Archive for March, 2007

San Jose Merc: Vietnam family’s tale will break your heart

March 23, 2007 Leave a comment

<- Jayvee Mai The Hiep, left, and Long Nguyen from a scene in the film “Journey From the Fall.” (IMAGINASIAN Pictures)

Vietnam family’s tale will break your heart
By Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News

The story of Vietnam’s “boat people,” who fled by the hundreds of thousands in the late 1970s and early ’80s, has been told – and often oversimplified – in films as part of an ongoing immigrant fable about the American dream. In pictures as various as Timothy Bui’s “Green Dragon” and “The Beautiful Country,” the Vietnamese-American diaspora has been reassuringly pitched as a rising tide that lifted all boat people.

In the heartbreaking drama “Journey From the Fall” (“Vuot Song”), beginning its exclusive Bay Area engagement at the Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose today, the story is reopened like an old wound. “Journey” starts as the Vietnam War ends, but unlike the Americans seen crowding onto helicopters during the fall of Saigon, no one in the film ever completely escapes Vietnam.

Though many of the refugees who took to the high seas on small fishing boats were seeking the prosperity that America seemed to offer, others were desperate to escape the re-education camps to which former South Vietnamese soldiers were being herded. “Journey From the Fall” begins with Long Nguyen (played by the actor Long Nguyen) refusing the desperate plea of his wife, Mai (Diem Lien), to evacuate with the Americans, and quickly descends into the hell that he faces in the camps.

Subjected to unspeakable acts of cruelty by his communist jailers for his refusal to be “re-educated,” Long soon recognizes the hopelessness of his situation. He tells Mai to take their small son Lai (Nguyen Thai Nguyen) and his elderly mother Ba Noi (Kieu Chinh) and try to escape on one of the rickety boats setting sail for the United States. It seems almost unimaginable that they will succeed.

It’s that pervasive sense of hopelessness, in fact, that sets writer-director Ham Tran’s story apart, and makes most of the first hour of the film crushingly painful to watch. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement (“Crushingly painful!” – the Mercury News), but the meaning of all that suffering – theirs and yours – becomes clear in the second half of the film.

That’s when “Journey” arrives in Orange County, but even after the family resettles in America – scarred by weeks of drifting at sea, and a horrifying raid by Thai pirates – the movie carries on with Long’s story in the camp. He begins to plot his own way out, refusing to give up on seeing his family again, even though the only possibility of escape is across an unexploded minefield.

“To get to life, you have to cross death,” Long tells another prisoner. Sometimes it really is about the journey, not the destination.

Writer-director Ham Tran will answer questions from the audience following the 6:45 p.m. showing Sunday at the Camera 12.

Journey From the Fall

Rated R (some violence)

Cast Kieu Chinh, Long Nguyen, Diem Lien, Khanh Doan, Cat Ly, Nguyen Thai Nguyen

Writer-director Ham Tran

Running time 2 hours, 15 minutes

In Vietnamese and English with English subtitles.

Contact Bruce Newman or (408) 920-5004. Read his reviews online at, and listen to his weekly DVD podcasts at

Categories: review

Asian American pastor and/or priests — you’re invited to participate in this research project

March 15, 2007 Leave a comment

March 15, 2007

Dear Pastor/Priest:

My name is Ellie Hsieh. I am an Asian American graduate student at Virginia Tech. I am conducting a research study on the responses and perspectives of Asian American Christian clergy to marital conflict within their church communities. The purpose of my study is to understand how cultural, religious, and demographic factors in Asian clergy affect their perceptions and responses to marital conflict. This information will ideally enable mental health workers and other professionals find culturally and spiritually sensitive ways to work with Asian churches and clergy on issues related to marital conflict. The questionnaire is estimated to take 25-30 minutes to complete. For more information, please click on the link or paste the following link into your web browser to reach the questionnaire:

I look forward to receiving your completed questionnaire. Please answer all the questions on the questionnaire and return it by April 15th. If you are interested in the research results, please contact me and I will be happy to send you a summary of the study when it is finished. Thank you in advance for your help and time. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Ellie Hsieh, Master’s candidate at Virginia Tech

Categories: resource

Nice student video from Columbia University (Mar 2006)

March 11, 2007 1 comment

Culture Shock – “Identity” – Unraveling “Asia America”

Directed and edited by Calvin Sun, “Identity” -Unraveling “Asian America” seeks to reveal what lies beneath the color of our skins for a new generation of Asian Americans.

