Eloisa's Story

Today, I want to share with you a testimony of a sister who experienced God's healing and faithfulness. (I am sharing this story with her permission.) God is using her here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is her story:

Good morning! I am Loisa Tai, married to a Taiwanese man. We have two wonderful children, a daughter, who is 21, and a son, who is 18 years old. As a woman married to a man with a different culture, language, and belief, one must have the courage to face every circumstances. But I am so thankful we survived our first few years (of marriage) of arguments almost everyday.

When my kids went to school I found a job to have extra money to send some to my parents in the Philippines. I kept this job until I was able to have my own canteen that I ran for about 10 years. This was the reason that I was not able to go to church because I was too busy earning money. Now, I don’t know where the money went, the money that I earned. This is my greatest mistake: not being consistent to bring my children to church an that is why I have a hard time inviting them now even after they were baptized. I had been very busy until one day I heard two Filipinos (talking) who were diagnosed with breast cancer. I was alarmed because I have felt something in my breast for quite some time.Then I told my husband and children that I will go to see a doctor. That time I don’t know which doctor I need to consult with. So I went to a gynecologist and she did an ultra sound (procedure) and right after that she told me that she will refer me to an oncologist because the lump (looks) malignant. During that time I did not know how I should feel. I was just calm and worried, and praying hoping it’s not that serious. Before I meet the oncologist, I did the mammogram. When the result came out I (made appointment to see) my oncologist. I called our pastor to come with me because I was afraid with what the doctor might say. And when we were there he told us everything that I need to do. He showed us the result of the mammogram. Then, he schedule me for a biopsy. And after the biopsy, he said that it is stage 1B, and (for this reason) I would need to have an operation. 

So that day of my operation, my husband was there, together with our pastor and Aying. They were there because I need them to pray for me. I was afraid at that time (and I kept) praying until I was inside the operating room. My husband said I was there for more than 8 hours, and the doctor told him that my cancer is stage 2B. After a few days they scheduled me, if I’m not mistaken, for 12 sessions of chemotherapy. This was the hardest part because I lost all my hair. But I knew that during these dark moments of my life I have our Lord, because He says in Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Praise God for He is our great Healer. He protected me until I finished my other 30 days of radio therapy.  I am so blessed because I have my family and a family in Christ who was there to pray with me and they kept on encouraging me to fight and always be happy and positive which was a big help for those who are sick. Just like what it says in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up bones.” Now I am on my third year as a cancer survivor. I try to serve our God. I am attending care groups and still learning to know more about Jesus. I am so thankful that I have Jesus who is our Everlasting God and great Healer, a provider, our Savior and Lord. All Glory to God!


Parable of a Helper

One day, an 8-year old boy was playing on a beach somewhere in Florida. He was digging a hole and collecting the sand to make a sand castle. After a while, a man came by and talked to the boy. He said: “Little boy what are you doing?” But the boy just kept digging and storing up sand for his sand castle. “Let me help,” the man continued. “I can take a picture of you and document your progress. Meanwhile, I can play some music for you on my smartphone and encourage you while you work.”

After a while, a woman came by and talked to the boy. She said: “Little boy what are you doing?” But the boy just kept digging and storing up sand for his sand castle. “Let me help,” the woman continued. “I will give you some bottled water to quench your thirst. And if this is not enough, you can give me some money and I will go and buy you some more bottled drinks and encourage you while you work.”

After a while, a young person came by and talked to the boy. She said: “Ni hao? Ni zai zuo shenme?” But the boy just kept digging and storing up sand for his sand castle. “Help you?” The young person went down on her knees and started digging sand together with the 8-year old boy. The two of them kept working and after a few hours, a sand castle began to form from out of the sandy beach somewhere in Florida.

Who do you think helped the little boy? “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).


My Past Connections

I am eating “Arsik.” Arsik is a fresh water fish cooked in a spicy sauce which is a special delicacy for residents in Medan. It is a bony type of fish and usually eaten with rice. Indonesians, especially those living here in the city of Medan, love to show off their native flavors, including Arsik, to foreigners visiting their country. Shirish and I are here in Medan for a few days of meetings with our new found friends. He flew in from Mumbai, India, and I came straight from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We were invited by a group of Christians who identify themselves as Free Methodists, and they wanted to ask us some questions about the possibility of partnering with the other Free Methodists around the world. So, before we headed out to several meetings, we visited the home of one of the pastors and had a great Medan meal with his extended family. I had to be extra careful eating Arsik because the fish bones were extra hard and could get lodged uncomfortably in my throat. In the end, we had a great time of eating, singing, sharing stories, and praying with Pastor’s (Artinus)  family. 

