Seminary

Going Where God Is Moving.

(The following is a description of what I do in Asia. My name is David W. Clemente and I am a missionary teacher.)

God is calling me to a life of teaching in Asia. I am obeying our Lord by going to Free Methodist (FM) congregations located in Southeast Asia and helping their local pastors and church leaders become better servants of the Christian gospel.

Myanmar 2016 January

This year I will be assisting FM leaders in Asia as they prepare for ordination. I will be going to Cambodia and Nepal to lead seminars on Wesleyan Theology and other Bible courses. I will be working with several other missionaries and teachers. Our goal is to empower our Asian leaders to be better servants of God’s church in their localities.

Cambodia 2016 August

In the past, I have visited Light and Life Bible College (LLBC) in Yangon, Myanmar and Light and Life Graduate School of Theology (LLGST) in Butuan City, Philippines. Both are FM training institutions. I will still continue my time of ministry in these schools and provide theological education for our FM pastors. I look forward to learning together with our church workers and seeing through their eyes what God is doing in Asia.

HLTS 2017 January - Copy

I am also still teaching at Holy Light Theological Seminary in my capacity as an Adjunct Faculty. I enjoy teaching inside a classroom, but God’s call in my life is to go to where our pastors and FM leaders are and help them in their work as God’s servants of the local churches in Asia. I go where our Lord calls me to go to be a resource for our Asian Free Methodists around the world.


Seminary Life 101

(The following is a letter I sent to a retired university professor who is a good friend of mine and a passionate supporter of God's work here in Asia.)

Dear Dr. R,

Greetings! Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Your gift at the end of this year is another confirmation of God’s call in our lives. I am so thankful to our Lord for friends like you who are committed to partner with us here in Asia.

We just finished our first semester two weeks ago. Several of the students came to me to show their appreciation for my time with them. They specifically mentioned the “devotions” time, the 15 minutes period I spend on reflection from God’s word and drawing personal application for the students on issues of spirituality. This 15-minute period sets the tone for the next three hours of lectures, group discussions, and course assignments.

You know of course that there is a broad line between head knowledge and life learning, between understanding and application. I am sure you have seen this with your time of teaching in a university setting. The students who know so much and are performing well academically may not be prepared to deal with practical things (such as loving their spouses), or at worst, they may be living an immoral life. There is a great need to bring classroom lessons to a level where they engage everyday life and practical problems of the day.

Last year, one professor recounted a story of a seminary student. At that seminary, it was discovered that one of its graduates had been caught in an adulterous relationship. What was sad about the news was that during the time of his immoral dealings, he was registered with that same seminary. It was devastating. This student was living a lie, right in front of all the seminary family.

Of course, we at the faculty can only do so much. The students can still decide to live a life apart from all our teachings. But when I heard that story of one seminary student who was living a double standard life, I resolved to use my time in the classroom as a time both for gaining knowledge and practicing spiritual truths. And so, this is the reason why I spend my first few minutes in the classroom, before I give my lectures, to a time of reflection from God’s word. I challenge each student with biblical truths that are meaningful to one’s family relationships, relevant to current ethical issues, and helpful to solving social problems of the day.

As you pray for us here in Asia, pray that I will have the wisdom from God to prepare lessons that will ready our students for future time of service and missionary work. At the same time, pray that our Lord will give me discernment as I lead students to a time of deep spiritual reflection from God’s word. Pray that I will teach in the power of His Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7 & 1 Cor. 2:4). Thank you for all your prayers.

 


Christine's Testimony: I Can See What God Wants From Me

(Christine Liao is a student at Holy Light Theological Seminary, here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She shares here her testimony of God’s guidance in her life. Together with her husband, Sean, they are registered with our Free Methodist school in Taiwan, Holy Light Theological Seminary.)

