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OPINION

Chinese New Year: 'make it personal'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Chinese New Year -- it's Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. Chinese-American videographer T.Y. Po travels to Hong Kong to reunite with extended family for his first Chinese New Year celebration and to explore the search for God underlying the ancient tradition.
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HONG KONG (BP) -- Train stations and airports are teeming with people anxious to reunite with family over the most important holiday of the year for Chinese around the world -- Chinese New Year. So many people travel during this time that it's often called the "single greatest migration of people" on earth.

It's Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. And like these American holidays, Chinese New Year is all about family -- it's a time to reconnect with loved ones.

This year, I'm joining the traveling masses to celebrate the holiday with my aunts, uncles and cousins in Hong Kong and inviting Baptist Press and AsiaStories (www. asiastories.com) to come along for the four-day celebration.

While I'm a Chinese-American, it is my first time celebrating this holiday in my family's "homeland." My parents met and married in Hong Kong before moving to the United States. I was born and raised in the bayous of Louisiana, where it was easier to find an alligator in the backyard than another Chinese kid like me.

Growing up as a first-generation "American" was hard. The question of whether I was Chinese or American really butted heads and caused a cultural divide in my life. As a child, I chose to run as far as I could from my culture. I stopped speaking the language and made few attempts to connect with family -- something that is totally against Chinese culture.

The truth is, things were hard. There was the divorce that began a civil war between Mom and Dad. My siblings and I were caught in the middle.

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Things changed when I was a teenager. I found God and asked Him to come into my life. Some of my favorite Bible stories were about risk takers. They willingly faced their fears, knowing that pain and hardship would be the cost for obeying. They discovered their own identities and fostered a deep intimacy with God -- the kind of intimacy found when God becomes the "Hero." They were changed.

I realized that somewhere along the way, I forgot my own story. I ignored the role God cast for me. He made me unique. It wasn't long before this new faith began moving me to bridge the gap, to reconnect with my identity.

At God's leading, I am serving as a two-year Christian worker in East Asia. I'm learning a lot about my Asian culture through this interaction but now He's asked me to "step it up and make it personal." That's why I'm here in Hong Kong. As other Chinese spend this New Year's celebration with family, I will do the same by visiting my extended family, many of whom have not experienced life with God.

For the next four days, my family will teach me about my cultural heritage and I will try hard to let them see Christ in my actions. Baptist Press and AsiaStories will be with me every step, posting a new story (and asking for your help through prayer) every day. We will walk through all of the traditional Chinese New Year's activities, such as temple life and what it means to honor my ancestors; discovering my own family's hopes and dreams at the wishing tree; and finding redemption at the family meal.

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Through these experiences, I hope to get one step closer to understanding who I am, helping my family experience God and come to know the author of my own story, God.

The New Year is a time for new starts, when you shake the dust from yesterday's steps and missteps. This is a new start for me, a first step toward having an open heart for family and rediscovering my roots.

T.Y. Po, a Chinese-American videographer and two-year Journeyman worker with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, will recap his experiences with the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong in Baptist Press on Monday. In the interim, sign up to get story notices through the AsiaStories RSS feed at feed://asiastories.com/feed/rss or through the AsiaStories Facebook page.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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