Current Affairs

Not Listen To Noisy Hymns

We are praying. As the Bible says: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). We pray that in any political victory, God will intervene and bring His kingdom and victory here on earth. No more lies, disrespecting women, stoking fear and supporting racism, and no more endorsing political gain at the expense of the poor, the powerless, and the disenfranchised. God’s justice takes precedence over all our actions.

God says: “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 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 5:21-24. MSG, NLT)

So, my brothers and sisters, let us pray for our nation, our leaders, and our political institutions. However, most of all, let us pray for God’s kingdom to come and His love and justice to visit each person in our neighborhoods.

Kat's Connection (By: Kat Anderson-Wolff)

Kat’s Connection (Used With Permission)

My current ESL class is composed of four women from Mexico and one man from Kenya. I'm aware of how easy it is for the class content to reflect the majority experience: ideas related to the Spanish language, Catholic holidays, and big families emerge in our conversations every day. But it's important to me to make our space inclusive and diverse, not based on the headcount but on what languages and cultures are present in any number.

Two weeks ago we added the words mosque, synagogue and temple to a lesson that only mentioned "church," and as a class we looked online for other names for places of worship. Last week, when Christmas and Easter came up again and again in a lesson about prepositions of time (e.g. "at Easter" or "on Christmas Day"), I wondered aloud which preposition we should use for Ramadan, which lasts for a month. My Mexican students weren't familiar with that holiday, so I described it a little and then asked Hamad to give us more details. He had never heard a white American teacher say anything about Ramadan before. He was so pleased I knew a little, and was more than happy to tell us more.

For today's class I made a simple change to the materials, replacing "Mexico" with "Syria" in one example sentence. Hamad saw it, read it aloud and smiled, saying, "Syria? That is in the Middle East! I think now God is in this class." I can't attest to that personally, but we say God is love, and God is in the details, and I very much want to demonstrate love for my students by attending to the details. 

The icing on the cake, though, was when we got to talking about pronouns today. I had a box of my favorite tea nearby, so I held it up as an example of when you might say the sentence "It is from Syria" (an object, not a person). Hamad burst out laughing, ran to his own kitchen, and brought back the very same box of tea. He was beaming, and the whole class was amazed that we had this in common. Connection is my highest aim in every class I teach. Today I knocked it out of the park. 

(By: Kat Anderson-Wolff. 2020)

Don't Invite Me To Your Church (By: Janette Buhl)

Don’t invite me to your church,

If belonging to a certain political party is a sign of faithfulness.

Don’t send me a link to the church livestream,

Then call me a coward for respecting the risks of a pandemic.

Don’t refer me to your food pantry,

Then call me lazy.

Don’t send the Visitation Pastor to my hospital bed,

If care of the sick is only for the employed.

Don’t tell me of the love of Jesus,

When it is conditional . . . on how I behave, speak, look, or love.

Don’t invite me to your confidential Bible study,

But hit share on social media before gossip and misleading information is vetted. 

Don’t tell me of God’s passion for all nations,

While supporting using unaccompanied children of other nations as pawns in our security.

Don’t ask for my story,

If only the narratives that fit your worldview can be true.

Don’t ask me to choose,

Between the born and unborn

Don’t pray for my healing,

And refuse to prevent the illness.

Don’t tell me my color or gender does not matter,

When life experiences of racial insensitivity, fear, and gender platitudes abound.

Don’t preach the importance transformative lives,

When the end justifies the means is the rallying cry.

Don’t invite me to your church,

Until you are the Church.

(Janette Buhl. 2020 October. Facebook)

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).

Contagious Joy on a Virus Day

      Nowadays, people are talking about ways of celebrating life after the end of these lockdowns and quarantine brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic. Do we have to wait? Can’t we celebrate now while we are in the midst of this crisis? Let me suggest some ways of celebration. I will limit my sharing time in the area of the spiritual discipline of celebration. I think practicing this discipline will bring some sanity to our lives, at the least, and usher in joy and freedom, at the most, which only God can give.

      Spiritual disciplines will give us focus in our journey as followers of Jesus. Let us talk about the spiritual discipline of celebration. What is the discipline of celebration? It is the spiritual discipline that brings the practitioner to an experience with God’s joy and freedom. Pastor Dallas Willard says celebration “dwells on the greatness of God as shown in his goodness” for all people. (See, The Spirit of the Disciplines. 1999:179.) Pastor Richard Foster says “celebration is central to all the spiritual disciplines.” There is a joyful festive spirit in celebration. (See, Celebration of Discipline. 1988:191.) Joy and freedom are constant companions to this discipline. Celebration brings a person to an experience with God’s joy and a sense of freedom coming from the Spirit of God.

      Let me suggest three ways of practicing the spiritual discipline of celebration, these are celebrating worship, celebrating creativity, and celebrating commonalities. My prayer is that these three ways will bring us closer to Jesus as we continue to follow him as our Lord and Master.

      One. Celebrating worship means a time and place whereby we focus our whole being to God. We use music and testimonies to exalt God’s goodness in our lives. There is encouragement from the Bible and from our fellowship with one another. We are very familiar with this way of celebration. This is a time and place of recharging and drinking from God’s presence. In John 15:5, Jesus said: “I am the vine and you are the branches.” We draw strength from our Lord. We follow Jesus and abide in his presence. This is the spiritual experience of celebrating worship.

      In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, and all the lockdowns and physical isolation, we are forced to go back to the original meaning of the church. It is not a physical building, but church refers to the people who are gathered for worship. Here are some questions for you. Can we still have celebration, even if we are meeting at our homes or gathered through the use of modern technology and the medium of video conferencing? Our answer is yes. The main element is that Jesus is still with us in this journey. Jesus is present with us in our house churches and our online gatherings. We still experience the jubilation of the heart and bearing spiritual fruit when we worship God. In other words, we still experience God’s joy and the freedom that comes from the Holy Spirit.

