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Faith, Hope and a Doctorate Degree

May 08, 1987|Dick Roraback.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me," Jesus said, back when the world was young and senior citizens got the short end of the scepter. "The times, they are a-changing," spake Peter, Paul and Mary some time later--just about when Faith Chao was really getting into gear.

Chao, 81 now and only in mid-career, will be getting her doctorate on May 22 from the Southern California School of Theology--which is a long way from home. Her "mission" began back in 1939, when she and her husband, Calvin Chao, started a Christian community in Chungking, China. The community grew to 8,000 members in five years, despite the war, and was about to bloom again "when the communists began to take over."

"They couldn't stand us, or what we stood for," Chao says, and the feeling was mutual. "We had to flee to Hong Kong. . . . "

In 1956, the Chaos arrived in America. Free of interference at last, they began to establish a network of churches under the title of Chinese for Christ Inc. Faith Chao, meanwhile, continued the theological studies she'd pursued in China. "I just took it slowly," she says. "When I was 70, I started to take credits for my master's degree in theology, which I got in 1982."

Three years later, the Chaos founded the Chinese for Christ Theological Seminary in Rosemead. "Then I decided to take a little rest," she says. "Well, my children wouldn't hear of it. They kept pushing me."

"So," she says, quite matter-of-factly, "I went for my doctorate."

Aptly named, this Faith Chao? "Oh, I don't really live up to my name," she smiles, "but I try. . . . "

The Enticing Words of Men

" . . . Refrain from these men and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought. . . . " The quotation is from Acts 5, verse 38, and it is not from Faith Chao. Not even close. It's from Jack Miles, The Times' Book Review editor, and it culminates a rather extraordinary poetry-centered fortnight in L.A.

The fortnight began with a visit by amiable Andrei Voznesensky, the Soviet Union's premier poet; spilled over to a picketing of The Times; and concluded with a reading at UCLA by Yevgeni Yevtushenko, the Soviet Union's most flamboyant wordsmith.

In the Soviet Union, poetry is as beloved as borscht. In America, it ranks slightly lower than caber tossing in public popularity. Nevertheless, Those Who Care demonstrated at The Times in protest over Miles' decision to drop reviews, for the most part, in favor of simply printing poems themselves and letting them speak for themselves.

Miles sticks by his guns: "I'll give it nine months," he says, "and hope my critics come to like the new policy as time passes."

Going the Second Miles

At a UCLA Extension reception for Yevtushenko, meanwhile, Canoga Park poet April Burns, editor of Shattersheet, a local review, was still steaming, if prettily. "What we ought to do is have a public forum and let Mr. Miles take on all comers," she said. Miles has consented to do just that, with a date yet to be fixed.

Yevtushenko remained above the battle, though he is still fascinated by America.

"I remember my first visit to America in 1960," he told a spillover audience earlier in the evening. "I only knew three words: 'Where is striptease?' "

Voznesensky, for his part, was puzzled by the lettering on a microphone that had been thrust upon him during a local radio interview. "What does this mean, this KGIL?" he asked. "They're just call letters," he was told. "They don't stand for anything."

"Ah," he said. "Not like KGB."

City of Tony Duquette's Angels

Mute, but continuing to watch over all of us, are Los Angeles' own Angels, who "blew everybody away" at their recent opening as part of artist Tony Duquette's new "celebrational environment" in San Francisco.

The speaker was Hutton Wilkinson, director of the Duquette Foundation, who reported a "wild and wonderful" opening, with Liza Minnelli singing to Michael Feinstein's piano and guests "from everywhere: Italy, Mexico, Palm Beach, Texas, La Jolla. . . ."

The next day, the doors opened to the public, and "attendance has virtually doubled each day," Wilkinson said. Curiously, he adds, "they all seem to be from L.A."

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