A taste of Taiwan

We don’t often post other people’s videos to our blog, but we wanted to give you an insight of as to what eating out can often look like in Taiwan.

We don’t go to night markets every day, but night market food is always around and easily accessible in almost every other alley in our neighborhood. In fact, the family in the video are walking along the street just across from the Aroma Ximen Cafe. (2 minutes and 11 seconds into the video.)

So, check out the video and enjoy some unique sounds and images of what we experience on the regular!

We forgot we swim in milk and honey

I really like this band called Kings Kaleidoscope. Like… I’ve attended their concerts and bought their expensive merch kind-of-like. They’ve got a song called “About to Break” in which the lyrics say;

Clouded mind, proud in plain
Loud and blind taking aim
Won’t hold the line ’cause hope will reign
And breach the walls about to break

we forgot we swim in milk and honey
Letting go, we’re breaking and becoming
Leaning in and holding on we’re falling, falling, falling, falling

The band plays with the idea of letting go of what we believe and instead, letting hope reign and falling back into God. Letting go and leaning in. He’s enough and He has provided in advance. So often though, we forget what we’ve been gifted to us. We forget about the milk and honey.

Recently at the Aroma we’ve been in a sermon series called Work + Rest. In this four week series we’ve explored what it means to work and what it means to rest and how each are a gift given to us by God.

Simply put: Working and resting should not be difficult. (1 John 5:3,  In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome) However, when we do them in our strength they are. We were never meant to take them on by ourselves. God always provides! We just work and rest as a testimony to what God has already given us. Just look at the Israelites in Exodus 16. They were given everything they needed to live. Manna in the morning and quail in the evening… and yet they still went out on the seventh day and looked for food; Even though they had been provided double the blessing, double portions, the day before! God had already provided for their Sabbath. Genesis 2 reminds us that even before the fall God had given Adam and Eve work: Name the animals, go forth and multiply, subdue the earth! God didn’t need them to do this. He had just created the world and called it perfect, yet he gifted them this purpose. God provided.

We don’t work to survive, and we don’t survive just to rest. These are lies that our culture has bought into and when we see these two things as gifts from God it’s easy to see how He has given them to us as worship. Both underworking and overworking rob us of the capacity to enjoy God and his world. (John Mark Comer, emphasis added.)

Friends if you feel cozy; God has given you work. Stand up, work hard, and watch how God works in you and with you. If you feel tired. If you feel burned out. God has given you rest. Simply choose to receive it, thank the Lord for it, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and he will bring you into life giving rest that only He can provide.

Thoughts: Discipleship & Church Planting

How do you define discipleship?
Do you disciple anyone in a particular trade, hobby, or other life skill? How do you lead others?

What is a disciple?
A disciple is simply someone who believes in Jesus and seeks to follow him in his or her daily life.
Billy Graham

What is discipleship?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

Realistically, how do we follow Jesus in today’s culture? Lots of people have many different opinions of Jesus and who he is and what he taught. Here are two things I believe we need.

  1. God’s Word and the written examples from Jesus’ life.
    • Let’s go to the source! These are first hand accounts of what Jesus did.
  2. Someone to lead us and help navigate 21st century questions.
    • 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)
      [Paul talking to the Corinthians]
      Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

Throughout the Bible we see God using unqualified people to fulfill his purpose. In Taiwan I teach this to many young people of which many are not anywhere close to considering having biological children. This leads them to thinking… how could I ever be a parent? Yet my question to them is… “Why not you? Who are you fathering?

You see imitating people takes time. Have you ever tried to dance, or even drive a car by reading a manual? It’s truly difficult. I believe this to be part of God’s divine design to accomplish His mission through us, people.

Have you ever heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”? I believe this to be true. We work better together. Paul stresses that the Corinthians already have so many teachers (guardians, see the Greek), but they lack fathers. As older Christians lead younger Christians we see the Body of Christ take form; With Jesus Christ at the head!

In many ways discipleship and church planting go together. A church is a group of believers who follow Jesus together while leading others to do the same.

