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July 2014

Finding Contentment

Sarah, Carmen, and Jacob are home. They came home last night, at around midnight. They are all sleeping now, still trying hard to shake off jet-lag. Today, we went out for a couple of walks around the neighborhood, and ate at our favorite restaurant, Wu Hua Ma Dumplings. I cherish these times and savor the sweet fellowship of family and of the love of wife and children. At many random moments during the day, my 13-year old daughter, Carmen, would come to me and give me a big hug and say: "I miss you so much. I am so glad I am here now with you."

One thing I learned during these past seven weeks of separation when my family were back in Illinois visiting with Grandma and Grandpa is that my contentment and satisfaction come only from my Lord and my God. He sustains me as a family man and as a single person. He fulfills all my desires and aspirations. Now that my family is back in my arms, I keep reminding myself that my soul finds contentment from the presence of the Almighty Creator and Savior, and not from the hugs and kisses of my earthly love ones. I am grateful to God for my family. They are His blessings in my life. They give joy to my heart. But my identity rest in my relationship with our God and Father. I am who I am because of how God views me with His love and grace.

Five Days Ago Was My Birthday

My devotions for today is on 1 Corinthians 14. Paul talks about "Orderly Worship" and the principle he explains is that "Everything should be done in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). How do you apply this principle in blogging? I find it challenging. Most of the things I write about here in my blogpost are events from my life as a missionary and some reflections ensuing out of these events. Most of the times they are random. They are somewhat disorderly. Paul says: we need to have order in our worship because God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33). So, by extension, because we serve the same God, we can then apply this principle to everything in our lives--including blog writing.

On a cursory glance, my blog writing seems "disorderly," with no direction and focus. I pretty much write about everything. However, if the over all theme is "a missionary's reflection on Taiwan life," then there is cohesion and movement towards a single point: my life as an FMWM missions worker.

Last July 13th was my birthday. But until now, people are still posting on my Facebook page greeting me a happy birthday. I try to be very courteous and express my gratitude. But seriously, sending a FB birthday greeting five days late? This is a DISORDERLY greeting. It is not meant to be. FB or any social media format is supposed to be time sensitive. You post a picture or comment of an event that is currently happening. (Unless of course it is Throwback Thursday or TBT posting.) Otherwise, it is confusing and out of order.

I did not expect anything special for my birthday. But extra surprises made it memorable. I went to church at Higher Ground (a Filipino church in Kaohsiung) and Pastor Tessa posted a birthday video greeting from my daughter Carmen, who was then in Illinois with Sarah and Jacob. And I thought I would be spending my birthday all alone, far away from my two children and beautiful wife. Nope! They were with me via video. Monday, a day later, I received three birthday cards in the mail from my family. What a pleasant way to spend a birthday here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

One of the card says: "Luv you, Papa! From your weird son, Jacob." My 9 1/2 year-old son, Jacob, is describing himself as weird. I know he means it to be funny and not too serious. But, his honest self-description is encouraging me. Children his age are struggling with self-identity and family acceptance. I am grateful that my son can be natural with his feelings and express them to me. Paul says: Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26b). I am glad that Jacob's silliness is building me up, helping me to become a better father and follower of Jesus.

OFW and Taiwan Christian Churches

Jimmy was an OFW or Overseas Filipino Worker working at S. K. Valves based in Pingtung, Taiwan. He had been in Taiwan eleven years. Before that, he worked as a seaman for over 15 years. Jimmy passed on last June 20th, succumbing to cancer. Yesterday, we had a funeral service committing Jimmy's remains as he was cremated and prepared for transfer to the Philippines. His family in Zamboanga is waiting for him.

Dying is sad. Dying in a foreign land, away from your loved ones is even more depressing. Randy, Jimmy's brother who is also working in the same Pingtung factory, was there to be with Jimmy during his last few earthly moments. At the funeral service, many sisters from the Higher Ground Church, a Filipino church located in Nandzi, Kaohsiung, were there to support Randy. (Other relatives who are working here in Taiwan also came to pay their last respects.) I am grateful for these sisters who came and consoled Jimmy's family. I wish we could all go with Randy to the Philippines when he goes sometime within these next few weeks.

Death of a love one is not pleasant. However, when there are friends or some form of a community present and consoling with the bereaved, then it becomes a little bearable. I thank God for the presence of the sisters from Higher Ground Church. I am also blessed that we received the support of Fong Shan Free Methodist Church. Together with the co-workers of Jimmy from S. K. Valves and its management, we were able to give comfort to Randy and Jimmy's relatives.

I have done funeral services before at funeral homes, grave sites, or inside a church. But this one is my first time here in Taiwan. It is also my first one with an OFW friend. It is my first here in Taiwan. I thank God that there are Christian churches who are willing to show sympathy and give support to our OFWs here in Kaohsiung. God bless these local churches.

Left Here Alone

"Home alone! So, who is cooking for you? Are you lonely?" My friends have been asking me these questions. My usual reply is that, "I am managing. It is hard, but time will go quickly." But really, I wanted to answer: "I am the one cooking. Don't you know that cook? And besides, there are a lot of bien dang [lunch box] around. There are a few around our house that are decent. Of course I am lonely. I miss my family. But I have work at the seminary and different writing projects that will keep me busy."

My family are in Illinois, USA for a 7-week vacation visiting with Grandma and Grandpa. I am left here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, by myself. The first week was very hard, but days got better after that. Of course, loneliness is always there, but I have learned to manage. It helps that we have SKYPE and email. I enjoy reading emails from my daughter, Carmen. She is becoming to be a good writer. Video-chatting with Jacob is fun. His 9-year old ways are fun to watch on a live video setting. Well, you will never understand me if you have never chatted with your son at this age.

Last Sunday, I had a shuijiao (dumplings) dinner with John. Yesterday, I had hot dog and pizza lunch with Tim and Lily. Tonight, I will visit with Jason and Cindy, and have dinner with them together with their two children. So you see, my friends here keep me company. They help me out.

It is also a time of prayer and meditation with my God. It is a perfect time to confront myself and all the imperfections that come out from these moments of weakness and isolation. It is a good time to face all these demonic urges and human impulses. (Please allow me to remain indirect here. I do not think my readers are ready to hear these things.) It is hard, but God is my Helper. I surrender everything to Him.

Home alone? Yes. Missing my family? Yes. Otherwise, my work at the seminary is filling up my time. Preparing lectures, visiting with our seminary family and workers, and church invitations to attend to are some of the ways that keep me busy. One treasured moment is I am able to spend more time at my potted-plant garden. Did you know that a few more days from now, my Dutchman's Pipe (Epiphyllum Oxypetalum) will start blooming? I am so excited. You know of course that these flowers only bloom in the middle of the night, and only once a year. So, this is one highlight that has brightened my time of being alone. God is good.