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September 2009

Meaningful Questions

Saturday, we arrived at Sault Ste. Marie and spent the afternoon with the Waites. Dan, a pastor of Sault Ste. Marie Free Methodist Church, together with his wife Holly, ministers in this area. We went to a nearby park and while Carmen and Jacob were playing we sat down and visited. Holly and Sarah were on one side of the park and Dan and I were on another. Our exchange was mainly me posing a lot of questions to him. I asked him for the reasons why this FM congregation is growing. He was a little evasive with his answers, but I sensed that he did not want to be labeled into "one category." I understood his concern. But one answer that stood out for me was the church people's ownership of the ministry; the people are starting to feel that church work is their work and not just the pastor's job. 

Later that evening we saw a slide show of photos of their 6-month missionary work in the Philippines. Most of the people in the pictures were people I knew. Allan Prochina, among others, was the Waite's host in Cebu. It was encouraging to see some of my childhood past catch up with my present. I pray that this kind of connection will continue--North Michigan and Philippines.

Sunday morning went well. Sarah and I sat in the adult Sunday School class. Eric did a good job. At the service I spoke and shared my talk of "Go and Cross Cultures." After the service, we had a potluck lunch at the fellowship hall. Meet some former FM MKs (missionary kids) whose father was a missionary to Hong Kong and the Philippines, Martin and Gale. She even said that her Dad met me in the Philippines when I was in High School. I do not remember this meeting, but I remember my older sister Ann tell me about an American missionary, Al Gould, stationed in Manila. What a small world! Also, met Dawn, Ryan, Robbie, Sally, Charles, Jim, Alice, Kenny, Nikki and Jacob's little buddy Connor. During the dinner and fellowship time, Dawn came to me and asked some relevant questions. "Why do we have to go to another country when it is much easier to just do missions work in your own?" I told her the simple answer is that because God commanded us to do so. I mentioned to her the practicality of local missions. Less expenses and more results. However, in the long run, global missions has so many more benefits to the local church that they outweigh all the hardships and sacrifices. She totally agreed. I guessed she already knew the answers. She just needed to hear them from a missionary.

In the evening, we went to Boyne City Free Methodist Church. I got to meet Jason, Rachel, Joel and  Isaac. Jason is the new pastor of this church. Paul and Mikkie are the Missions Coordinators. They did such a good job. I was amazed at how much preparation this church had done to get to this Sunday's evening mission service. Met Charlotte, Keeley, Bud and Gary. Gary is the artist who sold some of his paintings so the proceeds of this sale could go to missions work. The children donated some money from their cake sale. They also gave us a quilted blanket that the whole children class did all by themselves. It was very touching. Viva, Olga, Charles and some members from the Mancelona FMC also came to join the service. After my talk, Jerry, the pastor of Mancelona church, led in prayer. It was a very encouraging time for all of us.

After the service, we headed out for the hotel in town. We needed to get some rest because tomorrow, I will be traveling to Indianapolis, IN, for a conference (JAKA, Just A Knock Away), while Sarah and the kids will be staying in Big Rapids. Now, I am here in this hotel writing this blog and needing to stop so I can rest for tomorrow's travel. I will be renting a car and driving alone all the way to Indianapolis. Better stop now!

Go and Cross Cultures

Boring. Run out of gas! Same old, same old. Irrelevant! Spiritual dryness. Ivory Tower Theology. “Way over my head.” For some people, this is how they feel toward their Christian faith. How do we resolve this dilemma? I suggest going back to the basics. Prayer and Scripture—the Word of God. In order to address the problems mentioned above, we need to start practicing a life of prayer and participating in the study of the Bible and obedience to God’s Word revealed in the text. In addition to these two, I propose going out for missions work.

In the early days, somewhere in Europe, the first thing new Christian converts do after their conversion is to buy a sailboat. With a Bible in hand, they set out for the open sea and let the wind take them wherever it blows. Once they reach land, they set out for the nearest village and share the Christian gospel to the inhabitants of that land.

Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). I have a conviction. I believe, every Christian everywhere should go to the mission field and be involved in cross cultural ministry at least once in his or her lifetime. Because if you don’t, you are missing a dimension of God’s love and grace that can only be received out there in the mission field.

So, practice a life of prayer, be engaged in the study of the Bible. Do not stop with these two, but continue by going out to do cross cultural mission work. Go and cross many boundaries for Jesus—personal, cultural, linguistic and religious boundaries. Get down and dirty and experience discomfort for the gospel’s sake. Remember, if you do not go, they will never have the opportunity to hear Jesus say, “I love you my child. Come and follow me.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery says: “If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean.”

If you are one of those who are deep into prayer and the Bible, and still experiences boredom, dryness and irrelevance, then I strongly recommend participating in a cross cultural ministry of some sort. Sign up for a missions work. Go! I guarantee your prayer life will never be the same. Reading the Bible will be so engaging. Life in your local church will become relevant and meaningful. Go and encounter God’s vast ocean. Set sail and let the Holy Spirit bring you to people who are waiting to receive Jesus’ love and healing.  Go because Jesus is telling you to go . . . and His peace will always be with you. Amen!

True Colors Shining Through

On Michigan Highway 131, I see some trees already changing colors. We are coming up to Michigan Highway 10 and will be headed north to Sault Ste. Marie to visit a Free Methodist church there. I have heard that it is a pretty drive. We are coming into 10 now. I am so glad we have internet access using my Blackberry here in the car. God bless technology. I am enjoying the sight and reveling in God's wonderful creation. Wait! I see some more colors. . . there is bright red, orange, crimson red, yellow orange. The trees are not yet in their full colors. But we see that some have already started changing their foliage. There is opaque yellow, copper orange, and some are in golden brown. Even some parts of the field have some beautiful pink color on the grass. I wonder what kind of grass those are. We need to take a break . . . .

We are back and right now we are already on Michigan Highway 127. We are headed to I-75 and will go straight north and hope to be in St. Ignace for a day of vacation. We are looking forward to this. Sarah especially is and she keeps saying, "When I was ten years old, we use to visit Mackinac Bridge and cross the ferry into Mackinac Island. I am so excited." Carmen and Jacob are listening attentively. More colors! Some trees on this Interstate is already in full colors. I see a few trees standing out because of their bright red purple leaves. It is kind of funny to see them in the midst of all the green trees. "I am so excited!" Sarah continues, "I think I see Mackinac Bridge." We are now approaching Mackinaw City, MI. It is gorgeous watching Lake Michigan from the road, wait . . . that is not Lake Michigan. It is just one of those small lakes scattered all over the state. They are aplenty here.

"Did you know that I was here at Mackinac Bridge when I was a small child?" Sarah keeps telling everyone in the van. "Yeah, yeah, we know," Carmen quips sarcastically. "Stop it, please!" Jacob states his disposition in a very straight forward way. I guess we are all getting irritated with Sarah's excited repeated expression of her joy. She must be down in memory lane. We see the bridge now. I can almost feel Sarah's heart beating a little bit faster than usual. "There's the bridge," Sarah declares. "We know," Carmen and I chorus. "Stop it!" Jacob complains. I feel that we all need a break. We head out for the next exit that leads to the beach front overlooking the bridge.

through his eyes

I asked Jacob if I can bring my guitar for our devotions time. He nodded his head. So I went out of the room and brought in my guitar and started singing a song. He interrupted me and said that we should pray first, which is what we usually do. So we formed a circle with our hands and I led in prayer. After the prayer, Carmen led us in singing the song "How Great is Our God," a song by Chris Tomlin. She sang this song with matching action and gestures, the ones she learned from her last-year's First Grade class at Morrison Academy of Kaohsiung back in Taiwan. We joined her in praising our God.

