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Sharing Christ at Chinese New Year

 

Do you like Red?

It’s Chinese Lunar New Year! A time for cleaning, decorating, preparing red envelopes, planning meals and getting ready for family to visit. Well, if you are of Chinese heritage that is.

So you might be thinking, “Isn’t this just a Chinese holiday? What does it have to do with Jesus?”

Jesus makes all things secular sacred, so even during this particularly Asian holiday there is an opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ using the themes that are all around us.

The Significance of the Color Red

Red is significant to the Chinese/Taiwanese because it is the symbolic color of wealth, happiness, and good luck which is celebrated during Chinese New Year. The reason for this is born out of superstition and myth.

According to legend, at the start of the new year in ancient China, there was a mythical beast called “Nian” who would come on the first day to devour the livestock, destroy the crops they had planted, and terrorize people especially their children.

In order to protect themselves, the people would place food in front of their doors. This was so that the beast would consume the food rather than entering into the house and consuming their children.

One New Years day, it was discovered that the “Nian” was scared away by a little girl wearing red. It was then that the Chinese people understood that the “Nian” was afraid of the colour red. And so, based on this legend and superstition, at every New Year, people would hang red lanterns and wear red. Especially at their homes, red banners are placed over the front entrance of the house in order to ward off evil spirits and misfortune.

From ancient times until today a majority of Chinese people place red lanterns and decorations in their homes, hang red banners over their doors, and even wear red outfits.

As Christians, red is also an important color to us. We remember in Scriptures that God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect lamb and use its blood to paint the posts and lintel of the door to their homes.

The reason for this was because the Lord was about to unleash the 10th and most devastating plague upon the people. The death angel would enter into their houses and kill the firstborn of the people. Only those houses which were covered with the blood of the lamb would be spared.

As believers, when we see red, we can also be reminded of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, shed for us so that we are passed over for judgment. We are under the blood of Jesus, both literally and figuratively.

So during Chinese New Year, as you see Chinese people wearing red clothes and placing red banners over their doors, remember what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you and be thankful for your salvation.

Take this great opportunity to ask them why they are wearing red, why they are placing the banners and then see if God gives you an opportunity to share why you love the color red also.

 

A New Partnership

I want to share some exciting news about our ministry here in Taichung.

As we have spent more and more time living and working, learning and listening, sharing and speaking with our friends here, we have realized that one of the great needs is for an English Worship Service.

That probably sounds odd when you consider the amount of time and effort I’ve spent learning Mandarin and investing in the culture, but let me explain.

The reasons for starting this service are many, but can be narrowed down to two main ideas. First – Central Taichung is missing a vibrant, Gospel centered English ministry. Second – English is a tool which can be used by the church to reach people for Christ.

So, after a lot of prayer and working together with our local church, here is the plan.

We are going to partner with our local church, Taichung Baptist rather than start a stand alone church. The Bible says that two are better than one and a strand of three cords is not easily broken. Our partnership, which has been forged over two plus years of hard work together, is just beginning to bear fruit for the kingdom and we (the pastor and I) believe this is a natural next step.

In addition, we need the wisdom and resources of our local church in this culture to do the right thing in the right way.

We see this as a way to open doors of ministry for the expatriate community that will allow them to join local Christian brothers and sisters in serving this great city. The Bible says let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. We want to work together in such a way that the city gives glory to God for our service.

So, beginning this January 10 we will begin Taichung International Fellowship as a partner ministry of Taichung Baptist Church. I’ll be preaching weekly in English, but following every service will have an informal Q&A for all who desire to ask questions in both English and Chinese.

We ask for your prayers and support. If you want to be part of supporting this ministry and our continued Gospel outreach in Taichung, please CLICK HERE to join our support team.

Oh the Places You’ll Go

So, for those of you who know me, this post will be especially interesting. For those who don’t, I think you might still get a good laugh.

From the time I was very young, I really wasn’t much of an athlete. I’m not sure if I didn’t have the genetic code or just spent too much time watching tv. I did enjoy being outside, riding my bike with friends, climbing trees and such, but I just couldn’t get the hand eye coordination thing down when a ball was placed in my hands.

When I played little league, I was content to stand in right field close to the concession stand just dreaming of that final inning when we could rush to get our suicide icee. Unfortunately, it was punctuated by painful times at bat when my left arm was pulverized by the errant fast ball, or was it just that I didn’t really know where to stand. Hey, at least I got on base!

When 7th grade arrived, so did puberty and I grew a little faster than the other boys, so it just seemed natural that I should play basketball and do my part for God, country and community. That too was a failure. After two weeks of tryouts as all the boys lined up at the locker room door to see if their name made the list, I too crowded in praying to God that the coach had done his due diligence and rightfully struck me from the team. The other boys didn’t understand my gleeful exclamation as I saw my name was absent from the roster.