Christians could be called shepherds from behind, sheep from the front. There’s always at least one person who is following your lead.
Mike Breen

In this way community takes form. With everyone leading as they follow a space is born in which people learn to belong and discover their identity, gifts, and purpose. There’s a reason we often call church a big family.

Someone who cares for you (mother?)
Someone who teaches you (father?) +
Family (The Church)

Britt’s Big Surprise

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, but I am pregnant! Surprise! It’s still weird for me to think I’m already almost 16 weeks along! (As of May 7th, 2019) Baby is due October 26, but we’ll see if he or she stays put that long… Kennedy barely made it to 37 weeks before she decided to make her debut!

Speaking of my pregnancy with Kennedy, this time around feels so different! With Kennedy I was nauseous from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. It was awful! Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful for her and wouldn’t trade her for the world, but my pregnancy with her was less than comfortable. Besides being nauseous, I was tired ALL THE TIME. Not a normal tired, but a barely able to function tired!

This time has been so different! I do get nauseous and tired sometimes, but so far at least, it’s not too bad. It usually comes a few times a day, but it usually passes pretty quickly. As for being tired, maybe I’m a little more tired earlier in the evening, but it’s also not an all day thing. I’m so thankful for that! Pray that this continues. In many ways so far everything has gone extremely smooth. I don’t always have the best appetite, but my family does a good job of making sure I am eating. It’s definitely easier to be intentional with healthy eating, too, when you’ve got a baby (小珍珠) constantly reminding you of their presence.

The three of us are so excited for October, and can hardly wait to fully welcome this new little one into our lives!

Your Prayers Are Powerful

I felt the need to write this post to not only remind you, but also myself, that our prayers are powerful. I want to share with you some scripture and four stories from my personal life that together add to my understanding of the power of prayer.

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Some months ago I prayed with a man who had just started coming to our Aroma community. He was interested in Jesus, but his family wasn’t. Yet he still expressed a desire to pray for them. I asked how we could pray and he told me about his brother who struggled with a compulsive spending disorder was not in a good place and was unable to control his finances. And so we prayed. I didn’t know this man’s brother… and we are still praying for healing in his own life too, so I didn’t think to follow up on how his brother was doing. Then last Easter Sunday this man, Sam, was baptized. In his testimony he mentioned how the week after our prayer he began to notice changes in his brother’s life. Jesus working through our prayer was an important moment in the development of Sam’s faith.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

By now many of you might know our big surprise. Brittany is pregnant! Our new family member is due to arrive this October. What may don’t know though is that we have been praying for this miracle for quite some time. Almost two years. It’s funny how God works. We found out about Brittany’s pregnancy just a week after I had written these words in a notebook during a time of prayer. “I’m frustrated; Brittany’s not pregnant.” I’m sure God was laughing at me since at that point in time Brittany was indeed… already pregnant. I’m not always the best at praying out of thankfulness. This was a lesson in that.

James 5:16 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Recently Kennedy experienced a week-long spell of what I would describe as night terrors. These panic attack-like moments lasted about half an hour every night as she went to bed. Kennedy would describe thoughts in her head about death and “Satan trying to trick me into thinking Jesus isn’t alive.” Very little would calm her during these times. So we prayed. Last Sunday our community group circled around her and as we laid hands and prayed over this little six year old girl she began to cry. The details of what happened are a mystery to me, but that night Kennedy fell asleep with no problems at all.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Two weeks ago I was getting ready to speak in front of the Aroma Church congregation. I had prepared my material and was confident God would use it. Everything that week had been great. However, if I’ve learned anything from scripture it is that God wants the glory and so I’m convinced there will never be a perfect sermon/teaching/speech from my lips just so that God can spare me from getting a big head. That day my I woke up and my head and sinuses let loose. I had been sniffling, blowing my nose, and coughing the whole day. This persisted until the evening service and now it was time to speak. By God’s grace my two mentees noticed this and approached me independently. With minutes to spare they said a quick prayer and I thanked them and did my job. It wasn’t until I was leaving the stage having just finished that I realized I had experienced no problems with my head or sinuses that entire 45 minutes. As soon as I stepped off that stage guess what happened. The sniffles returned. God sure does have a sense of humor. Yet, even then He provides. Praise the Lord!

