At Home in Exile
Russell Jeung's spiritual memoir shares the difficult, often joyful, and sometimes harrowing account of his life in East Oakland's Murder Dubs neighborhood and of his Chinese-Hakka history.
On a journey to discover how the poor and exiled are blessed, At Home in Exile is the story of his integration of social activism and a stubborn evangelical faith.
Holding English classes in his apartment (which doubled as a food pantry for a local church) for undocumented Latino neighbors and Cambodian refugees, battling drug dealers who threatened him, exorcising a spirit possessing a teen, and winning a landmark housing settlement against slumlords with a gathering of his neighbors—Jeung's story is, by turns, moving and inspiring, traumatic and exuberant.
As Jeung retraces the steps of his Chinese-Hakka family and his refugee neighbors, weaving the two narratives together, he asks difficult questions about longing and belonging, wealth and poverty, and how living in exile can transform your faith:
"Not only did relocation into the inner city press me toward God, but it made God's words more distinct and clear to me...As I read Scriptures through the eyes of those around me—refugees and aliens—God spoke loudly to me his words of hope and truth."
With humor, humility, and keen insight, he describes the suffering and the sturdiness of those around him and of his family. He relates the stories of forced relocation and institutional discrimination, of violence and resistance, and of the persistence of Christ's love for the poor.
About the Author
Dr. Russell Jeung is a leading sociologist of Asian Americans, race, and religion. He is professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and author of Sustaining Faith Traditions: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion among the Latino and Asian American Second Generation (with Carolyn Chen) and Faithful Generations: Race, Religion, and Asian American Churches. Dr. Jeung is also executive producer of Prophetic Voices, a social media project addressing key social issues of the Asian American community within and in the public square. He serves as Board Chair of New Hope Covenant Church and lives with his family in East Oakland, CA. Along with his wife, Dr. Dr. Joan Jeung, they have two foster daughters from Burma and a son.
Russell Jeung writes with great compassion, insight, clarity and humor about his remarkable faith journey as an Asian-American Christian. This book is required reading for anyone interested in race, religion and social justice. Prepare to laugh, cry, and transform with Russell Jeung! -- Carolyn Chen, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California at Berkeley
Activist. Theologian. Hakka. Chinese American. Follower of Jesus. These words describe Russell Jeung and yet do not fully comprehend the story he has crafted in this masterful book. Part autobiography, part community history, and part liberation lived theology, At Home in Exile captures the heart and soul of following Jesus through living in community among the poor in Oakland. Follow and be transformed. -- The Rev. Dr. Frank M. Yamada, President, McCormick Theological Seminary
In a watershed moment for refugees and immigrants, Russell Jeung felicitously reminds us of God's love for the least of these. This book powerfully illuminates the plight of the poor and disenfranchised while pointing towards the hope that is rooted and ultimately found in cruciform communities that express their faith in love. -- Dominique DuBois Gilliard, Board of Directors, Christian Community Development Association
Russell’s life journey is a prophetic challenge to our Evangelical affluent upward mobile suburban culture. A rarity among privileged ivy-leagued Asian American upbringing, his story is a must read for those who are considering a life with a purpose beyond a white picket fence in an upscale suburban neighborhood. The various lives mentioned in At Home in Exile fulfill a longing to see modern day monastic examples of those who have given up the American dream for an intentional life of hardship and danger for the sake of the gospel. Written as a narrative of intriguing relationships through communal living, Russell's humor and raw wittiness is accompanied with deeper theological reflection. As a Hakka, a ‘guest' in exile living among refugees, Russell reminds us of the simple gospel message; that as incarnate sojourners in a broken world, we find Jesus and trust that the Kingdom is near. -- David Ro, Director of the Christy Wilson Center, Gordon-Conwell; East Asia Director for the Lausanne Movement
Russell Jeung is a rare person who embodies courage, authenticity, and integrity in a culture of consumption and assimilation. Unlike other books, this book, At Home in Exile is a page turner because the author, as one of the residents, narrates the stories of Oak Park community of refugees and migrants. It is among the poor and broken, in which Jeung, a fifth generation Hakka Chinese American, experiences the beloved community which resonates with the early Christian community under imperial Roman culture. Jeung takes the readers on his intimately courageous journey who enter into his world with a sense of belonging and ancestral roots. This is a must book for the homeless mind on this shore that longs to retrieve buried memories and roots for social change. -- Rev Young Lee Hertig, Co-founder/Executive Director, ISAAC/AAWOL (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity)
An important biblical theme is that God speaks to His people while they are in movement, migrating or in exile. Russell Jeung invites us to recognize that we learn about God and about what God is doing when we live into our own experience of exile and choose to live and minister among migrants and exiles. At Home in Exile is autobiography, theology and missiology. This book challenges us to see that exile is a unique place to serve God and to learn about how God is at work in the world. -- Juan Francisco Martínez, Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Hispanic Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
Russell Jeung’s memoir of life in East Oakland is warm, humorous and challenging. He wears his learning lightly but it’s obvious that he can teach us a thing or two about the way faith affects life. -- Tim Stafford, General Editor, God’s Justice: The Holy Bible
