Church in Community

Encouraging One Another

“Now I know what you were talking about, Pastor. After the police arrested me because of my Christian faith, I remember the story you told us before, when you were in prison yourself.” These are the words of one anonymous brother who is sharing to Pastor Ben Mann (a pseudonym) his experiences with the local authorities.

Ben Mann, an FM pastor here in Asia, recounts to me this story over breakfast here in Thailand. We are here for a time of resourcing and mutual encouragement. We have different sessions to consult on the state of the work, as well as skill building and ministry equipping on different leadership needs and issues. Ben Mann and I are enjoying some down time over a meal and spontaneously sharing about what God is doing in Asia.

Many Christians here in Asia are persecuted because of their Christin faith. Mann’s story of one of his members is just one of the many examples that the Free Methodist Church is facing in its mission to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We keep going. The Spirit of God continues to move, and so we move with God. Yes, we pray, but we don’t stop there. We  keep on encouraging each other and use these difficulties and persecutions to be a channel of the Good News. 

In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul says:  God is the One “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (ESV) One reason Christians face persecution is that they can use these experiences to encourage one another, to uplift a brother or sister in the Lord, who is going through a similar trial or a time of suffering because of one’s Christian faith. Ben Mann’s story above is an example. Ben and his Christian brother are encouraging each other, sharing their common experiences when they were in prison because of their faith in God. Together, they partake of Christ’ suffering and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:5-7). Together, they glorify God.

So, the next time you are in a difficult situation or going through trials in your life, remember Pastor Ben Mann from Asia. Remember Paul’s words from the Corinthian Epistle. Remember the comfort of Christ and the hope that our Lord gives to us. Also, remember that in the years to come, someone with a similar trial and suffering will come to you, and the two of you, together, will encourage each other in the Lord. And your sister in the Lord will say to you, “Now, I know what you are talking about.”

Eloisa's Story

Today, I want to share with you a testimony of a sister who experienced God's healing and faithfulness. (I am sharing this story with her permission.) God is using her here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is her story:

Good morning! I am Loisa Tai, married to a Taiwanese man. We have two wonderful children, a daughter, who is 21, and a son, who is 18 years old. As a woman married to a man with a different culture, language, and belief, one must have the courage to face every circumstances. But I am so thankful we survived our first few years (of marriage) of arguments almost everyday.

When my kids went to school I found a job to have extra money to send some to my parents in the Philippines. I kept this job until I was able to have my own canteen that I ran for about 10 years. This was the reason that I was not able to go to church because I was too busy earning money. Now, I don’t know where the money went, the money that I earned. This is my greatest mistake: not being consistent to bring my children to church an that is why I have a hard time inviting them now even after they were baptized. I had been very busy until one day I heard two Filipinos (talking) who were diagnosed with breast cancer. I was alarmed because I have felt something in my breast for quite some time.Then I told my husband and children that I will go to see a doctor. That time I don’t know which doctor I need to consult with. So I went to a gynecologist and she did an ultra sound (procedure) and right after that she told me that she will refer me to an oncologist because the lump (looks) malignant. During that time I did not know how I should feel. I was just calm and worried, and praying hoping it’s not that serious. Before I meet the oncologist, I did the mammogram. When the result came out I (made appointment to see) my oncologist. I called our pastor to come with me because I was afraid with what the doctor might say. And when we were there he told us everything that I need to do. He showed us the result of the mammogram. Then, he schedule me for a biopsy. And after the biopsy, he said that it is stage 1B, and (for this reason) I would need to have an operation. 

So that day of my operation, my husband was there, together with our pastor and Aying. They were there because I need them to pray for me. I was afraid at that time (and I kept) praying until I was inside the operating room. My husband said I was there for more than 8 hours, and the doctor told him that my cancer is stage 2B. After a few days they scheduled me, if I’m not mistaken, for 12 sessions of chemotherapy. This was the hardest part because I lost all my hair. But I knew that during these dark moments of my life I have our Lord, because He says in Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Praise God for He is our great Healer. He protected me until I finished my other 30 days of radio therapy.  I am so blessed because I have my family and a family in Christ who was there to pray with me and they kept on encouraging me to fight and always be happy and positive which was a big help for those who are sick. Just like what it says in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up bones.” Now I am on my third year as a cancer survivor. I try to serve our God. I am attending care groups and still learning to know more about Jesus. I am so thankful that I have Jesus who is our Everlasting God and great Healer, a provider, our Savior and Lord. All Glory to God!

