A Sermon by Kennedy

How to Get Joy and How to Smell, Become, and Spread

First, we will be talking about how to find joy. Joy is not what you get right away. So, I know some of you will think, “Then how do you get joy?” Well, it is not easy to get it, but you should…

  1. Pray
  2. Tell God you want to help with something.
  3. Do it.

Then, you will be happy with what you have done.

Next, we will be talking about how to smell, become, and spread. It’s easy to do.

  1. Come to the Aroma.
  2. Tell us you want to know Jesus.
  3. Tell people about Jesus.

Thank you for listening guys. We love you guys.

A photo of Kennedy’s sermon notes. We love seeing her write!


Our family has been back for just over a week; nine days to be exact. Since returning life feels like it’s been flipped upside down. Here’s a list of things that weigh heavy on me (Justin).

  • Upon entry, Kennedy and I were tested for COVID-19 because we had coughs coming into the country. My test results returned negative two days later and I was allowed to leave the house. Nine days later we’re still waiting for Kennedy’s test results. That means that Kennedy’s been stuck at home. My father’s heart breaks each morning I leave for work and my extroverted daughter sadly waves as she realizes today will be another day she’s stuck at home.
  • Leaving for Taiwan many of you prayed we would find a great apartment to rent. I specifically remember praying and sensing God telling me that He has something great in store for us. I imagined and prayed that it would happen quickly, like, within days quickly. After visiting four different apartments we are struggling to find the right home for our family. We continue to pray for God’s providence, but the waiting has been difficult, especially considering Kennedy’s house arrest.
  • Social pressure is real. America and the COVID-19 virus blew up right after we left. Because of this and our just returning from the USA, remarks were made. Some friends have been scared into treating us differently, distancing themselves from us more than what would be normal in our situation. I’ll be completely honest; That hurts. A lot, actually.
  • Our work and ministry is being tossed around. Right now, a second wave of COVID-19 is spreading through Taiwan. Because of that the government is shutting it’s borders to foreigners and safety precautions are tightening. That means each day brings huge question marks when it comes whether or not our gatherings can be held. Are there too many people in one place? Do we require everyone to wear masks? How do we turn people away if they show up sick? There are even talks about the government quarantining everyone for a time, similar to what is happening in San Fransisco. In that case all of our planning is moot.

yet, despite these things… our Sovereign God remains our refuge. Our strength comes from Him alone and not our circumstances. I’m reminded of this by a song I recently came across on Spotify.

But for me, it is good to be near You
I have made the Sovereign God my refuge
I will tell of all that You’ve done for me
How you cleansed and set me free

As I dive deeper into Psalm 73, the passage this chorus is taken from, it feels like I could have written this entire chapter.

13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.


23Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

and finally…

28But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (NIV)

So what has God done for us in the last nine days? He’s provided a place to stay while we search for our new home. (And our friends who are hosting us clean up our room and made us feel extremely welcome!) The school I work part-time for has welcomed me back and their willingness to keep me on as a teacher has allowed us a smooth transition back into the country with little visa issues. While Kennedy can’t attend school right now, her teacher actively texts with Brittany telling her she can’t wait for her to return and that she is more than willing to help Kennedy catch up on anything she’s missed! (This feels huge to us as it’s not the norm for teachers here.) Finally, despite the Corona scare we are healthy. Our family is doing well and God even blessed us with a smooth and easy transition between timezones. I hear jet lag and babies don’t mix, but Hailee has been exception.

With all that said, I can complain. I can be angry. But I can not say that God has not been with us each step of this journey. And ya’ know what? That’s what brings on my smile, because for me, it is good to be near Him.

On our way home!

You’ve been praying, we’ve been praying, and God has been providing. You may have read about some of our financial needs in a past blog post. God’s provided 97% of what we were asked to raise in one time gifts. You may have also heard that our family battled the flu just a week before our departure. As I write this our family is fever free! While we aren’t quite back to Taiwan yet… we are confident in our God! Because of His past faithfulness we walk forward and, Lord willing, board an airplane from SFO to TPE on March 9th.

