Invitation to Explore
Wendy Chen explains we often discover our giftings and callings in relationships with other people. Consider the ways that you have been blessed and challenged by people you know? How might you be a blessing and an aid to their walk with Jesus?
Scripture to Study
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Wise Words to Consider
“Being prepared for something all along the way, even though you didn’t know it—I love that Idea. I love that God is in control of these stories…God is writing a story in our lives and we don’t know how it’s going to play out.”—Wendy Chen
A Prayer to Lead You
Father, You know the longing of our hearts. You know that we can complicate a very simple calling to love You and love people. Helps us to recover the simplicity of this Christian journey toward Jesus. Give us clarity of what it looks like in our different situations to love You and love people. In Christ’s name, Amen.
A Practice to Begin
During the pandemic, Wendy Chen and a few other Asian American women would join on a bi-weekly zoom call to talk, share pains, laugh together, and be honest with each other. They wanted to create a space for mutual understanding and support. Who are the friends you go to for mutual support, understanding, or challenge? What would it look like to create a space for honest conversation that can help you in your faith amidst trials?
Questions to Answer
Wendy Chen explains that God prepares us for a calling in ways that we are not even aware of. This preparation is tied to being faithful where God has placed you in this very moment. Take the time to think about this: What has God been teaching you about yourself, your community, and Himself this past year? How have you been faithful to where God has placed you? What does it look like to be faithful to the calling you have already answered?
Resources to Help
Cas Monaco, Core Call and Kingdom Calling
Sam Holland 0:04
You’re listening to the Created For podcast. We believe that everyone was created to make a unique impact in the world. Created For is a podcast to explore ideas around purpose, calling, and discovering how God is inviting you to influence the world in your own way, right now. I’m your host, Sam Holland.
Wendy Chen gives national leadership to Embark, Cru’s initiative to help 20-somethings live fuller, richer lives. Wendy hosted the virtual Created For event in February. And on this final season episode of the Created For podcast, we’re wrapping up by looking back on significant themes and highlights.
Well, we’re wrapping up our nine episode series, and I’m here with Wendy Chen, my fellow– well, Wendy, you’re in Portland, I’m in the Portland area. And Wendy, you hosted our virtual event in February, before we launched this podcast series. And we’re just gonna chat and recap what we’ve learned, what we’ve heard, the highlights.
But before we jump in, Wendy, let’s just hear a little bit from you. So right now, spring of 2021, how are you living out your calling or thinking about calling? What are your thoughts on that topic?
Wendy Chen 1:37
Um. Spring of 2021. It feels like time stopped – right? – in 2019. At least for me. I had a back issue and so the pandemic or the quarantining started for me back in November of 2019. And so, I kept thinking, “Okay, when I get better, when I get better, when I get back into the world, I will do all of this and this and this,” and then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down.
And so for me, I felt like we lost the last year and a half. But in a lot of ways, it’s become clarifying too, in what I want my life to be about, right? And afforded the time for me to think about those things. When the tyranny of the urgent or the things that need our attention constantly have gone away. Right? Our world has become a lot smaller and localized – right? To my neighborhood, to my family to what’s on my Zoom screen.
And so I think for me right now, limitations have been invitations into freedom, right? I think throughout my whole life, I’ve seen when things become limitations, or I feel like they’re limitations, they’ve actually been an invitation to what God is doing next, or what He’s doing now. And how I think about calling at this moment is, “God, what are you doing right now? What are you doing in my family? What are you doing in my immediate life? What do I want my life to be about? And what is that one next thing I can do?”
Because I don’t know when the world’s gonna open up again. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to make big decisions. Or even for me when I had back surgery, I don’t know when I could clean out my basement, because I don’t know when I could lift things – right? But in this moment, in this now, “How can I be faithful? What can I do?” Is really just how I’m living my calling.
Sam Holland 3:37
Yeah. I love that. I’ve been living out my calling as a listener. That’s my name – Samantha means ‘listener.’ And I think that’s so interesting, because I do love to listen to people, I love podcasting, just having conversations, exploring different topics together.