Today, I am going to share with you about my sweet moments at Holy Light seminary. Sean and I made a big decision in 2014. We decided to resign (from our work) and come to Holy Light seminary to study for our MDiv degrees. For me, this is the grace of God. When I was young, my parents taught me to work hard, earn a lot of money, and get a good reputation. These became the goals that I was pursuing. But after I achieved all these goals, my heart felt empty and lonely. I encountered a difficult situation at my work place, so I did not get promoted during that time. I have been reading the Bible everyday. When I read a passage in Luke 18:22: “When Jesus heard this, He said to him: one thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” At that moment, God spoke to me. God said: let go of whatever you are holding on to right now and come back to me. After struggling for a while, I finally gave up all of my worldly desires. God has always been in control.

In the first year at Holy Light seminary, I met many teachers and classmates. During one semester, I started to know what my weaknesses were. It was the pride inside my heart.  After realizing this, I was really ashamed of who I was. God wanted me to change. He refocused my vision. This is the precious lesson that I have learned in my first year at school. Also, in my first year at seminary, I learned to put down everything so that I can see what God wants from me. The best lesson of all is the lesson of being humble before Him.

Time flies. The second year at Holy Light, I gradually learned of God’s calling in my life, and that is, to be a good pastor’s wife. I never thought about it and has been avoiding it. How do I deal with this problem? I have no talent and don't know how to sing, how to play piano, even simple songs of worship and praise. Influenced by many churches in Taiwan, the tradition of being a good pastor’s wife has become a difficult role to fulfill. Meanwhile, Sean and I have been doing youth ministry in the churches. At first, I’m not used to getting along with teenagers. But the weird thing is, I like to listen to them share about what happened in their schools, families and personal lives. It made me feel closer to them. And they also enjoy sharing with me. God gave me a warm heart to care about people. Fortunately, the teachers and classmates continued to give support and pray for me. I can glorify God with the gift of listening and caring. In the second year at Holy Light, I learned to be brave and face difficulties. The most important thing is I learned obedience.

In my third year at seminary, I know God will give me a whole new lesson. I have no idea what difficult situation I will meet. But I know one true fact, that is, God will always be by my side and He will protect me. The Bible says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

By: Christine Liao, 2016


Missions and Travel in Asia

“What are we good at?” Professor Naoto asks the chapel participants. “Koreans are good at prayer. Taiwanese are good at singing,” he continues. “We, Japanese, are good at thinking.” Everyone at the seminary chapel laughs. I give out a big smile of approval. I am guessing this group of Japanese Christians is making fun of themselves. Everyone seems to take the joke well.

Last month of June, 2016, I was in Japan, around the areas of Osaka city and Kobe city. I went with a music team from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for a mission trip, to visit different Free Methodist churches and two seminaries. Most of us were there for two weeks. At the Kansai Biblical Seminary in Kobe, we visited the chapel service where I spoke on “Seeing the Lord’s Harvest” and shared about some ways to prepare for the harvest happening around the world. Professor Naoto is the current Dean of this small seminary. After the service, our team had a good time of fellowship with the seminary students. We made promises of hosting them when they come to Taiwan. Professor Naoto also expressed his desire to visit our seminary, Holy Light Theological Seminary, in Kaohsiung. We ended our meeting with a renewed commitment to be future partners in the Lord’s work.

On another day, we visited Osaka Bible College and shared at its chapel service. I spoke on the same topic about the Lord’s harvest in missions. Again, I heard the joke about Japanese people being good at thinking. Come to think of it! This was the reason why I came to Japan. I wanted to help local Christians think about the Lord’s harvest around the world. Prayer and singing would naturally come whenever we as Christians come together. However, thinking would need a little help, the assistance of an outsider, like myself, to come and challenge national leaders to seriously think about missions and global issues.

