Migrant Workers in Asia

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!

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?

Women Are Great Keepers Of The Truth: An Easter Reflection

On the first of day of the resurrection, Jesus first appeared to women, or more specifically to Mary Madalene (cf. John 20:18; Matthew 28:9; and Mark 16:9). Why women? What is so special about the women folk? 

Women are excellent vessels of spiritual truth. They have the capacity to reflect inner spiritual reality in its full grandeur. If we go back to all the biblical narrative of the first Easter Sunday, after Jesus appears to them, the women were told to go and to tell their brothers. They were encouraged to go and be ambassadors of the resurrection story. Women are great repositories of life, and thus passionate gate keepers of the gospel.

Allow me to bring this Easter reflection home by sharing Lanie's story. Lanie is one of the Filipino women we help here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Sarah (my wife) and I, through the ministry of Set Free Movement USA, are partnering with a local Set Free version called Freedom Group (FG). It is being led by Aying and Tessa. They minister to international families and are currently helping Filipino women like Lanie, who are married to Taiwanese husbands. Below is an excerpt of Aying's interview-report of Lanie' story.

(Lanie's Story) Her dreams of having a good life did not happen. She was unfairly treated by her own husband and his family. His husband never really stood by her, always siding with his own family and they all treated her as if she was their house help. She needs to take care of her two children and at the same time she took care of her in-laws and the daily burdens of household chores she need to managed daily and endure. There was even a time when she confronted her husband’s older brother for beating her own child only to be responded with a heavy blow of a wooden chair pounded right into her left hand. Bloodied and wounded, nobody came to her rescue. No one called for ambulance, nor anyone rushed her to see a doctor though they ended up in a police station, no case was filed. Her mother in law just plainly told her she should not file a case against her brother in law to which her husband also agreed.  Alone and helpless and not wanting to make a big deal out of it because clearly there was no one sympathizing with her, she politely obliged. Despite being physically hurt, she received no comfort from no one.

“I did it for my children, I have to be strong.” This is the very reason she chose to stay and to be with her somewhat misguided husband until now. She also thinks many times about the prospect of going back to the Philippines, but it seems to her that the future there is bleaker than where she is right now. She just have to get used to all the challenges in her daily life, her uncaring husband. After all they already live separately from her in-laws four years ago. But what surprised us most about Lanie is the fact that she was the reason behind her husband’s coming to our church services. Even without her, because of her work schedules, her husband and two children would still come to church by themselves. (Reported by: Aying Senining Wu, Field Worker for Freedom Group)

The Bible reminds us that unbelieving husbands are sanctified through the faith of their believing wives (1 Corinthians 7:14). These husbands are convinced of the power of the resurrection because they see it in the passion and conduct of their loving wives (1 Peter 3:1). Women folks are special. They are the perfect ambassadors of God's grace and truth in the midst of this broken and beautiful world we live in.

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.

Longing For Healing

Pray for Jimmy. He is in the hospital going through chemotherapy for his cancer. It is on its stage four, and doctors are finding some complications. His kidneys are failing, and he is experiencing some internal bleeding. Pray for God's healing to come to Jimmy.

Yesterday, I went to see Jimmy in the hospital. His brother, Randy was there watching over him. We prayed. We shared about their families back home. Jimmy and Randy are Filipino migrant workers working in an assembly plant here in Pingtung, Taiwan (about an hour and a half away from Kaohsiung). We expressed our gratefulness for Taiwan's excellent medical care, and the wonderful National Health Insurance that Jimmy is enjoying. Furthermore, Jimmy and Randy's employer, who is a Christian, is giving Randy some time off work so he can take care of his brother. Despite the disease and struggle of being bed-ridden for days, we are all thankful for the blessings we have.

Yesterday, Jimmy's boss was there with another Christian co-worker. We laid our hands over Jimmy. We prayed. Four people from three different denominations, from Taiwan, Philippines, and USA, all united and praying for Jimmy's restoration. Join us and pray for total healing.

Set Me Free

"Please pray for my sister Pastor David. She has quit her job here in Taiwan. She is moving from one part-time work to another. I told her she needs to go back home, but she insisted on staying. She does not care if she is living a life of a TNT or illegal migrant worker." Romeo shares with me during one of our Discipleship Men's Group. Her sister's predicament is not too uncommon here in Taiwan. A few of these Asian Contract Workers (ACW) or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) end up as illegal workers jumping from one odd job to another. It is at this time of their lives that they are most vulnerable. Abuse and violence frequently happen during this juncture. Many of these illegals become victims of human trafficking and live the life of a modern day slave.

