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March 2012

Ordinary Things

This morning, Carmen and I went to a time of ministry with a group of Filipinos (OFWs) working here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We joined the leaders of Higher Ground Church (NHGCC) singing songs and meeting new OFWs coming to Taiwan. We left Nandzi (a northern district of this city) to visit a dormitory at KEPZ (Kaohsiung Economic Processing Zone) south of us and met some members of the JIL (Jesus Is Lord) Church. We ate some pansit (Filipino noodles), enjoyed the chit-chats in Ilokano and Tagalog, and connected with the dormitory's Taiwanese supervisor. Pastor Terry Chu, a Chinese pastor of the New Song Church, coordinated the whole affair. It was a great experience to see God's leading hand. The Holy Spirit orchestrated the whole thing. Nothing spectacular. No fire from the sky coming down to earth. Nothing of this sort. Just ordinary people like us talking to each other and telling stories about the Great and Almighty God.

From the looks of it, these few friends we met will eventually go to the small JIL Church nearby. It doesn't make sense for them to travel an hour or so just to visit Higher Ground Church every Sunday. They definitely will not go to a Free Methodist Church or the New Song Church because they are all Chinese churches. They will all go to a JIL Church, and I am okay with that. It is liberating to know that we are all doing this not to bring in more people to our local groups, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God. If God will use our simple stories to challenge people to His salvation, then praise God. If He will bring the people to this small JIL Church, then glory to our Creator. It is good to know that we are all working for the Almighty Founder of the Universe.

Carmen loved her time of singing and jamming with the Filipina friends. She asked me twice when we were going to visit Higher Ground Church next so she can sing with the Praise and Worship Band. I told her she needs to practice with them. Maybe this Thursday or Saturday. These are the two days of the week the ladies come to church for music practice. I probably will take Carmen this Thursday, since this whole week she is off school enjoying her Spring Break. I am glad she enjoys these kinds of ordinary things, spending time with people.

What is the Question?

At the end of it all, what is the question that we will hear? What will our Creator ask of us?

We are made to please God. Our sole purpose in life is to glorify our Creator Almighty. (See Col. 3:17; Psalms 96:1-13; and Rev. 7:9-12.) And, the ultimate way to glorify God is to practice a life of "making disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:16-20). When ones life is becoming a blessing to others, then one is pleasing God (Genesis 12:1-3).

In the study of the Bible, Church, Theology, and Missions, there is a consensus that planting new churches is the best platform for making disciples. I believe this to be true. I teach this in my class, I share this with my friends, and I sing about this in my quiet moments. I always pray that God will send me to a ministry that multiplies new congregations through the process of disciple making.  At the moment, God is telling me to stay at the seminary and practice a life of making disciples and mentoring new leaders among our students and staff members. I am okay with that.

Making disciples is a life long process. It means helping a Christian to full maturity in Jesus, to a life of abundance (Eph. 4:13 and Jn. 10:10). It simply means blessing others so that they also can be a blessing to other people (Genesis 12:1-3 and 22:18). It means training new leaders to become multiplying "disciple makers." These are leaders who are able to train others to become mature Christians (2 Timothy 2:2). I know that this understanding of the process of disciple making can occur in a seminary setting. And, I am okay with that.

Some days, I still hope that God will send me to a "frontier missions" work; some place where the people have never heard the gospel before. In my personal moments, I pray for those Chinese people who follow the book of Islam. I pray that someday they will encounter Jesus in powerful and meaningful ways. Meanwhile, I am here in Taiwan, praying for these people groups and training our seminary students to be "multiplying disciple makers" with the hope that one of these students will go to that place so that God will be glorified among them.

So, back to the original question. In the end, what will our Creator ask of us? I think, our Lord Almighty will say: "Did you help someone become like Jesus?" (See Philippians 2:5-11.) In other words, God will ask each one of us whether or not we made disciples, or whether or not we blessed others so that in turn they also were able to bless others. I am hoping that when God asks me this question, I don't have to answer Him, and that one of my Taiwanese students will stand up on my behalf and say: "Yes, Lord."

Little Answers to Prayers

"If you have a student who has a heart for cross cultural missions and is willing to meet with me on a regular time for prayer and mentoring, I can be available," Jeremy shares this to me. We are at MAK watching our children play soccer. He shares with me his vision for missions work here in Taiwan. I listen. In my heart I hear God's little answers to my prayers for help.