My Past Connections

I am eating “Arsik.” Arsik is a fresh water fish cooked in a spicy sauce which is a special delicacy for residents in Medan. It is a bony type of fish and usually eaten with rice. Indonesians, especially those living here in the city of Medan, love to show off their native flavors, including Arsik, to foreigners visiting their country. Shirish and I are here in Medan for a few days of meetings with our new found friends. He flew in from Mumbai, India, and I came straight from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We were invited by a group of Christians who identify themselves as Free Methodists, and they wanted to ask us some questions about the possibility of partnering with the other Free Methodists around the world. So, before we headed out to several meetings, we visited the home of one of the pastors and had a great Medan meal with his extended family. I had to be extra careful eating Arsik because the fish bones were extra hard and could get lodged uncomfortably in my throat. In the end, we had a great time of eating, singing, sharing stories, and praying with Pastor’s (Artinus)  family. 

Saying thank you in the local language is a little challenging; “Terimakasih!” Whenever I try to say it to them, they all smile and cheer me on for speaking their Bahasa tongue. Shirish and I try our best to connect with them. We are only here for a couple of days, so we go straight to the main issue of what it means to partner with all the Free Methodists from around the globe. I remind their leaders that partnership means connection in three aspects. One, we all need to be connected to our God, as He is revealed in His written word, the Bible. Two, we all need to be connected to each other, growing in a healthy relationship with every Free Methodist from many different cultures and races. Three, we all need to be connected in our common vision to spread the Christian gospel to every person in the world. They all agree with me regarding these three aspects of connection. I begin to think that eating the Arsik fish was harder than explaining to these Indonesian pastors the implications of our connectional heritage as a Free Methodist Church member. I think I spoke too soon, because . . .

On the second day, these Indonesian pastors start asking the harder questions of being connected to the global family of the Free Methodist Church. “We have our own Statements of Faith. Who will decide if these Statements are good enough? Will the other Free Methodists, our international brothers and sisters, be interested in coming to Indonesia to help us? What do we need to do first before the Free Methodist International will show interest to Indonesia FMC?” I feel a lump in my throat. I think the Arsik fish bones are finally making their presence known, stabbing the inside of my esophagus. 

I remind these Indonesian leaders that the final decision of this partnership will be with the Council of Bishops of the World Conference of the Free Methodist Church. My role is to make the initial contact, gather some facts, and explore the layout of the land, so to speak. Fishing! That is my purpose here in Medan. I am here to fish for information and set sail for the open seas. Okay, okay. I think the metaphors are getting out of hand. Blame it on this “Arsik bone” in my throat.

On the third day, I preach in one of the services we visited. I share from John chapter 6, and in one of my illustrations, I talk about the Filipino fish “Bangus.” One of their leaders from Medan, in the early 1970s, came to the Philippines for his theological education. His name is Johnny (John) Hutabarat. He became a family friend and visited our fish farm very often. I have memories of my older brothers together with Johnny eating Bangus fish grilled in an open fire pit. I never thought I would have this beautiful opportunity to visit his homeland, his hometown, and be with his co-workers in the harvest field of the Lord here in Medan, Indonesia. Later, I learned that Johnny passed away about five years ago. I am sure, the next time I see him, I will have plenty of time talking with him about Arsik and Bangus. I never imagined that my past will catch up with me here in a foreign country.

“Horas!” This means “welcome!” or “hallelujah!” in the Batak language. (It could also mean ‘thank you’ or ‘long live!’) Most of the Christians in Medan and Northern Sumatra come from the Batak Tribe. Our new Indonesian friends are Batak people. 

When Jesus saw his disciples by the lake, he said: “Horas! Do you have any fish?” (I think this could have been the translation of John 21:5.) We all know the story. The disciples caught so many fish that they could not haul the catch into the boat. 

Arsik or Bangus? Not all Free Methodists in Asia are Arsik-eating people. Whatever kind of fish they eat, or whatever culture they come from, the mandate of Jesus is still the same: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Horas!

Wondering With My Friends

I am learning the names of the pastors and leaders. There are more than 35 in attendance to this 5-day Pastors’ Training Seminar. I try my best but in the end, I can only remember a few.  I give more emphasis on knowing the types of ministries these pastors are involved in. Here are a few question I gathered as I went around talking to our Nepali pastors.

