Current Affairs

Stop Modern Slavery

Next Sunday, February 26, 2012, is Freedom Sunday, a one day annual event sponsored by Not For Sale seeking the involvement of Christian local churches around the world to put a stop to modern slavery. We encourage everyone to participate. You can raise awareness and pray with your brothers and sisters in your vicinity.

It has been said that prevention is better than cure. There are many ways a local church can help in preventing the occurrence of modern slavery. One is child sponsorship. Sponsoring one child has an empowering effect on the sponsored family. It propels the family members to become productive members of their society. Two is indigenous church planting. A local church administered by indigenous leaders provides local people with opportunities to help the destitute and those who are suffering from social evil such as human trafficking, child labor, and prostitution. Three is helping NGOs (Non Government Organization) in one's city or local area. Find a credible NGO (religious or non-religious) who is making a difference in the fight to end modern slavery. Volunteer your services. You will be surprised at what you can contribute. Encourage your church members to join you. Ask them to pray for you. Let us stop slavery in this century.

Here in Kaohsiung, I try my very best to practice these three things. My family sponsor girls from Burundi, India, and the Philippines. They are all managed by ICCM (International Child Care Sponsorship). Check out its website and see if you can sponsor one child from another country. Sarah and I help different indigenous churches growing in this city. We are involved with Feng Shan FMC. We also assist in the ministries of different Filipino and American churches in the area. Nothing big, but each little effort contributes to the bigger picture of eradicating this global problem of slavery within this generation. Also, from time to time, I volunteer my services for an NGO here in Kaohsiung called Taiwan International Migrants Mission or TIMM. When there is a cultural show, I sing Filipino love songs. When TIMM needs an interpreter, I am there. What ever it takes to help Asian migrant workers in their work place and to better their expatriate life here in Taiwan, I do it. These little things help in preventing migrant workers from becoming victims of sexual abuse and experiencing oppressive labor conditions. Prevention is better than cure.

Next week, I am going to a forum sponsored by the Taiwan Industrial Evangelical Fellowship (TIEF), a ministry that focuses on helping working class people here in Taiwan, and most especially the foreign laborers sector. I do not know what to expect. I only know one or two people from this upcoming meeting. I am not even sure what the nature of the meeting is, but one thing I am very certain is that I am going to meet Taiwanese people who can help in the effort to stop modern slavery.

Brazilians in Japan, Filipinos in Japan

What does the word "relocation" mean to you?

To the Labor industry, the word is a constant reality. We know of course that many people migrate to a different country to work as laborers in factories and businesses. To these ever increasing number of migrant workers and immigrant peoples of the world, relocation is a very difficult word. It reminds them of a time of uprooting from their home culture to another culture in a foreign land. It means displacement from leaving families, and everything that is familiar.

Rev. Katsumi Shigetomi and I visited Takefu Free Methodist Church, a Brazilian congregation here in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, Japan. Rev. Carlos Seiji Kavano is the missionary pastor here, sent by the Brazilian Conference of the Free Methodist Church in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I met his beautiful wife and three lovely children. I also met two of his missionary volunteers from YWAM (Youth With A Mission), Igor and Camela, a husband and wife team from Brazil. We prayed together. Katsumi and I learned more about the FMC work among Brazilian immigrants here in Japan.

Currently, there are 230,000 Brazilians in Japan. There are only 400 Christian local churches in the whole country. Isn't that a great challenge? In the city of Echizen alone (Echizen includes the city of Takefu), there are 3,040 foreigners and 2,040 are Brazilians. There are two Protestant Japanese churches in the area. For the Brazilians, there is one Assemby of God church and Takefu FMC. Two evangelical churches for 2,000 plus people from Brazil. One could only imagine the great need for Christian ministry among the families of these Brazilian immigrants.

What about the schools for these immigrants? There are only 36 Brazilian schools for all 200,000 plus Brazilians scattered in Japan. None of them are Christian schools. Don't you think there is a great need to start a Christian school for the children of these immigrants from South America? (I need to share this need to my friend, Matt Strange.)

We also visited Jesus Christ Our Banner (JCOB) church here in Echizen. JCOB is a Christian ministry among Filipinos here Japan. It has a few fellowship groups in Tokyo and other places. We met Nenita Miwa, Jacqueline Akaishi, Myla Bautista Inoue, and Melinda Catulpos Fukuoka. All four ladies are Filipinas married to Japanese families residing in the Takefu area. These four are the lay leaders of JCOB, Takefu chapter. We listened to their stories. We prayed for them. We talked about finding new and effective ways of sharing the Christian gospel among the Filipino people scattered in this country.

