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August 2010

One More Time

"Let me share one more time," Emily interrupts me. We are doing our devotions for the day and I am audio recording the Agape Team members' experiences and "highlights for the day." Emily wants to share one more thing about her reflection on her visit with the students of the Light and Life Bible College (LLBC). "I need more patience," she breaks down and gets emotional. "These students have nothing compared to my situation. They are so poor, and yet, they are so willing to go out to do missions work." Emily shares in between sobs and tears. She is impressed with these students' determination to serve God in the midst of their difficulties and poverty. She explains her need to "have more patience" when she goes back home to Taiwan.

I canceled another meeting with a pastor and gave more time to our devotions time. We prayed. We shared. We reflected on God's word. We presented our observation of the last few days' visit to different Free Methodist ministries here in Butuan City and its vicinity. The other day, we went to Sibagat, an hour's drive north of this city, and visited the Hope Center, a rural center helping 50 children. Currently, this group of children are still looking for sponsors to help them. At this Center, we presented Cebuano Children's Bibles that a few friends from Taiwan have graciously sponsored. Emily taught the children a few Chinese songs. It was so encouraging to see her up front and full of confidence and enthusiasm with the children.

Yesterday, we visited a center called Home For Girls. This is a government-run center functioning as a halfway house for sexually abused girls and other children coming from violent homes or victims of human trafficking. They are staying there while litigation is going on in the courts. Different Christian groups regularly come for ministry time. We came with the students of LLBC. Irene taught the younger kids. Emily taught the older ones. Charlotte and I, together with the other LLBC students, assisted. I was so proud of this Agape Mission Team. They all did so well.

Later, when we were by ourselves, the three ladies shared that maybe, "one more time," they will come back and see these children again. I pray that this will happen. God will prepare the way for us.

Finding New Ways

We are in Butuan City. The Agape Team Mission members are slowly adjusting. They are still used to waking up late. We just missed our breakfast time with a group of pastors, but I made arrangement for us to have a late breakfast by ourselves. I hear someone coughing. Irene, Charlotte (Tzuting), and Emily are next door, in their sleeping quarters. I am in the adjacent room, We are grateful to the hospitality of the Light and Life Graduate School of Theology (LLGST) staff and administration. They have graciously offered us their guest rooms. I think I hear them brushing their teeth. Okay, they are waking up. We will have our morning devotions as a group, and then we will head out to the Ahon Ministry, a Free Methodist Church (FMC) outreach among families located and living in the city garbage dump site. FMC people are trying to make a difference in the lives of these community. They offer a wholistic ministry through child-sponsorship programs, prayer meetings, counseling for the parents, and after-school programs for the school-aged children. We will see more when we visit the place this morning, this Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon. Please continue to pray for us, rather pray with us.

Waking late in the morning is a very Taiwanese thing. These three girls are having a hard time adjusting to the early-rising Filipinos. We were in Manila Monday, two days ago. We went to the Kamuning FMC and had a great consultation with the local leaders there. Pastor Ronilo, the KFMC pastor, was so gracious. He hosted our time together. I shared to them of my dream that perhaps the FMC members of both Taiwan and the Philippines can begin a partnership in cross cultural ministry. Perhaps we can begin with hosting Short-term Missions groups, like this one. Today, we are here in Butuan City. I will also be sharing this to other FMC members here and challenge them to pursue this idea of hosting Taiwanese visitors for the purpose of missions exposure and cross cultural training. We will see.

I better stop now. The seminary (LLGST) cook is here and preparing the table for our breakfast. We need to get ready by 10:00 AM to go to the Ahon Ministry area. I told these three ladies that we will have our devotions time around nine o' clock. I am also hoping that I could also document their cross cultural experiences using an audio recorder. My goal is that in the years to come, we can go back to these time of missions exposure and learn from our God. He is our teacher. The Lord is our Guide and Leader.

Unfamiliar and the Not-So-Common Things

Anxiety Attacks! Fear of the unknown! Heartbeat going haywire. These things usually happen when you are watching a scary movie. Sometimes, it also occurs when facing a difficult task, such as talking to a person who speaks a different language or attempting to make friends to someone who practices a different religion.

