We are still in Chicago this week spending time with family.  It feels strange to think that we’re not going to see them for 4 years until we return for 1 year of training, assessment & missions reporting to churches & our partners.  Although we still have 6 more days until our departure to Southeast Asia, I miss them already.

What keeps us going is the calling.  It was the calling that kept us persevering in ministry for the past 20 years as well, despite disapproval of men, spiritual oppositions, financial hardships, and personal weakness & limitations.

God’s calling is a powerful thing because it empowers you to believe that what is impossible is actually possible, and you are able to look past all the obstacles standing in your way.  In fact, they seem to disappear at the sight of our omnipotent Lord & it brings a sense of peace knowing that this is His heart toward your life & existence.

Without a definite sense of calling, we will stop whatever it is that we are pursuing.

Last Sunday, we visited Willow Creek Community Church to worship, and as always it was a powerful time of worship.  But what I didn’t expect was that the worship time became a reminder of God’s calling for our missions in Taiwan.

At Willow Creek, the past weekend was a special time of celebrating special friends with various disabilities who are overcoming their personal battles with the love of our Lord Jesus Christ & His servants.  These young people with autism, Down Syndrome & other mental & physical challenges sang, danced & testified of God’s greatness & goodness.  They truly moved all of us to introspection.

The senior pastor of Willow Creek Bill Hybels confessed openly how for many years he failed to see & notice these special people, and how it was not until recently when parents of special kids brought to his attention that these kids are invisible in their church.  What I love & respect about Pastor Bill Hybels is that when he or his church makes a mistake, he doesn’t try to hide it.  Instead he will admit & take appropriate steps to correct it.  That is what he did with these special friends, and it was a powerful time of worship that celebrated everyone who is created in God’s image & a time of hoping for our glorious future together when we will be made holy & perfect.

There are many in our world who are invisible, forgotten because they are considered to be a non-factor, non-essential, but sadly this is often true in the eyes of the church as well.  I don’t go to Korean restaurants much, not because I don’t enjoy the food.  I love Korean food!  I refrain from going to Korean restaurants because often the servers don’t serve well.  My guess is that I dress too casually and the fact that I look younger doesn’t help much either.  Maybe they assume that I’m not going to be a big tipper.  I don’t know.  But I do know that if I am dressed in my Sunday suit accompanied by church members who refer to me as a pastor then everything changes.  But sadly I’ve had similar experiences in churches.  This concerns me because how can those who have been marginalized & dismissed ever feel at home in the one place that they should?

Biblically the church is a sanctuary. I just love that word sanctuary!  Sanctuary can be defined as a place where someone is protected or given shelter or a place of refuge.  This is why those who are helpless & harassed in life can find peace & freely be led to worship.  It should be a place where everyone & anyone can enter without facing judgment, having people size them up & assess their worth.  The world puts us in categories & classes.  But in the church it matters not where one comes from, what kind of struggle he or she has or how messed up & hopeless one’s life has been.  Through Jesus Christ our Savior & Lord, everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will enjoy life & freedom!  There are no exceptions!  At the cross the ground is leveled.

The problem is that many in our world doesn’t know this truth, especially those who have been told all their life how worthless, how unimportant & how less of a person they are.

One thing about Southeast Asia is that one’s value is mostly determined by wealth, status & achievements.  This is why education is so highly valued.  It is seen as a way of salvation.  But what about those whose environment doesn’t permit them to have education beyond high school?  What about people, no matter how hard they try, cannot move up the social ladder?

They become invisible.

But Jesus’ invitation discriminates no one.  He invites, “Come to me, ALL you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

In Luke 15, Jesus speaks of how a shepherd would leave 99 sheep to look for one sheep that was lost, hardly the practical thing to do.

There is a reason why Jesus came to this world as a working class man, and not as the elite of the Jewish society.  And the reason is simple.  It was to find what was lost, forgotten & faded into the background.

The working class people in Taiwan are such people.  Even though they make up 16 million out of 23 million in Taiwan, only 0.05% are Christians.

I know that what we can do is limited.  Our prayer is that lives we encounter will find forgiveness, healing, life & joy that are in Jesus Christ even though the social structure & circumstances may not change.  And even though the world’s perspective of them will probably remain the same, we pray and will strive for this.  That their perspective on life, who they are in Christ & ultimately on who God is will be restored through the gospel.

It was such a beautiful sight to see the special kids at Willow Creek.  Their bodies & lives may be bound by their conditions, it was clear they were rejoicing & loving God who has set them free.

That is our calling.   To set lives free despite their trying limitations & environment.