Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Monday, December 17, 2012



The benefit of travel is both external and internal: the farther you travel the world, the deeper you reflect upon life. To be a pilgrim on this earth is to travel broadly and to think deeply. Travel not as a tourist but as a pilgrim.-Fred Vergara

Oklahoma, Jan. 12-14: Consultation on Alternative Theological Education . Ethnic missioners (Sarah Eagle Heart, Angela Ifill, Anthony Guillen and I) led  leaders to ponder on the future of theological education that is relevant and user-friendly to Asian, Black, Latino and Indigenous ministers.

San Francisco, Jan 28-29: Workshop on Filipino American Christianity. In Holy Child Church in Daly City, I presented the image of “Milkfish in Brackish Water: Filipino Ministry in American Context.”

Manila-Hong Kong, Feb. 3-13: Asia Visit . At Trinity University of Asia, I met with  Dr. Sumaya, TUA president about the Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum in 2013. Joined by Peter Ng and Margaret Rose, we meet with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente  and visited an ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) projectsof the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) in Nueva Ecija where residents turned the troublesome lotus (they used to clog the drainage and worsen floods) into income-generating handicrafts. In HK, I preached at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, ministered to its Filipino Migrants’ congregation and met with Thomas Pang, missioner to Macau and director Christian Education.

San Diego, Feb. 29-Mar. 4:  New Community Clergy & Lay Conference – First time in history that the Ethnic Ministries gathered as one to experience common learning, fellowship and worship.  The theme, “Re-Defining our Identity; Re-interpreting our Context and Renewing our Communities” was attended by around 300 leaders.

Tampa, Apr 12-15: Concordat Council– The IFI inaugurated its Eastern Diocese of USA and Canada and elected Bishop Robert Ilay as its diocesan.  The IFI-TEC Concordat Council met and created committees to follow up goals.

Indianapolis, May 4-6: Deputies of Color -Prior to General Convention, it was customary for more experienced deputies to orient the new ones on the workings of convention and what issues are relevant to the communities of color.

Alexandria, Va., May 8. Guest Lecturer at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). Asian American History and Theology.

Washington DC, June 6-10: Why Serve Conference for Young Adults of Color. 50 young adults learned from each other and from the Ethnic Missioners how to discern their calling and seek God’s will.

Maui, Hawaii, June 21-24: ABCD on Church Renewal. Teamed-up with Mike Green, Community Organizer from Colorado to develop a contextualized ABCD for the renewal of churches in Hawaii.

Indianapolis, Jul 3-12: General Convention . Landmark GC decision to provide liturgy for blessing of same sex union. The “Five Marks of Mission” of the Anglican Church  became the basis for triennial budget 2013-2015* Asian Hospitality at GC, Asian Lunch, Hmong language in liturgy, and booth  of the Diversity, Social and Environmental (DSE) ministries. The news of sudden death of Dr. Winston Ching sent shock waves in Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries.

Atlanta, Jul 19-20: Confluence with Pacific Asian American Canadian Christian Educators. As president of PAACCE , I represent the ecumenical  involvement of EAM.  We planned to have an Asia-American History Bus that would orient Asian educators to the history of Asian American immigration.

North Platte, Nebraska Jul 28-30: HIran Kano and the Japanese Heritaqge. The Presiding Bishop preached at the ceremonies honoring the late Hiram Kano, the Japanese “saint of Nebraska.” In collaboration of historian Steve Kay, I arranged for the filming of the celebration and my interview with the descendants of Rev. Kano, the Japanese Episcopal clergy who was interned during WW II and became a sterling example of the ministry of reconciliation.

Minnesota, August 7-11: EAM Youth Camp. Kudos to Longkee Vang, the youth leader from the Hmong congregation of Holy Apostle’s Parish at St. Paul, MN for organizing the national youth  for a weekend of fun and learning.

Imperial Europe, Sept 6-16: Vacation & Group Tour. My wife (Angela )and I visited Munich, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg and various other cities in Eastern Europe. It intrigued me that the home of the classical music and such greats as Mozart, Bach, Strauss Brothers as well as the Von Trapps of the “Sound of Music” fame is also the home of Hitler. Such kinds of ambiguities (greatness as well as depravity of humanity) are common in all of human civilizations. 

