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August 2013

Waiting On God To Act Before . . .

The pictures below represent a visual summary of my time in the 2013 Missions Congress, last August 7-10, 2013, at Davao City, Philippines, sponsored by the Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association (APFMMA). I facilitated a workshop on "Mobilizing Pastors and Leaders in Our Local Churches for Missions Work." We had participants from India, Taiwan, Japan, the USA, and the Philippines. I learned a lot from our time together.

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We got into small groups and "pretended" we were a local church missions committee. We attempted to formulate a missions program for our local congregation.

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We were honored with the presence of pastors, seminary professors, superintendents, InterVarsity staff workers, church leaders, and missionaries. One thing we learned is that: "We need to wait on God to act in the areas we are going to or among the people we will be serving before we come and execute plans for missions mobilization." Such a simple truth but very hard to live by. 

Paul Is Waiting

"Paul was waiting." (Acts 17:16). Wait a minute! Paul the missionary is waiting? Paul, the one who fearlessly goes to many dangerous places and, without any hesitation, preaches to anyone who would listen is waiting? It is hard for me to comprehend the impulsive Paul, the pioneer missionary who has no qualm standing before kings and rulers, to have the time to sit down and wait. What would he do when he is waiting? 

It is not that Paul the missionary never had experienced a time of waiting. Before this time, Paul was locked up in a Macedonian prison. While waiting inside the jail, they sang hymns and songs. (Really, what else could you do inside a prison?) And so, what happened next resulted in the conversion of the jailer together with his family (Acts 16:22-40). In another occasion, Paul, with Silas, were waiting for the appointment for missionary work from the Church Council in Antioch. I suppose they were also singing hymns and spiritual songs while waiting for this formal endorsement (Acts 13:1-3). But I think, knowing Paul, he most probably was going around the city of Antioch talking to the many Christians in the area recruiting them to the work of cross cultural ministry. (Compare Acts 20:4.)

And because of this time of waiting in Athens, it resulted into an encounter with Greek philosophers and religious gentiles. Experts say this is Paul's first meeting with non-Jews who have no background or who are unfamiliar with the Torah or any of the teachings of the Jewish religion. And thus, we see Paul's "Sermon on Mars Hill," the famous preaching where Paul connected with his non Jewish listeners through his use of the "Unknown God." He truly crossed cultural boundaries and overcame philosophical obstacles by appealing to the people's gentile knowledge of the Creator God. He uses a gentile poet to affirm his statement: "For we also are His offspring" (Acts 17:28 NASB). As a result of this preaching, we see more and more Greek, Roman, and other gentile followers committing to the venture of missionary work in Asia (Acts 17:16-34). These are gentile Christian workers who speak the language of the non-Jewish population. And I would say, these are cross cultural missionaries who are better equipped, better than Paul, Silas, and Barnabas, in terms of relating the Christian gospel to the people in the area who have no history and experience with the Jewish culture and religion.

So, many beautiful things came about because of Paul's waiting. He was not waiting quietly, sitting down and doing nothing. He was, actually, waiting for Silas and Timothy to come from Macedonia. What did Paul do while he was waiting? First, he was looking around (Acts 17:16). This is just the typical Paul. You could never keep him still in one corner. He just had to go out and do something. Second, he had an emotional reaction (verse 16). He opened his heart. He was disturbed. So, being the Paul whom we all know, impulsive, go-getter, impatient, rash, etc., he sought an audience with the Jewish group in one of the local synagogues, and later, he ended up in an Areopagus, a Greek (and Roman) meeting place for scholars, thinkers, seekers, teachers of philosophy. You all know the story, right? (See Acts 17:16-34.) Many more believers from the gentile crowd joined Paul.

So, what did Paul do while he was waiting? He looked around and God did the rest. Are you waiting? Are you waiting for someone? Look around and soak in everything you see. And let God write His own story for you.

Waiting Upon The Lord (Here in Asia)

"I wish I could help," Olive shares to us at the dinner table. "I wish I could just jump in and share in the presentation." She tells us about her feelings while she was listening to one of the presentation at the 2013 Missions Congress in Davao City, Philippines.

Sarah and I are listening to Olive and her husband, Ronilo, share about what God is doing in their lives. They are currently leading a Free Methodist Bible college here in the Philippines, as well as participating in several ministries helping Filipinos who are suffering from the HIV disease and other related maladies. Sarah and I are so amazed with how God is leading them. Many Filipinos are in this state. They are eager to get involved in the Lord's work. It is humbling to see how the Spirit of the Lord is moving in their midst..

I am right now in the Philippines for several reasons. Sarah, Carmen, Jacob, and I are taking a short vacation. Two weeks ago, we went out to Coron, Palawan for a family time of snorkeling and water fun. The children loved it! It was their first time do something like this. A few days back, we were also in Butuan City to visit with my sister and her family. It was a great time for us to reconnect with cousins, uncles, and aunts. Here in Manila, we also visited with several of my brothers and sisters.

Last week, we were at the 2013 Missions Congress of the APFMMA (Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association). At the congress, I presented a workshop on Mobilizing Local Churches for Missions Work. Most of the time, I just listened to FM people share about God's work in Asia. We prayed together. We helped each other rekindle our love for God. In addition to the many Filipino FM pastors and leaders, I met with several Asian FM leaders. Lura said, "Come to Nepal and lead a Bible class to help our young leaders in our Bible school there." Katsumi sat down with me about the plans to bring a mission team to Japan sometime in 2014. Australia. Vietnam. India. Everyone is sharing about the many ways to help each other, to encourage the FM people working in Asia. Just like Olive and Ronilo, everyone wanted to jump in and get involved in the work. Kevin's presentation about the FM work of the "Set Free Movement" was a hit! After his talk and workshop, participants were discussing ways to get their local churches involved in ending modern-day slavery, human trafficking, and other social issues of our time. There is certainly a movement, a growing desire to be available for God's work here in Asia.

"Next year, I will bring my daughter," David (Lou), a Chinese pastor from Taiwan, shares to Sarah and I. "I will ask Pastor Timothy to also bring his teenage daughter. We will bring several young people from our local churches in Taiwan to participate in next year's meeting in Bangkok, Thailand." He is referring to August 2014, next year's Young Leaders' Missions Congress to be sponsored by APFMMA. It will also be a time to celebrate APFMMA's 20 years anniversary.

People are excited. Free Methodists are willing to participate. FM people are open to God's leadership in missions work here in Asia, whether it is participating in the challenges posed by the Set Free Movement or getting involved in the life of our local churches for cross cultural ministry.

I am waiting on the Lord! It has always been my dream that a steady stream of leaders will respond to God's call for cross cultural ministry here in Asia among our Free Methodist congregations and communities. And, I have always believe that this won't happen unless we educate our young people, we rally them to join us. And because of this conviction, I always have this tendency to go around our churches in Taiwan, in the Philippines, in Asia, and tell everyone that they must be involved in cross cultural missions. They should join in the Lord's work. This month, God is telling me to wait. He said: "Let me do my work. Stop talking and wait." And so . . . I wait.