for a really good friend. Everyone is yearning for a "friend of the soul," someone who understands them at a deep level. We can have a thousand Facebook friends; we can tweet and text until our thumbs turn blue— these will not substitute for a true, deep, authentic friendship. Henry Adams, the Harvard historian, said it well: “One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible.” My best friend Gary led me to faith in Jesus 45 years ago. Many years ago, he told me, “Sometimes I miss you so much I ache inside.” Was it physical attraction? Not at all. He was happily married. I know we will be friends for the rest of our lives. Each of us needs one or two people that we have no secrets with and we refuse to play games with. Several years ago, my friend Paul was stricken with advanced throat cancer. He had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment simultaneously. He would spend a few days receiving treatment and then go home and recover from it and then start it all over again….for several months. Paul asked me if I would be his cancer buddy. I asked him what a cancer buddy was. He said “It’s someone I can talk to without editing myself.” All of us—cancer victims or cancer free—need one or two cancer buddies. Someone who we can
  6. 6. 6 talk to without editing our thoughts. Someone who will love us unconditionally when life is great and when life is awful. I mentioned I play baseball in a league for old guys. In the morning before my afternoon game last weekend, one of my closest friends in Atlanta and my teammate for about 13 years, texted me. He asked where our game was being played. I told him please come, my swing is all out of whack—like in 0-16 out of whack---please come and help me with my swing. He came and he helped me. After the game, I realized why he really came to the game. I got injured during the game and we spend innings 3-6 talking about his marriage which was unraveling. I’m glad we sat in the stands and not in the dugout as he poured out his despair. My teammates would have freaked out. Later, he texted me, “Thanks for listening.” We all want to know intimately and to be intimately known. But few of us are very good at making deep friendships. Current American culture is ragged with distrust towards others. “What does he want from me?” “What are her motives?” “What will happen if I let my guard down and let the real me come out?” All of us are looking for deep friendships, few of us actually find it. Asian Americans, I believe, are strong in developing trusting friendships. We have cancer buddy qualities. Perhaps thanks to our Confucian heritage, we know how to care for others, we are good listeners and we are trustworthy and dependable. We tend to feel deeply what others feel. We know how to walk in their shoes. A huge gift we can give to the kingdom of God is developing deep friendships with non-Asian Americans. Do you have at least ONE white or African American or Latino friend that you can say is a very close, intimate friend? Now, let’s talk about how Asian Americans can be the community glue. Asian American culture is a “group culture.” We’re the original groupies in the best sense of the word. We love being together. We have strong communal genes. It’s built into our cultural DNA. We look out for each other. Here’s the ultimate test of the groupiness of Asian Americans. Next time a bunch of you go out for a meal, someone pull out a watch. Time how long it takes to decide on a restaurant. Sometimes, I think Jesus may return before we decide. Why does it take so long? Because every, every, everyone’s opinion is important. Compare it to a white group: “Hey, In and Out Burgers?” “Fine, let’s go.” And because of our high value for peace and harmony, our presence in groups usually makes them more conflict-free, at least on the surface. We’ll do almost anything for the sake of harmony.