New York, Sept. 18: Winston Ching Memorial – At the Episcopal Church of our Savior, NY Chinatown, one of the many Eucharistic  Services held in memory of my predecessor, the first missioner for EAM. A Winston Ching Memorial Fund for EAM Scholarship was created.

Los Angeles, Oct 6-7: Ethnic Stewardship Training. My “7 Principles of Stewardship in the New Community” has become popular among Asian congregations that a diocesan-wide training was held at  the LA Cathedral Center.

Singapore, Oct 18-24: Installation of New Anglican Bishop. Our former Senior Warden (circa 1980-86) and best friend, Rennis Ponniah, became the new bishop of the Anglican Church of Singapore. Great time for renewal and reconnection. He agreed on Singapore’s  participation in the Asia-America Theological Forum 2013.

New York/New Jersey: Hurricane Sandy. A devastating hurricane and Nor’easter brought the East coast to its knees. Some 30 residents died, thousands of homes, properties and cars destroyed.  Our home was spared, thank God, but four of our parishioners at St. Michael’s Church in Seaford, Long Island had homes flooded.

Chicago, Nov. 3-4: 2nd Stewardship Training. Held  at St. Margaret’s of Scotland Episcopal Church, and attended by the IFI Eastern Diocese clergy and leaders.  Sunday, I preached on Generosity at both Korean and Filipino churches.

Honolulu, Dec. 7-9: 2nd ABCD Hawaii. 50 leaders from the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii gathered for this second ABCD on Church Renewal. Mike Green and I complement each other: he presents the secular principles of organizing and I frame it in the context of the church. We may be called for another ABCD for Youth Ministry. 

Honolulu, Dec. 9: 3rd Stewardship Seminar. Taking advantage of my presence in Hawaii, St. Paul’s Church, the largest congregation in Hawaii and the largest Filipino in EAM, invited me to preach and do a mini- Stewardship  seminar.

New Jersey, Dec. 15: Ordination of Rev. Dr. Christine Pae.  Bishop Mark Beckwith, bishop of the Diocese of Newark ordained Christine to the priesthood. She is the second Asian American woman to be ordained in 2012, the other being Christine Lee in the Diocese of New York.

Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 14: Massacre at a School:  As we write this travelogue, we join the American Nation in mourning the tragic loss of 29 Americans in Newport, Connecticut. Six educators and 20 students from Sandy Hook Elementary School , died from the hands of a troubled  young man, who after killing his mother, used her guns to take the lives of the innocent. We join the re-elected President Barrack Obama and millions of Americans calling for a stricter gun control and praying for a culture of love, forgiveness,  trust and hope. Let there be peace on earth as it is in heaven.

As we approach the end of the Old Year 2012 and welcome the New Year 2013, we renew our faith in God who holds all things together.  “Where God guides, God provides.” All things work together for good to all who love God. To our friends and family, we wish  that “you may prosper and be of good health, even as your soul prosper” (3rd John 2).  

 Fred & Angela Vergara (Love from New York)

 wvergara@episcopalchurch.org              Http://travelinasian.blgospot.com           
Facebook:  Fred Vergara


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Myanmar: Changing Scenes in Post-Colonial Asia

Photos On-Line: Last November 19, 2012, the people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) saw a U.S. president for the first time. It was a historic first visit of a sitting U.S. president to the country. Responding to his critics that it was an untimely visit, due to Myanmar's record of suppression of human rights, Obama said that "If we wait for things to be perfect, it would take us a long time. My purpose in this visit was to highlight the progress that this country has made, so far" (e.g. releasing political prisoners such as democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the "Lady of No Fear" who gets a smooch from Obama). - Fred Vergara


