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March 2010

Easter Greetings From Up in a Mountain

The angels said, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11) Here in this biblical account, the angels are simply reminding the disciples that Jesus is coming back again. They left the Mount of Olives and went to the Upper Room to pray. It is at this point that the Holy Spirit came in mighty power, giving the gift of tongues to the disciples that resulted in many people coming to God in salvation and repentance. But first things first--they had to leave the mountain where Jesus was taken up into heaven right before their very eyes.

This week is holy week. Back in the Philippines during this whole week, time comes to a stand still. Holy Week traditions abound in this country, some not so good but a few brings the Filipino Christians to remember Jesus' sacrifice in the cross and His glorious resurrection. This week here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, here in the seminary, nothing much is happening. We have a little worship service tomorrow, full of Easter liturgy commemorating Christ' death and rising from the dead. I am playing the guitar in one of the songs. Very simple. It is not really a big holiday. Unlike the Philippines and the USA with its Easter bunnies, egg hunts, and, in some large churches, a grandiose choral presentation--the Easter Cantata.

Today, we are going to start a Worship Band here in the seminary. Not a grandiose musical production, just a little band of 6-8 students deciding to get together to play music and sing songs. I have no high expectations. We will see what we can do. We do not have any music genius among us. We only have Christians who have a heart for worship and a desire to assist local churches in their music ministries.

This coming Monday, I am going with a bunch of students to climb Ali Shan, or Mount Ali, here in central Taiwan. Next week is the seminary's Spring Break vacation. The mountain is about 2663 meters above sea level. I doubt if we ever will go up that high. At least we will be in out of the city and into nature for two whole days. There are three students who are coming with me. I want to make it clear to them that this is my personal retreat, a time to focus on God and in prayer. I think they will understand. Maybe, up there in Ali Shan, I will hear God's voice in a fresh way. I pray that His Spirit will visit me in His mighty power . . . I can only wait on Him. He will do whatever He wants to do with me. One thing I know is that I will see God in Ali Shan, "right before my very eyes" (Acts 1:9).


Meeting With the Student Missions Fellowship

Today, we just finished another meeting with the Student Missions Fellowship. We had a visitor from Cameroon. Shu-Mei is a missionary with Wycliffe and is here in Taiwan for her furlough. She came and shared about God's calling in her life and some challenging stories straight from the African mission field. It was a lively sharing time. It helped that she is originally from Taiwan and can speak with the students in Mandarin. The students barraged her with many questions. It was a time of inspiration, a time of encouraging words knowing that God is our missionary God.

Tomorrow, we will have prospective students come to the seminary. It is a day of orientation and challenge for these visitors to consider God's call in their lives. I will be here, although it is a Saturday, together with some teachers and staff to entertain some questions and hopefully persuade all of them to respond in obedience to our God. My prayer is that they will all be obedient and comprehend God's desire for all peoples in the world to come to Him in salvation--a comprehension of the missionary heart of God. Perhaps, most of them will become missionaries. That will be good. But most of all, my prayer is that everyone will actively participate in God's missionary work as mobilizers, generous givers, and prayers warriors in their local churches and particular areas. 


West Meets East

I feel uncomfortable. Everyone is talking about the personal lives of the students. It is part of our role as teachers here in the seminary to evaluate the students and give approval for them to graduate or not. The faculty members are gathered today for a meeting to scrutinize the 9 students who will be graduating this school year. Their pictures and names are displayed on a screen and we talk about them, how they are behaving towards their co-students and what academic progress they have made. I sit there squirming in my seat. I feel like this is delving into the personal lives of the students. But, everyone seems to be at ease. Maybe, it is my Western upbringing in me. Perhaps, it is just me. I just feel that personal matters belong to the private life of an individual. I don't think it is right for anyone to measure another person based on his or her social activities, relationships with co-workers, or choices about family roles. Again, it may be just my American mindset. Perhaps, it is better here in Taiwan when teachers evaluate their students according to the students' social and academic performance. I may need to "re-tool" my mind and put on new Asian spectacles so I can see the world here in Taiwan a little better. Maybe, next time, I will stop squirming in my seat.

Students Come, Students Go!

I enjoy eating at the school cafeteria. It is the perfect place for me to get to know the students. Aside from the good food, I am able to meet students, especially the ones that are not in my class. We do have our Small Group meetings, but nothing brings more spontaneous talk than a plateful of good food. And besides, I am able to practice my Mandarin with the students in an informal way.