We are so excited to be returning home. Back to the place our family has lived for almost five years! I won’t lie though, it’s still not easy heading home. It’s always strange after a home assignment; the desire to be near family is always real. Often past memories start to flood your mind and you start to question why you’re going back. The flesh desires what is comfortable and familiar and for some reason whenever we begin our return these feelings are heightened. Yet, we know God is doing great things through the ministry that we’re a part of and we know that we’re not done yet!

This year we’re excited to work closely with the Aroma church leadership to form long term exit plans for the church to be fully run by our Taiwanese brothers and sisters.

Thank you for praying for us in this journey. Thank you for giving so faithfully! Will you pray for us as Kennedy goes back to first grade? Pray for the apartment that God is already preparing for us. Pray that the search for that home would be smooth! Will you also pray for our community as the COVID19 virus still wreaks havoc and strikes fear into many people. We know fear eats up our faith and because of God’s greatness we have nothing to fear! Pray our spiritual protection the enemy tries to convince us otherwise.

We’ll report back when we finally get back to Taipei, but for now know that we’re almost there and on our way. Thank you for joining us in this God driven adventure!

My mistake slowed me down.

This post is from a sermon Justin recently gave at Parkside Church.

Coffee Talk, formerly known as Coffee House is an outreach that is near and dear to me and I’ve had the pleasure of leading it for the past six months. While I love the work we do at Coffee Talk, it’s definitely come with it’s own difficulties as well. Most recently we’ve had a lack of English speaking volunteers and an abundance of students wanting to learn! As a team we were short staffed and things were entering code red territory.

I led Coffee Talk for a good three months while in this code red. I met with different English speaking expats. I rushed around trying to recruit Christian friends who might be able to help. After all, this was one of our longest running ministries and one of our strongest too! I even went against my best judgement and recruited a young Christian gal who came to Taiwan to teach English… before she had even landed in the country. That’s right, I gave her no space to adjust to the food or culture or even her new job. I opted to pray for her instead of giving her the time she needed to adjust. I told myself I would trust that God would take care of her even though I knew this transition would be difficult for her. I was so wrong… 

This is the kind of mistake a missionary like me makes when I’m in a hurry.

I’ll tell you the rest of that story about my mistake, but first I want to dive into God’s word. Head over to Philippians where Paul is addressing an early church in Eastern Europe. The city of Philippi was a Roman colony and these people were retired soldiers and wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire. Because of this allegiance to the Empire the Christians there also struggled with how to act, being good Roman citizens, but also knowing they were citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Paul starts off his letter of encouragement by reminding the Philippians that he is not ashamed of Christ and in fact For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. (1:21) He goes on to say, I’m torn between these two desires; death and life. (1:23). But for the sake of the Philippians it’s better that Paul lives so that he can serve them. He urges the church to live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. (1:27)  Why? Because belonging to Christ leads to encouragement, love, fellowship, and compassion. That’s chapter 2

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” ‭‭ Philippians‬ ‭2:1-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Then, because Paul is telling these people to be like Christ. He describes Jesus. I have to read it, these verses are beautiful. 

6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭6-11‬ NLT

This is what Jesus modeled and why Paul followed him. Because Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God and sacrificed himself for us, we do the same for others. That’s why Paul talks about living for others, even though he wishes he could be done with his life’s work. 

Friends, these verses are a lesson I’ve had to relearned for myself. I speak them today as a reminder to all of us. It doesn’t matter if we’re in an exotic mission field or ice fishing on lake Waconia with our neighbors… We cannot take the Gospel to a region beyond ourselves if we are unable to slow down and get over ourselves and what we have deemed most important. 5 We must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

That mistake I made… It was made because I had a job to do. My task as leader of the Coffee Talk team was a good and honorable job, but I put the task before the people. My wife was going to have a baby, we were moving out of our apartment, oh and after that we were heading back to the US of A for a three month break. Life was happening. 