Editor’s Note: The following is a guest essay from Dr Yeow Choo Lak, my former dean and thesis adviser when I was taking Master in Theology degree in Singapore.  He is the former Executive Director of  The Association For Theological Education in South East Asia, Dean of The South East Asia Graduate School of Theology, Co-Editor of The Asia Journal of Theology [1981-2002]. Former Executive Director/Dean of the Henry ‘Opukaha`ia Center for Pacific Theological Studies in Hawai`i, 2004-2007, and Honorary Provost of the Hawaiian Theological Seminary, 2008-2011. Member of Faith & Order Standing Commission, WCC, 1983-1998. Former President of World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutes. He has written several books, the latest being “Loving Hawaii.” – Fred Vergara

Things do change!
Friends of churches in Myanmar were working in a post-colonial Asia on missional ministry with meager materials in the margins with the marginalized wherever the marginalized were, experiencing God’s mercy in the mini miracles that mysteriously materialized

One such ‘mini-miracle’ happened on December 11, 1974 in Yangon, Myanmar [formerly, Rangoon, Burma]. It was 10 in the morning in Bogyoke Aung San Market [known as Scott Market to the British], a popular place to shop for souvenirs. Suddenly, people started to scatter. Shopkeepers pulled down the shutters. Anxiety, panic, and fear were in the air. 

My colleague and I sniffed trouble and walked briskly back to our Thamada Hotel. ‘Thamada’ is ‘President’ in Burmese but, due to the centuries-old Burmese-Thai rivalry, ‘Thamada’ is ‘Common’ in Thai.

Sure enough, from the safety of our hotel roof top we saw military fire-power streaming into the heart of downtown Yangon.  Tanks and trucks [known as ‘lorries’ in Burma, when Burma was under the British colonial masters] full of soldiers with rifles all ready for action, rolled past our hotel. 

Less than 500 yards from our hotel, monks in their saffron robes, students, workers, and office workers in their longis [sarong or wraparound] were steeling themselves as they faced steel. Tanks rolled into the demonstrators. Rifles crackled. Columns of smoke especially from the nearby train-station were clearly visible from our hotel roof top. We saw a train on fire.  The thick crowds thinned off at the water-fronting grand Strand Hotel as tanks and rifles injured and/or killed demonstrators. Arab Spring happened in Asia some four decades ago.

Many citizens in Yangoon were demonstrating against General Ne Win’s [military dictator since 1962] military regime for their lack of respect for the body of their beloved U Thant, third Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Burmese are famed for their Buddhist gentleness. Seldom is there any exchange of harsh words, let alone bloody deeds.  Usually placid [some people would even say, ‘timid’], it was miraculous that the demonstrators had gotten angry enough to storm the street.  More demonstrations, internment, and massacre of ‘dissenters’ followed in the wake of the December 1974 killing field till the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 1995. 

In  her own quiet but supremely effective way, the heroic daughter [appropriately known as ‘The Lady of No Fear] of the great hero, General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi, paved the  Long March towards  democracy in Myanmar.

The visit of President Barack Obama to Myanmar is epochally significant, pregnant with promises of a democracy the Myanmar people have been dying for. It has not escaped the attention of those who know that President Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar takes place in the Jubilee Year of Myanmar’s road to independence [1962-2012]! 

In the past five decades or so, Myanmar has aligned itself with China, militarily and commercially. For Myanmar to turn to America is a shot in the arms of democracy-lovers all over the world. Beijing must be re-assessing its relationship with Myanmar now that China’s oil pipeline running from Myanmar to China seems to be flowing into Washington! One could reasonably and arguably conclude that North Korea, too, may want to go the Myanmar way some day!

 Asians can comfortably and easily identify themselves with President Barack Obama and his wise, non-cowboy foreign policy. President Barack Obama wowed Asians when he bowed! At long last, here is a rare American President who speaks their body language! Asians understand how much power and humility there is in a bow. ‘Since the election of Barrak Hussein Obama [to the wild delight of Indonesians], it has become much less fun to hate America. It’s much harder for radical Islamists to drum up support among the great majority of moderate Indonesian Muslims,’ so wrote an American working in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.   

In a post-colonial Asia, there is no need to remind Asians of the time when cowboys whipped their back and lassoed their land.