How do you write songs for your worship time in your local churches here in Nepal? Some of these Free Methodist pastors write their own worship songs. Pastor Padam uses his sarangi, a native bowed musical instrument, similar to a fiddle. At this Seminar, before my time of teaching, we hear Padam’s music and singing, together with his son and youth member playing the guitar.  At the same time, we also witness Pastor Prem’s singing his own worship song. He sings the song with some dance movements. I see the participants of this gathering joining  Padam and Prem in worship full of enthusiasm and with loud singing. I wonder what my American musical friends would say when they come to visit Prem, Padam, and the other Nepal pastors who write their own worship songs. It would be a great learning experience.

How do you celebrate your local church’s anniversary service? Pastor Prem C. is a pastor of a local church with 1,200 members. A few years back, when their church building suffered from a terrible earthquake, they needed help with some building repairs. Our Bishop’s Development Fund gave some assistance. Now, Prem C. and his church members are ready to give thanks and express their gratitude for this new found partnership. I wonder what kinds of celebration will occur when a thousand people gather for a worship service. The food alone would be a managerial challenge. Will there be dancing on the streets? Will the young people provide dramatic presentations and skits? I wonder what suggestions my Filipino friends will give to this Nepali church.

How do you construct a church building on a mountain side? Pastor Yam asks me to come and visit his area and see what had happened to his local church building. A few years back, when the great earthquake hit Nepal, Yam’s church building fell down. Now, there is a need to build a new structure. They only need three thousand (US) dollars to complete the project. His church members are willing to help out and gather some stones and slabs from the nearby mountainside for the church’s use. I wonder what my Taiwanese pastor friends would say to this construction. What kind of pulpit should they make? Can we add some colored glass windows? Maybe, the best way is to bring my Taiwanese friends to Nepal and let them see for themselves the needs of Pastor Yam. It takes about three days of hiking from the nearest city to the church’s location on the mountain. I wonder if my friends would be willing to take this three-day journey with Yam. Would you?

I am back here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I asked these questions above when I was still in Nepal teaching and training our many pastoral candidates. Until now, I am still learning, not just the names of our Nepali pastors, but also the many challenges our Free Methodist work has in this region of Asia. I wonder who would like to learn with me and join me in this great adventure in the Lord’s harvest  field.

Church For The Unwelcomed

“I want to serve the Lord,” Mr. A shares with me his frustration. “But I cannot. I have to take this job to provide for my family.” He recounts an earlier attempt to play the piano for a local church. The music ministry was fulfilling but there was no steady income. He had to find work somewhere else.

Mr. A is a professional musician working here in a restaurant here in Taiwan. His wife, Mrs. J works in the same location as a singer. Let us call them A&J for short. They sing in a restaurant, seven days a week, 6-8 hours a day. On some days, the restaurant owner sends them to sing at an adjoining bar to entertain some of the more “shady” characters of the city. Needless to say, A&J feel their Christian faith is compromised. “I used to sing and play music for revival meetings,” Mr. A continues. “But now, I am singing for the world. I am pleasing people rather than God.” Both A&J are Christians. They desire to be available for the Lord’s work, to offer their talents for God’s service. However, they are obligated by the nature of their work to go to places that are questionable by the moral standards of their faith.

In Taiwan, the population of Asian foreign workers employed in the entertainment industry is not too many. However, a majority of these workers come from the Philippines. They are in Taiwan as singers, musicians, dancers, and entertainers working mainly at bars, restaurants, and hotels. These are legitimate jobs that pay generously. However, in most situations, they are placed in compromising situations. A few of these workers end up unwillingly as prostitutes and sex workers. Labor abuse is most likely to happen. Needless to say, legal protection for foreign workers in the entertainment industry is very few.

Moreover, there is a stigma against singers and performers working in the entertainment industry. In the Philippines, church people tend to view Filipino entertainers and artists working abroad with suspicion. They see these workers as immoral, or at the least living a questionable life. I am not surprised that A&J feel hesitant sharing their experiences to me. They feel unworthy to be around Christians, much more around a pastor like me.

One Sunday after a church service in Tainan, the members of the church asked me if I could sing a song together with A&J, and their two other Filipino co-workers at the restaurant. They want us to sing an offertory song at the morning church service. I shared this request with A&J and their friends, and they readily obliged. I was a little surprised with their enthusiasm. Later, I realized that they feel welcomed at this Tainan church. You see, this local congregation is composed of Taiwanese Americans, South Africans, and Australians living here in Taiwan. There are no Filipinos among the crowd. A&J and their friends do not feel the shame they would have if they were going to face a church full of Filipinos. I thank God for this Tainan international church. People like A&J can come and join in the service, and they will not feel threatened or shamed. Isn’t this what church is all about?

