Eugene Cho

Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor & Music By – Travon Potts
Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

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Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

About Eugene
Eugene is the President/CEO of Bread for the World and Bread Institute, a prominent non-partisan Christian advocacy organization urging both national and global decision makers to help end hunger – both in the United States and around the world. Bread has been engaged in this critical discipleship of advocacy for the hungry and vulnerable since its inception in 1974. He is also the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages (ODW) – a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. He is also the founder and former Senior Pastor of Quest Church – an urban, multi-cultural and multi-generational church in Seattle, Washington. After 18 years, Eugene stepped aside at Quest in 2018.

For his entrepreneurial work, Eugene was honored as one of 50 Everyday American Heroes and a recipient of the Frederick Douglass 200 – included in a list of 200 people around the world who best embody the spirit and work of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential figures in history.  Eugene was also the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Eugene is the author of two acclaimed books, Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics (2020) and Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? (2014)

Eugene and Minhee have been married for 23 years and have three children. Together, they live in Seattle, Washington.

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The full episode transcript is below.

Narrator  0:01  

You are listening to the Be the Bridge podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison  0:06  

[intro] How are you guys doing today? This is exciting!

Narrator  0:09  

Each week, Be the Bridge podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison  0:16  

[intro] …but I’m going to do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator  0:19  

We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison  0:53  

Okay, I am so excited Be the Bridge community! I have a surprise guest for you. Well, all of the guests are a surprise because you never know, right? (laughter) But, I am so excited about having this person on. He doesn’t know it, but he’s kind of like pastored me from afar. I’ve been following his work for years now. And I think we met probably about in 2015. And I was almost too scared to go up and speak to him. You probably don’t remember that interaction. It was at a IF:Gathering. But I have author, pastor, activist, humanitarian, Pastor Eugene Cho on the Be the Bridge podcast with me today. And like I said, he is a pastor. He’s a speaker. He’s an author. He’s a visionary. He’s a humanitarian. He’s also the son of Korean immigrants and a natural entrepreneur. He loves circling the globe and really dealing with the intersection of faith, justice, and leadership. Pastor Cho is the founder of, was the senior pastor of Quest Church. And this was an urban multicultural, multi-generational church in Seattle, Washington. And after serving about 18 years, he stepped aside in 2018. And just a little bit more about him is he’s a graduate of the University of California, Davis and Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was the of a Distinguished Alumni Award. Let me just say that again…where he was the recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is married and he’s been with his wife for over 23 years now. And he has three children and he’s almost an empty nester. (laughter)

Eugene Cho  2:58  

We’re empty nesters right now. Woo woo!

Latasha Morrison  3:01  

Wow! Okay, so he’s an empty nester. And the great thing, I was telling him, you know, when you look at him, you would never know he has practically three grown children, and have seen all of this life. He still looks young. And I said, I’m just thankful for Asian genes and African American genes. That melanin keeps us looking young, right?

Eugene Cho  3:25  

You know what they say, Tasha? Black don’t crack and Asians don’t raisin.

Latasha Morrison  3:29  

You know what I’m saying? (laughter) I love it. I love it. I’m so glad to have you on here, brother. And I am looking forward to this conversation and to see what you’ve been up to in the midst of this pandemic. So how are you doing? Just give us a little update on what’s happening with Eugene Cho.

Eugene Cho  3:52  

Yeah. Latasha, thank you again, so much for having me. It’s really a pleasure and an honor. I do remember the first time that you and I met, and I was just so excited to meet you as well. Because I had also been familiar with your work, particularly as you were kind of like flexing your muscles. You were starting to do that. And just to see what God’s been doing in your life, in the past six, seven years, you know, praise God. And thank you for your faithfulness. The space in which you and I try to faithfully occupy is a difficult space for many reasons. It feels as if bridge building is a lot more taxing than a bridge burning. And so I just want to thank you publicly in front of your listeners and just really for you. I want you to hear how grateful the capital C Church is and how this one particular person have been encouraged and inspired by your work. So thank you so much.

Latasha Morrison  4:53  

Yeah, I’m so grateful. And I know like, you just made the comment that bridge building is a little lot more difficult than bridge burning. And, you know, at times it seems like it is easier to just burn it all down. But I do not believe that that is the way that the Lord has paved for me. And having to engage this in such a wise and meticulous way can be really difficult. And so I know that you are no stranger to that. I just heard you speak. I think you spoke IF this year too. And you were just so poignant and how you just embody what you talk about, you know, and so just looking at your…you know, bios are one thing. But when you see, you know, you’re you’re living this out, you’ve pastored, you started several nonprofit organizations that are serving those that are underserved across the globe. And I know you’re doing something with bread for the world now. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with that?

Eugene Cho  6:06  

Yeah, well, I have to make this comment. As you were reading my bio, you did not mention the line about Eugene an aspiring NBA player. You just glossed over that.

Latasha Morrison  6:17  

I forgot that!

