Tag Archives: short-term mission

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

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

Removing Idols I

Idolatry is a serious obstacle to faith in Christ in Taiwan. Sometimes pressure from family and neighbors are so great that even after a person confesses Christ as Savior, he/she does not feel free to stop participating in idol/ancestor worship, let alone go to church. So when families remove idols and ancestor altars from their homes, it showed their faith is genuine and is a big thing that doesn’t happen often enough. We were privileged to assist in two idol removal ceremonies during our short stay, the fruit of our hosts’ hard work in leading the families to faith in Christ. Here is the order of service and some photos:

* Call to worship
* Hymn e.g. This is My Father’s World
* Prayer
* Scripture Reading e.g. Ex 20:3-6, Ps 115:1-18 etc.
* Message
* Hymn e.g. Jesus Loves Me
* Cleansing Prayer
* Dismantle idols
* Testimony
* Prayer for the family
* Announcements
* Hymn of Blessing
* Prayer of Blessing

Our sister in Christ used to be a devout Buddhist-Taoist, spending thousands of dollars on I Ching (易經) literature which she studied laboriously. She would kowtow 70 times each day, chanting, praying and burning incense. For all her devotion to false gods, what she got was constant complaints from neighbors who sued her for disturbing the peace and polluting the environment. So when our hosts shared with her the gospel, she gladly accepted because her dedication to idols brought her nothing but trouble. She and her children were baptized this Easter, gloriously delivered from the bondage of idolatry. Not all troubles are bad. Some may be allowed by God to bring people to Him. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Large idol shrine to be removed

Large idol shrine to be removed

Cleansing Prayer

Cleansing Prayer

Praying for the family

Praying for the family

Removing idols and paraphernalia, including books and incantations

Removing idols and paraphernalia, including books and incantations

Idols replaced by the Cross

Idols replaced by the Cross

Family rejoicing after the idols were removed

Family rejoicing after the idols were removed

Icons were smashed at the city dump

Icons were smashed at the city dump

Experiencing Missionary Life

Visiting the sick in a nursing home

Visiting the sick in a nursing home

This is not the norm for most missionaries, or even the pattern for many, but it is a realistic depiction of a typical day in the life of a church-planting missionary. The work week starts early with team bible study and prayer meeting at church at 7:15 am, Tuesday to Friday. Then, depending on the day of the week, our hosts will be engaged in various ministries targeted at:

* seniors (community fellowship; temple outreach),
* adults (worship, fellowship; one-on-one discipleship),
* junior highs (tutorial class), and
* elementary school children (English class; WHIZ Kids Sunday school).

Encouraging young Christian to do daily devotion

Encouraging young Christian to do daily devotion

If there are no programs, they would visit neighbors or shut-ins, or invite neighbors to come to their home for bible study. Breakfast and lunch consist of drinking fruits and vegetables extract health supplements. Their front and back doors are not locked, and neighbors often drop in unannounced. This has pros and cons. The good thing is that it showed that they are on good terms with their neighbors, or else they would not bother dropping in. The disadvantage is that the day is often interrupted and long, as people may drop in late evening and stay to chat.

What we admire about our missionary friends the most is how naturally they turn any conversation into spiritual subjects. Perhaps people in rural settings are less guarded, which makes it a little easier, but I think it has more to do with their being gifted as evangelists. Above all, it has to do with the heart. If you are focused on winning the lost for Christ, you will find a way. Hope you and I can do the same.

Giving examples of discipline methods in parenting workshop

Giving examples of discipline methods in parenting workshop

Second Parenting Workshop:

Telling Bible Stories in WHIZ kids Sunday School:

Family Conference scenic spots

We spent 3 days at our mission’s family conference, held at picturesque Pacific Green Bay Spring Resort in Xinbei, near Keelung in NE Taiwan. The beach was closed as there are strong undercurrents dangerous even for strong swimmers, but you can take a leisurely stroll and sun-bathe. We also visited Jiu Fen, a small town some 45 min. away by car, famous for its Old Street with many eateries. Here are a few video clips:

View from our hotel room:

Garden with chapel:

View of the beach with Turtle Island in the distance:

View 1 from Jiu Fen:

View 2 from Jiu Fen:

Children and Campus Ministries

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we posted videos/photos for adult ministries; today we continue with children and campus ministries:

WHIZ (Wise, Happy, Intelligent, Zealous) kids Sunday School:

Teaching second graders English.

Teaching English in elementary school.

Teaching English in elementary school.

Alphabet song:

One thing very helpful about schools in Taiwan is that they are open to religious groups (Christian, Buddhist or other) who offer to help in teaching English, virtues or other subjects, both during regular class time or after school. If Evangelicals don’t seize the opportunity, cults and other religions will. We hope to reach the family through the children.

As to campus ministry, Taiwan has 111 universities and colleges spread across the island, so student ministry is very important in reaching the educated. Here we visited two out of five universities in Chiayi county:
1. National Chung Cheng University (ranked #13),
2. National Chiayi University (#38),
3. Wufeng University (#39),
4. Tatung Institute of Commerce and Technology (#73), and
5. Nanhua University (#75).