In high school, golf rolled around and I did my best to honor my father by playing and thought I could follow in his glorious career. My dad played alongside Ben Crenshaw and some of the other greats in high school and college and to this day remains quite a great player. Unfortunately, I spent more time in the weeds and trees searching for lost balls than on fairways and greens chasing pars and birdies.

All that to say, I don’t know a thing about sports. It is as elusive to me as the mind of a woman. I do enjoy going to a game with my friends. I just try to shout when they shout, clap when the people around me clap, repeat the things they yell – but the truth is – everyone knows I’m a pretender.

So, this past week will be especially funny to everyone and mostly to me. I got a call from my good friend at the local sports university here in Taichung. (also a source of humor in my life story – but that’s for another day) asking if I wanted to help as a translator for someone in town working at the Big 12 Baseball Tournament. I immediately laughed and questioned her sanity because even she knows my relationship with the sports world. But she pressed me and said that I should do it because it would really help my Chinese ability and be good experience for me. So I gave in and called the contact person.

As it turns out, there was a documentary film crew in town producing a multi-part film about the Big 12 Tournament as well as Taiwan Baseball. So for the next few days, I accompanied the director and a couple of cameramen around for various shoots, introduced them to many of my local friends who ended up being part of the film and got to use my recently acquired skill in Mandarin to it’s full potential – even learning many new things along the way.

The funniest moment came at the very end when the director had finished all the filming he would do in Taiwan. We were standing at home plate of one of the big baseball fields, the Japanese team had left the stadium and we were alone. He turned to me and said, well, now it’s time for your interview. I laughed and said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I want to get your perspective on baseball in Taiwan and in America.”

I burst into laughter and thought about all my friends perhaps seeing me try to speak with any authority on anything sports related just laughing their heads off and told the director he was out of his mind. He told me that he was serious and he wanted my opinion. So I said, well, with the caveat you don’t make me look like an idiot.

I answered a few questions and off we went. Who knows if what I said will end up on the film or the cutting room floor, but it was a great experience. Working with some world class athletes, getting in the middle of fans enjoying their favorite game, cutting into the middle of press conferences, shoving microphones into people’s faces – and doing it all in my second language.

Oh, the places you’ll go.

“If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small.”

Do you remember the very first Bible story you ever heard?

Adrian is an exchange student at NTCU from Malaysia. This past week he came to our weekly Outreach Bible Study on campus for the first time. It was the first time in his life he had ever heard a story from the Bible. The reason he came is because I am able to be on campus every week meeting and engaging students in their daily lives. In one of those encounters, Adrian was interested – he looked at me and said, “I want to know you”. So I invited him to come to our weekly Bible study.

As we talked about the two parables we were looking at, I could see that he really was clueless so I asked him about his spiritual background. He told me that he was a Buddhist. He went on to say that he believed that all religions were the same and that we all were just using different paths to try and reach the same end.

I paused, prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to help and then spoke. Using the scriptures and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, I showed him and the rest of the students how Christianity stands apart from all the religions of the world.

Because our study is at lunch, Adrian had to leave for his afternoon class. But don’t worry, I’ll see him this next week and we’ll keep going.

Thank you. On behalf of these students and others who have a chance to hear and respond to the Gospel, Thank you.

It’s the end of the year when we plan our budget for the next year. I am glad to tell you that currently, Mission Taiwan is financially healthy. Through year end annual gifts and monthly giving our needs are met. Not only that, so far we have been able to say yes to all the ministry opportunities that God has presented so far and do things such as purchase Bibles, rent rooms, provide meals, etc.

One example of what a ministry gift goes to: We just purchased a set of brand new English and Chinese Bibles that we were able to give away to the people who come to our Sunday morning outreach. As we gave them out they wanted to know what they needed to pay. Some were going to give them back because they just didn’t have the money. What a blessing to tell them they were already paid for – a gift from friends they don’t know (yet), but who love them very much and want them to know how much God loves them.

This next year our ministry will continue to grow. The number of people hearing the Gospel is increasing every week. Since finishing Chinese school, we have been able to start campus ministries on four campuses and it is possible that another campus will open soon. The number of teams from American coming to help us with outreach will double and could possibly triple by the year end. And – we are doubling – adding an intern for all of 2016, which will increase our ability to say YES and do more follow-up than before. All of this within just a couple of months of formally finishing language school. Praise God – He is answering all of your/our collective prayers.

So I’m writing to ask for your partnership in our ministry. Will you pray and consider giving a year end gift to help us say yes to all these opportunities in 2016 and continue spreading the Gospel in Taiwan?

As I mentioned, we are starting our new Mission Internship this January. Brian Lee, the young man who will be joining us, is raising part of his support, but we will also be providing a part. So we must raise an additional $20,000 to fund his part of the ministry.
 What a blessing. Help us press forward so even more hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. 



