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Ditto

Wow, how uncanny the similarities between my friend’s and my own family:

In less than 24 hours I will be leaving with my family on my first trip to Asia!  I’m excited and feel so blessed to finally have the opportunity to meet my extended family, many of whom I’ve heard about but never seen. At the same time, I realize that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to witness to them, since we don’t go back very often and the majority of my relatives who are overseas are not believers and are at least as old as my parents. It will also be the first significant amount of time I’ve spent with my brother since he decided to tell me he’d renounced God. So, I would really appreciate your prayers for God’s love to show through in our interactions, even though there might be language, age, cultural barriers, and the usual family tensions.

I also wanted to say that I’m thankful and would love to hear how you’re doing or pray for you if you’ve anything to share; but since I may not be able to communicate as frequently while I’m overseas, I want to go ahead and wish you a very Merry Christmas and send you wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

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So I Go

Michael Perez

my race
more than the color of my skin and the language i speak
more than a five- or ten-K
more than a run in the park awaiting for the sound of the gun to blast to activate
my stride
my step
my course
destiny in the making,
purpose for the taking
awakened in a season, rather forsaken
a reason for my being
the reason for my seeing
the reason for my hearing
my speaking
my life
my choice
my race
my longing to dispose of a comfort and a fear that’s recycled and reused me for too long
too many tears not poured into the right soil
the right soul
too many years not reaping the ripe harvest
the right mind
set in my ways
reevaluating my calling because i couldn’t calculate it
reconsidering convenience because i couldn’t handle the leaving of home
the known for the unknown
the digital follow me’s that have kept me at ease
appeasing the heart of me
keeping the real followers at a distance
for the scarred of me
status-quos, fb statuses for real life and unpredictable challenges
so grow
and break
the rest of me
realizing that all of Him
is the only best of me for them to see
i lost part of me in the process
part of me in the nonsense
part of me to get sense
but not change
my life
is worth more than dreams that keep me dreaming
and people waiting
keep me waiting
and people dreaming
about a love so deep it keeps them gasping for His air
His breath to keep them breathing
His words to keep them believing
longing for more of Him in the form of me
and me longing for more of Him in the form of them
so I go

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Earthquake

Dear Friends,

Many have written after hearing about the deaths in our country following the recent earthquake and wondering if we were OK. We are fine. We are in the West and the earthquake was in the far, far East.

In addition to the national efforts to help, many believers in the country are also collecting clothing and other items to help out in the relief effort. Some are trying to find out how possible it is to travel there to help out in person. The area is a controlled area for many reasons but we hope all offers of help will be welcome.

This country’s leaders have refused aid from all countries, certain that the situation can be handled all by themselves. _Pray for wisdom for these leaders_.

Thank you so much for remembering us and praying for us. _Please pray that our Lord uses even bad natural events such as this for his ultimate glory and that there is relief from suffering and grief for those impacted_.

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Update to last update

After praying and talking things through, we decided that we have a responsibility to report incidents that may be serious. The government has worked very hard at keeping us safe, and it seemed to be the best path to let them know about what happened, and let them decide what they would do about it, but to try to do so in a way that would not make the situation worse.

Today I went to speak to the police, because we felt it would not be right to formally report something about them without having talked to them first. Their version of events (which they gave us without our having told them what we had already heard) was very similar to the one we were given by the village family. They did call __ and insist that they come give their statement, and they had said they would send a military police unit to bring them in if they did not come. When __ parked near the police station, he was seen and attacked by the family of the people on the other side of the conflict. The policemen said they were both a bit far away, and also few in comparison to the crowd, so were not able to act immediately, but did leave the station and seize __ and brought him into the station (while doing this, one of the policeman was also assaulted, and his assailant was arrested). This in some ways fits the rather muddled description of events that __ gave us that the police ‘did nothing’ and also ‘held his arms’ at one point. A little time while you are getting beaten can probably seem like a very long time…

The police did some research into the matter this week, and their conclusion is that it had nothing to do with religion at all, but was a personal matter between village families. I also talked to __ today, and as far as we can understand, that is the true situation.

After talking to the  police, we went to the other city’s police and told them that something had happened, and even though it seemed to be of a personal and not a church nature, we felt we had the responsibility to report it and let them decide. They took a report out of a drawer and read it to us, and it contained the same information as above, so the first city’s police had let them know. They agreed that we should let them know if there were incidents of this nature since it concerns them so directly.

