Thrive
Podcast

Overview

Mrs. Lisa Espineli Chinn, Leadership and Ministry Coach; and Former National Director, International Student Ministry, InterVarsity/USA, joins me on the podcast today. In this episode, we talk about her story of coming to the U.S. as a grad student, her work with international ministry and ways we can intentionally engage with other cultures without setting foot on a plane. She’s also written several books about navigating the joys, challenges and transitions that come with cross-cultural ministry.

Let’s listen!

Mrs. Lisa Espineli Chinn, Leadership and Ministry Coach; and Former National Director, International Student Ministry, InterVarsity/USA

She served as National Director of International Student Ministry of InterVarsity/USA for 14 years (2000-2014). Lisa shares from her rich and varied background as a former international graduate student at Wheaton College in Illinois (MA in Communications), a campus staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship-Philippines, Bible teacher, a pioneer of several ministries in the Philippines and the USA, a world traveler, an author, and speaker at various college events and conferences.

Lisa has several publications in the area of reentry transition which include Think Home, a reentry guide for Christian international students (translated in several languages), Back Home, a devotional guide for those who have lived and studied abroad, and Coming to America/Returning Home to Your Country. She also developed the only reentry simulation game, Customs and Culture.

Lisa was a long-time member and missionary of Truro Anglican Church where she, together with her husband, Leiton, founded TIPS: Truro International Programs and Services, now a 32-year old ministry among internationals in the greater DC area. They also began a small Bible study group in Centreville, Va. which became the nucleus of a church plant, Christ the Redeemer Church. Lisa has been a plenary speaker and workshop presenter at several New Wineskins Conferences. She has also spoken at numerous campus events and church missions conferences. Lisa was the Bible expositor at Urbana 03 and a featured speaker at Urbana 06 (InterVarsity’s Student Mission Convention) respectively. Lisa worships at All Saints Anglican Church in Weddington, NC.

Along with her regular responsibilities, she also served on the boards of the Association of Christians Ministering Among Internationals (ACMI); Balikatan, Inc., an organization of Inter-Varsity Philippines alumni in North America; and Hope International, a microfinance ministry granting loans to help the poor in 12 countries. Lisa is on the Advisory Board of The Global Diaspora Network of the Lausanne Movement.

Lisa also coaches young women leaders in navigating the complexity of a diverse work environment and family responsibilities. She is mother to 3 married children and enjoys investing in the lives of her 4 young grandchildren, Kai, Leila, Kade and Penny.

Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast

Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.



Transcript

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of The Thrive With Asbury Seminary Podcast, where we bring you conversations with authors thought leaders and people just like you to help you connect with where your passion meets the world’s deep need. This week on the podcast we’re talking with Mrs. Lisa Espineli Chinn, leadership and ministry coach and former National Director, International Student Ministry InterVarsity USA. In this episode, we talked about her story of coming to the US as a grad student, her work with international ministry and ways we can intentionally engage with other cultures without setting foot on a plane. She’s also written several books about navigating the joys, challenges and transitions that come with cross cultural ministry. We’ll link to all of those in the show notes. So let’s listen.

Heidi Wilcox:
So I’m really grateful that you could take the time to be on the podcast today, Mrs. Chin. I’m just so excited about our conversation. And so I’m want to get to know you a little better. If you could tell me a little bit about your story you grew up in the Philippines. Is that right?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
So tell me growing up in the Philippines. What was that Like? How you came to the US.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, growing up in the Philippines, one of seven children, so you could just imagine what that’s like. There’s seven, and I’m number six. So, in a Filipino setting, you have honorifics. You never call your brothers, older brothers and sisters by their first name, this always preceded by an honorific. Ate for older sister, Kuya for older brother. So because I’m number six, so everybody else ahead of me have the honorifics. So that’s just kind of what it is to grow up with the proper respect that older people are given. So it’s a very respectful recognizing people’s place in society, so you respect elders, you respect teachers.There’s proper protocol, as it were to those who are elder, those who have more status in the society.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
The Philippines was occupied by Spain for about 400 years, so there is the Spanish influence. 85% are mostly Catholic, even today. And then in the early 1900s Americans came at, 1898 in particular. So, there’s the American influence on top of the Spanish influence. Somebody had described it as 400 years in a convent, and 50 years of Hollywood. You can imagine what that’s like.

Heidi Wilcox:
Like one extreme to the other.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
So how did you then come to the US?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
The opportunity came to do graduate studies. I had already been on staff of InterVarsity, Philippines, And I felt like I needed more training. So I asked around, I asked one of my mentors, who was from the United States. She’s Asian American. She’s Chinese American from Hawaii, she was a graduate of Wheaton. And she said, “Well, you should consider Wheaton.” So that’s how it started, considering grad school, so God opened a door provided the funds. So I arrived in the fall of 1970. That was quite a while back.

Heidi Wilcox:
Did you come by yourself or didn’t some family members come with you know?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
No, by myself. It was international student visa. It was a student visa that I had, so you’re not allowed to bring anybody. So you come on a student visa that’s strictly for you, and sometimes it’s single entry. That means you can never leave the country while you’re a student. So you come and then you return.

Heidi Wilcox:
I would imagine that’s very hard. What was it like for you?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, it’s not hard when you think of the opportunity to travel is really rare. To go to school at that time in America, is an honor, a gift that you don’t want to squander. So hey, I’ll take it anytime.

Heidi Wilcox:
I saw in my research about you that your parents work had influenced you a lot in your life choices in your work. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. My parents lived the last 25 years of their lives in the United States, so they migrated, they became American citizens. And so because we are very close, tight family, and my parents were tailors, so they modeled to me what hard work was, because you’re raising up seven children on an income that’s not stable. There was no salary as such that you pick up every two weeks it was dependent on customers coming in to have their pants made whatever. We had contracts with the military, so that was steady. We had tailors that we employed. So next to the other people, we were well off, next to other people, we were not. So being poor is really relative in many respects.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Their influence, their impact is that of hard work and faith. They really believed in who God was to them at that time. Their faith grew over time. They understood the gospel and received Christ in their lives when I was just a few months old. So it’s through the efforts of Filipino missionaries who were part of a Presbyterian Church.

Heidi Wilcox:
So then, am I interrupting your story?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
No.

Heidi Wilcox:
So how did you then come to know Jesus?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
I think it was in that very fertile ground of my parents faith, it wasn’t alien, it wasn’t even repulsive. Sometimes kids experienced their parents faith negatively. But my own personal commitment to Christ came through a friend in high school, and she just asked me if I was a Christian, and I was surprised, I mean, in the Philippines, everybody’s a Christian, why is she asking me this? And I was curious. Then she explained, “Have you ask God to forgive your sins, and ask Jesus into your life?” And I think she was just doing the best she could to share the gospel with another friend, but God use that, and I did, went home and knelt down by my bed doing the right thing and asked God. So that was the awakening as it were, but it was softened, the ground was softened through my parents faith. And a church was established in our home. Actually, it started through a Bible study in our home, that became a church. So I grew up with that. So the ground was fertile or fertile for that.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So my own journey started with as far as making a commitment to Christ through that friend and growing through InterVarsity in college, and after InterVarsity, being on staff.

Heidi Wilcox:
So you said… I thought you became involved with InterVarsity when you were older, but it sounds like you were already involved before you came to the US.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Correct, yes. I was actually involved even in high school. In the Philippines we have high school work. So I was involved in high school and involved in college. And then after college, I joined staff. So it was just all those years very formative years.

Heidi Wilcox:
So that’s had a big influence on your life too?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Oh, yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
So when did you first become interested in cross cultural ministry? Is that the best way to word the question?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yeah. I think about that and say, “When did I even get interested in other parts of the world?” Might be a good start because there were two books in my home. Here’s a poor family, my dad reached third grade, my mom reach seventh grade. So that’s the extent of the education of my parents. So our walls were not filled with books, they were filled with fabric, because they were tailors. So I remember two books, one was the Bible, and one was a dictionary, Webster Dictionary, it was thick. And I remember just flipping those pages, and the pages that I enjoyed looking at were the colored ones, and these were flags of the world. So perhaps, and I think about it, perhaps something was planted there about the world that we’re not alone and there are other people from other parts of the world. And then of course we’re used to Americans coming as missionaries.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So that was part of my world, but the cross cultural component was perhaps, because my degrees in Foreign Service, and I had to take Spanish and French. So already we’ve got to relate with people of the world in order to be good diplomats, if you’re working to represent the government. So that’s where it all started, but as far as anything formalized, perhaps, more when I went to grad school at Wheaton, because my paper was on How To Offend Filipinos Without Even Trying. So that’s all about cross cultural things.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s fascinating. That wasn’t on my question, I want to hear about that. So what did you discover and what did you say?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Shame is very prominent, a more approprio is your self image. And so you’re being careful not to put them on the spot in a way that would embarrass them. So you don’t call out their mistakes publicly, you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position that would put them in a place where they have no options or how to respond. And gratitude is very deep seated value. In my language, the dialogue we have utang na loob which translate debt of gratitude. So the greatest offense is one who has been helped but does not express gratitude. Perhaps the American, you get help and you say thank you, and that’s gratitude. That’s enough. But in my culture, there’s more to just thank you. It will mean, even your family members will remember the good deeds. So we would be grateful to the people who helped my parents at one point. So that’s carried down. My parents will tell us stories.

Heidi Wilcox:
So the gratitude is passed down through the generation?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. So so the gratitude, the respect, so those are some of the things that are deep-seated.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s very interesting. Which leads me to another question that I didn’t send you ahead of time, so I hope that’s okay.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Oh, yeah. That’s all right. We talked about this.

Heidi Wilcox:
What is the best way to learn about other cultures because I wouldn’t have known that at all? And so I think about other people I come in contact with from different cultures. What is the best way to learn about their culture so that I don’t unintentionally offend?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, nowadays you just Google, right? During my days, you’ve got to either access the library, interview someone who is from that place. Now, you just asked Google and Siri, “How do I do it in Japan? Or what’s the best way not to offend a Japanese?” I think it starts with assumptions we make. And there are three things that I would say, we either assume they are the same, and therefore, “Oh, yeah, I never see you as different.” And therefore the assumption of sameness will always tell, you will never make a mistake because they’re like you. They’re like you in some respects, but not like you in other respects.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So you approach it with an assumption of sameness, fellow human being that shared humanity that you have. You also approach it with an assumption that of difference, “She’s another mom, but she is from Iraq. She’s another mom, but she’s from Kenya.” So there must be something different there. Although moms around the world may share the same basic things or values, but assumption of difference. So I will approach it, wanting to learn that difference. So there is that curiosity. And then the assumption of uniqueness, because I can assume that every woman in Saudi Arabia is not able to speak up and say something of their own independent thinking. Well, when I met my friend from the Middle East, she was not that. She said she drove back home. So I have to be prepared to be surprised by the uniqueness of the person, and not make assumptions. Although a general landscape is good to kind of hang your thoughts, but to be willing to be curious and willing to be surprised.

Heidi Wilcox:
And willing to change I would say.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. And that’s the part that is the educational component, is when we’re curious and we’re learning, then transformation happens. You change your mind about certain people or certain assumptions you’ve made.

Heidi Wilcox:
And that’s a beautiful thing.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, very much so.

Heidi Wilcox:
I want to backup when you came to the United States, to Wheaton, I’m sure you experienced some culture shock, just coming. Would that be right?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
What was that transition like for you, and what do you wish you would have known?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
There was no pre departure training. They said I’m going to be going to a cold place, my older sister had gone ahead of the family to be an exchange intern in nutrition at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. So she went to that cold place, and now I’m going to Chicago, and we didn’t have a chance to compare notes. All I know is there snow where I’m going. So preparing yourself for that is just imagining what it’s like to be in a cold place. Where do I do that in a country where you pull out your sweaters, when it’s 75 degrees or 80 degrees, this is the hot topics. So I opened the refrigerator, at that time you have freezers that are not frost free, and I looked, and the fish that’s in there was frozen, and I’m thinking that’s where I’m gonna be in Chicago. And I said, “I can’t imagine myself in that place.” And sure enough of ok, you go with zero temperature or below zero.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So preparing means imagining what life is like to come to the United States. Even if we’re familiar with the American way as it were, because of the movies, because books we read, and American influence in the culture, it’s still different being there yourself. I remember arriving in L.A. and just overwhelmed by how big, how huge everything was.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
The streets were so big and huge. The trash cans, by the way, were huge. I mean, what did they put in there? I said I would fit in one of those. But anyway, so just spacial, space was one, because you come from a country that is smaller but more crowded, and then you have this spacious place. How people relate with one another was another adjustment of you cannot just assume that they will be your friends. It doesn’t come as naturally, and you have to make an effort to… I just assumed because I was a guest being an international student that people would ask me questions. And as soon as I discovered that they were not as curious, I have to turn this around. So I was the one that became curious.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, taking the initiative.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. Waiting to be hosted will not take me very far so I hosted. I was the one that asked the questions. I was the one that that took the initiative.

Heidi Wilcox:
If I can interrupt for a moment, is that normal in the Philippines, if somebody who is not Filipino came, will it go the other way, like the hosting be more to the guests instead of the guests having to take the initiative?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Cultures change, the Philippines has changed too, but at least there is an assumption, that that person is from a foreign place, obviously foreign. And so put your best foot forward or be nice, essentially, because their experience of you might be the conclusion that they will have about the whole country. So there is the sense of, “I’m carrying the country’s reputation if I mistreat.” But over time, people are not as conscientious about that, but at least I grew up with that. So I carried that that value of being hospitable, being curious.

Heidi Wilcox:
I listened to a talk that you gave at Urbana, about being asked on a date by a guy, and you kind of related that to learning about the cross cultural experience, aware of customs or different things that you didn’t know. Would you share that story?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
I think it was probably in a smaller seminar because I don’t remember sharing it in the big convention. My professor, my theology professor was the one that I worked for. So everybody got to have a job limited to the campus because if you have your my student visa, you cannot work outside. And so he became like a father to me and was very kind. But anyway, so when my first summer on campus, this one guy asked me what I was going to do that weekend. And that question is a question. What are you going to do this weekend? So I responded with my schedule, and I had things to do. I said, I thought I said I’ll do laundry and do some reading and, “Oh, okay.” And then Monday came and he asked me again how my weekend was then I just reported that my errands my chores were done, and I think Thursday rolled in and he asked, “What are you going to do this weekend?” And I said, “Oh, I’m gonna go visit my friend in Chicago, and maybe do a paper.” So he didn’t say anything. For me it was a question seeking information.

