SEAPI and CLAY
I (Gil) just returned to Cambodia after another intense summer home service. Joyce and Mary had returned earlier to Phnom Penh for Mary’s school. I’m grateful for every church I visited and everyone I met, although I couldn’t visit every supporting church or every individual supporter within a 2 ½-month period. We officially spoke at 15 churches in Michigan, Ohio and California and visited with quite a number of individuals at their homes and over coffee. It was challenging, but as always, I felt so loved and blessed by people’s generosity and hospitality. I greatly enjoy reconnecting with dear people and sharing what God’s doing in our life.
One highlight was reconnecting with friends from SEAPI (South East Asia and Pacific Islanders) and CLAY (Christ Like Asian Youth). I carved out the time to briefly join their annual conference in Tennessee, Illinois. SEAPI is a group of leaders of ethnic churches in the CRC—such as Cambodian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Indonesian and Samoan. Before my family left for Cambodia 10 years ago, I became close to some of these leaders. I vividly remember Joyce and I were prayed over and commissioned by this group at one of their annual conferences. It was such a blessing to meet them in person again.
It was even more special because the meeting was held together with the CLAY conference. CLAY is a gathering of young people from South East Asian ethnic churches in the mid-west. These 2nd generation youth (Jr. high to college age) spend a week in worship, Bible study and fellowship. They organize the conference by themselves with minimum help from outside. I could tell that these young people’s Christian identity and faith was being strengthened. And future leaders of the churches and kingdom workers were being raised up. It was beautiful to witness SEAPI (first generation leaders) and CLAY (second generation youth) worshiping and fellowshipping together.
A concrete example of intergenerational engagement and leadership transfer is Cambodian Fellowship Church in Holland, Michigan. A group of Cambodian refugees started this church about 30 years ago under the leadership of Socheth Na (a SEAPI leader). Pastor Socheth is a caring pastor and a visionary leader. He saw the need to raise up leaders among the 2nd generation youth of his church. He recruited and encouraged Sophat (who grew up in the church) to pursue pastoral training. Now Sophat is co-pastor of the church with Socheth. The plan is that, within a few years, Sophat will become the pastor and Socheth would step back.
Sophat is also one of the key leaders of CLAY and involved in discipling other 2nd generation young people in South East Asian congregations. Among the ethnic churches started by refugees and immigrants, God is raising up young leaders like Sophat through older leaders like Socheth. Resonate Global Mission recognizes groups like SEAPI and CLAY as God’s gifts to our denomination and the wider body of Christ. We see all kinds of Kingdom possibilities among and through these groups. SEAPI leaders and churches still have connection to their home countries and have a desire to participate in God’s mission among their peoples. Resonate Global Mission will continue to explore what it would look like to partner with SEAPI and CLAY for the gospel ministry among South East Asians both in North America and in South East Asia. Pray for discernment and guidance.