Yes, it’s all been happening this summer – months of prayer, preparation and packing ~ and finally they were ready for the off ~ YES!
Earlier in the summer, a team of 16 young people (all young at heart, and mostly young in age too!) from St. John’s University Chaplaincy and Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain and Advent Church Rector, Rev. Lennon Chang, spent 10 days on an overseas mission trip ~ and yesterday a very happy 14 of them gathered at Advent Church to share with the church about their experiences….
Each one had 3 minutes to speak, and priority #1 of course was: THE FOOD! Taiwan was recently voted by CNN to have the best food in the whole world, so of course whenever a Taiwan person leaves Taiwan, well, food is always going to be their main concern ~ and so it was ;)! Everyone had been a bit worried and prepared for the worst, but actually they’ve all survived, and some have even put on weight ha ha! #2 topic was toilets, another subject much discussed and worried over beforehand. ‘Could have been worse’ was the overall feeling on their return…. We also heard about transport ~ the 15-hour bus journey, the trips in the back of open pick-up trucks, accommodation, the cost of living – salaries and cost of basic goods, the extreme poverty, the ministry to the children and youth, home visits, church worship, and everyone’s most moving moment and lasting memory. Overall, clearly a life-changing experience for everyone.
All were very moved by the faith of the local Christians they met ~ in a community with few financial resources, prayer and their faith in Christ are clearly what carries everyone through, and the way the churches reach out to the destitute and marginalized in the local community is a wonderful witness. Some of the students commented that here in Taiwan we have every technological invention known to man, but there they have nothing, no loud speakers, microphones, computers, not even any basic toys, and in many places no water or electricity either ~ and yet the children are content, the people get by and the Gospel is preached.
One of our students reflected on his own life and how totally self-absorbed he was as a teenager, focused only on his own life and personal desires, and yet there, the teenagers requested prayer not just for themselves and their school work, but for their parents to find faith and become Christians. Another noticed how resourceful the children were, thinking things out for themselves, finding creative solutions to every problem – not waiting for adults to organize them and explain everything to them, but leading the way themselves.
Rev. Lennon Chang shared about his role on the trip, which was prayer, prayer and more prayer. Every day, up at 4:30am praying for 2 hours, for each member of the team, and then ongoing throughout the day…. spiritual warfare was very much a reality of their daily lives, and without all the prayer, no way would the trip have been a success.
Actually this trip was really organized and made possible through Pastor Shih, whose son is one of the students in our SJU Student Fellowship, and both father and son went on the mission trip. Pastor Shih works for the Taiwan branch of an ecumenical mission organization that was started in the 1990’s, the result of a initial vision given to a Chinese pastor who took a moment to sit down and rest while on a tour inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Wow. And the moral is – always sit down and rest while on a tour of a cathedral, church or basilica, you just never know what might happen!
Although they also work in many local languages, most of those involved on the mission teams are Chinese-speaking, and in our case, the outreach was to a Chinese church and Chinese-speaking community in a country where extreme poverty, political instability and lack of religious freedom are all major factors. Sharing the Gospel is very difficult. And that’s why I don’t want to tell you exactly where they went – sorry, it’s a bit too risky.
Pastor Shih spoke yesterday of the trip and our mission team’s ministry with the local children and teenagers ~ and how our team trained the church youth to run an evangelistic outreach night. On the Saturday night they actually held the outreach, led by the church youth for their friends and visitors, while our team sat in the pews and saw the fruits of their training put into action. This was a huge encouragement to the local church leaders, to see their own young people stand up and lead worship, perform drama, share their testimonies and run the whole event themselves, they were overjoyed!
The last time a group from Advent Church and SJU Chaplaincy went on an overseas mission trip was to the Diocese of West Malaysia a few years ago. That changed their lives forever. So did this one!
Our team returned to Taiwan on August 5, and of the 16 who went, 7 of them then got ill. Not ill while they were there, but once they came back. Our 2 Advent Church clergy went down with dengue fever and the other 5 went down with similar fevers and stomach problems, but not diagnosed as dengue. That was all happening the weekend that Typhoon Soudelor was roaring around Taiwan trying hard to wipe us all off the face of the earth. Ah, deep sigh ~ it never rains but it pours!
But praise God all of them have now recovered. As you can see in the photos, yesterday they all dressed up like they did on the mission trip, and with the cream on the face that local people use to protect their skin from the sun. All of them are full of praise and gratitude to Almighty God, to the team leaders and to Advent Church for prayer and financial support.
All have had their eyes opened and learned so much. Please pray for these young people (young at heart as well as young in age!) for their lives, their faith and their future ~ after all, who knows what might happen after such an amazing life-changing experience as this?!