Heidi Wilcox:
He was just really curious about your weekend.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
And that’s kind of nice, like Monday he’d ask how it was, and I would say “Great, I had a wonderful time with my friends.” But then, and like I say when crossing cultures watch for repetitions. This is a repeated pattern. What am I missing here? Number two look for a mentor who can explain what is going on. So I went to my professor and I said, “Well, what’s going on here, Dr. Horne? This guy asked me this question.” So I repeated the scenario, and he looked at me and he said, “Lisa, Lisa.” Like, “Did I do something wrong? What did I do wrong?” “You didn’t know.” I said, “What?” “He was asking you for a date.” I said, “What? He was? I thought Americans were direct. Why didn’t he asked me directly?” And my professor said, “Well, not in this case.” So he was asking me for a date, but he was not being direct about it. So how do I respond? See, I already have my mentor. I was observant of repetition.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So you asked for a recommendation, what’s the culturally appropriate way to respond. And he said, “Well, when he asks you again, say, “What are you doing this weekend?” “Nothing in particular, what do you have in mind?” Oh, that sounded like a good answer. So I repeated that, “Nothing in particular, what do you have in mind?” So I waited for Friday to come, but he never did, he never asked.

Heidi Wilcox:
He never asked again?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
No. After learning my life. And when I tell that story, you could hear my husband in the back saying, “Praise God.” Things could have turned out differently. But that’s just how it is, you don’t know what the person is asking, and you learn by your mistakes and you figure your way around, and, “Oh, so they’re not direct.” My assumption was tested, and I was wrong, and how do I learn and I got to be resilient. When you’re crossing cultures you cannot always respond like I’m a failure, you just have to bounce back and say, “Okay, let’s try and breath.” And say, “Okay, let’s do this again.” So that was a good way to learn by our mistakes, because you will learn a lot crossing cultures, and sometimes it’s through our mistakes, and sometimes it’s through other people’s mistakes.

Heidi Wilcox:
And sometimes that can involve some hurts, I would imagine, so even though you’re trying to be resilient. How have you seen God redeem your story as you’ve made mistakes, bounce back had mistakes, other people made mistakes against you?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. I mean, you collect those narratives. So now I have a story. If it turned out differently, it would still be a story. You accumulate over time stories that will add to either the richness of your experience or God’s grace in your life. When you make mistakes, how willing are you to quickly forgive? But remember there’s the shame factor.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right, right.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. You might just feel like, “Oh, no, I made a blunder, I will never be seen again.” You’ve got to recover and say, “Well, if it’s not a major mistake, it was a cross cultural mistake and you can recover from and learn from it, and add it to your repertoire of skills, of things that I say, “Okay, I’ll make sure I don’t repeat that, or if people ask advice, don’t make assumptions.”

Heidi Wilcox:
So I want to know how you and your husband met.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Like I told you, are you ready for a few hours of that? Yes, well, I was single, obviously, and attending a conference representing InterVarsity USA. I really didn’t want to go to that conference because I had a heavy summer, I directed a conference, and I asked my boss to be excused, but he said, “No, I want you there.” So, being Asian and obedient to my supervisor, I went, not realizing that it would change my life. So sometimes it’s good to be Asian and submissive to your supervisor. Anyway, and he was there. He was one of the host of the conference. And he said, he spotted me at the registration line. And I told him, “I didn’t even see you.” And he said, “You were wearing batik and so it stood out.” But anyway, he never said anything to me until the end of the conference, where he asked me together with other single people if they wanted to look around Colorado Springs, Colorado. I said, “Sure, I’d like to.”

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
After that, kind of field trip with those who are not flying that day, he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I said, “Oh, okay. Sure.” So, we went for a ride, but already, you just don’t say yes to someone you are bored with or had negative vibes. He was not impulsive. He was gentle, and a gentleman. I said sure. So we went for a ride, but when we came back to my dorm in Colorado Springs. He asked if I would go on the backside of this dorm because there’s a beautiful view of the moon. I said well, “I’d like to see the moon.”

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So I went, and at that point he said, “Is it okay if we pray?” I said, “Well, nothing’s wrong with praying.” So I said, “Yes, let’s pray.” And he essentially asked God, “God if you are leading us together.” I said, “Oh my gosh.” I said, “What is this man saying? Is you he indirectly asking me? What is going on?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Indirectly asking through prayer.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Exactly, so I started laughing because I was so nervous. And that was it, at the end of the prayer I asked him, “Are you always this bold with women?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, nothing like putting you on the spot with the Holy Spirit.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, exactly. I mean, you can harness all your spiritual resources with me there, what can I do. Anyway, he said, “No, I’m not this bold, only when the Spirit leads.” Oh wow, okay. And so at the end of the conference, we ended up committing to communicate, to see where this relationship goes. So I flew back to Washington D.C., he stayed in Colorado Springs, and pretty much we met in May and by December we were married.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, wow.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, that fast. I mean, if we had his way, we would have been married like in July or in August, you have no clue how long it takes.