In Japan, Filipinos are the 4th largest foreign population, next to Brazilians. Chinese and Koreans are the other two larger people groups. There are a number of existing Christian ministries among the Filipinos living in Japan. But there are no Filipino Free Methodist ministry, not yet. Katsumi and I are talking, praying, and exploring the prospect of starting a ministry among the Filipinos here in Japan. We do not know what this would look like. We do not have any grandiose plan. But we want to start with the Filipino friends and families whom we already know. We want to learn from them and seek God's leadership among these people. God will be our guide.

Oh, by the way, the above JCOB church has about twenty plus members and doing outreach ministries to two other locations in the Fukui Prefecture. They have their weekly meetings in the church building of the Takefu Free Methodist Church. Brazilians and Filipinos working together for the Kingdom of God. What a beautiful picture of heaven!

So, what does the word "relocation" mean? It may be a difficult word for our Brazilian and Filipino immigrant here in Japan. But for us in the field of missionary work, relocation means the coming of more opportunities to share the Christian gospel to both migrant workers and immigrant families. The harvest is ready. Pray for more workers for the harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38) Pray for more workers who will rise up from the harvest field.

Prevenient Grace

Prevenient Grace: The Grace That Goes Before Us

Six years ago, when I first came to Taiwan, I visited an outreach ministry of the Feng Shan Free Methodist Church situated in Chi Gu, a few hours away north of Kaohsiung. Twice a year, the members of this local church would go to Long Shan Elementary School, in Chi Gu, and hold a week long retreat for the children of that school teaching English, moral education, and other practical lessons useful for Taiwanese children. Back then, I was surprised by the openness both of the parents and the school officials in letting their children go to these activities sponsored by a Christian church. Although, the people of Chi Gu and Long Shan are strong believers of their Chinese traditional religion, they are still willing to send their children to a Christian event. Their desire to give their children a good education is encouraging them to participate in Christian educational activities.

I have seen this same situation in the Philippines, in India, and in Cambodia. Non-Christian parents are willing to send their children to join in Christian activities because they know that their children will become better citizens of the country. They want their children to be better educated. Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea, writes of the response of Muslim leaders to his efforts of building schools for girls in the country of Afghanistan and the surrounding areas. One Muslim leader says: “These two Christian men have come halfway around the world to show our Muslim children the light of education.” He continues, “Protect and embrace these two American brothers in our midst” (2006:257). This desire for a good education for one’s children is a common sentiment, most especially among Asians. It is a desire that is godly and brings people closer to an understanding of God’s plan for everyone to have an abundant life full of joy and peace (John 10:10). It is a desire that God gives, a grace He gives to all people and every culture. Even in the most difficult situation, God’s grace is present.

Prevenient grace is grace that God gives to everyone. It is grace that goes before the coming of God’s salvation to a person. Gerald H. Anderson, in the book World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit, states prevenient grace is a distinctive feature of John Wesley’s theology (2009:43). Wesley says, “Everyone has some measure of that light. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath” (Wesley’s Works, vol. 3: p. 207). God’s (prevenient) grace is spread abroad (Romans 5:5). It is drawing many peoples, including Taiwan peoples, to come closer to God and understand His love for them better each day. Prevenient grace prepares people to accept God’s call to obedience and Lordship in their lives.

What I am trying to say here is that what is happening here in Taiwan is very Wesleyan in nature. Taiwan’s love for education is a form of God’s prevenient grace. It is because of this Chinese love for learning that many Taiwanese children are slowly coming closer to God’s salvation. They may not be there yet, but they are gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

An understanding of prevenient grace is not simply a time for preparation. Prevenient grace must lead to an encounter with Jesus’ demand for Christian discipleship. For Wesley, prevenient grace has a definite Christological shape. In his thesis, “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Prevenient Grace And Its Import for Christian Mission,” Chris Payk states: “It is therefore inappropriate to speak of prevenient grace in the Wesleyan tradition in a way that does not begin and end with Jesus Christ” (2010:90). A truly Wesleyan practice of God’s grace means we give each person the opportunity to hear and see the story of God’s salvation, and to respond to the demands of the Christian gospel. Every man and woman should hear for themselves Jesus’ words, “I love you my child. Come and follow me” (Luke 9:23-27).

Taiwan is blessed. God has given Taiwan people a great love for learning and a compelling desire to educate their children for the good of the nation. Taiwan is receiving God’s prevenient grace. What other forms of prevenient grace do you see here in Taiwan? What are other examples of God going before us and preparing for the coming of His salvation? I predict that in the end, God’s manifestations of His prevenient grace here in Taiwan will bring about a better understanding of the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.