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June 2011

Kenting, Typhoon Meari, and Family Vacation

Drinking Coke Zero. Staring out the second floor window. Watching the trees sway to the strong breeze brought about by this typhoon. I just had my three cups of black coffee for this morning courtesy of Chuck and the staff of the Oasis Retreat Center. The good breakfast was a good way to sooth my disappointment. My whole family were looking forward to this vacation here in the southern parts of Taiwan. Thanks to Typhoon Meari we are stuck here for the rest of the day.

We are staying here in Heng Chun and visiting different places in the nearby Kenting area. Despite the presence of Meari, we were able to squeeze in a visit to the White Sand Beach and a trip to the Sheding Forest Park. We came last Thursday and spent the whole afternoon at the beach. Carmen and Jacob had a blast. The beach security were there and because of the high waves, they forbid people from playing in the water. We were allowed to stay on the beach and waddle on the seashore. That was enough for my two children. They were in heaven! Jacob even had the time to meet new friends--he played with four college-aged young people. I think, judging from the photos I took, they all had a good time.

Yesterday, we went to the Sheding Forest Park and took a four-kilometer hike around one of the mountain trails. We saw crabs, the mangrove forest variety and the famous land crabs (the ones that needed human help when they come down from the forest to spawn in the ocean). These land crabs are the ones that get run over by motorist during their annual trip to the ocean. They usually come down in droves and about ten percent of them die, if not aided by volunteers and nature-loving Taiwanese.

The family highlight was going through the Big Gorge, a split on one of the rock formation in the park. It doubles as a fun trail. It cuts through the rock mountain side running for about 40-50 meters long (maybe), and 2-3 feet wide, just enough to allow one person to walk through it. On rainy days, it really gets slippery. We were so glad the rain came after our hiking. My 9-year old daughter and 6-year old son absolutely love this part of the vacation. I took a video of the whole descent and ascent through the gorge. Sarah, my wife, did not like some parts of the adventure. Overall though, it was a blast!

I read today's news and it says, "Six dead in Vietnam and 11 fishermen missing in the Philippines." I should be thankful that I am safe here. All that Typhoon Meari did to me was ruin my family's vacation. But for some people in Asia, this typhoon has brought loss of lives and tragic devastation. I am praying for God's mercy for the people who have been affected by this typhoon.

Speaking of Asian people, we just meet Karen, a Filipino migrant worker employed here in Kenting at a restaurant we visited last Thursday. We also meet two other Vietnamese ladies from this same restaurant. I forgot their names. One of them spoke English. (Although, we understand their Chinese very well.) It was a good place to be, good food prepared in Vietnamese and Southeast Asian fashion. Not too spicy, just enough to make you smack your lips for the dainty after taste. Service was excellent. The food came in fast. If you are in Kenting some time, visit this restaurant located right across the street off McDonald's. And please say hello to Karen, the Filipino lady from Iloilo, as well as to the two Vietnamese ladies. And if you do not speak Chinese, do not worry, they have an English menu. besides, you can speak to the English-speaking Vietnamese lady (let us just call her Mary) and give her the opportunity to practice her English. She told me she studied English in a university in Vietnam. She worked at a bank before she migrated to Taiwan as a "foreign spouse" married into a Taiwanese family. I think Taiwan is fortunate to have people like Mary. Their contributions to Taiwan life and society can never be quantified in terms money or some other governmental statistics or figures. But everyone who eats at this Kenting restaurant knows why Kenting is a good place to visit.

Yesterday, we went back there, ate lunch, and talked to Karen and Mary. It was a busy day for them, for all the Kenting establishments, because it was a weekend, a Friday, when most people from Taiwan come and visit Kenting. We gave them a Christian literature written in Vietnamese. (I did not have a Tagalog or Ilonggo Christian reading material with me.) After we left, I thought: "Was that the best I could do? Shouldn't I stay for an hour with them and explain the contents of that Christian literature? Should I stay for a day or two and sit with them and explain the story of Jesus and God's salvation for all peoples of the world?"

I am staring at the dark clouds rolling into Kenting outside my second-floor window here in the Oasis Christian Retreat Center. I keep wondering how much opportunity do these Asian migrant workers have to hear the Christian gospel. Maybe, the question should be: How much are the Taiwanese Christians doing to witness to these Asian migrant workers among them? I do not know the answer to this question. I am just a foreign missionary here. But one thing I do is I make the most of the times I meet an Asian worker here in Taiwan and share the story of Jesus, the Giver of life and peace. I know giving a piece of Christian literature is not enough, but my prayer is that God will send another Christian to Karen, Mary, and other similar Asian workers, so they will have the opportunity to hear Jesus say, "I love you my child. Come and follow me. Receive my peace and joy." Will you join me and say this prayer with me?

The Model of the Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37, illustrates to us the model of loving the foreigners living in our midst. The Good Samaritan in this story not only pursues the needy person, the injured victim of a robbery, but takes the extra effort to care for a person unlike him. We should remember that Jews and Samaritans do not naturally mingle or even transact business like what was described here in the Lukan story. The Good Samaritan chooses to reach out to a Jew, to a person who is culturally and religiously different than himself.

Tomorrow, I am preaching a sermon at Nantze Higher Ground Community Church (NHGCC), a congregation of Filipinos here in Kaohsiung, pastored by my good friend Tessa Marzo. Last week, I preached the same sermon to the Chinese congregation of Feng Shan Free Methodist Church (FSFMC). On both sermons, I am making a strong case that, like the Good Samaritan, we should be expressing our love following the lines of both "what is needed" and "what is culturally different." The most common practice has been to love those who are needy among us. The Lukan story, however, challenges us to go beyond this common practice. We love people, not only because they are needy, but more so because they are culturally and religiously different from us. We seek out the foreigners among us and love them because God first loved them (see 1 John 4:10-11). We show our concern to them because God commanded us to love the foreigners among us as much as we love our very own selves, our families, and our church mates (Leviticus 19:33-34). We love from the heart and with all our heart (cf. Leviticus 19:17-18 and Matthew 22:36-40). Can you be a Good Samaritan and find a foreigner in your area and love them as Jesus does?

All Is Well

Wow! It has been two weeks since I updated my blog. Busy two weeks for me, with seminary teaching, and the upcoming graduation ceremony tomorrow. This year-end ceremony is becoming more meaningful to me now since I know more of the graduating students on a deeper level. Tomorrow should be an engaging event.

On the home front, Jacob is feeling better. He had the Walking Pneumonia, and had two different anti biotics administered during these past two weeks. I am so glad his body is responding to the second medicine. Sarah "received" the cough from Jacob and she is now on medications. She is now feeling better but there were days when she was feeling wuzzy! Must be all that cough meds.

Thank God for all the good medical services here in Taiwan. We are grateful for the great medical insurance system that sustains us here, even though we are foreign residents. We are thankful for the many blessings we have. All is well!