Tag Archives: Series

The Next Step (1 of 6) “Where?”

When we came to China, I had a basic two-year plan: work with our friends in Northeast China for around two years as we learned the language and culture.

After those two years, I knew I wanted to start a church. I didn’t know if we would stay in that particular city (where we learned Chinese) or if we would move to a new city. The first step was intense language study. The next step is: “where?”

As my language abilities started to improve and I started to teach in Sunday school, I knew I was getting closer to that next step. I had prayed about it and left it at that. I loved the city and team we were working with.

Then the time came that I needed to prepare for the end of our two years. Our rent contract was going to expire, thus we needed to find a new place to live. Our visas were going to end the following month and I needed to know which school I should apply to (to give us new visas). Also, we had planned to take a short furlough at the end of language school before we started a church. So with all these things coming up, I needed to start thinking about our next step: “where?”

I knew this would be a major decision that would affect the family. Changing cities and deciding what city you want to start your ministry in is a struggle to say the least. As I was thinking and praying through this, I asked advice of others and wrote about a five-page document of my thoughts. Much of these posts will come from that document.

I hope that my journey of picking the city that we are now in will help those who are also trying to decided on that next step: “where?”

Continued in… | 2 |

Survey Trip (1 of 3) Pre-trip Survey & Transportation

My co-laborer and I took a survey trip last month. I want to share about “how to take a survey trip” and “what it looked like for us”. I hope this will be a series of informative and practical post concerning how to survey a city from a missionaries point of view.

The pre-trip survey…

Pre-Trip Survey: First, it is helpful to find out all of the information that you can about the place you want to visit, or at least the important information that will help with the actually trip and area being surveyed.

Some of this information may include: basic city facts and introduction, history, transportation, geography, economy, culture, religion, education, popular places to visit, the way the city is divided and demographics of population.

Application: Before leaving for the trip, I searched several websites for information about the city and for places that we would like to visit. I printed over 40 pages of information that we reviewed on the train ride there.

This information helped us identify key parts of the city and helped us build an itinerary for the places that we wanted to visit once we arrived in the city.

The survey…

Transportation: You will need to to plan your travel to and from the city, as well as, transportation once you are in the city. Your pre-trip survey should help with planning this stage.

Application: We decided to take an overnight train (about 9h 30m duration) to enter the city and leave on a plane (about 1h 45m duration). This would allow us to arrive at the earliest time in the morning and leave late at night (the trip being one day). Also, coming and going out of two different parts of the city allowed us to experience these two transportation options. Both seemed to be good.

Once we arrived in the city we planned on relying on taxis. Since we both can speak Chinese we didn’t foresee this as a problem and would also allow us to see if there are any differences in the local dialect. Though the city also had a light rail, trolley cars, buses, and cable cars we only used taxis as they were quick and inexpensive. (The local people also seemed to talk more “nasally” than what we are used to hearing.)

Also, upon leaving the train station we picked up a local map, not to mention already having our iPhone and iPad that helped us to see where we were in “real time”. (Note: Find the largest building in the city, then find it on the map/mobile device, and when you are in another part of the city you will know where you are in relation to other places.)

Series: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

A Scary Cold Early Morning (1 of 2)

Around 2:30 AM in the early morning of New Year’s Eve day, I was slightly awaken to the sound of my wife as she was having some pain. As the good husband that I am, I didn’t wake up fully until she said “there’s something wrong, I think we need to go to the hospital!” Now, I definitely knew there was something wrong. For anyone to suggest going to a hospital in China that early in the morning plus having to go out in subzero weather…I knew she wasn’t playing!

I hurriedly tried to get things together, made some phone calls asking some of our friends to come and help us, and trying to get our daughter awake and ready. With subzero weather, you can’t just “run out the door” because you don’t know when or how long you might actually be outside. So we have learned to make sure you have the proper amount of clothes on when its this cold outside, otherwise things can be miserable (and dangerous).

We worked our way to the car and off to the hospital we went. After making a left turn at the main intersection near our house, the clutch in our car went out! I could get it back into gear, so I coasted the car across the 6-8 lane road to the emergency lane and pulled the emergency break. As my wife is aching in pain (thinking she may be in labor) I got out to look for a taxi (at 3:00 AM in the morning). I saw one coming from the opposite direction and started to wave him down, he saw us and came over. We all loaded up and I told him to go to the hospital.

Once we pulled up to the hospital the taxi driver said “looks like no one is here!” I peeked inside real quick and didn’t see anyone, but since the door was unlocked, I took that as a good sign. We unloaded and started inside. We didn’t see anyone so we went to where you normally have to go to register. I saw a man behind the glass window sleeping, so I knocked on the glass to wake him and told him “my wife is pregnant, having pain in her stomach and we need to see a doctor.” He responded in his ‘I just woke up voice’ “three RMB.” I paid the money and asked where to go.