And I feel like a lot of what I was called to, even in the past year of lockdown, has been a lot of listening. So many different people have so many different lenses anyway, and then bringing that lens to what has been happening in the world with this virus and all the things that have come to light politically and in the church and Christianity. All of these things that are coming up. There’s so much listening to do. To hear other people’s perspectives– and I don’t always do it well. I mean, my calling is to be a listener, but I’m not always a good one. But I have had to work on that skill a lot this past year. And tried to be a bridge builder. I joined a Be The Bridge group and it was great. It’s been really, really, important.
So, let’s talk about our series, because this was a major topic for our series – calling and purpose, and how do we navigate calling? How do we discover it along the way? And I’d love to hear from you some of the highlights from different episodes or just themes that you saw coming out across the series.
Wendy Chen 5:25
Yeah, I think one thing I realized is that there’s something for everybody. Some of the conversations – you know – someone might not be an artist or a graphic designer, or someone might not be a pastor, but there’s something for everyone and how they’re wired, how they’re created, and somebody can connect to that story. So I really, really love that.
I really love the idea of mutuality. I think mutuality came up a lot. I think Rasool talked about that, like, we’re created for each other – right? I think, you know, Liz Bohannon talked about that – how do you walk each other home? Like, how do you– even Chris Ghubril talked about, how do you show up with your whole self? Like, it’s a belonging to each other – I really, really loved that.
When we think about calling– and calling is such a Christian word too – right? But sometimes it becomes so individualized. It’s such an individual, like, “This is what I’m going to do. This is how I’m going to live my life.” My friend jokingly has an acronym: LMLML – is ‘let me live my life,’ whenever someone might say something about what she’s doing. And so I think there’s a sense that we feel that way – right?
And so what I really love about the Created For is that, “Yeah, we’re created individually and we’re responsible for that. But we’re part of a culture, we’re part of a people group, we’re part of this world, and we’re part of each other. And so how do we show up, learn from each other, listen to each other, learn from each other?” Because it informs our calling. It informs how we’re supposed to live in this world in light of other people.
Sam Holland 7:08
Yeah, I noticed that too. Mutuality, and specifically in ministry. And I noticed that a lot of our majority culture interviews like Elizabeth McKinney, David Robbins, Liz Bohannon – talked about learning to live that way – in relationship. Like, we’re not doing ministry to people, we’re journeying alongside people who we are ministering to, and they are also ministering to us.
And I think as white majority culture, we have come up in a very individualistic culture. In the church, out of the church, in this country. And we have so much to learn about what that means to really live in community and for things – for even ministry and things – to be mutual, and it’s really humbling. And I loved that theme, too. Because it’s about the Imago Dei – right? We’re entering into relationship with other image bearers. That’s pretty much what life is.
Wendy Chen 8:23
Yeah, I think for me as Asian American, I always say– I think I read this somewhere from somebody who’s much smarter than I am. But within me, as an Asian American woman, who grew up in the States, I carry within me the beauty and brokenness of both cultures. So within me, I have the individualistic ‘let me live my life.’ And I have the collective, like, “How do I honor my family and my elders and my community?” I have both of those things. And they, a lot of times are at odds with each other. But that’s just part of being bicultural. That I’m just going to always carry.
And so I think it’s interesting to jump into a conversation about calling or purpose or living out your own path as a person of a bicultural background. I think we talked about this at some point that even this conversation about calling and purpose is such a privileged place to be, to have this conversation.
My parents – you know – I immigrated when I was 8 years old to America. Ethnically I’m Chinese, but I was born and raised in Korea. And so even that is a big part of my story. It’s like, I resonate with certain parts of the Chinese culture, and I resonate with certain parts of the Korean culture, but I’m not Korean. And so who even claims me? That’s a whole different thing – right? And so, as I navigate through the world, that’s the tension that I live in. But my parents – you know – my dad was a teacher in Korea. He was well loved – so loved by his students. We always had students in and out of our house. Like, high school students. My dad would tutor, he would take them camping – all of this, and my mom was a stay at home mom. And I believe he was living out his calling. My dad loved teaching, he loved his students. He was living out his calling.