Wufeng University with 6000 students

Wufeng University with 6000 students

Chung Cheng University has close to 12,000 students. We visited a professor who was one of the organizers of the Christian fellowship. He estimated Christians comprised about 3% of the student body, higher than the percentage in Minxiong where the university is located.

Visiting an Associate Professor at National Chung Cheng University. Besides supervising grad students, he teaches an interesting course on Jewish Customs and Life Sciences based on the OT.

Visiting an Associate Professor at National Chung Cheng University. Besides supervising grad students, he teaches an interesting course on Jewish Customs and Life Sciences based on the OT.

Doing bible study with graduate students

Doing bible study with graduate students

Adult Ministries

We assisted in the outreach activities started by our host missionaries. Some are targeted at adults e.g. temple outreach, seniors ministry, parenting workshop, tract distribution etc. Others are aimed at youth and children e.g. university fellowship, high school and elementary school English class, WHIZ kids (Awana Club style Sunday school) etc. Here are a few videos/photos of adult ministries:

Conversing with a Taiwanese lady at the temple health clinic:

Friday Fellowship

Friday Fellowship

Meeting with the first person we led to the Lord during our last Taiwan STM.

Meeting with the first person we led to the Lord during our last Taiwan STM.

Our first Parenting Workshop

Our first Parenting Workshop

Worship on Sunday afternoon

Worship on Sunday afternoon

Distributing flyers in night market

Distributing flyers in night market

Doing exercises with Taiwanese-speaking residents in “Golden World” community before sharing testimony and bible stories:

God’s Guidance

God's guidance 1

Sometimes things are so remarkable that you just know God must be directing everything behind the scenes. When our missionary friends returned to Taiwan after a year of home service (furlough), they started looking for a place to plant a church among the Hakka people. The Hakka is an unreached people group (0.6% Christian) concentrated in several counties where there are few or no churches, so it wasn’t hard to identify the towns with the needs. However, receptivity and finding a specific, suitable site is.

They had three objectives:
1. Find a place to live, which doubles up as the home base for a church;
2. Find ministry partners, as there is no way one couple can do everything themselves;
3. Find a means to reach out to the community.

Mission policy does not allow missionaries to purchase their home on the field. However, there are few rental properties on the market as generally Hakka folks prefer home ownership rather than renting. Furthermore, they prefer word-of-mouth publicity over advertising. The few houses that are listed are usually those that are so dilapidated that the owners have to resort to their least preferred method to lease them out. For several months our friends looked at what’s available. Some have worn electrical wiring that is like “live” wire dangling from the ceiling. Another has only one bathroom in the entire building, an “out-house” on a balcony, without heating! They just couldn’t bring themselves to sign a lease.

Re volunteer workers, they have to train local believers to help with the ministry, and to pick up the baton from them. A colleague referred them to a Taiwanese pastor who has a heart for reaching the Hakka like they do. He had gathered the few Christians he could find and started a bible study/prayer group with them. One couple is in restaurant workers ministry. Several are retired teachers. Our friends linked up with this group and soon many became their core volunteers.

With respect to community outreach, teaching English is a proven method for foreign missionaries to connect with the local people. But instead of a traditional ESL (English as a Second Language) class, they started a class to train the teachers to teach English. And suddenly everything fell into place.

At the first English class, a security guard for a school showed up. He “happened” to be a former student of one of our friend’s retired teacher volunteers. Hakkas respect teachers highly. Since our friend teaches the teachers English, she is held in even higher regard. He also “happened” to own a rental house that was available. It sits right next to a tomb, which might explain why it’s vacant, as superstitious Chinese would find it “unlucky”. But to our friends, it meant only that they have a neighbor who never complains. When the owner heard that his former teacher’s teacher was looking for a house, he offered to repaint the interior and lease them the house, at one-third discount!

In one move they have a home, ministry partners, and a bridge to reach the community. The work started well and in one year they have 3 people baptized, plus 3 who came to faith in Christ when they attended the baptism ceremony. Coincidence? No, Providence! When God moves, things happen. But you have to be involved to be a part of it.

A New Hakka Church

We visited another site where a new initiative to reach the Hakka was started a year ago, with good success.

Missionary's residence which doubles as church

Missionary’s residence which doubles as church

Typical Taiwan houses are like match boxes stood on end - 4 stories with the ground floor serving as church.

Typical Taiwan houses are like match boxes stood on end – 4 stories with the ground floor serving as church.

Elementary school which invited our hosts to do VBS. It's very helpful when the principals are Christians.

Elementary school which invited our hosts to do VBS. It’s very helpful when the principals are Christians.

The school has lots of space but only about 120 students. Declining children population is a major challenge for Taiwan.

The school has lots of space but only about 120 students. Declining children population is a major challenge for Taiwan.

Outreach possibility. Our friends are exploring the feasibility of setting up a cafe at a public pool where they can share the gospel with people who hang-out there. Whatever works!

Outreach possibility. Our friends are exploring the feasibility of setting up a cafe at a public pool where they can share the gospel with people who hang-out there. Whatever works!