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Southeast Asian Leadership Summit – ISAAC’s report

The re:new Southeast Asian Leadership Summit was held last week from March 11-13, in the greater DC area.  Attendees numbering around 130 attended from around the country, enjoying the modern facilities of Open Door Presbyterian Church (a 17-year old, fast-growing bilingual Korean church, www.opendoorpc.org).  Many of the attendees were young adults with a few older faces sprinkled in the crowd.

This is the second nationwide conference led by the South East Asian Committee (SEAC, www.seacleaders.com); the first was in 2006 in Long Beach, CA.  The seed for this movement germinated at the 2004 Asian American Leadership Conference in Los Angeles.  That event was organized and led mostly by Asian Americans of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ancestry, but included a forum for South East Asian American leaders to gather and catch the vision that became SEAC.  (As it happens, the followup 2008 Asian American Leadership Conference is also taking place this month, http://aalc2008.org.)

Keynote speakers were Southeast Asian leaders Arounsavath Sacdyphoud (IL), Men Mua (MN) and Ken Kong (CA), and Australian scientist John Ridgway who has worked in Asia for 27 years.

There were also many workshops during the breakout sessions.  ISAAC was represented by Andrew Lee and Russell Yee who led sessions on Reading the Bible as an Asian American and Asian American worship (SEAing Worship) respectively as part of the Re:Source track.  Other seminar tracks were in Leadership Development, Evangelism and Re:Conciliation.

The highlight of the conference occurred on Friday night during the celebration banquet.  One of the leaders from the 1st generation church got up and shared this through a translator.

“We sacrificed so much to come here.  Perhaps that is why we wanted so much to protect you (1.5+ 2nd generation). But now I see we held on too tightly.  Please forgive us. We need to release you, to let you go. We bless you. We want the future to be one of mutual forgiveness, mutual respect, and mutual full support.”

It was an absolutely electrifying moment. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.

This reconciliation may well have been the fruit, in part, of the SEAC leaders including an honoring-of-elders lunch and presentation at the 2006 conference in Long Beach, with each 1st-generation pastor seated in a place of honor and recognized.  But it was also the result of the SEAC leaders having it together in organizing events that are attractive, well-networked, and effective in equipping next generation leaders.

The South East Asian American church is far younger than the East Asian American churches that make up the largest and oldest segments of the Asian American church.  Yet this impressive new generation of leaders–emerging from the backdrop of full wartime catastrophe, immigration hardships, and scattered settlement into American cities–has managed to forge, in just five years or so, a nationwide movement among their churches.  At this pace, they will not only continue learning from both the achievements and mistakes of older Asian American churches and movements, but indeed will have (and indeed, already do have) much to teach others as well.

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