But we moved to America and my parents owned a restaurant, they worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day. And they weren’t living out their calling – right? Like, they didn’t have this ability to think, “Okay, well, how am I going to pursue what I’m passionate about? Or what am I going to pursue what I’m supposed to do in life?” They had to work and they had to provide. And so I think even this conversation about, like, “What am I supposed to do? – Me, as Wendy, as an individual?” It feels like a really privileged conversation.
Sam Holland 10:44
Wendy, if you were Chinese, grew up in Korea, and now have lived in the States for years, then, do you consider yourself tricultural?
Wendy Chen 10:59
Probably. I mean, but not really. I think it’s, um, it’s a little bit of a mix of everything – right? Like, I think – I’m not Korean. But when I’m sick, I crave Korean food. Because that’s nourishing, like the soups. But my parents– I didn’t speak Korean, but my parents do. And so they– you know how parents always, like, spell out words because they don’t want their kids to understand? So they’re like, “Oh, you want some I-C-E C-R-E-A-M – you know? My parents would always speak Korean to each other when they didn’t want the kids to understand. And so growing up, there were words that I didn’t actually know if they were Chinese or Korean. They just were words that our family used.
Like culture – we talk about culture. It’s the – you know – there’s objective culture and subjective culture. Objective culture is the stuff that’s easily observable. So, language and dress, all of those things. The subjective culture is, like, the values – gender expectations, social norms and things that nobody talks about, but everybody understands. So culture is like, how things are, how things happen around here, how things work around here. And so every family has their own culture.
So I would say like, our family had a culture that was a little bit of a mix of everything. And if you even look back, historically, there is a large population of Chinese people who live in Korea. And there’s a whole story there. But they weren’t allowed to own land, they were not allowed to be citizens. There was a lot of persecution of Chinese people within Korea. And so, I went to a Chinese elementary school between when I was 3 and 8 years old, but it was definitely different. It was a people group within Korea that really stuck to themselves. And that was because a lot of outside forces that forced them to stick to themselves. And so even in Korea, the Chinese people were the marginalized group.
And so, I think that affects a lot of how I think about, like even culture. And so am I tricultural? I don’t know. But we have a culture within our family that kind of operated out of the space of a very specific Chinese people living in Korean culture.
Sam Holland 13:32
Can we talk about “Minari” for a minute? – Did I say that right? – So I know we both watched this movie that’s up for an Oscar that is about a Korean immigrant family coming through California and then ending up in Arkansas to start a farm. Which I would say is the husband – the father’s dream, and actually might be his calling. Maybe not the mother’s – I don’t want to give any spoilers and ruin the movie. But, can you talk about that movie just in terms of what that was like for you to watch as someone having lived in Korea, come to the States, and seeing your parents struggling to some extent and working at a grocery store?
Wendy Chen 14:20
Yeah, so a couple things. I think it’s “Mi-nari,” but I’m not Korean. But Kathy Khang has a short Instagram where she just put out. And she’s like, “It’s not ‘ME-nari,’ it’s, ‘me-nari.'” But, yeah, my parents owned their Chinese restaurant.
Um, I think what it really did for me was it allowed me to see things through my mom’s eyes, honestly. I always saw the struggle. We saw the struggle of my parents. They worked day in and day out when we first moved to the States. My mom would take the bus– so they worked at restaurants before they owned their own. But my mom would– I was 8, my sister’s 10 – my mom would take the bus from Beaverton, OR, to Chinatown. She would work. She would take the bus back, make us lunch, and then she would take it back, and then worked another whole shift, and then came back at night. And so this is like, four times back and forth. And we never saw my parents. We saw them in the mornings before we went to school, and we saw them at night when they came home at 10:30, or 11. Because they literally just worked all the time.