Eugene Cho  6:17  

Yeah, you glossed over that. That’s okay. Yeah, so, yeah, Tasha about a year and a half ago, a little over a year ago, I undertook a position to serve as the president of a Christian advocacy organization called Bread for the World. It’s well known in some circles, but I also meet a lot of folks in the church that have never heard of Bread for the World. It is the largest, most influential Christian advocacy organization, and our vision, our mission is to help end hunger in our nation and around the world. And there’s obviously numerous ways in which we can engage this complexity and injustice of hunger. There’s individual ways, there’s food pantries, church pantries, there’s direct service organizations. In addition to honoring all of those things, Bread for the World, we also believe that by engaging elected leaders, our government, by helping change policies and legislation, that we can make the most significant impact in curbing hunger. An example of that is just this past year, in the last 18 months in the pandemic, we have been working around the clock on all the COVID bills behind the scenes. You’ll never hear about Bread for the World. But we are having hundreds of meetings with members of Congress and at times with the administration, urging them to prioritize our neighbors who are experiencing income economic challenges and people that are experiencing hunger. Over the course of the pandemic, childhood hunger at its worst, quadrupled during the pandemic in our own nation, supposedly the wealthiest nation, for our Black and Brown neighbors and friends in our nation. 40% of families with children had a difficult time putting food on the table. So again, while we’re acknowledging all of the ways that we can help those who are experiencing hunger in our nation, the work that we’re doing, again, urging our lawmakers to prioritize, through legislation through COVID bills, through things called the child tax credit, the pandemic EBT, food stamps, which I experienced when I was a young church planter. And also globally speaking, when we know that approximately 270 plus million people are going to experience acute hunger in our world. All these things are so complex, but that’s the work that we’re doing. And one more thing that I’ll just say is when I said yes to this, I knew that the state of the political engagement in our country was difficult. But this was before the most contentious election in modern day history, before the events of the insurrection on January 6, and the polarization is at an all time high. And I share this to say if folks are listening, certainly I’d love for them to check us out at bread.org, but also just pray; pray for us, pray for me. There are mornings and days I just go, “Lord, what is going on? And how do I serve you and be faithful? How do I be a bridge builder in DC during these very challenging times?”

Latasha Morrison  9:44  

Yeah. And I think that’s the thing is, you know, what we’re talking about right here is just this orthopraxy. And I just think like, it’s not just about what we’re saying. But it’s also our actions and how we’re living out our faith. And, you know, I think sometimes we get overwhelmed. And I think it’s a couple of things, we get overwhelmed. And then I think we’re disconnected from the issues of today in a lot of ways. A lot of times we hear about this, you know, internationally, but some of the things that you’re talking about is right here on our soil, where there are solutions. You know, there’s no reason why anyone in our country should be hungry. And I think we’ve been so caught up and so self consumed throughout this pandemic, that in many ways, some of those things have slipped through the cracks of how this is really impacting, you know, families. And, I think this is why we have a podcast like this to kind of remind people and to nudge people and to help people realign with some of the most important things. We can get caught up in all the partisanship arguments throughout this pandemic but miss what God is trying to show us or what God is trying to do through us in the midst of that. So I thank you for really sharing that. That’s something new. I know you were doing One Day’s Wages. And for those who don’t know about that, that was another organization you had started a few years ago, with your wife, when you engaged in some, saw poverty, you saw how little it would take just to change the trajectory of a community and of a child’s life. And I think it’s like one of those things where we say, do for one what you can’t do for many. And it’s just like starting with yourself, just starting with one thing. I think if we all focused on one, it wouldn’t seem as overwhelming. You know, what would you say about that?

Eugene Cho  12:02  

Yeah, I mean, that’s wise. I mean, I think we’re living in a time where we’re often talking about this 24/7, let me say that one more time…we’re often living in this time where we’re critiquing and acknowledging this 24/7 news culture. But not only are we critiquing it, I think we’re also living with that kind of mentality that we’re never stopping and choosing to go deep in one or a couple areas. The reality is, the person who tries to do everything will do nothing well. We’re not built to do everything. We just don’t have the energy, the capacity, and I think our impact will be really minimal. And so I have to acknowledge, I’m just merely one human being, it doesn’t mean that I’m trying to elevate a savior complex, I’m just one person. So I want to be faithful and discern and listen to God’s voice in my life. But I also want to be in tune with the pain, the groans, of my community around me as well. But I also want to acknowledge as the body of Christ, I’m thankful that God is speaking to Tasha, that God is speaking to Jennie, that God is speaking to Rich Villodas. I’m thankful that God is speaking to others. So I can encourage and pray for you, as I have prayed for you in the past year and a half, Tasha, and somehow I know that God is working and orchestrating around all of these things. But I do believe, as you said that, there is this temptation, by wanting to do so much, we could actually lead ourselves into kind of a paralysis of over analysis, overthinking, and this is the prime time for these things to happen. Because you and I talked about this a few minutes ago, there’s just so much going on around us. And so sometimes you got to breathe, you got to really absorb the gifts of Sabbath and listening and meditating. And then asked God, “Lord, help me to keep on being present, being persistent, being prayerful, being pastoral, being prophetic. And do it all for your glory.”

Latasha Morrison  14:13  

I love it. I mean, selah, to all of that what you just said. One of the things you, you know, I was just really thinking about just this understanding of the Kingdom of God and how it intersects with everyday life, including our politics. Because one of the things you said is with the organization that you’re running, you’re behind the scenes helping to shape legislation, change minds. You know, like there are solutions, but sometimes we have to convince people of the solutions. And how do you see that, you know, the Kingdom of God being manifested through this work, through legislation, through politics, like, can you explain that? Because sometimes we try to keep these things so separate and not understanding that politics are about people. And we have to be about people, you know. So how do you help people to understand that intersection?