You can give online HERE or mail your check to:

Mission Taiwan
1601 I-40 West
Amarillo, TX 79109

Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement. 



Todd & Crista
Katelyn, Ashlyn & Andrew

The Stranger

This video is produced by OMF, another mission group here in Taiwan. This will help you understand the spiritual struggle that many people here go through and how better to pray for them. The first is in English, the second in Mandarin.

Grappling with the Ghosts of Taiwan’s Past

This past weekend, three friends and I visited TouCheng 頭城 near Yilan 宜蘭 to see and experience the once a year event known as “Grappling with Ghosts”.  As many of you already know, this past month in the lunar calendar has been the celebration of Ghost Month.

Strangely enough, even to most Taiwanese, the meaning of this festival is a mystery. After some research, I discovered the meaning behind the symbolism. It is rooted in Daoist tradition and lore.

In summary, the fir tree towers you see are covered in food (meats, rice dumplings, etc.). The symbolism in the fir trees is related to the wood that ships are made from.

This “feast” is intended to draw all the remaining, wandering “good brothers” that have yet to return to the “other world” together. The originators of this event feared that these “good brothers’ might wish to remain in this world and cause some trouble. They wanted to find a way to ensure that all of these spirits would return to the other world and leave this world in peace.

As midnight approaches, the people send up their champions, racing up the poles in a climb to the very top. The first one to reach the top must snatch a red flag as his trophy, which is then sold to the highest bidder (who traditionally is the captain of a sailing vessel) as an amulet of spiritual protection for the following year. At that point, the crowd breaks into cheers and screams along with the priests chanting, drumming and playing their horns which should scare the “good brothers” back into the underworld.

For pictures of the event and the other activities that occur along with it – CLICK HERE. Warning – it is graphic including animals.

Of course – it actually means nothing. There are no ghosts. This is another tool that the enemy has used to ensnare and enslave the Taiwanese people. They are bound up in fear.

How desperately they need to know that a Champion has already come and done everything needed to free them from fear and slavery. His name is Jesus. There is no need to go on and on endlessly repeating these mindless, senseless rituals. Their powerless idols have left them with no hope.

The State of Affairs

So, I’ve been spending the last few days studying how to share the Gospel in Chinese, reading a lot and also digging into the statistics on the church in Taiwan. People like to throw numbers around and statistics can often be made to say whatever you want them to, so I wanted to see if the numbers added up.

After doing a little legwork and finding the statistics that I wanted (Taiwan is great in this respect, people here like to keep very good records and reports), I was able to put together a fairly accurate state of things. I have done my best to be generous in regards to some things, but a little narrow in what I would call an evangelical church or evangelical. If anyone has information that would help me clarify or better present the data, I would really appreciate being informed.

So, what is “The State of Affairs”

This is a general report on the numbers of churches in Taiwan. It is based on data obtained from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan’s Annual Report. The Presbyterian Church keeps the most accurate and regular reporting system on churches in Taiwan.

From 1989 – 2013 the number of registered denominations in Taiwan increased from 40-57 (64% increase). Over that same period of time, the number of registered churches increased from 2,660 – 4,101 and church membership also increased from 448,220 to 1,307,842 (291% increase). At first glance, that seems like some amazing growth. But let’s look deeper before drawing any conclusions. During this same period of time, Taiwan’s Population increased from 19.95 million to 23.315. (8.6% increase)

So, as a percentage of the population, church attendance has increased from 2.25 to 5.61%. However, these numbers are deceptive if you are looking for the number of Evangelical Christians and Evangelical Churches. This data is not easy to mine from the information available, but in general, this is what we find.

The reported Average Church Attendance for this period of time increased from 204,179 to 604,632. If you exclude Catholic, True Jesus and Seventh Day Adventist congregations (about 326,000 people), that leaves a number of 278,632. And if you exclude their congregations from the church total of 4,101, that actually leaves 2999 evangelical (I think) churches in Taiwan.

Now, specifically in regards to Taichung, currently there are 439 registered churches. But If we use the percentage from above to remove Catholic, True Jesus and Adventist Churches and their attendance from the numbers, that leaves about 237 potentially evangelical churches in the city of Taichung.  The Presbyterian Church estimates there are 263 evangelical churches in the city. (76 of those are Presbyterian) Compare that to the 899 registered temples (in my opinion this is not anywhere near the actual number of temples in the city).

Specifically for my area of interest, the Chinese Baptist Convention reported 48,733 members in 2013, with an average attendance of 26,170 in a total of 217 churches. The Presbyterians estimate a number of around 20,000. (Over 4,000 of this number are ages 5-12, which means that only a little more than 22,000 Taiwanese people over the age of 12 attend a Baptist church in Taiwan. That is .001% of the population.
This came from a total of 217 churches.

Finally, if you use the number above of 278,632 that attend church on average, that means that just about 1.3% of Taiwan’s population has been reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.