Justice and Mercy

Joseph Became A Refugee

Joseph took his family and crossed the border into Egypt, and became refugees in a foreign land. What was the reason for their departure? Was it necessary for them to flee to Egypt and live the life of an unwanted immigrant? The angel could have said: “Do not leave for God will command His angels concerning you, to guard you.” Or, he could have said: “Stay and God will fight for you.” No. Instead, our lectionary reading states that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 

Our Gospel Reading for this week, the first week of January 2023, is in Matthew 2:13-23. In this lectionary reading we find the answer to our search for a reason for Joseph’s family fleeing their homeland. Verse 15 presents to us the reason—This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” This verse quotes Hosea 11:1 and relates the life of a sojourner and a refugee in a foreign land. 

More particularly, I think the reason was didactic in nature, aimed at teaching Joseph a valuable lesson as the father of the Son of Man. The flight to Egypt gave Joseph a perspective on the life of a refugee. It gave Joseph a better understanding of the kind of life his son Jesus is going to take here in earth. Joseph’s life as a refugee in Egypt made him a better father to Jesus.

So, Matthew 2:13 states that the angel said to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.” And if I maybe allowed to say, the angel probably continued saying: “Live in Egypt as a sojourner and a refugee of the land. Live among the poor so that you will learn how your Son will bring the kingdom of God among them.  Mourn with them so that you will partake of your son’s ministry of comfort. Be humble as a stranger of the land because this is what your son Jesus will be doing in his life as an adult. He will take the form of a servant and will not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Be merciful and seek peace in the land, and you will be called Joseph the father of the Son of Man." (Compare, Matthew 5:2-12 and Philippians 2:5-11).

New Praise Song (Psalm 146)

This week’s Lectionary Gospel Reading is from Mary’s song, The Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. There are several themes running through the song. One dominant thought is the theme of justice—with the lines “God sending the rich empty” and “God bringing the mighty ones from their thrones,” among others. 


Last November 12, 2021, I wrote a song which speaks of God’s justice in the land. This song, “New Praise Song,” is based on a reading of Psalm 146. I hope that as you listen to the demo song I made, it will lead you to prayer and move you to compassion for the poor and those who are suffering among us.


New Praise Song (Psalm 146)

November 12 (2021)


Praise the Father, Praise the Son

Praise the Spirit, The Three in One.

Praise the God who created all.

Praise the Savior, we hear His call.


Sing a new song to our King.

All the earth, this (good) news we bring.

Oh my soul, “Praise the Lord!”

Everyone now in one accord.


Hallelujah! What a story!

Our Lord and God, He sets the prisoner free.

Hallelujah! The blind will see.

He takes our burdens and throws them to the sea.


Hallelujah! This is the day!

The widows, the orphans; God will help them stay.

Hallelujah! The stranger will say:

“The Lord reigns! He takes our sins away.”



David W. Clemente

November 2021


Illinois, USA

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.

Because God Is Our Father

Because God is a Father to the fatherless, the protector of the weak, and a companion to the sojourner, then we should actively pursue services to the poor, the migrants, the widows, the defenseless orphans, the refugees, and other destitute people in all our missions work and Christian endeavors. (Psalm 68:5; Zechariah 7:9-10; Leviticus 19:9-10; James 1:27; and Luke 6:20)

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.

Bringing God's Healing to Children of Tacloban City

60 plus children. 18 youth and young teens. Four pastors from four different Free Methodist local churches. Good Friday celebration on this Holy Week. Blessing upon blessing. God's grace overflowing. Praying inside the Lora Jean Schlosser Memorial Free Methodist Church (FMC) of Tacloban City, Philippines.

I am here in Tacloban City, helping our Set Free Movement Philippines facilitate a 5-day camp for these 60 children. It is a Stress Debriefing Camp for these children. It is challenging. I only prepared for a camp for 15 children. God sent us 60 and 18 young people. I studied and brought materials for grief debriefing, but God redirected our efforts to this stress debriefing efforts. Funds were limited, but our Lord provided. I had my worries and doubts. God, however, took over. He rebuked me. He comforted me. He taught me to depend on him. This is the work of God.

How did it happen? People from many places gave money for this camp. I am grateful for their donations. Leaders volunteered to help out. What a blessing! Also, at the last minute, Jayvee, the pastor of the Free Methodist Church, rallied her 18 young people and mobilized them to assist with these 60 children. No time to give these 60 young people training for leading small groups. They just learned it along the way. God helped these 18 youth. God led this camp. God is our leader.