We don’t know if there was something else under all of this, even though there does not seem to be. We felt that the act of openly going to the police would at least remind people who might be tempted to do something wrong in secrecy that the situation here is very different than before.

Thank you for praying with us in this matter, please continue praying for __ and his family. We now need to stand with him in prayer and with encouragement to learn to respond to the people who attacked him with Jesus’ love, and not to look for revenge. Please also pray that wrong information will not spread and cause harm to either this family, or the church, or the city/government where we live. God has placed them in this position, and we pray for their well-being.

God bless all there

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Prayer for Turkey

This Sunday is three years since three believers in Turkey were martyred. The Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey are asking each year that churches and Christians worldwide remember to pray for this nation on this day.  You can visit this special website which has a 3 minute video. The site is readable in several languages. http://www.prayforturkey.com/index.html  Please pray with us.

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Tentmaking

Originally in the email that I read, this was going to be an English workshop.  However, the speaker announced to us sitting in the room that he had decided he would speak in “Chinglish” instead.  Cynthia was impressed that this white man who was born in Tennessee and went to college in California spoke so well.  Speaking mostly Mandarin Chinese wasn’t bad except that Silky, who was sitting next to me, is Cantonese.  I leaned over to ask if she understood, and she whispered back that she can listen but not speak Mandarin.  Good thing for us that the slides were still in English, and that I could still understand some of the Mandarin, because hearing any speaker expound is generally useful, especially if it’s personal experiences and tales.  I’m surprised he didn’t explain why he named the workshop “Tentmaking” because initially Silky thought it was literally making tents.  I convinced her to come with me to this workshop because I told her I thought it refers to the time in the Bible when Paul was making tents with Aquila and Priscilla to support himself while preaching.  The slides (with notes I could interpret from his speaking) are as follows:

