What can you do in ten days?

This summer we’ve had five short term teams visit the Aroma, plus there are (at least) another three on their way. These teams usually stay for about ten days and do everything from taking crash courses in Mandarin to street evangelization.

This month has been particularly busy for my family and I because not only have we been part helping short term teams, but we’ve also taken in two new interns (Serena for six weeks, and Laura for a year!) and hosted several friends and partners in ministry (just like yourselves!) in our home. In this case, our friends stayed for about five days each. The picture above is of several of these friends who came to visit.

Often in conversation with all of these people they tell me,

“Sometimes I really wonder how much we can really do in ten days.”

Well… here’s the thing. Everything these friends do with us we’ve already been doing. We invite people into our day to day to experience missions (read God’s work) in a Taipei context. My heart goes out to those that really put a lot of thought into this question because it has such a Western mentality attached to it. One of pure efficiency and success.

It’s far more difficult to place value on intangible things like relationships and encouragement. However, most major world cultures place a far greater value on these intangibles. We have to be willing to accept this value system, not as better or worse, but as equally worth our time and energies for a week. This perspective may even change our own values in the process. (Excerpt from Reimagining Short-Term Missions)

This is, in a nutshell, what I tell our friends. Your encouragement is invaluable. The energy short term teams and partners bring is refreshing.

But, enough of the lecture… instead I’ll give you a story:

A Story about Z

At the beginning of July I was visited by three pastors and an apprentice. They hailed from the Eastern coast of the US of A. They planned to stay four days and three nights just to get a taste of what we do at the Aroma. Little did they know what God had in store.

During their stay they did some street outreach with a group of summer interns. There they met Z, and quickly became interested in the events they were promoting back at our cafe, the Aroma.

Later that evening at the event, laid out part of his story. He grew up with Christian parents, but when he came out to them about his sexual identity they immediately ceased conversation with him. Little did Z, know what God had in store for him, because one of these pastors had a very similar story to share. The two bonded and a bridge restored between and the Church. ended up attending the Aroma Church that following Sunday, too. #PTL

That’s not where this ends though… A week after my pastor friends left, another short-term team arrived at the Aroma. This team happens to be comprised of deaf Americans and some of their friends. This team came specifically to reach out to Taiwan’s deaf community of which 0.0014% are Christians. (Can you say unreached people group?) One of the team’s members is the pastor at The Table Church, and was asked to preach a sermon in ASL to our community. The sermon was translated from ASL to English, to Mandarin and then finally into TSL. This in itself is a unique testimony to how the Body can come together to praise our King, but what I really want to get to is this:

After the service Z, came up and told us that what he’d experienced was the best church service he’d ever been a part of. His parents are both deaf, and he’s never been able to share the Gospel properly with them because of the communication barrier. Now with a place to do so, and a community to back him, we’ll pray that the next bridge in Z‘s life will be mended through Christ’s redeeming work.

I will report back to you with more on Z‘s story, but even without a final chapter this story is so encouraging to me. It shows just how each short-term partner, and even each long-termer for that matter, plays such a small part in God’s ultimate, grand plan. Is that small role worth the time, effort, and money to travel all the way from the USA to Asia? Absolutely. End of conversation.

To Ball Or Not To Ball

LeBron James has just announced he’s going to be taking his talents to a new team, and it just so happens to be the same team I daydreamed of playing for when I was eleven years old; The Lakers. While that dream quickly left, I soon picked up another… and another… and yet another. I still dream of doing great things today, except these days those things are a whole lot grander than being an NBA superstar.

Recently, my wife and I were given the keys to the Aroma Cafe. Our responsibility doubled (even tripled maybe!) overnight and because of that, the hours and work we’ve been putting in have as well. When things like this happen, changes are a natural consequence, considering I can’t just add another ten hours to each day. One of those changes was the decision to quit playing basketball every week.

For the last year that I’ve lived in Taiwan, I’ve faithfully played basketball most Friday nights. Because of this, I’ve gained a number of new friends, all of which are unbelievers. Friday night ball means showing these friends Christ in me. It’s a push for me to stay active and healthy. It’s also one of the few places that I am able to frequent that is an all 中文 speaking environment and so it forces me to practice my language. There’s a lot of good that comes from this simple weekly activity.

Yet, as God redirected our path this summer, I felt Him taking this away from me. Needless to say, I was angry. Why would God take something that is so obviously good away from me? Because He’s better than basketball.

I do not mean to imply that God cannot still form me through basketball, but right now, He’s giving me more of Him through this new role in the Aroma ministry. As I choose Him before the people and things He’s been using, I place my trust in the eternal (and perfect) source instead of the temporary.

What’s funny is that I learned this lesson through a text that one of my basketball friends sent me. Read it below:

“Now at this point business is a really big part of your life. Take good care of it before getting back to the court. This is gonna be tough for you but Jesus gonna help you.

Whoah. I’m not sure where this friend puts his faith, but Holy Spirit delivered a breath of fresh air straight into my lungs through this friend.

Thank you, Father, for your constant reminders.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah‬ ‭43:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬)