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June 2010

Remembering Them

A week ago, I was in Shitou Mountain for a two-day retreat with the staff and faculty of the Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS). We stayed in an elegant hotel, with nice swimming pool and excellent ambiance, not to mention the super delicious food. The place was located beside a National Forest. It was hard, however, for me to enjoy the retreat. I missed my family. They were all back in Kaohsiung, about 3 hours away. We did plan to join this retreat, but two days before, we found out Jacob was sick and needed a week's rest. So, I was by myself. I tried very hard to carry on, and enjoy the fellowship of everyone. But, it was just different without my whole family beside me.

That evening at the hotel, I met a group of Filipino entertainers. They were the hotel's singers for the evening. Toto, Rommel, Harriet, and Jason. Young people who enjoyed doing their job as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) here in Taiwan singing for a living. I introduced them to the whole seminary family. I sat with them and talked to them during their break time in between their sets. Toto was the veteran of the group. The other three just came in three days ago. They really were full of excitement, and hope for this new life in Taiwan. They asked me to pray over them. I prayed for each one, especially their families left behind in the Philippines. I prayed for good health, God's protection over them as they live the life of a foreign worker here in Taiwan.

We enjoyed their music. Samuel, Angela, and Richard (from the seminary) stayed a little bit with me. But during the second set, they had to leave and hit the sack. It was almost 12:00 midnight by that time. I talked to the OFWs a few more times after that. I realized, in the next weeks to come, their excitement and hope will be replaced with loneliness and anxiety. Even with their tight schedule of singing and performing from 3 P.M. to 12:00 Midnight, they will still have thoughts of missing home and their families. Harriet said she has a five-year old son. Jason mentioned of his six children. Each shared to me of their children, parents, and siblings back home. Sometime next month, life in Taiwan will look different without their families beside them.

I pray for the many OFWs here in Taiwan. I pray God will be their Friend in the midst of their loneliness. I pray for ministries among Asian migrant workers, that these will multiply and be channels of God's blessings to the lonely and displaced people of Taiwan. I pray that more Christian workers will come to Taiwan and volunteer their services to help migrant workers.

Here For Good, Perhaps

Timothy asked me one day, "So, how long are you planning to stay here in Taiwan?" I told him that we renew our contract with FMWM (USA) every 4 years. This year is our fifth year and it seems that God is leading us to stay here for the long haul, if not for good. You see, Timothy is one of the professors here at Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS), and, that day we were sharing, he opened up his plan to stay at the seminary for good. He is hoping to spend another ten years and retire from teaching at the seminary. He also mentioned the need for more professors to stay longer at this seminary and provide continuity. I totally agreed with him. 

It is easier for students and local churches to catch the vision, the seminary's vision, (and for that matter any institutional vision) when the teachers and leaders stay focused on the task of training and mentoring. The constant change of leaders is debilitating to this task. I am so glad that I stand alongside leaders like Timothy who are committed to this ministry of training for the long haul.

"Water Flowing From the Temple"

The river flows from the east and towards the sea. Everything will live where the river goes. And on the river banks, trees will grow and their fruit will be for food and their leaves will be for healing. (Ezekiel 47:1,9,12)

This week, I just finished reading the Book of Ezekiel. What a fitting way to end this book, full of jubilant prophecies and hope in the midst of the people's experience of their exile in a foreign land. God's glory and grace will flow out of the Temple and into the seas, out toward the outside world, and blessing everyone who stand by the river banks. What a picture of hope and anticipation of God's movement in people's lives. The message here is that once again, after the exile, God will make His name great among the nations (Ezekiel 36:23, 36).

The imagery of a river is not always serene and full of quite satisfaction. At many times, rivers project the picture of a raging torrent, dangerous under currents, and rampaging flash floods. Rivers come with devastation. Their powerful waters can break large boulders and wreak havoc on anything that stands along its path. Anyone who has lived beside a river knows this fact. The writer of Ezekiel hinted about the power of the river of God. It is a "river that could not be passed" (Ez. 47:5). Everyone is supposed to flow with the river and witness its life-giving power and healing among the nations. The waters are deep. There is the element of uncertainty. But we are not to stay on the side where the "swamps and marshes are not fresh" (Ez. 47:11). We are to jump into the the raging river of God and witness God's blessings for the nations.

If missions work is God's movement among the nations and His many acts of bringing salvation to everyone, then the imagery of Ezekiel's river is a perfect illustration of God's missionary activity. It can sometimes be devastating. It changes our plans for the future. It alters our comfortable lives. The challenge is not to stay in the shallow waters and merely watch the river pass by. We cannot simply watch God move among the nations. We have to respond. We have to jump into the river and witness His healing along the river banks.

The river has already flowed from the eastern gate of the Temple and into the seas. Now, the river is still flowing. The question is: "Are we flowing with the river?" Do we see the river banks from the vantage point of the flowing river, or from the angle of a marsh land? I challenge everyone to jump into the river of God and participate in His salvation activity among the nations.

Snippets of Grace

Grandiose ceremony. Elaborate gowns. Beautiful music. Everything was gorgeous. Today was the 55th Commencement Exercise of the Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS). All the graduates were very excited. They should be! After all their hard work, they finally made it through. This is my second time to participate in the seminary's graduation ceremony. This morning, I woke up and, in preparation for today's grand event, said a prayer of expectation. "I want to see God's hand of grace, today." The ceremony was meaningful, but I did not see a glimpse of God's visit. Perhaps, other people saw it, felt His presence in the midst of the revelry and words of encouragement and congratulations. But I didn't.

After the ceremony, I went out with an FMWM colleague for a meeting and a time for evaluating our goals. In my mind, I again said a short prayer of expectation. "Please visit me in a very special way." The meeting was very encouraging, and very productive. We were able to iron out some business issues--ways we can better serve the work here in Taiwan and Asia. I came out of this meeting very satisfied, but disappointed that I did not see even just a snippet of God's grace. Maybe, I was relying too much on my feelings. Perhaps, we got too involved in the business part of the meeting. Regardless, I came out of the meeting wanting for more, more of God's presence.

Later, we went out for a game of basketball. My colleague and I met up with Mr. Chang, who is an HLTS board member. After the game, we stood by the side of the road and talked, well, I mostly listened while my colleague and Mr. Chang talked. God visited me through Mr. Chang's stories. He poured his heart out and shared about his family. Last year, he lost his wife to cancer. Yet, despite this tragedy, he is full of gratefulness for God's grace in his life. He shared about God's blessing his two sons, who are both into graduate school in Taipei and doing very well. He went on and on and told more stories of God's goodness in his life. I stood there listening and heard God say, "David, my grace is sufficient!"

Today's Tidbits

"Now, this homeless person has a job somewhere in central Taiwan." Lois, one of the seminary professor here at Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS), tells me a story of her encounter with a homeless man. This guy was hanging around the streets in front of the seminary building. Lois gave this man some simple chores of sweeping the front area, and later giving him some money so he can go and buy himself some decent food. It was a perfect way of giving dignity to this person. Now, this man is a productive member of Taiwan society.

I heard this story from Lois after I visited with her and talked about some future courses for the seminary. I suggested we offer the course "Ministry to the Poor." I felt like this is a course that our students could really use for their various ministry involvement. She agreed.

Little stories and tidbits like this reminds me of God's working in this world. I always try to do my part and to leave a good witness around me. And yet, as always, God keeps surprising me by answering my prayers even before I say them. In the story above, it seems to me that God is saying: "David, I am already raising up leaders here in Taiwan who will be my witness among the poor of this country." I only need to follow what God is already doing.

Teaching a course about helping the poor may be useful. But working with people who are already making significant contributions to the plight of the poor and destitute of Taiwan is essential. I am more resolve to seek out people like Lois. When the seminary's Missions Center is up and running this September 2010, I will make sure this Center is surrounded by students, faculty members, staff, and seminary supporters and friends who are touching the lives of poor people for Jesus. I am pretty sure God will agree.