After finding out where to go, we went there and it was like a ghost town. The normally packed hospital was empty and there was no sign of people. I saw a man who maybe looked like a janitor (or someone looking for a free place to sleep) and asked him where the area was I was looking for. He pointed to several doors and acted like it could be any of them. I started to knock on the doors, thinking that maybe they were sleeping like the guy downstairs. Another janitor person seemed to apear and she didn’t know, so she said she would go downstairs and ask (we didn’t see her again). Eventually a lady came out from down the hall and I asked her, but she pointed in the same general direction and it seemed between to be one of two doors, one having a door bell. So I started to ring the doorbell and pound on the door.

Finally, the doctor inside the office woke up, turned on the lights, and opened the door. I gave her the receipt and told her my wife’s problem. She asked a few questions, gave me a bill and told me to go pay it. I ran back downstairs to pay the ultrasound fee. Not having enough money on me, I had to withdrawal money from the ATM in the lobby before paying and running back upstairs with the receipt. I gave it to the doctor and she told us to go to the ultrasound area.

So we went that direction, having been here before, and we entered the ghost town again. No one except that strange man, now sitting in the waiting area. I asked him again and he just pointed generally to all the doors. By now, I am getting the hang of it, bang on all the doors until someone wakes up and emerges from their room. As I am banging on all these doors, finally a nurse comes out of one of the rooms, I give her the receipt and she takes us into another room.

Next Post: A Scary Cold Early Morning (2 of 2)

UN·THANK·FUL (1 of 2)

Did you smell that? That horrible stench. It’s the rotting heart of unthankfulness. Many times missionaries can be extremely unthankful, unappreciative, or ungrateful. It seems that we can easily harbor a thankless attitude and not show any gratitude. This is wrong, it’s sin.

Missionaries live to serve the Lord in “full-time ministry” which usually means their income comes from those giving for this cause. Though missionaries usually can start out with a good heart and intention, it is easy for them to get upset and loose the right focus when they aren’t treated in a manner that they expect to be treated. The motto of “die to self” is flooded out by the voice of “live it up”.

Here are two reasons I think missionaries can easily harbor this heart of unthankfulness:

1. We think we deserve something. Have you ever met a missionary that didn’t think he deserved something? I am sure they exist, but there is a mindset that seems to take place and people get trapped into it.

We often tell ourselves that because of our surrender in giving up our previously “wonderful life” and our sacrifice of going to the mission field we must compensate ourselves.

To make up for this loss, we buy nice things, live in nice places, and eat good food, all because we deserve it. After all, we did sacrifice leaving home and are living in a strange land. There are some things that we should “deserve” for this sacrifice of being a missionary. People ought to visit me on the mission field, send me packets of my favorite goodies in the mail, remember my family’s birthdays, and of course send a “love offering” around the holidays. This is the least people can do for us.

This mindset can grab hold of missionaries and their families and cause the whole family to harbor ill feelings toward others and their situation.

We take our eyes off of Jesus and start putting them on ourselves and our situation. We loose sight of the privilege that we have to serve our Lord in this capacity and are filled with pride and self indulgence.

We have the mindset that everything is deserved because of our sacrifice. We forget that we are nothing. We forget how to rejoice in the drought and the harvest. We forget to give thanks in all things.

Read UN·THANK·FUL (2 of 2)

Foreigners Are a Problem! (1 of 2)

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In the area of missions there are always problems between nationals and foreigners. Foreigners meaning one who has left his home and lives in another culture and nationals just meaning the people who are native to the place the foreign now resides. You can divide “culture” into many small details but basically you have the major divide in country and language. For example, an American living in China.

These posts are not trying to deal with the problems than can arise from the foreigner-national relationship in the area of missions, but to discuss a certain mindset that foreigners are a problem, therefore the means of foreigner involvement should be extremely limited!

I agree that foreigners are a problem, and I said on deputation that the biggest hindrance to missions in China is me, a foreigner. I have come to China to work myself, eventually, out of a job. Lord willing, I can see many national pastors raised up in the lifetime that the Lord gives me.

In China foreigners are a problem and always have been. The Chinese government doesn’t like foreigners. The government church is called the “three-self church” because they want to be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing. Sounds familiar, right? I am all for that philosophy. But they also don’t want you to evangelize outside of the church and don’t want children to attend their services. That is a problem for me.

Some would suggest that we “foreigners” need to get “out-of-the-way” and just let the national Chinese Christians lead and reach their own people and we can just sit back and support them with Bibles and money. This is a problem for me.

There are millions in China who don’t know the Jesus I know. Millions who are still unreached. This is a problem for me.