Next month, August 2016, I will be in Cambodia for a time of teaching. I will participate in the YLMC (Young Leaders Mission Congress) of APFMMA (Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association), an FM ministry. I will speak on the topic: “A Biblical Theology of Mission.” Most of the participants will be young leaders and pastors who have a passion for missions work among our Asia FM ministries. At this congress, I hope to see participants thinking about God’s work, to seriously consider their role in the Lord’s harvest around the world and to examine missional concepts from Scriptures so that they can be informed. We will pray. We will sing. And we will be thinking about God’s work in the world.Miss


Prayer For A Student

“So, how are you?” I never realized a casual greeting could turn out to be a question of deep significance. But, Jane Hsieh, one of our seminary students, responded with a lengthy telling of her current family situation. I listened and we prayed. Right there at the motorcycle parking area, we bowed our heads together and I put my hands over her shoulders and we prayed.

Right about the same week, I bumped into Pastor Lawrence, one of our seminary alumni and a recent graduate. So, I asked the same simple question: “How are you?” And he responded with a long explanation of their local church’s condition, its move to a new location. He also recounted some of his struggles with pastoral life and the joy of expecting a second child. So, right there and then, in the hallway in front of the main entrance of the seminary bookstore, we prayed. I placed my hand over Lawrence’s shoulder and asked God for more blessings and guidance for this new local church pastor.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2) I have to confess I haven’t been praying with all steadfastness, as Paul has reminded us. However, I am grateful that “being watchful” in prayer is not an individual endeavor. My prayers for our seminary students resonate with the prayers of our faculty and staff. Prayer is a community thing. I give thanks to God, because whenever I pray for Jane and Lawrence, I know that many friends in Michigan and Illinois are also praying together with me.

At our graduation day, right before the ceremony started, Jane Hsieh came to me and we both had our selfies taken together with our cell phones. She graduated this year. I was so happy for her. Honestly though, when I first met her and had her in my class a few years back, I never thought she would make it. I saw a lot of hardships and trials that might keep her from reaching graduation. But, she made it. To God be the glory! This year, she finished with an MA in Christian Studies. In between our selfie photo snapshots, she repeatedly thanked me. I felt a little embarrassed. I did not do much. All I did was encourage her with her reports, coached her on some writing assignments, and some other small stuff that any teacher would do for one’s student. Obviously, she did the hard work to get to this point. I took her hand, and together we smiled. I whispered to her and said: “God’s grace is sufficient.” 


Sounds of Silence

“I feel the earth move under my feet.” Not really. But there is some earth moving activity and there are a lot of feet on the move. People here are doing small construction, piling up gravel and sand into a walkway for the Bible College dormitory. Everyone is moving about, cleaning, painting the ICCM (childcare center) rooms, teaching children, and giving lectures to the Bible students. It is not actually a song, but I feel like singing a song anyway. I am pleased to see that because of the donation of some people from Taiwan, we are able to give a small amount of money to pay for construction and painting materials. And, because of the work of this Taiwan Team volunteers, the Bible College students are free to come to their classes where I team-teach for a week with two of our members.

I am tired. I just finished my class. However, it is encouraging to see the students’ faces light up whenever I mention missions work from some foreign lands. It is their first time to take a class on missions. I know there are many more things they need to know, more missional concepts to understand, before they can go and become missionaries in some unknown land or within this country among different tribes and people groups. Well, maybe, not before. Because sometimes God leads people to go and when they are already there in missions work, then they learn missionary lessons along the way. If you were to ask me, I prefer the former. It is better to be prepared and learn your lessons before going to the field. I am sure you will agree with me.

I am here in Yangoon, with a group of Taiwanese seminary students and some friends from a local church in Pingtung. There is twenty of us. Eight of these have come for the first time, their first time to join a missions trip. At the beginning, I was a little apprehensive leading this group. But now, after watching the more experienced ones assisting me, I am a little more relaxed. God is truly my Helper!

With 20 of us, we are able to divide into eight teams, going to six different places, doing nine different forms of service. I am so blessed with this team. They are so efficient. The team leaders are so responsible. Everyone is cooperating. I am not saying we are not experiencing difficulty or miscommunication. These problems come to all missions team. However, the way the members are responding to each situation is a testimony of God’s grace. Whenever there are changes and adjustments, everyone is flexible and willing to go with the flow. God is truly leading or ways.

