Meet Jennifer

This is part two of a four part series in which we want to connect you with the Aroma cafe staff that we’ve been working with over the summer. The reason we’re writing these blogs is because we want you, our family, to know who a little about who we’re working with here on the ground. It’s our hope that this will enable you to be more effective in prayer for the ministry we’re doing here! Thank you!

I even started to think that if I disappeared maybe they would know I actually existed.

“My mom and younger brother were baptized first,”Jennifer told me. “I waited a little while longer…,” she continued.

Jennifer is a young woman from Taoyuan, Taiwan. She found the Aroma Cafe in Ximen over a year ago when she and her mother were searching social media for an internship opportunity. Jennifer and her mother were so impressed with our Coffee Talk ministry that she decided to take the leap and pursue an internship here. She’s been here ever since!

Now Jennifer is one of our full-time baristas and so I often get to converse with her. One Saturday, I took some time to ask her a bit about her story. I was curious because she is the only barista we’ve employed at Ximen whose family is also Christian. 

“My aunt used to have a lot of spirits that bothered her,” was her opening sentence when asked about her family’s path to faith. Jennifer went on to explain how her family did everything they could to help her aunt. Multiple temple visits from a range of local religions didn’t seem to help. After some time Jennifer’s aunt committed suicide.

Death seemed to latch onto her family as her uncle soon developed cancer and passed away.  “After that, my cousin also committed suicide.” Jennifer told me.

School was rough for Jennifer. One day after being bullied Jennifer asked her mother what to do, “She told me to stop talking to them.” She complied, but her silence ended up separating her from the rest of her class. This would last through out junior high school. “This is the reason I became so quiet.” She said. “I felt I wasn’t part of any of the groups. I even started to think that if I disappeared maybe they would know I actually existed.”

Breakthrough happened in the form of a friend. One day, a friend of her mother invited the family to church. Her mother took Jennifer and her brother along. Even though Dad wasn’t initially interested, Holy Spirit would work on each of their hearts. “My mother was baptized and the pastor told her that our entire family would be saved because of her decision.” Soon the entire family gave their lives to Christ. A year after her brother and mother were baptized, an overwhelming peace would come over Jennifer and she decided to be baptized also.

Since knowing Jennifer here at Aroma Ximen, I’ve noticed this peace too! While she works, when she talks, and even when she began leading worship at the Aroma Church. It’s been a rich blessing seeing her grow with us. Jennifer is one of the most intense prayer warriors we have here. What a great testimony this is of how the Holy Spirit uses one to save many others! Through Christ’s redemptive gift a family was saved from the clutches of death!

‘And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. ‘ Romans 8:2 

Read part one here. Read part three here.

Meet Andrew

This is part one of a four part series in which we want to connect you with the Aroma cafe staff that we’ve been working with over the summer. The reason we’re writing these blogs is because we want you, our family, to know who a little about who we’re working with here on the ground. It’s our hope that this will enable you to be more effective in prayer for the ministry we’re doing here! Thank you!

It’s been six years… Wow, I hadn’t realized that.

Andrew is a twenty-three year old Taiwanese man who has been working for us for less than a month. He, in many ways, has been an answer to prayer. Angela, another cafe employee, was leaving us to study worship leadership and our community had prayed for the right person to come and take her role. as barista and first impressions for the cafe ministry. He started in late July and has fit in ever since.

One day, after his shift behind the coffee bar, Andrew was hanging out around the shop. I sat down across from him and asked if he’d tell me more of his story. I walked into the conversation knowing that he is a young Christian and the only one in his family. I was curious how that played out in his family life.

“My mother asked my brother why I went to college if I just wanted to work at a coffee shop…”, was a sentence I’d remembered hearing him say a week or two before. “But I really love my job and talking to people here at the Aroma.”

Andrew started telling me about his love of music. Just like me, he plays bass guitar and has dreamt before of being in a rock band. In high school he secretly joined a band and bought a guitar. He didn’t want to tell his parents though, because he knew they thought it was a waste of time.

Andrew’s parents are hard workers. They own a travel agency that takes organizes tour groups. His parents are both frequently out of the country leading these tourists around the world. Their desire is for Andrew and his older brother to continue this business. Perhaps they love their work a little too much though.

