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September 2012

A Greater Connection with Our Friends in Michigan

"It is great being able to see what exactly we are supporting through our prayers and missions giving." I read this today in one Facebook page referring to our recent visit at Hastings Free Methodist Church at Hastings, MI. We all had a great time. Carmen and Jacob totally felt at home with the church. Sarah and I were so blessed to be there that Sunday morning and witness the love that we always have heard. We are so honored to be sent forth by this local church.

That evening, we visited the New Hope FMC at Kentwood, MI, close by the city of Grand Rapids. It was exciting to talk with Pastor Kimber and his little band of leaders at our missionary meeting. They all reminded me of our time in Kamuning Church at Manila, Philippines. That was a time of church renewal and multiplication. That evening, I sensed the same spirit of expectation for God's movement among our Free Methodists in the Grand Rapids area.

In both church visits, I felt a greater connection with the pastors, the church leaders, the members, and even the few new comers that I met that Sunday. God is moving in Michigan. I will wait for His many miracles here, among our Free Methodists located in this state of Michigan.

Dawn of a New Day

I love waking up in the quiet of an early morning. The dawn is slowly breaking and I can still see the stars shining in the horizon. This wide open window gives me a good view of the open sky. The shadows from the nearby trees send an eerie spectre to my window side experience. I see my favorite star shining ever so brightly. The family is still asleep. Probably tired from that long hiking trip we had yesterday. I have my hot black coffee and just enjoying this morning being alone in the stillness of this early Michigan morning.

And so . . . I pray. I pray for our visit tomorrow at Hastings, Michigan. I pray for God's presence to be there. I pray for a sister from Mancelona, MI. Last week, I heard from one of the pastors that she was entered into the hospital for some reason I am not certain. She is in her mid 80s, so she needs special attention. I pray for good health and God's comfort. I pray for a sister from Stanwood, MI. She just had her heart surgery a few days back. She is almost 80 years old, so she would need extra care. I pray for good health and God's embrace during this time of recovery. I should call them. What are their numbers again? I need to call someone today and find out about their telephone numbers.

Hey! The dawn is here. I could see a streak of white clouds coming from a jet plane cutting across the sky. The trees are no longer just dancing shadows. And my coffee is getting colder. I need a new cup. It is just another Michigan day, a new day for me.

Did Jesus Asked For Money?

Did you know that sending involves money? Did you know that sending missionaries means asking for money?

I know it. Every missionary has to contend with fund raising. Asking for money is an integral part of being sent as a cross cultural worker.  I have to remind myself that obedience to God is the main issue here. Just as much as I obey God by going to Asia for cross cultural missionary work, I also obey our Creator by asking for support from my friends here in the USA. The relationship that builds up as a result of this process of fund raising is only consequential. Obedience is the focus. I ask for money because I am obeying God.

Did Jesus ever ask for money? Did Jesus ever raise funds, go around asking people to support his itinerant ministry?

I do not know. We can only speculate. One thing, however, is sure. He was financially supported by the women who followed him (Luke 8:3). In some ways, we can say that the itinerant ministry of Jesus and his disciples (men) were successful because of the support of the women disciples. They provided for their food, cooking, clothes, and other peripheral needs. The focus was not on the “asking” for money, or providing for the financial needs. It was not even about doing the work of the ministry or fulfilling the missionary work. The focus was on obeying our Lord’s command (Luke 8:21). We give or receive financial support because we want to do the will of God. God is the focus.

Not Just Another Name

Last Sunday, we visited the Lakeview Free Methodist Church (LFMC) for its morning service. By 2:30 P.M., we headed out to visit Wayland Free Methodist Church (WFMC) for its evening service, a little further south, passing by the metropolis of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In both churches we shared about God's work in Taiwan and Asia, encouraging our Michigan brothers and sisters to continue participating in the missions work of FMWM. Although during these visits we talked a lot, we also had many opportunities to listen to people and hear their stories. These are their stories.

Caroline is a cancer survivor. She still struggles through medications and therapy, but through them she rejoices in the victory of prayer. She fights. She stands up for the many friends who pray for her. She testifies to me of the support of family members. I pray for her daughter who is growing closer to God because of this crisis. I pray for Caroline's husband who is considering membership to the local FM church as a result of this victory. I hear her story and I pray. She is no longer just another name that I read in a Lakeview church newsletter.

Joyce serves God in so many ways. She works as a nurse assistant and visits people who are experiencing medical crisis of extreme kind. She stays with them through out the night. Sometimes she misses church just so she can be with these people. "It is my mission field," she recounts to me. "I bring church to them since they cannot be physically present at any morning church service." I sense Joyce's passion for God. I pray for her family. I pray for my friends at Wayland church. I pray that their hearts will be open to God, and they will be obedient to Him and serve other people, just like the example of Joyce. I am glad I came to Wayland and heard Joyce's story. She will be not just another name that I will see in some pastor's report.

Yesterday, Carmen and Jacob visited the CLC meeting for children at Evart Free Methodist Church (EFMC). I was impressed with the big turn out of children joining this eight-month long ministry. Someone mentioned this year they have a lot of non Christian families participating. At that meeting, I saw one brother in action. Chuck was the volunteer driver for that night. He picked up kids from their homes and drove them back after the meeting. He was sitting in the driver seat of the church van when I approached him. I thanked him for his service to God. Now, I know, he is not just another name. His name will always remind me of God's ongoing work in this world. Chuck is an encouragement to me.

