All morning at Silicon Valley's fast growing Grace Covenant Community Church, members of this mostly Chinese American congregation were aflutter about the christening of "Grace's triplets." Chinese Americans revere healthy children, and this event last year was to be a celebration. The three infants had been born to Gary and Joanne, two beloved members.
But the smiles quickly faded: one of the babies had a complication. "Our son was born with Down syndrome," Joanne told the congregation in Los Altos. "We were quite deflated. There are some families that would not divulge this, one of the worst things [that can happen] in an Asian family."
Many Chinese American churches have often avoided prolife activities as too political, worldly, or culturally embarrassing.
But decisions by people such as Gary and Joanne, who asked that their last names not be used, are beginning to change that perspective slowly.
Through his work as director of San Francisco's Asian American Psychological Services, Melvin Wong sees the beginnings of a changing cultural attitude. "Asian Americans are experiencing pain and tragic outcomes of certain cultural values," he told Christianity Today. "Only recently have we been willing to talk about it."
Says Sophie Wong, the most prominent Chinese American prolife politician in southern California, "Churches do talk about abortion here and there, but they certainly don't dwell on it."
Deanna Go, who leads Focus on the Family's Chinese family ministry, has seen the struggles up close. "I remember talking with the wife of a deacon at one of our Chinese churches in southern California," Go says. "She was pressured to abort her abnormal child. Now she is having post-abortion trauma, hallucinating."
Go remembers her own mother's laments about two "voluntary miscarriages" in China. "She never stopped mentioning those children to me when I was growing up. Even before she became a Christian, she knew it was wrong."
Go, who is based in Los Angeles and travels frequently to Asia with her message, is typical of newly visible prolife Chinese Americans. There are other examples. In northern California, Sunset Chinese Baptist Church is the leading fundraiser for an annual Walk for Life. In Boston, Pastor Steve Chin rallies Chinese Americans for the annual gathering of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
Asian Americans are one of America's fastest-growing ethnic groups. Chinese Americans are about 1 percent of the U.S. population. Between 1991 and 2000, the Barna Poll reports a 440 percent increase in the number of Asian Americans who acknowledge a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
Many embrace traditional family values. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 6 percent of 1998 births among ethnic Chinese were to unmarried mothers. That figure compares with 33 percent in the national population. But abortions are accepted, while children with handicaps are not.
Grace Covenant's pastor Steve Wong founded the congregation in part to address personal struggles long ignored by other Chinese American churches. During a recent service, he prayed that believers would "escape the yoke" of sin and culture.
"Sex is a taboo subject in the Chinese community," says physician Peter Lu, chairman of a local crisis pregnancy center.
In an attempt to break cultural boundaries, Lu told Grace Covenant's members that he had impregnated his girlfriend years before and went along with her abortion. "It was a destructive decision," Lu told the congregation. "A little bit of me died with it."
In the aftermath of the abortion, Lu recommitted himself to his Christian faith and started to fight against the prevalence of abortion among Asian Americans. "We now have a Mountain View medical clinic," Lu said. "People have come running to us."
Many of the Chinese American Christians interviewed by ct dread the stigma of having a handicapped child. One otherwise warm and loving couple on the East Coast has kept a severely mentally handicapped son out of sight for 20 years. Many of their closest friends don't know of his existence.
The secrecy of struggles with unwanted pregnancies, painful family legacies, and babies with handicaps has brought immense damage to Chinese Americans, says psychologist Wong. "These are the hidden victims of Christendom."
Joanne says she and her husband took their pain about their newborn son to God. Then they took their story, and their burden, to the church. "We feel honored God chose us to raise our son," Joanne said. "The enemy has lost."
Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
The Web site for Focus on the Family's Chinese family ministry, Focus on the Chinese Family, is available in both English and Chinese.
See the Web site of Grace Covenant Community Church.
For more articles on abortion and related issues, see Christianity Today's Life Ethics archive.
In 1999, Christianity Today sister publication Books & Culturereviewed Frank Dikötter's Imperfect Conceptions: Medical Knowledge, Birth Defects, and Eugenics in China.
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