  • What is professional service?
    –purposefully seeking to fulfill the Great Commission in a cross-cultural setting while working withintegrity using professional or business skills
    –identity not the same as a missionary  (e.g. you’re completely welcome if you say you are a Christian since the country has many of those, but if you say you’re a missionary you’re inviting trouble)
    –more intentional that just getting a job overseas
    –normally known as believers, but identity is not that of a “religious worker”  (e.g.  in Denmark, Laos, and North Korea)
  • Why is professional service needed?
    –fewer and fewer countries grant missionary visas  (and these include any missionaries, not just Christians, in Vietnam, in Laos….)
    –even in places that can have missionaries, there is aneed to reach out more into the market place (e.g. Japan)
    –most of the unpreached or least reached people of the world are not accessible to “traditional” missions (he said that 80% of the world’s least-reached is in the 10/40 window)
  • Some strategies and platforms
    –Teaching.  Mostly in universities and colleges, increasing desire for teacher training
    –Language learning.  For reaching minorities, must learn both the majority and the minority languages
    –Development.  Often only way for contact with rural locations or minorities, need for urban development
    –Business.  Mostly entrepreneurs, but some multinationals.
  • Why teaching?
    –great harvest recently
    –potential great influence  (since the young people are the future of the country)
    –often difficult for local church  (e.g. they are looked upon as stupid just because they didn’t get beyond an elementary school education since they had to work the fields to support their family)
  • Why is teaching so strategic?
    –impacts future leaders (government, business)
    –influences worldview of next generation
    –key to reaching the cities for Christ
    –can impact all areas of society  (opportunities outside the classroom include doing cultural events with students and inviting family, thus the church can embrace the entire family)
  • Language study
    –a ministry, not a holding period
    –good to be a learner, you learn culture as well
    –natural bridge for building relationships
  • Developmental projects
    –opens doors and builds credibility in minority areas  (appropriate technology is key, don’t use wood but metal to collect water so that it won’t be contaminated and get sick)
    –demonstrates love in Christ in holistic way 
  • Urban projects
    –key to reaching Asia is the cities
    –demonstrates God’s love to the marginalized (street kids, disabled, AIDS, migrants, elderly)
  • Education, training, and development opens doors
    –cooperation with government  (be open about being a Christian and as they see that you really love the people, they won’t be so hard on their local believers)
    –cooperation with local believers
  • Business as mission (not for the faint-hearted)
    –many opportunities, but needs careful planning and appropriate skills
    –governments often don’t trust NGOs so business is the best or only option  (recently less welcomed due to Putin)
    –needs a team with the right gift mix
  • Short-term teams
    –campus outreach (teaching English, specialist subjects)
    –learning language (Mandarin, minority languages)
    –development projects (e.g. toilet/waste technologies, decreasing flies that spread disease)
    –medical
    –best if coordinated with long-term personnel
  • Requirements and qualifications
    –a love for God and a love for people
    –similar professional qualifications are required here
    –older often better! (though some age limits) (e.g. they need older mentors with life experiences, they need “nai-nai”s and “yeh-yeh”s, more strict with foreigners as indicated by your passport, but if you’re older than 65 that might be too old)
    –flexibility (you can use the strategy of just helping a teacher instead of actually being the teacher so you will have a broader influence plus and maybe more time due to not having full teacher responsibilities)
    –some Bible training my help (for conversations)
  • Challenges
    –work load can be heavy–feel that you have two jobs (grade papers plus hosting students in the evening)
    –sometimes there are restrictions on activities
         –varies by both time and location (they can’t have Christmas parties but New Year’s parties are okay)
         –sometimes more freedom than U.S. (they allow a showing of the Jesus film but not in the U.S.)
    –avoid feeling sxhizophrenic about your own identity (go before God to cement your own identity before going overseas)
  • The joys of professional service
    –making lifelong friends
    –learning a new culture
    –seeing God use all your gifts, abilities and talents to make an impact for Christ
    –growing in your own relationship with Christ/God
  • A challenge and an opportunity
    –creativity required to remain relevant to a changing world
    –opportunity for tremendous impact
  • Questions?
    Could you give us your personal take of going out of your comfort zone?  When you go beyond your comfort zone and see God uphold you, God becomes bigger, so you take the next step, and God becomes even bigger.  If you do not have a sense of God’s will, it will be hard.  But if  called, there is no safer place.
    –How do you cope through spiritual droughts and obstacles?  Remember why you went.  Remember the love letters from God, where He has said, “I have put My Hand upon you.”  For example, the day that I graduated from seminary, I received in the mail a letter I had been waiting for saying that I had been accepted.  “Welcome to China” I read, with tears in my eyes.  Later on, I was kicked out of the country, but I remembered this and it sustained me and I persevered.
    Can you elaborate on mercy ministries?  It works with the government to offer social services to locales.  There are a lot of ministries that were shut down not because they were doing anything bad (they were actually helping), but because they didn’t let the government know, the government was nervous and shut them down.  Let the government know this is how Christians live, with compassion.
    How do you maintain fellowship with the Church?  Nowadays it’s easier through Skype and such advances of technology.  However, there is nothing like a small group accountability and intimacy that you find on a mission trip.  Still, one day I had communion back here in the States and I cried because it had been so long, since we had to be so secretive overseas.
    –After students come to Christ, what kind of follow-up is there?  It’s a case-by-case call.  The same goes with college students who return home: do they return to the church they grew up in or find a new one, and do they go to church at all or find themselves entangled in the busyness of a new career?  Overseas, we want to support the local church so we refer them there, but the church is part of the government and some converts are afraid, so we refer others to a home church that we are cognitive of.
    –How did you end up choosing these people?  Well, Ralph Winter’s daughter was in my same class, so I got to really know her and their family.  He said that the four major lost nations: China, those speaking Hindu, those of an Islamic background, and native tribes.  It was sort of a default since my heart didn’t have an aching for the other groups. 

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Harvey came to speak with us as part of our weekend missions conference.  He was Pastor Brian’s classmate before he went to East Asia for thirty years.  He’s married to Laura and have two children (Stephen’s in 11th grade and Michelle’s a freshman at Rice).  He shared how a good leader would instill a sense of purpose in you, model what you are to do, and empower you to do it.  We all know bosses who ask us to do things where we don’t know how it connects with the big picture, or they can’t do it themselves so they tell us to do it, or they expect us to do something when we are able to at the time.  God gave us the Great Commission (in Matthew, Mark, Luke 24, Acts….), guaranteeing that it would happen (Revelation7), and inviting us to be a part of it.  And just as Jesus was sent out, we are sent out in like manner (John 20:21)–with authority from the Father through Christ, humbly (Isaiah 53), and never losing sight of the people (Mark 10:14).  Finally, in the “Upper Room Discourse” (John 20:19-23), He gave us infinite resources for tackling the vision with the Holy Spirit and prayer (John 14:13-14, 15:7, 16:23).  One has to have the eyes and spirit of an artist, not just the paints (the Word).  He shared the story of James Fraser and his prayer of faith.  And the reason for all of this?  Because He GAVE, so that we can GIVE.  So the next step?  Pray for missions, learn about missions, welcome the world, mobilize/encourage missionaries on their tough road, send support (and not just financial), and go.  Then we concluded with a song that a band from Ireland was moved to come forth playing in a brothel while on a mission trip in Padi, Thailand:

God Of This City
Bluetree
Bluetree album

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city

You’re the Lord of creation
The creator of all things
You’re the King above all Kings
You are

You’re the strength in the weakness
You’re the love to the broken
You’re the joy in the sadness
You are

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for You and love for You in this city
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done here

[edit]  Saturday morning, another speaker came to speak, and he brought up the story of Williams C. Burns.  He says most of us have heard of Hudson Taylor and incredible instrument he was in God’s hands in bringing the Chinese to Christ.  Well, his mentor was Burns.  He was a famous evangelist, bringing thousands to Christ, but he felt called by God to pioneer into China.  People wondered why he was leaving since he was so effective in Scotland.  He obeyed regardless, six years witnessing not a single convert.  He started questioning and doubting whether the call was really from God, and God reassured him through some Chinese finally coming to Him as well as sending Hudson Taylor.  The seeds he sowed those six years were finally realized as Hudson Taylor continuing sowing and started harvesting.

After turning Scotland upside-down, Burns went off to preach the gospel in China. Though recognized as the premier revivalist of his day, he joyfully surrendered himself to a life of obscurity and hardship on this neglected mission field. No other episode in his life reveals more about his sterling character than this one decision. He left popularity, prestige, wealth and loved ones, all behind. When asked how soon before he would be ready to leave for China, he answered, “NOW.” Boldly declaring, “I am ready to burn out for God. I am ready to endure any hardship, if by any means I might save some. The longing of my heart is to make known my glorious Redeemer to those who have never heard.” On another occasion he was heard to say, “The longing of my heart would be to go once around the world before I die, and preach one gospel invitation in the ear of every creature.” His mother likened him to a sharp knife that would be worn out by cutting, rather than by rusting; and the young Burns wished that it might be so!

In 1855, Burns unexpectedly met a young missionary in China: James Hudson Taylor. This seemingly random meeting resulted in a great blessing for both men. William found in Hudson a man after his own heart, and for seven months they walked together laboring as kindred souls. He took notice of the warm reception Taylor received as he ministered in the native Chinese dress, and was quick to learn from his new friend. Not long after he adopted this practice for himself.

The impact he made upon the youthful Taylor is evident through his journals and letters: “Never had I had such a spiritual father as Mr. Burns. Those happy months were an unspeakable joy and privilege to me. His love for the Word was delightful, and his holy, reverential life and constant communings with GOD made fellowship with him satisfying to the deep cravings of my heart. His accounts of revival work and of persecutions in Canada, and Dublin, and in Southern China were most instructive, as well as interesting; for with true spiritual insight he often pointed out GOD’S purposes in trial in a way that made all life assume quite a new aspect and value. His views especially about evangelism as the great work of the Church, and the order of lay evangelists as a lost order that Scripture required to be restored, were seed-thoughts which were to prove fruitful in the subsequent organization of the China Inland Mission.” (Hudson Taylor, “A Retrospect”).

When asked, “Do you know William Burns?,” another missionary to China replied, “Know him? All China knows him to be the holiest man alive!”  Driven by an all-consuming passion for the Lamb of God, in Burns, God found a man who cared enough to listen, obey, and stay on his knees. Recognizing that shallow and superficial praying was one of the greatest hindrances to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, he believed that a lack of true endurance in the secret place of prayer gives the victory to Satan.

Burns writes: “Oh, how is it that the Lord’s own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their place of prayer to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to be turned away empty; instead of wrestling with God to pour out His Spirit, they retire from the secret place without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.”  Ezekiel (22:30,31) the prophet warns of what happens when God cannot find true men and women of broken-hearted prayer and obedience: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God.” Whom among us will STAND in the gap and pray, and then pray again until heaven comes down to earth?

An edited version of “Prayer Makes History” by David Smithers

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