Category Archives: Missions

The Great Commission

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Pastor Ray’s blog Raykliu is continued in Rayliu1.

Please go to http://rayliu1.wordpress.com/ for future posts.Pastor Ray’s blog

Farewell, My Darling

As the lyrics of “A Summer Song” go, “They say that all good things must end some day; Autumn leaves must fall.” So our 4 weeks of STM came to an end. We did some ministry, got re-acquainted with some friends, made several new ones, and learned a few things. What’s most gratifying to see is how the Lord’s work here had grown – a new church had been planted, over 15 in Grace Meal had been baptized, campus ministries got started, children’s work had grown etc., and kids we met last time now become teacher’s helpers! How fast time flies, especially when you’re having a good time. Here are a few farewell photos. What remains is one week on our own touring Taipei, as we’ve never really seen Taiwan after visiting 3 trips and living here for over 18 weeks. I suppose we will return to assist wherever needed, but until next time, “Farewell, My Dalin”!

Dalin (大林)

Dalin (大林)

Dalin, also affectionately called "Darling"

Dalin, also affectionately called “Darling”

Saying goodbye to 2 of the "little teachers". When we first met them 2 years ago they were still in elementary school!

Saying goodbye to 2 of the “little teachers”. When we first met them 2 years ago they were still in elementary school!

"Last supper" with some colleagues

“Last supper” with some colleagues

A Man for All Seasons

I love preaching and teaching, even though I’m only so-so at it. I love witnessing and pastoring too, though I’m not very good at that either. But what I like most about missionary life and work is that it takes everything you’ve got, and you out of your comfort zone, to do what God wants you to do. When we went on short-term missions, over 40 years of critical thinking, problem solving, strategic planning, resolving conflicts, exegeting people – everything we learned is made use of when we’re on the front line in the field, nothing is wasted. You need to be a man for all seasons.

1 Co 9:19-23 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

One example. The Dalin church had its opening ceremony on May 3, so all of a sudden the missionary becomes an event planner, organizing many things including designing the program, inviting guests, printing invitation cards, ordering meals, decorating, renting extra chairs to handle the crowd etc. They have to do most things themselves, and must wear many hats at the same time, because as a new church plant they do not have stable church members to share the load. Public relations, for instance, suddenly becomes important, because they need to invite dignitaries and significant people such as mayors and school principals to smooth future relationships.

In mission work, flexibility is most important. I also think versatility is a close second, as a missionary is often a jack of all trades, master of many – a man for all seasons not only to stand strong for the Lord in all occasions, but also adaptable under all circumstances to do what needs to be done. I am not putting missionaries on a pedestal, I know full well how human they are, with their foibles and shortcomings, but God called them to be His ambassadors to a broken world. Many go full-out for God in the midst of their flaws and weaknesses. God bless the missionaries!

Visiting Dalin Township Office to invite the mayor

Visiting Dalin Township Office to invite the mayor

Visiting elementary school to invite the principal

Visiting elementary school to invite the principal

Enjoying tea and calligraphy in principal's office

Enjoying tea and calligraphy in principal’s office

Giving invitation to church's opening ceremony to village mayor

Giving invitation to church’s opening ceremony to village mayor

Sun Moon Lake

On our next Monday off our colleagues took us to Sun Moon Lake for team bonding. God was gracious as the forecast called for rain, but it turned out to be a mix of sun and cloud, not too hot, perfect weather for an outing. We left home early to avoid traffic, but got to Sun Moon Lake by 8 am, too early for the resort observation deck ticket counter to open. So we got a spectacular view for free! We then purchased a day pass for the ferry to take us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic spots (Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao) across the lake. Since we were the first customers, the ferry operator offered us a 1/3 discount!

Lunch was at a restaurant recommended by a local souvenir store, with 7-course meal including local delicacies such as wild boar meat, president’s fish, wild mushrooms etc. at C$60 for 7 people. Not bad at all! We wrapped up the afternoon with ice cream at “Almost 18”, followed by a visit to Puli Brewery. The place gives away free coffee as a promotion. We didn’t exactly feel 18 again, but 18 years younger enjoying ice cream along with hundreds of happy customers under an open air canopy. God gave us not only a day of rest, an opportunity to enjoy His creation, but also good colleagues to encourage each other. Praise the Lord!

