Really High-Tech

A few weeks ago we saw a sign reading “High-Tech Corridor.” We got a laugh because it seemed like we were in the middle of no-where. The corridor was a stretch of expressway through the mountains of West Virginia. We were surrounded by trees.

So we weren’t sure what was high-tech about the area. But we started thinking about all the amazing technology God created. We were surrounded by millions of little living machines that scientists can’t yet fully understand, let alone duplicate. All those machines worked together to make a tree. And we could see thousands of trees that were basically built out of dirt and sunlight. How high-tech is that?

A penny saved…

On long road trips, we need a break from the van every few hours. Sometimes that’s a rest area, a park, or a playplace. But most often they’re gas stations. Not the best places for kids to run around, but they work.

Looking for coins motivates our kids to move around. That started a long time ago when they’d say they didn’t want to get out of the van, or that there was nothing to do. So now they keep their eyes open all the time. Recently they’ve made out pretty well – finding a few quarters and dimes along with some pennies.

a welcome break from the van

a welcome break from the van

This game lets us see into our children’s hearts, so we often have little counseling sessions. But lately we’ve noticed something we like. Our daughter and the two older of our sons have started pooling their money. They keep counting it up and planning to get something with it. Their first purchase, a week ago, was a container of tic-tacs.

We’re so thankful the Lord lets us travel as a family. It’s not always easy, but we have so many fun times. Even at gas stations.

Old Dead Things

Our children recently developed an interest in archaeology and paleontology. Since we were going to be in western Colorado for a week, I looked online to see if there was anywhere we could find fossils. Not just see them, but collect them. Turns out, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administrates a lot of land in the area we were staying, and allows the personal collection of plant and invertebrate fossils.

I found a couple posts about a place near Douglas Pass where a layer of fossil-bearing shale is exposed by road cuts. So we made plans to go. Most of the trip was straight with a gradual climb. But the last 5 miles or so climbed from about 6,000 feet to around 8,000. Close to the top of the pass, we took a gravel road higher up the mountainside to an area of public land near an FAA communications installation.

 

Road at Douglas Pass

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We found a few fossils, though we hardly knew enough to know what we were finding. A couple were nice finds for us – a small leaf and an insect.

 

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Lots of fossils means lots of things died. And the Bible says death is the penalty for sin. But God is gracious, so we sat there looking for fossils, overlooking a beautiful landscape full of life.

 

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Fossil-hunting was the morning’s outing. In the afternoon we explored part of Coal Canyon. Sure enough, we saw the entrance to an old coal mine. We also saw – unexpectedly – a wild horse.

 

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There’s so much to explore!

 

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Making Friends

One of the great things about deputation is the chance to see old friends and make new ones.

Recent travels have introduced us to several new Taiwanese friends. In North Carolina, a Taiwanese couple shared a meal with us. They encouraged us in our vision for planting stable, growing churches in Taiwan. They also told us about their outreach to Chinese students in the States. We shared a basic discipleship resource in Chinese, and met a recent convert they’d been working with.

In Ohio (also over a meal), Taiwanese students at a state university shared their stories of coming to Christ, giving us more insight into Taiwanese thinking, and more appreciation for the power of the gospel. Their pastor told us about several resources for Chinese ministry we weren’t familiar with. He even gave us copies of some of them.

In Minnesota, we met a Taiwanese woman at a supporting church. She was so kind in offering to help in any way, suggesting resources, and talking about Taiwan. We were pleased to learn she knew about the church we’ll be part of while in language school. Her unsaved relative lives nearby.

The Lord has given us so many helpful people – not just Taiwanese – and we’re so thankful.

A Taste of Culture Shock

While I was in Taiwan recently (for a 2-week pre-move trip), I had two quite different days. One was sunny, the other dim and rainy, so perhaps that had something to do with it.

The sunny day: I rode a borrowed bike past the Zuoying train station to Lotus Lake. I went armed with my camera, my notebook, and great intentions of getting some good pictures and some helpful notes about life. I’d heard about the produce in the market, so I especially wanted to get some pictures for my wife, so she could get a reminder of what was available and what the prices were like. I also wanted to see if I could get some more pictures of the temples on the far side of the lake.

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Seeing the piles of fresh produce, I almost wished I needed to buy something. I also got more interaction than I expected when a vendor insisted I let Martin, a 13-year-old with 3 years of English study, practice his English on me. He seemed embarrassed, but we did have a sporadic conversation; he practiced English and I practiced Chinese.

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Me and Martin… and some very fresh poultry

I made it around to the temples where I took some pictures.

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Then bought some postcards at a small store down the street. I wanted to send something to my children. (The postcards arrived at our home a few days after I did, but they kids were still happy.)

The rainy day: I was on my own, partly by my own choice since I’d declined an offer of company. I wanted to explore on my own, though I did have a specific destination in mind. Getting to the MRT and taking it to right stop wasn’t a problem. I exited the MRT station and headed down the road… the wrong direction. But it wasn’t till I’d gone quite some distance that I discovered my mistake.

