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June 2020

Mrs. Li From Kaohsiung

Mrs. Li is a neighbor and a friend. She works as a “collector of recycled materials,” gathering paper, throw-away plastics, and used clothes, and selling them to the nearby recycling company. She comes to our house and collects our stuff at least once a week. She is close to 80 years old and despite her age she still patrols our neighborhood for any recycling stuff. Lately, she has been frequenting our place because of the ever increasing number of items that I am trying to dispose of. Old computers, used clothes, unwanted books, and tons of knick knacks that we cannot bring back to the US. She is happy to help us by disposing all of our “garbage” and, in return, makes a few dollars for her to keep.

Sarah took a picture of Mrs. Li and I when she came to collect our recycled goods. We said: “We want a picture of our friend.” She was so embarrassed that we considered her as our friend. She had been my “recycling lady” friend and had helped us with our stuff since we moved in the mission house in 2007. Our friendship was a little challenging. Mrs. Li, like most people in southern Taiwan, spoke only in Hokkien Chinese. She could understand a little Mandarin Chinese, but definitely did not know any English. So, we would usually converse in Mandarin and a little smidgen of made-up sign language. I had visited her house once or twice. I had met her son once. I knew she was going to a Catholic church nearby. On a few occasion, I had prayed with her, on some street corner, when she was out collecting recycled garbage for other people. I wished I had done more, but language barriers and differing work schedule made it more difficult for us to meet. Now, I can only hope for God to be gracious to Mrs. Li. I pray that our Lord Almighty will meet with her on the city streets of Kaohsiung.

We said our goodbyes and gave our final send-offs. I am not sure if I ever will see her again. God will be gracious. Our Lord Almighty will bless the poor of the land, even Mrs. Li. “Blessed are the poor, for their is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

God’s Sweet Visit: A Trinity Sunday Reflection

Today’s talk is on the theme of God’s visit in our lives. I will be sharing from Psalm 8:1-9, and talk about the sweetness and intimacy of the visit of the Spirit of God. I am hoping that, just like the Psalmist, we respond and say: “Oh Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

      One of my missionary friend tells me of his experience with God’s visit. He is used to seeing God’s miracles and power from his everyday life. These are ordinary occurrences in the missions field. But with regards to God’s sweet visit, he experiences the intimate visit of God only when he is out scuba diving and going under the waters watching wonderful creatures from the ocean. Another missionary friend tells me that he experiences God’s sweet presence when he is doing carpentry in his shop or work room. He imagines Jesus working with him doing wood work. Both of these friends are seeing the majesty of the Spirit of God in intimate and renewing ways.

      (Please read the whole chapter of Psalm 8.) Psalm chapter eight speaks of the majesty of God. We see God’s strength from children and helpless babies. We see God’s glory from the stars and other beautiful heavenly bodies. We see God’s beauty through the creative works of ordinary humans. In all these, the Psalmist responds to God saying: “Oh Lord, how majestic You are!” Just like the Psalmist, we also can experience the sweet visit of the Spirit of God. When we do, we will respond like the Psalmist and exult God’s majestic strength, glory, and beauty.

      There are two things I want to share with everyone about the visit of God. One is that the Spirit of God comes in an intimate way. When God created humans he breathed on man and created him from the dust. (Genesis 2:7) There is here the image of God stooping over and coming down to an earthly level to give life to man and woman.  (See Genesis 2:22). This is a picture of an intimate encounter. Proverbs also speaks of a very special visit from the Spirit of God at the time of creation (Proverbs 8:22-23). The Spirit’s visit is so intimate that only the person and God will fully understand the depth of such an encounter.

      When my daughter was born, I had the privilege of receiving her in my arms. I was there inside the delivery room. Despite the blood and everything, I held her close to my heart and kissed her in an intimate way—a kiss that only I can understand. In the Bible the Spirit of God comes to us in an intimate manner. He teaches us how to pray. He helps us talk to the Father with groaning, and sometimes in deep agony and intense intercession. (See Romans 8:26). The encounter is so deep that only God and that person praying can fully comprehend the situation. The Spirit of God comes in an intimate way.

      Second is that the Spirit of God comes and renews us. The Apostle John speaks of the Spirit convicting the world. (See John 16:8). In another translation, this verse speaks of the Spirit exposing us because of sin, righteousness, and judgement. The Spirit shines his light on us and then renewal comes to us. In the Bible, we see that the Spirit renews all creation—including all his children. (See Psalm 104:30). He comes and makes everything new in our lives.