Eugene Cho  15:16  

Yeah, it’s a great question. And, you know, one of the things that I would just say, because I’m not going to get a chance to dig deep into this, because it’s so complicated. About a year and a half ago, right when the pandemic started, I released a book called, Thou Shalt Not be a Jerk:  A Christians Guide to Engaging Politics. And I kind of explain why politics matter. Now, as Christians politics is not the answer. It is not the solution to all things. It’s not where we place our hope and trust. But at the same time, I just meet too many Christians who altogether just throw away any significance or engagement with politics. And I think that’s a mistake. So the two big mistakes is, we think it’s the answer to all things, it’s the Savior of the world. Or, we altogether ignore it because we feel like as Christians I have to focus only on spiritual things. So here’s why politics matter. At the most fundamental definition of politics, it’s about the art of governance. Any healthy society needs healthy governance. That’s what politics is. What people are leery of isn’t really politics. It’s partisan politics. It’s blind politics. It’s obsession to politics. It’s allegiance to parties and politicians and powerful people. Now, if we’re speaking about allegiance to political parties and politicians, then absolutely as Christians, we have to speak prophetically about that. Our ultimate allegiance as Christians, however you describe yourself, should really be about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And so when people ask me, “Okay, Eugene, then why does politics matter?” Here’s my most simple definition, politics. Let me say that one more time, here’s the most simple reason why I believe politics matter:  politics influences policies that ultimately impact people. And every time I read the Bible, every time, God cares about people, especially those who might be marginalized or forgotten or unheard in our larger social society. So this is the reason why I think politics matter. And in terms of like, how does it impact people? I mean, I’ll just give you one example right now, domestically, we’re working on something advocating for something called the CTC. CTC stands for Child Tax Credit, it’s possible that some of your listeners have no idea what the CTC is, because it doesn’t really impact them, because maybe the $3,000 that they receive as Child Tax Credit every year is not that big of a deal. I’m not criticizing them. But for my wife, and I, because of the privilege that we have, that $3,000 doesn’t make a huge impact. But for someone that’s struggling to put food on the table, and we know that healthy diet, nutrition, beyond just calories meant it is a difference maker for the development of any child, their body, their brain, the capacity to learn. And so experts across all spectrums, their research is that the child tax credit has the capacity to reduce childhood hunger in this country by nearly half, by 50% if we make that. So it’s been implemented for one year, this year, one year. But we’re working to make that a permanent thing. And to remove any barriers. In the past, you had to make a certain income in order to qualify for the child tax credit. So we’re actually almost penalizing the poor for not making enough so that we’re not giving them the child tax credit. You see, it’s kind of a weird, weird thing. And so we’re trying to make this permanent, and just having, you know, at Bread for the World our goal is to meet with 200 members of Congress and their staffers. Again, you know, with respect, with prayer, but encouragement. The good news, I would say for those who might be, you know, listening is in this crazy polarized world, I genuinely believe that like every elected leader, they care about those who are hungry and experiencing poverty, I genuinely believe that they do. Despite what may be some times our sensationalist, sensationalism might lend us to believe. They care about those who experience hunger. But people have different philosophies, different ways, different solutions. But sometimes I do believe that our reality is disconnected to so many people who experience this kind of challenges. And so that’s the kind of work that we’re trying to do is to really encourage, educate, to come alongside our elected members of Congress and to say that hunger should never be a partisan issue. And I want to say that out loud for those who may have missed it, hunger should not be a partisan issue. And I think, in the same way that I would say, like public health should not be a partisan issue. And sadly, so many things have become partisan issues. So if you’re listening right now, sociologists are telling us that political identity is growing to become the most dominant way in which we see ourselves in the world. And I think to myself, that’s idolatry. And I’m not speaking just to the right, I’m speaking to the left, to the people,  I’m speaking to everyone. If this is the primary way in which we see ourselves, our self worth, it’s actually leading to the polarization that we’re actually critiquing as well.

Latasha Morrison  21:49  

And that’s so dangerous, that I mean, we’re on a very slippery slope. You know? And some things are not our story, but it’s, when it’s not your story, it’s like, we have to develop this empathy muscle to even understand that. So even if this is not my story, I can empathize with those parents, you know, I can empathize with communities. I just recently was talking to a cousin and found out that, you know, this person has worked for a hotel in a rural community in North Carolina for years. And, I never knew, I know she’s had some financial issues. And she has, you know, children, and found out that she had been working for this company for about 13 years, and she wasn’t even making over $8 an hour. So you think about that, you know, this is someone who works full time with this company, not making $8. So she has to have a supplemental job. And you think about that impact on her family with three children. And, and so, that’s not my story. But that is someone’s story. So something like a child tax credit, makes a difference for, you know, someone in a condition like someone in my family. And so a lot of people even hearing this couldn’t even fathom that, working 13 years for someone and I mean, you’re not even getting any type of raise. But that is the story of so many people, it just may not be our story.

