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April 2009

Standing in the Gap


Last week, we, the Free Methodist missionaries here in Taiwan, had our annual meeting. We gave our informal reports and prayed for each other. As I listened to each one, I realized that we all come from many nations and cultures. Most of us are North Americans from USA and Canada helping Chinese churches here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. One is participating in a ministry among a tribal community located here in southern Taiwan. Some are involved in ministry among Western expatriates living in this city. Others are teaching in a Christian school for MKs (missionary kids). One Asian-American family is planting a church among Vietnamese immigrants and migrant workers. As for me, the lone Filipino-American (Fil-Am) in the team, I am helping out in the missions education ministry of a Kaohsiung seminary. All together, we represent seven cultures and four countries. In so many ways, we are standing in the gap between these cultures, countries, traditions and political situations.

We are sharing the Good News of Jesus as well as providing a connection among these different cultures. When the social conditions are difficult, we help out. Here in Taiwan, there are a few tribal communities. The Free Methodist Church is currently working among the Rukai and Paiwan tribes. They need our help. There are also migrant workers from Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and other Asian countries who are constantly struggling to live in a foreign land--Taiwan. Expatriates from North America, South Africa, and Australia abound in the big cities. Young teens from Korea, Japan or Singapore are a plenty in the many international schools in this country. Christian witness among these groups of people are a constant challenge. We, the FM missionaries, do our best to answer God's call to stand in the gap.

After our meeting, Pastor Khoa, a Vietnamese-American from Ohio, and his family went to see a Vietnamese young mother here in Kaohsiung. I was their driver. I did not feel like I did something significant. I was just standing there watching Pastor Khoa and his wife, Tammy, share God's love to this young Vietnamese. I did not understand what they said to each other. One thing I know though is that God was there touching the heart of this young mother and giving peace and comfort to her. I stood in the gap, did nothing really, except witness God's Sprit moving in our midst. What a blessing!

Sometimes, standing in the gap for God means crossing many boundaries and bridging two cultures for the gospel of Jesus. But, most of the times, it simply means standing, merely standing, seemingly doing nothing, except witnessing the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the people around us.

May God bless you as you stand in the gap for our God, even if this means merely standing.

"Whispering in a Foreign Country."

No storm. No fire. Everything came in whispers. Out there in a foreign country, the Taiwan Mission Team did not see any extravagant television coverage of their activities, nor witness great miraculous healing and mass conversions. It was very quiet, but God spoke to the team members in gentle and meaningful ways. God was not in the wind, the earthquake, nor in the fire. He was in the "sound of a low whisper" (I Kings 19:12).

We went to a foreign country located in Asia. We shall refer to this as country M or "M" for short. Country M is restricted to foreign Christian missionaries. Christian churches exist there, but open evangelism and big group gatherings are out of the question. We need to be anonymous about certain things to protect the identities of our team members. In this way, we can go back without jeopardizing our next entry.

Just like with Elijah, God came to us in gentle whispers. God spoke to me through Mr. Kyi, an "M" resident. I was conversing with him in English, because he does not speak Chinese. The rest of the team members were sharing with the other visitors in Chinese. "I am not ready to become a Christian," Mr. Kyi said to me. I admired his honesty. I encouraged him to keep seeking the Lord and be open for the day when God reveals to him new spiritual things. "I love my family," he continued. He is married to a Christian lady and has a 4-year old son with her. We ended our time together with a prayer for his family. I know that God will use Mr. Kyi's love for his family to bring Mr. Kyi closer to Himself and experience God's salvation. God whispered, "I will take care of Mr. Kyi."

Together with team members from Jui Guang FMC, we visited a Chinese church in "M" and spent 6 days of ministry time with them. There were seven of us in the team. God spoke to me through the team members. At one time, after an exhausting day of ministry, we spent the whole evening talking about what God was showing us there in M country. We had more questions than answers. Mr. Jheng asked about the needs of M Chinese church. What are the needs of this church? Why is there only one Chinese congregation here? Are we really needed here? Is Taiwan helping country M? Mr. Chi's questions centered on the problem of local church mission education. Will our church members in Taiwan listen to us when we come back? How can we motivate more members to be involved in missions work? Why are the Chinese churches only concerned with Chinese work? Why are local FM churches in Taiwan lacking in their passion for missions? At what point do the local churches come around and start participating in cross-cultural ministry? We stayed awake until close to one in the morning. I did not have all the answers. I shared to them some of my own questions. At that moment, God whispered to me, "Do not worry. I will see you through."

At one occasion, we had a prayer meeting with the church members of M Chinese church. Our leader, Pastor Frank, challenged everyone to look forward to God's working. "You are writing history," Frank shared. "This is the first Chinese church in this country. A time will come when all the Free Methodist local churches will look back to this day and see God's work." I was beaming with pride listening to these encouraging words. God whispered to me, "I will lead this church."

On Sunday, I visited a Chin (an M tribal community) church and preached there. Meanwhile, five of the team members ministered at the Chinese church. After the service, I stayed on and chatted with some of the Chin leaders. We talked about many things. We discussed the use of solar technology in the Chin State north of the country. We mentioned the role of Bible college education in equipping the new generation of church leaders. There was a great sense of hope. Our exchange went to many other topics. In all of these, there was a communal sense of determination to see where God is leading the Chin Free Methodist churches in M country. I heard God whisper, "I am here David."

In M country, it is easy to come and introduce earth-moving projects or to bring dazzling programs. But here in this nation, God is coming in gentle ways. No storm. No fire. The real challenge is to walk alongside these groups of M Christians and in the pace that God is leading them. After the wind. . . after the earthquake. . . after the fire, God's voice comes in a low whisper saying: "What are you doing here?" (compare I Kings 19:13) ** **

"Group Faith"

"When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, 'My friend, your sins are forgiven' " (Mark 2:5).

I have always marveled at this passage in the Gospel of Mark describing Jesus' acknowledgment of a "group faith." Here, Jesus honors the faith of the crippled man together with the faith of his friends.  So, what is "group faith?"  It is the act of faith of a community whose members are so united and dedicated that nothing stops them from fulfilling and obeying God's call.  Hindrances and difficulties become opportunities for expressing corporate trust in God. Remember, the cripple and his friends did not let the crowd nor the roof of the house stop them from bringing their need to Jesus. "Group faith" is experienced when the people of God pray with passion and focus.

Tomorrow, I will go, together with a short-term missions team from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to a Creative Access Country we will call country-M or M for short. We will be there for 8 days. This is in many ways a "group faith" endeavor. I, representing FMWM, join with the Taiwan FMC and the M brothers and sisters in celebrating God's goodness in our lives. I can feel in my spirit that God's Spirit is going to visit us in a very meaningful and moving way.  Whether it will result in physical healing, like the healing of the cripple in the story from Mark, in restored relationships and the forgiveness of sin, or in a renewal of our vision for reaching out the lost for Christ, I do not know.  One thing I am certain is that God will come and bless this mission trip. He will do mighty things!

Your prayer for us is another dimension of this "group faith."  Whether you are reading this blog from Manila or Michigan, your prayers are slowly clearing the way, opening up the roof, so to speak, and allowing the grace of our Lord Jesus to flow freely in us and through us. Continue to pray with God's passion and focus.

I will be back in eight days and relate to you God's marvelous and wonderful working in our midst. Meanwhile, pray.