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November 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

Today, we are going to our annual Thanksgiving get-together with the Free Methodist missionaries here in Taiwan. A few cannot make it because of various reasons. But most of the team members will be there to share in the fun and good food; turkey of course! Every year, I always miss the revelry that we do in the USA. Watching football! (The tradition of watching the Detroit Lions loss on Thanksgiving Day.) Eating pumpkin pie and pink salad at the Mowery Reunion in Cuba, Illinois. Turkey Day is also the time when we pose for the camera and document how the cousins are getting older, or how the four Mowery siblings are growing older. So much for American Mid-west memories. Right now, we are getting ready to face the turkey. "Is anyone bringing corn bread?" I am asking Sarah, but she could not hear me from downstairs. I love corn bread. I hope someone is bringing some today.

Last Thursday evening, during my class in Theological English, we decided to have a shortened class session and to spend the rest of the three-hour period in a "Thanksgiving" party. I read to the class the story of the First Thanksgiving Day, the story of the Pilgrims and the friendly Native Americans. For most of these Taiwanese students, it was their first time to hear this American story of God's guidance and provision for the early settlers. At some parts of the story, I started to choke up. I remembered my experience as a foreign student in Kentucky, and my life as an immigrant in central Illinois, and how much I received love and "guidance" from the Mowery clan, my in-laws, the families of the Prochinas and the Yardys, and many more friends. I would have not made it if not for these "native Americans" who helped me with my USA experience. God was with me the whole time.

These Chinese students prepared roasted chicken, a dried spiced up Peking Duck that I cannot remember its Chinese name, and many other delicacies. For a small group of party goers, they did a lot. We played some Charade game. It was entertaining to see them move between English and Chinese words or phrases. I wished they had brought a Chinese version of these game. (Is there a Chinese version of this Charade game?) It was a good way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. I came home at around 10:00 P.M and the children were already sleeping. Sarah was still awake but she was struggling with colds and head ache. So, I thought I will have to tell her the story tomorrow. It was unlike the Thanksgiving party at the Mowery fellowship at Cuba, Illinois, but this Kaohsiung revelry was similar because God was there and we celebrated Christian friendship together. Happy Thanksgiving!

These Foreigners In Your Area

They just look at me with blank stares. I think they want me to leave them alone. They probably do not understand my "broken" Chinese, or cannot understand English. I wish I could speak Bahasa so I can converse with these two Indonesian ladies. They are here at the church waiting for their wards to finish a church meeting. My family and I are also waiting for this meeting to be over so we can have lunch with a Chinese family from this Feng Shan Free Methodist Church.

The Bible says that we should love the foreigners living in your area. (Leviticus 19:33-34) We should love them from the heart. (Leviticus 19:17-18) But, why is it so hard to love foreigners? Is it because of the language problem? But, couldn't we show love even without using words? Can't our smiles project God's love? Isn't a kind gesture enough to display the inner longings of our hearts? I say "yes" to all these questions above. Learning the local (or person's) language helps, but the main issue here is the starting point. For most Christians, the starting point is: "How can I help these foreigners in my area?" And when we begin with this question in our subconscious, no matter what we say or do, and through our gestures and facial expressions, these foreigners understand our starting point.

And this starting point of wanting to help them is what these two Indonesian workers saw in me. They do not need my help. They just want a friend. What I should have done is bring my family and sit with them and listen to them. I could have asked them to teach my children how to say "hello" in Bahasa Indonesia. This would have broken the ice, and they would have felt more included in our church life. My problem was my starting point. The next time I see them in church, I need to change gear and begin with the assumption that I can learn something from them. They can teach me and my family. I need to listen. They can tell us about their home and their culture, and, of course, the first few conversation would be difficult, but I think as they keep talking, they will feel the welcome that only God gives to every longing heart.

Love God and love the foreigners in your area. (Matthew 22:36-40) Love them with all your heart.

Lunch With The Chou Family

Today, we went out for lunch with the Chou family. Emily Chou was one of the young people who joined me for a mission trip to the Philippines last August 2010. Carmen and Jacob were so excited to see her. You see, Emily is now in college and studying in a university up north in Taipei, about 6 hours by car from here, Kaohsiung. So, it was a treat to see her. When Jacob first saw her today at the restaurant, he came running to her and gave her a big hug. Carmen also enjoyed the snuggle and talk during the fellowship at the table. We also got to talk with her Mom, Jenny Chou, and her younger sister, Rita. I always talk to Joseph (Mr. Chou) at church, but at this lunch fellowship, I was able to really converse with Rita and Jenny. It was a fun time, and sweet rekindling of Christian love and friendship.

Later, before we headed out for our house, we swung by a bookstore and bought Jacob his first "journal book." Carmen had been writing her journal in a square notebook. Jacob saw her writing and he wanted his very own book, too. So, we got one for him. On his first journal entry, he writes: "I believe I eat with Emily."

Maybe Next Time

My family and I went to see a good friend at a hospital tonight. She is currently suffering from cancer. I hate cancer! My friend is taking it very graciously. Her courage is a good example for Carmen. My 9-year-old daughter witnessed the act of taking care of a cancer patient. She helped a little bit with the massaging. She heard the adults speak words of comfort and hope. But I still cannot get it out of my mind that my friend is going through this ordeal. I hate cancer! It is reassuring that my friend is full of God's love. She is ready to meet her Creator. But, I just wish she does not have to go through the suffering and pain. I hate cancer! I want to be positive about this situation. I need to see God's grace behind the chaos that this disease brings. And I have to honestly admit it is very hard for me. All I feel is this disgust and "hate" for cancer. Maybe, next time, when I visit her, I would be more able to see the bright side . . . and declare God's love and mercy amidst all the troubles that this world gives.

Speak With Passion

"What really happened before you met Sarah." "How did her family welcome you?" "Don't you think a period of eight months of dating before getting married was a little too short?" These are some of the questions students and seminary friends are asking me. I try to be brief about my answers and yet straight to the point. They don't seem to satisfy my friends. They would rather listen to Sarah's version, which is more colorful, more interesting and engaging. I do not blame them. I tend to speak as a man, and share my past love life with precision and cerebral accuracy, devoid of romance and other interesting details.

Yesterday, Sarah spoke at our Thursday Chapel here in Holy Light Theological Seminary. She shared about our lovelife and how we met, highlighting God's providence and direction in our lives. Of course, this love story resonated among the students. There were a lot of laughs and hollering whenever Sarah mentioned details of our courtship. She brought the house down. Obviously, I was caught in between. Students started teasing me after the talk. I tried to be gracious about everything. It was a good experience I thought, especially for the students. They felt a connection with our story. Anyone could tell that they are presently going through similar situations. Perhaps, Sarah's testimony made them think of their own love stories.

This morning, I had a time of practice with the seminary band. In between our jamming time, they posed their questions again. We decided to set a date when all the bandmembers, and other interested students, could come and visit our home and we can talk some more about affairs of the heart and what these mean for seminary students and Christians in general. When this happens, I will leave most of the talking to Sarah. And when it is my time to talk, I will try to leave all my analysis behind and engage everyone's heart--spare no details about the courtship and speak with passion.