I stutter. I stammer. I am at a loss for words trying to remember all the Chinese words I have learned these past 7 years. However, during this mission trip to the Philippines last week, God was with me. Whenever I am leading the morning devotions for the mission team or when I answer a question about missions from any of the team members, I feel very natural speaking in Chinese. Thank you for praying for us, and especially for me. God is answering your prayers. The students are responding to God's Spirit as He uses this time of missions experience to challenge the participants about His work in the world, and in particular, there in Butuan City, Philippines. Thank you.
She raised her hand when I said 3 out of 5. The rest of the group said 5 out of 5. Everyone is very excited about this mission trip to the Philippines, except for Judy. Judy Yao is one of the eight students from Holy Light Theological Seminary, Taiwan, who are here in the Philippines, visiting Free Methodist local churches and different children's ministries in Butuan City and its vicinity. Last night, we had a short evaluation of our 9-day mission trip. She was very honest in giving her opinions.
I think Judy has given the better evaluation. In mission trips like this Taiwan Mission Team 2013, people usually are full of excitement and greatly encouraged by God. They are "high" and full of joy because of the many new things they have learned from the Holy Spirit. But a few like Judy knows that after the mission trip or after a few months of coming back to Taiwan or any home country, the missions member will feel a down turn in their spiritual experience. And then, God will come and challenge the members to greater demands of obedience and worship to him. Even right now, perceptive Christians like Judy know you can never say 5 out of 5, because in the near future, God will come and will ask a member of the mission trip to "greater heights of glory," to higher demands of obedience. Judy Yao knows that someday after this trip she will say yes to God for something God will demand of her, and when that day comes, her excitement will turn into a different kind of experience. I pray that God's grace will cover these students and when that day comes of God asking them to follow Him in a deeper way, they will all be ready to take that step of faith.
Today, we will be leaving for Taiwan. We will go back to our local churches and the seminary life in Kaohsiung. Just as God was with us, all eleven of us (we have 2 college students participating), God will also lead us to represent His missions work here in the Philippines and around the world for the people of Taiwan. I pray that we will be faithful spokespersons for our Living God.
“A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and in his own home.” (Matthew 13:57) I am not a prophet and I do not claim to be one. I am merely a teacher, a lowly seminary professor, who just happens to be a missionary visiting ones hometown.
I am getting ready for a mission trip to the Philippines, and I will visit Butuan City with some of our Holy Light seminary students, exactly 10 students from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We will be helping in the Ahon Ministry, painting the walls of one of its buildings for the orphan children. While I am there, I will be doing some teaching and preaching in some of our Free Methodist local churches. Some of the students will also be sharing a short sermon and testimonies to four different local churches.
Today, I am a little uneasy. I almost feel the discomfort described in the verse where Jesus mentioned about the prophet's honor. You see, Butuan City is my hometown. I was born there. I grew up there. I have many memories associated with this beautiful city of Butuan. And yet, I feel "squeamish" inside. I am looking forward to this ministry of teaching and challenging our Free Methodist brothers and sisters there to be more involved in cross cultural ministry. I am excited that I have been given this opportunity to teach. But at the same time, I do not want to appear "the expert" who is showing them the way; the one who has all the answers. I just want to be one of them. I want to share as one who is also in the same boat; as one who is a fellow traveler, a pilgrim who also struggles with the demands of cross cultural missionary work.
I pray for God's humility. So help me God!
Andrew is here. When I was Stateside, I shared about Andrew during our church visits. He is here from Country-C for a short three-week hiatus. Yesterday, Sarah and I had lunch with Andrew and his wife, Annie. It was such a blessing to hear their stories of missionary work. They showed us pictures of the house churches that they are working with. We heard Andrew's sermon from one of the videos that we viewed. I am so proud of him. To think that two years ago, he was just another seminary student struggling with the demands of examinations, research paper deadlines, and other graduate work woes. But now, he is fulfilling God's call in his life as a missionary in Country-C. He is following the Spirit's movement.
"Next year, we will start a training center, a seminary, to equip our house church leaders and workers," he continues. I encourage him. At that lunch table, I told Andrew that I want to help. I can come for a week or so to teach courses in missions. "If you can find three or more Christian workers who are willing to participate in missionary work among the Muslim people of Country-C, then I will come and help." I left Andrew with these words and promise. I am committed to move where the Holy Spirit is moving, to go where God is going. Right now, here in Kaohsiung, I wait.
"Show me how you did it in your Filipino ministries, and we can look at it and see how we can do it here in our ministry among the Indonesians in this area," Pastor Wayne shares to us. This local Free Methodist pastor expresses his desire to learn from Pastora Tessa, my guest for the afternoon. I am bringing Pastora Tessa and Pastor Cris to this local church so they can see for themselves the early beginnings of an FM ministry among Indonesian families in the Feng Shan district. I see Pastor Wayne's humility. I feel his love for the many foreigners in his neighborhood. I sense his growing vision for a local Free Methodist church in Kaohsiung fully mobilized for cross-cultural missions here and abroad. I am grateful for this good beginnings.
Meanwhile, we talk to Hueyna, an Indonesian housewife married to a Taiwanese family here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Her Chinese is really superb. Well, we were not surprised. She has been living in Taiwan for the last twenty years or so. Moreover, we were impressed with her passion to begin a church planting work among the many Indonesians in this district. It helps that she goes to this local Free Methodist Church. It is to our advantage that her husband is an active member of this local FM congregation. But most of all, we are so blessed to hear her heart and to see her hunger for more Indonesians, like herself, to come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for her that God will continue to shower His grace on her and her family. We pray that she will have words of wisdom as she talks to the many Indonesians in the area. But most of all, we pray for more people like Hueyna, who will be the bridges to the building of God's Kingdom. We pray for bridges, people of peace, mustard seed, little candles, tads of salt. Whatever we might call them, they are all signs of a good beginning.
This afternoon, I just went to gathering at a centrally located place in this city full of glitzy stuff. In paper, this meeting looks like a sure success. The organizer invited a prominent lay pastor from another city. The pastor speaks the language of the target group. He sings well. He is a dynamic speaker. Looks like a recipe for success. However, this meeting was a dud. Only three people came from the target group of Asian contract workers of this city. What could have been done better?
First of all, in any Christian ministry, the principle of going still applies. We need to go where people are. We should seek them out and find out where our target group are meeting and congregating. Second, there is no exchange for one-on-one interaction. Good music is a plus. Dynamic speakers are even a bonus. But if these things do not encourage people to interact face-to-face, they are a boon.
It is good that this afternoon gathering is starting. We need to start somewhere. However, to sustain a ministry among Asian migrant workers in Taiwan, we need these two principles I just enumerated to be religiously applied. God's Holy Spirit works through people. And if we can provide the bridges for the Spirit to move among the people, then it is much better.