Heidi Wilcox:
He was for sure.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, he was. He was for sure. The first time I met him… But of course, I found out he knew my sister and he knew other people I knew, so when I came back to my sister’s home where I was staying and living with her. My sister asked me if I had gone out, how the time was. So I said it was great. Then I said, “I met Layton.” “Oh, you met Layton?” And the next question she asked was, “Did you go out with him?” I mean, “Where would she ever get that clue?” But of course, he was the most eligible bachelor, apparently, that my sister knew. So I blushed and I said, “Well, actually, I did. I hope this is for good.” I just didn’t know. The short of it is we got married in December. And the Lord blessed us with three kids. Yes, daughter, son and daughter, and they’re all adult kids married with, now I have five grandkids.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s an exciting time of life.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, it is. And the thing too, Heidi, is sometimes when you feel like God has forgotten you in this area of life, to keep being faithful, being faithful as a single person. Not always thinking that marriage is something that you are working for or that’s your aim in life. Your aim is to glorify God, as a single person, or as a married person. And I had to learn that, to be faithful in whatever God has called me. In every state to be content, even if there are times where God, “Man, come on, I’m getting older. I’m hanging out with college students.” But it really just reinforced for me how God provides, how God hears our prayer.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
And even before I met him actually at that same conference, I had gone into the chapel and ask God to, recommitted my life to God, because it was a conference for international students, reaching international students, and I actually said, “Lord, I offered to you my singleness, you take me anywhere you want.” And I go out of that chapel and who would be standing at the door?

Heidi Wilcox:
Layton.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, Layton was there like, “God, did you just hear me say something inside and what?” So I was a little confused, but God in his own good kind way was saying, “Here is how I would like you to consider a provision, thank you for offering your life as single.” And I think you have to come to that place.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. I agree.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Don’t you think?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, I do.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Come to that place that you’re willing to be single or married.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, either way.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, because that sets a very calm and settled tone, rather than being restless and complaining and comparing.

Heidi Wilcox:
Comparing is a dangerous game.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. Thank you for asking.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yeah, thank you for sharing. So why cross cultural ministry? Because you’ve ministered I think on, if I have this right, every continent except Antarctica.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, when you travel all over the place, it’s just because my work takes me there, whether I’m giving a lecture somewhere on international students and how they make the transition, or what is included in discipling, the international students who come to our countries. Afghanistan, I came there as part of Youth With a Mission, before I went back to the Philippines. So that too was a different experience altogether. But when you’re able to travel, and this is what I really recommend is at this time and age, when you can travel anywhere, take it. If there’s a study abroad available on campus, take it. But even then, don’t look too far, look here also because the world has shrunk, international people are in our backyard, on our campuses. So open your eyes to them, rather than just looking at the exotic places and you never see who’s in front of you. Does that make sense?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, that makes a lot of sense. What are some specific steps that we can put into our minds to practice engaging in cross cultural ministry or just cross cultural interactions, whether it’s, like you said, whether it’s in another country or our next door neighbor?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
My chapel talk this morning, I talked about the gift of hospitality, that hospitality at its best, based on my reading of Genesis 18, with Abraham hosting the three visitors, unbeknownst to him that they were the messengers of Sarah being pregnant, is that we need to open our eyes to our surroundings. It is colorful. It’s being aware of where international people are, being intentional. Part of it is intentional displacement, where you put yourself in the most uncomfortable place like worship in a African American church, or, well, Chinese restaurant doesn’t work. Eating at a Chinese restaurant is not intentional displacement. But you know what I mean, is putting yourself in their place.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So opening your eyes, deliberate displacement, curiosity, what is life like for them. Curiosity that doesn’t make them like museum pieces, but curiosity because their fellow human being. When my friend, like I said, from Iraq came with her kids, I wanted to know more, what is it like? And she had twins, and I put the girl on my lap and taught her English. Her first English words were with me, and later on she did her PhD in English Literature in England.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow, you had a great influence on her.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
You never know who you will put on your lap, but it started, Heidi, with a willingness to make room for other people. I think sometimes, in our own way, desire to survive or desire to keep our lives simple, we close in. Just me and my friends. It’s a very selfish way of approaching life. And there are risks and it’s messy at times, but once we make room for others, is the richest experience you will ever have. Truly. And right here in Kentucky. Right here, there are opportunities.

Heidi Wilcox:
I’ll just confess, I have been intentionally closed my life to keep it simple, to keep it less busy, and you can’t do everything. But I’m realizing I’ve made it much smaller than it needs to be. So what are some ways that somebody else like me or me because I need to do this too, to engage right here in Kentucky.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. I understand there’s an international friendship program in Lexington. And some Asbury students go there. And it’s helping with some of the Syrian refugees, we have a high rate, a good number in the state, but simple steps like that where you meet a need, a felt need, a very important need. If they can communicate in English that’s a real service, and be open to how God will transform you. Because sometimes, we define life within our own terms make it as simple and as limited. And when you choose it that way then I feel like it’s being poor by choice.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yes, absolutely.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. So if you begin to say, “God, help me to make room.” Because our heart is elastic, it can expand, and once our heart is really expanded by God’s love for us, there’s space for others.

