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May 2009

Someone Who Loves the Lord

We are getting ready for our Partnership Building, which is a six-month long weekly visits to different Free Methodist local churches in the USA. We will be at Illinois and Michigan from June to December 2009. One of the many preparations I am making is a video-interview of a youth group here at Feng Shan FMC located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I want to produce this in DVD so I can hand this out to interested American young people. The goal is to provide encouragement and connection between FMYers in Taiwan and USA. I am hoping that because of our visits to IL and MI churches, young people in the US will strongly consider spending a summer or a year of missions work here in Taiwan.

Last Sunday, I interviewed a group of five youth leaders from Feng Shan FMC. One of the many questions I asked them was their preference for a visiting volunteer from the US who might come to help for a few months. "What kinds of requirements or skills would you ask of these volunteers who would be coming?" I asked this group of youth leaders. "Would you prefer them to be musical or athletic?" I asked this set of questions to stir their imagination and to encourage them to seriously prepare for the coming of an American worker. "How could this person help you?" I continued asking.

Two of the youth leaders emphatically answered, "We want a volunteer who loves the Lord. He or she must be knowledgeable and grounded in the Word. We need someone who is passionate about sharing Jesus to the unbelievers. In this way, our young people will be motivated to also share their Christian faith to their friends and family members."

I am impressed. These youth leaders, only in their early 20s, know the Lord's work. They are serious about serving God through their local church. Later, I left the interview with a great sense that God is leading this youth group in His power and strength. They all love the Lord. And they know how to help those who love the Lord.

More Questions Than Answers

Last night, I was at Morrison Academy Kaohsiung (MAK), for a school musical, to watch the kids as well as take pictures of Carmen singing and performing with her First Grade classmates. I had a great time. Carmen's class had so much fun. The ChiaYi Morrison School did a mime of the crucifixion to Ray Boltz's song "Watch the Lamb." It was powerful.

All throughout the musical night, I was praying. . . praying for the parents around us who are not followers of Jesus. MAK is an elemetary school for missionary children. Currently, however, there are more children of non-Christian families who are attending school. Moments like last night are small opportunities for these families to listen to the Christian gospel presented to them through a school play.

As I was listening to the Ray Boltz song and watching the play, I tried to imagine myself as one of these Taiwanese parents. What are they thinking? What kinds of questions are they asking? How would a rich person, raised in the affluence of Taiwanese prosperity and the traditions of a Chinese religion, such as Daoism or Buddhism, view the story of Jesus' crucifixion? I ended up with more questions than answers.

I just wish there were another play or presentation about the resurrection and the victorious life of a Christian following the path of the Spirit of God. I am sure most of our questions will be answered as we look into the empty tomb and experience the abundant life of the Spirit. Too bad, we only had two hours for this Thursday musical night.

Of course, I can only imagine these questions. I can never fully understand the Taiwanese mind, precisely because I am not from this country and was not raised in a Chinese religion. However, I can approximate this understanding by learning more about Taiwan culture and society. I can listen and learn. I can ask questions even though there seems to be no answers for the moment. But most of all, I can present Jesus. I will share Jesus because I know that the Spirit of Jesus will be their Teacher and will answer all their questions.

Meanwhile, I pray for Diana, for Charles, for that Chinese businessman from California who is here for a year or two, for that surgeon who confesses to be a follower of Buddhism but is proud that his three children are going to school at MAK, for that agnostic New Zealander who adores MAK, for them. . . all the parents of these children who are not following Jesus. Amen!

Where is God Leading You?

I posted my last blog entry "Where is Home?" (May 7, 2009), on my Facebook and got some good responses. One astute friend shared her own story and posed a few questions on my FB Wall.  She mentioned that her family's stay in Taiwan "represents obedience and faithfulness and grace, but it still doesn't quite feel like home. Will that change? Should it?"

These questions are not easy. I think her quandary is not about obedience. The fact that she is in Taiwan as a missions worker is in itself a reflection of her commitment and faithfulness to God's call on her life and family. Her dilemma is finding the relationship between obedience and security, or between going out in answer to God's call and feeling home at the place God sends her to. I think about her situation and find it important to suggest some answers for her and for the other future missions workers who will be crossing into Asia.  And so, this blog entry.

In so many profound ways, our obedience to God is merely a response to God's action. He first loved us, and so we are out there sharing His love. And yet, our first response should still be about obedience to God. And our last response should be the same. So, to my friend, I say: "Keep going! Continue to be faithful to the Lord of the Harvest who calls you."

The problem comes when we see obedience as equal to security. Just because we are out there obeying God and serving Him, it does not mean things will be secure and in order, and we will all "feel at home" at the place God sent us. This is not just the problem of my friend. This is an old problem encountered by the prophets of old, by Abraham (his early years), by Job's friends, by Jonah, to name a few. God is in the midst of all these situations. It does not mean, however, that obeying Him necessitates one or the other. God is greater than our thoughts of Him.

It has been said: "Home is where the heart is." If I may add, "Home is where God's heart is." It is not a matter of location nor a sense of security. Rather, it is a direction towards God's heart and intention for His kingdom and this world. Moses is called the meekest man on earth, not because of his words, but because of his readiness to carry out God's salvation for Israel to the very end. He is a person full of temper (a weakness), and yet his humility rests on his vision to fulfill God's purposes and Promised Land for His people. David is a man after God's own heart because he understands God's plan for the Temple, that it be for all the nations. Mary's faith is exemplary because she saw Jesus as the Savior for all people, including the destitute and downcast of society. Paul sees the Gentiles as included in God's plan for the world. All of these early believers are obeying God; and in the midst of their obedience, they are feeling God's beating heart. The question for us is not, "Are we at home?' Rather, the question is: "Can we see and feel God's heart beating? Can we see the direction God is leading us?"

So to my friend I say things will change. I think you will see Taiwan as a part of God's intention in your life, not just a location of God's activity. Eventually, you will feel at home here in Taiwan, not because life here is comfortable, but because God is here leading you into something greater, greater than what you can imagine. God bless you!

Where is Home?

One time Sarah mentioned to Carmen about going home to Illinois this summer.  Carmen looked up at her mother and said, “But, we are home.”  When I heard this, I started asking myself the question, “Where is home?”

Where is home?  Whenever I am on the phone talking to my sisters or brothers in the Philippines, I know that home is Manila and Butuan City.  Home is the land of the pansit, bulad, and other exotic Filipino foods.  Home is where kundiman songs and Hanep songs make sense, and singing the songs of Joey Ayala always brings a tear or two to my eyes.

Where is home?  Whenever I see my family chatting on the computer with John and Judy from Illinois using a webcam on Skype, I realize then that home is Avon, Illinois, USA.  Home is where I run around Little Swan Lake and enjoy the cornfield scenery and green countryside.  Home is where March Madness happens and the Cubs look forward to another year.

Where is home?  Whenever I watch Carmen and Jacob play with our friends at Feng Shan FMC here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, I feel that home is here.  Home is the place where I play soccer with Carmen and her Chinese friends.  Home is where lighted lanterns and a walk by Love River becomes a memorable family outing.

Where is home?  Home is Philippines, USA, and Taiwan.  Home is wherever God leads us to.  So, where is your home?  Where is God leading you?