Saying thank you in the local language is a little challenging; “Terimakasih!” Whenever I try to say it to them, they all smile and cheer me on for speaking their Bahasa tongue. Shirish and I try our best to connect with them. We are only here for a couple of days, so we go straight to the main issue of what it means to partner with all the Free Methodists from around the globe. I remind their leaders that partnership means connection in three aspects. One, we all need to be connected to our God, as He is revealed in His written word, the Bible. Two, we all need to be connected to each other, growing in a healthy relationship with every Free Methodist from many different cultures and races. Three, we all need to be connected in our common vision to spread the Christian gospel to every person in the world. They all agree with me regarding these three aspects of connection. I begin to think that eating the Arsik fish was harder than explaining to these Indonesian pastors the implications of our connectional heritage as a Free Methodist Church member. I think I spoke too soon, because . . .

On the second day, these Indonesian pastors start asking the harder questions of being connected to the global family of the Free Methodist Church. “We have our own Statements of Faith. Who will decide if these Statements are good enough? Will the other Free Methodists, our international brothers and sisters, be interested in coming to Indonesia to help us? What do we need to do first before the Free Methodist International will show interest to Indonesia FMC?” I feel a lump in my throat. I think the Arsik fish bones are finally making their presence known, stabbing the inside of my esophagus. 

I remind these Indonesian leaders that the final decision of this partnership will be with the Council of Bishops of the World Conference of the Free Methodist Church. My role is to make the initial contact, gather some facts, and explore the layout of the land, so to speak. Fishing! That is my purpose here in Medan. I am here to fish for information and set sail for the open seas. Okay, okay. I think the metaphors are getting out of hand. Blame it on this “Arsik bone” in my throat.

On the third day, I preach in one of the services we visited. I share from John chapter 6, and in one of my illustrations, I talk about the Filipino fish “Bangus.” One of their leaders from Medan, in the early 1970s, came to the Philippines for his theological education. His name is Johnny (John) Hutabarat. He became a family friend and visited our fish farm very often. I have memories of my older brothers together with Johnny eating Bangus fish grilled in an open fire pit. I never thought I would have this beautiful opportunity to visit his homeland, his hometown, and be with his co-workers in the harvest field of the Lord here in Medan, Indonesia. Later, I learned that Johnny passed away about five years ago. I am sure, the next time I see him, I will have plenty of time talking with him about Arsik and Bangus. I never imagined that my past will catch up with me here in a foreign country.

“Horas!” This means “welcome!” or “hallelujah!” in the Batak language. (It could also mean ‘thank you’ or ‘long live!’) Most of the Christians in Medan and Northern Sumatra come from the Batak Tribe. Our new Indonesian friends are Batak people. 

When Jesus saw his disciples by the lake, he said: “Horas! Do you have any fish?” (I think this could have been the translation of John 21:5.) We all know the story. The disciples caught so many fish that they could not haul the catch into the boat. 

Arsik or Bangus? Not all Free Methodists in Asia are Arsik-eating people. Whatever kind of fish they eat, or whatever culture they come from, the mandate of Jesus is still the same: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Horas!


Storming The Gates

"I come inside through the big wooden doors. These are elaborately decorated with religious symbols of dragons, monsters, and fiery animals real only to an Asian religious practitioner. I see many people with their prayer sticks. I smell the incense engulfing the whole prayer room. I come inside this beautiful temple and soak in the presence of spirituality that I cannot comprehend. To my right, a person whom I presume is an expert--not only because of his dashing robe and regal hat, but mainly because of his confident way of explaining things--is showing some visitors the way to use the prayer gong in their time of worship. Everyone is lost in their utterance, petitions for a need that I will never understand. I say a prayer to the Almighty God and Savior of all people to hear the prayers of these people."

One afternoon, I was in the streets of Kowloon and came into a Chinese temple. I went inside through the doors that were open to both tourists and worshippers. I went in, in a manner of speaking, "storming the gates of heaven" for the people who are seeking true spirituality and needing the answers to their supplications from the Creator of the universe. I went in and prayed with the Chinese people in that prayer room. I was engulfed in the smell of the incense. I was lost in the rhythmic sound of the prayer gong. I was shoulder to shoulder with them. However, I will never know the intent of their hearts. Nor will I ever come close to comprehending their religiosity. All I could do is say a simple prayer on their behalf, or as some of my friends would say: storm the gates of heaven. In that Kowloon temple, I asked God to listen to us. I probably would never witness the answers to these prayers. One thing I knew then that is still true now: God is moving in every place of worship and all the prayer rooms in the world, and He is drawing every Asian to Himself. 


Just Talking

I always thought that one of my strength is “vision casting.” I guess you can simply call it “talking.” I like talking to people, most especially when we are all connecting with a vision or a plan to do something meaningful in the coming days.