Yesterday, we went to Evart Free Methodist Church in the morning and to Caldwell Free Methodist Church in the evening. We praise the Lord for the hospitality of Larry, Elaine, Mark, Cindy, Jerry, Eva, Chuck, Tim, Brenda, Gerald, Carol, Ken, Ruth, Brent, Nick, Jason, Paul, Maurice, Elaine, Wayne, Paul, and Jane. They were an encouragement to me.

At both churches, during the presentations, we taught the congregation the Chinese version of "God is so Good." I noticed Jacob's face lit up with delight as we were singing this Chinese song. Obviously, he was very happy that we were singing in Chinese. It was an encouraging time. I praised God knowing that we can worship Him using a language other than English.

Cool, cool day!

Last Tuesday, the whole family went to the beach of Ludington (MI) for a time of day-off. The children loved it, splashing around in the waves and playing with the sand. Sarah and I just sat on our lawn chairs that we brought with us and enjoyed gorgeous cool 70-degree weather, the warm and sunny day, and the splendor of Lake Michigan. The ocean, I mean the lake, was a sight to see. Because of the size of the lake, you could not see the other side. We saw some sea gulls flying around us. I guessed they were waiting for us to throw them some scraps for a snack. But we did not bring any. They later decided to leave us alone.

Wednesday evening, we went to the Prayer Meeting of the Big Rapids Free Methodist Church. They set aside the whole evening for our Missions Presentation. We had a good time. Before the presentation, we enjoyed a meal and sat down to eat the food that everyone brought with them for that evening. I talked to Jim, Carol, Betty, Roland, Shirley, Jim, Ted, Peter, Andrea, and two other college-age girls, whose names I have already forgotten. (I am so bad with names.) These girls came to me after the presentation and had several questions for me. I won't be surprised if someday they will end up in Asia for a short-term missions trip. They were cool girls, very eager to contribute to the work of global missions. As I was talking to them, I could not help but think of the many other FM young people all over the country who have the heart for missions work but needed to meet that one missionary or to be coached by their local church pastor or they simply needed to be initially pushed by the adults around them so that they can take that initial step of obeying God and going out for a short-term missions outside of this country. At that moment, I said a prayer for all the youth out there who are in a similar situation as these two girls.

Friday evening, we set up tent on the lawn beside our house so Carmen and Jacob can have some camping experience. I grilled some fish for dinner. After the meal, we huddled around the "portable" fire and cooked some marshmallows. At the last moment, however, Jacob chickened out and decided to stay indoors and watch Go Diego Go! on his video player. So, after his bath, Jacob stayed inside with Diego. The three of us huddled outside around the camp fire. I brought my guitar and we sang some songs. We said our goodnights, and Sarah and Carmen slept in the tent. I stayed in the house to cuddle with Jacob. It was a cool evening, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The campers survived. Sarah had difficulty sleeping. Carmen enjoyed it.

It was a beautiful full week . . . a cool central Michigan week!

Inspiring Moments

Last weekend, we went to Mt. Pleasant FMC in the morning and to South Evart FMC in the evening. Both visits were very inspiring. The people accommodated us very graciously. Carmen and Jacob had a blast with Moses, Aisa, Avaris and Kyrie, the children of Jason, pastor of Mt. Pleasant FMC, and Anna. One of the highlights was their play time at the yard after church service was over. Jason drove the tractor with a wagon behind it. Carmen, Jacob and Avaris were delighted with this ride. All the adults noticed how Carmen and Aisa, both seven-year-olds, were two pieces of a pod. Although Aisa is a boy, they got along very well. They both liked the same toys. They were inseparable.  They were almost like twins. It was amazing to see two children, very different in gender and background, but quite similar in disposition and choice of things.  Again, I saw God’s creative wonders unraveling in our midst.