  7. 7. 7 When I think of Asian Americans being the community glue, I think of an ingredient that provides the stickiness in the glue. Years ago, my pal Stan Inouye taught me my third Japanese word after sushi and teriyaki: omoiyari. Takie Sugiyama Lebra, writes in JAPANESE PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR: “For the Japanese, empathy (or omoiyari) ranks high among the virtues considered indispensable for one to be really human, morally mature, and deserving of respect. I am even tempted to call Japanese culture an omoiyari culture. Omoiyari refers to the ability and willingness to feel what others are feeling, to vicariously experience the pleasure or pain that they are undergoing, and to help them satisfy their wishes." While omoiyari is characteristic of Japanese people, it also exists in other Asian cultures. Lebra says, "Omoiyari people seek to maintain consensus or agreement by deferring to the fulfillment of each other's needs and desires. They also seek to optimize each other's comfort by seeking to provide pleasure or prevent displeasure by anticipating the other's needs and desires and taking initiative to meet those needs and fulfill them without the other person having to overtly express them in some obvious way." My mom is the Queen of Omoiyari. When I would come home to visit, she would remember how much I love tofu. Before I arrived, she had gone to the tofu store in Japantown for the freshest tofu in Silicon Valley. She knew I could put away a few bricks of cold tofu with shoyu poured on top. Omoiyari people are very communal and loyal by nature. For any community to function well, it needs some omoiyari people. Asian Americans can be vital players in Christian community. #2 Our Wealth Asian Americans have household and personal income levels that exceed those of any other racial demographic. Did you know that 28%--roughly one out of every four-- Asian American households had incomes over $100,000, compared to 18% for the rest of the country. [This was several years ago.] For those of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ, we "know" that the wealth we may possess is not ours. We say with our lips: "this is God's money and I am to be a good steward of it." Some of us grew up in immigrant churches singing hymns like “I surrender all, I surrender all.” But what we really meant was “I surrender all…except my bank account,” “ I surrender all…but my dream house,” “I surrender all… but my 529 college savings account for an Ivy League education for my children.”
  8. 8. 8 Asian Americans like to have the best, if we can afford it. In that way, Asian American Christians often aren't much different than our non-believing Asian American friends. Our homes, cars and vacation trips look pretty similar. Why do the parking lots of our some of our churches look so much like luxury car lots? North Park Seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah said, “Our crass materialism will be one of the main things God will judge Asian Americans for.” As Asian Americans enter second, third, fourth and fifth generations, we have growing freedom to become missionaries, pastors and Christian workers. With the explosion of parachurch ministries like InterVarsity, options abound. Most options involve raising one's support to cover salary and ministry expenses. This is where fellow Asian American Christians can play a strategic role. I’d like to paint one scenario for you to consider. One of the ministries I admire a lot is Asian American Christian Fellowship, AACF. Before InterVarsity, Navigators and Cru was doing much with Asian American students, AACF was pioneering and plowing new ground. I count former directors Stan Inouye and Tommy Dyo as good friends. When InterVarsity was trying to figure out Asian American Ministry, we hired Stan as our consultant to help us figure it out. And as far as I’m concerned, Melanie Mar Chow hung the moon and the stars for her faithfulness over the long haul. I know that several AACF staff are underpaid. Some of us in this room might make as much in a month as they make in a year. If we are truly the body of Christ, there’s something wrong with this picture. Can the arm say to the knee you aren’t needed? When I think of the future of Asian American churches on the West Coast, I allow myself to dream of them being filled with AACF alums who have been well-trained in ministry. Some may become pastors. Many could become elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers. Do you realize that Asian American churches on the West Coast set the pace for Asian American churches in the rest of the country? At Urbana ’96, I was leading a seminar for Asian American pastors from around the country. I told them, “You want to know what Asian American churches will look like, what issues they will deal with 10 years from now? Watch what is happening with Asian American churches on the West Coast now. In 10 years, many of the issues they face will face your churches.” Someone once said, “To whom much has been is give, much is required.” Let’s dream a little together. Let’s say that in this room, there are 150 giving units. Let’s say that each giving unit committed $5,000. Some can’t do that right now but some could give more. $5,000 average. That’s $750,000. Let’s do some math. Let’s say it costs $50,000 to bring on a new AACF staff. With $750,000, you
