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How To Understand Educational Success As Asian American Christians

by Dr. Jonathan Kim, G2G-KODIA Canada Regional Director

What does successful education look like for Asian North American Christians? How can we evaluate whether education we provide is successful or not? How should we understand what it means to have strong education as Asian North Americans?

The following four suggestions are based on my personal journey in youth ministry, missions, and Christian education. Although a whole lot more can be said to cover what it means to have strong education as Asian North American Christians, due to the space constraining here, I will keep it to the following four points.

1. Discovering one’s gift and use it for the sake of God’s kingdom and righteousness

The process of discovering one’s gift is not easy. Often, it takes numerous painful processes of trial and error. Even so, I have seen many college students struggling with their choices of majors and areas of study. Many ended up changing their major or even career. One speaker from TED Talks mentioned about “multipotentiality.” According to the speaker, people who have gone through different fields or majors have the following advantages: Intersection synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability. They can bring all the areas they experienced and synthesize them for creativity and innovation. They are able to learn quickly and have incredible strength to adapt to ever-changing learning environments. Can we, Christian educators, provide learning space to discover and explore God-given gifts and encourage them to be passionate about using their gifts to seek love, righteousness, and justice rather than money, power, and even wisdom?

2. Striving to be one’s best as disciples of Christ rather than trying to be the best

My wife serves as a professional counselor. There are undeniable and sad facts that many believers suffer from low self-esteem even though they may have heard many times throughout their Christian journey that they are God’s masterpiece fearfully and wonderfully made. Often, some Asian North American parents cherish or even brag about their children being admitted to Ivy League colleges as “committed Christians.” To them, educational success and the sign of God’s grace is shown through their children going to nation’s prestigious colleges and universities and ended up working at big corporations. However, even the best is easily replaced by another one who is smarter and better than the best. While only one can be the best in her own field, everyone can be as best as she can be living out her full God-given potential. If we truly believe that in Christ “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him,” (Col 1:15) then can we teach followers of Jesus to learn from our Master in every perceivable field we can imagine whether that is art, science, engineering, humanity, mathematics and all other fields existing and fields yet to be discovered? As we teach the followers of Christ to learn from the Master to become as best as they can be, they will learn to live just the way God created them. There will only be one’s best but not the best.

3. Going beyond embracing one’s own ethnic heritage and identity to serve the world God created

When I have involved in youth ministry nearly more than 20 years ago, I encountered a youth in high school who thought that she was a white person trapped in the yellow skin. Asian North American youth may go through a series of identity confusion, hyphenated identity, or even identity crisis. Though it all, they learn to accept their Asian identities as a God-given privilege to cherish not inferiority to blame upon. Accepting one’s Asian identity is one thing but embracing and even cherishing it is quite another. However, even after embracing and cherishing one’s identity as Asian North Americans, can we as God’s people go beyond being Asian North Americans to reach out to multicultural and multiethnic communities? The discourse of Asian North American Christian education needs to go beyond talking about one’s own Asianness to reach out other non-Asian ethnic and cultural groups realizing that it is God’s desire to bring them also into the body of Christ.

4. Developing Christlike Character

The Washington Post published an article titled, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students” on December 20, 2017. According to the article, a Google study showed that “the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence.” In spite of the educational emphasis on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), it is interesting for one of the tech giants to find out that the character matters in addition to the computational skills of their workers to be the best teams at Google. Is there a place for a Christlike character to shine in today’s marketplace? Can the fruit of the Spirit have a place to make a big difference in today’s world? Education that develops, cherishes, and encourages Christlike character is indeed powerful and influential in today’s world as it always has been. Despite what is happening in politics and popular culture, character indeed matters.

The above four suggestions by no means are an exhaustive list of what successful education looks like. However, it is my hope that Asian North American Christian educators would consider my suggestions seriously.

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