      One time I was hiking in Kentucky (USA). I felt God’s presence through my experience with nature. It was a point in my life that I was overwhelmed with loneliness. I was missing home. I wanted to go back to the Philippines and return to everything that was familiar. I shared this to my friends. And we prayed together. I opened up to my professors. And they gave me wise counsel. I sought the help of my pastors. And they encouraged me. And yet, after all these forms of support, I still felt the need to see God in a personal way and to feel his visit in a most intimate manner. So, when my classmates mentioned a weekend of hiking and camping at the Red River Gorge, I joined in. I was hoping, during this trip, I would experience God’s presence in a profound way.

      At one point during our hike, I told my friends that I wanted to be alone. They conceded. I went up an elevated portion of the gorge that ended on the edge of a cliff. I stood there at the edge overlooking a valley and watched the colorful hues of Autumn trees. I stood there and soaked in all the grandeur of the mountains around me and the captivating valley below me.

      At that moment, by the edge of that cliff, I felt a stillness around me.  I noticed there was no wind, no breeze blowing for a few minutes or so. Everything, every tree, bush, and shrub were silent and standing still. Beside me overlooking the valley stood a small tree. Suddenly, I saw a leaf fall from that tree. It floated and drifted away slowly towards the valley below. I followed that falling leaf, until I could no longer see it from down below the valley floor. And in that moment, I heard God speak to me, deep into my heart. He spoke in a very intimate way.

      God said: “David, I love you my son. I care for you so much that I have prepared this place for us to meet. Even before creation, I have already thought about creating this gorge, this valley, this very tree by the edge of the cliff so that we can meet, just you and I. I have appointed this time, this moment with this one falling leaf as a way of showing you my love. I am here. Do not be discouraged. Do not feel lonely. I will be there for you. When you go back to Asia, I will be with you all the way. You are in my heart even before you were born, even from the beginning of time. I love you my son.”

      My experience with God through nature encouraged me in a personal way—an encouragement that no one else can understand. God met me in the forest at the edge of the cliff. He spoke to me when I was spiritually down and, using a tree, God lifted me up and renewed my whole being. He is a majestic God.

      When God visits us, our response is like that of the Psalmist, when he said: “Oh Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” In the Bible, from the Old Testament, we see the example of Elijah, how God visited him in an intimate way and how God renewed his life. We find this in 1 Kings 19:9-18. It would be better to read the whole chapter, but here in these few verses we see Elijah’s situation. He is discouraged and fleeing in fear because the Queen of the country wanted him to be killed. Elijah is saying to himself that he is the only prophet left. He is wallowing in self-pity. But God says he is not the only one. There are many more prophets of God. He asks Elijah to go to a mountain and meet with the Spirit of God in an intimate way. Elijah stands before God at the mouth of a cave. Then a strong wind comes that shakes the mountain, but God is not there. Next, a powerful earthquake comes, but God is not in the earthquake. Later fire comes, but still God is not in the fire . Finally, a gentle whisper comes and God visits Elijah in an intimate way and renews Elijah and his commitment to God. He is truly a majestic God.

      Do you want to experience the sweet visit of the Spirit of God? When God comes, it will be so intimate that only you and God will fully understand the encounter. When God visits, you will be so encouraged and renewed in your most inner being. Do you want to say with the Psalmist, “Oh Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”? Come and experience the sweet visit of the Spirit of God.

Lord Have Mercy

(Below is a prayer and response to today’s turmoil happening in the city streets of the USA.)

      Our Father in heaven, your word says we must agree “wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” We must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:2-5 NLT).

      We have failed you dear Father. We have lost the ability to look beyond the color of our skin and cannot see street protests as the expressions of our brother and sisters’ pain. We have accepted violence as the tool of the powerful and silence as the default response to our despair. We have relied on our religious meetings and public image as the only ways to measure spirituality. You have said a long time ago what you want, Father. The prophet said: “Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (Amos 5:21 MSG). We have failed you dear heavenly Father!

      “Listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:6-7 NLT).

      To Moses, you said: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:17-18 ESV).

      We have sinned against you. We have not loved our neighbor and have not listened to their hurting and grieving voices. We have failed to raise up a generation of people who are able to uphold justice and practice mercy. Many moons ago, you have called me to be a teacher among your people. You have said: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28.20 ESV). I have failed you my Lord. Please be with me all the days of my life. Forgive me.

      “Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2 GNT). Declare to me your will for my life. Say to me again: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:33-34 ESV).

Praying For Healing: Premika Tamang

(Premika Tamang of South Asia shares her journey of God’s healing in her life.)