Heidi Wilcox:
I think a lot of times I’ve held back, because I’ve been afraid to reach out, because I’ve been afraid of making a mistake, because I know how “my world” works. So then I’m not as prone to… I mean, I make enough mistakes every day, but I’m not as prone to making a big blunder or offending people.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
And that’s a common fear, Heidi. But what I say is once you overcome that, and just take a risk, because the risk is really lower than the gain, because you’re afraid of making mistakes. But the people who are still making it to this life in this country, have already made a lot of mistakes more than you have. So by you crossing that line, and saying, “I’m here, I want to learn.” Approaching as a learner. And for me if people make mistakes, I have a lot of grace, because what do you expect? This American kid has never left home, of course, they don’t understand a lot of things. And if they make blunders and they are willing to admit and ask for forgiveness, of course, as a foreigner, I would, I will not be harsh, and that’s not how I would approach.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So what I’m saying is, Heidi, ask God, if this is something that God is kind of staring in your heart put some legs to it, volunteer. And maybe just being an English conversation, that’s the lowest level. The International, at least in my world, international students are really the low hanging fruit of mission. They will drop on your lap literally, that fruit is overripe. But the opportunity is there, the lowest shelf, you can reach. You’re just speaking English with them. And you’re enhancing their ability to communicate in this culture. So that would be the initial steps look for opportunities that are comfortable at your level, and then increasingly add more as your heart expands.

Heidi Wilcox:
Do you think going on mission trips is a good thing to engage cross culturally?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Oh, definitely. It depends on the kind of mission.

Heidi Wilcox:
Talk to me about that, because I’ve heard mixed things about mission trips, which is why I was asking you, like some places you go, I’ve heard that they will mess something up so that the Americans have something to do when they get there.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, it has to be the right short term mission trip. My good friend who is a professor of anthropology, Miriam Atanee says that sometimes those short term missions are like Mc missions, McDonald’s and Mc Missions, it’s just transporting an American product, and it’s not as effective. It’s good for just good image or something.

Heidi Wilcox:
It makes us feel good, with people going.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yeah, we don’t do short term missions to make us feel good, but sometimes that’s how we do it because we feel guilty because we’re wealthy, guilty because we haven’t done anything. But a good short term mission should be, really to me, is mission education. It does more to the people going than to the people they’re sent to. So I would have very low expectation in terms of first timers. This is an opportunity to open your eyes to what God is doing, to test your assumptions to try out something you’ve never done before, to take risks. And to really, it’s your laboratory where you can learn things. Like I said, you don’t have to go there, they are here. But if there’s an opportunity to do that and be intentionally displaced, if you’re the only white person sticking out of the crowd, good for you. So you know what that feels, how do I cope with this?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So it’s good when it’s done well, when the attitude is that of a learner and of our guest. I think just because we have a visa or no visa needed we arrived as if we own the place. No we don’t. We arrive as guests. Guests have to ask permission, guests are limited, guests don’t exercise power on others, that is not appropriate. Guests bring gifts in many cultures.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes they do.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So approaching it that way and having a good debrief and reentry should also be there.

Heidi Wilcox:
Talk to me about that.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Standard of Excellence of short term missions, they have put a list of seven points, I believe, of that Standard of Excellence and that includes a good reentry. So what happens is, everybody is focus or interested in, “Oh, where are you going?” “Oh, I’m going to Slovenia, I’m going to this other places.” So everything is focused on the pre-departure, prep, raising money, prayer, everything is on the pre-departure. And of course, you plan the onsite. But the return, the post arrival or arrival, is not given as much thought. And I often say it’s the head inside of orientation. And I’m the advocate to say we need more. And I’m actually speaking on that tonight at the University, on what we need to remember about reentry, because it’s not welcome home, it’s more welcome back.

Heidi Wilcox:
Talk to me a little bit about that, because our listeners won’t get to hear your talk tight.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
I thought they might want to come.

Heidi Wilcox:
It won’t air until two weeks. Tell me a little bit.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, it’s more in terms of how much you’ve changed while away from home. How do you process what you have seen, especially if the culture is so different from the culture back home here? Like you went to Haiti, wow, that is staggeringly different, and the kinds of people you worked with. So you come back, those maybe even two weeks or three weeks really changes your world, rocks your world. Now puts it upside down, because, “Wow, how can people live this way?” Might be your question, or “Where does God exist in this place?” And then you meet others in that same culture who know Jesus, and exhibit such joy. “How can that be? I come from the affluent country, and I don’t see people with joy.”

Heidi Wilcox:
I went to Columbia, South America last year and went to a church service down there, and they, the part of Columbia I was in, I mean, I think all of Columbia, it’s much poorer than anywhere in America, but I’ve never seen happier people. And so I was really disappointed when I came back to America, because my church service didn’t look anything like that. We all look so sad to be there sometimes. I’m like, “We should be so happy.”

