nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring
their splendor into it. On no
day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is
shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the
Lamb's book of life. [Revelation
need to learn how to be effective global bridges in our local
global realities of the 21st Century are changing the local
neighborhoods of major metropolitan centers.
Because of the rapid advances in communication and transportation
technologies, the world is shrinking into a small, global city.
In this new century, local churches or biblical communities will be
required to minister cross-culturally both across the ocean and across the
discovering that some of the best cross-cultural bridges that God has been
using are story-listening and story-telling in the context
of biblical community-building.
Encounter With Mr. Hutchison
used to live in Fraserview, a beautiful district of Vancouver, British
neighbor, George Hutchison, knocked on my door one Saturday afternoon and
insisted that we talk. I was
scared! I felt as if his big
Caucasian fist was shaking my whole house.
He’s about two hundred fifty pounds, six feet tall, and still
strong at age sixty-five.
to disturb you, Dann,” he politely apologized.
Then with a louder voice, he expressed his complaint: “I’m,
really getting irritated by that new family from Hongkong!
They just cut that beautiful tree in front of their house!”
the tree within their property?” I inquired with genuine confusion.
what’s the problem?”
Chinese people don’t really get it, do you?”
you’re all the same!”
wanted to debunk his stereotypical view of his neighbors but I thought
that was not the right time. So
I went back to the problem at hand.
George…” I tried not to lose my temper.
Then I continued: “Why is it a problem for you that this neighbor
from Hongkong… Ummmm… by the way, what’s that guy’s name?”
Wong—something!?… I don’t know?”
So what, if Mr. Wong cuts the tree within his yard?
I mean, what’s the big deal?”
Hutchison lowered his voice. He
looked toward the direction of his and Mr. Wong’s properties.
He stared towards that direction for a few long minutes.
Then, with tears in his eyes, he brought my heart and mind to the
past thirty years of our neighborhood.
serving with the Canadian forces during World War II, the Government of
Canada provided a low-cost housing for the returning veterans.
Vancouver’s Fraserview Area, “the bushes southeast of
Grandville,” was assigned as one of the low-cost housing areas for
George and his fellow veterans. George
and his family started their life in a little house on East 61st
became friends with the Smiths, a neighbor whom they eventually regarded
as family. They practically
shared life with each other.
Hutchison and the Smith children grew up together in this neighborhood.
One spring break, the two dads built a tree house for their
children. Later on, their
children went to high school and college together.
In fact, George’s and Elizabeth's eldest son and Mr. and Mrs.
Smith’s only daughter married each other.
later, Mr. & Mrs. Smith chose to retire in Victoria, a quiet city in
an island west of Vancouver. They
sold their house.
Wongs, a new immigrant family from Hongkong, bought the property, razed
the Smith’s house to the ground, and built a huge house in accordance
see, Dann,” George continued, “That tree meant so much to me and my
family. I feel… I feel…
Please don’t take this personally, okay?”
okay. Go for it!” I assured him.
feel… you Oriental guys are alienating us right in our own turf!”
statement sparked several questions in my heart.
Who will bridge the gap between Mr. Hutchison and Mr. Wong?
Who will educate Mr. Hutchison that Filipinos are not necessarily
Chinese? Who will explain to
Mr. Wong about Mr. Hutchison’s memory of their newly shared
neighborhood? Would Mr.
Hutchison ever understand what Feng Shui is and how important it is to
Chinese homes? Who will
provide a common ground and facility so that the Hutchisons and the Wongs
will understand each other as deep and as long lasting as to produce
“Georgian Experience” changed my whole perspective as an Asian
immigrant in Canada. I became
more sensitive as a neighbor to Caucasian families.
As a follower of Jesus Christ in the middle of a socio-culturally
dynamic community, I began to see myself as a healing presence of Christ
in the midst of painful wounds caused by inevitable demographic changes.
Since that time, I developed a deeper appreciation of my family’s
ministry to help bridge the gap between the Hutchisons and the Wongs.
I also realized the need to plant more biblical communities2
or local churches in multicultural cities like ours.
interaction with Mr. Hutchison and Mr. Wong helped me understand their
respective cultural perspectives. I
actually learned to appreciate their cultures!
is the sum total of one’s worldview, value system, and behavior
Worldview is the core of our culture.
It is our concept of ‘Final Reality’.
It answers the question: “What is real?”
Some examples of worldviews are: Judeo-Christian, Islamic
Monotheism, Eastern Monism, Pantheism, Animism, Materialism, etc.
Postmodernism tries to look at all these worldviews and take them
all as equally valid.
Value System is our concept of what is right and what is
important. Our concepts of
time, space, history, progress, and society are affected by our value
Behavior Pattern is our concept of what is proper and
how I would draw culture in my mind:
Hutchison and I became friends. I
learned that his worldview is based on Judeo-Christian Tradition.
He claimed to be a good Anglican although he doesn’t like going
sense of right and wrong is governed by Judeo-Christian ethics.
