Here is an article I wrote for one of our partnering churches. I thought it appropriate for the season and wanted to share it with whomever else might like to read it.
As I quiet myself to reflect on what to share about the impact of thankfulness in our lives, I hear the birds outside singing and smell the dusty, crispiness of fall. It reminds me of fall in Minnesota, my favorite season. I am so thankful for the many years we spent walking through the forests or fields, visiting pumpkin patches or apple orchards, and laughing with friends around bonfires.
Previous to coming to Taiwan Lizzy and I lived in and ministered to a working class community in Dayton, MN. We spent several years building bridges with neighbors, mentoring and teaching children and then forming a direct relationship with parents. Over the years we have seen God move in mighty ways. Through the power of the Gospel, we have seen the strongholds of addiction, abuse, and hopelessness give way to true life (John 10:10).
In August of 2015 we came to Taiwan to work with OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship, formerly CIM, China Inland Mission) because most people here do not know of the hope that Jesus Christ offers to them. This is especially true of the working class, the vast majority of whom are in bondage to idolatry and superstition and the destruction these bring.
As we prepared to come to Taiwan and shared our story and vision with others we often heard the phrase, “Oh, I could never do that.” I could never move overseas. I could never be that brave. I could never learn another language. I could never have such great faith. I could never uproot my life, everything I’ve ever known and leave for a foreign land and culture. I could never….
The longer we’ve been here the more I realize that I, too, could never do that.
Getting to Taiwan took much longer than anticipated. We missed deadline after deadline for financial clearance. When we first arrived we had nearly no language at all and yet still needed to buy groceries, call the repair man, use the wash machine, set up a phone contract, cook food, buy cleaning supplies. All things which we took for granted and are much easier to do back in our home country. But now even the little things are difficult and can take hours. Additionally, a year after moving to Taiwan I was in a scooter accident which injured my AC joint. Not a few months later, Lizzy cracked and lost a third tooth for grinding food. We’ve fallen to our knees more times than we can count feeling completely vulnerable and useless. But the reality is, none of us can do any of this.
In my, literally every day, moments of weakness, I have became more and more aware of my desperate need for God and his provision, and thereby more and more thankful for how God has blessed us and been gracious toward us.
Thankful that God moved on peoples’ heart and introduced us to complete strangers to provide the financial means to minister in Taiwan. Thankful for local Taiwanese friends, who have taken the time to show us around our neighborhood, introduce us to local restaurants, and teach us how to select produce and make a meal. Thankful for our new church family in Taichung who walked with us through the medical and legal stresses of a scooter accident. Thankful for the experience and foresight of OMF to provide training, a support network, and resources for us as we experience culture stress. Thankful for a spouse who supports me on my bad days and allows me to support him on his bad days. Thankful for our church families back in America who regularly check in on us, pray for us, provide the means to replace not just one but three missing teeth, and send us care packages to just let us know we are loved.
Thankfulness has taken my eyes off of me and the obstacles in my path and put them onto my Creator and Savior. This thankfulness accepts that I truly am vulnerable and that I could never…., but that God can. And He has! Thankfulness reminds me that God has already gone ahead of us to prepare the way (Deut. 31:8), that He has promised to walk through all of it with us (Matt. 28:20), and that He will continue His work until the day Christ comes again (Phil. 1:6), for His Word does not come back void (Isa. 55:11).
Two months ago, Lizzy and I became a part of a team of four in rural Taiwan who live and minister in Puxin Township. It is is a small township with many small factories and farms. It is very traditional and very working class. It is known for it’s production of grapes, mango, and guava. Puxin has 29 registered temples but there are many more unregistered temples as well as small “home” temples in almost every lane. Currently, there are only two church congregations, with an average of 20-30 members. Puxin has a population of around 35,200 people, so that means only 0.068% have a relationship with the God of the Bible (some Christians attend church in nearby Yuanlin). Through God’s grace, and only his grace, we long to see a house church in each of the 20 villages of Puxin and disciples in every family.
To this end, we pioneer in outreach and evangelism as well as partner with local Christians to disciple the working class families of Puxin. This is done through weekly house church gatherings, one-on-one and family discipleship, Bible storying, summer camps, teaching a life skills class at the local junior high, telling Bible stories at the local library, and Sunday afternoon sports/activities at the local elementary school.
I still often feel, “I could never do that”. My language is still so limited, how can I counsel people? How can I teach the Bible? How can I combat the ever present sounds, smells, and sights of the local temples and god shelves in the homes? How can I…? I could never do that. And I can’t. But He can. And He has. And He will continue to do so. All he asks of me is to thankfully open my arms to Him and accept, well… Him. His grace, the people He’s brought into our lives, the opportunities to share His Truth. That, I can do.