Tomorrow, we will spend more time with the Chinese church. Pastor Esther and her team has been a great help. They cook for us, their van brings us to places we are going, they assist us in everything. What a testimony to the Body of Christ, the oneness we have in the Lord. I feel like singing a song. “And the vision that is planted in my brain.” Well, more like God’s vision for missions resting in my heart, moving my life, reaching for His glory. I love leading missions team for God. Maybe, someday, you can join me in one of our Asian trips. Give me a call or write me an email. God will do the rest. He is our Helper.


Homeward Bound

Inside the classroom, we talked about being at home with the gospel. We were challenged to present the gospel in such a way that the listeners “feel at home” with the demands of Christian discipleship. Home here means feeling natural about Jesus’ prophetic call to loving God and acting justly. We looked at the life of Zaccheaus, the Samaritan woman, and many others who felt close to Jesus, and yet responded to the gospel of holiness to God and service to humanity.

I am home here in Butuan City, Philippines, for about a week, teaching a course on Contextual Theology to a group of pastors from the Philippine General Conference of the Free Methodist Church (PGC-FMC). I feel at home here but, my heart is pulling to Taiwan. It is obvious that I am thinking of my family back in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. However, I am also thinking of where God is calling me for the moment. His call is for me to be at Holy Light Theological Seminary and teaching Taiwanese students in the area of missions and theology. In so many ways, I will always be at home in places where God has called me to. Home is where God is present and working.


While His Guitar Gently Weeps

He is playing his guitar. I sit in front of him silently listening to the soulful music coming out of this wooden instrument. Josh is here because he wants to share a struggle he is going through. I listen and try to get a glimpse of his heart, past the notes and the plucking of the strings. I wait. I quiet my spirit so that I can hear his heart beating to the rhythm of some intimate reflection. And finally, he pauses and says, “I am not sure anymore if this is the right decision.”

Josh is a first year student here at the seminary. Before coming to the seminary he had been working at a hotel and also as an interpreter for another company. He has been making enough money to support his mother and even his mother’s relatives. Now that he is studying at the seminary and no longer working, his relatives have been asking him for financial support. He feels compelled to give in to his relatives. At present, his mother is incapacitated. His two uncles are also struggling. Everyone seems to look to Josh for financial support. But he knows he must obey God and follow God’s call in his life. And yet, he is toying with the idea that maybe he can find work while he is studying part-time at the seminary. I stay quiet and try to give him the space to speak from his heart.

Last week, Josh and I met for about two hours. He shared that he needed to discuss with me some decision he is going through. He was thinking of moving down to the part-time evening program of the seminary so that he can help out his relatives. He brought his guitar. For the first thirty minutes, we talked about guitars, music, and songs. He played me some tunes. Later, he started sharing about his inner struggles of giving respect to his mother and other relatives. However, he was also aware that the temptation could be fatal and would slowly destroy his desire to follow God’s direction in his life. I gave him some advice. More so, I listened carefully to his outpouring. I knew God is working in Josh’s life. God is at work and our Lord will help Josh.

We prayed. We gently wept. We sought God’s guidance and comfort. Next week, Josh will go to Japan to see his mother. Pray with us that God will shower His blessings on Josh and his mother. Pray that Josh’s inner spirit will follow the beating of the heart of God.

(P. S. I shared about Josh a few months back. Click here to read more about him.)


Ordinary Conversations

We were talking about the Chinese people from the Mainland. Wendy mentioned stories that her parents told her. Jane recounted some movies describing the beautiful northwest regions of the country. Jenny quoted one of her missionary friends who recently visited this place. I just listened and marveled at the vibrant appreciation these Taiwanese students have for their culture. And out of the blue, Wendy asked me a question: “Teacher why did you come to Taiwan?”