His time orientation is mathematical: “I always want to be on
time. Nine o’ clock means
9:00.” His view of space is
very individualistic: “This is my space!
Please give me space, okay?”
His sense of history is linear: “Dann, that’s water under the
bridge!” His view of
progress is to control and develop nature.
His perception of his identity is his individuality: “You’re
entitled to your opinion. So
proper is very important to him: “In a formal dinner, we’d rather tell
our stories one at a time.” He
prefers to use fork and knife when he’s eating.
also initiated a relationship with Mr. Wong.
He believed that final reality is a mix of Taoism, Buddhism, and
highest value is to experience harmony in life—with nature and with
others. This harmony can be
measured in terms of wealth and health, primarily for himself and for his
family. His time orientation
is more psychological than mathematical: “Let’s meet after breakfast,
okay?” That’s between
8:30 and 9:30 AM. For him,
the quality of events is more important than the quantity of hours and
minutes. His concept of space
is based on communalism rather than individualism: “In Hongkong, all
five of us lived in a two bedroom house.
No problem.” His
concept of history is cyclical: “Chinese history is like a wheel.
A dynasty starts a revolution.
Then the leader of the dynasty becomes the emperor.
Then he accomplishes great things.
Then he becomes corrupt and bad.
Then another dynasty starts a revolution.
Then…” His idea of progress is to be in harmony with nature
through the knowledge of Feng Shui. His
perception of his identity is his family: “My family is everything…
from my ancestors to my great grand children.
Wong doesn’t mind when two or three people tell their stories all at
once "as long as everybody’s happy".
He prefers to use chopsticks when he’s eating.
family was a part of a multicultural, biblical community who was
challenged to help bridge the gap between Mr. Hutchison and Mr. Wong.
Many families in this community are Canadians with British
heritage. Majority of the
families are first generation immigrants from Asia.
Through serendipity, this community started a ministry that would
touch both the Hutchisons and the Wongs.
the Lives of the Hutchisons. New
immigrants can touch the hearts and minds of the Hutchisons, especially
when there is a supportive community behind them.
1. Initiate Friendship as a New Neighbor.
Our biblical community learned that George and his wife, Elizabeth,
love to talk about their garden. One
sunny day--a rare kind of day in Vancouver—Mr. Chen was doing his daily
walk around that area in Fraserview.
Mr. Hutchison, who was working on his front yard, greeted Mr. Chen:
“Good mornin’! Nice day,
”Oh, hello! Yes, yes, good
morning!” replied Mr. Chen, an active member of our biblical community.
He respectfully complimented Mr. Hutchison with his Asian-phrased
English: “Your flowers very beautiful!”
Through Mr. Chen, we learned that the Hutchisons are very friendly and
hospitable people. This
experience gave Mr. Chen confidence to greet people as he walks around the
neighborhood: “Good morning! Nice
day, eh? Your grass very
Our biblical community served as Mr. Chen’s coach and cheering squad as
he did his ‘greeting ministry’ in that neighborhood.
2. Share the Responsibilities and Privileges of Being a
Hutchison is a very friendly, motherly and caring neighbor: “Dann, I saw
your little girls walking to school with spring jackets.
It’s still winter, dear.”
I felt a sense of belonging every time she asked me for favors:
“We’re going to Victoria for the weekend, dear.
Would you mind keeping an eye on our home?
Kindly pick up the newspapers and the flyers.”
She’s also a very straightforward, honest woman: “Oh dear!
Your lawn… Would you rather have George help you mow your lawn?
Growing dandelions in your yard is not good for the neighborhood,
Elizabeth reminds me that although my lawn is my business, such business
affects the larger business of the neighborhood.
(So, who’s individualistic?)
3. Learn and Appreciate Their Culture.
Our biblical community also found out that George and Elizabeth
love to travel and they have lots of books about other cultures.
George is an avid reader of National Geographic magazine.
He knows his World History—from the point of view of Great
Britain. He even shared with
me how the British Parliamentary System brought order to the governments
of several Asian nations. Well,
we debated about that, along with other issues connected with Western
Our friendship grew deeper, in spite of our differences and because
of our differences. I
learned that he is open and willing to understand my Asian views on
history and culture. I also
expressed my willingness to understand his Western perspectives.
During one of our coffee conversations, he expressed how he appreciates
Asian families: “I grew up in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan.
Back in our farm, the family meant ‘the big family’, you know?
Grandpa, grandma, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters and their own
families… You people remind me of the good old days.
After the war, I got this house and this job, and everything
George changed my stereotypical view that white Canadians don’t care
about the family as much as Asians. His
cultural character is family-oriented.
He sees his individualism in the context of his responsibility and
duty as the major breadwinner in the family: “The War, my job, and this
fast city life kind of pushed me to rely on myself or else we won’t
survive, you know.”
He became my practical mentor about Canadian culture.