The work is still going on. The challenge of bringing healing to the people of Tacloban City is still current. After the visit of supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Filipinos here are slowly recovering. It is an uphill climb. And some days, they are overwhelming. We do our small part and focus on these children. We contribute by obeying God's call for healing located in this one local church. 

Truly God is leading the way. During this 5-day camp, Jayvee and Marilyn, one of the local leaders of Tacloban FMC, organized 20 mothers to come for an afternoon of sharing and reflection; their own time of debriefing. Paula, our Supt. from Manila, and Kenneth Joy, one of our Manila FM leaders, and both members of the Set Free Movement Philippines team, facilitated this time with the mothers. We did not plan for this meeting. God took over. One of the mothers said: "I thought I was already okay. But I discovered that I still need to be debriefed." Healing and recovery will have to be continued. There has to be more debriefing events. The process of rehabilitation needs a long time. Readers, write me back if you want to help Tacloban City. Any help in this time of recovery will greatly be appreciated. I have many suggestions and proposals to give you all, but I will wait for God to lead you. Only when God leads the way will these efforts of healing have any meaning at all.

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.

Set The Children Free

When Super Typhoon Haiyan left the Philippines, it killed over 6,000 Filipinos and rendered many homeless affecting about 14 million people in the country. Now, it is a time of recovery. Filipinos are picking the pieces and beginning to rebuild their lives with what they have.

This April 15-19, 2014, I am joining other Free Methodists from Manila and Tacloban City as we organize a Stress Debriefing Camp for 60 children ages 7-12 years old. We want to contribute to this process of recovery. We want to start with our children. Most of these children who will be attending will come from the Tacloban City Free Methodist Church and its surrounding neighborhood. These children are experiencing trauma, not only from witnessing the devastation brought by Haiyan, but also from the experience of losing a family member during the typhoon. We want to be there for them. We want to set them free from the trauma and despair. Only God can do this. We will wait on God, wait for His healing.

I do not know where this will lead us. We will trust in God's leadership. My hope is that we can do this Camp annually. Our goal is that these children will grow to be responsible citizens and giving back to the rebuilding of their local community. My prayer is that God will use this Camp to equip these children with skills and emotional stability. They will experience the power of the Gospel in all of its dimensions. God's healing will bring hope, freedom from fear, and the courage to contribute to the rebuilding of Tacloban City. Only God can do this. We will wait for God to act. We will follow Him. We will participate in what He is doing among the people of Tacloban City.

28 Years Ago (1986 People Power) in the Philippines

I can hear the bullets zing over us. They are very close. We are praying under a tree and I see splinters from the tree fall by my feet. We are praying. Francis, Ricky, and I are holding hands petitioning our Creator God to stop this violence.

This is February 24, 1986. I am crouching behind a car on Scout Bayoran. After our prayer, we duck for cover from behind the parked cars. My two companions are behind some other vehicles. A sniper, a military Marcos loyalist, was randomly shooting at anyone and everyone. He is atop the Channel 9 tower. Everyone is taking cover. A little while back, we were marching with a Mother Mary entourage, a prayer march in peaceful protest against violent events happening that day, namely, the Channel 9 shooting. Everyone spreads out once the bullets comes passing by our way, way too close for comfort.

Suddenly, a guy comes running towards me and joins me behind the car. He has his hand on his abdomen. "May tama ako," he tells me. (Translate: I am hit.) I look at the blood on his hand and his shirt. I know I just have to do something. I see a pick up truck trying to drive away from all the chaos. I run towards the driver and persuade him to help the injured guy. And he agrees. Other people come to help load the injured guy into the truck. Screeching truck tires. More tree splinters on the ground. All of us cowering behind a safe place.

28 years ago. I remember we later found out the Rebel soldiers came on a helicopter and shoot down the sniper perched on the Channel 9 tower. We all went home. The following day, we heard the news that the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, left the country. We all cheered. We were celebrating the freedom we gained.

28 years, and I am now residing in another country. I see the Philippines still struggling with the same issues we faced when the Marcoses were still ruling. Corruption. Extreme poverty. Crime. To be fair, many things have changed for the better. But still, almost three decades later, we are still struggling.

I am still praying to our Creator God that He will extend His mercies to Filipinos and the Philippines. I am no longer hiding behind a car or under a tree. I am out in the open. I am hoping many friends will come and join hands with me in prayer.

Tomorrow will be the Philippines 1986 People's Revolution anniversary. What can we do?