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. So so it makes you wonder. And that’s good, because once you leave home, you come up with a new set of questions. You assume certain things and then, leaving home and going on this short term mission trip, will really challenge your assumptions and give you a whole new set of questions, but a whole new set of eyes to see the world. Then you come home with a new advocacy. You become that informal defender when people come up with just very swift, sweeping conclusion, “Oh, those people from that country are like this.” But you say, “But that was not my experience. I was there. Even if it was two weeks, I met the most wonderful people.” So you put another spin to what people might have thought and we’re generalized about negative conclusions about other people.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So those things need to be processed. And there is a grief component as well, depending on what the experience was like, you come home and you miss the people, you miss the experience, and you want to repeat some of those experiences back here and you can’t, because it’s so different. So there is that sense of loss. And and you go through grief, some people go through big heavy depression as well on the reentry side. So it’s very important that you prepare people for reentry and help them to have the needed skill to understand what’s going on.

Heidi Wilcox:
Because it’s kind of a reverse culture shock, to some back here from most of the places that you visit.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
And the reverse culture shock, because people don’t prepare for it, is harder. Of course, I’ll have culture shock going to Columbia, but I’m just going back to Wilmore.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right, and I know what it’s like.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
We think it’s the same, but we’ve changed, even for those two weeks or three weeks. And that’s why for those short timers, God gives you the opportunity to continue that enlarge, elastic heart by looking for opportunities to serve with people who are different from you. Whether it’s through services like the International Friendship or International Students, invite them to your home. That is so low shelf, so easy, and learn from them. They’re just… It’s home away from home.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s so good.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So you’re going to volunteer now Heidi.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, I have to something different, and my life something different, because I want my life to matter, and I don’t think it matters in the way that I want it to matter right now. It doesn’t matter for other people.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
I appreciate your attitude about it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Thank you. Well, thank you for sharing.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
You’re welcome.

Heidi Wilcox:
So how would you describe this season of your life in ministry?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So I’ve done a lot. I started…

Heidi Wilcox:
And I don’t think we even talked about the half of the things you’ve done.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
No. What I’m thinking is like, “Wow, God, you are just so good to take me where I’ve been.” Because none of this would have been my design. I may have desired certain things, but nothing like what God has given me. So I’m really grateful. I started staff work at 19. And I had this life to live that I could serve. And live and serve in another culture. I have to learn how to do it here in the US and also hold my first culture together. So it’s not giving up everything, but how to… I feel like I live in three cultures, my Filipino culture, my American culture and Kingdom culture. So you traverse those three places, and Kingdom culture trump’s both. And so it’s wonderful to be able to do that to be an advocate to others, from other cultures, to explain certain things. I trained to be working in our equivalent of the State Department, my undergrad was in foreign service. So technically I could have been an ambassador but in reality, I’m an ambassador, ambassador for Christ.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So the season of life is that season where I can… It’s a convergence of the things that I’ve learned, and the people I enjoy coming together. So I mentor young leaders from InterVarsity. It’s wonderful. And I have others that I mentor outside of InterVarsity, but to be in their lives in this season of their leadership development. I wish I had mentors when I was their age, but to walk with them, and to just kind of glean from my own experience what it’s like to lead as a woman, to lead as a woman of color or minority woman, to lead with confidence, not with arrogance, or with a chip on my shoulder, what does it mean to lead with a servant’s heart. All those things that I get to access in this season of life.

Heidi Wilcox:
What is it like to lead as a woman and a minority, what has been your experience?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, it depends if you are leading in a place or a company or an organization that is mostly white and mostly male, that’s different and it’s uphill. In InterVarsity, at least my experience is that it’s a very empowering place, because we believe in God given gifts to people, and that you have your unique gift to bring to the table.

Heidi Wilcox:
And you’re still with InterVasity.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, as a mentor. I was director for International Student Ministry for 14 years. So I finished that and pass that on, but now I’m a mentor the last five years. So the challenges of addressing whether structure or attitude in a way that is not… I don’t want to be the angry woman all time, because you lose your audience when you’re just angry. I think for me, it’s speaking the truth with confidence, with a voice that is prophetic, and a voice that is your voice. You are not mimicking, copying someone else. So it’s me, this is my experience, and how do we help people change their minds and empowering women to be able to manage up, to help supervisors with what it takes to understand women, especially women with young kids, and what work looks like for them, because we have those in InterVarsity working part time.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
So for me, I was in a good place, but there are times where I’m also challenged, like going to other places where women are not as elevated in respect or acceptance. So it’s a great season of life, and I get to enjoy my grandchildren too.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, it sounds like a great feeling. So I want to talk about, you’ve written several books really, so I want to talk about that briefly. So I have that you’ve written Think Home: A Reentry Guide for Christian International Students, Back Home: Daily Reflections on Reentry, Reentry Guide For Short Term Mission Leaders, Coming To America/ Returning To Your Home Country, and Friendships With International Students Crossing Cultures Here and Now. Do you want to talk about each of them?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Well, they all have different histories, Think Home came about because I was at a conference with staff who are working with international students, not InterVarsity. This was international students incorporated. And I just happened to ask them what they did to help international students on their reentry going home on their return, and this was decades back, so things have changed since I just want to make sure that’s clear. And they said, “Well, Lisa, we give them a party.” I said, “That’s great, that’s a good start.What else?” They thought somewhere and said, “Oh, yeah, we give them a gift.” I said, “Good. A lot of the world value gift giving.” So I kept pushing, “So what else?” They said, “Oh, yeah. And we pray for them.” I said, “Great. Always pray for your students returning home.”

