|Houston, TX (March 12, 2011) – Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association (APAHA) (www.apaha.org) in partnership with Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston held a ―Faith and Culture Bus Tour” to Asian/Pacific places of wortship around Houston.|
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association is a non-profit organization with the mission to promote Asian Pacific American culture, heritage, and awareness through celebration, cultural events, and education. Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, a nonprofit, brings people of diverse faith together for dialogue, collaboration and service, as a demonstration of our shared beliefs.
This Bus Tour is the first in an ongoing series. The 2nd APAHA/IMGH bus tour will be organized in fall 2011 with mostly new tour stops.
The Asian/Pacific-Houstonian mosaic of faith shined brightly while approximately 40 people had the opportunity to tour the city’s remarkable faith community. Four religious sites around the Houston area opened their doors to host a lecture and tour about their faith, culture and customs. Ramesh Anand, APAHA Board member, was the organizer and the Tour Guide. All enjoyed his entertaining stories on the tour.
Starting with the Asian American Baptist Church, located in Missouri City, the group had the opportunity to get to know more in depth about the Asian Christian tradition-where Christianity meets the innovative culture of young, mostly first-generation Christians. The church had a projector instead of a hymn book and catchy rock songs instead of hymns. The Church hosts around 200 Asian followers every week for prayer, showing the group how Christianity has impacted those from the Eastern side of the globe as well.
Next the group was in awe when sighting the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple’s beautifully carved structure. This temple, located in Stafford, had every single inch of its walls carved with beautiful images of flowers, goddesses and gods. The group set on to a tour of this beautiful Hindu temple in companion of the host who explained the carvings and the history of the temple. The cold marble in which the structure was made out of contrasted beautifully with the warmth of religious practice found inside.
After, the group departed to the Vietnam Buddhist Center in Sugarland. At this temple, the group experienced a Buddhist wedding and learned about the Buddhist faith. Also located inside the temple grounds is the tallest statue in the Houston area. This statue is of Bodhisattava Quan Am, who is venerated for her compassion and loving kindness. After this visit, the group enjoyed a light South Asian lunch.
Ramesh Anand, Director APAHA & the tour guide, included a surprise stop to the Holi festival of colors at the Hindu temple Shri Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir. There, the group had the opportunity to experience the true face of this festival that is celebrated along with the coming of spring. The group got to paint their faces and commemorate among the temple attendants- a unique opportunity.
Last but not least, the Maryam Masjid - a muslim mosque opened its doors with warm hearts and smiles to the tour group in its building in Sugarland. The group visited the prayer room and heard a lecture about the importance of the Quran in their faith. Also, the group had the opportunity to hear a beautiful prayer call and observed those in the room who were praying in silence. Maryam Masjid, the second largest mosque in the United States, evolved from a modest trailer home on rented property.
In such an enlightening atmosphere, the group visited the Hong Kong City Mall in Chinatown. Here, the group was able to relax and mingle after such a busy day of learning and sharing.
The tour received a spontaneous positive response from those who participated:
I would appreciate hearing about other tours. The tour was just perfect--I learned so much. I felt like I had gone to four different countries. You were so pleasant--just perfect for the job.
Thank you and all who made this trip so memorable.
My friend, Mrs. Abel, and I greatly enjoyed our tour. You were an outstanding tour guide, not only very knowledgeable but also very personable. The places of worship chosen for the tour were each uniquely interesting and the members there very all friendly and hospitable. They each gave us a good insight into their beliefs and methods of worship. The brief side trip to Holi was delightful.
I think I will try to bring my out-of-town family to see the BAPS Mandir and Hong Kong City Mall (how's that for a combination!). And of course, if they can be here for your next APAHA tour, so much the better. I see there will be dragon boat races in May, so that will be another interesting venture.
Thank you again for your leadership.
Thanks so much for organizing and leading this tour. I learned so much and had a great time. Please do let me know if you do any others—I would like to attend them.
The Asian Pacific American Heritage Association is a 501© (3) non-profit organization registered in the State of Texas. APAHA’s mission is to promote the Asian Pacific American culture, heritage, and awareness through celebration, events, and educational outreach.
Photos by APAHA Intern – Luna Oliveira