Thanks for Popping In!
My entire life I’ve been interested in people. All kinds of people. From various backgrounds and diverse points of view. Even some who made me quite uncomfortable and, I’m sure, there’s been even more that have felt uncomfortable talking to me. At least initially.
As someone who unapologetically identifies as a Christian—a Baptist, even—I’ve often taken some folks by surprise when I show an interest in getting to know them. And that was even before I added the “pastor” label to my already off-putting “Baptist” one. Over twenty years ago I had just started volunteering at a well-established secular Asian American drug rehab center in the Crenshaw (“hood”) district of LA, Initially, most of the staff were highly suspicious of why I would want to lead a monthly Bible study for their residents. But I soon proved myself worthy of their trust enough for them to invite me to fly with them to a national AAPI conference on substance abuse. I was touched that they wanted to include me, so of course I went.
Oh boy. Talk about being a fish out of water. Every other delegate at the conference was involved in fighting substance abuse in Asian American and Pacific Islanders. I’m sure that some of them were also Christians, but I was the only one with a name tag that read “Rev.” Carrying that label, in that progressive crowd, was literally like painting a bull’s eye on my forehead. I’d start a conversation with someone, who then would glance down to read my tag. And then our chitchat would slam to a sudden stop. The person would abruptly state, “You’re a minister? A Baptist minister? What are you doing here? Asian American Christians turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the rampant drug and alcohol problems that plague all our communities.”
My response was always the same: “You’re absolutely right. And I’m ashamed of our apathy. I’ve never been concerned about these problems, but that’s starting to change. I’m here to learn from people like you so that I can lead our church to be part of the finding solutions and addressing the needs of addicts and their families. I wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t’ true.”
And in the very next moment, each person’s hostility would melt. They’d smile and extend a hand, saying, “Well then, welcome, Rev. Fong. I’m glad to meet someone like you.” By the end of that conference, having shared many meals, attended numerous workshops that mostly were beyond my comprehension, and after making many of them laugh out loud, a number of them would exclaim, “You know what, Rev. Fong? You’re okay. In fact, you’re making me rethink some of my biases against Christians. In fact, if your church was closer to me, I’d even consider popping in from time to time.”
So over the years, I’ve managed to make connections with a mind-boggling array of fascinating Asian Americans. Some you’ve already heard about but would love to get to know them better. And some you’ve never heard of but I would love for you to meet them and learn from what they’ve done or are doing today. This podcast will give you a convenient way to “pop in from time to time” to hear from people—including me—which I guarantee will be an enjoyable and worthwhile investment of your time and attention.
I’ve never limited my circle of relationships to people who share my particular beliefs or view of the world. So my guests won’t necessarily be Christians, but that doesn’t mean we won’t touch on spiritual things if need be. Some of them I’ve known for years. Some I’ll be meeting in person for the first time during the interview. And some I knew a long time ago, and this podcast is bringing us back together to hear how we’ve changed and stayed the same.
It’s my producer Chris Wong’s and my goal to release one new podcast every week, so we hope that you’ll subscribe so that you won’t miss any of the episodes. It’s been a big investment of our time so far, but we’ve had a blast pulling this together. We’d be thrilled if you helped us spread the word about “Asian America: The Ken Fong Podcast” through all your social networks about this new place on The Web where Asian America’s culture-makers and –shapers—past, present, and up-and-coming—are coming to share their passions, their dreams, their failures, and their lessons.