in print
61
Searching for Hope
"We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming — well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate." - Amy Tan, “The Hundred Secret Senses”
"We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming — well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate." - Amy Tan, “The Hundred Secret Senses”
Hoping Against Hope

I used to be more hopeful, when I bought into the model minority myth. I believed that things would just work out if I put my head down and tried harder.

Mothers and Daughters
A Heritage of Faith

I don’t know much about my great-grandmother other than that she was an immigrant from Japan, born somewhere in the south near Fukuoka or Yamaguchi-ken. She married my great-grandfather, a second-generation Japanese American born in Hawaiʻi. He wasn’t a particularly nice guy nor successful in business, and was possibly abusive. She gave birth to one son and six daughters. She died young, suffering from kidney failure and perhaps poverty. She may also have been the first Christian in our family.

Together, We Can

A few years ago, I took a Hawaiian language class at Hawaiʻi Community College. In the fourth and final semester of the two years of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi that the school offered, I journeyed with a cohort of students under our amazing kumu (teacher) Kuʻulei Kanahele. Our class consisted of Native Hawaiian and Japanese students; I was the only non-Hawaiian student who was born and raised in Hawaiʻi.

To Every Place that Clouds Can Reach

When the raging fires had all burnt down, Jerusalem was not a city anymore, but a graveyard. Where once the great Temple of Yahweh had stood, not one stone was left upon another. The Roman army had shattered the great Jewish revolt and all hopes for Jewish sovereignty were washed away in blood.

Hope when Hope is Lost

Every morning at 5 a.m., my grandmother woke up to pray. Her prayers were modest and reserved entirely for her family. She prayed for her living children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all their extended family. She whispered over each name as the dawn broke gently into its morning light, giving each one care and attention.

Have You Eaten?

Just like the aggressive profile one gets from the heat of the chili peppers or the funkiness from the fermented soybeans with a sweetness that comes at the end of every taste of gochujang, one can find parallels in the Korean diaspora and the flavor profiles that come with it. One serving of rice provides a taste of comfort, but also highlights the Han — the bitter notes of emotional pain, injustice, and a sense of incompleteness — and the Jeong — the bright notes of hope, love, loyalty, compassion, and emotional attachment.

Grasping at Threads

Our nation has drastically changed since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States — a change that exemplifies the deep tears within the fabric of our society.

Nurturing the Monsters

I’ve been a monster fanatic for 13 years. Anyone who walks into our living room is bombarded with a large bust of Frankenstein’s monster’s head on the mantel, Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein movie posters on the wall, gothic/horror fiction and monster paraphernalia on the bookshelf, and random monster toys on the coffee table.

The Art Banda
Teaching Art as a Medium for Hope in Kenya

In 2013, I painted a mural on the walls of a school in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. It felt like an act of prayer, done on my knees, with the near-reverent sound of children’s voices reciting lessons in the background.

Hope as World-Building
A Creative Intervention into Musical Worship

Peter and I wait for the train to pass so we can resume recording. We’re in his home studio, tinkering around with a music track. We listen earnestly during playback, discussing mood, affect, and continuity. Months later, Peter and I try to put the pieces together. As we sift through ourselves, what remains clear is the thing itself — a seven-track poetry EP, structured as a sonnet crown, a hybrid word-music exploration of creative worship.

Witnessing and Seeing
A Mother-Daughter Story

My mother and I never made things easy for one another. But she has come a long way in four years: from her silence and absence at my wedding, to gradual phone calls and a couple holidays. Last year, my wife and I spent Christmas at her home. Our first morning there, my wife and I were headed out for a walk. My mother said she’d drive us to a nearby park. “Don’t walk here,” she said, “Not in my neighborhood.”

A New Hope Revisited

Out of all the characters in the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader was the most complex figure for me to behold. I was a child with frequent asthma attacks, and I unexpectedly resonated with him because his weakness was also his strength. He was completely reliant on his breathing apparatus to survive, yet the raspy sound of his breathing became a portent of doom, inspiring unequivocal fear among his subordinates and enemies alike. When Vader’s mask was removed, the image of his ghostly, scarred face was seared into my memory as a child.

When Ancient Time Shuts Tight Its Rusted Doors

When ancient time shuts tight its rusted doors And fastens keyless lock upon its stair, Beforehand emptying its storied floors Of all who have traversed and mingled there, What din or silence will those halls release As, ushered out into the last frontier, The throng of nations and of centuries On lush eternity’s expanse appears!