Eugene Cho  23:38  

Yeah, can I just maybe add to that Tasha? I mean, you know, ultimately, as Christians are the two greatest commandments by our Lord Jesus:  love God with all our heart, soul, body, mind and to love our neighbors. And you know this, I know this, I know people on your podcast they’ve heard this for years, but I think it’s worth repeating. Our tendency, our proclivity is that we end up loving neighbors that are lovable or agreeable or that are like us in many ways – that think like us, feel like us, live in the same community like us, vote like us. And I think this is a time for us to really challenge that when Jesus says to love your neighbors, he meant to love anyone and everyone – and that’s challenging. That’s the reason why bridge building is so hard. I mean, I can easily build bridges with people that think, look, feel worship, all of that, like me, and that’s important too. But I think the cost of bridge building is to be countercultural. And I think one of the ways in which we do this is you cannot love your neighbors if you don’t know your neighbors. Everything outside of that is theological gymnastics. We’ve got to know our neighbors. And so, you know, you and I have chatted about this at conferences in years past where part of the challenge I think of the nation, of this country, and really around the world, is that we’re having these really emotional, complex, hard conversations about various subjects, including issues of race, and we don’t actually have genuine friendships, relationships with people of other races. And so as a result, we’re more bound by what media might say, more bound by narratives of others dictating these things to us. So one of the most important things that we can do, and this is what Jesus does – he chooses to leave, relinquish the glory of splendor of heaven, comes as John 1 the Message translation “moves into the neighborhood,” and he basically takes on flesh and blood, to really be in full solidarity and empathy with humanity. There’s just something about us, again, we’re not having to engage the savior complex. But I love what you said, it might not be our story. But one thing that we can do is we can disagree with solutions. But we should never disagree on empathy. We should never disagree with empathy.

Tandria Potts  26:18  

Wow, incredible insights. Don’t go anywhere. We’re gonna pause for a quick moment. And we’ll be right back.

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Tandria Potts  29:23  

Thanks for staying with us. Let’s get back to our conversation.

Latasha Morrison  29:27  

You know, one of the things, you know, I was listening to someone that sent me a clip of someone and they were talking (I’ll talk a little bit later about the full conversation), but they were just talking about what they thought was social justice. And they said, “You know, we want to do the work of social justice. But people have added so many things in you know, first, you know, social justice was about you know, feeding the poor, you know about this and that and now it’s about race, now it’s about these things.” Like, does the gospel exclude social justice or human dignity? And I think that’s a question I know you answer in Thou Shall Not be a Jerk, your book, a Christian’s Guide to Engaging in Politics. But I just heard this other Christian saying that, and I’m just thinking like, okay, what kind of theological perspective? And I mean, most people in that audience was agreeing that these other things are not a part of this. And so how could we? How are we, you know, a part of the same faith community, but on two different wavelengths when it comes to understanding human dignity or social justice, or that the social justice word is even a wrong word or bad word?

Eugene Cho  30:55  

Sure. I mean, wow.

Latasha Morrison  30:57  

I know, that’s a loaded question. (laughter)

Eugene Cho  31:02  

I was like, Tasha.

Latasha Morrison  31:04  

It’s a loaded question. And I mean, I think there’s so many books out there. I know Tim Keller has addressed this so many times. I think people want to hear what they want to hear. They hear what they want to hear. But just in some way, if we can give our listeners who are really trying to do the work, who are really trying to build bridges that are intersecting in spaces like this, of people who are thinking like this, to maybe give them some resources or tools to help them explain it a little bit better? Maybe?

Eugene Cho  31:36  

Well, it’s a great question. It’s a hard question. And I thought you and I, we were going to be talking about skincare for this podcast. (laughter) So I’m not quite sure why we’re talking…(laughter) 

Latasha Morrison  31:44  

We’ll get there! (laughter) 

Eugene Cho  31:45  

(laughter) Yeah. No. So you know, this is, part of the reason why these are such emotional conversations is because words, phrases, meanings are changing so rapidly in our time. So I feel like I’m plugged in, I try to be, quote, unquote, relevant and stay tuned to what’s going on, things are moving so quickly. So certain words that meant one thing five years ago are meaning different things now, or they’re being somewhat hijacked for other purposes. There are new words and new phrases being introduced to our culture. So I would just give ourselves some room to breathe. I know I’ll probably be saying this a few times, but it is impossible to stay up to date on all things. Here’s what I would say, here’s what I would say about justice. We know that as Christians, justice is not a secondary or tertiary issue of a gospel. It’s not an elective. It’s not a clothing accessory that you wear when it’s in fad or Vogue or in season. We know that justice is biblical. We know that as it says in Isaiah 61:8, “I, the Lord love justice.” All of our listeners, your listeners are familiar with Micah 6:8. We know that Jesus embodied justice. Now, is it difficult and complex? Of course, it is. Why? Because it involves people and systems that people create. For example, the best thing about life, in my opinion, is people. The most challenging thing about life is people. Sometimes the very same people, right? I mean, we are all complex human beings. So the first thing that I would say is absolutely justice matters to the heart of God, it is part of our worship of God. So what is social justice? This is how I would break it down.