We, foreigners, may be a problem but…

…this isn’t just their fight.
…this isn’t something that doesn’t involve foreign Christians.
…this isn’t a “Chinese church” task.

…we have a responsibility to obey the Bible and take the Gospel to all, including China, even if other Chinese Christians don’t want our help. They can do their own thing, but we must be obedient to the call, the blood of their people isn’t just on their hands, it’s on ours too.

I know the truth, I can’t stand by on the sidelines.

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Tips, Helps, and Suggestions For Short-termers Traveling to China (1 of 3)

We are having a short-term missions team join us this week. We have been keeping in communication with the team over Facebook as they have been preparing to come. This has helped us answer any questions they had and also allowed us to offer some tips and advice from our own experience.

Therefore, this is a short series on some very practical tips, helps, and suggestions that we offered to the group. I think they will be a help to anyone taking a short-term missions trip to China.

Culture
#1 – Learn to use Chopsticks! Seriously, they don’t use forks. Chopsticks are the utensil of choice.

#2 – If you are not used to being called fat, being stared at, or having people wanting to take pictures with you, then get used to it! (Note: Even if you don’t think your fat, no worries, they probably do.)

#3 – Time Change is hard. You will probably have a 12 or 13 hour time change (depends where you are coming from)! On the plane I wouldn’t try to force yourself to sleep at certain times, I found it easier just to fall asleep whenever I was tired and then wake up whenever, dosing in and out of sleep.

#4 – Stay up the first full day here. You will be worn out and want to sleep, but try to stay up the first day you are in China and it will help you adjust for the rest of the week.

#5 – You will get meals on the plane, but it is also a good idea to bring snacks. (Plane Food = Not always the best.)

#6 – I hope you like Chinese food, because we will eat a lot of it! The only American restaurants we have in our city are McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut.

#7 – Practice you squatting skills! Most of the public bathrooms here are porcelain holes in the ground.

#8 – Make sure to always have toilet paper on you. Most bathrooms don’t have toilet paper in them.

#9 – Culture shock that you might experience from a short-trip: time change, huge city, poverty, dirtiness, the only white people are in our group, the amount of people, eating different foods, or not being able to speak to the majority of the people.

Clothing
#10 – Take an extra pair of clothes with you in your carry on. My first time coming to China they lost my luggage and never found it

#11 – We ask groups to dress modestly (at your discretion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to be an example to the church here.

#12 – Sunday’s service guys in leadership usually were a shirt, tie, or suite. This isn’t a requirement, just letting you know what we usually do. Wednesday is pretty casual.

#13 – During the week, feel free to dress casual. Our city is dirty and we will be doing a lot of travel.

#14 – Bring / wear comfortable walking shoes. Door-2-door here means climbing several flights of stairs.

#15 – Wear comfortable clothes when traveling, you will be in them for a long time. Also, at the airports you will be going through several metal detectors etc. so don’t wear to much bling.

#16 – Yes, it is okay to wear shirts with “Christian logos” (cross, church, verses, etc.).

Series: Part 2: Electronics, Traveling, Luggage

The Missions Conference Series (1 of 5) Perspective

Awhile ago I was asked to write down some ideas concerning missions conferences to help give a missionary’s perspective. (I have been around when missions conference were being planned at our church and helped plan them. Then on deputation we participated in several different missions conference. Each one of them were very unique.)

When I was asked to write some ideas, I realized that if I just gave what were the pros and cons in my opinion it wouldn’t be very helpful (as I wasn’t going to be in the conference since I was already on the field). I could give a perspective on what we personally liked but that could be the opposite of other missionaries. You can’t fit all missionaries into the same mold.

Also, I realized that a missionaries perspective and a church’s persecutive are totally different. The church does a conference once a year whereas the missionary participates in a conference every week or month. What the church gets excited about once a year the missionary has to weekly be excited about. This is just something that the missionary has to learn to deal with.

Therefore, when I was thinking through our experience, I tried not to just give what our favorite things were, but to give advice and list questions for churches to ask themselves and the missionaries coming to the conference.

As I put these thoughts together for this series I wanted it to be more useful than an average list of generic things you can do at a missions conference. I didn’t want to give outdated ideas and tacky themes. Nor did I want to complain about bad past experiences. There are plenty of others who write about that. I wanted to arrange these thoughts into something useful.

I would say that it would be better to customize the missions conference every year based on your church family and the missionaries that are going to be involved, rather than have the same plans year-after-year and just changing who the missionaries are that attend. Otherwise you will find that missionaries that come to the conference aren’t always going to fit the mold of what you have done. What was a blessing in times past is not always a blessing to the missionary who is coming to your next conference.

