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February 2011

My Second Sermon in Chinese

Yesterday, I went to Jong Lun Free Methodist Church and preached a sermon on Christian Missions and Worship. It was my second time to preach a sermon in Chinese. The first time was in Mayanmar, when I visited a Chinese church there during a missions trip. In both occasions, I had a manuscript in front of me. It was very difficult speaking reading off a prepared text. I would prefer moving around and freely using my hands to gesture. I could not do these things. I had to concentrate on my Chinese pronunciation. Hard work.

I thought yesterday's sermon went okay. Largely because, this local church is a very missions minded church. One of its young people went with us to a missions trip to Cambodia last month. This church is trying out new ways to reach out to the foreigners around its area. The members are excited in joining other mission trips. Already, I have talked to two people who want to go with us (seminary team) for the next mission trip to Cambodia in January 2012. Glory to God! Slowly, God is converting people, one person at a time, to take that effort to go and experience God's missionary work in other places and amidst different cultures.


Jesus' Compassion From the Point of View of Matthew

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on the people (Matthew 9:36, NIV). New Testament experts tell us that this kind of compassion is not a romantic kind of feeling or a knee-jerk reaction to what Jesus saw. Greek scholars, based on a lexical study of the word "compassion," stresses the point that Jesus' love for the crowd is a deep rooted kind, borne out of a serious reflection on and a commitment to understand the local people's life and situation. It is a concern that "grabs you by the gut," consumes your whole being, and compells you to act on it.

When we see people, are we consummed with Jesus' compassion? When we walk the city streets or talk to people at the grocery line, do we experience a love that "grabs us by the gut" or a concern that changes our whole life?

In so many ways, most Christians feel what Jesus felt when he saw the crowds, harassed "like sheep without a shepherd." But the problem is that, as time goes by, the feelings of concern become a memory, and eventually dies out to become merely a picture on a wall. So, how do we sustain this compassion? The answer is found in Matthew's narrative of Jesus' life and ministry.

Jesus' compassion was sustained by action and prayer. He went about "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom" and bringing healing to needy people (Matthew 9:35 ESV). He told his disciples to pray and to petition the Lord of the harvest for more laborers (verse 38). And again, this action and prayer was not a single point in history or a one time event. If we look back on Matthew 4:23-25, we see that Jesus had already been to this location mentioned in chapter nine. He came back and did the same things that he did in chapter four. Jesus action and prayer is a well-planned strategy sustained through time. When he saw the crowds, it was not his first time to see them. He already saw them back in chapter four. He had plenty of time to think about the people of the surrounding areas. Jesus had compassion. And he acted on it with prayer and deliberation. He meditated on what he saw.

So, how do we sustain compassion? Let us follow Jesus' example. He was serious about what he saw. He acted on the need, and over time made plans to meet the needs of the people. What does this mean for us today? I will leave the specific answers to you, my dear readers. But one thing I suggest is that we keep coming back to the place where we first encountered the "compassion of Jesus." Let us not stop. Let us continue to serve God through the local people of that place, wherever that may be. Let us all be committed to the harvest.


Lecture Looks Good

I am a little concerned. Today is my first day of teaching this course on Understanding Missions and Culture, and my translator is not around. She emailed me the other day and said she will be coming next week. After talking about the course syllabus, I will be giving my first lecture. I will have to muster all the Chinese that I know. So far it looks good. The students are understanding what I am saying. They are having fun with the pictures I am using projected on the wall as part of my lecture. It feels so satisfying to see their eyes beam with excitement as they listen to my presentation of missiological principles. My use of the Chinese grammar is probably wrong, but I am just glad that the students are comprehending this lecture.

After the class, one of the students compliments my Chinese. "Your Chinese is better than last semester," she says. "I can understand you." Praise God! This is again another testimony of answers to the prayers of many of my friends. God is listening. Many of my prayer supporters know that I am struggling with language learning. But God is good. He is encouraging me. "I cannot wait," the same student tells me as she heads out for the classroom door. "I am so looking forward to our reading assignments and writing my reports." She waves goodbye and goes outside. I am so humbled that these students are so motivated to learn more about missions work. They are so focused in learning what God has in store for them through this seminary class. Glory to God!


God is Our Healer

Yesterday, Sarah and I, together with several missionary friends, visited Dorothy, who is recovering from a bout with stomach cancer. It was a good time of rekindling friendships and affirming God's goodness in our lives. We shared stories, from Michigan, to Greenville (IL), to Asbury Seminary days, and even our time in the Philippines, and of course from the recent past here in Taiwan. Towards the end, Dorothy asked me to sing the song, "I am the God that Healeth Thee." Of course, I was very happy to sing it for her. She testified that this song is her theme song during this whole time of recovery and healing. God is our healer.


Last Sunday's Sermon

Last Sunday, I preached at Feng Shan FMC, and a friend of mine helped me with translation. After the church service, several church members thanked me for the message. And as I was listening to them, I thought to myself that the best way they can thank me is to pack up their bags and join a missions trip going to another country visiting another culture. Today, I received an email from my friend who translated for me, and she also thanked me for the sermon. Below is my friend's email, and it speaks for itself.

David,

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to serve with you. May I share your sermon outline with Pastor John?

Your sermon really inspired me . I'm planning (to) send my boys to a mission (trip) as a 20-year-old birthday gift. Money will be the big issue. I'll put this in my prayer list.
 
(Edited for privacy reasons.)

