I was in pastoral ministry before coming to Taiwan. Although there were many challenging aspects, what always kept me in ministry apart from the grace of our Lord were really the relationships that He has graciously brought into our ministry & lives. As a pastor, what I truly appreciated about these relationships was the fact that they were willing to trust & open their lives to me simply because I was their pastor. Something about people trusting you makes it easy to love them in return, and you want to share your best.
In the same way, although many aspects of doing missions are challenging, what continues to encourage us & keep us persevering are again relationships. Last week was quite meaningful for us because we got together with a Taiwanese Christian couple whom we can honestly call our friends. Friendship with Taiwanese is what we pray for on daily basis. As always they brought smiles to our faces, uplifted our spirits & this time they have helped us to understand how we can do missions more effectively. How grateful we are for these friends!
One recurring theme in doing missions effectively in Taiwan (that we are picking up from Taiwanese) is that before they will listen to us, we must establish a relationship that is based on trust. So what is shared, the content of the message is important, but who is sharing the message becomes in a way more important to Taiwanese. Why should they listen to our message, a message from foreigners that goes against everything that they have believed in & practiced all their lives unless they’re convinced that we truly care about them, and that we are worthy of their trust? In other words, how can we be seen by Taiwanese as their genuine friends?
There is a two part answer to this question. The first is incarnation. This is what our Savior & Lord Jesus Christ has demonstrated approx. 2,000 years ago by entering our broken world, and this is what Hudson Taylor, the founder of OMF has also modeled in China. He & his colleagues dressed like the Chinese, cut & braided their hair like them, strived to eat only what the locals ate (basically rice & vegetables), and most importantly they served & lived among those that they were trying to reach. Incarnation is the only path that leads us to understanding & empathy for those we are praying for. The second part is perseverance. Incarnation alone may seem noble & even sacrificial, but without perseverance, it does not have the power to bring about a transformation that will lead to spiritual fruition because the human heart is hard to penetrate.
Our friends that I mentioned earlier concur. One of them shared with us a story of how it took 2 years for someone she knows to listen to her tell of Christ.
In our apartment building, we have gotten to know a lady. She asked us to call her “Da Jie” which means big sister. We were told that this was another level of trust in relationship. She visits our home, very kind toward our children, often brings us homemade food for us to try. We are so grateful for the warmth & friendship that she brings to our family. We talk about church and being Christian. But two Saturdays ago, she brought food that caught us off guard. She explained that she had just come back from bai bai (ancestor/idol worship) and the food is for us to eat and have peace. Although by grace of God we are making progress every day, sometimes it feels like we are still so far away.
Recently we met a missionary couple to Europe who were visiting Taiwan for a couple of weeks. The man who is a veteran missionary shared with us that trying to plant church in his field is like building a boat in the middle of the desert. You try to push that boat on your own for a while, but eventually you end up praying to God to send rain.
We are praying & invite you to pray with us for rain in Taiwan. Let me end with the words from one of my favorite hymns floating in my head right now.
There shall be showers of blessing: this is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.
Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need;
Mercy-drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.