Social justice is not the totality of the gospel. However, a gospel that is not committed to the welfare of our neighbor, of widows, of orphans, of the hungry, of those who are experiencing marginalization is not a faithful gospel. So let me say that again. So social justice is not the totality of the gospel. It’s not THE gospel, but a gospel that’s not committed to our neighbor, a.k.a. social justice, is not a faithful gospel. One of my concerns, I think, during these times, and I kind of alluded to this one you and I spoke together at the IF:Gathering this past year, is that I have been increasingly asked this question and it really concerns me. They’ll say, “Pastor Eugene, what’s more important – justice or evangelism?” And I’ll say, “Oh, my goodness, what?” When I first heard that I thought it was maybe like I was miss hearing. But I have been hearing that question increasingly over the past 10 years, as if to say that the Great Commission and the great commandment are competing commands. They’re not. They’re not competing commands; they constitute what I or others would say is the whole gospel. And so there are times I am concerned that you have Christians, including younger Christians, who love justice. And again, that’s good, we should affirm it, we should celebrate that. And yet, they’re so reticent to talk about Jesus as Lord and Savior. They’re afraid to share the good news that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And then simultaneously, you’ve got other Christians, who are just basically saying, “Jesus is the answer to all things.” And of course, our responses, “Of course, we believe that.” But if we believe that, then the question is, How then shall we live? How do we live here on this earth? So both of these things matter. And in some ways, I think the question you’re asking is the question of theology. Theology matters. So even as we do the work of Be the Bridge, bridge building, the why, the who, the how, it matters so much about theology, about mutuality, about dignity. These things matter.

Latasha Morrison  36:42  

I mean, how then shall we live? I mean, and I think that’s, I think after I saw this interview with this person, I’m thinking, like, okay, we believe some of those same things. We believe that, you know, there’s systemic racism, all these things, but just saying that Jesus should be able to fix all of that, and that’s it. It’s almost like this colorblind approach. And I was just listening, I’m like it, but those are the perfect words, because I think I was speechless, but you just gave me the words and the sense is then, how then shall we live? You know, how do we rectify what has been broken? You know, how do we live out this commandment and this commission, you know, and embody that? And so I think that’s a good word. And I think…

Eugene Cho  37:37  

Tasha, let me add this thing, because I think this is really interesting. Because we’re not the first folks to be confused about the gospel. This is an ongoing tension about people asking the question how then shall we live? But I think, in my opinion, if there is someone that is the expert of experts on Jesus, someone that had been preparing the bulk of their entirety waiting for the Messiah, there’s only one person who could say, on their hypothetical LinkedIn profile, I baptized Jesus. That would be John the Baptizer. Like, I truly think he is the expert of all experts. He’s the postdoctorate. He’s the Distinguished Scholar. And at the end of his life, or near the end, he’s having an existential moment. He’s in jail, he knows is going to die soon. He sends His disciples to go to Jesus, and this is recorded in a few of the Gospels. He tells his disciples, “Go to Jesus and ask the question,” and this is mind boggling to me. Here’s, here’s what he says, “Ask Jesus, are you the one? Or shall we wait for another?” And it’s because he was so convicted that Jesus was the one, the anointed one, the Messiah, but Jesus begins to conduct his ministry in a way that boggles his mind. I think he thought that Jesus was going to do what he was doing, but on a greater scale. And Jesus tells John’s disciples, “Go back to John and you tell him, the lame walk, the blind see, the good news is preached to the poor.” So as to say, does Jesus preach messages of repentance? Absolutely. His first sermon was a message about repent, for the kingdom of God is near. But then he also, in addition to the Great Commission, he’s engaging the great commandment of lifting, elevating, dignifying, coming alongside, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding those who are hungry, preaching the good news. That’s the whole gospel.

Latasha Morrison  39:58  

So good. Whew, I tell you, this is some good stuff. You know, I saw this post, you know, that you’ve posted I think twice that I’ve seen. I don’t stalk you on Instagram, but I do follow you on Instagram. And even with all the algorithms, I see your stuff. And you have posted this picture a while ago where I think you went to your parents home. And I think your mom, I think it was your mother was in her closet, and she was facedown. Tell me a little bit about your parents, who they are and why you love them so much.

