Book Review: At Home in Exile

Faith Strength Writing

A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.  Mark 6:4

Sometimes we are foreign in our own faith and homeland. I’m currently reading At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among My Ancestors & Refugee Neighbors by Dr. Russell Jeung. I find his words gripping when he speaks of social justice and following Jesus into the Murder Dubs (Oak Park, California) to live among the oppressed.

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Can we be as Nehemiah when he rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls? Jeung urges his reader to “..be set apart by our solidarity with the poor and concern for the common good.” Sometimes we glorify poverty. We idolize our efforts to be able to bring relief to the impoverished, but how ignorant a mindset.

To know Jesus and to identify with him means to identify and connect with our marginalized ancestors, our own history.

Jeung identifies as Chinese American and takes the reader on a journey through the history of Chinese immigrating to America and their marginalization here in the United States. It’s alike the Latino(a) experience in so many ways.

Can we be both social activists and evangelical Christians? Even if the church has long been used to “colonize and exploit the world?” This is the argument Russell Jeung seeks to answer.

When the church joins together for the common good of the people and community, it is a force to reckon with. When all cylinders are firing within a church body, it creates a beautiful and long-lasting positive effect.

When the church misfires, it can cause a great divide and a strong effort to stay away from Christianity altogether.

To be the church is to be in community.

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This requires us to serve our community whether or not the return is present. Not everyone is a convert and not everyone is interested in accepting help.

Our ministry to be sent out and live among our neighbors very rarely saw astounding life-changing conversions or thorough-going community transformation. Most of the time we toiled on, attempting to be faithful and fruitful rather than successful… we didn’t always see the fruits of our labor.

Talk about returning to Jesus with joy. Living in “exile” is daunting and takes a mighty strength to keep looking upward toward heaven with grace and with nothing but faith to cloth you.

This is the cost of being “Jesus-like.” Serve others without return. Put others first. Prioritize the good of the whole above the good of self.

Our ability and willingness to serve others is a generational investment.

This is true even if the cost is suffering. Having a loving heart and giving soul inevitably brings with it a level of suffering. They go hand in hand. God chose to send his son, Jesus, so he could endure suffering. As Christians why would our lives be absent of this?

Paul wanted to know Christ, especially the power of his resurrection and fellowship of his sufferings (Phil. 3:10). Most of us desire that power, but we avoid the suffering. Paul, I think, participates in Christ’s sufferings to that he can understand the full extent of God’s love.

Throughout Jeung’s journey in exile, he recognizes he is a guest in the house of God.

Being a human on this earth is to be a guest.

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Hospitality and humility are at the forefront of Christian living and Jeung’s journey reminds me that I can be more of both. Much more.

Although this book didn’t reveal any AHA! moments to me, I was still humbled by the journey and work ethic of Chinese Americans. I long for books which reflect social justice and the Christian journey. What is it to be both? What does that look like and are we doing the best we can to fulfill our duties as Christians by defending the oppressed? I keep researching and reading.

I’m glad I happened upon this book in my research. I recommend it if you’d like a tame approach to Jesus and social justice as one unit.

Further reading by Dr. Jeung

  1. Raising a Generation of Peacemakers, Part One
  2. The Project on Lived Theology
  3. Saved By My Refugee Neighbors

What are you reading this fall?

*In December I will review Jesus for Revolutionaries by Robert Chao Romero.

With love,

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