Vivian Mabuni interview continues: I met and married Darrin when I was 25 and brought into our marriage the same rigid view of Christianity into our marriage relationship. I had difficulty representing myself and giving him feedback. I had mistakenly played the “submission/respect card” and understood it to mean if I respected him I would not question his ideas or thoughts. Instead of being a true helpmate, I sought to manipulate and control his emotions by heading off any potential conflict by not speaking up about my concerns and perspective. He would comment that when he came home I would emotionally shut down and no longer give input, direction and would take on the “cruise director” role of making everyone happy. I still struggle with this dynamic. I also somehow came to believe that in order for my husband to lead, he had to be better and stronger than me in all areas. In no way did he share this view; in fact he was often bewildered I actually thought these things. I felt frustrated and dead inside. My posture was one of passivity and confusion.
As I entered my mid to late 30’s I was exposed to a wider pool of believers and life no longer fit my previously held “cookie cutter” paradigm. I met godly women who were walking through divorce, recovering from addiction, had teenagers who turned away from the Lord, were dealing with depression, were the breadwinners for the family, to name a few. My picture of what it looked like to be a woman following God fully expanded. I found myself evaluating my views on various issues. Rather than adopting a stance based on a subculture, I decided to investigate for myself to seek to understand why God created women and how culture fit into what I saw in the Word. I started reading books and articles written by people outside my paradigm, I joined a 12 step group, and each step of the way the Lord brought along people to encourage me in the journey.
I was introduced to the books written by Carolyn Custis James as I entered my forties. The portrait of women that she presented was liberating and resonated deeply within me. For the first time I was encouraged to not shrink back from who God created me to be–especially in the area of leadership. But what stood out was the portrayal and high view of men and the importance of a posture of respect and honor given to men. Rather than compete or disappear, I moved toward linking arms with men. God was best represented when both men and women worked together for the furthering of His Kingdom. I began to experience a new level of freedom that opened the door to taking on new ministry responsibilities as well apply for seminary.
As a mom of two sons and a daughter my values and views shape my hopes of who I want them to become. Darkness and injustice fills our broken world. I want my sons to lead out into the darkness with strength, integrity and humility. I want them to welcome and respect the input and viewpoint of women. I want my daughter to not hold back who God has made her in all her gifting. I want her to bring her voice and strength with humility and conviction. I believe it takes a secure man not to be threatened by the strength of a woman. It also believe it takes a secure woman to not always have to be in control.
I believe our picture of God is made fuller when we include the voice and viewpoint of both women and men. In the same way, our understanding of who God is deepens through racial diversity and racial reconciliation. Our cultural differences offer a broader, richer view of the infinite and creative God we serve.
I am still on a journey discovering who God is and who and how He has created me, but now I am more aware of how my worlds influence who I am and how I lead. In God’s economy nothing is wasted. I continue to read, study and dialog with men and women over the issues of leadership, culture, and Scripture. I am grateful to look back and see areas of growth in my life. I am grateful for my husband, and other good men like him, who have sought to hear my voice. I am grateful for God’s commitment to walk with me as I shift through life, culture, the Scriptures and the way I view who He is and how to live to honor Him.
During ‘The Help’ discussion, you presented a recommendation for pursing relationships with other Asians. I quote it here:
My suggestion in pursuing relationships with other Asians is to be aware of the communication pause. This is a generalization, but commonly in both white and African American communication, people talk over each other. In Asian culture it is considered rude to interrupt, so we wait for an appropriate pause in conversation before joining in. Unfortunately, the conversation usually blasts on and the pause never comes. Picture a communication freeway onramp and the Asians are trying to merge, but if the space isn’t made then the “quiet and reserved” stereotype continues.
I find this statement quite insightful. Yet, I can’t seem to shake that it only magnifies how rude we have become as American people, which is really not a racial issue at all. What are your thoughts about this observation? And how can we police ourselves against this growing trend?
I think it would be considered a generalization to label Americans as rude. Some would consider Americans as some of the friendliest people. I do think as Americans, we tend to have a prima donna attitude when it comes to relating with people from other countries. We can lend towards thinking our way is the “best way” whether it is in ministry or the market place.
The communication pause I mention is a cultural value based on several factors for an Asian: those in the group who have seniority are given honor and special consideration because of the emphasis in eastern culture of hierarchy. Giving honor, the value of being others oriented, and differing to others comes from the emphasis of community over the individual. The pause varies in length depending on whether the person is Japanese, Hmong, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Filipino, etc. To lump all Asians as the same misses the beauty of how God is reflected in each culture and language.
You mention “how rude we have become as American people.” Most Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, I know would not fit the description of a loud American even though they are 100% American. Sadly the view continues of Asians not really being American even if they are fourth and fifth generation American.
My encouragement to non-Asians is to be a learner of different Asian cultures. Take time to observe, become aware, learn Asian history, especially Asian-American history, become the minority in an Asian-American majority event (the “quiet and reserved” stereotype will quickly be dispelled), be intentional about asking for the opinions of Asians when in a group setting, decide to pause and let others answer first.
Tell me a little about your work at CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). How do you see the unity of the body shaping internationally? What can American Christians learn from the strength of the church which is now growing in the Global South?
My husband and I work with Epic Movement, the Asian American ministry of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). We exist to reach the students and faculty on college campuses in the U.S. with the Gospel through Asian Americans. Currently, we have 35 Epic movements on campuses across the country. Our vision is to help raise up the next generation of Asian American leaders who will be equipped to influence their family, community, church and the world with the message of God’s love and forgiveness. Darrin and I dream of the day when the voice and leadership of godly Asian-Americans infiltrates every facet of society. We dream of our kids and their kids finding a wide array of godly Asian-American leaders and role models. We also see incredible potential for sending Asian-Americans into the mission field all around the world. Most Asian-Americans, like me, are bicultural so they have grown up learning to contextualize and operate in two different worlds. Asian-American believers often fare better as missionaries in international cross cultural settings.
© Vivian Mabuni and Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012