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The Boomerang Effect
Courtesy New Hope Fellowship, Toronto, Canada

Twenty years ago, Asian North American churches were experiencing a trend that became known as the “Silent Exodus.” The phrase described the movement of second- and other next-generation Asian North Americans away from their Asian immigrant churches as they grew up. But an interesting countertrend has begun to emerge, one that Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor Peter Cha terms “the boomerang effect”: many of these Asian North Americans have decided to return.

Cha’s own younger brother John is one case in point. Thirty years ago, a small group of first-generation Korean immigrants (led by the Chas' father) launched Korean Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Today, this Herndon-based congregation is now named Open Door Presbyterian Church, serving nearly 2,000 Korean-language speakers with another 540 in the English-speaking congregation, which meets at the same church campus as the Korean congregation. Their pastor is John Cha. “This was the church where I grew up," he says, "and I wanted to grow old with the people here.”

John Cha notes that the church leaders have worked hard to preserve an intergenerational and interdependent culture. “For many second-generation Korean Americans, the relationship between themselves and the first generation has become a source of disillusionment and pain. But at Open Door, we have worked hard to establish peace between the first and second generations.”

Disillusionment is exactly what Yong Kim felt when he was a young adult attending his home Korean immigrant church outside of Toronto, The Light Presbyterian Church. After more than a decade of service to the church but little ...

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