  9. 9. 9 could bring on 13 new staff plus have enough to bring the salaries of current staff to a decent level. Is this crazy talk or doable? That’s Year One. In Year Two, you give $5,000 again. But in Year Two, you each recruit one friend to give $2,500 to AACF. That’s $750,000 plus $375,000 for a total of $1,125,000 of funding AACF didn’t have in 2013. You get the picture. Is this crazy talk or doable? That might not be the best approach—I didn’t check with Rick on this—but I hope it gets you thinking. I imagine in this crowd are some entrepreneurial thinkers who could tweak what I presented and make it better. I had a roommate in college. I found out after we graduated that Joe was a millionaire. Back in 1973, millionaire meant more than it does now. You’d never know Joe had that kind of wealth. He never talked about money and he was the tightest of the four of us who shared a house our senior year. He had inherited family wealth and was a savvy investor. I asked him if he would support me on staff. Because I was raised a Buddhist and I became a Christian right before I entered college, I didn’t have a church family to support me but I sensed God’s call to reach college students. Joe had just gotten married. He asked me what my salary was. My first year it was $375. That was a month’s salary. The second year I got a huge raise to $540/month. He said he would lower his salary to match mine so he could feel what it was like to live on a staffworker’s salary. He knew ministry was not his calling but he wanted to experience first-hand our financial lifestyle. He started giving me $8,000 a year. That was 40 years ago. He and his wife have given over a quarter million dollars to my support. We could not be serving with InterVarsity without their giving. Joe knew he could never be an InterVarsity staff. But he knew he had the gift of giving. This spiritual gift enables me to do what is true to his heart’s desire for college students—to see them meet Jesus and become more like him. If we say that our wealth is from God and the money belongs to him and is on loan to us to use wisely, then let's live like we mean it. #3 Our Intellect and Our Education As Asian Americans we might have another gift--our intellect and our education. Put aside those tacky stereotypes for a minute—we have to admit Asian Americans on the whole are a pretty smart lot. We may not all be "Asian whiz kids" in math and science, but a lot of us do pretty well in
  10. 10. 10 other areas. One of my heroes is Dr. Lewis Hsu. We met when we were both active at Atlanta Chinese Christian Church. Lewis is brilliant. Lewis is deeply committed to Jesus. Maybe thirty years ago, Lewis learned how sickle cell anemia was killing people, mostly African Americans. He has given his life to find a cure for sickle cell anemia. For the past twenty-something years he has spent his days in a lab with mice. In order to pay the bills, he was also a pediatrician. When he realized he wasn’t getting what he needed for his research in Atlanta, he moved his family to Washington, DC, where he did research at the National Institute of Health. After several years there, he moved to Chicago to continue his research. Lewis will not rest until he discovers the cure for sickle cell anemia. Janie Chu is another friend from ACCC. I’ve known Janie since her college days at Emory University. It was there that she realized she wanted to pursue music and she transferred to Belmont College in Nashville to study music and pursue a career. After she graduated, she put together a band. I went to see her perform at several Atlanta venues. Janie was good but something was missing. A few years ago, Janie discovered a new passion, a new calling: to stop sex trafficking. She saw that she could use her gifts in song-writing and performance to persuade others to join the fight against this terrible immoral, physical and spiritual cancer. As I listen to her music on-line, I sense a person who has found her calling. In October, InterVarsity is sponsoring a city-wide campaign in New York City called the Price of Life Invitational where we are challenging students and faculty on 15 Manhattan campuses with
  11. 11. 11 the Gospel and to join the fight against sex trafficking. Janie is heading up a group of fellow musicians producing an album of new music to raise visibility of this cause. How might God use you with the mind and the heart he’s given you and the wild dreams you have for what you might do with your life to help others? Don’t settle for something boring like becoming a millionaire so you can buy the latest toys. You’re better than that. You were meant for more than that. #4 Level 5 Leadership In 2001, Jim Collins wrote the best-seller Good to Great (Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t). He asked: “Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how?” His team of research associates did massive research. They discovered out of 1,435 companies that have appeared on the Fortune 500 since 1965, only 11 companies qualified as making the jump from being a good company to becoming a great company, using their criteria for a great company. When Collins’ research team looked for repeated themes in these 11 companies, they were surprised with the outcome. They found a certain combination of qualities were found in all of the CEOs in the 11 companies during their 15-year transition from being a good company to being transformed into a great one. Collins: “The most powerfully transformative executives possess a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will. They are timid and ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare—and unstoppable.” At the risk of embarrassing some of you, I want y’all to look around the room. What do you see? I believe some of you are looking at Level 5 leaders. When his research team interviewed the CEOs of these 11 Level 5 leaders, here’s what they said about themselves: • “I hope I am not sounding like a big shot.” • “Did I have a lot to do with it? Oh, that sounds so self-serving. I don’t think I can take much credit. We were blessed with marvelous people.” • “There’s plenty of people in this company who could do my job better than I do.” They found the people who worked with these select leaders continually used words like “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings and so forth.” Look around the room one more time. Look with new eyes. What do you see? Collins: “The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.”
