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January 2011

Expecting God's visit

“We are expecting something new from God everyday,” Jonathan shares to the group. Jonathan Engalla, a Free Methodist missionary from the Philippines, is sharing to our Taiwan mission group here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We are here for ten days ministering to school-aged children, and today, we are currently visiting different missionaries for a time of encouragement and acquaintance with their field work. Jonathan is with his family of four, including two girls ages eleven and four. “Each day, we see God’s grace helping us with our new life here in Cambodia, with language study, and with our adjustment to a new culture and environment.” Jonathan continues to tell his family’s story. “We are still in culture shock. This is only our seventh month since our move from the Philippines.”

The Taiwan mission team is listening intently. One of our team members, Grace Wei, shares how God is challenging her to always look forward to new things in her life and expect God’s surprises for her family. “You have blessed us so much,” Grace remarks. Towards the end of our visit, before we prayed together, Mary Jane Engalla, the wife of Jonathan, expresses her gratitude. “You have blessed us. I pray that other mission teams would do what you are doing.”

It is beautiful to witness the reciprocal flow of God’s goodness between two cultures and two groups. We came here to give God’s blessings, but in the end we are the one who are receiving God’s blessings through the people who are here. Sam Huang, one of our team members, at one time during our teaching session at the Prek Thei village, told the big group of Cambodian villagers: “We came to minister to you, to be a blessing to you, but it is you who have blessed us. Thank you so much.”

God’s grace flows in both direction. Yesterday, we visited the Engalla family, a Free Methodist missionary family from the Philippines, Paul and Grace, medical doctors from Hong Kong with OMF, and Jamsor and Kitty, husband and wife team and Baptist missionaries also from Hong Kong working with university students and managing a dormitory ministry in this city. They have blessed us with their stories. Today, we are going to visit another missionary family New York (USA) and from Japan. We are expecting God to visit us again in a very special way. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

Spontaneous Outburst of Love

Today, three team members came to me on three separate occassions and told me that they see a great team work among the members of this Cambodia Mission Team from Kaohsiung. I agreed with them. I am certainly seeing God's Spirit working in our midst. Even the local youth leaders are warming up to every team member, even the shy ones. God is faithful! Tonight, they are throwing a spontaneous party for our Taiwan group. Tonight is our last night here in the village. Tomorrow, we will be leaving for Phnom Penh. We will certainly miss them.

Mission in Cambodia

It is five in the morning and I can't get back to sleep. Blame it on the loud gecko living on the tree next to this building. Together with the crowing roosters, I wonder how the Taiwan Mission team members are sleeping. I am inside my mosquito net typing this entry. I love this mosquito net. In addition to my Off lotion, I am able to sleep soundly, not bothered by the pernicious bugs and stinging insects. Someone is snooring. Well, it was not as loud as last night.

Today is our fourth day here in Prek Thei, a small village north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The mission team is composed of mostly students from Holy Light Theological Seminary, located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. we are visiting three different children's ministry centers hosted by the Free Methodist Church of Cambodia. We currently staying in the House of Love, one of the three centers. We are here teaching Chinese and English to school aged children, and a few junior high youth. So far, it has been a  time of fruitful ministry.

Yesterday, one of our team members had to take a break in the afternoon because of heat exhaustion. Some of us are still struggling and trying to get a descent sleep. These hard floors are not comfortable. This Saturday, we will be staying in the city o f Phnom Penh, and there we will have some better sleeping quarters--we will stay in a guesthouse. I am grateful for this place. There is plenty of water, the people from this village are so friendly, and the food is great. The kitchen crew is over feeding us. Exotic fruits and natural juice drink. I told one member, this food is better than a five-star hotel restaurant. I think I must have been tired and hungry.

We are enjoying our time with the children. All the team members are noticing how the youth and children here in Cambodia are so well behaved. After our classes, we play volleyball and other group games with them. Phillip, one of the youth leaders here in Prek Thei FMC, asked me to spend time with their Praise and Worship band members. I spent the whole afternoon with them and gave them a crash course on worship leading. They were asking me if I could have more time with them. I told them, next year, January 2012, I will bring another team, and hopefully including some music people who can give them some guidance and good lessons.