So, a month ago, I was at a missions congress in Hong Kong. Free Methodists from all over Asia were there to participate. I was talking to one youth leader from Cambodia. He is beginning an outreach program to orphans and vulnerable children. He works with parents who are willing to open their lives to serve our God. They bring in a few children into a home with these committed Christian parents mentoring these kids. It was exciting listening to this Cambodian leader and casting a vision for missions work among the children of Asia. Or maybe, I was just talking.

In the same missions congress, I was discussing with one Filipino leader about some church planting strategies on the borders of Thailand and Myanmar. We talked about cultivating a small piece of land and the earnings from the produce of this land will go towards supporting Asian missionaries crossing the borders. We talked about many things, dreaming about bringing a team of Christian Agriculturists to Thailand to help with the farm. We dreamt about a ministry that is self-supporting and indigenous to the needs of the local people. Isn’t this vision casting or simply talking?

We talked about Asian Free Methodists going to nearby schools and campuses to make friends with anyone and reaching out everyone for Jesus. We imagined a day when we are sending Taiwanese youth workers to Japanese universities to bring a Christian witness to the thousands of Chinese students in that country. Dreaming, talking, vision-casting. Will you dream with us, talk about Asia, and cast a vision for Jesus?


Training Pastors or Developing Leaders

I am here in South Asia, for the last 20 or so days, meeting up with pastors and local leaders, teaching from the Book of Mark and encouraging everyone to be serious about their study of God's word and its application in their daily life. I have travelled to six different locations. I have eaten the people's local food; lots of dal, jero, and chicken curry. I have seen the diversity of cultures and languages here. Most of the locals have mistaken me for one of them. Obviously, I have the Asian look but once I open my mouth and start speaking, then they know I am a foreigner.

I am here and have seen the challenges of leadership. Pastors have the need to be trained how to train others. A few of our national leaders are capable of doing this task. I keep pushing them to go out of their way and start developing their circle of leaders and empower them. I sense their lack of confidence. In due time, however, they will be the ones to train their pastors. I cannot wait to see that day come, when leaders from one district go to another district for a time of ministry and pastoral training. I am looking forward to the day when I do not have to come here, because the leaders themselves are doing their own training.

Meanwhile, I am here developing our own Free Methodist leaders. On the side, I travel around training pastors and teaching some seminars on basic ministry skills on Bible and theology. The good thing about this traveling around the region is that I am able to identify a few of our national leaders who are able to train pastors. These national leaders are committed, tested, and passionate about God's work for the region. It won't be long when they themselves will be the ones who will be traveling around and training pastors in South Asia. 


Easter Even Reflections From Henri Nouwen

This Black Saturday (Great Sabbath), I share with you some thoughts on prayer and the disciplines of grief, forgiveness, and generosity--excerpts from Henri Nouwen's writing.

"Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God's Spirit." (Nouwen, Henri. 1992. The Return of the Prodigal Son) Nouwen suggest three disciplines. Grief is the discipline that allows us to see the world as God sees it. Forgiveness is the discipline that gives us the courage to welcome the other to our lives, no matter who they are and wherever they come from. Generosity is the discipline that moves us to a life of freedom, away from fear and greed, control and power. These three make the image of the Heavenly Father grow in each person.

And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9: 23-24. ESV)

Let us pray. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.


When God Moves Me

We ate good food. We shared many stories. We encouraged each other with visions of our God working in Southeast Asia. How can we participate in God’s work and follow His leadership in this region of the world?

I am here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, visiting with our Free Methodist (FM) missionaries. My primary goal is to see for myself some FM ministries located here in Thailand so I can prepare a mission trip for the following year and bring some students from our FM seminary in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. So, while I am learning new things about the work, I am enjoying delicious Thai food and renewing friendships with my FM colleagues here in this city of Chiang Mai.

Mr C, who is doing missionary work in Country L, is here in Thailand, as a non-resident cross cultural worker. Are you confused now? This simply means that I cannot divulge the identity of our FM missionary or the nature of his work because he is working in another country that is restricted to Christian work of any kind. So, now, let me share with you some of the encouraging stories we shared with each other.

Five Christian workers are crossing the border to see Mr C. They are interested in knowing more about FM work in Asia. When they go back to their country, even with all the government restrictions and sometimes religious persecution, they share God’s message of salvation and tell their friends about the FM ministries happening around Southeast Asia. Are you encouraged now? So, I ask my missionary friend: With this limited time you have with these Christian workers, what do you share with them? Without batting an eye, he said, “I share God’s holiness.” Isn’t this an uplifting thought? Amidst persecution and through these secret meetings of Christian workers, there is a revival of biblical Christianity, akin to that of the early Church from the Book of Acts, with a focus on the Wesleyan theme of holiness. Hallelujah! 