Eugene Cho  40:41  

Hmm. All right, now you’re trying to go Oprah and make me cry. Now you trying to make me cry on your podcast. Yeah, you know, I am pretty sure I’m gonna get emotional. Because my parents are like all parents: fallen, inperfect, we have had our issues, we’ve had our falling outs. We’ve had seasons that extended for years where I was disowned for a season. And so there’s a lot lot there. But here’s what I would say about my parents. They were born in extreme hunger and poverty. Just three years ago, my father shared with me for the very first time that as a young boy he lived in a refugee camp separated from his family. And my mind was just blown away. And I said, “Why have you never shared the story with me?” And in his imperfect English, he says “Some things too painful, some things hard.” And so I’m reminded about something that is obvious, but I sometimes forget – that my parents are human. And they carry much of what you and I carry when we’re talking about words like trauma and pain and stories, like they hold decades of these things in many ways. But man, experienced hunger in ways that we only read about in these horrific stories. My parents sharing stories about needing to pull out grass from the ground and to consume it, because they were experiencing so much hunger pangs. Children of the Korean War, and they saw death and suffering. And somehow as they aged, they met one another and decided to immigrate to the United States because they wanted to give their children, their three sons, I’m the youngest of three, something that they were not able to experience. And that was an education. I vilified my parents for a long time, because they were so obsessed by education. It drove me nuts, that they would get so furious about an A minus. But in my teenage years, I just thought they were villains; they were horrible parents. I’ve now come to realize that was their imperfect love language. They just wanted to give to their sons what they could not experience in their own. And man, life as an immigrant back then, and it’s challenging now as an other. But they went through so much working 6am to midnight every single day to be able to give their kids an opportunity. But it was also because of my mother that I came to faith as a follower of Jesus; our whole family came to faith because of her faith. And the picture that you’re alluding to on my Instagram is I unannounced was visiting my parents. Walked in quietly. My father was not there. And all I heard was someone just like talking out loud upstairs. I said, “Mom, Eugene, I’m here.” No answer. So I slowly begin to walk upstairs. And as I walk upstairs, I see this image. She’s not doing this for show. She’s just praying. She’s in her small room on her knees. Literally, her head is on her Bible. It’s like, just grounded in the Bible. And she’s just praying. And it just moved me because you know, sometimes I don’t know about you, Tasha, but for me, I could sometimes get seduced into looking a certain way than actually living when no one is watching me. Because I’m just gonna say it yeah, be the bridge, be a reconciler, speak justice. Of course, I believe in those things. But I think in this social media culture, there is that subtle temptation sometimes of trying to project, create platform, build an image, and things like that, that as humans we probably all struggle with. And I don’t ever want to lose this conviction that I want to ultimately live for an audience of one. I want to be faithful to Jesus. When no one is watching me am I truly living out the gospel? My mom, she doesn’t have social media, doesn’t write a blog, hasn’t started an NGO, hasn’t been written about by publications. And I think it’s a reminder to people that are listening, what it means to live faithful lives, it shouldn’t look like your life or my life. It doesn’t have to always be about the masses. I love what you said earlier, it’s about just being faithful with those around you. And I think that’s what Mother Teresa once said, right? If you want to, if you want to change the world, start with yourself and start with the people nearest you. And so, you know, I share that photo, because obviously it inspires me. But I think it’s also a very challenging image for so many of us today. And to know that we can come to our heavenly God, to our heavenly Father. And in some ways, I think about the challenge of how do we do Be the Bridge in a way that’s a marathon? it’s not a sprint. Like, I want to see you, Tasha, I want to see you and I run this race and end this race, be faithful to the end, in during a time when we are seeing people for various reasons, because they’re going through emotional pain or trauma or triggering, people are falling off the map. And I think in some ways prayer and our Sabbath and our spiritual rhythms, these are more important than ever before to help run the race faithfully.

Latasha Morrison  46:44  

So good, so good. I saw the picture of you and your dad fishing. And, you know, those are the things I know people want to talk about the books and the organizations, but, you know, sometimes, you know, I appreciate family. I’ve always appreciated family, but even more so now and our relationships that we have with our parents. And I think, for you, I’ve had that same, a deeper understanding of my parents and what they experienced as children, and how sometimes that trauma impacts. And that was something I used, I learned as an adult. And I write about that a little bit, too. Where, as you understand their history and their story, it allows you to kind of empathize more for your parents. And so those things that drove you crazy at one point before, you kind of have an understanding on why that person is the way they are. And so I’m so grateful for the reconciliation that has happened and the deeper understanding that you’ve gained with your parents while they’re still here. You know, what is the greatest lesson? Like, you know, as we lead, as we pastor, as you know all these things that are happening for those you’re listening as you’re leading, it’s important for us to make sure that as leaders, we also have, we’re being pastored, and we’re being taken care of. You’ve you’ve mentioned the Sabbath, you’ve mentioned taking care of ourselves. You know, our hearts, our minds, our souls, taking care of all of us. What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned maybe from another pastor?

Eugene Cho  48:32  

Hmm. Gosh, this is, you know, I mean, this sounds so trite, but I have been just trying to read the gospels all over again and just trying to focus on Jesus. I know it sounds overly spiritual. I’m not trying to come off like, but there’s so much noise in our world today. Everyone is a self professing expert, or we’re being told that this person is the next guru. And I’m not trying to, I’m not trying to downplay them. Like, I love the fact that even without me asking or inquiring, I’m meeting pastors in the Seattle area that are using your book, Tasha, in their church curriculum. It’s so encouraging because I know you and I know this book, I’ve read this book. So all of that is good stuff. So I don’t want to make it sound like I’m diminishing that. But there’s so much noise in this time. And so as we’re gleaning good advice from our pastors and friends, as we’re reading good books, like Be the Bridge and other resources, I think we have to acknowledge that we are living in the noisiest, perhaps the most outraged time. We have to acknowledge that we are living in a time where we are being pulled emotionally, even physically, in ways that the human body, heart, soul, and body are not designed to be pulled. I truly feel it. And on top of that, we have got the global pandemic. We have social unrest. We have real examples of police brutality. We have AAPI hate. We have the most polarized political landscape in our country. I don’t know about you, but it is reminding me that I am not the savior of the world. But I do need to stay engaged as a response to my discipleship. But I always want to know the why. I want to know why I do what I do. And for me, my why is Jesus and the Kingdom of God. I love that scripture verse in the book of Acts where there is a recording of Jesus, who is crucified, risen again, and then he reappears to his disciples. And this verse, the specific verse escapes my mind right now, but it says that Jesus upon coming back, spending time with the disciples, he says, and he speaks to them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God. So as to say, here’s Jesus, crucified, risen, he knows he’s now going to be ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. I mean, he’s speaking to them about the most important thing, because he knows that he’s about to leave for good until that one day he comes back the kingdom of God. And when we speak about the Kingdom of God, I want Christians to know (and I guess this is my most important thing), when we’re speaking about the Kingdom of God, it’s not nebulous, it’s not amorphous. We’re not just talking about justice, empathy, mercy, all really beautiful things, like please don’t miss hear me, all really important things. In the kingdom of God, here’s the most important thing, there is a king, and his name is Jesus. So as we go about this work, including this incredibly important taxing work of bridge building, may we never lose our gaze and our sight of our King, Jesus Christ.

