Sunday, December 26, 2010

Carrying Stones for Jesus?

Today after the conclusion of our small group meeting here in our coastal southcentral Taiwan setting, I had the chance to share the following story in Chinese with three of our community friends while we were sitting around drinking tea. The story is quoted in Tim Keller’s Prodigal God, page 51:

One day Jesus said to his disciples: “I’d like you to carry a stone for Me.” He didn’t give any explanation. So the disciples looked around for a stone to carry, and Peter, being the practical sort, sought out the smallest stone he could possibly find. After all, Jesus didn’t give any regulations for weight and size! So he put it in his pocket. Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey. About noontime Jesus had everyone sit down. He waved his hands and all the stones turned to bread. He said, “Now it’s time for lunch.” In a few seconds, Peter’s lunch was over. When lunch was done Jesus told them to stand up. He said again, “I’d like you to carry a stone for Me.” This time Peter said, “Aha! Now I get it!” So he looked around and saw a small boulder. He hoisted it on his back and it was painful, it made him stagger. But he said, “I can’t wait for supper. “ Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey, with Peter barely being able to keep up. Around supper time Jesus led them to the side of a river. He said, “Now everyone throw your stones into the water.” They did. Then he said, “Follow Me,” and began to walk. Peter and the others looked at him dumbfounded. Jesus sighed and said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stones for?”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wind Generation Update

A couple of months ago when I was riding my bike along the west coast I noticed that a new platform had been erected to indicate how much power was being generated in Four Lakes’ 14 wind generators. Yesterday was the first time I observed it to be outputting power generation levels. It took a while, but the grid is finally working.


There’s also a new logo on one of the wind generators, apparently by a local temple. Everything is franchised out these days….


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Singing Competition

Yesterday the community sponsored a Folk Custum Cultural Festival on the plaza in front of the local temple. In addition to drums, “country technique”, and many other performances put on by children and adults, there was a lottery in the evening in which lots of prizes were given away, including a half dozen or so bicycles and a large flat screen HD TV (I noticed the crowd was 10 times larger when they had the drawing than it was earlier in the afternoon!).

However, I went over there in the afternoon and once again in the evening not for these, but to watch parts of two rounds of the singing competition in which two acquaintances of mine participated. “Benz”, who I’ve written about before and is one of my earliest acquaintances here, came in 2nd place for the 2nd year in a row. Congratulations again this year, Benz!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The New Children of Taiwan

Earlier today I saw this link about families of foreign wives here in Taiwan as posted by OMF Field Director Phil Nicholson on his facebook page. As our bookkeeper/secretary said this past Sunday in small group, it is no longer appropriate to call them, in either English or Chinese, "foreign brides" since so many of them have lived here so long already.

Many places I have been recently (field directors' meeting from earlier in the month, mission prayer meeting, various other conversations) I'm hearing people talk about this-- even more than before. The 60+ children who participate in ShuiLin Presbyterian Church's tutoring and outreach programs 15 minutes down the road are almost exclusively from foreign bride Taiwanese families. How might God be wanting to love the so-called "new children of Taiwan" (xin taiwan zhizi) and mixed marriage families, and use them to subversively transform Taiwan's worldview to a Christian worldview from the inside-out (Paul Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews)? How might we move in line with Him in our church planting projects to accomplish this very purpose?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival Truck Campaign


After having prayerfully planned for quite sometime, last month I decided that the timing was not right for another truck campaign so closely on the heels of our last one. Anyway, according to three Taiwanese Christian friends, my desire to connect the Moon Festival with psalm 8 from the bible didn’t connect  well with the traditional Taiwanese understanding of the Moon (aka Mid-Autumn) Festival. This includes the goddess in the moon and a rabbit making medicine in the moon, along with the idea of family reunions. So I dropped the idea without regret.

However, three weeks ago an elderly lady who lived next door to the office suddenly passed away peacefully in her sleep one night. We had just seen her taking her typical strolls up and down the street the previous couple of days. She and her grandson,a frequent participant in our Saturday afternoon English Club, had posed with Santa when we offered photos last Christmas and delivered them in January:


Also, our intern had prayed with her about a physical infirmity last year, and finally, as I reviewed a recording of our Easter truck broadcast from this past spring, I  noticed that she appears across the street from the truck at the end:

Could it be that somehow the little snippet she overheard that day led her to a hope in Jesus, who overcame the grave? One can hope.