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That sign doesn’t help me!

Once I got headed the right way, I found the store I’d wanted to revisit. Only to discover (after some time of looking around) that they didn’t have the items I was hoping to buy. Walking back to the MRT station, I was hungry. I’d kept putting off lunch, planning to eat after I bought the things I wanted. Now it was late and I didn’t feel like eating because I was disappointed.

Actually, I was feeling frustrated at my limited ability to communicate and my lack of familiarity with where things were. So I walked down the sidewalk thinking of how I didn’t want any Taiwanese food. I just wanted something American. Something comforting. I knew there was a western restaurant near my MRT station, so I decided to wait even longer for lunch. But by the time I got to the station and didn’t see the way to the restaurant right away, I just headed to the apartment where I was staying and ate a granola bar on the way.

The contrast of these two experiences lends some healthy realism to my eager anticipation for moving to Taiwan. There will be a lot of really interesting, fun experiences. Some really sunny, comfortable days when I revel in everything new. But we’ll also have our share of days when the newness feels threatening rather than fun, and dealing with life seems discouragingly hard. Now I have a first-hand reminder of some ways we’ll need God’s grace
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From the sidelines… watching, or something more?

Several recent experiences have reminded us of God’s sovereignty in using His servants.

A few weeks ago I started a project to package our current presentation (power point) as a video. We’d started deputation with a video, which we loved. But when it became apparent we needed an update (Owen, not in the video, was 1 year old!), we decided to update how we presented our burden and vision as well. Hopefully, in 3 years of deputation, we’ve gotten better at it, we thought.

So I had an opportunity of have our presentation shown without me being present. The power point wasn’t very good for that – just pictures and some words. But when I was halfway through my project, I found out I might not need the video, and almost decided not to worry about finishing it. (It looked like I’d be able to talk through the power point over Skype.) Just in case, I finished the video anyway. It wasn’t glamorous – just an Audacity recording of me talking through the power point combined with some of the slides in Windows Media Player.

It worked. But it was now just a backup. Just in case Skype wasn’t working this past weekend. In the Lord’s providence I got sick Saturday afternoon. I was supposed to Skype the presentation very early Saturday morning. But since I’d already sent the video, I just let them know I couldn’t do it live, and they were all set. We were in Virginia for a meeting, but I was still sick Sunday morning. So Erin showed our presentation in Sunday School, and that was all set. Unusually, I wasn’t even scheduled to preach that day.

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In both of those cases, if I hadn’t done the work (which at the time I thought wasn’t very important, though very time-intensive), we’d have had nothing to contribute. I wouldn’t have chosen to be sick, but the Lord was arranging things for me to be sidelined, and things worked out anyway. In fact, the church I was supposed to Skype my presentation for took us on for support! All I could do, after I’d done the work I could, was pray.

We’d just talked with our children about a set of verses in Proverbs that emphasize God’s normal way of providing for His people: diligence to do the work He gives them when it needs done.

But we were seeing much more significant cases of sidelining in ministry. Two veteran missionary families who couldn’t return to the field because they couldn’t get enough more support. One veteran missionary family returned from the field for health reasons. One pastor, a former missionary, seeing the end of his ministry coming due to Parkinson’s; another, in early stages of dementia.

So why does God do that? Why set aside servants who may seem to be just at the point, humanly speaking, when they can serve the best?

Just three thoughts. First, the Bible has an answer, though I’m not exploring all of it here. Second, to start the way into the Bible’s answer, when God does this it highlights the fact that He is the one in control. He often highlights that by using the weakest people and the most unlikely ways. Third, I’m reminded of a line in one of Milton’s poems: ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ I’m not sure of all Milton meant by that, but whenever I think about it, I rejoice in God’s grace that places waiting and praying, along with serving, right at the level of worship.

Being sidelined doesn’t mean we only get to watch. We can still participate in bringing God glory. God is working out everything to the end He’s chosen ‘so that God may be all in all’ (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Story line of the Bible

I’m used to thinking of the Bible as consisting of 66 books. But that sometimes keeps me from remembering that it’s one book, and that those 66 books all contribute something uniquely relevant to the story presented in the Bible.

Over the past months I’ve been thinking a lot about the story line of the Bible. The Lord brought several lines of thought together to cement this in my mind. One of them was seeing a pastor demonstrate how he used story line pictures in evangelism. Something clicked for me, and I thought: that is so helpful for me, both for evangelism and for my own understanding!

If you were to draw a picture of the story of the Bible, what would it look like? Try it. Maybe it doesn’t work for you, but I found it helpful. All the other stories in the Bible contribute to this big picture. Then you can plug Bible verses into it. And now you’re evangelizing using God’s own words and a way that seems really appropriate for our visually-oriented culture. Just don’t simplify it so much that you leave important things out. (I’ve thought that it might also be helpful to try understanding competing views of reality by trying to draw their “story” but I haven’t tried that yet.)