God Is Thinking Of You

(Below is the manuscript to the talk I gave at a retreat for the family members of the MAK, Morrison Academy of Kaohsiung, faculty and staff. This sharing reminds us that God’s love is eternal. The Father’s love is from the beginning of creation and continues to the present and shapes our future. God’s character as a loving Father defines our understanding of Christian community.)

Good morning. Our MAK community is represented by many different cultures and languages. Let us hear it from you all. How would you say “Our Father in heaven” in the languages that you know? Let us hear it from everyone. (Different individuals start to speak in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Creole, French, Tagalog, Cebuano, and Samoan.)

What is Christian community? How is it defined? In our society, language is one way by which society defines its community. People call themselves Chinese because they speak Chinese. Others call themselves American because they speak English. Well, there are other ideals that come to explain the identity of an American. Language, history, political ideals, and other variables shape our understanding of community or of a specific group.

For Christians, our understanding and practice of Christian community and belongingness is founded on the character of God, His goodness, love, mercy, and God’s view of justice, holiness, and salvation. These are big words, aren’t they? Simply said, who God is determines what community is or ought to be among the people of God. Today, I want to share about the Fatherhood of God and how this shapes our understanding of Christian community.

In Deuteronomy 10:14-19, we see that Moses or the writer starts off with a declaration that God is the Creator. He owns the heavens and the earth (v.14). He is the God of all gods. He is not partial (v. 17). He is just and takes care of the powerless and the foreigners of the land. This declaration is the foundation for the calling of the Hebrew people (v. 15). They are a chosen race, a people, a community, because God is who He is, just, mighty, impartial, a Protector of the weak, and He cares for the helpless foreigners of the land. God the Father shows everyone what Christian community looks like.

Today, I want to focus on the character of God as our Heavenly Father. The Bible says that from before we were born He was already thinking of us. In His thoughts, in His deep inner parts of His being, He formed us and planned our coming to this world, even before the formation of the heaven and the earth (Ephesians 1:3-6, Jeremiah 1:5, and Psalms 22:31). There is a saying that captures this interpretation of God’s character. Have you seen the statement “God danced the day you were born” anywhere? This is one way to picture the joy our Father feels for us. We are special in God’s eyes.

We, parents, have a special place for each of our children. We all have a unique story for each of them. I want to share just one story about our family. In 2004, we had Carmen, who was then three and a half years old. We were expecting Jacob. At that time, while waiting for our missionary appointment, I was working at Amazon dot com, an internet company, driving a forklift and stowing boxes at a warehouse in Kentucky. One day in August, I got a phone from our warehouse office. It was from Sarah. She just came back from the doctor, and she said: “We are going to have a boy.” Our second child was going to be a boy. I was so happy. I went out of that office, drove my forklift, and singing at the top of my voice. Some of my workmates ask me what is happening. I told them the news. As I was telling them the good news, I stopped my forklift machine, jump off the vehicle, and danced in the middle of the warehouse aisle ways. Everyone saw me doing the dance and singing a song of joy. I did not care. I was celebrating the forth coming of our son.

Parents are a unique group of people. We always want to help our children become better persons, better than we are. But we are not perfect. So, at times, we falter. We try to learn what makes our child happy, to discover their interests and the fun things they do. But, for many parents, this is hard work. Although for some of us, this is a natural thing to do. Still, parenting is a demanding work requiring a lot of time and energy. My son, Jacob, loves to play with this video game called Minecraft. Does anyone here play this video game? It is amazing what he can do inside this Minecraft world. But at times, I have to be honest with you, I get bored. I do not have the patience to learn all the nuances of block building.

Our Father in heaven is not like us. He is patient and truly interested in what makes us happy. He is interested in the things that we like. He dances with joy when we first learned how to ride the bike by ourselves without anyone assisting us. As my mother would say: “How delightful.” Let me hear it from the mothers. (Mothers respond, “How delightful!”) God smiled when he saw a Filipino eleven-year old boy climb the very top part of a 50-foot tree. He said: “Awesome, David!” Let me hear it from the fathers. (Fathers shout, “Awesome!”) God was so happy when, for the first time, you wrote a poem. He was so elated that He ordered a star from heaven to shine in the sky in honor of your poem. And what would the children say? Can you say: “Epic!” (Kids exclaim, “Epic!”) Do you get the idea now?