  12. 12. 12 When I first read this, I jumped up and down—in my Asian American kind of way. I even high- fived—myself. I’m an introvert. That’s how we celebrate! “He’s talking about my people!” I started seeing the faces of more than a handful of really outstanding Asian American leaders. And more than half of them were women. I was in the middle of writing “Invitation to Lead” when I read this in Good to Great. I got so pumped I added a new chapter called Level 5 Asian American Leaders. Now, let me be straight up with you. I realize I’m risking stereotyping all Asian Americans. There are certainly some Asian Americans who don’t fit Collins’ description. Thank goodness we’re not all the same. But, I do believe his description fits many of us. We have been told for decades that given our makeup, disposition, gifting—call it what you like—Asian Americans were not CEO, top dog material. They call us good number crunchers or invaluable second-in-command or consummate team players but the hot seat belongs to those named Gates, Jobs, Obama. It isn’t our way to nominate ourselves to be the top dog. As I reflected on Collin’s list of qualities of Level 5 leaders, it felt like a blend of the best of Confucian and Christian values: • “shuns public adulation” (“the nail that sticks out gets nailed down”) Look around you. • “channels ambition into the company” (the group’s success is more important than personal achievement) Look around you. • “demonstrates a compelling modesty…never boastful” (“ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” I Corinthians 13:4) Look around you. • “sets up successors for even more greatness in the next generation” (“And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.” 2 Timothy 2:2) Look around you. • “creates superb results” (“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Look around you. • “demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.” (“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24) Look around you. Some of you may be thinking, “Level 5? What are you talking about? Jesus will return before I’m Level 5!” Now that may in fact be true for some of us, but not all of us. I’m venturing that in this very room are some closet Level Fivers. You have what it takes. You may need more seasoning, you may really benefit from a mentor, some training sure would help—yes, yes, yes—but down the road, you might indeed be Level 5. Wouldn’t that be something! Not just so you can say, “Level 5, that’s me, pretty cool, huh; what are you, Level 3?” But that you can become an incredibly effective servant leader. And that’s what leadership in God’s
  13. 13. 13 kingdom is all about: servant leadership. How about some servant leader CEOs? How do you find potential Level 5 leaders? How do you cultivate and develop them? How do you help them succeed at the highest levels? In 2002, I was sitting in a meeting of senior InterVarsity staff. Our senior vice-president was giving a presentation on InterVarsity’s leadership pipeline. To summarize, he said, “Our leadership pipeline is drying up. If we don’t do something very different in the next few years we won’t have leaders prepared to lead InterVarsity for the next 20-30 years.” That got me thinking. At the time, I was InterVarsity’s Asian American Ministry Coordinator. We were working with about 4,000 AA students and we had about 100 Asian American staff. I knew that among those 100 staff were some tremendously gifted leaders. But because their style of leadership was different than “mainstream InterVarsity” they were flying under the radar. They were being passed up for promotions to key leadership roles. And being Asian American, they weren’t going to make a stink about it. In 2003, I put together a team of our best conceptualizers, leadership developers, curriculum gurus. We met at the headquarters of LEAP, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, the top Asian American leadership development company. I had been developing a friendship with J.D. Hokoyama, then-director of LEAP. I asked him if we could meet at their headquarters to develop our curriculum and could we hire him and LEAP’s best curriculum developer to review what we put together? J.D. and his curriculum people were very helpful. After he studied our curriculum carefully, J.D. got excited and said, “Wait until Asian American churches find out about this! They’re going throw all kinds of money at you to get it in their churches!” (That hasn’t happened yet but we are open to serving the church in this way.) We decided to name our Asian