Cheng Chuan Dao, or Pastora Tessa to most Filipinos, is pasturing a Filipino church here in Kaohsiung. It is called Nandzi Higher Ground Community Church International or NHGCCI. When Mr. Yu mentioned to my local church pastor about a group of Filipinos who are working at a Pingtung factory where he is also working, I told him that we could invite the members of NHGCCI and visit Pingtung this December and bring some little holiday cheer to these Filipino factory workers. So, our local church pastor, Pastor John Guu, suggested to our missions coordinator, Joyce Chang, to organize a team from our church, Fong Shan Free Methodist Church (FSFMC), to prepare some food and to accompany me to see this Pingtung factory.
Are you still with me? Are you all confused with all the names and places I just enumerated? I can stop now and be done with all the names and various connections. But, of course, you would rob me of the joy of seeing you agonize through all these enumerations. Do you want me to prolong your agony?
"I can bring a small group of Filipinos from a local Filipino church so they can join us when we visit this Pingtung factory," I volunteered to Mr. Yu. He agreed. So, on December 13th, Friday, I rented a van and brought seven Filipino ladies from NHGCCI, together with their local pastor, Pastora Tessa. Joyce also asked a brother and four sisters from FSFMC, all Chinese to participate in this small Christmas celebration. Only Joyce and another lady can speak English. I was impressed with their enthusiasm to join this fellowship gathering of Filipinos, considering their inability to carry a dialogue with these Filipinos. We all traveled in two vans. "I really do not know any of the Filipinos their in Pingtung," I told the Filipinas riding with me in the van. "We will meet them and see where God lead us," I continued. The two vans arrived at the Pingtung factory about half an hour before our meeting time. Mr. Yu was there to greet us. The owner of the factory, who is a Christian and a friend of Mrs. Guu, Pastor John Guu's wife, was also there. He gave a short introduction. I spoke a little greeting, in Tagalog, of course. Pastor John Guu and his wife came a little later. They offered a prayer for the gathering.
Do you see the connections now? Is it becoming clearer? Or, am I stretching your patience a little too much? Let me help you. I am a good friend of Tessa (Chen Chuan Dao) and Joyce. Joyce knows Mr. Yu from church, FSFMC. Mrs. Guu, the wife of the pastor of FSFMC, is a good friend of the owner of the Pingtung factory. So this December 13th, Friday, Filipino ladies from Nandzi, Chinese from Fong Shan, and Filipino men from a Pingtung factory are meeting for the first time, playing games, singing Filipino Christmas songs, and eating Chinese food, all because of the various connections we have. Is it clearer now? Can you see who is connected to whom?
"Pastor, we are free every Sunday afternoon, around 5:30 pm. If you are available, we can come for fellowship or Bible study," Jimmy mentioned this to me. Jimmy is the most senior worker from this group of Filipino factory workers. He has been here in Taiwan for almost ten years, working in this same Pingtung factory. "I can certainly come," I reassured Jimmy. "I will also ask my friend Siwei, who is living close to your factory and ask him if he is willing to come here once a month to lead you guys in a Bible study," I proposed this to Jimmy. He nodded his approval. Later, we talked to a few more people and they all were amenable to this idea of us coming for a Sunday evening Bible study.
Back in Kaohsiung, I talked to Siwei, one of our student pastors at Holy Light Theological Seminary, and shared my plan to include him in this Bible study outreach among these Filipino Pingtung factory workers. "Pastor David, I could also ask my friend who is pasturing a local Presbyterian Church close to this Pingtung factory and see if he is interested," Siwei excitedly shared his plans. "I really think he will join us, and perhaps even lead a Bible study once a month among this group of Filipinos."
Is it getting confusing again? Just when you thought you had all the names of Tessa, Mr. Yu, Joyce, Mrs. Guu, and the rest, all cleared up, now, you also have to contend with Jimmy, Siwei, and an unidentified Presbyterian pastor. Would it be easier to just drop this story and leave this blog? But, if you are still with me reading, then this just means that you are still interested. Let me continue.
Back in Fong Shan FMC, after the church service, I talked to Pastor John Guu and Mr. Yu. I shared to them the plan of four church groups leading Bible studies among this group of Filipino men in this Pingtung factory. One different church every Sunday of a month. We all agreed with this plan. I also talked to Pastora Tessa about the idea of forming a team from the Higher Ground Church to visit Pingtung once a month and to lead a Bible study. She was elated. She also shared one interesting discovery. "You know that guy Mr. Yu?" She remarked. "What about?" I inquired. "He is a childhood friend. We grew up together from the same neighborhood. I haven't seen him for the last 30 years." We all marveled at how God brings us altogether in His work of bringing more people to the Lord's harvest.
Okay. Are you still confused? I hope not. I trust you can see the forest for the trees. I won't be surprised that later on, Jimmy or Siwei, or any of the people here will discover more connections from among the people they meet. God will certainly lead the way.
Last week, we had our Missions Week at the seminary (Holy Light Theological Seminary or HLTS). We had a rummage sale and an offering box for those who would like to help. We decided to send our gifts to the Philippines to help with the Free Methodist people and friends who were affected by the Super Typhoon Haiyan. We were able to raise a little over one thousand US dollars.
What could this little amount do for such a big need in the Philippines? How can a small gift help people who went through a tragic devastation such as a Super Typhoon and are still experiencing the trauma and suffering in the aftermath of this destruction and calamity?
Last week, one of the Pastors wrote me and mentioned the need for sponsoring the Christmas gifts for the children of families who have experienced the power of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Right away, I said yes. Our gift from HLTS will be enough to sponsor 500 children and make this Christmas a little memorable and meaningful despite the sadness and suffering brought by this natural calamity.
My prayer is that God will multiply our gifts and use that small amount to bring joy and peace to the children of Tacloban City and Ormoc City. It is Missions Week here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, but it will be Christmas soon in the Philippines. Even as I write this, a team of Pastors from the Free Methodist Church from Butuan City are going to the affected areas in Tacloban City and its vicinity and handing out gifts to the children in that area. God is great!
It was a simple sermon. There was no lexical study of Greek words or complicated philosophical extrapolation of deep theology. It was a simple story of the Magis found in the Book of Matthew the second chapter. I spiced it up with a lots of pictures of our time in Illinois, around the Christmas tree with Grandpa and Grandma. I also included pictures of lechon and noche buena from my time in the Philippines. I just wanted to point out that the example of the Magis, their crossing of many different cultures and boundaries, encourages us to have cross cultural practices in our Christmas celebrations. I wanted my Taiwanese brothers and sisters here at the seminary to seriously consider introducing Christmas traditions to their homes, traditions that reflect not only the meaning of Christmas (God's love and salvation for all sinners) but also the form of Christmas (God beckoning us to cross cultures and to understand that His salvation is for all people). It was a very down to earth presentation.
At the end, I asked a few students to read Psalms 67 in different languages, and to some in their mother tongue. As we all listened to the reading of God's word in Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, English, and Filipino, we were blown away by the power of God's word. Truly God's salvation is for all the nations (Psalms 67:2). Hearing it in many different languages other than Chinese made the cross cultural message come alive in meaningful ways. The Holy Spirit took something simple and transformed it into a very moving and powerful message. He took control of our chapel service.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that I spoke at our seminary chapel? This was my second time to speak at chapel in Chinese. I am glad it was a simple sermon because then, I felt at ease speaking in simple Chinese, not the Theological or more formal Chinese. Most of all, I am grateful to the Holy Spirit for taking over, and taking all my words, my photos, my stories, my illustrations, and transforming them to become His very own. To God be the glory!