The thing is, even in our time here in the States, ya’ know after we finally got to our “break”. We R&R’d a bit, but then my natural incline was to immediately speed into working. We’re called to serve others after all, right and as a missionary that’s basically my job. No harm done, right?

We live in a world that honors this lifestyle. Fast is good, slow is bad. 

Just take for example a road trip. Despite the mileage needed to travel and the set speed limit when we shave a few minutes off our trip by eating in the car or going just a smidge over the speed limit we often say we’ve made good time. Not fast, good. This culture is written all over our language. The movie was slow, the service was slow, that man is slow. All of those statements have double meanings and they aren’t good ones. But that’s not part of our Father’s Kingdom culture. Life will always be happening, and it will try to drag us into distraction and busy-ness and all of the sudden we’re trying our hardest to use our own strength to get out and make time to do something as simple as beginning to read our Bible again. We hurry towards our goals, just to slow down. This is not how Jesus intended life for us. (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28-30‬ NLT) 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 

I don’t believe it possible to read those verses quickly and for their words to still retain their power. Love from a gentle heart… joy in an easy yoke… and peace as we find rest. Those things are incompatible with speed.

There have been so many times when I’ve rushed people through something. We rush our kids to hurry and finish their breakfast so they can get to school. We rush our employees or colleagues to finish their work so we can check our task off and head home. How many times have you sent a text message expecting a reply near instantly. I mean, the green symbol says they read it, right?! Why won’t they reply? 

This is not loving. This is not what Jesus modeled. This is not how we should be treating people. If we desire the Gospel to go out we must resist the world’s pace and take up Christ’s! 

So where does that leave us… How do we live like Christ in 2020? Friends, first we must acknowledge what the culture outside our doors is pushing on us. In Taiwan and Minnesota these things are the same. The culture around us is trying to sell us more time. Buy the latest smartphone because it’s quicker and has more battery life so you’ll spend less time charging in your car and more time out with your friends. Visit your local McDonalds because who wants to cook for their kids when you’ve had a long day. Save yourself the time and energy and let us do the work! Rocket Mortgage had a Super Bowl ad whose slogan wasn’t even a full sentence because they just want you to “Push button, Get Comfortable. Get Mortgage.” We sell ourselves to these things for the sake of time and rest and the chance of being able to use it, while Jesus simply invites us into it rest. No strings, just come and follow him. 

The story about my friend the Coffee Talk volunteer ends with me apologizing. Our community had come around her. One woman began intentionally investing in her through 1 on 1s. But I can’t help but wonder what God would have done if I’d given her my time.

So, you might be sitting here today thinking… I’m not in a rush. I don’t find myself hurrying through life. To you I’d say; please teach us. We want to know what Jesus has taught you! Better yet, call it out in me! Call out those of us whom struggle with going too fast all the time. 

And for the rest of you; I know there are different things in my life that push me to hurry. Sometimes I don’t prioritize my sleep and I get irritated easily. Other times I just work too much… If you know of some of these ticks in your life I want to invite you to press into Jesus and ask him to show you what you can do. If you’re not sure… then maybe you can try these simple things and pray for God to meet you in them. Ask him to speak into your life while you try these out. 

  1. Drive the speed limit.
    This one I’ve just recently been able to try because I don’t drive much in Taipei. But, stop going five over. Stop pushing the limit. Live within the limitation you’ve been given and learn how to be content in that. Paul says in the end of his letter to the Philippians, I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. What’s Paul’s secret? Chapter 4:13, Christ who gives me strength.
  2. Use the longest check-out line.
    Full confession, I would never have come up with this one on my own. I got it from a book, but I’ve gotten a chance to practice it! What if we took back the small bits of time that we have given to convenience and instead use them as moments in life to spread the Good News? When you walk up to the cashier you can engage with him or her, share how you’re doing and really ask them how they are. Or, just use the time to pray.
  3. Parent your phones.
    Most parents I talk to don’t wind down their evenings together with their kids. Sure, you hang out and interact with them, but eventually you put them to bed. Try putting your phones to bed. My seven year old goes to bed at 8PM. My phone should too. Set it to airplane mode and leave it charging in the kitchen then go and relax. You don’t need your phone for that. 
  4. Practice Sabbath-ing.
    Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about this more and more recently. It’s by no means new, but I’m so happy to hear more people trying to recover this command God gave us. Find a day in your week to do nothing but rest and worship. Those are really broad categories because what you find restful could be much different from me. But God gave us a day to do just that… 
    Friends, God has given us a Sabbath day to slow us down. He’s intentionally built it into his divine rhythm to give us rest and keep us from burning out.