As we sat at a table on the second floor in the Aroma cafe, Andrew told me a story about his grandmother. She was very sick and his parents weren’t around. They’d chosen to lead a tour group together instead of one of them staying behind to help take care of his grandmother. “After this I spent two months that summer taking care of my grandmother.” As summer ended he recalled a dinner where his father accused him of always hanging out with his friends and never being home. “How can he even say this?! I was so angry. I just walked away.” After thinking for some time he quickly does the math… “Wow, that was six years ago. I hadn’t realized that.”

“So do you talk to your father now?”

“No, not really. Nothing more than hi, bye, where I’m going… When I come home I go straight to my room.”

But things have changed since then. Earlier this year Andrew accepted Christ. Now Andrew is learning to step into the identity that comes with being a child of God. Friends and coworkers have noticed the difference in him and after this conversation we continue to pray that his family sees this too. I’m excited to see God work through Andrew and bring peace and unity back to his family. His story is familiar to others in Taipei. Thank goodness we serve a God who is bigger than family fights and fatherlessness. Thank the greatest Father has invited us into the greatest family!

‘You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’ 2 Corinthians 8:9 

Read part two here.

A picture of LOVE

This is an excerpt from a sermon that Justin preached at the Aroma Church, Taipei, Taiwan on August 12th, 2018. 

Song of Songs is a book that’s all about LOVE. It explores the relationship between a man and a woman through their own eyes. This is poetry, it’s an actual song, and verse one in some English translations even translate the Hebrew to say, Song of Songs, the best or greatest of songs, by Solomon.

It’s a super interesting book and over the many years people have talked about its purpose in the Bible quite a lot. It’s the only book of its kind in the Bible, so naturally some people wonder if it should be part of the Bible! After all, you’ll see as we dig in, some of parts of this song are steamy.

Just check out Song of Songs 6:5-6
Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing. Each has its twin, not one of them is missing.
Okay, so the song can get very descriptive. Sometimes in a really weird or awkward way. As I prepared this sermon I even had some moments where I really didn’t feel like reading further. It felt too personal… There are references to places, and spices, and peoples that we can’t really imagine, too… so this can make the book difficult to engage with. It’s important to remember that Hebrew metaphors are not always visual. So take time to imagine using your other senses like smell or touch when you read through this these texts.

This book has been so confusing for many that scholars have even argued over whether it’s allegory (as in the story is not true, but points to something else) or literal (as in this is a true narrative). Regardless of what actually is, we do know one thing. This book is in the Bible for a reason. This is divinely breathed romance. This is a story which celebrates what wholesome pursuit of love looks like and it follows the couple from what appears to be dating to maturity in marriage.  

So, what can we learn from this book? Why is it even important? What do we as individual people have to learn from a book about love?!

Song of Songs 8:6-7 NIV ‘Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.’

As strong as death, unyielding as the grave. Love is dangerous friends. It has the power to destroy, but it is also powerful and beautiful like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. As humans we desire love… we are born with a desire to love and to be loved. If one were to give away all wealth for love, it would be utterly scorned. Love is not something to be bought, it’s a mysterious, divine gift from God. Just like… Jesus.

This narrative, this song, is in the Bible for the same reason as every other book. It points to Jesus. For some here, this is a story of how we should be pursuing and loving another human here on earth with exclusive devotion and pure satisfaction. But this is not God’s plan for many… and possibly even for some of you. God uses marriage between a man and woman as an illustration for how Jesus Christ and his global Church are one.

So while this is a story about humans pursuing other humans, it’s also a story about a King pursuing his people. Just like the woman anticipates her husband’s arrival in Song of Songs, so too there has been historic anticipation for this King… And he’s arrived. King Jesus has arrived and he’s sought after you!

Will you pursue Him? Will you surrender your whole self to Him? Will you express your delight in your King?

Brothers and sisters, I want to end tonight with this invitation. We serve a great, great God. He is worthy of every honor and all glory. Just like a husband delights in the beautiful words his wife uses to encourage him, so does God delight in our actions and thoughts that point toward our satisfaction in Him.