The stars are extra bright this morning. Already, I hear the robins and other birds singing and chirping. Our neighbors are starting to stir. Another day of service for us. We will have our last session at the House of Peace. I sense a great camarederi (team spirit) among our Taiwan team members. God is good. He is answering the prayers of many people. Despite the language barriers, we are building good relationships with the children of Cambodia. These children love to create crafts. Yesterday, everyone was so happy when they received their Chinese names in hanging name tags they themselves decorated. Their eyes were beamaing with pride. It was a joy watching them.

I better stop now. In a little while we will have our morning devotions. I will be sharing about the Great Commission in the Gospel of Matthew and what this means for us here in this little village of Prek Thei. Please continue to pray for us.

Tired But Fulfilled

I am still trying to recover from the rigorous 5-day-straight teaching at the modular classes of the Light and Life Graduate School of Theology (LLCST) in Bancasi, Butuan City, Philippines. Yesterday, I slept the whole day. Today, I took long naps. What is good about this nap is that I was lying in bed with Jacob, trying to coach him to rest up and shake off the bad colds he is having. I miss my family so much. Any opportunity for us to spend together, even taking naps in the same bed, is a welcome activity. Last week, I was away for six days. I took the budget flight of the Cebu Pacific flying from Taipei to Manila in route to Butuan City. It was a red-eye trip and my almost-50-year-old body is taking its toll. I can no longer take the punishment. Today, I am still trying to regain my strength.

I am tired and exhausted, but it was a fulfilling one-week ministry. This Bancasi seminary (LLGST) is a small seminary. It offers a Master of Ministries (M.M.) degree designed for our Free Methodist pastors scattered in the Mindanao island. I volunteered to teach a course on "Contextual Theology." There were about nine pastors, one youth leaders, and three staff workers of the AHON ministry, an outreach ministry among indigent families in the city. I had a great time. This group of graduate students are very passionate about the Lord's ministry. They are very serious about their calling. It was humbling to hear them talk about the many sacrifices they underwent for the sake of the Christian gospel. One pastor shared his many attempts to, literally, cross raging rivers so he can visit church members and preach the Word to them. Another recounted the many months of not receiving a salary and still surviving even with three children. Still another recalled the experience of physical pain after child birth mainly because of the demands of a church planting work. They all endured it for the sake of God's call in their lives.

I was teaching these students about Contextualization, and the doctrine of the Incarnation. In so many ways, these students are already living out the example of Jesus and His sacrifice in the cross. It was fulfilling because I can see the lessons of the course already present in the students' lives. The theories I taught only affirmed what they are currently doing. Praise the Lord! I am committed to go there once a year. I am grateful that Holy Light Theological Seminary, here in Taiwan, is allowing me to go and serve some of our Free Methodist pastors in the Philippines. All glory belongs to our God!

Jesus Was Tired

The fourth chapter of the Gospel of John describes Jesus as tired from the journey (John 4:6). It was mainly for this reason that the opportunity to share God's salvation came. Jesus was tired and thirsty. He came to a well. The Samaritan woman was there to draw water. And what followed thereafter was the salvation of this Samaritan woman and the people of her village (John 4:42).

Jesus was also tired for another reason. He was "tired of all the talk" going on around Judea. Everyone was talking about the number of disciples they were baptizing. People were comparing Jesus' disciples with John's disciples (John 4:1-2). It was a good time for Jesus to be away. And because of this planned dislocation, many Samaritans received God's salvation (John 4:39-42).

There was a third reason why Jesus was tired. And this one is a little more subtle, a little bit implied in the Johannine narrative. Jesus was "tired" of his disciples' over protectiveness (John 4:27, 31). If he had remained within the boundaries of the disciples' protection, he would never had the chance to meet a Samaritan woman (John 4:9). He had to get away. He had to leave his disciples. Only without his disciples around him could the Samaritan woman feel comfortable and ask him many questions (John 4:28, 29). And because of this intentional distancing, Jesus met this woman, and as a result, many were saved (John 4:41).

Are you tired? Are you thirsty? This might be a good time to meet new people and share God's love to them. I am sure there are many people out there who can identify with your weariness. Are you "tired" of all the comparisons going around (Who has the biggest cathedral?) and the "religious protection" that suffocates our desire to witness for Jesus? Then, let us go and step out of our comfort zone, and offer to everyone we meet God's salvation for all peoples. "Lift up your eyes and look!" (John 4:35)