Perhaps you decide to not own all of these ideas I’m giving you. At very least, join me in making space in your life to give people the time of day. That’s really what we’re all about in Taipei. The Aroma exists to help others smell the Aroma of Christ, become the Aroma, and spread the Aroma. The becoming and spreading can never happen though if we are unwilling to open our lives up to the regions we’ve been called to. That starts with our time. After all, our time is our life, and our attention is the doorway to our hearts. So tear away from anything holding your attention captive that isn’t Jesus. My prayer today is that you would join me on the mission field you’ve been called to. Together, let’s be a people that stops pointing away from ourselves saying “Go to church” and instead starts saying “Come to me” all while pointing towards Jesus’ loving embrace. 

That’s scary. It’s gonna’ cost you your time and probably some of your money too. It’ll be tough too, but Paul reminds us that the reward is so much better; For me, living means living for Christ. 

Pray for Asia! (Coronavirus)

If you haven’t heard of the coronavirus, then there’s some information for you from the CDC.

CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (named “2019-nCoV”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. Chinese health officials have reported thousands of infections with 2019-nCoV in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of that country. … The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on January 30, 2020.

Some of you may know some of this, but others might not… then there are some of you who may have forgotten that the epicenter of this virus is only a 2.5 hour flight away from where we do ministry in Taipei, Taiwan. While there’s a bit of ocean in between the two cities, Taipei has still been infected and affected. As of February 1st there are ten reported cases of the virus and many Taiwanese responding frantically. All over the city of Taipei there is a rush for surgical masks. Places like 7-11 which usually have plenty in stock now have lines out the doors and a limit of three per customer.

While scientists still don’t know how the transfers from person to person, and while it is just a flu and only has a 2% mortality rate, the fear it’s struck in Asia is somewhat alarming.

  • Please pray that the Lord would provide strength and wisdom to His people in Asia.
  • Pray Christians would reach out with boldness and proclaim the peace that comes when Christ Jesus is involved!
  • Pray that countries would band together in unity and not hoard resources.
  • Pray for the sick!

    In Jesus name, Amen.

2020 Financial Needs

When you ask for money on behalf of someone else, there’s a certain feeling you often get. I’d describe it as excitement; or even zeal. That’s because you’re just the messenger. You’ve got great news of exciting work that needs to be proclaimed and supported.

When you ask for money to support yourself though… things feel much different. It’s difficult and uncomfortable. It’s scary because you’re not just the messenger; the news you’re telling people is your own. Your work needs help and support.

Luckily, things aren’t so when it comes to Kingdom work. We are God’s laborers. We’re doing the job, but after that, it’s the work of the King to see it through. So when we approach others about help, particularly financial, we can stand boldly and proclaim God’s mighty feats and sovereign power! Praise the Lord.

A story to prove this point… it’s not our doing, but the Lords:

Before we returned to the USA on our three month home assignment, we were told we needed to raise $14,000 in one time donations. This would support plane tickets, international insurance for our family, and a few other housing costs in Taiwan. That felt like a lot and three months wasn’t a long time to reach out and make asks. Despite this, one thing that had been stressed previously in the year was the need to keep part of our home assignment as a Sabbath; a retreat, time spent with God, time to rest and reflect. And we were really excited about that. We decided to trust that God would work in a mighty way if we spent the first month with Him and the last two months fundraising. Within that first month the Lord provided over half of that $14,000 amount. Praise the Lord!