        In August of 2012, we, the sisters and women of the church, started a ministry, a Prayer Fellowship. I was asked to lead in the area of healing and prayer. Although the vision seemed very good at first, I had no idea how to speak about healing. It was very difficult for me to speak in front of many people. Besides, I never had such an amazing healing in my own life. I was very worried.  I thought it would be easier for me to speak about healing if there was such a healing in my life. But, nothing here in my life.

        While serving at this Prayer Fellowship, we had to travel to many places during this time of ministry. It was during one of our ministry trips to the Nuwakot District, I received word from back home that my mother-in-law was ill. Two days later after I returned, she passed away. She slept in the Lord. I was very sad. I had to speak words of healing to the members of our Prayer Fellowship. But after such an incident happening in my own house, I started asking God how to speak his words of healing. I became even more sad thinking about this. I cried to the Lord.

        Within a year of my mother-in-law's death, I lost my middle son whom I love more than anything. While I was continuing with the women’s Prayer Fellowship these two incidents devastated me. I prayed to God and asked why I was suffering so much. I cried. In the middle of my disappointment, God did not give Satan a chance to win. In my sorrow, the Holy Spirit came to me saying that only by struggling with God in this situation can I be rescued. At the same time, this is the way I may be able to encourage my sisters.

        About a month after my son died, God sent me to a village called Ree Tajimrang (a nearby village) to share his word. I asked God, Lord, why should I go? How can I share the word among these people that “there is healing in God” when I cannot even save my own son? My heart was pounding at the thought of how to speak. I was kind of blind. But before I spoke, I received a prophetic word. When I was praising, God said: “Daughter, why are you so worried? Why are you crying? I have your son. You will meet him later. Don't worry too much.” These words from God encouraged me so much. I was very happy to know that I will meet my son someday, at the end of my life. No matter how much I have to suffer now, I have the courage to share the word with our sisters who are suffering and worried like me. Also, that day, I learned that there should not be much concern for the dead, because they are alive in God.

        I continued in the women’s ministry through this Prayer Fellowship. And yet, problems in my home kept happening.  At one time, our youngest son got ill. I prayed to God with repentance. I humbly prayed that what had happened before, would not be repeated in my house. God miraculously healed my youngest son. Later on, my father-in-law also got sick. I was still in pain from the death of my mother-in-law and my middle son. After their deaths, there are now only seven members in the family. I begged God from the bottom of my heart. Oh Lord, I prayed with faith that my father-in-law would be spared. My husband and I prayed for him day and night. But his condition became more and more critical. Since I was meeting with many leaders and believers during this women’s Prayer Fellowship, I kept requesting them to pray for my father in-law. God healed my father-in-law. He was in a critical condition, and now he goes to church and serves God. He went on to live a full life for four more years, before passing on in 2017. He is also now sleeping in God’s rest.

        When God unexpected healed my father-in-law and kept him alive on this earth for four years, I was encouraged. I became more and more convinced that God was listening to my prayers for intercession. I believe that my father-in-law was healed and his life was extended because of our prayers. No matter how many failures we have, God is there to bless us. Until we experience healing in our lives, we are not really able to share these things with others. God has blessed me so much even to this day.

        I am very happy in God now. At present, there are six of us in our family. A few months ago, my mother got sick. She was taken to the Teaching Hospital (one of the biggest government hospital in country) where we admitted her. The doctor said she would not live for a week. She was diagnosed with lung cancer. We brought her back to the village. The only hope for her now is in God. Our family and brothers, all of us fasted and prayed for eight days. God answered our prayers for healing. My mother is with us until now. This is made possible by the grace of God.

        Because of these similar incidents of healing that have happened in my life, I am encouraged to move forward in this women’s ministry, this Prayer Fellowship. With this enthusiasm, I want the sisters of this region to be enthusiastic for the Lord, even among those who are busy with housework and farm chores. Most of the women here have not received any formal (educational) training. Only men are receiving such training. (Please take this in positive way.) And still, our belief in God is never a backward experience. Moreover, our prayer services have awakened us more and more, in our churches and especially among the women. You should understand that if you have learned how to pray and there is a quarrel with someone, you should immediately forgive and ask for forgiveness. (Because of God’s healing I have seen in my life, I want the women of this region to be enthusiastic for the Lord.)

        Personally, I have come to understand that it is easier for me to share from what I have experienced in my life. Now, wherever I go, I go to pray and share the word of God. Sisters and brothers have full faith in the power of prayer and the healing that comes through prayer.

(Premika Tamang now serves as a prayer coordinator for a Free Methodist Church here in the mountains of South Asia. She has two adult children and a pre-teen son. She works as a farmer, while her husband, John, works as a church planter for Beer-jet FMC. This interview was translated to English by a friend, Resham Tamang.)