There are a few students at the seminary who are full-time missionaries working with their mission agency here in Kaohsiung. Jeremy is one of those students. On the other hand, we have several students who have the heart for cross cultural missions but in so many ways they need guidance and someone to mentor them. 

This is where I come in. Through God's grace and direction, I participate in this mentoring process. However, I cannot do it alone. I need the help of other missionaries. I praise God that He is showing this need to fellow missionaries like Jeremy, so that we can join in the work of the Holy Spirit through the lives of these seminary students.

This afternoon, I am going to meet with two of our students at Holy Light Theological Seminary. I am going to share to them this idea of forming a ministry of mentorship. Next week, I will meet with three other students and will also challenge them to this idea of mentorship. Pray with me. Pray for God's leadership and direction.

Hymns for the Living

"Early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee." A great line from a great hymn. We sang this song at the fading hours of my mother's earthly life. Today, exactly 22 years ago, my Mom passed away. She breathed her last in the late hours of March 14, 1990, well  . . . maybe the early morning hours of the 15th . . . I am not sure anymore. We were all focused in celebrating her life singing this hymn and a few others that we lost track of time.

"Each step I take my Saviour goes before; And with His loving hand, He leads the way." Hand in hand, together with my father, brothers, and sisters, we formed a circle around the bed of my Mom and sang this hymn. It was her favorite hymn. "Until someday the last step will be taken." At this point in the song, I felt like the angels in heaven were singing with us.

"On Christ the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand." This is our family song. And it was just right that towards the last few seconds of my mother's time in this world, we sang it together with her. We celebrate her life.

A few days back, Jacob, my 7-year old son had a conversation with Sarah. Jacob said: "Is Papa's Papa and Mama in heaven with Jesus?" Sarah responded, "Yes." Jacob: "I want to go to heaven and see Jesus." We love you Mommy!

This Week, I Remember My Mother

Every second week of March, I always remember my mother who passed away 22 years ago. She was a great mother and grandmother, and a friend to many people. Just the other day, I told my children, ten-year old Carmen and seven-year old Jacob, what a loving person their late grandma was. "Your Lola Mommy [grandma] loves to cuddle with us children," I recalled this to them. "There were eleven of us so it was quite a hustle to vie for her attention." I shared more stories about my Mom and our life back in Butuan City, Philippines.

This is a time to remember. Allow me to share with everyone the life of my mother.

Corazon M. Clemente, January 1, 1927 to March 14, 1990, born in Looc, Romblon, Philippines. She worked as a Head English Teacher at Agusan National High School in Butuan City, Philippines, for many years retiring there in the 1980s. She was a long time WMI (Women's Ministries International) President of the Philippines chapter. She volunteered her time helping many Free Methodist Churches in Butuan City and Manila. She was a dedicated wife to my father Apolonio T. Clemente, Sr., and a mother to us six brothers and five sisters. She loves to sing, work at the garden, and enjoys visiting relatives and love ones. She is always ready to lend an ear to someones story. She takes pride in creating things with her own hands, choosing to sew dresses, costumes, or pants for her children rather than buying them from a store. She opened up our home to many strangers and needy friends. It was not a surprise that we end up with street children living in our house. Her compassion was overwhelming. Many people called her "Mommy." She was a mother and dedicated friend to many.

March 11, 1990 was just like today, March 11, 2012. We were in Manila. It was a Sunday, and I came home from church to get ready for our Sunday family lunch fellowship. My mother stayed at the church for a Church Board Meeting, of which she was an active member. I received the call from our church pastor that Mom was rushed to the hospital. During the closing prayer for the board meeting, my mother never woke up. After the prayers, everyone opened their eyes to see her slumped on the table. Later, the doctors told us she suffered from an aneurysm. I like to remember that she was talking to Jesus when she received the call from God and entered into the life hereafter.

She passed away on March 14, 1990 and was buried in Butuan City on March 24, 1990. When we came home from the burial, there was a small earthquake that rattled our old house in Guingona Sr. Avenue. It was a gentle reminder that God is taking away a great person and a mother to all.

Today, March 11, 2012, I remember my mother, together with my family here in Taiwan. I miss you Mommy. I wish you could have stayed a little while to play with my two children. They would have been blessed with your grandma's love and care. But I know that you can see us and witness our Lord's goodness in our lives. Give Jesus a hug from us. Tell him thank you for blessing us. Our family life as a missionary here Taiwan is fulfilling.

This week is a time to remember my mother.