March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

Dear Friends, 

More bad news. As usual, the various news outlets were quick to report it: there had been a series of shootings in Atlanta last week. “Facts” in these cases often change in the first minutes, even days, of the 24-hour news cycle. What we would ultimately learn is that eight were dead; a gunman confessed to the murder. As usual, a motive was sought. Several of the major media outlets* were quick to report that all the victims were women of Asian descent; later, that number was pared down to 6 out of 8. (The other two were white, according to The Washington Post.) The conclusion initially reached was that the shootings were racially motivated.  

Other media outlets were quick to seize on the words from the Atlanta police chief. According to him, the gunman said that the shootings were not racially motivated. Rather, it was somehow a manifestation of the man’s desire to rid himself of, or atone for, his sexual addiction.  

Who knows what his motivation was? No matter what, it is sad, sick, and now many are hurting. Maybe we will never know for sure, but God knows. We see on the outside, but God sees on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7). 

I wish that I had asked a man I only knew of as “Mr. Chan” what his motivation was when he traveled some distance to visit my grandparents when they were in their 90’s. He brought them many orchid plants as gifts. After a few hours, he left but told me on the way out that my grandparents, his neighbors in Gardena, California, had been very good to his family before, during, and after WWII. Realizing that the man would have only been in his teens during the war, his parents probably had the deepest relationship with my grandparents.   

When I asked my grandmother what he meant, she simply said that neighbors had not treated the Chan family very well, horribly in fact. She then went on to talk, briefly and sadly, about the internment of the Japanese-Americans. Were the Chans treated badly because they were perceived to be Japanese and therefore U.S. enemies? My grandmother didn’t want to talk about it, and I let the subject drop. I also wondered what my grandparents’ motivation was and what they did to garner the gratitude of the younger Mr. Chan so many years later.  

It is perhaps easier to ascertain the motivation of the Rev. Dr. Ralph L. Mayberry, former Executive Director of our region from 1937-1956. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many acted in fear. Ironically, the popular President, FDR, said that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then, acting in fear, Executive Order 9066 was enacted, putting American citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps. People in my grandparents’ (and parents’) lifetime, starting in February 1942, were rounded up, many literally like cattle, and isolated for the “safety and security” of the U.S.A. It is easy to judge through the comfortable armchair of our “enlightened” age, but I sadly confess I likely might have been caught up in the hysteria. 

Dr. Mayberry wasn’t. Mayberry went against the grain, against the flow. At a time when the FBI was arresting Japanese-Americans under suspicion (some for nothing more innocuous than having a commercial fishing license), women and children were separated and needed shelter and protection from exploitation. Mayberry helped provide shelter. He helped our churches, such as Evergreen Los Angeles and Gardena Valley Baptist, remain “the church” even when mass incarcerations forced shutdowns and found members scattered throughout camps in California and Arizona. He visited, preached, and ministered to those in the camps. One of the many people he discipled was the Rev. Paul Nagano, who was ordained, traveled with Mayberry, and continued to minister to the imprisoned church members. 

According to my predecessor, Dr. Samuel Chetti, Mayberry’s movements were “tailed by the Army intelligence” due to his open protests against the incarceration of Japanese-Americans and his ministry throughout the camps.  

What was Dr. Mayberry’s motivation? I can only speculate, but I guess it had a lot to do with the man living out his faith and following the two greatest commandments articulated by Jesus: to love God and love others (Matthew 22: 37-39). 

So, what can we do, especially in this season where so many of our friends of Asian descent are hurting? Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” Therefore, may I humbly suggest the following: 

Fear not. We often make dumb decisions when we act out of fear. The Bible tells us not to be afraid. Some feel as many as 365 times. Regardless, it is an oft-repeated admonition. 

Reach out. You never know what people are going through unless you ask. I am often surprised at what I learn when I leave my selfish cocoon and ask my sisters and brothers how they are doing and what they are feeling. I learn a lot when I am mostly silent in these exchanges. Many in our Asian-American communities have experienced prejudice for years, some even more so in the past few years and months.  

Confess ignorance. This is an easy one for me! Socrates said, “I know nothing.” That is a good place to start, especially when we are tempted to say, “I know how you feel.” We don’t. 

Speak out. However, be careful not to be roped into petty arguments in social media. The internet is littered with many destroyed relationships due to the limitations of ineffective communication imposed by many social platforms. 

Limit the bad news. Be as informed as you can by viewing a broad spectrum of media, but be wary of the soul-crushing effects of reading, seeing, and hearing the same stories over and over, often told in the same biased way (left or right). 

Major in the Good News. The Good News is that those who walk in faith are connected to the Creator of the universe. He is able to manage all of the chaos humans provide. The connection is available through His Word, His Son, and the Spirit that resides within you. On a related note…

Pray. Pray for those that are hurting, and if you’re like me, this is especially helpful. Pray for wisdom and discernment.  

Perhaps years from now, people will speculate on your motivation. As they follow your good example in these trying times, may their speculation lead them out of the maze of the breaking bad news of the day to the clear light of the Good News: God loves us all, including the 8 that were killed, (even their killer,), Asian-Americans, and every tribe and nation.  

In His Service (and yours),

Andy Q. 
Executive Minister 

*A majority of news on television, the internet, and print is controlled by six large corporations. This is true on both ends of the political spectrum, left and right, MSNBC and Fox News, for example.  

March 22nd, 2021