And I think– what I think when I saw the movie was the fear and the uncertainty in the mom’s eyes as she looked at this world and her children that she couldn’t protect. Because she didn’t know how to protect them, because she didn’t have the resource that she had. And I think it made sense for a lot of the ways– like, I would say that my mom probably grew up pretty anxious. I grew up thinking my mom was really, really anxious. She has a lot of anxiety. But it makes sense.
If I was her, if I moved to a new country with my two children, one who was maybe sick like the movie, with no ability to protect them, I would feel the same way. I think that level of anxiety, of fear, would be so real. So when I saw the movie, it was really eye opening in that way. My parents haven’t seen it. I don’t know– I don’t think they’ve seen it. But I’m curious what they think. I’m curious.
There’s so much of that generation – the immigrant generation – they don’t talk about it. They just do. This is what they did. And you have to put your head down, you have to work hard. Or else you can’t function. I don’t know if they’ve experienced racism in their workplace. I don’t know if they’ve experienced these things.
I don’t know if you know Hasan Minhaj – he’s a comedian. He’s an Indian American. He had a Netflix special, and he talked about a really racist incident that happened when he was a child at his home. And after it had happened, his dad just cleaned it up. And he was so mad. He’s like, “Dad, why are you not fighting? Why are you not angry? Why are you not– ?” And his dad’s like, “We just gotta keep going.”
I think there’s something about that as an immigrant generation – you just have to keep going. Because otherwise it would be too traumatic and too much. And you can’t do that, because you have a family to protect. You have a family to care for. And so, yeah, I don’t know. My parents and I – we haven’t had a whole lot of conversations about their immigrant story. I think they did what they had to do. And now because of their hard work, because of their sacrifice, because they gave up everything, I have the ability to sit here and talk about this theoretically. And so, like, that’s not lost on me at all.
Sam Holland 18:12
Yeah. It made me think of the podcast series– the movie made me think of the podcast series. Because, Jocelyn’s episode – she talked so much about her beloved community and her elders, and how integral her elders are to her life in every way. And the grandmother coming to live with the family was just a highlight of the movie. And to see how special she was to her daughter and that relationship, but then to see how important she was to the whole family, especially to the children. So, how did that part resonate with you and in your own experience with your elders, Wendy?
Wendy Chen 19:03
It’s complicated, like almost everything. I think immigrant families – there is a loss. There’s a loss that can’t be replicated. So my grandmothers – both of them on my mom and dad’s side, all moved to America before we did as a family. And so I obviously knew them before they moved to America. But then, once they moved to America, I didn’t see them very often until we moved here.
And so my maternal grandmother, she lived like five minutes away. And so, her house is where we would all gather. There’s 11 cousins, including me, out of my mom’s side, all lived within five miles of each other and so it felt like we grew up in a big family. And so every weekend, we’d be at lǎo lao’s house – lǎo lao is grandma. And so we all be at lǎo lao’s house, and that’s where we’d just hang out.
But then on my dad’s side, they lived in New York, they lived in Buffalo, New York. And so we didn’t see them very often. But my grandmother moved – my paternal grandmother moved to our house when I was in high school. And I think – I was a high school student – I didn’t know how to engage with her, really. Because there was so much time lost. I was like a broody, like, super emo high schooler and my parents weren’t home because they were working. So it was just me and my grandmother. I think there’s a pain in that – you know? There’s so much disconnect. Like, she didn’t really know me, and I didn’t really know her. She would share her stories. But really, I was like, “I’m in high school. I’m gonna do my own thing. I’m gonna talk to my friends on the phone and hang out.” And so I didn’t appreciate it all. But I think there was a disconnect. I didn’t have language for it, because I was like 15.
Whereas now, I’m like, “I so wish it would’ve looked different. I so wish I would have appreciated that time.” And I don’t even know how long she lived with us. It was probably like only a year. But it just was so different than my lived reality. And I never spent any time with her besides like, a couple days here and there. You know, my grandmother passed like 10 years ago. But she was always warm. And she was always welcoming. And she was always loving. I just, as a 15-year-old, I didn’t know how to connect with that at all.