 


Back in Kaohsiung

It has been six days already since I came back from Cambodia. We were there for a short-term missions work with a group of students (and a few friends) from Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) for nine days. It was a very fulfilling time of ministry and encouragement. Now, I am back here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, back into the arms of my family. I miss them so much. I haven't had the opportunity to write and update my blog here. I have been busy with a couple of things, entertaining my adorable six-year-old son, Jacob, talking to my wife and daughter, arranging for a ministry time with another mission team coming from Nebraska, USA, and recovering from a bout with a terrible stomach flu. These few days, I was able to relax.

I came in to Kaohsiung weak from a stomach flu I picked up at Phnom Penh (Cambodia). I was still weak and struggling when I arrived last February 2, 2011, Chinese New Year Eve. I tried to eat good food so I could regain my strength. After a day's rest, I helped Brian (an FM pastor from Nebraska) and his son, Stephen, to prepare for a three day retreat and ministry time with a group of Filipino migrant workers here in Kaohsiung, under the leadership of Nantze Higher Ground Community Church (NHGCC). Tessa Marzo, the pastor of NHGCC, was there to lead the ministry. It was a fulfilling time. Many of the lay leaders of this Filipino church later testified of a time of revival. We concluded the retreat with a prayer and confession time. The NHGCC members spontaneously confessed there sins to each other and prayed in unison and unity. All the pastors present, Brian, Tessa, and I, just stood there and let the Spirit of God take over the whole meeting. It was a beautiful sight to see the Spirt descend and all we could do was stay clear so that God could do His work.

Praise the Lord! Today, I feel better and slowly regaining my former vigor and strength. Yesterday, Sarah cooked her famous chicken curry for everyone, including Brian and Stephen, and I had about three platefuls. I was stuffed. For today's supper, I had another two platefuls of chicken curry leftovers. Delicious! This afternoon, we went to Ci Jin Island to show our Nebraska guests some of the culture of Taiwan. This is one place that our family frequently go to. The highlight of the day was the bike ride along the seashore. This was no ordinary bike because it was a four-person bike with four wheels and four pedals, and Brian, Stephen, Carmen, and I went pedaling like we were on a racing tour. It was a blast! (Sarah rented a single bike and followed us around.)

It is good to be back in Kaohsiung. Right before we had dinner, I saw a movie with Carmen and Jacob. We all had fun watching "Aliens in the Attic." It was such a joy to sit and spend time with my children, and, at times, be silly with them. They are growing so fast. It is always my prayer that I could always be a source of encouragement to them. I pray that God's love will protect them and guide them as they grow older. The Almighty will be their Keeper.


Woke Up This Morning

It is not really early. It is only 5:00 in the morning, that is about six o' clock in Taiwan time. What bothered me was the excrutiating stomach pain. It must have been that red curry I ate last night. I hope this black hot coffee would do the trick. I am praying I get well soon, very soon. We, the Taiwan Mission Team, will be leaving for the airport in about four hours. We are hoping we could be in Taipei this afternoon and catch the HSR (Bullet Train) to Kaohsiung.

We visited the Wilkins family yesterday. It was a great time of sharing and exchange, well, at least for Chris and I, Asbury Alumni buddy of mine. We went o KY about the same year to pursue our respective graduate studies. Now he is here in Cambodia serving under the APFMMA ministries (Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association). I think the Taiwan team, now, has a better understanding of the FMC work here in Cambodia, and hopefully that of Asia as well.

In the afternoon, we went for an hour of ferry ride along the river of Phnom Penh for a time of relaxation and a great view of the sunset. I praise the Lord for allowing me to lead this team. God has given me this opportunity to impart lessons on missions in very practical and on-hands ways. He deserves all the praise and glory. What a great way to wake up in the morning--praising God for His goodness. (Ugh! My stomach is acting up again.) I join the heavely beings in proclaiming His beauty around the universe. Glory,forever!!!


Expecting God's visit

“We are expecting something new from God everyday,” Jonathan shares to the group. Jonathan Engalla, a Free Methodist missionary from the Philippines, is sharing to our Taiwan mission group here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We are here for ten days ministering to school-aged children, and today, we are currently visiting different missionaries for a time of encouragement and acquaintance with their field work. Jonathan is with his family of four, including two girls ages eleven and four. “Each day, we see God’s grace helping us with our new life here in Cambodia, with language study, and with our adjustment to a new culture and environment.” Jonathan continues to tell his family’s story. “We are still in culture shock. This is only our seventh month since our move from the Philippines.”

The Taiwan mission team is listening intently. One of our team members, Grace Wei, shares how God is challenging her to always look forward to new things in her life and expect God’s surprises for her family. “You have blessed us so much,” Grace remarks. Towards the end of our visit, before we prayed together, Mary Jane Engalla, the wife of Jonathan, expresses her gratitude. “You have blessed us. I pray that other mission teams would do what you are doing.”

It is beautiful to witness the reciprocal flow of God’s goodness between two cultures and two groups. We came here to give God’s blessings, but in the end we are the one who are receiving God’s blessings through the people who are here. Sam Huang, one of our team members, at one time during our teaching session at the Prek Thei village, told the big group of Cambodian villagers: “We came to minister to you, to be a blessing to you, but it is you who have blessed us. Thank you so much.”

God’s grace flows in both direction. Yesterday, we visited the Engalla family, a Free Methodist missionary family from the Philippines, Paul and Grace, medical doctors from Hong Kong with OMF, and Jamsor and Kitty, husband and wife team and Baptist missionaries also from Hong Kong working with university students and managing a dormitory ministry in this city. They have blessed us with their stories. Today, we are going to visit another missionary family New York (USA) and from Japan. We are expecting God to visit us again in a very special way. To God be the glory, great things He has done.