Storming The Gates

"I come inside through the big wooden doors. These are elaborately decorated with religious symbols of dragons, monsters, and fiery animals real only to an Asian religious practitioner. I see many people with their prayer sticks. I smell the incense engulfing the whole prayer room. I come inside this beautiful temple and soak in the presence of spirituality that I cannot comprehend. To my right, a person whom I presume is an expert--not only because of his dashing robe and regal hat, but mainly because of his confident way of explaining things--is showing some visitors the way to use the prayer gong in their time of worship. Everyone is lost in their utterance, petitions for a need that I will never understand. I say a prayer to the Almighty God and Savior of all people to hear the prayers of these people."

One afternoon, I was in the streets of Kowloon and came into a Chinese temple. I went inside through the doors that were open to both tourists and worshippers. I went in, in a manner of speaking, "storming the gates of heaven" for the people who are seeking true spirituality and needing the answers to their supplications from the Creator of the universe. I went in and prayed with the Chinese people in that prayer room. I was engulfed in the smell of the incense. I was lost in the rhythmic sound of the prayer gong. I was shoulder to shoulder with them. However, I will never know the intent of their hearts. Nor will I ever come close to comprehending their religiosity. All I could do is say a simple prayer on their behalf, or as some of my friends would say: storm the gates of heaven. In that Kowloon temple, I asked God to listen to us. I probably would never witness the answers to these prayers. One thing I knew then that is still true now: God is moving in every place of worship and all the prayer rooms in the world, and He is drawing every Asian to Himself. 

Easter Greetings From Up in a Mountain

The angels said, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11) Here in this biblical account, the angels are simply reminding the disciples that Jesus is coming back again. They left the Mount of Olives and went to the Upper Room to pray. It is at this point that the Holy Spirit came in mighty power, giving the gift of tongues to the disciples that resulted in many people coming to God in salvation and repentance. But first things first--they had to leave the mountain where Jesus was taken up into heaven right before their very eyes.

This week is holy week. Back in the Philippines during this whole week, time comes to a stand still. Holy Week traditions abound in this country, some not so good but a few brings the Filipino Christians to remember Jesus' sacrifice in the cross and His glorious resurrection. This week here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, here in the seminary, nothing much is happening. We have a little worship service tomorrow, full of Easter liturgy commemorating Christ' death and rising from the dead. I am playing the guitar in one of the songs. Very simple. It is not really a big holiday. Unlike the Philippines and the USA with its Easter bunnies, egg hunts, and, in some large churches, a grandiose choral presentation--the Easter Cantata.

Today, we are going to start a Worship Band here in the seminary. Not a grandiose musical production, just a little band of 6-8 students deciding to get together to play music and sing songs. I have no high expectations. We will see what we can do. We do not have any music genius among us. We only have Christians who have a heart for worship and a desire to assist local churches in their music ministries.

This coming Monday, I am going with a bunch of students to climb Ali Shan, or Mount Ali, here in central Taiwan. Next week is the seminary's Spring Break vacation. The mountain is about 2663 meters above sea level. I doubt if we ever will go up that high. At least we will be in out of the city and into nature for two whole days. There are three students who are coming with me. I want to make it clear to them that this is my personal retreat, a time to focus on God and in prayer. I think they will understand. Maybe, up there in Ali Shan, I will hear God's voice in a fresh way. I pray that His Spirit will visit me in His mighty power . . . I can only wait on Him. He will do whatever He wants to do with me. One thing I know is that I will see God in Ali Shan, "right before my very eyes" (Acts 1:9).

Harvest in Taiwan

Today I learned a new Chinese word, Gan Hsiang (感想), meaning, reflection.  And this is how I will start my blog—a reflection on the past two months.  The highlight of January to February 2009 is the visit of a group of friends from Illinois (USA).  Below are my thoughts on their 2009 Short-Term Missions in Taiwan.  I am writing this reflection primarily with the Taiwanese leaders in mind.  My prayer is that, as a result of mission trips like this one, more Taiwanese Free Methodists will venture into cross-cultural work in Christian missions.

