Ecclesiology, Cross-culture, Travel, Discipleship

February 17, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 9:46 am

Five years ago:

American: I’m going to China for a year.

American #2: What for?

A: To teach English of course! =D

A2: Wow, what a privileged yet sacrificial westerner. Bless you, dear!


A: I’m going to China for a year.

A2: What for?

A: To learn Chinese of course! =D

A2: Shut up or you’ll miss your flight.


February 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 3:36 am

13 February 2011 San Francisco

Catholics have a reputation for severity, for judgment that comes down heavily. My experience with Father Martin was not at all like that. He was very kind. He served me tea and biscuits in a tea set that tinkled and rattled at every touch; he treated me like a grown-up; and he told me a story. Or rather, since Christians are so fond of capital letters, a Story.

And what a story. The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it’s God’s Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine Father saying to me, “Piscine, a lion slipped into the llama pen today and killed two llamas. Yesterday another one killed a black buck. Last week two of them ate the camel. The week before it was painted storks and grey herons. And who’s to say for sure who snacked on our golden agouti? The situation has become intolerable. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is if I feed you to them.”

“Yes, Father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up.”

“Hallelujah, my son.”

“Hallelujah, Father.”

What a downright weird story. What peculiar psychology.

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

January 24, 2011

Cindy: “Angkor WAAATTTTTT?!?!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 7:39 am
24 Jan 2011 Phnom Penh

Where have I been the past few weeks? Partying with my little sister in Thailand and Cambodia! With her around my standard of living bumped dramatically – and I was not complaining! Some quick highlights…

Angkor Wat - more cartwheeling idiocy.

More temple ruins at Angkor

Around Chiang Mai, Thailand. You're welcome Cindy.

Yeah, I kissed that sweet mama. Just imagine landing your face on a bed of cactus and gravel.

Our tour guide got a little excited with our camera, can you tell?

January 2, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 3:48 pm

I believe these two entities will define this global generation and our children:

Asia. Green.

December 28, 2010

A Postmodern Bus Ride

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 11:59 am

28 Dec 2010 Taipei

Malaysia’s long-distance bus system is exceptional. The standard coach has A/C, a movie playing, and large seats that recline like Lay-Z-Boys. On one ride an image got me thinking so I had to snap it:

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture? I can name two: 1) The first and fourth images are the same. That passengers are not allowed to spit on the bus is conveyed redundantly, and 2) The cigarette’s smoke is wafting down instead of up! What could have delusioned the label manufacturer to make such an obvious mistake? Surely the person who installed the sticker noticed! Maybe they did notice. Maybe they just thought, “Huh, the cigarette smoke is wafting down instead of up. That’s wrong. Oh well, at least the rest of it is flush. Now where’s my adhesive applicator…”


If you are an American Evangelical, you’ve heard the names James Dobson and Focus on the Family. In 2004, Focus on the Family released “The Truth Project (TTP),” a DVD series marketed to American Evangelicals to be viewed and discussed in small group settings. In reaction to postmodernism’s truth relativity, TTP asks viewers questions like, “Is this worldview biblical? What is the metric for biblicality? How does a biblical worldview manifest in the social sphere?” I’ve been through this series twice with my small group in Southern California. I assessed it as spiritually beneficial because it caused me to think deeply and technically about God. It made logical sense. And then I stumbled upon an article.

In Learning in a Time of (Cultural) War: Indoctrination in Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project, Dr. Randal Rauser of Taylor Seminary argues that TTP teaches “Binary thinking,” a mentality detrimental to Christian discipleship.* Binary thinking is the narrowing of a scope to two possibilities. The answer of a question is always an either/or, this/that, and if/then. For example, one universal question humans have historically asked is: Does our supreme being wield directive control over his created world, or does he yield partial influence to his subjects? In other words, predestination or free will? In the contemporary Evangelical sphere, we have simplified this universally wondered phenomenon into two schools of thought both named after 16th century Europeans: “So, are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?” It is too modest to suggest that this theological reduction offers justice to the vastness of a Living God.

Binary thinking can be good and bad. In this case, Rauser explains how TTP uses binary thinking to limit our scope of an infinite God. Similarly, we have used binary thinking to systematize complex truths. We approach the question with a core layer of presupposed doctrines, then by transitivity necessitate a second layer of truth. We contrive order from disorder. Here is another example: God is sovereign over all. “All” encompasses sin. Therefore, God sovereignly willed and created the entrance of sin. This is classic “putting God in a box.” Such a calculated claim can fit snugly into one’s machine of systematic theology. Everything is ordered, explainable, linear. Here the cogs are timed, the hinges are lubricated, the bearings are true. But is God so mechanical? What about another truth claim, that God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one? Binary thinking leads us to force God into a box when God is not necessarily square.

How much of our view of God is necessitated? How much is wrestled and maneuvered into place? When we  step back, is our portrait of God crisp and even but colorless? Have we shrugged to ourselves, “Huh, the cigarette smoke is wafting down instead of up. That’s wrong. Oh well, at least the rest of it is flush. Now where’s my adhesive applicator…”

*Randal Rauser, “Learning in a Time of (Cultural) War: Indoctrination in Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project™,” Christian Scholar’s Review, 39 (Fall 2009).





P.S. I’m a Calvinist.

December 25, 2010

Preface to my Next Post

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 2:33 am

25 Dec 2010 Taipei

Our Lady, with the Baby Jesus in her arms, decided to come down to Earth and visit a monastery. The monks proudly joined in a long queue, and each of them came before the Virgin to render their homage. One declaimed beautiful poetry, another showed his illuminated paintings of biblical subjects, a third repeated the names of all the Saints. And so on, one monk after the other, praising Our Lady and the Baby Jesus.

The last monk of all there was the humblest in the whole monastery, who had never studied the learned books of the time. His parents were simple people, who worked in an old travelling circus, and all they had taught him was to throw balls into the air and juggle with them.

When it was his turn, the other members of the order wanted to bring the homage to a conclusion, since the old juggler would have nothing important to say, and might lower the image of the monastery. But in the bottom of his heart, he also felt a burning need to give something of himself to Jesus and the Virgin.

Ashamed, conscious of the disapproving looks of his brothers, he took a few oranges from his bag, and started to juggle them in the air, saying that juggling was all he knew how to do.

It was at that moment that the Baby Jesus, sitting on Our Lady’s lap, smiled and started to clap his hands. And the Virgin reached out her arms, inviting him to hold the baby.

– As quoted by Paulo Coelho in his preface to The Alchemist

December 20, 2010

Why San Francisco is the Best City in the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 5:40 am

19 Dec 2010 Taipei

One of my favorite childhood field trips where you got to play with worms and dirt: the local compost farm.

One litmus test of a society’s development is its waste management. Effective waste management, like any human undertaking, requires infrastructure, innovation and education. Infrastructure includes depositories, like landfills, and paved roads for transportation. Innovation will design garbage trucks, offer tax incentives for citizen and business compliance, monitor trash flow, and draw the lines of a geographical grid. Effective waste management will also educate. Education mobilizes people to accept the responsibility of “doing your part,” it uses mnemonic devices like “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and it prioritizes a seemingly unimportant issue.

For much of the world, waste management is a pile nearby. For others, it’s setting the pile on fire every Sunday night, emitting more and more CO2 into the air we breathe. Two notes: 1) I realize that most of these cases, including those in America, involve rural communities. Not only do farmers discharge comparatively very little waste, it is unreasonable to expect from them a singular waste management system over geographically expansive areas. I am primarily referring to urban societies. 2) I also realize that the burning of garbage emits very little CO2 compared to other sources of human industry. My point is not to blame humble individuals for the world’s environmental crises.

As I visit more polluted and clean places in this world, I become increasingly proud of my San Franciscan roots. In this great city, when you subscribe (and you must) to the garbage collection agency, you are expected to use three bins: black for garbage, blue for recycling, and green for compost. They tell you, “Resident, we will collect your 32-gallon black garbage bin for $27.55/month and your blue recycling and green compost bins for free. But wait. If you will commit to more recycling and less trash, we will give you a 20-gallon mini-can to be collected at a discounted rate of $21.21/month. This way you save money, San Francisco remains a leading global city by achieving its goal of zero waste by 2020, and we all live in a cleaner, more sustainable world.”

Our family never composted until the government offered to subsidize garbage collection costs (read: mandate it). Initially we purchased biodegradable bags from the supermarket but they were expensive. Our egg shells, greasy napkins and spoiled chow-mein would seep through the bottoms of paper bags, so those did not work either. We even resorted to sneaking plastic bags for a few weeks but the garbage men caught on. Now we just lay newsprint in the bottom of the can and dump the compostable stink in. It isn’t the easiest process to learn, but when when it transitions into your life routine; when your neighbors are navigating the system with you; when it becomes society’s general expectation of you; when complying will reduce your garbage collection costs, and reduce humanity’s global costs of carbon emission, environmental depletion and climate change, even if you don’t know it – your city is operating an effective waste management system through infrastructure, innovation and education. I ❤ SF.

By the way, California, the world’s eight largest economy, just approved new greenhouse gas rules for businesses. I ❤ CA.

December 19, 2010

Saigon Six

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 1:46 am

Hello, World!

16 Dec 2010 Saigon

1. On a nighttime boat ride through the Mekong Delta our guide pointed out some trees that reminded me of Christmas. “Look, fireflies!”

2. Rat, when cooked with onions, is tasty.

3. In 1995, to normalize diplomatic relations for the first time since the war, then President Bill Clinton stopped by the infamous “Pho 2000” for a bowl of the Vietnamese noodle broth. I had to do the same.

4. All museums and sites concerning the “evil American women-and-baby-killers” in the (American) War are outrageously propagandist and infuriating.

5. American use of agent orange is equally infuriating.

6. Biggest lesson I learned while crawling through the Viet Cong tunnels: I have a lot of weight to lose when I get home.

Goodbye, World!

December 9, 2010

The Big 3-0.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 3:54 pm

8 Dec 2010 Penang

The final count is in – as of Malaysia, I have visited thirty countries in this world. Wee!

In celebration, I dedicate this post to my constant companion: my Chacos.

From the jaw-dropping peaks of the Great Wall to Sinai to Half Dome, from the lazy seashores of Hawaii to Tel Aviv to Langkawi, from the historic cities of New York to London to Tokyo: my dear sandals, you have accompanied me so much of the way. When we get home I will buy you new soles. You deserve ’em.

For each country I have visited there are six more I have not. (Fact: I have not been south of the equator.) This world is as diverse as it is enormous and every corner has its own spread of the cultural, social, political and religious. As the world continues to flatten, accessibility and demand for international travel will only increase. This thrills me – there are so many new spices to tingle my tongue, so many languages to flub, so many beautiful women to perform surreptitious double takes over. I wonder at what point my age will match my number of countries visited? May that day never come!

Banana break! Along Penang's northern coast.

December 7, 2010

When Anonymity is my Only Friend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kendrick Shu @ 2:54 am

6 Dec 2010 Singapore

tramp – verb – to travel on foot from place to place, esp. a vagabond living on occasional jobs or gifts of money or food.

Into the Wild tells the true story of a vagabond who abandons all societal identity and money to tramp through North America. Along the way Brian McCandless works a wheat mill, gets detained at the Mexican border, and inspires an elderly gentleman to reexamine his monotonous life. McCandless eventually goes into the wild Alaskan tundra to relish in this radical freedom. And what should be the highest lesson learned from his free-spirited legacy? “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Sometimes I wonder if traveling alone like this is selfish. For one, I can live life on a whim. I have complete freedom to eat and sleep where, when, and however I please. I don’t have to consider another person’s needs alongside my own, much less place them before my own. Second, I frequently experience moments of rich profundity and hilarity but with nobody next to me share them with. So I do the next best thing – I invite people into my unique life antics through this blog.

But selfishness is not the only issue here. It would be deceptive of me to ignore another reality of solo travel: loneliness. Brian McCandless craved human relationship when he was alone, and I am no different. Sometimes I desire another person around me. I want to watch their bags as they use the restroom; to turn off the lights when they’re ready for bed even when I’m not; to eat what they want to eat, not just what I want to eat. I want these things because at other times they will watch my bags as I use the restroom; they will sleep with a bandanna over their eyes because I’m not ready to turn off the lights; and they will eat what I want to eat, not just what they want to eat. Sometimes I want a travel buddy, a partner in crime, an advocate – a Hobbes. Because sometimes anonymity is my only friend and that just don’t cut it.

Beautiful! Bryan's not bad either...

Such explains my deep gratitude for the past week and a half in Singapore. For twelve days my old pal and dear brother Bryan welcomed me into his life. It was a refreshing period of authentic fellowship, hearty laughter and sincere acts of service that can only be nurtured within the context of “old friends with a vibrant history.” Bryan, that you placed my needs alongside yours is a gross understatement. In countless ways, you sacrifically considered my needs far ahead of your own. Again, thanks man.

If India was Part One, and Singapore was intermission, I am now embarking on Part Two: Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines. Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE.

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