Community Testimonies [VIDEO]

This past Easter Sunday we celebrated our risen Savior by baptizing some of our community members. We are so thankful to be able to share these testimonies with you. This is why you/us/we do this.

We are the Aroma of Christ.

Praise the Lord for what he is doing in Taiwan and around the world!

Shelley grew up in a Buddhist family.
Yet a Christian song played at her father’s funeral is what started her path towards Jesus.
Sam was invited to check out the Aroma after leaving a Taoist community that had previously been everything but peaceful.
Jacky started studying religions of the world only to then be drawn in by the Savior of the world.

Community Building

Besides a hilarious TV show and the word we use when we want to make church sound less formal, what is community? Dictionary.com calls it a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. At the Aroma, one of our desires is to build up a community that helps others become the Aroma of Christ. But how do we do this? Community Groups.

About four months ago, we launched three brand new Community Groups with the intent of creating a space for people to grow that particular common characteristic, specifically; Christ-likeness. Our goal was to give people a space to get to know their brothers and sisters in Christ and spend time forming community. Community that can then better help others smell and spread, the Aroma. We intentionally launched Community Groups on Sunday nights after our church service.

Since beginning, we’ve seen some pretty amazing things happen. Some expected, some unexpected. All of them full of Holy Spirit working.

“I crave time with people.”

This is what one young man said to me one Sunday evening. “My job keeps me so busy throughout the week. This time that we have to hang out with each other is so valuable because there is no other time that I have to be with our community.”

“I’m thankful for a group of people to come back to… I feel so well received.”

This was the response from an old friend who had left our community for some time and then came back. He has dealt with the passing of his father, much strife in his home country, and the recent revealing of a change in beliefs. Thank the Lord that He has worked through our community to provide a safe space for this young man.

Can we lead some activities tonight?

“Can we lead some activities tonight? We want to go even deeper with everyone.”

What a joy it is to see those whom you walk with stand up and make their faith their own. These two individuals met and planned out an entire event to be done during the Community Group that meets in our home. It started with some simple questions getting to know one another and forming community, which led to us talking about the sermon from earlier in the day and deepening community, and finally a time of prayer with one another in order to strengthen community.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

Whether it’s a Community Group like ours or a big community meal such as some churches have. Holy Spirit uses many ways to build the Body of Christ. This is what we do at the Aroma. What about you?

Adding to the Kingdom

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Last month at the Aroma we received two men into the Kingdom of God. I am honored to call them my brothers in Christ and so I want to introduce them to you, our international family!

This is Sam.

A prayer of blessing over Sam after he made his decision to follow Christ.

Sam was brought to church by a friend who wanted to check out the Aroma church but didn’t want to come alone. I’ve watched Sam sit and listen intently to many sermons over the months. We’ve prayed over Sam, who has struggled with health problems for quite some time. Yet, it wasn’t until recently during a prayer meeting where he was asked, “Sam, do you want to give your life to Christ?” His answer was, “Yes.” Praise the Lord!

Sam’s story wasn’t an overnight conversion. His friend who brought him to church has been praying a long time for him. Sam’s asked many good questions and took time to consider who he is putting his faith in. And Holy Spirit has met Sam where he is.

Pray for Sam. His family, like many in Taiwan, and he has an ancestor shelf in his home. There they offer prayers to their ancestor’s spirits in hope for good fortune and health. Sam wants to remove it and, as the eldest son, has the right to do so. Yet, he has several older sisters who are opposed. So, we pray for Holy Spirit to use Sam in his family’s situation. We anticipate God working through Sam’s story.

This is Nick.

Nick + The Siemens took a trip to Yehliu Geopark.

Nick became acquainted with the Aroma through our English ministry; Coffee Talk. For quite a few months Nick would come every Friday night to release tension from work and practice his English. – Funny how some people think language learning and relaxation can go hand in hand!

I remember one Friday night asking Nick how he was doing since his composure made me think he wasn’t having the best day. It was then that he revealed to me that he wasn’t performing well at his job. His boss kept reminding him of this and he was becoming more and more disappointed and frustrated with himself. – I love how Coffee Talk gives us this opportunity to see into people’s lives and reach out with some Good News!