Every time our church would think of an outreach ministry, I would
ask George: “How would you, as a host family in this neighborhood, see
this initiative from our church?”
the Lives of the Wongs. By
understanding the various stages of the new immigrants’ adjustment
process, a biblical community can effectively touch them with the love of
Reception Stage. This
stage is crucial. When a
person lands in a foreign soil, they ask the very basic questions
strangers usually ask: “Is this place safe for me and my family?
Who are the friendly people here?
Will I be accepted here?” The
biblical community must provide warm acceptance.
John Wong, a leader in one of our cell groups, invested some of his time
with Mr. Wong (they’re not related).
John and his wife, Priscilla, invited Mr. Wong and his family for a
dinner in a Chinese restaurant. John
also exposed him to some typical Canadian restaurants.
This stage include finding work opportunities, orienting family to
the city, learning about health and educational system, experiencing
culture shock, finding a permanent place to live, looking for English
lesson, and learning government bureaucracy.
The biblical community must provide support.
John helped Mr. Wong establish his business in Vancouver. He was
introduced to reliable professionals--lawyers, accountants, marketing
consultants, etc.--whose services are necessary for a new start-up
business. Later, John helped Mr. Wong understand the tax system in
Priscilla brought Mrs. Wong to a good driving school, showed her "the
best shopping deals in town," drove her and her children to enroll at
a nearby school, and accompanied her to secure the family's health
This is the stage when immigrants work hard in recognizing the
choices between retaining traditional cultural values and adapting North
American ways of doing things. The
biblical community must provide understanding hearts and minds.
After a year, the Wongs noticed that their elementary school children are
speaking and behaving more like Canadians and seem to be forgetting their
Chinese heritage. George and
Linda Sy, a second-generation Chinese couple, listened to the frustrations
expressed by the Wongs. They
offered their presence, prayers, and counsel as Mr. & Mrs. Wong
struggled to see their children becoming more Canadianized.
George & Linda shared their experiences as second-generation
Chinese. In a Chinese New
Year’s card, Mr. & Mrs. Wong later expressed their appreciation to
George & Linda: “Through you, we heard our children’s voice as
adults. We heard their hearts
and minds through your experiences. Thank
At this point, the immigrant is ready to participate more actively
in the North American community. The
biblical community must provide biblical models for community involvement.
The stories of the Wongs and the Hutchisons are irrelevant in this point.
Ajit’s story is more appropriate:
Ajit Singh Rye shared his excitement to our community. After five
years of waiting and hard work, he received his Canadian citizenship.
He also heard the news that Quebec wanted to separate from Canada.
He came to his cell group leader literally crying for the unity of Canada.
His prayer touched everyone: “God, thank you for raising up those
founding fathers who established Canada based on Your Dominion.
Forgive us for abandoning those principles… We pray for our Prime
Minister. We pray for our
Parliament. Please keep
Canada intact. Again we thank
you for giving us the privilege of living in this great nation, Canada.
Thank you for the richness you’ve given us—French Canadians,
Anglo Canadians, Chinese Canadians, Indo Canadians… Thank you for my
local church can be a healing community in the midst of painful and rapid
global changes happening in your neighborhood.
In this new century, local communities, including local churches,
are exposed to global realities.
a postmodern world, we cannot prejudge the worldviews, value systems, and
behavior patterns of other people based on our own cultural standards.
the context of a community, we have to listen to other people’s stories
as much as we share our own stories.
This exchange of stories will lead us to share the Great Story
through the power of the Great Story-Maker/Teller--Jesus Christ, The
is a pastor/church planter/artist/leadership consultant/sci-fi enthusiast.
Dann is married to Joji,
his college sweetheart. They have three GenX children, Jojie Alethea,
L'nielle Joy, and Daniel Byron. They live in Richmond, British
The Greater Vancouver Area is becoming increasingly multicultural: 32% of
the region’s population is foreign-born, the second highest proportion
in Canadian metropolitan areas. From
1991 to 1996, the average sources of immigrants are: Europe, 15%; U.S.,
4%; Asia, 69%; Other, 12%. (Source: BC Stats, www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/Cen96/bc96cen.pdf)
God loves to see all human beings to be a part of His Community.
God introduced His nature as One God in Perfect Community—Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:26-31; Mt. 28: 18-20).
Through His blessing to Abraham, God desires to bless all human
beings as a community of nations. Nations
can be translated as ‘ethnic groups’ or ‘people groups’ (Gen.
12:1-3). A biblical
songwriter declared that the Lord’s reign includes all nations and all
peoples in all the earth (Ps. 96). The
Prophet Daniel’s vision of a heavenly worshiping community includes all
peoples, all nations, and men of every language (Dan. 7:13-14).
Jesus commissioned His followers to make disciples of all nations
(Mt. 28:18-20). Despite the
difficulties experienced by the early church due to cultural differences
(Acts 6:1-7), the early followers of Jesus Christ grew to be a
multicultural, spiritual community (Acts 13:1-3).
The vision of the final destiny of mankind is a vision of God’s
community of nations. This
community of nations will live together in perfect harmony (Rev.