Latasha Morrison  52:32  

I, you know, there’s this song that I’ve been, every time I speak, I think just, it’s just the song is just, this hymn that’s been resonating with me, you know, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And it’s like, you know, Be the Bridge is, it makes me hopeful. But it isn’t my hope. You know? And people are not my hope. They make me hopeful. But ultimately, they’re not my hope. And just making sure, you know, when the weight of the world is coming at you, clinging to Jesus. You know? I mean, that’s the only thing that grounds us and stabilizes us. And so, I think that, I’m just so glad, you know, just I know, that’s got to minister to a lot of people what you just said. Because it definitely ministered to me. And as we’re talking about the Church and as we come to an end, what is your hope for the Church? You know, like I, you know, there’s so many things, there’s so much contention, there’s so much, so much division, but still, I am hopeful in Jesus who founded the Church, you know, the people. And what is your hope that you have for the Church in the midst of all this happening?

Eugene Cho  54:17  

Man, you know, I would be, I think, lying or be misleading in some ways, if I didn’t just at least acknowledge that there are times I’ve been really discouraged. There are times I think I’ve actually wept for just various reasons this past 18 months. It feels like the intensity of everything is such an all time high. So yeah, there are times I feel discouraged. There are times I’ve been mourning and lamenting. But you know what, what gives me hope is the promises of God. I mean, I truly believe that God has not abandoned us; God has not forgotten us. I believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and that Jesus will accomplish what he says he will accomplish. And while we do hear, at times painful, difficult news or information about Christians or the Church, I think we also acknowledge that we’re living in a time where fear and opposition, like that’s the currency of our time. And as a result, what often gets into our algorithms, whether it’s our media or our brain algorithms, is bad news. It’s conflict. It’s fear. It’s tension. Now, do those things happen? Yes. But what also happens in ways that we don’t even quite understand are just also beautiful stories, hopeful stories, stories of bridge building and reconciliation. These things are happening as well. I’m reminded of the moment in which Jesus entered into human history, and I know we’re running out of time, but just to give a little glimpse like right when Jesus enters human history, people don’t quite understand the intensity of the world at that time. Caesar Augustus he issues a decree for a census, and it wasn’t because he wanted to better care for his constituents. It was because they wanted to tax people better for a greater military building expansion, the Pax Romana. Caesar Augustus was called the son of God, savior. He was the one that was, basically said that, “I’m the only one that can bring peace.” The Jewish people, they were under hundreds of years under oppression and rule. Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. 400 years of waiting and silence among the Jewish people. There were no prophets, there were no prophecy. The tension between Jews and Gentiles were at an all time high. The disparity between rich and poor, it was so so intense. Herod was responsible for placing forbidden idols in the sanctified Jewish temples. I mean, it was really, really bad. And it’s at that moment that Jesus enters into human story. So for me, the hope of the Church is that Jesus who entered into the world, Jesus is still at work in our world. And I truly believe that.

Latasha Morrison  57:37  

Oh, wow. It just even, just taking a pause there. There are no words to be added to that. Jesus is still working and moving. And that’s why we do what we do. That’s why we do what we do. What is, you know, if we had to, I just want to, I wasn’t gonna ask you this question. But I want to hear your thoughts on it. Because I just think they would be just profound. If you had to reimagine injustice. Just any injustice, take it poverty, whatever, you know, you think of, you know, what would that look like for you? Because sometimes we have to give people a vision. You know, I think it’s important because people, we talk about reconciliation, we talk about ending poverty, we talk about all of these things, but can we envision it? Like, can we see? And sometimes when we give people a vision of it, it gives them hope. You know? And how could how could we reimagine, you know, a particular injustice? You know, maybe we can take poverty, since that’s something you’re dealing with.