This is not our news, it’s His. God is good and He provides!

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

We still have about $6,000 left to raise before we return to Taiwan in March. Will you pray with us that God would continue the work that He has began and provide the rest of our finances for this next term in Taiwan? Oh, and speaking of the exciting and awesome work God is doing in Taipei check this out:

  • God’s grown the Aroma cafes and at our Ximen location we’re able to share the name of Jesus with an average of 55 people each day.
  • Each month we have over 160 opportunities to build into individual relationships via our weekly English ministry; Coffee Talk.
  • Plus, we checked the books and looked at some old numbers… since 2015 (when we arrived in Taiwan) we’ve seen over 150 individuals step foot into a Christian church (most of which) for the first time. This has led to 86 decisions for Christ being made and 26 new believers being baptized.

Praise the Lord!

Let me know if you need anything

Let me know if you need anything.” It’s a statement that I’ve heard often in my life. People usually toss it around. Even when they are serious about the offer, the recipients usually aren’t. “Sure, I’ll let you know if I need anything.” is the response that I’ve often given and received.

This is just one example of what English majors (of which I can definitely not call myself) call phatic expression. These phrases are a communication which serves a social function, such as social pleasantries that don’t seek or offer information of intrinsic value but can signal willingness to observe conventional local expectations for politeness.[1] Perhaps more common examples are “How you doin’?” and “Have a nice day!” We rattle them off quickly, but often never mean them.

So as you can imagine when you come across someone who actually means what they say as they tell you, “Let me know if you need anything.”, then it’s difficult to sometimes respond! This catches you off guard. You might not even know how to respond! At the same time, when someone actually means what they say you also feel a host of emotions. Why? Because when a person puts real emphasis on an expression that is normally phatic it becomes very easy to recognize their sincerity, concern, kindness, enthusiasm, and ultimately their love… for you! That’s because they’re acting differently than you have anticipated.

The same is often true of the Kingdom of God. As God’s children we’re called to live differently.

1 John 3:23-24 (NIV) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

The Holy Spirit is the evidence of God’s children living differently. They abstain from the pleasures of the world and choose to love one another and thus put one another first. We’re called to change our lone wolf mentality to that of a pack. We’re challenged in collectivist cultures (like Taiwan) to not just offer lip service, but be sincere. Why? Because Jesus did the same for us!

Ephesians 2:19-20 (NIV) Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Last week I experienced God’s children living their lives with Him in a very real way, similar to what John writes about. Last week our Aroma community came together and asked my family if we needed anything; and meant it.

Many of you know on October 26th Brittany gave birth to our beautiful new baby girl, Hailee. Giving birth was much different this time around, because we also had an almost-seven year old waiting at home for us to do things like take her to school!

As you can see in the photos above we were cared for. In a time and place where our blood family couldn’t be with us, our spiritual family was. This is what God’s Kingdom is about. This is what the world needs to see and much of what they desire. A family that loves them with a love they’ve never experienced.

My uncle used to say, “If you want to change a culture you have to belong to one people want to immigrate to.” Today I feel extremely blessed and grateful to belong to a culture that is blessings others and changing lives, a culture that others are immigrating too! God’s culture!

Introducing Hailee!

Please join us in welcoming

Hailee Hunt Siemens

On the eve of October 26th, Justin and Brittany jumped in a taxi and rode to their doctor’s hospital. It was there that Hailee Hunt Siemens was born. Saturday, October 26th at 5:28AM. She weighed in at 7.1 pounds and 19.5 inches.

Since then, Brittany has been recovering well, Justin is relearning the fastest way to change a diaper, and Kennedy is loving every chance she gets to be a big sister! We are extremely grateful and can’t wait to bring her back to the USA to show her off during our upcoming furlough. For now though, she is being showered with love by our Aroma family here in Taiwan!