Set Free Movement is organized to fight human trafficking and end slavery in this modern time. (For a more detailed explanation about this movement, please click on this link here.) We in Taiwan are joining this movement. We want to end slave-like conditions among our workers (ACW) here in Taiwan. Although, the story of Romeo's sister narrated above is not too many, it is still happening in not too obvious ways. We want our local churches to be aware of these things. We want Taiwanese Christians to be engaged with these issues. We want Set Free Movement in Taiwan to lead the way.

In some other countries, abuse of workers and exploitation of laborers are very common. The Philippine government is faced with many compelling situations out in the Middle East. One good example is in Qatar. You can follow this link for an illustration of what slavery in the work place looks like. We do not want this to happen here in Taiwan. Our prayer is that our Free Methodist local churches will lead the way, to ending the slave-like conditions among our Asian workers here in Taiwan.

Meeting Of Two Worlds

These pictures speak for themselves. The enthusiasm these Christians have. Filipino migrant workers. Chinese seminary graduate students. These two groups of Christians meeting together and sharing stories of what God is doing in their lives. I have asked my students in my course in missions to come visit these Filipinos for an interview about their lives as migrant workers living here in Kaohsiung. How is God meeting you here in Taiwan? What is it like to be a foreigner in Kaohsiung? I cannot wait to read their reports. 

We celebrated God's goodness in our lives. The Christian gospel is crossing many boundaries, surpassing many cultural and linguistic barriers. 

This is only the beginning of many more opportunities to work together as brothers and sisters in the Lord. 

"Declare God's glory among the nations." (Psalms 96:3)

Good Beginnings

"Show me how you did it in your Filipino ministries, and we can look at it and see how we can do it here in our ministry among the Indonesians in this area," Pastor Wayne shares to us. This local Free Methodist pastor expresses his desire to learn from Pastora Tessa, my guest for the afternoon. I am bringing Pastora Tessa and Pastor Cris to this local church so they can see for themselves the early beginnings of an FM ministry among Indonesian families in the Feng Shan district. I see Pastor Wayne's humility. I feel his love for the many foreigners in his neighborhood. I sense his growing vision for a local Free Methodist church in Kaohsiung fully mobilized for cross-cultural missions here and abroad. I am grateful for this good beginnings.

Meanwhile, we talk to Hueyna, an Indonesian housewife married to a Taiwanese family here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Her Chinese is really superb. Well, we were not surprised. She has been living in Taiwan for the last twenty years or so. Moreover, we were impressed with her passion to begin a church planting work among the many Indonesians in this district. It helps that she goes to this local Free Methodist Church. It is to our advantage that her husband is an active member of this local FM congregation. But most of all, we are so blessed to hear her heart and to see her hunger for more Indonesians, like herself, to come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for her that God will continue to shower His grace on her and her family. We pray that she will have words of wisdom as she talks to the many Indonesians in the area. But most of all, we pray for more people like Hueyna, who will be the bridges to the building of God's Kingdom. We pray for bridges, people of peace, mustard seed, little candles, tads of salt. Whatever we might call them, they are all signs of a good beginning.

Starting Somewhere

This afternoon, I just went to gathering at a centrally located place in this city full of glitzy stuff. In paper, this meeting looks like a sure success. The organizer invited a prominent lay pastor from another city. The pastor speaks the language of the target group. He sings well. He is a dynamic speaker. Looks like a recipe for success. However, this meeting was a dud. Only three people came from the target group of Asian contract workers of this city. What could have been done better?

First of all, in any Christian ministry, the principle of going still applies. We need to go where people are. We should seek them out and find out where our target group are meeting and congregating. Second, there is no exchange for one-on-one interaction. Good music is a plus. Dynamic speakers are even a bonus. But if these things do not encourage people to interact face-to-face, they are a boon.

It is good that this afternoon gathering is starting. We need to start somewhere. However, to sustain a ministry among Asian migrant workers in Taiwan, we need these two principles I just enumerated to be religiously applied. God's Holy Spirit works through people. And if we can provide the bridges for the Spirit to move among the people, then it is much better.

Waiting for God

I am waiting here in Kaohsiung airport to board our plane for Japan and unto Indianapolis. Jacob and Carmen are reading their books. They are such troopers. I am grateful for their patience. We cannot wait to see Grandma and Grandpa. This will be a good USA visit. Waiting is becoming a significant part of our lives here in Taiwan.

Last Sunday, I spoke at Wen Shan FMC and shared about the Lord's harvest. After the service, I met with some of the leaders to plan for an outreach ministry among the "foreign wives" in the area. One of the church volunteers who joined us was Hueyia, an Indonesian housewife married to one Chrisitan brother from the church. While I was sharing, her eyes welled up and I could sense the Holy Spirit leading our meeting. I do not know what the final outcome would be regarding this meeting. We are praying that God would direct us and perhaps in the next few years this meeting would result into the birthing of an Indonesian Free Methodist Church right here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I am waiting for God, waiting on God.


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