I ended up praying for Nick and I encouraged him to come to church because I knew he would hear more truth spoken there. He delayed a few weeks. Work was too busy… but eventually he came and he hasn’t stopped coming since!

Fast forward a month or two and Nick has left his job. He seems much more happy and he has a bit more free time on his hands. He asked me if I would be interested in reading through some of the Bible with him. We began meeting weekly and our conversations would go deep quickly. At Nick’s core was a worry, a fear that he would not be able to carve out a career that would be able to provide for himself and his parents, not to mention any future plans of having a family. He said he continued to attend church because the people there were different. They seemed much more happy.

Praise the Lord, soon after this conversation I had another with Nick… But this time it was about him making a decision to put his hope in Christ and leave his worry behind him. He’s still working on letting go of those worries, but now he has Jesus helping him every step of the way.

Andrew Got Baptized!

Do you remember this past summer when Justin and I managed the Aroma Ximen cafe? We got to work with some pretty great people, and one of them is Andrew. If you don’t remember him, read this post first!

Andrew gave his life to Jesus almost one year ago; last April. He’s growing and learning a lot! In fact, Justin and I have the privilege of having Andrew in our weekly microgroup; a small discipleship group Justin leads. Also, Andrew is our new church intern! What this means is that he helps us with projects and events, serves in the church in many capacities, and will eventually begin shadowing Justin more as time goes on.

Andrew has quickly become a huge part of our community. It’s hard to imagine him NOT in it!

We’ve watched Andrew overcome much. One example of this is his struggle to follow Christ while also honoring his family. Honor is deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture and so you can understand his dilemma. He had desired to be baptized several months before, but when his family found out they threatened to kick him out of his home. With Holy Spirit guiding, we spent time with Andrew, trying to wrestle with what the Lord wanted him to do and how he could respect his parents. This struggle finally came to an end one week when God met Andrew in his kitchen. It was there that he heard a clear call to take a leap of faith and trust that God would work on his parents hearts.

Last Sunday, Andrew made a public declaration for his faith in front of our church community (and many new friends!) and was baptized. And so we rejoice!

It’s always a good thing when someone new joins God’s family, but it is so, so special when you get to walk along side that person in so many aspects of life and experience the journey with them!

We aren’t sure what God’s plans are for the rest of Andrew’s family… but we have confidence that God has good plans, and we wait in anticipation, ready to be used by Him.

Congratulations, Andrew!

Pizza and Jesus

My family loves pizza. My family loves Jesus. So when the occasion arises to spend time teaching our friends about Jesus AND pizza, we spring into action.

Some of you might know that Brittany and I are really into huddles. We’ve talked about them before, but to summarize quickly… A guy named Mike Breen wrote a book called Building a Discipleship Culture. In Breen’s book, he talks about building disciples in micro groups and he uses shapes to describe the Christian life as modeled by Jesus. Together, with Holy Spirit’s guidance, we’ve been doing life with our huddles ever since we read the book.

Most recently our huddle learned about the half circle.

We used this shape to learn what the Bible teaches in Genesis 1 as God shows his creation how to work from rest, not rest from our work. Also what natural rhythms look like as seen in John 15 as Jesus describes seasons of fruit and seasons of pruning.

God calls us to seek him in these natural rhythms. He has made both work and rest good, and so we must make sure not to sway too far to one side of the pendulum for too long. After all, too much rest leads to laziness and too much work leads to burn out; something that I’ve experienced first hand.

Together as a huddle, we practiced resting. We heeded God’s command to keep a Sabbath and refrain from work. We took time to listen and let God show us what gifts he’d given us to enjoy and relish while we rest and receive energy. Enter pizza, stage left.

When we rest and work well, this is a testament to our trust in God. We wanted to live this out with others… and so we had a pizza party. Our huddle of five invited a couple of friends and we went out and enjoyed some of our favorite pizza in the city. (Shout out to Little New York!) Why? Because God loves us and wants us to work hard, and play hard, too.

The group, minus one. Photo credit goes to Andrew Chen