"I am not connected with this school, but I have common friends who are from this school," Hannah shares to Sarah and I. We are at a BBQ outdoor fellowship, a year-end event sponsored for all the students, teachers, staff, and friends of Morrison Academy of Kaohsiung (MAK) here in Kaohsiung. MAK, a missionary school, is the school that Carmen (my daughter) goes to, and soon, next school year, Jacob will also be going there. During this BBQ fellowship, Sarah is leading a half-hour games for the small children right before the burgers and other goodies are served. I am helping her with the games (as well as taking photos). Hannah visits with her little toddler daughter and we all get to talking. "My husband is a scientist," Hannah replies after I tell her that I teach in a seminary. As she is talking, I cannot help but think of the many other Westerners located in this island of Taiwan. My mind is bringing out all sorts of questions.
Who are these international people? What kind of backgrounds do they have? How can the local Christian churches of Taiwan reach out to these International People Groups (IPGs)? Will an IPG feel welcome in our Christian gatherings? What would a gathering of Western IPGs look like? Can a group of English teachers, scientists, foreign students, and engineers find something in common? What kind of leader will they follow? How will they respond when they hear Jesus say "I love you my child. Come and follow me?" What will it take for an IPG to become a strong and mature Christian disciple for our Lord Jesus?
"My husband studies plants," Hannah continues. I think she means her husband is a consultant with an agricultural company here in Taiwan. I surmise he is a scientist dealing with the DNA of plants, cloning, and other molecular engineering that brings abundant harvest and better agricultural products. (Okay, I am showing off my imcompetence here. This is an area of knowledge that I have no expertise whatsoever.) "I was invited by my friend who comes to this school," Hannah explains. Sarah and Hannah starts chatting away naming all their common friends. And this is how a church among Westerners here in Taiwan is going to start. It will begin with friendships. One friend telling another friend about Jesus.
"My husband went to the Philippines. You have a great research institution there with IRRI," Hannah tells me. (IRRI stands for International Rice Research Institute, located in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.) Suddenly, I feel a connection with Hannah's husband. It does not matter anymore that they are living in Taichung, about three hours north of Kaohsiung. It seems irrelevant that they are British, very culturally different than our American roots. What is important is that we have common friends and we have been to the same places here in Asia. These are the things that will help bring Western IPGs to gather together for worship and fellowship. The Holy Spirit will take all these common things and shared memories of places and multiply them, so that the Church of Jesus Christ will be established among the International People Groups (IPGs) of Taiwan.