(2010 March Newsletter)

Agnes Ip

          After six years of ministry, the vision of Presence is clearer than ever. The more we see the culture eroding the morals and faith of our youth today, the firmer we are in our resolve to help the family.

          Back in the 1980s, adolescents who got involved with drugs, alcohol, sex and gangs are outliner. The majority of youth coming from caring homes did not go down a destructive path.

Understanding Today’s Youth

          The culture today is different. Youth problems are more insidious. While they seem to be quietly doing homework at home, children as young as elementary age have access to the internet that takes them to the world of addicting computer games, pornography, gambling, and other vices otherwise unavailable to children. They become “friends” with total strangers, and even have online sexual encounter with them. Even the schools are not safe. The most accessible place for drugs is on campus. Today’s problem youths are “ordinary people” who go to school everyday, come home after school, and even earn good grades. Outwardly, they appear decent, good-looking and have outstanding achievements.

          Will their Christian faith help youth avoid temptations and turn from their addictions? Can they distinguish right from wrong when they’ve been raised in today’s amoral culture? Even those who know right from wrong behave with a relativistic mindset: as long as their behavior does not hurt anyone, then it is all right to do it. Most people do not understand that seemingly harmless behaviors are in fact harmful to themselves. For example, continuous computer game playing causes changes in the brain, and players can start to lose control of their psyche and behaviors, much like in drug users. (In our next issue, we will discuss in more detail the changes in the brain brought about by internet addiction.)

Lacking Genuine Personal Relationships

          The electronic age has changed the way our youth view interpersonal relationships. Two people in the same room do not have to talk to one another. Instead they text or use IM (Instant Messaging) to communicate. As a result, children are losing their ability to discern facial expressions and body language. The excitement of playing computer games on the internet daily causes many students to lose internet in face-to-face social interactions. They even stop going to school and lessen outdoor activities. Frequenting online pornography has dehumanized both men and women. People become merely objects to be used. Growing up under these influences, youth oftentimes do not know how to maintain interpersonal relationships and express their emotions. Their inner self and spirit have not received the proper training and development. Therefore it is important for parents to intentionally cultivate their children’s character and spiritual development.

Responding to the Challenge

          In light of the pressing needs of this generation, Presence Ministry collaborated with First Chinese Baptist Church of Walnut last October to organize a parenting conference aimed at training the entire family. Practical training classes based on Biblical principles were held for children, youths and their parents.

          In one of the sessions at the conference, we brought the youth and their parents together to help them understand some of the struggles at different growth phrases of the youth.

          From the testimonies of young adults, we were saddened to hear of their growing up without the companionship of and the relationship with their fathers. Without a father’s influence, they easily fell into temptations of drugs, alcohol and sex to fill their emotional vacuum. That day, many parents were touched by the open and honest sharing. They began to understand their children’s needs for their time and relationship.

          Some parents and youth felt uneasy when a young man shared with the audience that his first sexual experience was at a church camp. While it is understandable for parents to consider it inappropriate to hear about such a shocking event in a church setting, we can no longer put our heads in the sand to hide from the reality of our changing world. Our youth are facing a society where sexual promiscuity and sex with the same gender is ever increasing. Those problems are inevitably brought into the church. In fact, even children from church families face the same temptations and sins, but they do not dare to speak up. Instead they hide their wrongdoing and struggle with heavy guilt.

          A more constructive approach is for parents and their children to learn to address these problems directly. First, they both need to be alert and be on guard to potential problems. When an issue is at hand, make sure it is addressed without delay, thus making use of a valuable teaching moment. Parents can offer wise and Biblical ways to handle problems. If children do not receive proper guidance from their parents or the church, they will turn to their peers, school, and the internet for solutions often leading to damaging results. If we do not purposefully train our children to face moral dilemmas, we are pushing them into this immoral society unprepared.

Presence Ministry, Church and Parents Can Work Together

          The Church today is rapidly losing young people to the culture. God has given Presence Ministry a vision to come alongside the family and the church to face the challenges together. We offer resources and training to address relevant issues facing the family today.

Parent-Child’s Relationship Building Blocks

          On May 22, 2010, Presence Ministry will partner with Great Commission Church International to organize another large scale parenting conference. This conference will provide training classes to adults, youth and children to build spiritually, psychologically, and relationally healthy families.

Understanding the Struggles of People with Same-Sex Attractions and the Proper Biblical Response

          Last November, Presence Ministry partnered with four local churches to organize the “Hope & Love” event at Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills. The aim was for youth and young adults to understand those who struggle with same-sex attractions through testimonies, along with thoughtful teaching on the proper Biblical response. The comments from the audience of both young people and their pastors were overwhelmingly positive. They asked to have another joint event. Currently Presence Ministry is looking for partners in the San Gabriel area to organize similar events in the future.

Internet Addiction: Prevention and Treatment

          We are planning training sessions with a professional clinical psychologist for the community focusing on adult and children internet addictions. A special training session with clinical training will be held specifically for pastors and counselors. Sessions will be in Monterey Park on June 11 & 12, 2010. Please contact Presence for details and registration information.

Retreat for Newlyweds

          Last year, Presence Ministry held a retreat to focus on helping newlyweds grow spiritually as a couple and to build a stronger relationship. Couples were also prepared to become better parents with Biblical principles. Four follow-up sessions were made available for the couples to continue fellowship and support. We will be holding another retreat for newlyweds this coming September. Any couples who are interested may contact Presence for more details.

Sharing Our Vision

          On Sunday, March 14, 2010, Presence will host an evening to share our vision. The program’s theme is “New Perspectives of Cultural Mission – Priorities in Youth Ministry.” In addition to fellowship over dinner, we will be casting the vision of the importance of apologetics for youth. We have again invited Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocate for Faith and Freedom to give us an update on the impact of the recent passing of the hate crime laws.

Presence Ministry Needs Your Support!

          Presence Ministry experienced frequent financial shortfalls last year, thus we were unable to maintain adequate staffing to keep up with the work of the ministry. Please pray for our needs, join us as volunteers, and become our financial partners this year.

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