On behalf of Servant Partners, we want to express our grief, horror, and anger at the tragic murders of eight people—six of whom were Asian-American women—in Atlanta, and extend our sympathy to all who are mourning, especially the families of those who have lost precious loved ones in this tragedy.
This is only the latest of a long thread of anti-Asian violence in recent weeks and throughout the pandemic. Please read our recent statement on anti-Asian racism and violence and join us in praying for the Lord’s comfort, strength, and justice for all those suffering under this deplorable racial terror.
Andrew Wong, an Asian-American staff member and Director of Recruiting for Servant Partners, wrote this Lenten reflection on communing with Jesus amid anti-Asian violence a week before the Atlanta killings. We invite you to read and allow Andrew’s reflection to guide you into the presence of Jesus. May you find solidarity, comfort, and compassion at the cross in this painful season.
Lisa and Derek Engdahl
Where Lent and Lunar New Year Meet
At the end of Lunar New Year, I gathered with other staff from Servant Partners. Over bowls of tang yuan, we regaled each other with the food we had eaten during the New Year and how we normally celebrated with family. But we also made space to reflect on our experiences as Asian people in a year marked by such overt hate and violence towards us.
A Cantonese friend in Vancouver shared about the racist interactions, some mundane and some threatening, that she experienced in her community. A Korean-American friend shared that her parents encountered senseless hostility from a neighbor who told them to “go back to their country” before calling the police on them. I reflected on the fear I felt for my wife, who is Chinese-American, to be out alone throughout much of the pandemic.
That the hate in our communities was stoked by elected officials tasked with representing and protecting us was all the more painful. It was a year of listening to politicians use dog whistle racism to associate the Chinese community specifically and Asians broadly with threat and contagion. The bitter fruit of this hate has been violence. We all grieved the dehumanization that would allow someone to crush Asian elders to the ground leading to injury and death.
As we entered a time of prayer together, I saw an image of Jesus bloodied and crucified. In the tradition I was raised in, an empty cross stood at the center of worship. It spoke of resurrection and victory. But perhaps the empty cross also taught us to look away from the cruelty of our world. Perhaps the seeming absence of God numbed us to the suffering of others and even ourselves.
Yet, in a year filled with such death and violence, the crucifixion of God is all that filled my mind. In my imagination, I approached the cross and laid my hand on Jesus’ maimed feet. He looked down in his trauma, I looked up in my grief, and there in the suffering our eyes met. We were silent before one another. What words could express the pain we felt? But in the silence, his eyes and body—his entire being—spoke clearly to me, “I am so sorry.” And I knew suddenly that I didn’t suffer alone.
So there we waited together, in the crushing and bleeding, in the hate and dying.
This Lent, I am reminded again that so much of what masquerades as faith, the easy triumph and numbness to the pain of others, has never been the center of Christianity. Instead, at the very center of this faith hangs God—the poor man from Nazareth, crucified alongside the hated and rejected of the world. His blood speaks a better word, that the God who created our bodies and shaped our cultures has not abandoned us. He dies with us. He dies for us.
New life will come. I will reenact it once Lent ends and Easter arrives. And I know that someday even these wounds of anti-Asian racism will not escape the resurrection of God. But the new life that is born will only mean something because Jesus hangs with us first in the dying. Thanks be to God.