Series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Sufficiently and Extravagantly Financial (1 of 5)

A Drastic Change

Since we started out as full-time missionaries our finances have changed drastically. In the summer of 2008 we started part-time deputation while we were still working jobs and at the church. I started putting together our materials, calling pastors, and we went to some meetings, as long as they didn’t interfere with our home church services since we were still working there. We saw the Lord bless during those months and provide for us more than I expected. Is was exciting to see people get behind the vision.

Then as we quite our jobs and started full-time deputation in January 2009 we only had $550 of monthly support coming in. Our calendar was full for the month of January and we would be in several churches but we didn’t know what to expect. We had a lot of traveling to do, no money saved, a small income, and no guarantee of how we would pay our bills by the end of the month. We knew as we went out that churches would probably gives us a love offering for coming by and presenting the ministry, but when booking the meetings we didn’t require, demand, or ask for one, nor would we know if they would give us one or not. It was stepping out by faith not having a guarantee of an income but by the end of the month is was very evident that God was going to take care of our family. Churches and people gave generously and new supporters were added.

We knew we were stepping out in faith to “live of the Gospel.” This means that we were giving our lives to minister the Gospel and we would also partake of it. We have never charged to preach a meeting, but went about preaching and encouraging the churches of God, sharing our vision for China and giving them the opportunity to join in on the mission that fruit may abound to their account.

As the months went on by, the Lord took care of all our needs and blessed greatly.

Series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Uncomfortable (1 of 2)

Recently, we were invited over to a Chinese families house for a meal. This family has been over our house before and now they wanted us to come to their house and see how they “Chinese” live. The thing that is different about this family, is that the husband is a police officer.

When I first met this man, I met him at the police station. He spoke a little English and I spoke little Chinese. I was trying to be polite as I waited for those working on our paperwork, so I told this man that maybe he could help me practice Chinese and I could help him practice English. He thought it was a great idea and wanted to exchange numbers and so we did. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!

After that, he called often and wanted to get together. At first I thought it was good and then after a while I thought it was annoying. Since He was a police officer, I didn’t want to always be hanging around him. I know that attitude was bad, but I just didn’t like the stress of having someone always wanting to be around and asking questions.

He wanted to come over and help me speak Chinese, so we studied in my office. He looked through all my books (mostly Christian), asked about the quote on the sword in my office (given to my at my ordination), and asked many other questions. We studied and I kinda tried to make it boring so he wouldn’t want to do this everyday.

None-the-less, the Lord was teaching me to be bold and compassionate. It was like He was saying “So you think you’re bold?” This man was sincere and wanted to be friends.

So I decided that if we are going to get together then we should do two things, Study Chinese or try to be a witness to Him. (A missionary in West China told me of a story how he had been challenged about the least reach people group in China: Policeman! This too was convicting.) There needed to be reason to get together, more than just consuming time.

Next Post: Uncomfortable (2 of 2) – “The next time he would come over…”

Creative Access Countries (1 of 3)

“Creative Access Countries” …yeah, what’s that?

Definition
“Creative access countries” is a missions term to describe a country in which a missionary is not able to obtain a missionary visa to enter a specific country, generally, because the government or people of that country are hostile against the spreading of the Gospel. These countries, usually, have laws against any type of Christian proselytism or church-planting efforts.

Therefore, a missionary must find a creative way to access that country. Since his primary reason on paper can not be that of anything missions related, he must create a new reason as his primary reason to enter the country. Once a missionary chooses an approve way to enter the country, he genuinely enters the country under that reason, carrying out it’s purpose, but also having a second agenda of which is missions related.

Such countries in which this process must be done is deemed a “Creative Access Country.”

Creative Ways to Enter
Creative ways to enter a “Creative Access Country” have been boiled down to a few categories, but with several options within. I will present a few general ways below that I have noticed here in China and in other countries. Keep in mind that when considering which to do, you not only need to consider “how do I get in” but also “why does this fit my goals,” …meaning this option might sound good but will it conflict with your ultimate mission. With each option below I will present pros, cons, and results as I see them.

Teacher – In many of these countries there are job opportunities for teachers to enter the country and teach on a specific subject. These opportunities include kindergarden to college level positions. One of the more populars options, especially in China, is that of Teaching English as a Second Language.

pros to this option is that you get a long-term visa, salary, housing (sometimes), and are contracted for a certain period of time.

cons to this is that is it generally requires a lot of your time, you are not your own boss, and the importance of the position can precede the importance of the mission.

result of this has been good because of the large amount of people who choose this route, collectively there has been a good amount of fruit. The downside is that most who choose this option on are involved in Christian proselytism and not in a church-planting effort.

Next Post: Creative Access Countries (2 of 3) – Tourist & Businessman