Damn It
Finding Hope in a Theology of Hell

Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I saw Hell as the final punishment of a long escalating list of discplinary options. To hear my evangelical Chinese American parents tell it, a fiery eternity was the greatest argument to keep a young kid in line and out of trouble.

Gardening in the Ashes

I came across this line in the book “The Cultivated Life”, and it moved me. The author described a forest after a wildfire, with trees leveled down to charred stumps and dead branches, and then, suddenly, a green shoot peeks out from the ashes. Yes, some seeds only open up in destruction. But until that flash of color, death is present — acute and chronic pain, grief, desolation.

Liturgies and Hope
Reflections From a Tamil (Indian) Christian

There is a difference between hope and hoping. I prefer using the active form “hoping”, rather than the static noun, for its present, continuous form; hoping is a mode of resisting the oppressor’s marginalizations from without as well as resisting the personal forces from within. Institutional, cultural, and economic systems are in a continuous dialogue with the internal dynamics, thereby making liberations more challenging.

Meaningless

When I announced I was leaving my last job for a new one, one of my colleagues asked, “What is your favorite Bible verse?” I thought about it, as I don’t do single verses, having long been resistant to anything that smacks of eisegesis. “I don’t really have one. But I love the book of Ecclesiastes.”

I used to be more hopeful, when I bought into the model minority myth. I believed that things would just work out if I put my head down and tried harder.

But then, I learned how harmful and incorrect the myth was, how it dehumanizes both Asian American and Pacific Islanders, as well as other people of color, and how it pits minority groups against each other instead of pursuing collective liberation. I realized it wasn’t really about whether I personally tried harder or not — racism and systemic injustices have privileged a select few, the dominant white culture in America.

Recognizing these truths made it difficult to have hope. It was like seeing a stray thread on a piece of cloth — the moment I started to pick at one, I would notice another. Pretty soon, things were unraveling left and right. And in recent months, the persistence of oppressions — such as the lack of power in Puerto Rico, the lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan, the resurgence of overtly white supremacist actions — have made me contemplate whether leaving America and living somewhere in Asia would make things easier. In truth, I know that attempting to escape America wouldn’t alleviate these pressing realities.

Given the evangelical culture I grew up in, I anticipate that some faith communities will say that the present-day injustices that have caused me to despair are symptoms of a fallen world, and that all we can do is to put our hope in Jesus. However, this mentality and “exhortation” avoids coming to terms with the evils of systemic oppression and sin, and cheapens what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.

I anticipate that some faith communities will say that present-day injustices are symptoms of a fallen world, and that all we can do is to put our hope in Jesus.

Jesus came to take on the sins of the world. But perhaps more importantly, Jesus came to give life, the full life of shalom and restoration. And the sins Jesus decried were social and systemic, such as greed, imperialism, and sexism. Jesus did not confront these sins only through his death (which was indicted upon him by an imperial power), but he called his followers to resist and to love counterculturally in the here and now. The kingdom of God is already among us!

The kingdom of God is already among us!

This is the kind of hope I need and aspire to live into. A hope that does not passively wait for future redemption and liberation, but a participatory, active hope that lives into the vision of love and community with our neighbors and in concert with our God.

As I, and we in our respective communities, wrestle with the tension of maintaining hope in a hopeless world, may these stories that articulate different ways to imagine hope be of hope to us.

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Mothers and Daughters
A Heritage of Faith

I don’t know much about my great-grandmother other than that she was an immigrant from Japan, born somewhere in the south near Fukuoka or Yamaguchi-ken. She married my great-grandfather, a second-generation Japanese American born in Hawaiʻi. He wasn’t a particularly nice guy nor successful in business, and was possibly abusive. She gave birth to one son and six daughters. She died young, suffering from kidney failure and perhaps poverty. She may also have been the first Christian in our family.

Together, We Can

A few years ago, I took a Hawaiian language class at Hawaiʻi Community College. In the fourth and final semester of the two years of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi that the school offered, I journeyed with a cohort of students under our amazing kumu (teacher) Kuʻulei Kanahele. Our class consisted of Native Hawaiian and Japanese students; I was the only non-Hawaiian student who was born and raised in Hawaiʻi.