Did Paul Asked For Money?

Yes he did. In the Book of Acts, we do not see a categorical reading that Paul asked his supporters for money to sustain his missionary work. We see in chapter eleven that the disciples raised money to help their brothers in Jerusalem during a time of famine (Acts 11:30). In another part, we see Paul receiving support from the Macedonian churches during his missionary work in Corinth (Acts 18:5 and 2 Corinthians 11:9). In chapter 13, we understand that Paul and Barnabbas were sent off to missionary work by the Church of Antioch (Acts 13:3). We can only assume that being sent off also means being financially supported by brothers and sisters from Antioch.

But did Paul asked for money? Did he go around telling people that his funds are low and he needs more financial support in order for him to continue in his missionary work? 

In other parts of the Bible, we see that Paul asked for money to help other people. He implored the Christians in Macedonia to share in their earthly blessings and give money for the poor in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26). He encouraged the Corinthian brethren to give to the harvest, especially to the workers in the harvest field (2 Corinthians 9:10). He admonishes the rich to be generous for the Lord's work (1 Timothy 6:17-19). However, we do not see a specific description that Paul asked people for money for his missionary support. We can only infer this.

I think, the idea of being sent by the Church in Antioch also means the concept of fund-raising. We do not see Paul going around raising his own support. We can assume, however, that Paul was being supported financially by this church. Whether he went around himself or someone else was doing this for him, we cannot be certain. One thing for sure is that the churches that Paul worked with were generous in their giving and supportive of missionary work. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5) This is probably one of the secrets of Paul's success in missionary work.

Teach Your Children

In Taiwan, recycling is mandatory. Here in Big Rapids, Michigan (USA), it is optional. Yesterday, we all went to the local recycling place and brought all our plastics, corrugated cardboard, and aluminum cans to be recycled. It was a good opportunity to teach Carmen and Jacob the values of recycling and taking care of our planet earth. Both of them helped me haul in the bags of stuff and dumped them to the assigned baskets and racks. I was proud of them. They learned something important that day.

Last Labor Day weekend, we visited with the Johnsons and the Evoys, and shared at two local churches, Boyne City Free Methodist Church and Sault Ste. Marie Free Methodist Church. It was a long weekend for us. In all our four visits, both kids remarked: "This is the best ever." One could tell that they were having so much fun. They are building relationships at each visit. They are meeting new friends and getting to know some of our (their parents') old friends. It helps that in all these four places we visited, there were children their age and friendly dogs that played with them. Let me explain.

In Lakeview, MI, at the Johnson home, we had dinner with the Mallo family, Pastor Ted's daughter's family. Ted has two beautiful granddaughters Bailey and Ellie, ages 6 and 4. Carmen and Jacob played with them outside the backyard. When from nowhere, a little friendly puppy came over from Ted's neighbor and played with all of us. This puppy loves to jump on people's laps. So, we each took turns cuddling this friendly puppy. Everyone had a blast.

In Boyne City, we went to the lakeside and watched some of the docked sailing boats. Carmen gave Jacob a little tour. Jacob was pretending he was inspecting a Pirate Ship. After our little expedition by the lake, we visited with Pastor Jason's family. He has three boys, Joel (7), Isaac (5), and Matthew (about a year old). The boys, together with Carmen, went out "hunting" for garden snakes and little frogs out the yard of the parsonage. I was doubted them at first, but later we found out they caught two garter snakes and four frogs. Impressive! They also had a great time exploring the church garden. Carmen had a mouthful of fresh tomatoes from the garden.

In Sault Ste. Marie, we visited Dan and Holly, pastors of Sault Ste. Marie FMC. They had Chingu, a lade back mutt, that looked liked a half terrier and half beagle. Carmen warmed up to Chingu. On the other hand, Jacob had a great time playing with the Gibbons children, Tyler (9) and Wyatt (7). They went outside the church and run around the building and by the parking lot. while everyone was inside chatting. I am not sure what games they were playing. For all I know, it might have been a trip to some lost galaxy or a search for some hidden treasures. 

On Monday, we drove to Wolverine, MI and met with the Evoys. Carmen and Jacob played with Jade (7) and Lily (5) Evoy, outside the Evoy residence, close to the woods. They built some "forts" under a pine tree and decorated them with interesting objects. Jacob, the only boy of the group, went a little distance and found his own tree and built his own fort. While the four of us adults, Steve, Jenny, Sarah, and I, were busy talking about Taiwan and Asia, the foursome young ones ventured into the wilderness and were lost into the wonders of nature. We went home tired but so full of great memories of our new friends.

In this time of Partnership Building, when we visit friends and supporters from our many Free Methodist churches, Carmen and Jacob are learning new and old things. They are learning about friendships. They are discovering what it means to partner with our missionary supporters. They might not understand what fund-raising entails. But they are quickly learning the value of face to face encounter. They now see the importance of meeting our supporters in person and sharing with them our stories in the harvest fields. We are teaching our children. We are teaching them that missionary work is not only there in Taiwan, but also involves our friends here in Michigan. They are slowly comprehending the intricacies of the idea of partnership. We participate in God's work through our friendship and common heritage we call Free Methodism.

Sarah and I do our best to teach our children. Whether it is recylcing old things for the good of the planet or treasuring friendships for the purpose of missions partnership, we teach Carmen and Jacob that ultimately, it is God who sustains everything. Our Creator Savior will lead the way.