Sam Holland 21:54
Yeah, in the movie, when David – the little boy – has never met his grandma. And then she comes to live with them, and he is resistant to her coming for whatever reason. But he keeps telling her like, “You’re not a normal Grandma. You’re not like other grandmas.” And he said, “Because you won’t bake cookies.” That was his big thing. And I wondered, “Where did his perception of grandma come from?” In the 80s? As an immigrant family, was this like television? Or what? Where was he getting this? Like, what a grandmother should be like. But I just loved that relationship between the grandma and the son.
Wendy Chen 22:39
Yeah, that was really sweet.
Sam Holland 22:41
Thanks for sharing so much about your own life and family and story, Wendy.
Well, switching gears a little bit, another topic that I felt like was coming up a lot, across the episodes, was the importance of community. And we’ve touched on that a little bit. And Rich Villodas talked about his church, and how so much of what he writes and teaches about and experiences is coming out of his church in Queens. Jo Saxton talked about these friends that she has, that she’s been praying with weekly for years before the lockdown, during the pandemic and the lockdown, and how important that has been for her. And then of course, Jocelyn sharing about her elders. How about for you? What has your community looked like, before 2019, now – has it shifted?
Wendy Chen 23:46
Yeah, I feel like it’s shifted, and I don’t know how much is the pandemic, or how much is that we have four kids. But, um, so one thing in our marriage, I would say is that we’ve always had people live with us, which is not always common. I think it’s getting more and more common, but we’ve had– when we lived in Austin, Texas, for about four and a half years, we had housemates, or one housemate with us for two years. And at one point, we moved my 2-year-old into our room, and we had someone else live there. And so we always had people around. And then for the last three years, we’ve had another individual that’s been living with us. And so, they’re not just housemates, they’re like family. And I think that’s really how we function. Like, how do we think about people as family really?
And in this, especially with this pandemic, like there’s been text threads that have been life saving of people’s relationships, that have really deepened over time. So I have a couple women that– even with Asian American women, especially with what’s happening with the Asian American community in light of COVID, in the last couple of months, there’s been a couple of Asian American women that, some I knew and some I didn’t know, in Portland. And we’ve just kind of gathered together for bi weekly Zoom calls, just to be in a space where we didn’t have to explain ourselves. Just to be in a space where we can cry, pray for each other, point each other to Jesus. And laugh and be mad and just, be honest.
And, I think the pandemic has really revealed that the relationships that matter most is really the ones that you have. I think all the relationships out of obligation have kind of all disappeared – right? It’s like, “Well, I only really have this amount of time. And these are the people I want in my bubble. These are the people I want to see.” And I think it’s really crystallized a lot of things. So I think some of my friendships have become much more firmer than others.
But I think community is so much more like, we have people who will watch our kids, love our kids and speak truth into our lives and call us out and celebrate things. And I think community is like people who you allow into your life and permission to be honest, and to have those conversations. I don’t even know if that answers your questions.
But I’m so grateful for community in this. It’s the lifeline. Like, there’s a communal calling even – right? I’m currently trying to discern some things in my life, like, “Oh, should I do this? Or should I not do this?” And it’s like, “Well, it’s not an individual decision. It’s a communal decision.” Like I want people in my life who’s like, “Hey, do you see this in me?” Like, “When you think about this, when you think about me, how do you think about that?” And it just takes a little pressure off, a little bit about like, having to get it right on my own. Because I know there’s a community of people who are praying for me, who are cheering me on, who will hold me accountable.
Sam Holland 27:16
Yeah, so good. Well, thinking back through the episodes – the nine episodes, are there any other highlights or themes or things that stood out to you that you want to make sure we talk about as we’re wrapping up the series?