Sun Moon Lake, Nantou

Sun Moon Lake, Nantou

Observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort, overlooking Sun Moon Lake

Observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort, overlooking Sun Moon Lake

Glass bottom observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort

Glass bottom observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort

Chapel built by Chiang kai-shek, a Christian, at Sun Moon Lake in 1971

Chapel built by Chiang kai-shek, a Christian, at Sun Moon Lake in 1971

A ferry took us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic points Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao across the lake.

A ferry took us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic points Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao across the lake.

Ferries are like yachts. Daily pass costs NT$300 per adult, NT$200 (C$8) for early bird, not bad for C$8 a day.

Ferries are like yachts. Daily pass costs NT$300 per adult, NT$200 (C$8) for early bird. Not bad for C$8 a day.

View from Xuanzang Temple pier

View from Xuanzang Temple pier

Presbyterian Church at Sun Moon Lake. Church currently closed as there's no pastor. Want to apply?

Presbyterian Church at Sun Moon Lake. Church currently closed as there’s no pastor. Want to apply?

In traditional Thao tribal attire. Good day for team bonding.

In traditional Thao tribal attire. Good day for team bonding.

7 course meal, all local game, fish and vegetables for NT$1,500 (C$60). 7 people can hardly finish.

7 course meal, all local game, fish and vegetables for NT$1,500 (C$60). 7 people can hardly finish.

Ita Thao Pier

Ita Thao Pier

"Almost 18" Ice Cream, similar to Baskin Robbins with over 20 exotic flavors.

“Almost 18” Ice Cream, similar to Baskin Robbins with over 20 exotic flavors.

Puli Brewery, famous for Chinese wines.

Puli Brewery, famous for Chinese wines.

Appreciation and Encouragement Workshop

If there’s something all of us can use a little bit more, it would be appreciation and encouragement. But too bad both these are in short supply and come few and far in between. No wonder when we gave a workshop on this in our family conference, even though we didn’t have enough time for everyone to do the group exercises, the feedback was still positive. Everyone was hungry for what comes so rarely, so much so that our missionary friend referred us to his pastor to give the same workshop to his church.

This time we learned from our mistake and cut out some of our “lecture”, which was boring, and allotted enough time for the participants to share. They were divided into groups of 4 or 5 people who knew each other. Using an appreciation/encouragement word list we distributed as a reference, each person will receive verbal affirmation from his/her group members. Only positive comments were allowed; no criticisms. The recipients acknowledge the affirmation with a gracious thank you; no deflections were allowed.

The results were amazing. As facilitators we moved from group to group to make sure they did not have any problems. They didn’t. They were excitedly giving affirmation to their group members, something they had not done in the past but were eager to do when asked. Some recipients were genuinely surprised as to how highly their friends thought of them but never told them; others were embarrassed at all the positive comments, believing they did not live up to the praises heaped on them. One man remarked that he did not realize that Chinese have so many words of appreciation and encouragement until he read our list.

Since only a portion of the fellowship came to the Saturday workshop, we handed out cards for the people to write those they want to appreciate but who did not come to the meeting. The next day many cards were passed around after the Sunday morning worship. People were pleasantly surprised when they received a card and broke out in broad smiles. The pastor, an overworked and under-appreciated faithful worker and usually serious, was noticeably relaxed and cheerful as he thanked us in the afternoon service. It changed the atmosphere in the church, if only for a brief time. Pray that this continues as that’s the way it should be.

Appreciation and Encouragement Workshop at Double Blessing Church

Appreciation and Encouragement Workshop at Double Blessing Church

Participants divide into small groups for exercises

Participants divide into small groups for exercises

Short-termer receiving encouragement from the pastor and his wife

Short-termer receiving encouragement from the pastor and his wife

Fellow cell group members receive appreciation from each other

Fellow cell group members receive appreciation from each other

Mother-in-law was all smiles after receiving appreciation from son-in-law

Mother-in-law was all smiles after receiving appreciation from son-in-law

A Tale of Two Churches

After our prayer walk we visited two churches in Beigang, a dark place where Satan has a stronghold. The first church is independent and established about 15 years ago to serve the poor. As part of its outreach she provides tutoring for primary students, run by church members.

Tutoring elementary school students

Tutoring elementary school students

The church is housed in an industrial/warehouse building made of corrugated steel, which gets very hot under the summer sun. Since the church cannot afford air conditioning, she sprayed water onto the roof so that as the water evaporates, it cools down the building. The excess water runs down the side of the building and over time caused the “bleeding”, brownish stain on the walls.

Corrugated steel building

Corrugated steel building

The second church is a new church plant soon to be opened. It is located right across the street from a middle school, and also plans to offer tutoring as a service to the middle class neighborhood. The building is donated by a doctor, and renovated to become a church.

