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April 2010

Just Another Friday

I came in to school this morning and was greeted by one of the students. Irene is one of the second year M.Div students here in Holy Light Theological Seminary. She related to me a story, a challenge she picked up from one of our meetings with the Student Missions Fellowship (SMF). In preparation for a short-term missions work in the coming future, I suggested to the members of SMF the practice of listening, the discipline to listen to a person's heart and not just to his/her words. Following the example of Jesus talking (and listening) to a Samaritan woman found in John chapter 4, we agreed that for this semester, we would choose one person "we don't like" (or an unlikeable, unapproachable person) and take the effort to listen to this person. Irene took this challenge literally. She talked to a homeless prostitute, one of the many here in Kaohsiung. I mean, she listened. She shared to me how most of the people around this homeless person kept their distance. But, she decided to approach her and listen to her story. She recounted that this exercise "taught me to stop and just listen."

Yesterday afternoon, the seminary faculty met with four veteran pastors from four different denominations here in the city of Kaohsiung. These pastors have been in the ministry for 20 or more years. They have started an MTS, Ministry Training School, within their respective local churches. We invited them so they can share to us what is it is that makes the people of southern Taiwan tick. The whole idea of the meeting is "relevance," finding ways for a seminary to be relevant and of service to the people around her and become an assistance to the local churches in the area. The four pastors shared with so much passion. I did not understand half of what they were saying, mainly because they were talking about cultural stuff and locally defined concepts. I sensed, however, their wisdom and their enthusiasm for the building of the kingdom of God. They have found something that we do not have here in the seminary. Later, after their talk, we, the seminary faculty members, gathered in small groups and proposed some changes we would like to introduce to the seminary in the near future. We want to be relevant.

This afternoon, we will have another SMF meeting. The students have invited Pastor Chang, an executive of a missions agency responsible for outreach ministries among the Chinese people around the world. It will be another time of rekindling the students' passion for missions work. It is my prayer that we would all be relevant, ever-ready to listen to people, and be open to the Spirit's leadership.

On the Train Tracks

Last Tuesday, I was in Alishan Mountain with some students from the seminary (Holy Light Theological Seminary) and a German OMF missionary friend. It was a two-day R&R since this is our Spring Break week. We hiked some of the trails of the mountain. It was about 50 degrees and cloudy. We did not get to see the famous sunrise and reputed kaleidescope of colors at the early morning mountain top panorama. Nonetheless, the walk through the gorgeous Maple and Oak forest, the famous Cherry Blossom garden, and the mountain side scenery made up for everything we missed.

At one point, we were hiking along the unused train tracks. (Last year's typhoon Morakot destroyed some portions of the railway. It is currently under repair.) One of the seminary students was walking on one side of the tracks and I on another. We were just sharing about life in general. In the middle of our conversation, he started singing a Chinese song. At that moment, I thought about this student's cultural experience. You see, he is a Korean and have come here in Taiwan two years ago to get his MDiv degree in our seminary. He is so deeply immersed into Taiwanese culture. I just listened to him in envy, admiration, and amazement. When will I ever get to this point of immersion? I do not feel like I am that deeply immersed into this culture. My lectures inside the classroom is a mix of English and Mandarin Chinese (mostly English). At the school cafeteria, when people are talking I missed most of the jokes and funny exchanges. Of course, it does not help that my German friend walking behind us from a distance is constantly talking in fluent Mandarin. She is even, currently, studying Taiwanese (Hokkien Chinese). I walked that train tracks with a heavy heart. I prayed to God for extra grace, for humility, and for perseverance as I continue serve Him here in Taiwan.

One thing that comforts me, in the midst of this humbling experience, is God's assurance and presence in my life. He continually reminds me that I am in His plan. He wants me to be here in Taiwan. He has called me to help these students (and other Taiwanese Christians) grow in their faith and in their journey as fellow missions worker in God's harvest here in Asia. The comfort I receive from God is that He is with me even to "the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Running Alongside

"Go. . . to the end of the earth!" (Acts 1:8). This is a command Jesus gave to his disciples and to everyone who believes in him. Currently, there is a group of students here at Holy Light Theological Seminary who is taking Jesus' command literally and with great passion. They are called the SMF (Student Missions Fellowship) and meet twice a month for prayer and discussion about missions. They have asked me to join them and help them as an adviser. A few of them have been to a short-term missions trip before. But most of the members have never been outside of Taiwan. One student is from Indonesia. Another is from Korea. All of them are eager to participate in a missions trip sometime in the next few months. I am slowly preparing them sharing from God's word and inviting different missionaries in the city to come and share their own stories. We might go to Cambodia this summer for a short-term missions work. We might visit the Philippines, Malaysia, or some other country, but the work right now is to set our hearts ready for the challenges of missionary work in another country outside of Taiwan.

I am teaching a course in the seminary, Introduction to Missiology, which gives a broad outline of Christian Missions from the Bible, history and current events. Next semester, I will be teaching three courses. Please pray for God's wisdom and humility as I continue to serve Him here in Taiwan through this Free Methodist seminary. God is working in many wonderful ways. I sense His presence in the lives of the students. Inside and outside the classroom, Holy Light seminary students are seeking God's direction as they participate in the Lord's harvest in the mission field. At the school cafeteria down at the basement of this eight-floor building, students are asking me questions on ways to be better prepared for Christian missions work. "How can our prayers for missions work be truly engaging and meaningful?" This is the most popular question among the students. Whether in a classroom, across the cafeteria table eating lunch, or hiking in Alishan Mountain during Spring Break, I always remind the students to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leadership so that when they hear the Lord's call for more harvesters in the mission field, then they are ready to go and be a missions worker for the Lord. Until that time, my job is to help these students, advise them, run alongside them, encourage each one, and share from God's word. When it is their time to go, the peace of Jesus will go with them (John 20:21).