      Two. Celebrating creativity means appreciating beauty in God’s creation. It also means affirming the creative works of artists, thinkers, and craftsman. We tune our hearts and sharpen our eyes so that we can witness the display of God’s work in our midst. In John 8:12, Jesus said “I am the Light of the world.” He also said in chapter 9: Look instead for what God can do. . . . For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:3-5 MSG). When we celebrate creativity, we also celebrate God’s goodness in the world—the Light that is in the world. We follow Jesus because we see God is present everywhere. He shines his light to everyone. His light drives away the darkness and we see the beauty of his creation. We respond with joy and freedom because Jesus is with us.

      Three. Celebrating commonalities means standing side by side with humanity. We find common things around us. We identify with every person and celebrate common experiences such as the birth of a child, the festivities at birthday parties, and others. Jesus is a prime example of this way of celebrating. In John 10:11, Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd, he desires abundant life for everyone. He calls every person by name. And his final act as a shepherd is that he gave his life for all the people of the world. We celebrate because we are like everyone else.

      In this COVID-19 pandemic, how do we celebrate commonalities? Our answer is that we stand together with other people. When they are suffering, we mourn with them. When life is difficult and sadness is all around us, we respond in lamentation. We do not pretend to be immune from the world’s suffering or carelessly declare an end to our human difficulties. Peter said we should rejoice insofar as we share in Christ’s suffering. (1 Peter 4:13). What did Jesus do? He suffered and died for every human being. And then, he rose from the dead so he can give everyone hope unto life eternal. When we stand side by side with our neighbors who are in fear and in pain, we do so with hope in our hearts and the resurrected Lord leading the way. The Good Shepherd is with us.

      In this time of global pandemic, social distancing, and quarantines, how can we live out our Christian faith? Below are some practical ways you can express your experience as a follower of Jesus:

1.) Spend time in prayer, solitude, and meditation to our God.

2.) Write a journal and document your spiritual journey.

3.) Start a reading plan to read through the whole Bible.

4.) Pray with someone. Do not just pray for them. Call them up and pray with them over the phone.

5.) Read an encouraging book.

6.) Tell a story that is wholesome and uplifting. Avoid rumors and gossip. Post only good reports on your social media accounts.

7.) Spend more time with family and friends, if not in person, through your use of social media and online connections.

8.) Capture pictures of the beauty of nature and share them with your friends. You can include pictures of your dinner table and share your favorite recipes with your friends. Celebrate the beauty and joy of God’s creation.

9.) Start a hobby. Maybe you can start taking care of a garden, learning how to play a musical instrument, or studying how to draw the face of your friend. Find ways to express yourself in a constructive way.

10.) Write a song, paint a picture, or create something artistic. Use the camera on your smart phone to collect beautiful sceneries or photos of flowers around the house. Enjoy the freedom you have in expressing yourself creatively.

11.) Find wholesome entertainment, such as a good movie on Netflix or a classic concert on Youtube. Share these with your family members.

12.) Become a church to someone in need by providing help or offering a solution to a problem. You can use your phone, write letters, or access your social media to encourage them.

13.) Practice one or two of the Spiritual Disciplines. You can start with Solitude, Meditation, Service, or Celebration. Review sermons that mention these disciplines.

14.) Organize an online church service or a “Watch Party” of your church’s livestream services. Invite your friends and have a small group gathering.

15.) Pray and pray some more. Maybe, you can set aside a time of the day that you and your friends can all pray together at the same time, even if you are all from separate locations. Select a certain time and spend 3-5 minutes of prayer. Pray together where ever you are. You can do this.

      Will you follow Jesus in this journey of celebration? Do you have joy and freedom from God?

Facing a Pandemic in the Lenten Season

    This coming Easter Sunday, I will be dedicating Baby Tala, a year old baby from one of our international family here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. With the Corona virus outbreak, however, we are thinking of creative ways to continue with the baby dedication ceremony. What are a the ways of celebrating a baby dedication without touching, being present to each other, or speaking at close range? How can we continue with the ceremony, and still respect other members who are taking serious precaution against the spread of an infection? Would a virtual meeting do justice to the occasion? What would you suggest?

    Here in Asia, many churches are canceling their Sunday services. Some Free Methodist churches here in Taiwan are doing the same. One church I am helping, Higher Ground International Fellowship (HGIF), is following soon. We are slowly thinking of ways to manage our videos and online postings of worship songs and sermons. We are doing this to follow the advice of our local leaders and also prevent the spread of a contagious disease.

    COVID-19 is now a pandemic, as declared by WHO a few days ago. We continue to pray for God’s grace to help us, especially the families who are mourning the loss of a love one or suffering due to an affected family member. We pray for strength for the doctors and medical specialist who are out there on the front lines helping people. We pray for wisdom for the leaders of our nations as they find solutions to stopping the onslaught of this pandemic.

    We had to cancel a missions trip to South Asia (NP). Our teachers, Pastors Ron and Jim, had to reschedule their coming from Michigan to Asia to later this year. We did not have a choice. Many of our Asian airports and border crossing situation have become so unpredictable. Many flights had been cancelled. The risk was too great to take. I am sure you all know this by now.

    The world is reeling from the threat brought by this pandemic. Sports events are cancelled in the USA. Cities are locked down in Italy and China. Schools are closing in Korea and other countries. I am sure everyone is feeling uneasy and experiencing discomfort. Maybe some are going through suffering. A few are in pain. We are still on the Lenten Season. We are reminded that Jesus himself went through these things we are experiencing—discomfort, suffering, and pain. Paul says: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:5 ESV) My prayer is that we experience God’s comfort all our days.

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.