This month of March, Mr. C will meet with these five Christian workers. They will spend two to three days of sharing time, a series of training sessions on the topic of God’s Holiness. I told him we will pray for this March meeting. I will ask all my prayer partners in the USA, Philippines, and Taiwan to say a prayer or two for this time of leadership training. God is moving in Southeast Asia. Let us pray that these five Christian workers will prayerfully consider Free Methodist work in their country. More importantly, let us pray that we, both our Asian brethren and us from other countries, would seriously follow God wherever He is moving. I ask you now to participate in God’s ministry here in Southeast Asia, whether with the FM work or some other Christian ministries. Will you intercede with me?


Investing In God's Kingdom

“What can we say the kingdom of God is like? How shall we put it in a parable? It is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which, when it is sown, is smaller than any seed that is ever sown. But after it is sown in the earth, it grows up and becomes bigger than any other plant. It shoots out great branches so that birds can come and nest in its shelter.” (JB Phillips NT)

Everyone knows that investing one’s money in a bank is a good thing. You make deposits because you know that in the future you will withdraw your money back with interests. This is very similar to the Free Methodist (FM) work in Asia. We make deposits by building relationships with existing Christian ministries in the region. In places where there are no church witness, we reach out to people in need and connect with community leaders in hope that we will gain their trust and have access to the local people’s love and friendship. In some of these places, there are resistance to the gospel and political opposition to Christian missionary work. However, these do not stop us from finding creative ways. We still go and make investments in these areas. Sometimes we send English teachers to work in universities. Sometimes we use child sponsorship to connect with families in cities and villages. In a few cases, we work from a neighboring country and cross the border from time to time and provide training to local Christian leaders in the hope that they will train their own people and nurture them to Christian maturity and leading them to a life of fruitful discipleship.

This May, I will be going back to Nepal. Just like last November 2017, I will be there to provide assistance to our partners in the area. Just like me, there are other FM pastors who are coming in March, August, and October of this year, with the same goal of helping our Nepali church leaders prepare for pastoral ordination in the Free Methodist Church. We come and teach courses that encourage these pastors to get deeper into the word of God. We hope that they will make a decision to join the FM work in Asia. Some from the city of Kathmandu have already made a strong commitment to become FM members. Others around the country are still in the early stages of understanding our FM heritage and exploring future possibilities of partnership. Whether or not these leaders have made a final decision, we keep on investing, building relationship with local pastors and visiting with them and encouraging them as Jesus would. Making deposits in the Lord’s work is a good thing, even if there are no visible results yet.


Wondering With My Friends

I am learning the names of the pastors and leaders. There are more than 35 in attendance to this 5-day Pastors’ Training Seminar. I try my best but in the end, I can only remember a few.  I give more emphasis on knowing the types of ministries these pastors are involved in. Here are a few question I gathered as I went around talking to our Nepali pastors.

How do you write songs for your worship time in your local churches here in Nepal? Some of these Free Methodist pastors write their own worship songs. Pastor Padam uses his sarangi, a native bowed musical instrument, similar to a fiddle. At this Seminar, before my time of teaching, we hear Padam’s music and singing, together with his son and youth member playing the guitar.  At the same time, we also witness Pastor Prem’s singing his own worship song. He sings the song with some dance movements. I see the participants of this gathering joining  Padam and Prem in worship full of enthusiasm and with loud singing. I wonder what my American musical friends would say when they come to visit Prem, Padam, and the other Nepal pastors who write their own worship songs. It would be a great learning experience.

How do you celebrate your local church’s anniversary service? Pastor Prem C. is a pastor of a local church with 1,200 members. A few years back, when their church building suffered from a terrible earthquake, they needed help with some building repairs. Our Bishop’s Development Fund gave some assistance. Now, Prem C. and his church members are ready to give thanks and express their gratitude for this new found partnership. I wonder what kinds of celebration will occur when a thousand people gather for a worship service. The food alone would be a managerial challenge. Will there be dancing on the streets? Will the young people provide dramatic presentations and skits? I wonder what suggestions my Filipino friends will give to this Nepali church.

How do you construct a church building on a mountain side? Pastor Yam asks me to come and visit his area and see what had happened to his local church building. A few years back, when the great earthquake hit Nepal, Yam’s church building fell down. Now, there is a need to build a new structure. They only need three thousand (US) dollars to complete the project. His church members are willing to help out and gather some stones and slabs from the nearby mountainside for the church’s use. I wonder what my Taiwanese pastor friends would say to this construction. What kind of pulpit should they make? Can we add some colored glass windows? Maybe, the best way is to bring my Taiwanese friends to Nepal and let them see for themselves the needs of Pastor Yam. It takes about three days of hiking from the nearest city to the church’s location on the mountain. I wonder if my friends would be willing to take this three-day journey with Yam. Would you?

I am back here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I asked these questions above when I was still in Nepal teaching and training our many pastoral candidates. Until now, I am still learning, not just the names of our Nepali pastors, but also the many challenges our Free Methodist work has in this region of Asia. I wonder who would like to learn with me and join me in this great adventure in the Lord’s harvest  field.