More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith

by Nikki A. Toyama and Tracey Gee, eds.

Five Asian female authors write eloquently with exceptional honesty and courage about how each of their own cultures fashioned them and how God uses that ethnic identity in ministry.

Kathy Khang, Christie Heller de Leon and Asifa Dean. Jeanette Yep, consulting eds, InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2006, 208 pages, $15.00.

—Reviewed by Muriel Elmer, cross-cultural trainer and adjunct professor, Ph.D. Educational Studies program, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

“Long, long ago in a land far away, a script for being female in a patriarchal culture was written. Generations later, in a new land, the script is not easily changed,” writes Jeanette Yep in the Foreword for this book. Five Asian female authors tell of their personal struggle to change that script to more clearly reflect Jesus himself. They write eloquently with exceptional honesty and courage about how each of their own cultures fashioned them and how God uses that ethnic identity in ministry. Their own ethnic origins are drawn from China, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan and Korea. All five work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on North American campuses.

From an Asian perspective, these authors explore the stereotypes they encounter in North America, their family expectations, the struggle with perfectionistic tendencies, views on suffering, friendships, singleness, sexuality, parental relationships, discovering a voice and becoming a leader. In each chapter, a different author examines one of these topics telling her story of what it is like to navigate two separate cultures in light of God’s truth.

One compelling aspect of the book is the careful treatment of Asian cultural values by insiders. In the chapter on suffering, Tracy Gee writes that growing up she learned to “swallow” suffering—pretend it was not there. This makes it “hard to be honest with others,” which she suggests is “linked to the cultural value of saving face.” Swallowing suffering then, can lead to avoiding honesty with God (p. 73). Gee concludes, “We cannot be his agents if we have not allowed God into our own places of suffering” (p. 80). Such is the quality of the reflection throughout the entire book.

This book will hit home with women in ministry everywhere. Shaped so distinctively by our background, we soon recognize that both the beauty of God’s common grace and the bitterness of the Fall weave their way through the fabric of our own culture. The authors write of both with clarity and love. We too, must confront the cultural lies we may have believed from childhood but also celebrate the glimpses of God’s character in our traditions.

The authors pose a series of discussion questions at the end of the book. Although meant primarily for women of Asian descent, most are relevant questions for all women to consider. The title More Than Serving Tea does not begin to do justice to this hard-hitting, honest treatment of these women’s life experience, their struggles in ministry and the lessons they learned. We are honored to learn from them.

Check these titles:
Blomberg, Craig L. and James R. Beck. 2001. Two Views of Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Lin, Tom. 1996. Losing Face and Finding Grace: Twelve Bible Studies for Asian Americans. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Tokunaga, Paul. 2003. Invitation to Lead: Guidance for Emerging Asian American Leaders. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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Copyright © 2007 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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