Right now, I am here in this dining table writing some of my thoughts. Carmen is doing her Science lessons. Jacob is drawing some pictures of images he saw from the movie, The Prince of Egypt, just a few minutes ago. Sarah is on the other computer making arrangement for our stay in a hotel in Upper Peninsula this coming few days when we visit Sault Ste. Marie. I praise God for His guidance. He has paired us with brothers and sisters here in the North Michigan Conference. Although, we, the Clementes, are very different from them (in terms of exposure and convictions), we are two pieces of the same pod. Our love for cross cultural missions unites us in God. I praise God for Jason, Anna, David, Wendy, Linda, Jim, Ryan, Adrian, Paul, Cheryl, Martha, Dick, Rich and other Michigan friends. They pray for us and support God's work in Asia. We are in the same "pod" because we have the same God. These thoughts keep me going in the Lord's work. Tonight, we will be visiting the Big Rapids FMC for their Wednesday Prayer Meeting. The Clementes will be sharing about cross cultural missions. I am looking forward to God's inspiration--again.

Yesterday, we took a day off and went to Ludington to visit the beach by Lake Michigan. It was a grandiose view of the ocean, I mean, the lake. This body of fresh water lake is so huge that one cannot see the other side of the lake. It was spectacular. The beauty of God's wonders. We had a good time relaxing. Sarah and I had so much fun watching Carmen and Jacob play on the beach and with the waves. We praised God for moments of downtime such as yesterday. It was inspiring.

First Week in Michigan

We came in last Wednesday evening and settled in this "borrowed" house, the (North MI Conf.) superintendent's parsonage. It is not being used right now so we are the recipient of this beautiful three bedroom home. Enjoying every bit of it.

Weather has been gorgeous. It has been 70 degrees the whole time we were here, and the forecast for the week is going to be the same. I have a feeling we brought in good weather with us. The children are adjusting very well. Carmen is starting her Science classes. Sarah just told me that Carmen is really doing very well with her home school. Jacob is captivated with the public parks out here. He loves the Hemlock Park with its wooden play infrastructure. (I can't remember what you call those things.) Right in front of our house is a small public park, well, more like a swing with basketball hoops and some space for kids to run around. Jacob adores it.

My devotions this morning is on Psalms 148. It says "let the princes and the rulers of the earth praise His name!" Immediately, I think of all our brothers and sisters around the globe who are under governments restricting Christians in their area. I remember the various Free Methodists in eastern India who are still hiding in the forest because they are hunted down by religious extremists. As I sit in this comfortable couch and enjoying Michigan Fall weather, I pray for those who are persecuted for their faith. I pray for God's intervention. I pray that God will comfort my brothers and sisters. I pray for the "princes" of India.

It also says "men and women together, old people and children, praise His name." I remember my fellow Christian believers in the Philippines who, because of extreme poverty, have to walk for hours just to go to church on Sunday mornings. They pray for God's miracle everyday. Their prayers always include provisions for the next meal. They are barely surviving. They eagerly wait for those letters from relatives working abroad and for those "remittances" or money sent by their hard-working relatives from far and foreign countries. I sit here in my computer enjoying the hospitality of my Free Methodist brothers and sisters here in Michigan while many FM brothers and sisters in poor countries like the Philippines are suffering. I pray for God's healing. I pray, as I join them in prayer, God's name will be praised.

"Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted . . . (Psalms 148:13, ESV)."

Getting Ready

Carmen is playing "Wonderful,Merciful Savior" on the piano. Jacob is watching PBSKIDS in the computer. Sarah is sorting through our stored stuff, getting ready for our move to Michigan. We will be leaving next Wednesday for Big Rapids, MI. We are grateful that there is a house available for our short two and a half month stay.

Right now, I am writing this blog entry and sending some more emails to our supporters around the globe. I praise the Lord that He is inspiring us as we get ready for more visits to local churches and preparing us for the next phase of ministry in Taiwan this coming January 2010. God is good!