To Every Place that Clouds Can Reach

When the raging fires had all burnt down, Jerusalem was not a city anymore, but a graveyard. Where once the great Temple of Yahweh had stood, not one stone was left upon another. The Roman army had shattered the great Jewish revolt and all hopes for Jewish sovereignty were washed away in blood.

Hope when Hope is Lost

Every morning at 5 a.m., my grandmother woke up to pray. Her prayers were modest and reserved entirely for her family. She prayed for her living children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all their extended family. She whispered over each name as the dawn broke gently into its morning light, giving each one care and attention.

Have You Eaten?

Just like the aggressive profile one gets from the heat of the chili peppers or the funkiness from the fermented soybeans with a sweetness that comes at the end of every taste of gochujang, one can find parallels in the Korean diaspora and the flavor profiles that come with it. One serving of rice provides a taste of comfort, but also highlights the Han — the bitter notes of emotional pain, injustice, and a sense of incompleteness — and the Jeong — the bright notes of hope, love, loyalty, compassion, and emotional attachment.

Grasping at Threads

Our nation has drastically changed since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States — a change that exemplifies the deep tears within the fabric of our society.

Nurturing the Monsters

I’ve been a monster fanatic for 13 years. Anyone who walks into our living room is bombarded with a large bust of Frankenstein’s monster’s head on the mantel, Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein movie posters on the wall, gothic/horror fiction and monster paraphernalia on the bookshelf, and random monster toys on the coffee table.

The Art Banda
Teaching Art as a Medium for Hope in Kenya

In 2013, I painted a mural on the walls of a school in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. It felt like an act of prayer, done on my knees, with the near-reverent sound of children’s voices reciting lessons in the background.

Hope as World-Building
A Creative Intervention into Musical Worship

Peter and I wait for the train to pass so we can resume recording. We’re in his home studio, tinkering around with a music track. We listen earnestly during playback, discussing mood, affect, and continuity. Months later, Peter and I try to put the pieces together. As we sift through ourselves, what remains clear is the thing itself — a seven-track poetry EP, structured as a sonnet crown, a hybrid word-music exploration of creative worship.

Witnessing and Seeing
A Mother-Daughter Story

My mother and I never made things easy for one another. But she has come a long way in four years: from her silence and absence at my wedding, to gradual phone calls and a couple holidays. Last year, my wife and I spent Christmas at her home. Our first morning there, my wife and I were headed out for a walk. My mother said she’d drive us to a nearby park. “Don’t walk here,” she said, “Not in my neighborhood.”

A New Hope Revisited

Out of all the characters in the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader was the most complex figure for me to behold. I was a child with frequent asthma attacks, and I unexpectedly resonated with him because his weakness was also his strength. He was completely reliant on his breathing apparatus to survive, yet the raspy sound of his breathing became a portent of doom, inspiring unequivocal fear among his subordinates and enemies alike. When Vader’s mask was removed, the image of his ghostly, scarred face was seared into my memory as a child.

When Ancient Time Shuts Tight Its Rusted Doors

When ancient time shuts tight its rusted doors And fastens keyless lock upon its stair, Beforehand emptying its storied floors Of all who have traversed and mingled there, What din or silence will those halls release As, ushered out into the last frontier, The throng of nations and of centuries On lush eternity’s expanse appears!

Damn It
Finding Hope in a Theology of Hell

Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I saw Hell as the final punishment of a long escalating list of discplinary options. To hear my evangelical Chinese American parents tell it, a fiery eternity was the greatest argument to keep a young kid in line and out of trouble.

Gardening in the Ashes

I came across this line in the book “The Cultivated Life”, and it moved me. The author described a forest after a wildfire, with trees leveled down to charred stumps and dead branches, and then, suddenly, a green shoot peeks out from the ashes. Yes, some seeds only open up in destruction. But until that flash of color, death is present — acute and chronic pain, grief, desolation.

Liturgies and Hope
Reflections From a Tamil (Indian) Christian

There is a difference between hope and hoping. I prefer using the active form “hoping”, rather than the static noun, for its present, continuous form; hoping is a mode of resisting the oppressor’s marginalizations from without as well as resisting the personal forces from within. Institutional, cultural, and economic systems are in a continuous dialogue with the internal dynamics, thereby making liberations more challenging.

Meaningless

When I announced I was leaving my last job for a new one, one of my colleagues asked, “What is your favorite Bible verse?” I thought about it, as I don’t do single verses, having long been resistant to anything that smacks of eisegesis. “I don’t really have one. But I love the book of Ecclesiastes.”