Yesterday, Charlotte came to me and asked me the question, "Teacher Ke (my Chinese name), do you experience anxiety whenever you talk to a foreigner?" She recounted how she felt fear and a sense of dread last weekend when she tried to make friends with some Indonesian visitors. "Is this common?" she continued. I did not delve into the reason of her anxiety. I simply affirmed her and recognized that anxiety attacks are common to people who are serious about cross cultural ministry. Even for veteran missionaries, the fear of the unknown still comes. "The only difference is that we, the experienced ones, have learned to control our anxieties, and have developed a skill to function in the midst of these difficult emotions and encounters," I told Charlotte. I reminded her that anxiety attacks are very common for those of us who periodically cross cultures and language barriers. I tried to encourage her to trust in God, allow His Spirit to be her teacher.

I am so glad that seminary students like Charlotte have many opportunities to cross cultures for Jesus. At her church here in Kaohsiung, she has the chance to be familiar with the Indonesian culture. Also, next week, she is joining a short-term missions trip to the Philippines. She will have another opportunity to be familiar with Philippine culture and learn from the Filipinos she is going to meet. As she gets more and more exposed to diverse cultures and languages, then her anxiety attacks will diminish. She will eventually become a proficient cross cultural worker.

As a nine-year old, I was gripped with overwhelming anxiety when our family moved from Butuan City to the metropolis of Manila, Philippines. That was the early 1970s. I was going to place that was not like our small town Butuan City. People in Manila spoke a different language. What comforted me was a verse in the Bible. It says: "Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help." (Psalms 22:11) Eventually, I learned to be familiar with life in Manila. Now, I am comfortable with both Cebuano and Tagalog cultures. And, I am slowly learning more and more about Taiwan culture. At times, I still become anxious. I know, however, that in the midst of the not-so-common encounters, God will be my Helper and Friend.

I Can Wait

There are about 120 young people at Jiochutang Free Methodist Church. A majority of them are young teens, below 18 years old. I keep telling myself I can wait.

I will wait for these teenagers to grow up and respond to God's call to go out and participate in missions work. I am here because Pastor Kuo (or Pastor Cool, as we sometimes call him) have invited me to come to this church's weekly youth meeting. This Saturday, he wants me to speak about missions. I share to everyone the challenge to go and cross cultures for Jesus, even at a young age. Some are already responding. They are raising their hands because they want to join me for an upcoming Short-term Missions Trip to Cambodia this January 2011. I guess I do not have to wait very long.

I thank God that these youth are already serving God through this local church. My prayer is that many more Taiwanese missionaries will come out from among these groups of young people. I will wait. I will wait for God's moving here in Taiwan.

Asia Pacific Connections

Katsumi shares about the experiences of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the (nuclear) bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He explains God's abounding grace in the midst of this tragedy. Paulo testifies of small Free Methodist local churches in Sao Paulo, Brazil, getting more excited about missions work around the world. Shirish explains his reception of a prophetic word from a fellow pastor in Mumbai, India. Stories from all over the world are circulating here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We are in the midst of a General Council meeting of the Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association or APFMMA. I am participating as an observer and also representing the Missions Center of the Holy Light Theological Seminary. We are electing a new set of executive officers. Polly, from Hong Kong, is retiring, after almost 16 years of serving APFMMA. Shirish, from India, and Edna, from the Philippines, are coming in as the new directors.

I am proud of our Taiwan representatives, Frank, Stephen, and Jimmy. They share about God's work in Taiwan and other Far East countries of Asia. They recount their own stories (when they were outside Taiwan) when the local police would come in and stop an on-going worship service. Close encounters that are reminiscent of the early church in the New Testament. This is the 21st Century. The Pentecost fire is still burning in local churches and among our Asian Free Methodists. God is alive today!

Thank You Letter

Dear David and Sarah,

Thank you for giving me the chance to improve and practice my English conversation. From April to July. I think I have learned not just the conversation. Through the four months, I know a lot about America's culture and life style. I am very interested to them. Besides, I am glad that we can share many things with each other like our family or something funny. Thank Sarah, the food you cook are very delicious and you also let me taste the Mexico food (sorry, I forget it's real name.) Thank David, for giving me the chance to attend Agape mission team. Not only can I practice my English but also let me contact with different culture. Most of all, maybe after ten days, the relation with God will be much closer than before, and I can also experience His love. I think this will be a special experience in my life. By the way, this envelope is I make by myself. :) May God stay with you forever.

Emily, 2010.8.3