Last week, I was dining with three ladies, all third year students of Holy Light Theological Seminary. It was not a special meal nor was it an extra ordinary occasion. We were just eating supper at the school cafeteria, enjoying an informal time at the dinner table. That is when Wendy asked me the question. As I was giving my answer, I could not help but think of the many times I have shared to students about God’s calling in my life as a missionary in many instances, inside the classroom and outside in informal settings. Maybe, Wendy was not present at those instances. At any rate, I freely shared God’s calling in my life.

God called me to be a missionary. I prayed that He would send me to a frontier missionary work. I prayed for the northwest region of the Mainland, the places and cities populated by various Muslim tribal groups. (This is what I shared to the three ladies at the dinner table.) I prayed for about five years or so, but God closed the doors. When an opportunity came for me to come to Taiwan and teach in a seminary, I thought maybe I can be in Taiwan for a few years and then later move to the northwest regions of the Mainland. But, again, God closed all the doors.

Now, I am realizing that I am here in Taiwan because God wants me to train leaders for missions work and help them to take on missionary work. This is already my fifth year of teaching, and a few of our graduates have already move on to missionary work in Indonesia, Korea, in the eastern parts of China, Papua New Guinea, Turkey, and here in Taiwan doing local missions. However, I am still waiting for God to show me a seminary student who has a heart and passion for the Muslim people of the northwest regions of the Mainland. (I told the three ladies about this quest.) I still have not found this student. Someday, God will call a Taiwanese person to come to seminary to prepare for a work among the Chinese Muslims of that country. Meanwhile, I will wait by teaching missions here at Holy Light Theological Seminary.


Encouragement Of A Different Kind

“You can come with the students of the Student Missions Fellowship [SMF] and share with our young people,” Ying Jong Chen, the pastor of Shang Hsieh Free Methodist Church [SHFMC], shares to me. “Our theme for this year is ‘Holy Spirit’s Fire For Missions.’ We want our camp participants to hear your stories and encourage them to participate in your mission trip,” Ying Jong continues. I listen with great interest and promise to help him in this endeavor.

I have to back up a little bit and tell you a little background related to my meeting with Ying Jong Chen. He is currently the Director of Education and Youth Ministries for the Annual Conference here in Taiwan or CFMC. Every year he plans and coordinates a discipleship winter camp for the youth of the different Free Methodist local churches of the conference. So, next year’s winter camp will be the week before the Chinese New Year 2015. We usually get about 150 young people, junior high and college students, participating in this annual camp.

I want to come and join this youth camp. My problem is that I will be in another country leading a team from our seminary for a few days of mission trip. I suggested to Ying Jong that I will find other members of the SMF who are not going with our mission trip. These students will be the one who will share in this youth camp. Yesterday, I talked to Pam Huang and asked her if she can lead a group of seminary students to participate in this winter camp. They can share their stories, lead workshops, and encourage the young people to consider joining our SMF annual missions trip to another country. Pam accepted my invitation. Pam graduated from our Holy Light Theological Seminary. When she was at school, she led the SMF meetings. She took most of my classes at the seminary. Currently, she is volunteering her services to different churches and leads missions training for local churches in the Kaohsiung area. She has a heart for missionary work. I am so glad she is the one leading a team to come and share at this 2015 Youth Camp.

Next month will be the beginning of our 10th year here in Taiwan. I remember on our fourth year, I talked to Ying Jong Chen and shared to him my desire to provide mission education to our young people of the FM local churches belonging to the CFMC Annual Conference. Now, it is happening. God is answering our prayers. Moreover, seminary alumni, like Pam Huang, are offering their services and taking leadership in missions training for our Taiwan young people.

“I want to invite our other alumni to come and join us at this winter youth camp,” Pam relates to me her plan for this youth meeting in 2015. She mentions different names. I notice that most of the people she cites are Free Methodist pastors and church workers. I listen to her and silently thank my God for how our Lord is raising up leaders, Free Methodist leaders, here in Taiwan. God’s work in this country is slowly moving into the direction for mission education. I thank God for His leadership.