Anyway, last week was an extremely slow week in the office with apparently nothing big about to materialize on the horizon administratively to occupy my time. At that time I believe God spoke to me that, within the limited range of things I am able to do at the present time, He wants me to stay on target. It was after all well within the purpose for Him bringing me here in the first place to go ahead with another truck ad! What was that purpose which I believe he had for my life here before I got here? “To move out, minister, and multiply the grace of God.” Anyway, what better way to do that with an upbeat, mobile truck campaign?

I got back to the drawing board, and in spite of what turned out to be an unexpectedly busy week on several other fronts, was able by God’s grace (and a little help from friends and from the advertising company) to quickly churn out in a matter of hours the poster above as well as the following poster and recording clip:

The lyrics for the portion of the song by Heavenly Melody singers, for which we obtained copyright permission today, goes something like this:

“Moon! Please tell me what my life is all about. Sometimes it feels complete, and other times scanty. Spring and fall come and go, sometimes feeling complete, and other times scanty… “

Then there’s a greeting from our church wishing everyone a Happy Moon Festival. And finally, our own translation of psalm 8 in colloquial Taiwanese, since there is none presently published we can use (the bible society here is in the process of doing a modern translation of the Old Testament, but it is not yet available):

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Weather permitting, this will go out into two townships next Tuesday and Wednesday. May God use this feeble imperfect effort.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Neighborhood Theft

Usually I lower my steel door around 9:00 pm and sometimes well before, just like most of my other neighbors in this agricultural village. Last night, because I got home later, I didn’t lower it until well afer 12.

Unknown to me,  directly across the street at approximately 11:00 pm, a crime took place. My neighbor’s truck, filled with stereo and electronics equipment which he uses for his job every week, was hot-wired and vanished. Another neighbor noticed the truck was gone around 2:00 am when he got up to go to the bathroom. Although my door was still up, I wasn’t on the first floor to have noticed the crook, as I’m sure he or they were careful to check out ahead of time.

A little over two years ago during the noon siesta I saw a stranger across the street just sort of standing there. I found out 2 hours later that a neighbor behind me had been robbed. The guy I saw must have been the watchman.

I didn’t find out about today’s heist until this evening, when I had a chance to listen and console my saddened neighbor, who spent the whole night driving around western Yunlin county hoping he might come across his truck. Sure hope he finds his stuff, as I’m sure this is a huge unexpected loss he cannot afford. I’ve gotten lax the last few months in not locking the cars I’m watching over with their steering wheel locks in addition to the regular alarms… they’re back on and secured tonight!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


This past week while reading Paul Hiebert’s  discussion of peasant worldviews in his book Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change, I was reminded of a numbing truth I feel from time to time in our village here: “Although individuals and groups of people who come from outside and pass through the village may participate in its life, they remain “others” or “them.” (p. 126).

While traditional society here has and continues to be affected by modernity, postmodernity, and “glocalization”, I still often feel very much like a “them” here. For example, I am often welcomed “to go drink tea” according to the culture’s code of hospitality. And when the Mid-Autumn or Chinese New Year comes, invitations to join others often come as well. Sadly though, due to cultural, lingusitic, and faith differences, at other times the feeling of distance and disconnection from the community feels so palpable you could cut it with a knife. For example, the other day I was riding my scooter around town to visit folks and felt a little discouraged as to how few folks I could really call friends here, although I have many acquaintances.  After three years!

God encouraged me when I parked by the phone company to change my service. Just as I was getting off my scooter, a mother and her two children also parked to go in to pay their bill. Just this past Sunday, that same mother and two children had walked unexpectedly in the front door of our office to attend our small group. The previous day, the two children had attended the Children's English Club for the first time. In the small group, the mother shared her open-mindedness to the Christian faith, and asked us to pray for her husband, who is suffering from cirrhosis and some other serious health issues. So I was reminded once again that even though we don’t have that many close friends here, the Great Physician indeed is still subtly at work behind the scenes introducing spiritual, emotional, and physical healing to those of us who are sick and in need of a doctor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Introducing the Formosan Golden Bat

A mere four kilometers from my front door down a less-travelled country road which passes briefly through Water Forest Township on the way to Northport lies a tiny hamlet named Sucin village.