Building donated by doctor converted to church

Building donated by doctor converted to church

Taiwan churches are typically small, with a congregation of under 50, and can be housed in residential buildings shaped like match boxes. The ground floor serves as the sanctuary for worship.

Main floor to serve as sanctuary

Main floor to serve as sanctuary

The second floor bedrooms are converted into classrooms, and a large open area serves as a multi-purpose room for fellowship or large classes.

Second floor as fellowship hall and classrooms

Second floor as fellowship hall and classrooms

The enemy tried to stall the opening of this church for over two years by causing various troubles for the pastor and his wife, including physical ailments and lawsuits. All missionaries and pastors working in such dark places need your prayers. They are on the front line of intense spiritual battles. Pray whenever you can to support God’s servants.

Prayer Walk II

The second prayer walk was totally different from the first, and took us from Xanadu into the heart of darkness. We went to Sibei, where the third most well-known Mazu temple in Taiwan is located, after Fongtian Temple in Singang and Chaotian Temple in Beigang.

Sibei actually has two temples within 50 meters with each other, Zhen Wu, which lost its popularity to its rival neighbor Liou Sing. This is satirical as the temples compete with each other as to who is #1, but then you have this farce in “Christian” cults as well. There is a sect called True Jesus Church in Taiwan, another called True True Jesus Church, and a third called True True True Jesus Church! I was taught if you’re really good you don’t need to loudly proclaim it. So much for vying to be #1!

Zhen Wu Temple

Zhen Wu Temple

Liou Sing Temple

Liou Sing Temple

What makes Liou Sing famous is that it houses the third Mazu statue from the original Tianho temple in Singang, the first temple to worship Mazu in Chiayi but destroyed by floods. The other 2 statues have been moved to Fongtian and Chaotian respectively, hence their fame. The irony is that Mazu is supposed to be the patron goddess that protects seafarers, such as fishermen and sailors from water harm, but unable to protect her own home! The Mazu here is black-faced from all the soot from the burning incense. Ps 115:5-7 is so true,
* They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see;
* They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell;
* They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat.

“Official” Black-faced Mazu

Another irony: worshipers wear statues of demons during parades and move their arms with strings like puppets. Why do these gods need to be carried around? Can’t they move on their own? Aren’t gods and demons supposed to be opposed to each other? Why are they walking side-by-side like buddies?

10 feet tall statues of devils worn by people in idol parades

10 feet tall statues of devils worn by people in idol parades

The temple displayed photos of students with good grades supposedly after they worshiped there. The reality is that these were good students to begin with. It’s only their superstitious parents who burned incense for them before the exams. They would have gotten good marks without the incense. Besides, poor grades are never displayed. The temples would hide bad publicity!

List of students who got good grades supposedly after worshiping idols

List of students who got good grades supposedly after worshiping idols

While we were there, tour buses came in droves dropping off superstitious tourists to burn incense and make a wish. This is sad but understandable for the ignorant, but especially sad to see young and apparently educated folks doing the same. Truly “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Co 4:4)”

Tourists come by busloads to pay homage to the black-faced Mazu

Tourists come by busloads to pay homage to the black-faced Mazu

Serendipity

Our friend took us for a prayer walk in a neighborhood next to hers, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The district is called Triangle Lane (三角里). Unlike other districts in Dalin (大林) which are poorer, this area is very well-kept and even touted as Xanadu (世外桃源) by some bloggers who toured Taiwan on bike. Here are some pictures of what the place looked like. The Lord gave us not only an opportunity to serve Him, but a chance to refresh ourselves while serving. Praise the Lord!

Triangle Lane is in the midst of rice fields, green in the Spring and golden in Autumn.

Triangle Lane is in the midst of rice fields, green in the Spring and golden in Autumn.

Many houses have murals. Some have large yards which are kept very clean.

Many houses have murals. Some have large yards which are kept very clean.

Mango trees. Too bad it's not the right season!

Mango trees. Too bad it’s not the right season!

Taiwan's climate is such that you find beautiful flowers everywhere year round.

Taiwan’s climate is such that you find beautiful flowers everywhere year round.

Fruits are also abundant. Bananas grow along the foot paths.

Fruits are also abundant. Bananas grow along the foot paths.

We came across a quaint "home stay" (文宿), with 3 bedrooms for rent on the ground floor and the owners live upstairs.

We came across a quaint “home stay” (文宿), with 3 bedrooms for rent on the ground floor and the owners live upstairs.