Last week, one student came to my office and shared about God's calling in his life, his girlfriend who is on a missionary work in another country, and many other current issues in his life. We shared. I encouraged him to be strong in the Lord. As he was sharing these things to me, I cannot help but think about the great responsibility we, faculty members of this seminary, have in shaping the lives of these students. I pray for God's wisdom and discernment so I can help these students prepare for the missionary work ahead of them. I pray for humility, that I will be able to receive God's blessings through these students. In the midst of the simplicity of their lives, I may find strength to praise God and worship Him.


Churches in Kaohsiung

I never thought I could go to three churches in one day and hear three different sermons in three different languages. The first one is the Feng Shan Free Methodist Church. My family and I go there every Sunday. We go to its Mandarin speaking congregation. The second one is Nantze Higher Ground Community Church. My Filipino friend pastors this church. The third one is a new church I am getting acquainted with. It is an Indonesian church. One of my students at seminary introduced me to the local church pastor. It is my goal that I can at least visit one Asian church every month located here in Taiwan and become familiar with the leaders of the many Asian congregations scattered in the island. I am hoping that I could find out ways that God is moving among these Asian churches despite their dislocation (they are away from their home culture) and their transient members and financial hardships.

Later, after the church service, my student friend suggested we go to an Indonesian food place. What I did not know was that it was also a dance place, a Karaoke, a bar, a place for weary factory workers to relax and enjoy each others company. Of course I did not understand anything. I do not read or speak Bahasa Indonesia. But I understood the young people's desire to unwind and reconnect with friends from the same culture and language. They need this kind of place.

As we were going home, my student friend who is Chinese-Indonesian, mentioned to me the need for one on one evangelism among these Indonesian factory workers. Because of their Muslim background, public and group witness would never work. As he was sharing this to me, I realized how wide the divide is between these people group here in Kaohsiung and the Christian church here in Taiwan. The distance becomes unsurmountable mainly because of language, culture, religion, and prejudice. It will take a miracle to cross this divide. One thing I know: Our God is a God of miracles.


Eight Is Enough

I just met with eight students from Holy Light Theological Seminary. They have asked me to help them with their interest in cross-cultural missions work. This is our second time to meet. I have asked them point blank what they expect from me and what their goals are as a group. You see, this is a group that is meeting not because it is a school requirement nor out of obligation. They are here because they want to learn more about missions and Christian cross-cultural ministry. We started out a little slow, but by the time the third student shared his answers to my queries, the whole group got animated. Everyone expressed a resolve to start practicing missions work right here in the city of Kaohsiung. Someone suggested the whole group visit Asian migrant workers in their dormitories in Nantze, and the group seems to agree with him. I gave them some practical tips on cross-cultural communication and encouraged each one in their prayer lives.

I am very encouraged with these eight students. They are full of passion for the Lord's work. I think eight is enough. I believe these eight can make an impact in the life of the seminary, to lead other students and seminary family members to be more involved in God's work across cultures here and abroad.


Asian Stories That Inspire

I am here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with other Asian missionaries for a much needed retreat and fellowship. Other Asian leaders are here for consultation and mutual encouragement. One pastor from a Creative Access Country tells me his story and close encounter with the local authorities. He says, when he was leading a worship service, the police came to stop the meeting. He invited them (the group of policemen) to join the service and witness for themselves what the Christians are doing. Pastor Carl, not his real name, narrates, "The police eventually left. After this incident, members from two families who in the past were not serious about their Christian faith, approached me and expressed their desire to serve God fully." Pastor Carl states that it was that courageous encounter with the authorities that made them think hard about their Christian faith.

In another instance, Pastor Jay (a pseudonym) recounts to me his recent visit to another Creative Access Country. He says that one local church is praying for a brother who is in his final preparations to become a medical doctor. The church members want this person to be their missionary, to go to another province where the dominant religion is Islam. It will take a long time to fulfill this plan but Pastor Jay says this medical student and the church members are willing to wait and invest in this future missions work.

I am also getting acquainted with a North American pastor who is here in Asia working in another (a third) Creative Access Country. He is originally from this country and officially working as a cross-cultural worker visiting new Christians and planting new churches across the country side. He expresses to me that it will most probably be years before any kind of harvest is seen much less any form of government recognition will happen. I sense, however, his strong determination to keep working and wait on the Lord to bring in the harvest.

It is hard work. It takes a lot of determination. But God is the Lord of the Harvest, and He is and will bring in more harvesters to the field. A Pastor from Malaysia says to another pastor from a Creative Access Country (the fourth restricted country FMWM is in): "I have a friend who owns a property in your capital city, and he wants to donate this for Christian work." We all smile. God is bringing in the harvest.