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TCW Talks to ... Lisa Chan

A conversation about her marriage to pastor Francis Chan and their urban ministry in San Francisco

Two years ago, Lisa and Francis Chan sold their home in Simi Valley and left Cornerstone Church, where they'd served for 16 years, feeling God telling them it was time to leave. They travelled internationally, praying over cities and asking God for direction. Ironically, he led them back to California—San Francisco. There the Chans are using their time and gifts to minister to a specific group of people who live in government-funded, low-income housing. Lisa is also currently in the midst of a video project called "True Beauty," a series that disciples women in their growing relationships with Christ. Read on to hear from Lisa on life, family, and surrendering it all for the glory of God.

Tell us about your ministry in San Francisco.

The ministry Francis and I are involved with is called City Impact. It's a group that reaches out to the Tenderloin, which is one square mile of low-income housing. It's full of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, prostitution—everything you'd expect from an area that has lost hope. You can sense the battle. Most of the people who live there have spent the majority of their lives never knowing what love and real relationships are, or what it means to be taken care of. They're surrounded by a spiritual darkness I never knew existed. We go out in teams and visit with them each week. On Sundays we meet together as a church, worship, hear a message, and then go out. We want people to be there to pray, develop relationships, and start to disciple the people of the Tenderloin. From there we hope to raise up leaders that God has already appointed in these buildings to transform this whole area.

Do you bring your kids?

We do. There's a fear, and times we've talked about how we go out in twos or threes, and we stay safe. But the residents light up when they see my daughters coming. My daughter Rachel visits this one woman who's in a wheelchair and on a breathing machine. She reads Scripture to her. I wouldn't trade watching them minister to people and seeing the Lord work in their own lives for anything. It's worth it to lay down my own fears and recognize that my children belong to God. They see a lot for their young age, but it's good. In the Tenderloin, they see the end result of sin and darkness in its rawest form. It's not attractive. We don't try to overexpose them, but we do want them to know that these people need Jesus, and that we've got to do something about it.

Facing such spiritual darkness, how do you stay fresh in your relationship with God?

Relationships have seasons. In 19 years of marriage, my love for Francis has been constant. But there are seasons of real intimacy, and then there are other times when he's traveling or a kid is sick, and we aren't as connected. It's the same in my relationship with each of my children, or with my girlfriends. Our relationship with God has seasons, too.

Francis and I set up dates when we need to reconnect. I apply the same principle with God. I have to know Christ in order to stay close to him. When I start to sense a disconnect, I shift something. I let go of an activity or turn off the television, and in its place, I take time to connect with my Creator, praying for him to help me draw near to him.

Why do you think we struggle with such a simple principle?

I think once you get to a certain point in your walk, you end up thinking, I should be beyond prayers like that. That's the lie of the enemy. Scripture says, "God gives grace to the humble and he opposes the proud." He pours out his grace when we humble ourselves, but when we sit in our pride, God stands in opposition to us. That's a scary thought. I don't want God against me. I want to humble myself and have God pour out his grace.

What do you see as the most pressing spiritual need for women right now?

There are a lot of women who are so filled up with Bible knowledge. The enemy has women thinking they don't know enough, they aren't well equipped, they need to be taught. God has all of these women that he's ready to use. I don't care if you've been going to Bible studies for 2 years or 20, there's only so much that that can do. God wants women to say, How do I use what I do know? It's time for women to be put into action, to take what they know and pour it out somewhere. By sharing the love of Christ, you end up loving him 10 times more than you would have if you sat on your couch and tried to think about how great he was. It's time for women to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Ashley Moore is assistant editor for the Church Law & Tax Group at Christianity Today.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Ashley Grace Emmert

Ashley Grace Emmert is a writer, editor, and TCW regular contributor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dog. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @ashgemmert.

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Evangelism; Marriage; Ministry; Outreach; Service; Women's Ministry
Today's Christian Woman, July/August , 2013
Posted July 1, 2013

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