Are you trying to be some kind of monk?

This was the question my good friend who had just realized the impact my year long fast from films would have on my life.

I laughed. “No, I just want to use my time well,” I replied. This was about three months into my decision to read more and watch less. If you want to read more about my decision, here’s the blog post about it.

So, Justin, what’s it been like not watching movies and reading more books the last six months?

Honestly, it’s been great. The first three months of this fast, I spent a lot of time absorbing different books such as, Spurgeon’s SorrowsFamily on Mission, and some light reading like Hugh Howey’s Silo series. I was also able to press into some studying I needed to do to finish my C&MA accreditation. I’m thankful to be able to take several free courses offered through Gordon Conwell’s Dimensions of the Faith program.

Additionally, I finished my first semester of Mandarin study with an A- average. That’s something I’m certain I would have never been able to do without this push to practice better self-control.

So, Justin, did you miss out on much?

Honestly? Probably not. I missed a few movie nights with friends, but we made up for them with board game nights. I had no idea what people were talking about when discussing the latest Avengers flick, but I was able to listen to what my friends thought (a practice I could definitely get better at!).

I think the one area of my life where this decision has effected me the most is with my family. I come from a family that really loves to share their favorite movies together and that is something I have definitely missed. My daughter is at that age where she sees new movies advertised on the city bus and they catch her eye and she gets really excited. I get really excited because she’s really excited, but she knows I can’t watch them with her. We don’t let this stop us from having fun though. Anyone that’s been to our house the past six months knows that our family game nights have only increased. (How many games of Skipbo is too much?)

However, the real value I’ve found through my decision is my capacity to do good work and how great it is to do the work that God’s placed in my path. 

Let me explain: I’ve always been able to do a lot of work. Over the years this work has taken many forms such as competitive video games, writing and recording music with different bands, and even freelance work to boost my portfolio. Most of this work was in pursuit of my own desires. Most of this work left me really, really, tired.

Abstaining from movies has been an effort for me towards putting off my own desires. It’s taught me better self-control and as I choose Christ’s desires more and more I experience a rich goodness in the work that He has me do. Whether studying Mandarin or making a caramel macchiato for an Aroma customer. His work doesn’t leave me tired, but mine does.

And that is exactly the kind of lesson I would give up movies time and time again to learn.

We’ve just been given the keys to the cafe!

The boss is gone and he’s given us the keys to the cafe. Okay, that line is a little misleading, but it’s not untrue.

Chris O’Dell, our pastor, Envision site leader, my mentor, and owner of the Aroma Cafe has left with his family on their three month home assignment. Back in the USA they will be taking time to rest, spread the word of what God’s doing in Taiwan, and see family and friends. Back in Taipei, however, we’re gearing up for a summer of exciting challenges. Let me explain:

For over six years Aroma has operated as Business as Missions, that is using the Cafe to push forth a vision of helping others smell, become, and spread the Aroma of Christ. We’ve found success with this model and have even replicated it in our second location. However, as our church has grown it’s become increasingly difficult to share the space. A church with worship nights, small groups, and prayer meetings struggling to fit into a bustling cafe that is trying to bring in customers, not only to share the gospel with, but also to sustain the building and bless the church. It’s gotten complicated. The last year in particular has been difficult on the staff and as leadership we want take some steps to better the culture in which the cafe operates.

Because of this Chris O’Dell has put Brittany, myself, and our friend Angela Zeng (pictured above behind the coffee bar!) in charge of the Cafe for the summer, giving us a unique challenge: Unify the Cafe with the Church and rally the community to spend time creating 2,160 gospel connections. (That’s about thirty a day!) 

Additionally, it so happens that this challenge is happening as several staff members are leaving the cafe. Others are feeling overwhelmed, and while there are many things we can point to and blame, at the end of the day it’s our desire to see the Cafe serving the Church, and the Church supporting the Cafe. So in an effort to focus in on that mission, and our goal, we are learning to ‘forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.’ (Philippians 3:13) It’s that hope in what is to come that is ahead of us. That’s what gives us the excitement with which we move forward! I hope you’re excited too!

So what’s a gospel connection? Simple: Any conversation that leads back to Jesus and what He’s done, is doing, or will do. It doesn’t need to be a conversion conversation, although we can hope for those, but instead an intentional reference to how you (the speaker) sees Jesus at work in the subject at hand.

Here’s where we need you!

Would you pray? Pray that in this time of transition Brittany and I would be able to take in everything needed to operate the Cafe well. We know a lot of what goes on behind the scenes, and we’ve even been involved in much of it, but there’s still much to learn and do! As often as we can, we’re going to be updating you on the progress of our summer goal: #2160for432 (2160 is the number of gospel-focused conversations, we’d like to have this summer. 432 is the number of people who pass away into a Christless eternity everyday in Taiwan).

Second, we need your financial support. Our commitment to these conversations and the urgency of the staff’s health and cafe culture meant Brittany leaving her part time job. Without that supplementary income we are cutting away our safety net. God has provided in the past, and we expect him to provide in the future as well. Would you consider giving towards our work here with the Aroma ministry? We’re praying that by July 10th the Lord will use you, our brothers and sisters back home, to help raise the additional $600USD per month that Brittany was previously earning through teaching English.

Finally, we need your involvement! If you know anyone in the Aroma community personally, reach out to them and bless them as they endeavor to make their contribution to #2160for432. Or, better yet, come out and encourage us all by working alongside us! Whether it’s by prayers, finances, cheers or dirty hands, you are the Aroma of Christ, and you are making a difference in Taiwan this summer and beyond!