This ten minute video by the Columbia University Asian American Alliance features selected interviews from 50+ undergraduate students representing over 20 different cultural and performance organizations at Columbia University. Topics range from the indeterminate nature of the Asian American identity to subtle cultural diversity/segregation challenges among undergraduate campuses and possible solutions to these issues.

Production began November 2005, and post production wrapped up March 2006.

APNA Summit – attendees

March 8, 2007 2 comments

March 8, 2007

Connie Kang, staff writer of the Los Angles Times, wrote a story about the recent Asian and Pacific North American Seminary Centers Summit held at Fuller Seminary on February 17th. You can find the story here.

The summit was co-sponsored by ISAAC and the Korean Institute for Advanced Theological Studies (KIATS). Participants at this gathering included:

  • David Bundy, Fuller Seminary
  • David Chai, Pacific and Asian American Christian Education
  • Grace Choi-Kim, ISAAC
  • Virstan Choy, Asian American Ministry Program (McCormick Seminary)
  • Jin Hwang, KIATS
  • Young Lee Hertig, Azusa Pacific University and ISAAC
  • Don Kim, Asian American Center (Garrett-Evangelical Seminary)
  • Faith Kim, Kim Intercultural School (Golden Gate Baptist Seminary)
  • Jae Hyun Kim, KIATS
  • Jonathan Kim, Talbot Seminary
  • Joo Hong Kim, Young Nak Presbyterian Church
  • Sang Hyun Lee, Asian American Center (Princeton Seminary)
  • Won Lee, Nagel Institute for World Christianity (Calvin College)
  • Fumitaka Matsuoka, PANA Institute (Pacific School of Religion)
  • Daniel Newman, Asian Center (Haggard School of Theology)
  • Kirsten Oh, Fuller Seminary
  • Wing Ning Pang, Chinese Bi-Cultural Ministry program (Alliance Seminary) and ISAAC
  • Timothy Tseng, ISAAC
  • Ruth Vuong, Fuller Seminary

In the next few months, ISAAC will explore ways to work with seminaries that have APNA programs or want to strengthen their efforts with APNA students and faculty.

Tim Tseng

Categories: events

APNA Summit – LA Times story

LA Times reporter Connie Kang covered a ISAAC and Korean Institute for Advanced Theological Studies gathering of seminary-based Asian American Center directors at Fuller Seminary on Feb. 17th. It was an important first step towards making theological education more relevant to Asian and Pacific North American Christian communities. Please contact her if you have any comments. Hope that you find it useful. For a list of participants, follow this link.

Tim Tseng
Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity
(510) 962-5584,1,1318985,full.story

Asian American churches face leadership gap
Pastors aren’t being prepared to handle congregational conflicts over cultural and generational issues, experts say.
By K. Connie Kang
Times Staff Writer

March 3, 2007

Asian American churches are going through a “crisis of leadership” because seminaries are not preparing a new generation of pastors to work in multi-generational and multicultural settings, Asian American Christian leaders say.

The problem, the leaders say, affects churches throughout the country but is particularly pronounced in California.

At a time when Christian immigrants from Asia and Asian converts in the United States are fueling what a study calls “the most dynamic changes in American Christianity,” few U.S. seminaries offer courses designed to prepare pastoral leaders for the linguistic and cultural needs of Asian American congregations. That was the view expressed by experts who gathered last month at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena for a national summit of directors of seminary-based Asian American Christian centers.

One result is decreasing enrollment of Asian Americans in seminaries.

Recruiting Asian American seminarians is “a major challenge,” said Fumitaka Matsuoka, former dean of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. “We have generous financial aid, but even with that, it’s hard.”

Matsuoka said only three or four Asian American students are enrolled at his seminary, a stone’s throw from UC Berkeley, where 43% of students are Asian American. “The discrepancy is incredible,” he said.

At Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, Asian American students number about 50 — down from more than 100 in the 1990s, according to the Rev. Sang Hyun Lee, a professor of systematic theology and director of the seminary’s Asian American program.

Pastors, seminary professors and lay leaders said at the session and in later interviews that generational schisms in Asian American churches are causing clergy attrition and turnover among pastors born or reared in the United States. Some young pastors experience so much frustration that they start their own English-speaking, pan-Asian churches. Others become so disillusioned that they leave the ministry, experts said.

A 2005 Duke Divinity School study, “Asian American Religious Leadership Today,” said the “most acute tensions” in Asian American churches revolved around two issues:

• Continual clashes between the generations over cultural differences in the styles and philosophies of church leadership and control.

• Young pastors’ view that immigrant churches are “dysfunctional and hypocritical religious institutions” that demonstrate a “negative expression” of Christian spirituality for the second generation.

For example, some American-born or -reared pastors consider the hierarchal structure of heavily immigrant churches and their emphasis on prosperity difficult to handle.

The situation is complex because many immigrants start on the lower rungs of the social ladder in America, and the church is one of the few social outlets where they can display trappings of success — whether it’s their children’s achievements or luxury cars.

Also, second-generation pastors, who often handle English-language ministries within Asian churches, say they have no influence on church policymaking because most English-language ministries are not financially self-sufficient and the big donors are often first-generation parishioners.

The problems are so pervasive that Jonathan H. Kim, an associate professor of Christian education at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, is doing a study on clergy attrition, conflict and burnout among U.S.-born Asian pastors.

The Duke Divinity School report also said that pastors trained in Asian seminaries or Bible schools appear better equipped to serve churches in Asia than Asian American congregations in North America.

Even those who are trained in the United States may be better able to lead churches in Asia or predominantly white congregations in North America, because their training fails to impart an understanding of Asian American issues, the study said. The Roman Catholic Church has the most extensive program among American Christian groups for preparing Asian priests for ministerial leadership in U.S. churches and society, the study said.

Seminaries affiliated with mainline denominations are experiencing the biggest loss in Asian American enrollment.

Princeton’s Lee said that only 15% of Asian American seminarians attend seminaries affiliated with mainline denominations. The overwhelming majority — 80% — choose evangelical institutions.

Serving the complex Asian American Christian communities today requires “crossing boundaries between East and West, immigrant and native-born, and between various ethnic communities,” said the Rev. Tim Tseng, president of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity.

“Like Hiroshima, the fusion jazz band that blends Asian and Western instrumental and musical sensibilities, the formation of the next generation of Asian Pacific North America church leaders requires improvisation and a willingness to redefine what it means to be an Asian Christian in North America and the world,” Tseng said.

For example, a young American-born pastor might have to balance his inclination to speak his mind with the assumptions of elders who expect deference from the young.

Tseng, who was born in Taiwan and reared in New York, and the Rev. Young Lee Hertig, a Korean American Presbyterian minister and lecturer at Azusa Pacific University, are co-founders of the institute.

Its goals include training culturally sensitive and biblically grounded professionals and lay leaders to serve Asian American churches.

The institute also aims to educate colleges and universities, religious institutions and the public about Asian American Christian history and to encourage research that brings in-depth understanding of Asian American Christianity.

Joo Hong Kim, a lay leader who teaches college students Sunday school at Youngnak Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles, a Korean mega-church with a $15-million annual budget, said Korean churches have difficulty finding qualified Korean American pastors to teach the younger generation, and he doesn’t know why. He asked experts at the conference to help.

Some seminaries use creative approaches to encourage Asian American students to enter the ministry.

With a grant from the Lilly Foundation, McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago embarked on a $1.9-million, four-year program to encourage, support and challenge new generations of Asian American young adults to consider and possibly pursue a Christian vocation.

Called AADVENT — Asian American Discipleship for Vocational Empowerment, Nurture and Transformation, the program includes a summer conference and “taste of seminary” leadership seminars to encourage students to consider the vocation.

McCormick has eight Asian American students, according to the Rev. Virstan Choy, interim director of the Center for Asian American Ministries at McCormick and a visiting professor of ministry.

“You have to start with junior high to raise the question early on about vocation,” he said.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Categories: events