Elaborate artwork on the door leading to the backyard.

Elaborate artwork on the door leading to the backyard.

Backyard of the "home stay".

Backyard of the “home stay”.

Country road at back of "home stay".

Country road at back of “home stay”.

Fish pond in backyard.

Fish pond in backyard.

Japanese style bedroom with modern bathroom.

Japanese style bedroom with modern bathroom.

Bamboo hut in nearby park

Bamboo hut in nearby park

Sugar cane park

Sugar cane park

Home-stays are an economical alternative to hotels. This particular one is a bed-and-breakfast place with clean, modern facilities. The cost is NT$1,600 (C$64) per night for a single person occupying one room, or NT$2,400 (C$96) per night for a couple. Breakfast includes eggs laid by hens in the farm, and fresh vegetables picked from the patch at the end of the backyard. Not bad eh!

Church Planting Plan

We did a number of projects during this STM, including conducting workshops, preaching, teaching Sunday school, visitation, helping a missionary with his computer challenges etc. One of the assignments involved reviewing a church-planting team’s budget, which evolved into an examination of the team’s plans. A budget is an itemized allotment of funds, and reflects how the team plans to spend its money to achieve its goals. For a church-planting team, the ultimate goal is the establishment of a reproducing church. From a zero-based budgeting perspective, this immediately raises the question of whether each proposed expenditure is justified in the light of this objective.

For instance, some activities may be aimed at attracting the unchurched (the community) so that they might become regular church attenders (the crowd). [Refer Saddleback’s 5 different groups of people.] However, if the unchurched are outside of the church plant’s normal commuting distance and unlikely to attend the church, then programs targeted at attracting them may not be justified.

Saddleback Church's 5 different groups of people

Saddleback Church’s 5 different groups of people

Since a church is people, one of the first questions is “who is the target group?”. In analyzing the programs being offered by the team, it turned out that our team members are targeting four distinct target groups:
1 The poor,
2 University students,
3 Children, and through them the parents,
4 Families.

Reviewing church-planting strategy

Reviewing church-planting strategy

Each group has its unique characteristics, and a church based on that group would be very different from churches built on other groups. For example, the poor would form a grass roots church, at the opposite end of the spectrum from a church comprised of highly educated university/graduate students. Besides the education level, much of a campus church’s congregation might have a short tenure of a few years before they graduate and move on, which is different from a more stable church based on traditional families. One cannot form a church of children alone, you need to get to the parents, which is less direct and involves more time and effort.

"Happy Family Filling Stations" as building blocks for church plants

“Happy Family Filling Stations” as building blocks for church plants

And the team’s vision is much bigger than planting a single church in a town. Vision 119 calls for recruiting 119 workers to plant 60 churches in 60 towns along Routes 1 and 19, the least reached areas in Taiwan. Each of these towns consists of a dozen or so districts, totaling over 750 districts for all the towns. What the team had dreamed about was establishing a fellowship cell in each district. These cells would form the building blocks for a cell church in that town that comes together each Lord’s Day for worship and instruction, then scattered the rest of the week for service and witness. The cells are the spokes feeding into the hub, the cell church, and these churches would form a loose network spreading throughout western Taiwan. This dream is much bigger than what the team can do on its own, and requires much prayer, enlisting more workers, and having a detailed plan with milestones and deadlines. We need right brain visionaries and left brain planners to work together to realize this vision. Has the Lord called you lately?

Removing Idols II

Our second idol removal service was with a poor single mom, a Grace Meal recipient. Initially she was thankful for the free meals provided by the church program, but did not really know God. Then her grown daughter left her to live with a ne’er-do-well man. She didn’t know what to do, and cried loudly into the early hours of the morning. The disturbed neighbors called the police, who in turn called the pastor since she attends his church. He consoled her by directing her attention to God, as people ultimately are not reliable. Even her daughter, the person closest to her on earth, would abandon her to follow a worthless rogue.

Although difficult, she gradually learned to trust God and was baptized this past Easter. Usually our missionary friends would drive her and other Grace Meal recipients to church and treat them to dinner before taking them home, but recently she showed her appreciation by buying dinner for everyone instead.

What is the best way to reach people for Christ? By action and word. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you cared. Find a need and fill it. 1 Co 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

Shrine of our sister's deceased landlord

Shrine of our sister’s deceased landlord

Praising God and praying for cleansing

Praising God and praying for cleansing

Removing pagan door guardian gods

Removing pagan door guardian gods