The village had a few murals painted in the last few years:


suxin mural



But today the reason for my stopping briefly on my way to conduct business at the bank in Northpoint was to see the village’s Formosan golden bats (金黃鼠耳蝠), which I only heard about yesterday despite the fact that I’ve lived here 3 years.  That’s because I don’t always pay good attention to my surroundings when I’m driving through (preferring to listen to my audiobooks!), and I’ve missed the story each time it’s been broadcast on the TV news.

mural 2

The Formosan golden bats live within the walls of an elementary school I often pass by. The word pun in the directional mural above associates  幸福 with  幸蝠. In Western society, bats are often associated with evil. But in Chinese society, the character for blessing  福 sounds just like the character  for bat 蝠, so bats might be taken by some (especially enterprising businesspeople) as a sign of blessing. I still wouldn’t want one living in my house!

IMG_0674IMG_0675IMG_0676IMG_0678IMG_0679Even with the help of the staff there, I was only able to detect a few of the small golden bats (they appeared from a distance to be smaller than the palm of my hand). This time of the year most of them have already scattered (plus, today the weather, influenced by  tropical storm Lion Rock, has caused them to hide).

IMG_0681Finally, I should  add that at the end of last year a small but very colorful and respectable museum opened inside the side door of the school property. My hosts were very hospitable!

IMG_0689IMG_0690IMG_0691IMG_0692IMG_0693I am told the ideal time for viewing the most bats together inside the schoolyard is around Mother’s Day. What an ideal date for the mothers among our international workers who live in the area to go out on with their husbands!

Around that time, the bats should look something like this, all clumped together like fruit on a tree (mmmm, delicious!):


Check it out if you happen to be in the Northpoint (BeiGang) area of Yunlin County around that time.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Early Christian Influence on Asian Buddhism

This past weekend an acquaintance in the community I was visiting with our intern equated the Christian faith with the West in at least two negative statements he made. The implication was that it isn't an Asian faith. I corrected him by stating that Christianity in fact originated in the East, but I don't think that fact sunk in.

In "The Lost History of Christianity", Philip Jenkins highlights the forgotten history of the early Asian church. He also shares the following anecdote. In 782 the Indian Buddhist missionary Prajna arrived in the Chinese imperial capital of Chang'an, but was unable to translate the Sanskrit sutras he brought along with him due to having limited Chinese. No problem... just ask the local indigenous Christians for help!

The Christian bishop Adam, himself an Asian and whose name heads the list on the Nestorian monoment, had already translated parts of the Bible into Chinese. Either out of intellectual curiosity or from ecumenical goodwill, he helped this Buddhist missionary with his translation. Japanese monks in Chang'an at this time took these very translations back with them to Japan, where they became the founding texts of the two great Buddhist schools Shingon and Tendai which influenced all the famous Buddhist movements of later Japanese history. Scholars still speculate whether Adam either subconsciously or consciously worked Christian concepts into the translated sutras. (Jenkins, p. 16)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Day of Ghost Month

The seventh month of the lunar calendar, also known as “Ghost Month,” began today.

People immersed in  local Taiwanese folk religion believe that on the first day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, the gates of hell are opened for one month, allowing spirits imprisoned in the ten halls of hell (18 levels sort of like purgatory) out for a vacation as they wander to and fro in the physical world.

Our “Peace Truck” hit the street about 9:45 am. It also offers a prayer hotline for situations both related and not related to ghost month. May God in His wisdom use the music and spoken words to set up divine appointments which lead to peace, wholeness, healing, and deliverance.  

We had some outside help from interested acquaintances in the community this time around. First, a friend from the community with whom we maintain a cordial relationship lent her voice for part of the recording. Second, the man from the advertising company felt our poster did not have an acceptably-high pixel density. So he took the initiative of having his junior higher put another one together for us. While I  prefer our original design better (the picture of Jesus with the lambs is too traditional for my taste), the text, telephone number, etc. are much more visible on his. In the end, for the sake of cordial relationships and not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, I mixed them up, with his on the left and front, and ours on the back and right. May God use both of them!


For the other poster, and text published previously, etc. click here. Also, here’s a video of this morning’s action if anyone cares to watch:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Welcome to Pirate Forest Township!

