Posted September 16, 2016 by
Tags: Student Activities My Wheaton
Exploring Culture and Community with Koinonia
I have no dramatic story about getting involved in Koinonia. A few upperclassmen invited a friend and I to a Koinonia Large Group gathering, so we went. Though I wasn’t formally involved in Koinonia aside from attending Large Groups, the social support networks I found through Koinonia really made a difference in my freshman experience. I looked up to the upperclassmen and regularly ate with them and even stayed with several juniors during spring break. One of those juniors became my mentor the next year and, though he now lives in Hong Kong, has remained a close friend.
The events drew me in but the extensive support network kept me involved. Through Koinonia, I was able to develop a much deeper understanding of my racial/ethnic background. I still remember my freshman year Fall Retreat, where I learned to neither be ashamed nor prideful of my cultural background, but rather allow God to use it for Kingdom-building. This idea transformed my experiences at Wheaton: I used my Mandarin to tutor immigrant children at the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown, I resolved conflict with my mother, I went to China for a semester, and I am now looking for opportunities in China after graduation.
It’s hard to express the privilege I feel in leading an organization that has impacted my life so deeply. As president, I try to emulate the successes of Koinonia by engaging with culture and capitalizing on our strength as a strong support network; however I also push myself and the cabinet to consider areas that need improvement.
Perhaps the biggest question our organization faces this year is how to best plan for the future. The face of Wheaton is changing as Asian students now constitute over 10 percent of the undergraduate population, and with this comes both opportunity and responsibility: we have the opportunity to bring forward Asian and Asian American voices to help develop a more full picture of God and His Kingdom here at Wheaton; we also have the responsibility to advocate for and serve these students. This semester, we will focus on identity formation through providing safe spaces for students to explore their backgrounds. In the spring we will focus on empowerment and equipping students to effectively articulate their identities and serve the community through their racial/cultural backgrounds.
I want to extend an open invitation for anyone to come to our Large Groups. These monthly events focus on informing all students on what it means to be Asian in America and offer a unique perspective on God and the Kingdom through an Asian lens. Our aim is not to become insular, but rather to provide spaces for people to engage in questions and discussions that are relevant to us all: Does God care about my background and experiences? How do I see my experiences through the lens of the Gospel? How has my culture shaped my faith?
Be on the lookout for our posters and emails! Feel free to contact me or another member if you have any questions.
Michael Chen ’17is a senior studying sociology and history with a Chinese minor. Learn more about Koinonia on their website. Photo captions (from top): Students at Koinonia's Fall Retreat; students gather with their "family groups" to compete in the Family Group Olympics.