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Then I kept pushing, “What else?” and they kind of hit the wall and say, “What else is there? That’s it?” So the meeting ended, but I went back with my newborn, started writing on a napkin tissue, because it was lunchtime, all the things that I thought were important because I returned home after my educational.

Heidi Wilcox:
You had that experience.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. I said this would help students. So that’s the background of Thing Home. Think Home is over 300 questions of generic nature of what it is to face change, what are examples in scripture of those who have returned home, and what changes you have undergone, and all those. So it’s a workbook that is generic, not just specific to those returning to a specific country. So that’s the background. And it’s interesting, the early beginnings of it, other missionaries found the book helpful for themselves returning to the US, they just took out other chapters, obviously. So I felt like that’s a good tool, and we’ve revised it since, and we’ve put a lot new materials also. So that’s one.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Then the other thing is Back Home, which I wrote in 2014. I’ve always wanted to be on the other side of the bridge, I prepared him from here going home. I said, “I wish I could be there to receive them. What would be something that would help them in that transition?” So Back Home is that 14 day devotional, a 30 day devotional, just to help them process. Each day there’s a short scripture, question then reflection, so they can write.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, because it’s so easy to return, and just try to get back into your rhythm without thinking about anything.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yeah, exactly. I needed to address issues of even how do I make it in this new culture, because like I said, “Why is my culture like this? Why couldn’t it be a little bit of the joy from Colombia could affect my church? So that part and I wrote it with short term mission people in mind, study abroad people as well. So that part. And then the Coming to America on us campuses, I wrote that without any christian reference by design, so that it can be easily distributed for new international students coming in. And the flip side of it is returning to your home country. And I’ve tested that with my PhD students, as far as English I wanted it to be as simple as possible so that they can just grab it. So ESL, English Second Language, or English as a foreign language could learn using it, improve their English as well.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Then crossing cultures Friendship With International Students. I wrote that as a gift for Urbana Missions Conference. So the first edition was about 20,000 of that booklet, to put in their bags mission conference Urbana, that we had a lot of them in 2003, I think is when it was given out. So that’s basically just giving the rationale, the raison d’etre for why we reach international students and it is cross cultural communication and friendships here and now. So I want to emphasize the here and now. You don’t have to wait until you get there or until you raise your money, and funds and got your shots and your passport. They are here.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right here.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes. And they’re waiting. And then the re entry, I’ve done a number of reentry seminars for short term mission. So that reentry guide for short term reentry for leaders is the result of that. And those were just my notes that I wanted to put together. So maybe one of these days I’ll sharpen that, make it into another format.

Heidi Wilcox:
I’m just so grateful for our time together today. I can’t say anything but thank you.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
You welcome.

Heidi Wilcox:
Thank you so very much. I’ve learned so much and I really appreciate your time to just share with me and to share with the people who are going to listen to the podcast. Our podcast is called The Thrive With Asbury Seminary Podcast. And so because of that, we have a question that we asked all of our guests. So what is one practice that can be spiritual or otherwise that is helping you thrive in your life right now?

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
That’s a good question. One practice that helps me thrive? Space, creating space, in my schedule, for things that are life giving, because life can be so fast and so packed that I need to create space, even today I had to create space to rest. Or create space to create something. I love to decorate, I love to do art. So when I am doing something artistic, that is life giving. So part of it is knowing my limits. Because if I’m going on fumes, then I’m not being obedient nor productive. And I have to keep telling myself that. Sometimes it says sitting down being quiet, because especially in a culture where we are constantly doing things simultaneously, I think just stopping, just stopping and not touching my phone.

Heidi Wilcox:
I mean so far, yeah.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yeah, I know. But it’s a practice that you say, “Okay, now is the time to stop.” Being deliberate about that. And learning to say no, learning to build into that schedule space. So I would say create space. And usually it’s in those spaces that God speaks to me.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, that’s good.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
I have a… my deck is my happy place, I have a sign that says, “Happy place.” And I go there and it’s just a welcoming place I just sit there, part to me saying, “Come on, more emails.” But no, it’s a welcoming. I want to experience God’s hospitality to me. So when I create that space, it becomes God’s space. And God is being hospitable to me.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yeah, that’s beautiful.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
And then I am able to thrive because I’m getting my strength from him.

Heidi Wilcox:
I love that. Yes, so needed. So thank you again.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Welcome.

Heidi Wilcox:
So enjoyed it.

Lisa Espineli Chinn:
Yes, thank you.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey y’all, thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Lisa Chinn. Grateful for her leadership and her ministry. I know she’s challenged me to intentionally ask questions and make friends with people who aren’t like me. I hope you enjoyed the conversation too, and let us know how this conversation helps you. New podcast episodes released every other week and you won’t want to miss out. Subscribe in iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcast. You can follow us in all the places on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Asbury Seminary. So have a great day you all and go do something that helps you thrive.