“Harvest in Taiwan: A Reflection.”

“Many of us have learned so many things from the Harvest team members—not only about the skills of leading worship, but also about their great attitudes in serving God.” Linda Huang, a member of JioChuTang FM Church, gave this observation. In the thirteen days that the Harvest team was in Kaohsiung, many Free Methodists witnessed God moving among these team members and with the people they were serving. This period of two weeks was filled with lots of music, times of recommitment to God, and an overflow of learning new ways to serve one’s local church. God was moving in a special way during these few days with the Harvest team.

There were six members who came to Taiwan last January 20 to February 3, 2009. Tim Price, the leader of Harvest, came with his brother Jackson Price. Theo Harden and his good friend, Willie Jones, were also here. They were joined by the husband and wife team of Justin and Abbie Aymer. They all came from five different local churches located in Illinois, USA. Currently, they are involved with Harvest Ministry Teams. Harvest has been in existence since 1996 with a mission to “equip young adults for ministry while providing a resource for the local church.” Every year, they go to different churches, conferences and seminars to lead in workshops and other training modules. They focus on the Praise and Worship ministry of a local church.

I first heard of Harvest when I was studying at Asbury Seminary (KY, USA). Tim Price was a student then at Asbury. In 1996, Tim graduated from seminary and later founded Harvest Ministry Team. Meanwhile, I came to Taiwan in 2005 to serve the Taiwan Free Methodist Church. Here, I saw God moving among the Free Methodist youth. I also witnessed many church leaders trying out new ways of worshipping God through the use of “Praise and Worship” music. It was then that I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be great if the youth and leaders of Free Methodist Church of Taiwan get connected with Tim Price and the Harvest Ministry Team.” So, after a year of many emails and phone calls, Harvest team came to Kaohsiung, Taiwan this year.

When Harvest was here, they went to the following churches and schools: FengShan FM Church, JuiGuang FM Church, JioChuTang FM Church, SanHe FM Church, as well as LongShan Elementary School at ChiKu (Tainan) and Morrison Christian Academy at TaiChung. They also spent time with Filipino churches, including Nantze Higher Ground Community Church and Tree of Life Church. In summary, there were over 32 local churches represented at all the Harvest training and workshops. One group in particular came all the way from Taipei, a six-hour travel by church van. During the Harvest training and seminars, Harvest members talked about “The Four Core Values of a Worship Team,” “The Heart of Worship,” and “A Vision and Mission for Worship Teams.” In addition, there were different workshops including topics on Guitars, Drums and Bass, Keyboards, Vocals, Songwriting, and Drama. All these topics were designed to help Christian leaders better their worship ministry in the local church.

“It’s a day of pure energy. I myself don’t want to stop singing every time the band starts to lead us in worshipping God. I am really encouraged to pray more for others.” Angela Gammad, a Filipina from one of the Filipino churches, gives this observation. Angela’s view is just an example of how people are so engaged during the ministry of the Harvest mission team. Whether Harvest members are teaching or singing, one can feel the Spirit of God moving. Everyone participates in every session.

Sophia Chang, from FengShan FM Church and one of the translators for the Harvest team, gives us a good summary of the short missions work of Harvest team here in Taiwan. “It looks like a variety of cross cultural ministries,” she writes. “What a great connection between so many churches.” It is this Christian connection we want to encourage among our local churches. It is my prayer that the Free Methodist Church of Taiwan will lead in this work of connecting different ministries together and joining various groups in one vision and purpose—the vision of worshipping our Living God. Maybe we can start with our local church music and worship ministry. Perhaps we can continue what Harvest Ministry Team already started. Sophia continues, “I am so glad to have the chance to learn more about missions work to different places and different peoples.” Indeed, God is working in Taiwan.  **  **