I came in to school this morning and was greeted by one of the students. Irene is one of the second year M.Div students here in Holy Light Theological Seminary. She related to me a story, a challenge she picked up from one of our meetings with the Student Missions Fellowship (SMF). In preparation for a short-term missions work in the coming future, I suggested to the members of SMF the practice of listening, the discipline to listen to a person's heart and not just to his/her words. Following the example of Jesus talking (and listening) to a Samaritan woman found in John chapter 4, we agreed that for this semester, we would choose one person "we don't like" (or an unlikeable, unapproachable person) and take the effort to listen to this person. Irene took this challenge literally. She talked to a homeless prostitute, one of the many here in Kaohsiung. I mean, she listened. She shared to me how most of the people around this homeless person kept their distance. But, she decided to approach her and listen to her story. She recounted that this exercise "taught me to stop and just listen."
Yesterday afternoon, the seminary faculty met with four veteran pastors from four different denominations here in the city of Kaohsiung. These pastors have been in the ministry for 20 or more years. They have started an MTS, Ministry Training School, within their respective local churches. We invited them so they can share to us what is it is that makes the people of southern Taiwan tick. The whole idea of the meeting is "relevance," finding ways for a seminary to be relevant and of service to the people around her and become an assistance to the local churches in the area. The four pastors shared with so much passion. I did not understand half of what they were saying, mainly because they were talking about cultural stuff and locally defined concepts. I sensed, however, their wisdom and their enthusiasm for the building of the kingdom of God. They have found something that we do not have here in the seminary. Later, after their talk, we, the seminary faculty members, gathered in small groups and proposed some changes we would like to introduce to the seminary in the near future. We want to be relevant.
This afternoon, we will have another SMF meeting. The students have invited Pastor Chang, an executive of a missions agency responsible for outreach ministries among the Chinese people around the world. It will be another time of rekindling the students' passion for missions work. It is my prayer that we would all be relevant, ever-ready to listen to people, and be open to the Spirit's leadership.