American leadership development project The Daniel Project after Daniel in the Old Testament. In the initial chapters, Daniel and a few other Jewish pals are recognized by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar for their leadership potential and then given the best treatment and training possible. We intended to do the same in InterVarsity. We developed an 18-month program aimed at preparing the 14 members in the leadership cohort to become regional directors. Regional directors oversee InterVarsity’s campus ministry. For example, on the West Coast we have three RDs: Northwest, Northern Cal, Southern Cal. A year after the project ended, 12 of the 14 members were promoted to positions of more responsibility. One became a regional director, one became the Urbana Missions Conference Program Director, one is the new Asian American Director. One has just been called as the pastor of Seattle Japanese Baptist Church. Several female members of the cohort got together to write an AA women’s leadership book called More Than Serving Tea. Asian American staff were being considered for roles they had once been overlooked for. InterVarsity leaders began seeing the beauty of the way Asian Americans led. They saw how
  14. 14. 14 Asian Americans used their high value for hospitality and community to build teams others wanted to be a part of. They saw how conflict was handled sensitively and discreetly. We have now run three Asian American Daniel Projects with 42 participants. We were also asked to run Daniel Projects for the other ethnic groups. Finally, other parts of InterVarsity started saying, “What about us? Why can’t we get a Daniel Project?” So, we’ve done them for blacks, Latinos, women, Greeks and ISM. A total of 98 staff are Daniel Project alums. Today, there are Asian Americans at every leadership level in InterVarsity. There are two Asian American board trustees, two Asian American Vice-Presidents, one National Field Director, two regional directors, a senior editor at InterVarsity Press, over 25 area directors. Around 2006, InterVarsity’s Cabinet—its most senior leaders—looked around the table and saw a whole lot of grey hair. They realized there would be a huge leadership void at the top level if they didn’t do something quick. In 2008, I joined the Cabinet and was tasked to work with the president to develop a leadership development program for those who might be potential Cabinet members in the next 5-10 years. We called it the Prospective Senior Leaders Cohort. I called it “The Daniel Project on steroids.” We concluded it Sunday and it seems like it was a great success. Some members of that cohort have already been promoted to new roles. We begin the next cohort next month. Deep Friendships and Being the Community Glue Our Wealth Our Intellect and our Education Level 5 Leadership We have so much to offer the church, our communities, the world. [BACK TO THE PARTY] "Friends, this is all great. We love what you have brought us. They definitely are things we need and we'll use them well. You were so kind." "But, it seems like one gift is, uhhh...missing. It was something we were kind of expecting from one of you. Did anyone see a gift that didn't get opened?" Then the hostess looked directly at me, and smiled. I took a step, hesitated, drew in a deep breath, and walked forward, head down, eyes on the floor. When I reached the table, I couldn't look up. I held out the gift. The wrapping was nearly coming off because it had been squashed in my pocket all evening. More embarrassment. “Oh God, just shoot me and I’ll die quietly. I promise I won’t make a scene.” "Ahhh..." said the host, his eyes sparkling.
  15. 15. 15 As they opened my gift, an incredible thing happened. As the guests saw what it was I brought, ooohs and ahhhs filled the entire room. Then, loud clapping, cheering, foot stomping. They were celebrating my little gift! "It's exactly what we need," the host told me. “Exactly. It’s perfect.” As the party ended, the hosts stood by the door, thanking each person for coming and for their gift. When I reached them, both of them reached out to me and embraced me. "It wouldn't have been complete without your gift. Thanks so much for bringing it." I walked, actually sort of waltzed into the crisp evening air. "If only I knew it would mean that much to them. I would have given it to them much sooner." I looked around. No one was looking. “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night That tonight’s gonna be a good night.” ###

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