This evening when I went to meet our intern and the leader of a drug rehabilitation center in Taiwan at the Conservative Baptist Church in BeiGang, the pastor, Mike Gee, who is from nearby ShuiLin (Water Forest) Township, shared some interesting history, most of which I had heard before but some which I had not.

The monument at the traffic circle in BeiGang commemorates the place of earliest immigration of Chinese into Taiwan right there in BeiGang, 391 years ago (?). They came not from mainland China, but from Japan. Since they were pirates, they had already been kicked out of China.

The township next door where MIke is from is called “Water Forest Township” (ChuiNa). However, in Taiwanese the original name was Water Thief Forest (ChuiChatNa). Water Thief, of course, means Pirate! They came first to this part of Taiwan, murdering many of the native inhabitants and driving the rest off the plains and up into the mountains, taking their land and women, since they had none.

I had just been at the ChuiNa(Mandarin Chinese:ShuiLin) 水林  Presbyterian church to share with a bunch of students just a few hours before. Too bad I didn’t know they lived in “Pirate Forest Township” then! It would have made a great introduction (I’m told most young people living there now would not know that Water Forest was originally known by another name).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peaceful July

How to bless people here with peace during the 7th lunar month, known here in Taiwan as ghost month?  We willuse a manner similar to the truck advertisements last year for Christmas and this year for Easter.

1。Written on the Truck Poster:

Peace to Everyone! Free Prayer to “Return the Soul of a Terrified/Startled Person” (this sentence would makes perfect sense to someone involved in traditional folk religion in this part of Taiwan—it is usually offered as a business transaction) No money required!

At the suggestion of a Taiwanese teacher, I asked my Saturday Children’s English Club students to draw pictures to see what ideas they could come up with. I gave them the theme “peace”:


LOL. He says: If you don’t fight (wars, etc), then there won’t be anyone die!

IMG_0570IMG_0569These last two pictures both contain apples, which was quite meaningful (there are also fish in the pictures, which in the Chinese language sounds like the word for “abundance”, but  when we tried to put them on our poster, they looked too much like beached whales to me so we deleted them).

To Chinese people, apples are equated with peace because of the same sound in the first syllable of each word. In fact, when I googled “apple” and “peace” in chinese, a number of web pages ask the question: “Why do Chinese people give away apples on Christmas Eve (literally in Chinese: “Peace Eve” ).

This is a first start. We need to make some final design decisions soon:

ghost month poster 7 23 2010

2.Taiwanese Truck Recording:

In a modern language version of Taiwanese:

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT)

Hello friends! If you as an adult or child have had your soul startled, or are lacking peace in your heart, you can come here for a free prayer for your startled soul to return, or to pray for peace. Effective! Please call… to make your appointment. (again, this makes more sense to Taiwanese in their language than looking at the English)

If the musical group “Streams of Praise” gives us copyright permission, we will also use their song “Peaceful July” in the recorded announcement.

3。When people call to make an appointment, explain that the person in question needs to come him or herself, and that Jesus is able to help them. We will also emphasize that our method of helping the startled soul to return is different than their traditional folk religion method—we are praying in the name of Jesus. If this is acceptable to them, they are welcome to come.

4. When they come, there is a CD of personal testimony in Taiwanese playing. And 5 bible verses about God’s peace will be on the walls for them to look at while they wait for a moment:

Matt 11:28-30

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 32:17, 57:19

Phil 4:6-7

1 Peter 5:6-7

5. We have a standard prayer ready to use which can easily be customized (won’t try to translate it here).

6. If anyone asks why we are praying for them for free, we explain that the love of God is free with no strings attached. We are performing this small service to show the love of Jesus. Would they like to know him?

7.When they leave, we give them an apple, as well as one of three booklets dealing with the topic of blessing (an important cultural theme here). After people receive this kind of service in their traditional folk religion, it is expected they receive something like this.

8。Of course, for any chance of this is to come to fruition or work in the end without us coming across as absolute fools, we must schedule a time of prayer and fasting before the appointed time. We’re taking a risk here, but God seems to be leading us in this direction.

7/30/2010 Update:
Unfortunately, as I gathered feedback from various individuals, the apple idea didn’t seem to click. So here is our revised poster, with the music we have now been given permission to use on the days requested:

A Real American Breakfast!