I know Russell Jeung to be a world-class academic, but he is quite unlike many scholars in that he lives out his resulting convictions in his daily life. That by itself is highly noteworthy. However, as demonstrated in this remarkable book, Jeung is also unlike the typical scholar in that he is a masterful and compelling storyteller, taking the reader not just into the daily lives of impoverished immigrants in Oakland, CA, but also inside his own struggles and transformation as he comes to identify with the poor. His talent for narrating these intermingled stories caused me to think more deeply about my own story as a grandson of immigrants from China. And as a devout Christian, it also made me question many of my own choices to avoid regularly intersecting my life with poor immigrants, especially those from parts of Asia that are in my own backyard. By showing himself to be a flawed and humble example of someone who clearly wants to follow Jesus, Jeung manages both to inspire and instruct the reader to take concrete steps in the direction of “the least of these.” -- Rev. Dr. Ken Uyeda Fong, Executive Director, Asian American Initiative and Assistant Professor at fuller Theological Seminary
At Home in Exile is more than exploring Asian-American identity, although that certainly undergirds the story. Russell Jeung’s journey is also one of deep Christian faith, committed urban life, and community activism, which together convey a compelling challenge for all followers of Jesus---namely, to embrace our ultimately identity as exiles in Christ who can speak truth to power in all cultures. -- Al Tizon, Executive Minister of Serve Globally, Evangelical Covenant Church
Many times, it is so easy to get severed from one's root and faith along the way of pursuing American Dream in the U.S. It is heartening to read the life of one who God blesses with many achievements, and yet does not get disconnected from one's faith and root. I am confident that this book will inspire many others to participate more in their 'exile' communities and find it at home there. -- Kenneth VanBik, Lecturer, Department of Linguistics and Language Development, San Jose State University
At Home in Exile is the incredible story of a committed Christian disciple living in a poor, drug-infested, and refugee-ghetto neighborhood of Oakland, CA. As an evangelical Stanford-educated professor and a fifth-generation Chinese American, Jeung has tried to live out Jesus in this neighborhood as an exile in the US, suffering alongside with refugees from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and undocumented Hispanics. He sees the church as a mother and a home providing hope for compassion for the downtrodden, the disinherited, and the disheartened. His autobiography is truly captivating, inspiring, and moving, challenging all of us on a fundamental level to re-examine our lives of following Jesus. -- Andrew Sung Park, Professor of Theology and Ethics, United Theological Seminary
Russell Jeung's book 'At Home in Exile' at first glance, may be read as an wild adventure tale of ragtag bunch of misfits in exile whether it be Russell - a descendant of the Hakkas or the Cambodian refugee grandmother, or the African American gang members who stole his laptop to the veteran who keeps waiting for his big check all living in public housing complex. But it is so much more as he weaves the stories of their lives to lift up social injustice, racism, poverty, and obeying Jesus in a delightful storytelling! I was inspired, challenged and my faith and conscience pricked at times reading Russell's obedience of truly walking amongst and embracing the poor. At the same time, his transparency of his own humanness facing at times the raw reality of humanity and poverty and living in a crime driven neighborhood makes his faith ever more real. Finally, I was inspired to want to do more as he shares the beauty, joy, life and hope that can be found even amongst the poor and those in exile and the interconnectedness amongst all of us. -- Hyepin Im, President and CEO, Korean Churches for Community Development
Jeung takes us into a decades long journey of relocation into an urban community. He writes with the insights borne from lived experiences. Jeung writes with the acuity of a scholar, the heart of a pastor, and the soul of a Christ follower. A compelling commentary on consumerism, materialism, success, patriarchy, power, marginality. At Home in Exile is informed by Jeung’s Asian American identity, he gives tremendous insights for people of all backgrounds. His family history takes the reader through a journey that touches on Hollywood’s history, immigration history, the emergence and destruction of Chinatowns, and family and social services. It is a portrait of the unexpected way perceptions of race touch many of society’s institutions --which has surprising implications for today’s contentious issues. -- Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Director, International Justice Mission (IJM) Institute for Biblical Justice; Author, God of Justice
Russell (or Dr. Jeung) has taken elements of the Christian faith and theology, the US West Coast Asian American history/experience, life in my beloved Oakland, California, and his own life, and woven them together in a way that is educational, engaging, and authentic. He wrestles with some of the deeper complexities of urban ministry, community justice, Christian community, life calling, and family safety in a way that both gives the issues their due challenge and gives the reader some helps on how to navigate them with intellectual and personal integrity. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing how a humble “Disney princess” has sought to be faithful to his heritage, his community, his calling, his family, and his God. -- Rev. Phil Bowling-Dyer, Director of Diversity Training, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Displacement and longing for a home are not only a contemporary reality for many, but also interweaving thread throughout the Biblical Narratives. Russell Jeung’s account of his family history and diasporic calling are profoundly moving and inspiring to all Christ followers. In these stories we learn how to journey like Jesus and make sense of our own wanderings and hope for our eternal destiny. -- Dr. Sam George, Executive Director, Parivar International
I've gotten to know Dr. Russell Jeung these past few years. I've stayed in his home. Visited the men and women he has served. I've witnessed his sacrificial love for the Cambodian families and other refugee families in Oak Park. He is an inspiration to me and to those who know and respect him. His book about his life with Cambodian refugees reveals the strength and depth of my people. -- Ken Kong, Director, Southeast Asian Ministries-The Navigators; Director, Southeast Asian Catalyst