Do our friends think they are special? Do they understand that God is their Father, that He is the Father of all the peoples of the world? The Bible tells us that God the Father is the Father of all humankind (Psalms 24:1, Ephesians 4:6, and Acts 17:15-17). Let us tell them that God our Lord is their Father. He is the Father of all the peoples of the earth.

Let us see what the children have made for us. (A few of the smaller children come up front to show everyone the drawing and coloring activity they have done with the handout “God Made Me.” The adults appreciate the work of the children.) With our eyes, we are to see people because God sees people. They are wonderful. With our mouth, we are to bless people because God blesses people. They are important people to Him. With our ears, we listen to people because God listens to them. God made them.

I have a suggestion. Find out what your friend likes. Do they like biking? Do they enjoy making music on the piano? Sing with them. Go biking with them. What does your friend do for fun? Do it together with them. Be with them. And you will see that, even without saying a word, they will feel your concern for them and they’ll see that they are special. This is because God has a special place for them. God the Father is reaching out to them and calling each one by name. Our Father in heaven is blessing them, walking with them, and listening to their dreams and their longings in life. God loves them. Thus, whenever you show interest in your friend’s life and activities, then God is pleased. God smiles when we spend time with people and we discover what makes each person happy. (For the older kids, I give each one a pencil and paper with the instruction to creatively draw a picture or representation of their understanding of God the Father.) Go ahead and draw a picture showing who God the Father is to you. And also, write on the second page about your friend. What does he or she loves to do? Would you have fun doing these things with your friend?

At this time, I want to speak to the adults.  What I am sharing is a Trinitarian understanding of Christian community. This is less of a church doctrine or systematic theology, but more of seeing community through the work of the Triune God. Our main question here should be: Does this understanding of community reflect the character of the Trinity? Christian community is inclusive because God the Father is the Father of all humankind. People will sense the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They will draw near to God in freedom and love. Membership to this Christian community is based on the person’s relationship to Jesus, and not to a person’s affinity to an organization or an assent to a set of beliefs. We want to give everyone the opportunity to follow Jesus, to say “yes” to God, because in the end people from every nation, tribe, and languages are included in God’s kingdom (Revelation 7:9-10).

We can take a look at the example of Jesus. He is always including everyone in his life and ministry. Can we give examples of when Jesus included people to his community, those who felt excluded or other people thought they should be excluded?

Okay. Now, let us compare our answers to the older kids drawing of God the Father. Let us see if there are similarities. Let us ask them to share. Any volunteer? (Some of the older kids and adults come up front and share their sketches and drawing.) God is thinking of you being with other people. Go therefore and be with people and tell them God the Father is calling their name and drawing them into community. He loves them and is ready to listen to all their stories. He delights in them.

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.

Asian Connections

Cheng Chuan Dao, or Pastora Tessa to most Filipinos, is pasturing a Filipino church here in Kaohsiung. It is called Nandzi Higher Ground Community Church International or NHGCCI. When Mr. Yu mentioned to my local church pastor about a group of Filipinos who are working at a Pingtung factory where he is also working, I told him that we could invite the members of NHGCCI and visit Pingtung this December and bring some little holiday cheer to these Filipino factory workers. So, our local church pastor, Pastor John Guu, suggested to our missions coordinator, Joyce Chang, to organize a team from our church, Fong Shan Free Methodist Church (FSFMC), to prepare some food and to accompany me to see this Pingtung factory.

Are you still with me? Are you all confused with all the names and places I just enumerated? I can stop now and be done with all the names and various connections. But, of course, you would rob me of the joy of seeing you agonize through all these enumerations. Do you want me to prolong your agony?

"I can bring a small group of Filipinos from a local Filipino church so they can join us when we visit this Pingtung factory," I volunteered to Mr. Yu. He agreed. So, on December 13th, Friday, I rented a van and brought seven Filipino ladies from NHGCCI, together with their local pastor, Pastora Tessa. Joyce also asked a brother and four sisters from FSFMC, all Chinese to participate in this small Christmas celebration. Only Joyce and another lady can speak English. I was impressed with their enthusiasm to join this fellowship gathering of Filipinos, considering their inability to carry a dialogue with these Filipinos. We all traveled in two vans. "I really do not know any of the Filipinos their in Pingtung," I told the Filipinas riding with me in the van. "We will meet them and see where God lead us," I continued. The two vans arrived at the Pingtung factory about half an hour before our meeting time. Mr. Yu was there to greet us. The owner of the factory, who is a Christian and a friend of Mrs. Guu, Pastor John Guu's wife, was also there. He gave a short introduction. I spoke a little greeting, in Tagalog, of course. Pastor John Guu and his wife came a little later. They offered a prayer for the gathering.