Wendy Chen 27:31
Yeah, I think there’s a couple things that I think some people said, like, Justin Giboney had a talk about it. Like God is preparing me for this moment, for what I’m doing. I think, like David Robbins talks about it as well, like, being prepared for something. I think even Liz Bohannon talks about the starting small.
The idea of being already prepared for this moment. I think, I heard as I was in my early 20s. And I was like 24. And I went to this retreat, and there was this woman named Michelle Jones. She’s a pastor locally, but she talked about calling. And I am like, 41. And I still hold on to what she said. Because she talked about, she was 40 at that moment, and she was a speaker. And she said, “If you had asked me in my 20s if I would be a speaker, I would have laughed in your face.” But she said, “As I walked with Jesus, like, this is where He’s led me.”
But it was this idea of walking, walking, walking, and then looking up and seeing where Jesus was, and being prepared for something all along the way, even though you didn’t know it. I love that idea. I love that God is in control of these stories. I think God’s writing a story in our lives, and we don’t know how it’s gonna play out. And I think Justin Giboney talked about the good things and the bad things have kind of prepared him for his current role.
And I feel that in my life – when I was changing diapers all day long when my son was born, I was like, “What am I supposed to do now? What does my life look like when all I do is change diapers?” And never if you had said that at 40, I will be leading this ministry, I would be speaking on podcasts, I would have laughed in your face. Like, literally I was changing diapers all day long. But as I walked with God, as He’s opened doors and I stepped into opportunities, this is where I’m at. And I know that this is where I’m supposed to be. And the experiences in my life have led me to this point. And so I just love that – I love being prepared for things.
Sam Holland 29:48
Is there anything we missed that you want to make sure we talk about?
Wendy Chen 29:52
Um, yeah, I mean, we can talk about loving Jesus loving cars, but that’s about it.
Sam Holland 29:59
Wait, loving Jesus and loving cars?
Wendy Chen 30:01
So I went to a mechanic in our early 20s. And he had this plaque on the wall that says “Loving Jesus, loving cars.” And I thought that was the most brilliant and profound way to think about calling. Because it was about loving Jesus and loving whatever your cars might be. And if we can live passionately integrated like that – loving Jesus, loving people. Loving Jesus, loving podcasting. Loving Jesus, loving teaching. Loving – whatever our car is, it’s just so simple.
We think about calling and what we’re supposed to do – because we’ve already– like, God’s given us as calling. God’s already said, “Here, do this.” And we’re asking like, “What should I do? Like, God, what should I do individually?” God’s like, “I already told you what to do: love people and love God.” And yet we’re so like, “Am I doing it right?” And that’s what we’re asking.
And the same woman, Michelle Jones, at this retreat that we had for millennials at the time, she said, “My generation needs to apologize to your generation for teaching you a bad gospel. No wonder you’re so concerned about getting it right, because you’re so afraid that you’re gonna miss out on what you’re supposed to do in your life, because we taught you a bad gospel.” And you just saw these millennials were sitting there, and you saw the weight come off their shoulders, because they were so concerned about doing it right.
There’s one dude. He was like, “I went to school, I got a good job. Now I have a house, have a car, have all these things, but am I doing it right? Am I doing this thing right?”
Even John Mayer has a song like, “Am I living this life right?” Like, the question is existential like– “Am I doing it right?” It’s all throughout the media, the books and the stories and all of our things – we’re trying to figure out – are we doing it right? And God’s already told us “love people and love God.”
And so what is loving Jesus and loving cars? I think that’s like my new– it’s not my new motto, it’s been my motto for the last 20 years. But how do we love Jesus and love whatever our cars? I’ve just been reminded of that lately. As we live this out, what is our car? And how do we do it well?
Sam Holland 32:27
“Loving Jesus, loving cars.” What are your cars?
Created For is hosted and produced by Cru. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe, rate or review it wherever you listen. For more resources to continue your journey to living out your impact, check out the show notes on our website: Cru.org/createdfor and follow us on Instagram at _createdfor.
Thanks for listening. And stay tuned for season two of the Created For podcast.