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December 2010

Not Just Any Other Sunday

Last Sunday, was our year-end Sunday at Feng Shan Free Methodist Church (FSFMC) here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The celebration started with a big meal fellowship on Saturday evening. The local church invited many people from around the community to join us for dinner and a short Christmas program afterwards. Jacob and Carmen enjoyed the children's song and I heartily consummed the delicious Peking duck dish. (Please do not ask me how much I ate.) Sunday morning, the children again had a special time singing "Silent Night" during the morning worship service. It was not just any other Sunday. It was a Sunday celebrating the goodness of our Lord and remembering God's faithfulness throughout the year.

It was also a Sunday when FSFMC dedicated nine (9) people to the Lord through a water baptism service. One of the young people that was being baptized, Rita, was the daughter of our good friend Joseph. I took some pictures to commemorate this milestone in Rita's life. It was very moving, not only because of the religious symbolism, but also because we do this every last Sunday of the year. It was not just any other Sunday. It was a Sunday of declaring our submission to God. These nine people made their commitment to follow Christ and we as a congregation made our decision to support them in prayer. It was a communal act of celebration.

It was not just any other Sunday. It was also a Sunday when we met Ava and took her home with us. Last Sunday afternoon, after the morning church service, we went to pick up three-month old Ava from her home, the His Hands Ministry, a Christian adoption agency here in Kaohsiung. She stayed with us for six days. In this way, we gave the staff and volunteers of His Hands a little respite and a much-needed break this holiday season. It was a Sunday when we first experienced what it meant to host a child or sponsor a child for adoption. We were not adopting her. (Someone else is going to.) We were simply helping out.

Now, Ava is sleeping. Sarah is tired. Carmen and Jacob are learning what it means to care for a little baby girl. We are all enjoying her company. She loves to watch Jacob and Carmen dance. She coos and babbles when we talk to her. I think she likes my mustasche. I try my best to help Sarah. I play with Ava and give Sarah a little breather. So far, it has been a time of celebration. I thank the Lord for last Sunday, Ava came into our lives. And even if it is only for six days, we are witnessing God's goodness in our lives in novel and profound ways. It is for us, not just any other Sunday.

Christmas carols at a park in Kaohsiung and other random events

Last night, my family and a bunch of students from the seminary where I am teaching went to a public park here in Kaohsiung and sang some carols to bystanders and "park people." Silent Night was my favorite. Jacob and Carmen did not really join us singing but they were busy playing around the water fountain. There were not too many people around, but it was fun singing Christmas carols.

Yesterday, we, the Cambodia Mission Team, paid our airline tickets for Phnom Phen, Cambodia. We are gearing up for our mission trip this January 2011. A week ago, we had an early Christmas present. An anonymous donor gave a substantial amount paying off a little over a third of our expenses. Together with the funds raised from our fund-raising concert and sale last December 9, 2010, and the contributions of the team members, our financial goals have been reached. We are grateful to many who prayed for us. We are blessed by our Jehovah Jireh. God provides for our needs.

Random thoughts on this Christmas Eve. Last Sunday, we went to Higher Ground Church, a Filipino church here in Kaohsiung. It was fun time of celebration. I helped with the music. After we came back from church, Carmen started playing Praise and Worship songs on the piano. Sarah and I thought our daughter received a healthy dose of inspiration to learn new songs, even if these songs are a little hard for her to play. She is determined.

Tonight, we will celebrate Noche Buena with the Marzo's, our very good friends here in Kaohsiung. We will eat a Filipino meal and sing more Filipino carols. Tomorrow, we will go and celebrate with Feng Shan Free Methodist Church, its "community meal," a Christmas meal they offer to everyone inviting the neighbors to join in the meal. It will be a joyous occasion.

Right now, my family are in Skype with my children's grandparents in Illinois. We are using this live webcam to talk to our family across the globe, and simultaneously open Christmas presents. Jacob is so excited with his new Webkinz gift. Random events and spontaneous outburst of joy and family fellowship.

Tonight, I will give my family in Manila a long distance call. More news later from another random Christmas conversation. It will be good to hear the voices of my brothers and sisters.

Merry Christmas everyone! Maligayang Pasko (Maayong Pasko sa tanan!), or here in Taiwan, we say: "Sheng Dan Kwai La [聖誕快樂!]."


The Team is Ready

Praying. Raising Funds. Training the team leaders. Recruiting more prayer supporters. It looks like we are ready. We just finished our prayer meeting today for the short-term missions trip to Cambodia this January 2011. Everyone is excited. Not just the mission team members, but even the students and staff of the seminary. We will be visiting the Free Methodist (FM) children's centers and local churches in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. I am anticipating the start of a partnership between Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) and the Cambodia FM local churches. So many good things to look forward to. I am so proud of the team members. They have done a lot in terms of preparation and planning. God is certainly honoring their efforts. To God be the glory!

A Pastor's Visit

Rev. Lin came today to speak at the seminary chapel service. He shared about their local church in Jiayi (two hours north of Kaohsiung). Nothing extraordinary about their church except that they are very serious about missions work. They have an on-going ministry to help Asian migrant workers adjust to life here in Taiwan. They have classes in Mandarin for the foreign spouses. They have teachers come to help foreign visitors get their Taiwan driver's license. They go out to their community and reach out to the many Asian laborers and house maids. We were all very encouraged with what they are doing.

At lunch time, I told Rev. Lin I would like to bring a group of students to come and visit their church and get acquainted with its missions works among the Asian people in Jiayi. He thought it was a great idea. One student heard us talking about this plan, and she readily expressed her desire to join this team and this plan for a future visit in Jiayi. We all parted ways later, with a sense of hope and anticipation to what God will do in our midst, especially with His work among Asian migrant workers here in Taiwan.