Do you see the connections now? Is it becoming clearer? Or, am I stretching your patience a little too much? Let me help you. I am a good friend of Tessa (Chen Chuan Dao) and Joyce. Joyce knows Mr. Yu from church, FSFMC. Mrs. Guu, the wife of the pastor of FSFMC, is a good friend of the owner of the Pingtung factory. So this December 13th, Friday, Filipino ladies from Nandzi, Chinese from Fong Shan, and Filipino men from a Pingtung factory are meeting for the first time, playing games, singing Filipino Christmas songs, and eating Chinese food, all because of the various connections we have. Is it clearer now? Can you see who is connected to whom?

"Pastor, we are free every Sunday afternoon, around 5:30 pm. If you are available, we can come for fellowship or Bible study," Jimmy mentioned this to me. Jimmy is the most senior worker from this group of Filipino factory workers. He has been here in Taiwan for almost ten years, working in this same Pingtung factory. "I can certainly come," I reassured Jimmy. "I will also ask my friend Siwei, who is living close to your factory and ask him if he is willing to come here once a month to lead you guys in a Bible study," I proposed this to Jimmy. He nodded his approval. Later, we talked to a few more people and they all were amenable to this idea of us coming for a Sunday evening Bible study.

Back in Kaohsiung, I talked to Siwei, one of our student pastors at Holy Light Theological Seminary, and shared my plan to include him in this Bible study outreach among these Filipino Pingtung factory workers. "Pastor David, I could also ask my friend who is pasturing a local Presbyterian Church close to this Pingtung factory and see if he is interested," Siwei excitedly shared his plans. "I really think he will join us, and perhaps even lead a Bible study once a month among this group of Filipinos."

Is it getting confusing again? Just when you thought you had all the names of Tessa, Mr. Yu, Joyce, Mrs. Guu, and the rest, all cleared up, now, you also have to contend with Jimmy, Siwei, and an unidentified Presbyterian pastor. Would it be easier to just drop this story and leave this blog? But, if you are still with me reading, then this just means that you are still interested. Let me continue.

Back in Fong Shan FMC, after the church service, I talked to Pastor John Guu and Mr. Yu. I shared to them the plan of four church groups leading Bible studies among this group of Filipino men in this Pingtung factory. One different church every Sunday of a month. We all agreed with this plan. I also talked to Pastora Tessa about the idea of forming a team from the Higher Ground Church to visit Pingtung once a month and to lead a Bible study. She was elated. She also shared one interesting discovery. "You know that guy Mr. Yu?" She remarked. "What about?" I inquired. "He is a childhood friend. We grew up together from the same neighborhood. I haven't seen him for the last 30 years." We all marveled at how God brings us altogether in His work of bringing more people to the Lord's harvest.

Okay. Are you still confused? I hope not. I trust you can see the forest for the trees. I won't be surprised that later on, Jimmy or Siwei, or any of the people here will discover more connections from among the people they meet. God will certainly lead the way.

From The Mouth of Babies (or Children)

Yesterday, we went to Cowden Free Methodist Church, here in Cowden, Illinois. This is our first time to share about missions where Jacob, our seven-year old son, participated. He came up to the front of the church and shared about his life in MAK (Morrison Academy of Kaohsiung). He even prepared his own powerpoint slides. We are so proud of him. Later, after the service and during the lunch fellowship at the church fellowship area, several parents came to me and appreciated our children's involvement in our time of sharing. (Carmen also shared about her ACOCL group.) I told them that it was Carmen and Jacob's idea. Last week, Jacob, who usually is disinterested in going up in front to talk to people, approached Sarah and suggested that he is ready to share his own version of missionary life. One of the grandfathers from this church commented that it shows. They can tell that Jacob enjoys his time of sharing and talk. Praise God!

Last Wednesday, we were at Coffeen Free Methodist Church, to visit with our friends. They have an on-going Wednesday children's ministry among the unchurched children of the community. I was there. I saw how "rough" the young people and children were. However, I also witnessed the hunger for love and the children's desire to belong to a Christian community. it was humbling to see these young people and children desire for things spiritual. From the mouths of babes, or from the least of these, our children, we will learn wisdom. I applaud the efforts of this local church to embrace the little ones from the community of Cowden. This is Christian witness in action.

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.