Here in Taiwan, although I love the food, one of the meals I miss the most when eating out is an authentic American breakfast, rich in calories and with plenty of coffee, juice, etc: blueberry pancakes, waffles, omelettes, eggs over easy, sausauges, you name it! So imagine my ecstasy eariler this week when I observed this new breakfast shop named “American Breakfast” in North Point next door to the 85C coffee shop!

 ambk Though it was early afternoon, I parked the car and went in to take a look at the menu. The fare seems only slightly different than the breakfast shops in this town. And just like at one of those shops in my village, I can eat pizza for breakfast! Now that’s a real American breakfast?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Evening Bicycle Ride

Yesterday I rode my normal route from Four Lakes, through E-Liao, E-Lun, BoZiLiao, SanTiaoLun, Flying Sands (and a few other villages), and home again. On the way, I was able to stop as usual at the tea shop in E-Lun, chat for a few minutes with a number of acquaintances at the basketball court in Flying Sands and the park in Four Lakes, and see these young people finishing up their wall mural in SanTiaoLun (more of these murals seem to be popping up in every countryside village in recent months). Most of it was done by kids but now the older folks are taking over…


Have Some Cake

DSC00193 In Huwei, about a half hour from here, is a towel factory. On the day we went, tourists were everywhere. What attracts them to a place like this? The towels are shaped into lollipops, cakes, pies, etc. Check it out sometime if you’re in the area. But if you go, be careful to keep the rules (last picture below), especially the first one (sorry for the poor pic quality, had to use my cell phone camera on this visit).

DSC00186 DSC00187 DSC00188 DSC00189 DSC00190 DSC00191 DSC00192  DSC00194

DSC00183 DSC00184      rules

Friday, July 9, 2010

E-Lun Night Market

In Taiwan people like to go to night markets to pass the time (they’ve never been my favorite activity because I don’t like crowds). There isn’t much of a night market in this town, but my coworkers in Baojhong are very faithful in visiting and praying for people in theirs.


Night before last I made my first visit to a night market about 15 minutes away in the coastal town of XiaLun (Mandarin; Taiwanese: E-Lun) in Mouth-of-the-Lake Township. Being as I’ve volunteered in a few different schools with students from this town and that I often ride my bicycle through there on my route around the coastline, I was saddened in the 20 minutes or so we walked around the night market that I didn’t bump into anyone I knew.


As I walked down the last lane, I spoke a simple prayer asking that I would bump into somebody. Within about 20 seconds I heard a guy shout “hello” behind me and lo-and-behold there was a group of high school basketball players/drop-out (?) guys I met a few years ago from the community of Flying Sands. We didn’t have a long or especially meaningful conversation, but this nevertheless was an answer a prayer!


IMG_0563 After exiting the night market, I had to walk around the perimeter back to the car. Well, I thanked God for the contact and spoke up another simple prayer. Within a minute I had bumped into the husband and wife who operate the local eatery I frequent most often here! And then another neighbor! Usually when I get my food at the eatery, the husband is way too busy, tired, and stressed to talk. It was the most relaxed I’d ever seen him. Again, no supernatural miracles or extraordinary conversations, but I was reminded I need to pray like this more often…. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sek-kia is a Male too

In a previous post I introduced Sek-kia the multi-lingual Indian Ring-Neck parrot whom I inherited for free.  By the way, Sek-kia is the name of a fruit here in Taiwan we don’t have in the U.S. (custard Apple, sugar apple) but is also a way to say “Buddha.”, Anyway, I recently discovered in the past two weeks that Sek-kia, just like Bala mentioned in another recent post, is also a male. Note the new rings which just came in around the neck….

IMG_0521  IMG_0523IMG_0536


Actually, as their body size and shape of their beaks is different (Sek-kia is about 2 inches longer, his beak is somewhat smaller proportionally, and the ring on the back of his neck is redder), and as Bala can only meow like a cat while Sek-kia speaks human words, I’m beginning to wonder if Bala is an African ringneck and not an Indian ringneck. Or if Sek-kia is a roseneck. Or it could just be that Bala is stupid. Poor Bala! (pictured below)



Friday, July 2, 2010

Mr. Ding Meets the Reporters


Day before yesterday my neighbor Dave Ding invited me to go with his wife and daughter to the art exhibition in Chiayi city where his latest prize-winning wood carving is on display. Mr. Ding and the other artists were interviewed by the reporters, and next Saturday a ceremony will be held.