Eugene Cho  59:15  

Well that’s a great question. And I love man, I am so fascinated by this question. And I think you’re so wise and almost prophetic, because sometimes we work with injustice so all we see is like a shattered dish. That’s our imagination. We don’t actually know what that dish once looked like. And we’re so engrossed in the shatteredness of the world. So your question is really just, it’s provocative in a great way. You know, you asked earlier about hunger and poverty, and you know, what I imagine, envision, and I truly believe that we can live in a world, certainly where we end extreme poverty in the world. Right now, in our world, a child dies every 11 seconds because of the complexities of hunger and poverty. And I’m not trying to end this podcast on this like down note, but I think part of justice work is truth telling. And because we can be so engrossed about me, myself, and I, my tribe, my camp, my people, it lends to a thought of scarcity. And so yeah, I dream of a world where every child in this world have enough food not just to survive, but to actually thrive and flourish to have that opportunity. And I dream of that here in our country as well, like in the wealthiest nation. Like if we just spoke, if we came in, and no one had any idea of partisanship or all the arguments that we’re having, and if I just said, “Hey, here’s Country A, it’s the wealthiest nation in the world with the wealthiest concentration of billionaires and millionaires, the country of so much innovation, where we have 350,000 registered churches.” It could, it would just be so incongruent to think that one out of every seven child has food insecurity realities. You know what I’m saying? Like if we just took it all away. So when I say a vision, for me, that’s one of the visions that we want to embrace. That if we put aside, perhaps, because it’s not easy, I’m not saying that it’s easy. But I absolutely believe we have the resources, we have what it takes, the knowledge, to end hunger in our nation and around the world. And one way that we can do this, maybe look back, sometimes if you look back. When I was born in 1970, so I’m 51 years old here, when I was born in 1970, about 80% of the world experienced hunger and challenges. So we’ve made tremendous progress already. So in some ways, we look back and go, wow. So let’s take time to just celebrate that. But at the same time, man, we still live in a world today, where that’s the reality. I want to inspire people with that kind of vision. And so yeah, I would again, just love to encourage people bread.org. Come join us. We don’t, you know, we’re not asking for donations, we’re asking for your voice. We’re asking you to join us in reaching out to your members of Congress to have the moral courage as we do other things that we’re doing to fight hunger, but by simple changes in our policies and legislation, and I don’t want to, you know, falsely advertise simple, but when we make these decisions, when we prioritize decisions, it is going to impact millions and millions and hundreds of millions of people.

Latasha Morrison  1:03:48  

Yeah, so good. I mean, I think we, you know, we want to end it there. But I would love for you. We don’t do this all the time. But I think just in everything that we’ve talked about today I would love for you to close us out in prayer praying for our Be the Bridge community.

Eugene Cho  1:04:13  

I would love to. Let’s pray:  God, thank you so much for the gift of being able to join together, sisters and brothers who are listening, who desire to be faithful to you. God our prayer at this time, is that you would always be our why. You’re the why that we wake up in the morning, why we choose to engage this call to be the bridge. People who understand that Jesus came yes to reconcile us to you, but to also call us, implore us, challenge us to reconcile to one another. God we know that this work is impossible without you, but we also believe as scripture says that with Christ all things are possible. Would you help us to be women and men of possibilities, women and men of hope, of faith, of courage? And God I also just want to pray for my dear sister, Tasha, as she leads Be the Bridge, as she leads this ministry. God, would you continue to undergird her with your grace, that as she guides and shepherds so many people, that you would continue to breathe your grace upon her? Thank you so much. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Latasha Morrison  1:05:36  

Amen. Thank you so much. It’s like I can’t just call you Eugene Cho, I just want to say Pastor Eugene Cho. (laughter) Because you’re so pastoral. And I am just so grateful for your voice and all that you’re doing. And thank you for challenging us, you know. I think this is something that’s gonna help so many people that are listening. And continue to do what you’re doing. Bread for the World: Have Faith. End Hunger. Thou Shalt Not be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging in Politics. And then there’s also another book that you just collaborated and I think edited. Could you tell us the name of that one? I had my notes up here.

Eugene Cho  1:06:30  

Sure. Yeah, it’s called No Longer Strangers: Transforming Evangelism with Immigrant Communities. And I would love for people to check it out. I co edited this book with Dr. Samira Izadi Page, and some of our contributors Jenny Yang, Sandra Maria Van Opstal, and others. But during this time, when we’re seeing engagement with immigrants and refugees, we want to be able to do it well acknowledging they’re whole human beings. And so for those who are interested, we’d love for them to check it out.

Latasha Morrison  1:07:05  

Yeah. And that means that we just had to have you back. Because that’s just a whole nother conversation, there was so much to talk about, we didn’t get to talk about, you know…

Eugene Cho  1:07:15  

About skincare, come on about skincare, Tasha.

Latasha Morrison  1:07:19  

And all of that, and you know, (laughter) and all the stuff that’s happened in the AAPI community, too. And so, but thank you for being you. Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with us and for praying for me. And I feel the prayers of people I really do. And I don’t, it’s hard to explain the fact that I’m here, I’m talking, and I feel good. I know that people are praying for me. And I know you just posted recently about going to DC. And I think you went to the memorial that the flags that they put out for all the people who have died from COVID. I haven’t had a chance to see that yet. And so, but I’m grateful for it. Because sometimes in the midst of everything that’s happening, we can miss, you know, the people who have lost people to COVID. Like sometimes that’s like on the backburner to everything else that’s taken place. So I’m glad that we’ve done that as a country to have a place where people can grieve and we’re acknowledging the lives of those people. And so I think a couple people have posted pictures, and I’ve been able to see it through your pictures. So thank you so much for posting that. And, you know, and honoring those lives that have have left, you know, globally over 4 million people. Over 4 million people. And so.

Eugene Cho  1:09:01  

Well Tasha, again, thank you so much. And let’s do it again. And you know, seriously, one of the things that I’m praying for is I want, I pray for opportunities where you and I can be in same spaces and serve together. And to, but just know that you’ve got one person just cheering you on, praying for you, encouraging you. Thank you for your leadership. God bless you.

Latasha Morrison  1:09:08  

Thank you so much. And we’ll be in contact about all the things about the podcast.

Eugene Cho  1:09:28  

Okay. All right.

Tandria Potts  1:09:31  

Go to the donors table if you’d like to hear the unedited version of this podcast.

Narrator  1:09:38  

Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to  BetheBridge.com. Again, that’s BetheBridge.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been at Be the Bridge production

Transcribed by https://otter.ai